Posts Tagged ‘eternal life’

How the Evangelicals Lost Christmas

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

This Christmas season in evangelical churches all over the United States you’ll be able to hear amazing well written sermons about how Jesus was born in a manager, lived a perfect sinless life, died on the cross to atone for our sins and arose on the third day proving he had defeated sin and death. While all of these things are biblically true they have nothing to do with Christmas, except for the born in a manger part.

We evangelicals have lost Christmas. We are so caught up in the atonement that we forget the incarnation. Even in our Christmas sermons we blow by Christmas to get to Easter, because that’s the good news after all. Or is it? Jesus sent John’s disciples back to him with the message that the good news was being proclaimed (Matthew 11:5). The message that Jesus proclaimed wasn’t that he was going to die to save us from our sins (Although this is very good news and I don’t mean to minimize it). The message that Jesus proclaimed was that the Kingdom of God was near (Mark 1:14 and many others). The Kingdom of God was manifested in the life of Jesus.

The incarnation is about communication. The incarnation is about displaying a life lived in the Kingdom of God. Jesus lived his life in full submission to the Father and invites us into that life, the life that the Apostle John termed eternal life. Christmas is about God “making his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). The incarnation shows us how to live in relationship with God. The incarnation is a model for our lives. Then on the cross Jesus redeemed us restoring our relationship with God and after the resurrection he ascended to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to live that life.

As Christians, we’re called to live our lives from the perspective of the incarnation. The community we’re forming in Ann Arbor is all about this kind of incarnational living. Agape Ann Arbor is a community experiencing and expressing God’s love as modeled by Jesus in the incarnation. We would love for you to join our community. There are several ways you can be a part of this incarnational ministry. You can contact us to find out about our next meeting. You can join our prayer team and commit to praying for us. You can support our ministry financially.

More importantly, however, you can make the choice this Christmas to reclaim what we’ve lost. During this Christmas season, don’t skip to Easter. We will celebrate the glorious resurrection of our messiah soon enough. This Christmas, celebrate his incarnation.

Eternal Life (Part 6)

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

Last week we launched our investigation of eternal life in the Gospel of John. The concept is first introduced in chapter three where Jesus has a nighttime conversation with the Jewish Rabbi Nicodemus. We’re going to look at another passage from that conversation. Eternal life appears again in verse 36 of the same chapter, “The one who believes in the Son has eternal life. The one who rejects the Son will not see life, but God’s wrath remains on him.”

Verse 36 reaffirms that individuals through faith in God’s Son gain eternal life. Yet there is more that we learn here. We learn something of the content of eternal life. Eternal life is a state of being where the individual has God’s wrath removed from them.

Eternal Life (Part 5)

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

It’s time to move on to the Gospel of John. John refers to eternal life more than any other biblical author. John seems to have a significantly different definition for eternal life than the one we have seen so far. Before we dive into the first reference to eternal life in the Gospel of John let’s recap what Daniel and the Synoptic Gospels said.

Up to this point we have seen that eternal life is an eschatological (end times) gift given to the righteous (whoever they are). All those who are “saved” receive it (they must be the righteous ones). Eternal life is closely related to life in the Kingdom of God and is different in some way from normal life that humans experience.

Now, the first time eternal life is mentioned in the Gospel of John is in chapter 3. If you’re keeping track at home this is the conversation that Jesus has at night with one of the religious leaders in Jerusalem, Nicodemus. In John 3 verses 15 and 16, twice Jesus says that those who believe in the Son of Man will receive eternal life. In context he is talking about why he came. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be “lifted up” (a direct allusion to his crucifixion) and that in being lifted up he is providing a way for those who believe in him to have eternal life rather than perish.

So, in his introduction to the concept of eternal life, John says that Jesus must be lifted up (die on the cross) so that people can receive eternal life. Those that believe in him will receive it. And, it is the opposite of perishing.

What does this mean to you and do you think it differs from what we read in earlier passages?

Eternal Life (Part 4)

Sunday, March 7th, 2010

The next occurrence of eternal life we will discuss is Luke 10:25 (parallels are Matthew 22:34-40 and Mark 12:28-34). The two occurrences in Mark were discussed with their parallel in Matthew in Part 2.

In Luke’s version an expert in the Law asks Jesus, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (NET). This is very similar to the story of the Rich Young Ruler (see Part 2). They both presume that there is something they can do to earn eternal life. Jesus asks, “What is written in the law? How do you understand it?” (Luke 10:26 NET).

“The expert answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live’” (Luke 10:27-28).

It’s too bad the story doesn’t end there because in the next verse the man attempts to “justify” himself by asking Jesus to identify his neighbor for him. He obviously didn’t understand the true depth of the answer that he gave Jesus. Jesus goes on to tell the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan.

You see the problem with the expert’s question was that he presumed the people who weren’t his neighbor outnumbered the people who were. He thought that neighbors were a select few and easy to identify. The “good” Jews that looked like him… acted like him… believed like him. He was totally wrong. Jesus teaches us that our neighbor is anyone with whom we come in contact. It’s not just the people that look and act like us and attend our church that are our neighbors. It’s not just the people that live in our neighborhood that are our neighbors. The homeless man asking for change for the bus is our neighbor. The Muslim families heading to the local mosque are our neighbors. The couple advocating for gay marriage are our neighbors. To experience eternal life, Jesus says that we must love them as we love ourselves. We love them because we love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our strength and all our minds. And he loves out neighbors more than we ever could.

