Peninsula Community Church
He Came to Give Us Eternal Life
December 15, 2013
John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him
I love Christmas decorations. While in New York, one of the things we used to do after our Christmas Eve service was to load the family in the van and head off to look at homes that had decorated their homes to the point that the International Space Station could see the light emitted from the home. I would often think about the time it took to place each of those lights in the exact location so that they would achieve the intended purpose.
After seeing those light displays, I would turn to the task of placing the lights on our Christmas tree. How could they do what they do when it always seems so complicated to simply get the lights onto our tree. I am not sure if you have had this problem before but you take out all of the ornaments and the lights out of the storage container and as you are placing the lights on the tree you find they are tangled to the degree that it becomes a frustrating nightmare. And then finally, you get them untangled and placed on the tree only to find out that one of the bulbs is blown so that now the whole strand of lights is out. Of course finding the one light that is causing the problem is like finding a needle in a haystack. Things like this can complicate the season. It can put a dampener on the way we feel and the way we look at Christmas.
The fact is Christmas can be complicated in so many ways. There are so many events to attend. There are presents to buy. There are family members that will visit that we do not like but we have to play nice with them because it is Christmas. We buy gifts for people we don’t like with money we don’t have. Then we have to try to buy a gift that you know someone really wants but you have to buy it and and then wrap in such a way that it will be a surprise for the one opening it. And then, there are the gifts we get that we are not sure what they are about or what use they serve. For a while the singing fish was popular. What do you with a singing fish? Even if it sings “Sweet Home Alabama” what do you do with it?
While Christmas can be complicated, the message of the Gospel does not have to be. While the Christmas story is really a simple story about the good news, somehow, we have complicated the story and the message that Christ came to give. Too often, we blame those outside the church or we criticize those who have not accepted Christ for not accepting the message when the problem comes down to the fact that we have complicated the message to the point that it fails to bring the joy and the answers to life that it was intended to bring. We, therefore, cannot blame them for our own failures and our ability to complicate the message.
So how do we simplify the message? How do we stop complicating the gospel?
The first thing we need to do is realize that Christ came to bring good news. In reading the Christmas story in Luke’s account of the Gospel, we find that the Angel proclaimed that Good News was coming to earth. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you:you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger (Luke 2:10-12).
The second thing we need to do is to realize that the Good News is that Christ came to bring us eternal life. If we return to our text, we see the Good News is that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to give us eternal life. Look at this with me. He, God, loved. He, God, gave. We believe. We receive. It is that simple.
We have complicated the message because although we say eternal life is freely received, we can intentionally or unintentionally set so many parameters and rules that must be met before we can receive the gift He has given, that it complicates the decision of the unsaved. One of the first parameters we set is that you must straighten up and fly right before you can accept this gift. Rather than coming to Christ with all of our failures and short comings we can lead people to believe that they must change or be at a certain place in their life to be accepted by Christ. The fact is, we come to him just as we are but we also come to Him with an understanding that He will not allow us to stay where we are. He will bring the change in us and through us that God must do. Look at who Jesus ministered to in the bible: the hungry, the prostitute who was used and abused, the leper who was rejected by the religious leaders and society, the tax man who was one that people wanted to have a relationship with, the lame, the cripple, the religious leaders, the fisherman who were simple minded men, and many more. He never asked them to change before He touched them or called them into service. He came to them in their fallen state and ministered to them right where they were in the moment. That should bless our heart and encourage us. It should spur us on to service in and to him.
Second, the good news is not about joining the church. In fact, it is not about what we would consider the church at all. Too often, we have complicated the message by inferring that salvation and church membership or at least church attendance are on equal terms with salvation. This is an inaccurate statement and belief. Salvation and church attendance are not the same. Salvation is not contingent on our attendance at church. You can attend church and never be saved. But, I will say that when you are genuinely saved, you will have a desire to be with God’s people.
Third, we can present salvation as the rite of being born into the right Christian family. The fact is we are not Christians by physical birth but only by way of spiritual birth. Once again we can receive eternal life and be a part of a pagan family or we can be a part of a Christian family and never come to fully understand eternal life. We come to Christ by accepting his gift and then we begin to follow his plan as noted in the word.
The third thing that we need to understand is that eternal life is less about a destination as it is about a relationship. We have looked at what the good news is not, now let us look at what it is. In our passage today, John states that the gift of God is eternal life but what does that mean to us? I have to be honest with you. This has been one of those theological areas that has baffled me in many ways. What is eternal life? We say the believer will have eternal life but doesn’t every one really experience some form of eternal life? There is a heaven and there is a hell. That is a fact.
So if everyone experiences some form of eternal life, then what does it mean when we say that we will have eternal life? To answer this question let us look at another passage. In John 17:1-3, John includes the following words of Christ in his writings. When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
If we understand this correctly, we see that eternal life is less about where we will live when we die but how how we live before we die. It is all about having a relationship with God the Father and God the son. Look at what Christ Himself says. This is eternal life…. that they know you the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you sent. Eternal life therefore is not a destination, it is a relationship. It is a relationship with the one and only God.
Finally, we need to understand that to receive eternal life we must not just believe in but we must also believe on Christ. How is this relationship established? To understand this let us return to John 3:16 for a moment. Here, Jesus says that whosoever believes in Him should have eternal life. It is interesting to note however that the Greek used here does not say “believe in” Him. The Greek uses a prepositional phrase that means to “believe on” or “believe toward.” It carries the idea of trust.
The fact is we can believe in many things. We can believe in Santa Claus. We can believe in the Easter Bunny. You see we can believe in something but never have a relationship with that something or that someone. We can believe those things exist but they may never have an impact on our lives. The idea that is given in the verbiage of the Greek is that to have eternal life we must believe on or believe toward Christ. The idea expressed here is the idea of trusting. Do we trust Him with our lives? Do we trust Him with our bank account? Do we trust Him with our relationships? Do we trust Him with our future? Do we trust Him with the unknown?
You see I can believe this stool will hold me but I must exercise a measure of faith and place my self on the chair to understand whether or not this stool will sustain my weight. I can believe in the stool but I must exercise my faith by believing on the stool and acting out my faith by sitting on the stool. I give this stool all of my weight, with a believe that it will hold me and will not fall a part under my weight.
That is what it means to believe in Christ. We begin a relationship with him through accepting him. We grow in the relationship by reading His word which is His letter to us. We also grow by finding people who love God with all of their heart and then hang out with them.
So today, if you do not know Christ begin this morning by realizing that finding Christ does not have to be complicated. Secondly, understand that receiving the Good News is about eternal life and eternal life is about having a relationship with Christ. It is believing on Christ and trusting Him to do what He said He would do.