August 24, 2008
Today’s message is the last in my series of four on John 3:16. We started on the first Sunday of August by looking at the D of danger, the danger of perishing. The following week, we discussed the D of design, God’s design of love to save us from perishing. Last week, we looked at the D of duty – our duty to believe. Today we will examine the D of Destiny.
But before we start, let’s begin with some words of wisdom from Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God Day-by-Day. He speaks of the D of Difference.
A Noticeable Difference
When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and knew that they had been with Jesus.— Acts 4:13
There is no mistaking a life transformed by God! The disciples had been vain and fearful when Jesus enlisted them. James and John sought to outmaneuver their fellow disciples in order to gain the places of greatest honor next to Jesus (Mark 10:37). Over and over the disciples' actions showed that they did not truly understand who Jesus was (John 6:7–9; Mark 6:49). Even after three years with Jesus, Peter was afraid to confess Christ before a young servant girl (Matt. 26:69–75). Anyone who knew these men would realize they were not the kind of people on which you build a worldwide kingdom. Yet something happened to them as they were with Jesus. The Holy Spirit transformed them, giving them new boldness and wisdom. Now they could perform miracles and preach fearlessly and persuasively to multitudes. Even their enemies noticed in their changed lives the same power they had witnessed in Jesus.
Sometimes we desperately want others to believe that we have changed, that we are more godly, more devoted, more Spirit-controlled. It is not necessary, however, for those who have been truly transformed by Christ to convince others of the difference; the change will be obvious.
Don't become too introspective, always focusing on yourself and the small changes you see happening over time. As you walk with Jesus daily, let the witness of the changes taking place in you come from others and not from you. If you have to prove to someone that God has really changed you, He has not. Those around you will surely notice when your life has been transformed by your relationship with Jesus. Jesus is your destiny and your destiny is to be transformed by Jesus. And that transformation begins at the moment of salvation. For most of you, that was some time ago. So by now, there should be a readily discernable difference between the way you were before salvation and the way you are now. As well, there should be a noticeable difference between you and the unsaved people around you – a difference in thinking, a difference in values, a difference in lifestyle, a difference in interests. If this is not true for you, then you have a problem right at the very root of your Christian walk – come and see me about it.
For those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and who are walking with him, eternal life has already begun! For it doesn’t begin when you die, it begins when you are saved!
One more time I want to focus your mind and your heart on the words of Jesus in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on him should not perish, but have eternal life." These words warn us of the danger we are in without Jesus—perishing. They hold out the wonderful hope diamond of God's design to rescue us from perishing—his love that continually sends his Son to seek and save the lost. Last week we focused on the duty that links us with this love—believing in his Son. And this week we concentrate our attention on the destiny before us if we believe—eternal life.
1. The danger: perishing.
2. The design: love.
3. The duty: believing.
4. The destiny: life.
What is eternal or everlasting life? In John 10:10 Jesus said, "I came that they might have life, and that they might have it abundantly"—have life in fullness and have it forever. So life, eternal life is Christ's aim. Our eternal life is what Christ died to attain.
And Christ’s aim and my aim in this morning’s service is your life, your eternal life. I want you to have it and to know what it is and to enjoy it and to share it.
So what I am going to do is walk us through two stages of eternal life. You will need to ask yourself where you are in these two stages. Where are you in your experience of eternal life? Are you in stage one
The first stage of Eternal life is “in Christ”.
John 1:4, "In him was life, and that life was the light of men." Or in John 14:6 Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Eternal life is first and foremost the life of the Son of God. It is God's life. Do you have God’s life in you? We call this salvation, for we are saved from eternal death; we have passed from death to life. This is supernatural. It is not something we have by nature. If we get it, we get it as a gift from God through Christ. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;” (cf. 17:2; 10:28) a supernatural act not something we can manufacture. Eternal life is Christ's life. "In him was life, and that life was the light of men." This is where your eternal life begins, by accepting Christ’s work on the cross, dying for our sins so we might have everlasting life. I call this STAGE ONE of our destiny as found in John 3:16.
STAGE two of eternal life comes to us through the Word of Christ.