What are you going to do to love your neighbor this week?

Eternal Life (Part 3)

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

In our study of eternal life, the next occurrence of the phrase is Matthew 25:46. This is one of my favorite passages in Scripture; mainly because it kicks my butt every time I read it.

Many of you are probably familiar with the story. It’s the story of the sheep and the goats. For our purposes, the important part is the very last sentence. It says that those that did not care for Jesus by caring for those in need are sent to eternal punishment while the righteous enter into eternal life. In this story the righteous are those that cared for Jesus by caring for those in need. While I’d love to talk more about the sheep and the goats, that’s not the focus of this series. Here we are focusing on eternal life. What we see here confirms some of our earlier findings. Eternal life is an eschatological (last things) gift for the righteous.

What does this mean for you in your everyday life?

Eternal Life (Part 2)

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

In part 1 we examined the only occurrence of the phrase eternal life in the Old Testament, Daniel 12:2.  In that context eternal life was a reward given to the righteous after they were resurrected.

Today we’re moving on to the first occurrence in the New Testament, Matthew 19:16.  It is part of the story commonly known as the Rich Young Ruler and occurs in all three of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-30).  One thing we need to remember here is that the focus of this story is not eternal life.  This story focuses on the things that keep us from experiencing eternal life because we value them above God.

Yet, we learn something about the nature of eternal life.  In Jesus’ answer to the man we learn three things.  These are adapted from Matthew: From Biblical Text to Contemporary Life (NIV Application Commentary Series)
by Michael J. Wilkins.  (1) Eternal life is a way of living different from the normal humans experience (Matthew 19:17).  Jesus doesn’t, at this point, clarify the nature of this life.  It is only clear that it’s different from the life the young man is experiencing.  (2) Eternal life is closely associated with the Kingdom of Heaven/God.  They are not one and the same, but you can’t have one without the other.  (3) Eternal life is part of salvation.

As you can see, the New Testament has expanded our view of eternal life.  The gift is not only received at the resurrection, all who are saved experience it.  It is a type of life different from the normal life experienced by humanity and is closely related to the Kingdom of God.

What other differences do you see from Daniel’s portrayal of eternal life and the Gospels’ presentations here?

Eternal Life (Part 1)

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

For those of you that have been following this blog for a little while, this series is going to be a little different from what you’re used to.  I’m going to give you a peek into my research.   The focus of my research is John’s use of the concept of eternal life in his Gospel.  This series is going to provide an overview of what Scripture says about eternal life.  We will look at each occurrence of the phrase in the Bible and try to understand what that passage says about eternal life.

The first and only time the phrase eternal life appears in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint abbreviated LXX) is in Daniel 12:2.  Daniel 12 is part of an apocalyptic revelation given to Daniel while he was in Persia.  It is part of a very long prophecy which culminates with these words:

1 “At that time Michael,
the great prince who watches over your people,
will arise.
There will be a time of distress
unlike any other from the nation’s beginning
up to that time.
But at that time your own people,
all those whose names are found written in the book,
will escape.
2 Many of those who sleep
in the dusty ground will awake—
some to everlasting life,
and others to shame and everlasting abhorrence.
3 But the wise will shine
like the brightness of the heavenly expanse.
And those bringing many to righteousness
will be like the stars forever and ever.
(Daniel 12:1-3 NET)

The phrase “everlasting life” in Greek is the same as “eternal life.”  Daniel tells us a couple of things about eternal life in this passage.  (1) Eternal life will be given to some after they are resurrected from the dead.  (2) Those that do not receive eternal life will receive eternal abhorrence.  The Greek word used here indicates a great disgrace.  In Ancient Near Eastern culture this was one of the worst things that could possibly happen to a person.  Honor was the most important thing in that culture.  Daniel is saying that some will be resurrected to eternal life and some will be resurrected to eternal disgrace.

So, Daniel 12:2 teaches us that eternal life is given to some when they are resurrected.  It appears here to be a reward of some kind and is the opposite of eternal disgrace.

How does this affect what you believe about eternal life?

moving from life to eternal life

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

Ron Martoia wrote an interesting post regarding how we understand the world and how that understanding should be reshaped by following Jesus. You can read it here.

Although I struggle with Ron’s choice of language because it feels “new agey” to me (which may come from my conservative religious background), I think he makes a very good point. In my opinion it ties directly into the nature of eternal life.

Throughout the gospels Jesus uses metaphors to describe what the community that he is creating is supposed to look like. Key to this concept is the fact that it is impossible for an individual to experience the kind of life Jesus is describing on their own. It takes the work of Jesus in one’s life.

This is where Ron’s post comes in. There’s another side to this coin. True, it is the Holy Spirit that works in us to transform us so that we can experience what Jesus is describing. With that said, however, God chooses not to force us into this experience. We have to choose to trust him and follow him. In point 2 of Ron’s application he talks about removing negative self-talk. This is an issue of trust. Jesus has promised that the experience of new life, eternal life, the kingdom of God (all of which I believe are metaphors for the same experience) is available now. Yet, we don’t live it. We don’t experience it. Because we don’t believe it. Instead we tell ourselves that it’s not for us. It’s something we’ll experience in heaven. It’s for the super-spiritual. It’s an ideal that was never intended for us to experience.

Do you trust Jesus or not? Do you believe his promises or not? Look through the gospels and see what Jesus has promised you. Stop telling yourself that you can’t trust Jesus and walk in the life that he has given you.