Tag Archives: eternal life

Today’s Scripture – November 14, 2017

Luke 10:25-28 (NIV) On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Not all Pharisees and teachers of the law were closed to understanding who God is and what He requires of His people. In the crowd that day was one who was legitimately interested in what Jesus had to say about how a person could inherit eternal life.

This teacher of the law, when questioned by Jesus about what the Scriptures said, correctly identified the two commandments in the Torah that Jesus Himself said were the two greatest (Matthew 22:34-40), the two commandments that, if integrated fully into a person’s heart and life, would enable fulfillment of all the rest. Those two are an all-consuming love for God that takes up every facet of a person’s life, and a love for others that motivates caring for them and meeting their needs as fully and as naturally as we care for ourselves and as we meet our own needs.

The basis for those two commandments being at the core of the lives of God’s people, and of enabling us to keep all of the other commandments through them is this: if a person loves God with all of their heart, with all of their soul, with all of their strength, and with all of their mind, then there is nothing on earth that will be able to move that person to rebel against God’s authority and sin against Him. And if that person loves their neighbor in the same way and to the same degree that they love themselves, there is nothing on earth that will be able to move them to sin against their neighbor. Paul takes this latter commandment to its fullest expression when he concludes that “love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:9-10)

Some might see this as legalism, focusing on “works of the law” instead of on faith in Jesus as the basis of eternal life. But the fact is, these words are from Jesus’ own lips, and are not just for the pre-resurrection dispensation. However, anyone who tries to love God with that kind of all-consuming love, and to love their neighbor with the same effective love with which they care for their own needs, will quickly find that there is no way for them to accomplish it in their own strength. It is only those receive a clean slate and a fresh start through faith in Jesus, and who have the Holy Spirit working unhindered in their lives who can love like that. It is not a matter of salvation by faith versus salvation by works. It is a matter of holy living enabled by saving faith.

Father, thank You for helping me to see how all of this fits together. It really is quite simple when we see all of the pieces hooked together. Now, Lord, help me to fully live out those truths in my day-to-day life, not by my own inadequate strength, but through the power of Your Spirit working through me. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 28, 2017

Matthew 20:1-16 (NIV) “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard.  He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing.  He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’  So they went.
“He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing.  about the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
“The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius.  So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more.  But each one of them also received a denarius.  When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner.  ‘These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
“But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?   Take your pay and go.  I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you.  Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?  Or are you envious because I am generous?’
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

As the closing words of this parable show, the whole parable is a commentary on Jesus’ statement to His followers at the end of chapter 19, where the exact same words are written.  (This is an example of a chapter break being inserted into the middle of a single thought.)

This long parable’s main point is very simple:  All the workers got promised the same reward for their labors, and all were paid precisely what they were promised.  Those who worked all day got the promised denarius, and those who only worked the last hour also got the promised denarius.

On its surface, this may strike us as unfair, just as it did the first-hired crew.  But, as the vineyard owner stated, they all got what was promised.  And, since they had all done what was required to get their denarius (none of them did more than was asked of them), that was what they got.

Jesus’ point was that those who came to the kingdom early in life would get all that was promised to them:  manifold blessings and eternal life.  But those who came later, even in their last day of life, like the thief on the cross, would also get manifold blessings and eternal life.  And, in God’s sight, that is exactly fair.  God promises all the same, and each gets what He promises.

To those who complain that length of service should entitle them to more, it must be pointed out that Jesus required them to give up all, to take up their cross, and to follow Jesus.  In return, they were promised great blessing and eternal life.  And at the last judgment, they will receive great blessing and eternal life.  What did they do in life that would merit more than that?  How much more than all did they give?  What more than self-sacrificing death to the world did they give?  And, of course, the only answer that can reasonable be given in view of those thoughts is:  “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” (Luke 17:10)  Also, what more could God possibly give to those who were faithful in following than massive blessing and eternal life?  How can that be increased or improved upon in any way?

All who devote their lives to following Jesus will receive blessing uncountable, both here and in heaven, and eternal life in God’s presence as well.  And that is the same whether their service was long or short.

