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Know That You Have Eternal Life
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By Pastor Mick Wolfe
March 11, 2019

1Jn 5:12-13 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. (walking in the light - confessing sin - practicing righteousness [not sin] - loving the brethren - hating the world, etc.)

The Beginning

It’s important to begin at the beginning. We are told that we were created by God, for God (specifically for Christ - Col.1:16) and in the image of God (Ge.1:26-27). This sets the stage for understanding that we were designed to have proper, blessed relationship with God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Knowing that we were created for relationship, we must also maintain that the goal of redemption is to correct a relationship that has been destroyed. The rest of the Christian life is to flow out of and be a manifestation of this corrected relationship.

The Problem

That which ruins this relationship is sin. The essence of sin is to exalt one’s personal importance above the actual importance of God; to have a self-supreme disposition or internal purpose / motivation. Such an attitude and approach toward relationship with God is also known as “transgression” and “iniquity” – a violation of proper relational arrangement with God which results in a broken relationship. Thus, the prophet Isaiah says, “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Is.59:2). The phrase “…His face…” is a Hebraism speaking of a relational position. To hide one’s face or “not hear” indicates the relationship is not right.

The Solution

The initial goal is to correct this fundamental relationship problem but, once this is corrected, everything else in life will be a manifestation of this corrected relationship. It seems we have overshadowed, even replaced, the importance of the relationship aspect of redemption by turning the focus to a transaction that emphasizes “going to heaven” or “avoiding hell.” Heaven is a bi-product of restored relationship but becomes a distraction and barrier to the relational dynamic when it becomes the primary goal.

In order to get perspective on the process of restoring one’s relationship with God through Christ, we will consider Matthew 16:24-25 in which Jesus states to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

The phrases “…come after Me…follow Me…” speak of having a right relationship with Him. In other words, in order to correct a relationship in which the wrong person is “leading,” the one who is leading that should not be leading needs to correct this arrangement. In order to do so, the next statement speaks of that which is necessary.

The person who is going to follow Him must “…deny himself…”. This is a more comprehensive statement than most people realize. In order for this to happen, one must recognize and abandon the fundamental flaw in the heart attitude and mindset that views life through a me-first, me-centered perspective. This is one of the most challenging paradigm shifts a person must make. Sadly, a wrong presentation of the gospel will never ask a person to do this and, even more sadly, most people will never do (even many who think they have). In order to help us understand this, consider, “For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Mt.7:14) and “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Mt.7:21).
Unfortunately, many people have created something they call “Christianity” which does not require that we deal with this. Too often, the “religion” this produces finds people putting their time and effort into widening the narrow path instead of being on it. This is why we see a rising trend in “liberal Christianity” which spends more time defending and justifying sin than it does helping people find deliverance from and victory over sin.

Abandoning this me-first, me-centered perspective and approach is the essence of repentance, when the goal of pleasing oneself is no longer the prevailing factor in one’s decision making process and is replaced with the actual, intelligently pursued goal of pleasing God (which requires a sincere, active effort to understand what pleases Him through proper study of Scripture).

It is only after actual self-denial that a person can follow Jesus and do the next thing of which Jesus speaks.

The follower of Jesus is told to “…take up his cross…”. We must attempt to understand the meaning of this phrase by considering 1) how the mind of Jesus would have understood it and 2) how the original hearers would have understood it.

The original hearers would have simply associated this with death – a cruel end to Self. Beyond this, it is certain that Jesus would have viewed this in association with redemption. The reason He went to the cross was to redeem sinners. To take up your cross would indicate that, having denied self-supremacy and following Jesus we seek to be involved in redemptive activity.

Now we can consider the unusual statement, “…whoever wishes to save his life will lose it…”. Before offering a paraphrase that will help us get the gist of this statement we should note that there is a tendency to automatically think of the word “save” in terms of having assurance of going to heaven. The root word refers to preserving the condition of something. Consequently, according to language and context, we could paraphrase by saying, “If you insist on preserving, maintaining and living a self-supreme life you will produce negative, destructive results.”

The next phrase, “…whoever loses his life for My sake will find it…” could be paraphrased, “Whoever gives up his self-centered life to have a right relationship with Me (Jesus) will find out what life was actually intended to be (life eternal).”

If we only present the “good news” as a transaction that only involves “accepting Jesus” so you will go to heaven, we bi-pass everything we just considered and people accept this transaction but do not deny self-supremacy, do not enter into right relationship with Jesus and do not find out what life was actually intended to be. When a person repents and begins to trust Jesus, they begin a new, proper relationship with Him and receive the Holy Spirit who, initially informs us of the reality of our restored relationship. Consider…

Ro.8:15-17 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

Ga.4:6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

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