John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
And this is the real and eternal life: That they know you, The one and only true God, And Jesus Christ, whom you sent. (MESSAGE)
What is eternal life? Some people imagine “eternal life” is just about living forever and never dying. But eternal life is not just about immortality. Jesus teaches us that eternal life is not some kind of spiritual quality to life that only Christians have. Eternal life is not just some kind of quality of life which never dies. Eternal life is much more exciting than that. Eternal life is a RELATIONSHIP with God! To know God. To know Jesus Christ. That is eternal life! A relationship with God which even death cannot destroy. A relationship with God which will continue in heaven forever. That is eternal life.
Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10)
To “have life and have it more abundantly.” That is what salvation is all about. Life in all its fulness. “A rich and satisfying life” (New Living Translation) “I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (The Message)
“Life in all its fullness” and “eternal life” are just different ways of describing the same experience. The world is full of so many people racing around, looking for something to give their lives meaning and purpose, looking for something that will satisfy, and failing to find it. People living on the junk food of entertainment and consumerism, And all the time God is longing to give everybody eternal life – “life in all its fullness”.
So what is eternal life? Many people in the world today have a wrong idea about what it means to be a Christian. They think it is all about following rules. They think it is about doing strange things like reading the Bible and praying so that we can find out about God. But being a Christian is not about knowing ABOUT God. It is not about knowing ABOUT Jesus Christ. Being a Christian is about knowing God personally. Being a Christian is about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ the Son of God.
This is what John’s gospel says about Jesus.
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. NIV
Being a Christian is about becoming God’s child. Having a personal relationship with the Creator and Sustainer of the universe where we can call almighty God “Our Father.”
Eternal life brings us so many wonderful blessings.
Love – knowing that God loves us and His love will never let us go.
Joy –which no-one and nothing can take away.
Peace – the calm of knowing that everything is safe in the hands of Almighty God.
Victory over sin and death and the devil and all the powers of evil
Freedom – the glorious liberty of the children of God.
All these blessings are part of the life in all its fulness which is God’s gift to every Christian. They come to us as part of our relationship with God. That is the whole reason why God has made a way to forgive our sins. There’s no real point in being forgiven in and of itself. The whole point of forgiveness is that God has dealt with the sin which separated human beings from the Holy God. The purpose of forgiveness is so that we can have a relationship with God, that relationship with God for which we were designed and created. Sin has spoiled mankind’s relationship with God. But now the barrier of sin is removed – we can come to know God as He knows us.
Some Christians misunderstand this point. They think that eternal life is some mysterious spiritual something, some quality of life which God gives to Christians when they are born again which stays with them forever. Eternal life isn’t like that at all!! Some Christians think that after we are born again, love and joy and peace and victory and freedom are experiences which will come to us in some way apart from God, separately from God Himself. But that is NOT the way it works. Love and joy and peace and victory and freedom DO come to Christians, but they come THROUGH our relationship with God and not apart from Him. Knowing God brings us love. Knowing God brings us joy. Knowing God brings us peace. Knowing God brings us victory. Knowing God brings us freedom. But all these blessings only arise from and through our relationship with God.
I am going to say that again so everybody will understand. Our relationship with God is a NOT a means by which we can enjoy blessings like love and joy and peace and and victory and freedom. Knowing God is not a means to anything – knowing God is the most worthy and desirable end in itself. All the wonderful blessings of salvation are incidental to the true blessing which is the blessing of knowing God. Eternal life IS that relationship with God – and there are NO blessings which come outside of that relationship with God!
We believe in the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons in one substance, God the three in one. God Himself, within Himself, is relationship and community. In our salvation God invites us to enter into that community within God himself. At the same time we become part of that eternal community, God’s forever family, the body of Christ, the church. This is the key to understanding what salvation and eternal life are all about. Eternal life is experiencing a relationship with the Almighty and Eternal God.
We touched on this a few weeks ago when we talked about God the Holy Spirit being our Helper. Jesus promises His disciples that we will have the same kind of intimate relationship with God the Father as He Himself enjoys.
John 14:16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you for ever— 17 the Spirit of truth. … you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. ….20 On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. …. 23My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
This is what eternal life is – that relationship with God, God living in us, Father Son and Holy Spirit making their home in us.