Father, there is something in us, as there was in those first disciples, that wants to jockey for position and prestige, whether we see that as additional jewels in our crowns, or a place just a little closer to Your throne, or a little bigger mansion, or even that our “well done, good and faithful servant” might be spoken loud enough for others to hear.  But what You have promised for our service, incredible blessings and eternal life in Your presence, can’t be improved upon by any means.  It will all be perfect.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 3, 2015

John 5:24-26 (NIV):  “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.  I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself.”

Here Jesus claims, in no uncertain terms, to be the hinge pin of eternal life.  Many teach today that it doesn’t matter what a person believes, as long as they are sincere.  If they are sincere, then God receives their worship as if it were directed to Him.  But that is clearly NOT what Jesus taught.

In this teaching, Jesus tells us that eternal life is dependent on hearing (that is, receiving and acting on) HIS words, and believing the One who had sent Him, the Father.  Jesus is the source of all spiritual life for us, which translates into eternal life, because HE has life in Himself, just as the Father has, and He will give that life to those who truly follow Him.

At the Last Supper, Jesus told His disciples, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)  No amount of sincere belief in a different way will bring eternal life to a person, because only on Savior has real life to give.

Notice also that the time for this eternal life to be given “is coming and has now come.”  This eternal life was not something for the future; it was something that people could experience immediately.  Some interpret this as referring to Jesus’ ability to raise people from the dead, especially Lazarus, who heard Jesus voice and lived (cf. John 11:38-44).  But Jesus was referring once again to the spiritually dead of Israel, the ones Ezekiel had been shown in his vision of the valley of dry bones.

Jesus was even then, by His presence, His actions, and His words, calling out to everyone who was lost, dead in their sins.  The Jewish leaders were just as dead as the “tax collectors and sinners” that they despised, but they didn’t realize it.  They heard Jesus’ words, but they never really heard what He was saying, and so remained dead.  The sinners, on the other hand, hungrily listened to Jesus’ words, received them eagerly, believed in the Father, and were not only forgiven, but made spiritually alive.  In the end, they would be the ones who would not be condemned, but would instead be received into God’s kingdom.

Father, there really is a big difference between reading Jesus’ words today and really hearing what He has to say to us.  And it is interesting that so many who claim to be spiritually alive cannot seem to hear Jesus’ words, and thus show themselves to be truly dead instead.  But those who hunger for real life and who turn to Jesus in faith, immediately receive what they are hungry for.  They are transformed, made truly alive, and given the ability both to hear and to understand.  What an amazing miracle to watch this new, genuine, eternal life infuse a person’s life!  Thank You, Lord, for doing this for so many, including me.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 17, 2015

John 3:35-36 (NIV):  “The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

John reveals another reason why it is such a serious thing to reject Jesus:  God loves Him, and has placed everything in His hands.  To spurn Him, to reject Him, is to reject the one that God Himself loves deeply, and the one who holds the lives of every person on the earth in His hands.

Since God the Father and Jesus are one (along with the Holy Spirit), to be in relationship with Jesus is to be in relationship with the Father, and to receive the love of the Father just as Jesus did.  It is also to receive eternal life, because to be in relationship with Jesus is to be in relationship with the one who has life in Himself (cf. John 1:4).

Verse 36 is parallel to John 3:17.  With Jesus’ coming, those who have heard of Him and what He has done are polarized into two groups:  those who believe in Jesus, and those who reject Him.  Those who believe in Jesus, believing that He really was who He claimed to be (God in the flesh – cf. John 8:58, 10:30-33, 12:44-45, 14:9-11, 17:5), and that He really did what He said He came to do (die to pay for the sins of the world – Mark 10:45), are not condemned, but have eternal life.  But those who reject Jesus, who do not believe in Him, are condemned already, even while they live.  They will not see life because God’s wrath is on them.

Many people, when they see the word “wrath” see in it an emotion – that God is angry with that person.  And many wonder how that kind of anger can be compatible with the love that God has for the whole world.  But neither God’s wrath nor His love are primarily emotions.  Instead, those terms talk about God’s actions toward others.  His love is best described as His actions to bless others.  This is the agape love that He revealed to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7, pouring out blessings, even forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin for those who truly repent.  It is the same love that moved God to send Jesus to earth to die for the sins of all humanity.  And it is the love that bestows eternal life on all who believe.