In John 6:68 Peter says to Jesus, "To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" And in John 5:24, “"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. The life of Christ is given to the world through his words. He himself is called the Word of God: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God . . . and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:1, 14).
And when he was with us on the earth, he spoke the words of life. And he taught his disciples to go and teach the way he taught. And he said that others would come to believe on him through the speaking of His word (17:20). In John 17, the high priestly prayer of Christ, Jesus prays for His disciples. One of the things Jesus prayed for is found in verse 20. Turn with me to John 17:20. Just before asking for our unity – our oneness, He prays this prayer we find in John 17:20: “"I do not ask on behalf of these alone (referring to His disciples), but for those also who believe in Me through their word”; In other words, through the spreading of the gospel, through the words of all Jesus’ disciples. So eternal life is extended from Christ to others through his Word, spoken by His disciples – that’s us!.
Through the hearing of the words of eternal life, God draws people to Christ. That is what the Great Commission is: “Go ye therefore in to all the world and make disciples.” We make disciples by speaking the word of God to others. They come to know through hearing. John 5:24 says, “"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life ….” I call this STAGE TWO: believing and spreading the good news about Jesus. The Word, the Truth, and the Life – in other words, being disciples. It is the second step after salvation. God seeks and saves the lost, but how can they be saved if they do not hear? In Romans 10:13-14 we’re told, “for "WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED."
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?”
In John 6:44 Jesus says, "No one can come to me unless the father who sent me draws him." Christ is where eternal life is received. We must come to him if we will have our destiny of eternal life. John 5:40 says those unwilling to come will not have eternal life. The words of life offer it and describe it and tell how to have it and beckon us to it. But first we must hear. Right?
But John 3:20 describes how by nature we hate the light of life. We don't want to come because we are laid bare and exposed by the light of life. Our only hope is the merciful "drawing" of God. He overcomes our hatred for the light and opens our eyes to start seeing Christ for who he really is. Then and only then will our light so shine before men that they will see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven. (Matt 5:16)
We need to pray for ourselves and our friends, family, and neighbors, that God will open the eyes of our understanding so they will “see” Jesus (Eph 1:18)People know about Him, but they don't really see Him for who he is, or they would be overwhelmed with His greatness and beauty and power and goodness and wisdom and love. Are you overwhelmed with Jesus’ greatness, beauty, power, goodness, wisdom, and love?
If eternal life is going to come into our lives, we have to start really seeing Jesus, and then as God draws us through Jesus’ words, He opens our eyes to start seeing the Jesus we see in His Word.
Is this the stage of eternal life where you are? You really see who Jesus is?
We receive eternal life through believing in Christ.
When we hear the words of life, and yield to the drawing power of God, and believe in Jesus, we receive him into our lives and with him we receive eternal life, because he is eternal life, and then our lives take on the flavor of Christ. God is sanctifying us to become more Christlike. This is His work in us (1Thess 5:23-24)
In John 15:5 Jesus says, "I am the vine you are the branches." In other words by believing in Christ, we are united to him the way a branch is united to a vine—so that the life of the vine flows into the branch. His eternal life flows into us and we become condduits of eternal life.
This is a great work of God that he is performing all over the world every day. Pastor John Ensor wrote from Boston: You are aware of the many powerful works of God both in Scripture and in the world today. God is doing some amazing things home and abroad. Two weeks ago, Kristen and I had a chance to lead a communist Chinese scholar to faith in Christ (she is a devotee of Mao). She's studying for her doctorate here in Boston. We had a chance to help her through a crisis. As a result, she gave her life to Christ. She's already read all four gospels. She came to our Christmas open house and sang carols to the Lord. I think in the days ahead there will be more of Christ and less of Mao. This is the power of God!
We have eternal life NOW, not just in the future.
In John 5:24 Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life [not "will have" but "has"—now!], and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life." In other words eternal life is not something you wait for after death. It is something you have NOW if you are believing in Jesus and have an intimate, personal relationship with Him..
In John 17:3 Jesus defined eternal life like this. He was praying to his Father in heaven, and said: "This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." Eternal life is a personal, intimate knowing of God. It is not like an inoculation against the disease of death, a spiritual antibiotic that works unconsciously. It is a conscious experience of knowing and relating to God.
