Passage: John 1:1-18
As 2020 comes to an end it was a year like few of us have ever experienced. Obviously, we face 2021 with the hope of the success of the vaccine, an end to Covid and a return to normal life. To be able to meet up with and hug family and friends. To not worry anymore about tiers, bubbles, hand-sanitizer or keeping our distance. To be able to book a holiday and not be anxious about whether we’ll be able to go. To go to the pub, a footy match or the theatre. Normal life is what we all crave. What is true for society is also true for us as a local church. We want to get back to normal life. To have Sunday School running with children filling the classrooms & creche. To restart WIN, Adventurers, Toddlers Together, Brownies & Sunbury Accord. For small groups and the community group back meeting in-person. To not have to socially-distance, wear masks, and to be allowed to sing! Normal life is what we crave as Christians too! Jesus understands this craving as he walked among us and experienced the frustrations and joys of this world. But he’d say to us as we enter 2021- ‘Guys, you’ve set your sights too low!” I came to earth to give eternal life and not just normal life. Although we miss many freedoms we once enjoyed, Jesus offers us so much more.
What is Eternal Life?
In John chapter 17 John records a prayer that Jesus prays to his Father shortly before his arrest. In it, Jesus defines eternal life- “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (v3) Eternal life is all about a relationship with God. To “know” someone in the Bible is to be intimately related to them. It’s not to simply know about them but to know them. As a result of man’s rebellion against God in Genesis chapter 3 man was shut out of relationship with God. Eternal Life is therefore a complete reversal of this fallen human condition. It’s to be back in relationship with God. Note how Jesus describes His Father- “the only true God”. The implication is that there are many false gods. Psalm 96 says- “For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens.” (4-5) The gods of the nations are idols- literally nothing- compared to the only true God. Jesus says more- “That they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”- We might think there are two relationships, one with God and the other with Jesus. But as we’ve looked at these opening verses in John we’ve seen that it is Jesus who reveals God to us. “No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (1:18) Eternal Life is a relationship with God.
How do I get Eternal Life?
Eternal Life is a gift. We don’t work for it, earn it, keep the rules to prove we’re worthy of it and it’s not a reward for our spiritual efforts. This is what Jesus says immediately before his definition of Eternal Life- “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.” (17:1-2) The Father chooses some people whom he gives to the Son and Jesus has the authority to give them the gift of eternal life. The relationship that we can enjoy with God forever is a precious gift. But Jesus says something before this. “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” The restored relationship with God that the Fall had completely ruptured is only possible because the Son would do something about the sin that separates us and God. “The hour has come” means the time of his death. On the Cross Jesus would cry out, “It is finished” (19:30) as he bore God’s wrath for our sin in our place, to make a relationship possible. In order to receive the gift of eternal life we must actually do something. We must turn and put our faith in Jesus and his saving work on the Cross. The most well-known verse of the bible makes this clear- “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (3:16) Is this something you’ve done?
What if I reject Jesus?
In John 3:36 we read- “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” To believe in Jesus is to have eternal life. It’s to be in relationship with God now, in this life, in a relationship that will last forever. But to reject Jesus is to not have eternal life. It’s not to be in relationship with God now, in this life, or ever. Then we discover the reason- “for God’s wrath remains on him.” Every one of us is by nature a rebel against God. What John writes in his prologue describes us all- “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him.” (1:10) The world is humanity in rebellion against its Creator and this rebellion makes us God’s enemies not his friends and as Paul writes to the Ephesians (2:3)- “we were by nature objects of (God’s) wrath.” God’s wrath doesn’t come upon us when we sin but is already on us because, by nature, we’re sinners. There’s only one other place that the wrath of God against human sin can go and that’s upon the head of God’s Son as he took it on the Cross. If we choose to reject what Jesus has done for us there, then we’ll bear the consequences of our sin forever. Jesus is the only Saviour for sin. To reject Jesus is to reject our only Saviour & our only hope. It’s to miss the gift of eternal life.
So as we look forward to a new year and hopefully a vaccine, an end to Covid and a return to normal life, don’t lose sight of the fact that our greatest need is not just for normal life but for eternal life! Jesus wants us to raise our sights!! May this glorious truth penetrate our hearts, inflame our prayers and increase our courage to make Jesus known. As Jesus says- “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (10:10) Happy New Year!!