Lots of people know lots of things ABOUT God. That he created heaven and earth. That he is all-powerful and everywhere and all knowing. That God is Holy and just and all-loving. Lots of people know lots of things about Jesus Christ. That He was born in a stable in Bethlehem. That he lived a perfect human life, teaching us about God, healing the sick, setting people free from evil. That he was crucified because he claimed to be the Son of God. People may even know that Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples.
But knowing ABOUT a person is not the same as KNOWING the person. Some people can know a lot ABOUT God without really knowing God personally or having a relationship with God at all. But the Christian life is NOT just knowing ABOUT God – but knowing God as Father and Jesus Christ as Lord and experiencing the present reality and power of God in our lives. So we don’t only learn about God – but we get to know God and develop our relationship with him.
Eph 1: 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.
God gives us the Holy Spirit so that we can know God better. To know the hope to which he has called you; to know the riches of his glorious inheritance; to know His incomparably great power at work in our lives; how thrilling!!
The Message translates that passage like this.
I ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for Christians, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! MESSAGE EPHESIANS 1:17-19
Eternal life, life in all its fulness, is all about knowing God personally. Sometimes it is possible to think we know somebody when actually we don’t. I remember a time walking along the street with my good friend Neil at a time when his girlfriend was a striking blonde girl called Tina. We saw a blonde walking along in front of us and Neil called her name. We raced along the pavement, shouting as we went. When we finally caught up “Tina” turned round and turned out not only to have long flowing blonde hair but also a long flowing blonde beard. Fortunately for us, the gentleman was Scandinavian and did not understand enough to be offended by our mistake.
It is possible to think we know somebody, when in fact we don’t. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7,
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
Here is the terrifying truth, Some people may think they know God when in fact they only know ABOUT God! Eternal life is our relationship with God.
And the best expression of that relationship with God is in our prayer life. David Watson wrote, “God is the living God, and every day He wants us to enjoy a living relationship with Him, involving a two-way conversation”. Francois Fenelon described prayer as “familiar, unreserved conversation with God,”.
Prayer isn’t just something which helps us in our Christian life. Prayer IS our Christian life. Prayer isn’t a useful tool to help us in our Christian service. In Richard Foster’s words, “Prayer is nothing more than an ongoing and growing love relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Prayer is the most exciting adventure any of us can imagine. Prayer is about deepening our relationship with God so we know Him and trust him more and more. If we want to grow as Christians, prayer is the Key! Prayer is the most exciting adventure any of us can imagine.
Prayer is not a means to an end. Not a means to the end of getting God to give us blessings. Not a means to the end of serving God better. Not even a means to the end of getting to know God better. Prayer is an end in itself. It is a worthwhile activity in itself.
Just as spending time in the company of family or friends is not a means to an end but an end in itself. So spending time with God is an end in itself. “We are glad to waste time with God, for we are pleased with the company.” Prayer is enjoying time in God’s presence.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians,
3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. NIV
I want to know Christ! Our personal relationship with God is more important than ANYTHING else! Because that is what eternal life is all about! That is life in all its fulness.
Imagine if you will the tragedy of a MARRIAGE which has gone wrong. The husband and the wife never speak to each other . They spend time together. He does all the cooking and prepares all the meals but they never eat together. Although she always does the washing up she never says thank you. He leaves dirty clothes around which she washes and irons but never sees him wearing them. He never sees her to say thank you. That is not what marriage should be. The chores are there but the relationship is not.
But there is a parable of what the Christian life can be like for some people.
The story is told of a husband and wife who never spoke to each other any more. They only communicated by sending one another notes. The wife always got up early and the husband rather later but one day he had a very important early meeting. So the night before he wrote his wife a note explaining the situation and asking her to be sure to wake him up the next morning at seven o’clock.
When he woke up the following morning it was already nine o’clock and he had missed his meeting. The husband was so upset he actually spoke aloud to his wife. “Why on earth didn’t you wake me up?” he asked.
The wife just pointed to a note she had left on the husband’s pillow. In loud capital letters the note read, “WAKE UP – IT’S SEVEN O’CLOCK!”
That is a sad parable of the way some Christians miss out on life in all its fullness. A.W.Tozer said “We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God.” The
blessings of eternal life are all wrapped up in a personal relationship with the living God.
John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
We won’t enjoy our eternal life, we won’t enjoy life in all its fulness, if we can’t be bothered to pray or read our Bibles or worship or meet with other Christians! Because our relationship with God IS life in all its fulness! Our relationship with God IS eternal life!