To see why this is so, connect this with John 1:4 that we already saw under stage one: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." The life is the light. What does that mean? It means, I believe, that when the eternal life of Christ came into my life through faith, it shed light on God and on Christ so I could know Him personally. I now can see God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - far more clearly than I ever could before. Before I was saved, I saw them as through a fog. Then God enabled me to see enough to draw you into faith. Now in faith the life comes and with it the lights go on, the blinders are removed, the scales fall off my eyes, the veil is drawn aside, and the personal reality of God is so powerful that I know him and relate to him and have fellowship with him. Praise the Lord! And you can have this too! God wants all of us to know Jesus with open, spiritual eyes.
"This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." Eternal life brings the light of personal knowledge into your heart, and you know him and live with him and commune with him, NOW. For we live in eternity NOW!
And, eternal lifedoes not start when your physical body dies nor is it interrupted at death.
In John 11:25–26 Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die." Everyone who has eternal life will never have life stripped away from him; even if he dies, he will live. John Piper writes: One of the most powerful moments in my seminary life was at the funeral of one of my professors, James Morgan, 37 years old, with a wife and four children. Lewis Smedes gave the message from these verses and at one point he lifted his voice and said with tremendous authority, "James Morgan is not dead! For Jesus has said, 'Everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.'"
Eternal life is not interrupted by death.
In John 6:40 Jesus said, "This is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." Eternal life will be made complete when our bodies are raised from the dead and reunited with our spirits.
He is not only the life, as he said (11:25–26), he is the resurrection.
Eternal life encompasses body and soul.
How long is forever? When we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun; we’ve no less days to sings God’s praise, than when we’d first begun. Does it make you tremble? That so much rides on your spiritual awakening in this life? How long is it? Jerry Healy described it like this: if a little bird should fly from the coast of the sea to a great plain and deposit a grain of sand once every thousand years, when the mound of sand is the height of Mount Everest eternity will have just begun.
Eternal life will last forever and ever. And the book of John, which we’re studying, speaks a lot about eternal life. There are seventeen references to it in this one book alone.
Why Does Eternity Exist? It exists because it will take that long for us to know the inexhaustible glories of God. Two-hundred-fifty years ago Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon on what it would be like to experience eternal life to—see and know God for eternity. He ponders whether that would grow dull and boring.
The fountain that supplies [the] joy and delight, which the soul has in seeing God . . . is infinite . . . The understanding may extend itself as far as it will; it doth but take its flight into an endless expanse, and dive into a bottomless ocean. It may discover more and more of the beauty and loveliness of God, but it never will exhaust the fountain . . .
Then he comments on the infinite love of God based on Ephesians 3:18–19, "That you may be able to comprehend with all the saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge; that you might be filled with all the fullness of God."
We can never by soaring and ascending come to the height of [the love of God]; we can never by descending come to the depth of it; or by measuring, know the length and breadth of it . . . Let the thoughts and desires extend themselves as they will, here is space enough for them, in which they may expand for ever. How blessed therefore are they that do see God, who are come to this exhaustless fountain! . . . After they have had the pleasure of beholding the face of God millions of ages, it will not grow a dull story; the relish of this delight will be as exquisite as ever . . .
Where are you in the two stages of eternal life? In the third chapter of Revelation there is a verse which describes salvation like this.”Jesus says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me. Have you opened the door? That’s STAGE ONE. Are you dining with Him at His banqueting table? That’s STAGE TWO. All of you should be at stage two: dining with Him, feasting on the words of life. That is what I have been speaking about this morning. And I believe God has taken many of you to stage two: he is drawing you and helping you see Christ for who he is. O that you would cross the threshold into life everlasting and believe this morning, and come into eternal life through Jesus, the door. Come into that wonderful relationship of knowing the only true God and the one whom he sent, Jesus Christ.
What if you believe this morning? What if you finally have said, "Lord, Jesus, I see you in your Word, and I will no longer resist you. I trust you with my soul and my body. I believe the promise of John 3:16 that whoever believes on Christ will not perish but have eternal life. I receive your gift of eternal life." I would really like to know what God is doing in your life so I can pray for you. And I'd like to point you in some helpful direction so you can grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.