On the other hand, God’s wrath is His actions in opposition to those how oppose Him.  Those who refuse to believe in Jesus, who reject Him and His work on their behalf, fall under God’s wrath, experiencing His opposition, even while they live.  They are living as condemned because of their rejection of Jesus, and thus their rejection of God.

That thing that is vital to understand is that a person can move from being under God’s wrath to being a recipient of His love and His eternal life merely by turning away from their lives of sin and believing in Jesus, receiving His sacrifice on their behalf.

Father, it is sometimes puzzling to me that some would choose to live under your wrath by rejecting Jesus instead of repenting and receiving Him so that they can receive Your love and Your eternal life.  But then I remember that I was there myself, and chose to live in darkness rather than to turn away from those things so that I could receive Your light.  I guess I thought that the price was just too high.  But, Lord, now that I have moved from darkness to light, from wrath to love, from death to eternal life, I can see that all of those things that I thought were so precious were really just garbage!  Thank You for the gift of Jesus, and for making it available for all who want it, even me.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 7, 2015

John 1:16-18 (NIV): From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

Jesus was indeed the greatest person the world has ever seen.  This wasn’t just because of Who He was – God in the flesh – but because of what He accomplished.  If you were to ask a Jewish person in John’s day who the greatest person in the history of the world was, they were very likely to say Moses.  This was because God used him to lead the whole Israelite family out of Egypt, and God gave them the law through him.  And Moses was indeed a very great person.

But Jesus was far greater than Moses.  Moses led the way out of Egyptian bondage; Jesus led the way out of bondage to sin.  Moses decisively defeated the army of Pharaoh; Jesus decisively defeated satan and all of his demons.  Moses prayed for the people and saved them from temporal destruction; Jesus died for the people and saved them from eternal destruction.  Moses gave the law to the people to show them what God required, and the sacrificial system to atone for their sins when they fell short; Jesus gave grace to the people by becoming the once-for-all sacrifice for our sins, and then by giving us the Holy Spirit to live in our hearts, to empower us and make us holy, so that we don’t have to fall prey to sin.

By his statement in verse 17 John is not saying that the law is bad and grace and truth are good.  He is saying that, as good as the law was, grace and truth are better.  The law showed God’s people what He required of them, but it did not empower them to do it.  That requires the grace and truth that came through Jesus.

Verse 18 reminds us that before Jesus came, no one had truly seen God.  Some had seen traces of Him, but even Moses was not allowed to see Him as He truly is.  But in Jesus the people of His day got to see God in ways that no one had ever seen Him before.  In Him God’s power was on full display, day after day.  In Him God’s love was made obvious, and the hard to understand parts of God’s commandments were made clear.  Some of the disciples actually got to see a glimpse of God’s glory on the Mount of Transfiguration.  Jesus made God known in ways that nobody had ever known Him before.  He was right on the money when He told Philip, “John 14:9 (NIV)

9  Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9)

Father, it is easy for us to see that Jesus was far greater than any other man who ever lived, no matter how great they might have been.  In Jesus all the fullness of the Deity lived in bodily form (cf. Colossians 2:9), and that can be said of no other person in history.  To know Jesus is to know You, and He opened the door for anyone who wants to know You to be able to.  Thank You!  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – April 1, 2014

Mark 1:40-45 (NIV):  A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”  Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.
Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning:  “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”  Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Leprosy was a terrible disease, because it isolated people so thoroughly.  Anyone who had it had to stay outside the towns, away from non-infected people.  They had to cover their faces, and if anyone approached, they had to cry out “unclean!” to warn them away, so that they wouldn’t catch it, too.  Lepers were desperately lonely people, isolated from family and friends, and with no hope.  Even though God put a ceremony in the law for someone cleansed of leprosy, cures were rare.  Medicine wasn’t available for the disease.  Only a miracle would work.

