The Gospel According to Jesus

   Written by on October 5, 2017 at 11:50 am

logo-smith-gregNot long ago, I came across a little story about a man considering the meaning of eternal life:

Thinking of the fullness and duration of this wonderful life, W. B. Hinson, a great preacher of a past generation, spoke from his own experience just before he died. He said, “I remember a year ago when a doctor told me, ‘You have an illness from which you won’t recover.’ I walked out to where I live 5 miles from Portland, Oregon, and I looked across at that mountain that I love. I looked at the river in which I rejoice, and I looked at the stately trees that are always God’s own poetry to my soul. Then in the evening I looked up into the great sky where God was lighting His lamps, and I said, ‘ I may not see you many more times, but Mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; and River, I shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea; and Stars, I shall be alive when you have fallen from your sockets in the great down pulling of the material universe!’ “1

So often, Christians use the term “eternal life” to mean a life of never-ending duration after we pass from this world to the next.  And it does mean that.  W.B. Hinson anticipated this kind of everlasting existence.  But when Jesus uses the term, He means this and more.  In John 17, we find Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer,” which is full of the Lord’s intentions and prayers for His followers.  In this, we find that the Gospel according to Jesus reveals not just a life of eternal duration, but eternal quality.

In verses 2b-3, Jesus addresses God the Father, but refers to Himself in the third person, saying that Jesus “gives eternal life to each one you [the Father] have given him.  And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.”2  So to Jesus, eternal life is simply this: knowing God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  Jesus spends the rest of His prayer asking God for some blessings for His people.  The Good News of Jesus is that God wants you to not only live forever, but also to experience unity, joy, holiness, and eventually to live with Him in Heaven.

Eternal life means unity for Jesus-followers.  In verse 11, Jesus asks the Father, “Protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.”  In verse 21, Jesus continues, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”  Then in verse 23, Jesus says, “I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”  Jesus’ desire for the Church is that each of its members be as united with one another as Christ is with the Father.  Too many churches are divided, one faction against another, or the people against the pastor, or this congregation or denomination against another.  The world is divisive enough as it is—the church certainly shouldn’t be.  Jesus wants us to be perfectly one with each other.

In verse 13, Jesus prays, “I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy.”  This joy is part of eternal life.  I mean, who would want to live forever, if you’re not joyful?  Everlasting life with a sour, bitter, hateful, unforgiving heart wouldn’t be heaven—it’d be hell!  Joy is one of the ways you know a person has the Holy Spirit moving in their life (Galatians 5:22-23).  Those who call themselves Christians but who lack joy in their lives may be saved, but they aren’t going to enjoy their salvation very much.  Joy is the result of opening your heart to allow the Holy Spirit to transform you from the inside.

Jesus continues to pray for this eternal quality of life for His followers in verse 17: “Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.”  Some Bible translations have Jesus asking God to “sanctify them” by God’s truth.  This “truth” is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which sanctifies a person from the inside out.  This holiness is not an external avoidance of that which defiles, but a separation from things that get in the way of life and fruitfulness in God’s order.  Led by the word of truth, believers walk in step with Jesus.

Finally, Jesus prays, “Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am.”  This is connected to Jesus’ earlier statement, “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am (John 14:2-3).”  At this point, He gets to what we always think of when we use the phrase “eternal life.”  We generally mean “forever in heaven.”  Yes—Jesus promises this to the people He saves.  And we can rejoice in the anticipation of this gift.

But the Gospel according to Jesus means something more than simply “getting saved,” if by that we mean going to heaven and avoiding hell.  The Good News of Jesus is that our lives might take on an eternal quality, not just quantity.  Jesus asked the Father that, with this everlasting mindset, we might experience unity, joy, and holiness, and that one day we might enjoy the benefits of heaven.  Jesus means all these things when He uses the expression, “eternal life.”

There are three huge gates that lead into the Cathedral of Milan. Over one gate there is an inscription in marble under a beautiful flower bouquet that says, “The things that please are temporary.” Over the second gate, there is a cross with this inscription: “The things that disturb us are temporary.” However, over the central gate, there is a big inscription saying, “Eternal are the important ones.”3

Jesus says, “And this is the way to have eternal life–to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” (John 17:3)  I pray that you’ll know His eternal life—that you’ll choose not the things that are temporary but the important things that are eternal.  And I pray that this everlasting life for you will be one not just of never-ending duration, but of perpetual holiness and wholeness.  This is the Gospel according to Jesus.

(Endnotes)

1 W.B. Hinson.  http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/e/eternal_life.htm.  August 24, 2017.

2 Scripture quotations taken from the NLT.

3 Unknown source.  http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/e/eternal.htm.  August 24, 2017.

©2017 Gregory T. Smith.
Reprinted with permission
revgregsmith.blogspot.com

About Greg Smith

Greg Smith is a Baptist minister who has served churches in Central and Southside Virginia. He lives in Halifax County, VA with his wife and children. To read more of Greg’s writings check out his blog at revgregsmith.blogspot.com.

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