This leper had reached the point of desperation.  He had heard about Jesus’ ability to do miracles of healing, so he searched Him out.  In his desperation to be healed, he broke all the rules.  He actually approached Jesus, although he stayed a few paces away.  Instead of announcing his uncleanness (which anyone with eyes could see at that distance) to keep Jesus away, he cried out to Him to draw Him closer:  “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”

This man expected that, if Jesus was even willing to help him at all, He would probably wave His hand or speak a word of healing.  He did not expect at all what Jesus actually did.  With a look of incredible compassion on His face (instead of the look of revulsion that the leper usually saw on people’s faces), Jesus said, “I am willing.”  He stepped forward, closing the distance between them so quickly that the leper didn’t have time to react or pull back.  And then Jesus reached out and did the unthinkable:  He touched the leper.  And in that moment the wholeness of the kingdom of God overwhelmed the uncleanness in the leper’s body.  And he was healed, just like that.

Jesus’ stern warning not to tell anyone who it was that had healed him sailed right past the former leper’s ears.  He went to the High Priest to be declared officially clean from the disease.  But when the High Priest asked how he had been made clean, the man couldn’t keep it to himself.  “Jesus touched me, and I was made clean by His touch!”  In his joy, he told everybody.  The words just flowed out of him.  Jesus had given him his life back!  With a single touch He had smashed the man’s isolation and hopelessness, and had replaced them with hope and a future!

Father, I know that, even though it complicated Jesus’ ministry for a while, He really understood that this man who had received so much from Him really would not be able to keep it to himself.  His overflowing joy transformed him into an evangelist, sharing where he himself had received a whole new life, and urging others to the same source:  Jesus.  Lord, may we do as much.  You have given us eternal life!  Open our lips so that, with the same joy and gladness that this man showed, we share You, the source of our life, with everyone.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – March 11, 2014

Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV):  Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

There is staggering import in these words of Paul.  The reason that people become a new creation when they trust in Jesus for salvation is that this trust leads to a real death of the old person that was, and a real resurrection in Christ as a new person, clean, fresh, and recast in the very image of Jesus.  It is this death and resurrection, not of Jesus, but of the new believer, that is represented in baptism, and that is pointed to in Romans 12:1-2, where believers are to live in this death of the old self and in the new life in Christ by continually considering themselves to be living sacrifices to God.

But, sadly, little of this imagery, and even less of this truth, remains today.  The formality of saying a “sinner’s prayer” has largely replaced the real death to the old life that is to be the hallmark of the redeemed.  And so we tend to spiritualize Paul’s words instead of living them out, and congregations are full of people who have prayed the prayer, but have not been resurrected as a new creation.

But Paul, when he surrendered to Jesus really did die to who he had been right up to the moment when the risen Jesus appeared to him outside of Damascus.  He had the same body, but the old person who had inhabited it died, and there was a brand new person living in there – a person who had a heart of love and compassion instead of hate and anger.  A person who wanted to glorify the name of Jesus instead of stamping it out.

Some may say that Paul was an exception – that normal, everyday Christians usually don’t experience that kind of huge turnaround in their lives.  But the question must be “why not?”.  Paul clearly expected that death to the old life that was focused on earthly things was the norm, and obviously had seen it happen in the people that he had helped to receive Jesus.  Likewise, he clearly saw the new birth, the new creation, as normative as well.  I believe that a key part of the answer is that we don’t teach the people whom we are leading to Jesus about the completely new life that they are to receive.  Our focus is merely on forgiveness of their sins, so that is all that they expect.

The person who receives Jesus as their Lord and Savior receives much more than mere forgiveness of their sins, as important as that is.  If forgiveness of sins was all that was needed, the sacrifices of the Old Covenant would have been sufficient.  But when a person turns away from their old life to God, when we intentionally die to our old earthly-focused existence, God grants us a new life in Jesus – a life that is qualitatively different, a life with a completely different focus and feel from the old life that we surrendered.  And then He, the God of the universe, comes and lives in our hearts, continuing the molding, shaping, and reprioritizing, to remake us into His very image.  THAT’s the difference that the New Covenant makes!

Father, as one who has experienced this death to my old self, and the new person that You made me into, I say a hearty AMEN to all of this.  After having experienced all that life in You is, I will never turn back, never return to the old way of living that I died to.  Thank You, not just for the gift of life, but for the new life that You have given to me.  Amen.

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