Relationships and Eternal Life
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 1 December 2001
I am sure that everybody here will agree with me when I tell them that life can be very complicated. There are times in our lives when everything seems smooth and peaceful, and others when there seems to be nothing but trouble, disturbance, and inner struggle. Go and talk with anybody - whether religious or not - and they will tell you that life has its ups and downs.
What is life? Life, put very simply, is a series of alternative choices. Whatever we choose to do has consequences, just like the law of gravity. Unfortunately, life does not consist of just a few simple choices - not only are there literally hundreds of choices, but some of them are frustratingly complex. We often struggle not just with the aftermath of choice-making but in deciding what choices to make in the first place.
Part of the confusion comes from not understanding what is going on. And, if the truth be known, most people don't want to know what's going on. We would rather, if we are honest with ourselves, prefer someone else like God to make the difficult decisions in life for us. And when people reject God, they instead put their faith in such things as "luck" or "fate", or if they have turned to Satan, in magical spells and enchantments. In some countries superstition if so great that people will not make any choices at all without first consulting a horoscope or an astrologer - they expect the "stars" to tell them what to do.
There are five main areas of choice-making in life, all of which affect us in one way or another, none of which we can ignore. Think of them as shopping baskets full of different kinds of fruit. These baskets have the following labels on them: PHYSICAL, SOCIAL, MATERIAL, FAMILY and SPIRITUAL. Whoever we are or whatever we do, we cannot ignore them. Firstly, we are physical bodies which have to breathe, eat, drink, be kept warm, and have other needs. Secondly, unless we become a monk or a nun and live in a cave far from the world, we are going to be surrounded by people of various sorts and must learn to have a social relationship with them, choosing who will be our friends and who will not. Third, we live in a physical world and are constantly faced with choices about things - what to own, what to use, what to buy. Fourth, we are all brought up in families, even if we are adopted, and there learn our first and most important social skills - we have to choose how we are going to treat them. And fifth, we face spiritual choices and have to make decisions - even rejecting God is a spiritual choice because whether we like it or not we have a spiritual self.
As we choose, so we grow. If a man or woman loves God more than pleasure, he will become like God. If he loves worldly pleasures more than God, then he will become more and more like the world. The things we choose affect the way we develop. Our choices make us what we are.
As Christians we talk a lot about "eternal life". Many believers delude themselves into thinking that once they choose Yah'shua (Jesus) as their Lord and Saviour that they suddenly "have" eternal life. But they have not really understood. "Eternal life" is a form of "life" - it's not an orange which you can just pick out of a basket and say, "Hey, I've got eternal life now!" A person who has eternal life is living the type of life that is eternal. It is a way of living that has eternal qualities.
Let me explain. If you are a school teacher your life is filled with teaching at school. It is one thing to receive a qualification from a college or a university which says you now have the right to teach in a school. That is not the same as living a teacher's life. To have a teacher's life you have to be teaching. It is exactly the same being a Christian. The fact that you have made the choice of accepting Yah'shua (Jesus) as Lord doesn't mean that you suddenly have a Christian life. You can wear the label of Christian and do absolutely nothing at all. A teacher can get a qualification to be a teacher but unless he has a job as a teacher he is not leading a teacher's life. He has to find a job and get involved in the daily routine of the school. To possess eternal life means to be living your life in the presence of eternity. To have eternal life means to be walking with Christ on a daily basis. To have eternal life means picking the right fruits from each of the five baskets. It means making the right choices.
It is so easy to confuse what we want to be with what we actually are. To be means to do. To have eternal life means to be walking in the quality of an eternal life. It isn't a mental proposition. It isn't an idea. Life isn't a theory - it's something that is lived. It involves action, movement, and interaction with other lives.
In some ways eternal life is like a piece of music. You can have the tune written down on a piece of paper but the musical score isn't the music itself. The music doesn't come to life until it is sung or played on a musical instrument. When it is played, then it becomes musical life. It is alive. The Christian life does not become eternal life until it attains eternal attributes or qualities. When a person begins to possess these qualities, then he begins to possess eternal life. And the more he lives that way, the more eternal his life becomes.
One writer has described eternal life as "that quality of character and personal integrity achieved through Christ-like service and lifetime obedience" to the commandments of God "which enables the individual to be changed - gradually and almost imperceptibly, in his very nature". Of course, an individual cannot do this in his own strength. We know we cannot save ourselves. Man's attempt to live the Law of Moses constantly failed because he was not empowered by the resurrection life of Yah'shua (Jesus). And Yah'shua (Jesus) warned us saying that if we fail in one point of the Torah that we fail in all.
Eternal life is not therefore just something that we can live in our own strength. The actual empowerment to live in this way is not something we have latent within ourselves like a hidden occult force. The power to live in this way comes from Christ living within us - and Christ lives within us by giving us the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). It is this spiritual presence which empowers us with eternal life-force. It is like the petrol (gas) in a car. Whilst we have the mechanism to allow us to live an eternal life in Christ, we do not have the power itself. The power comes from outside of ourselves.
"And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ (Yah'shua the Messiah) whom You have sent" (John 17:3, NKJV).
This is one of the clearest definitions of eternal life in the scriptures. To have eternal life is to know Yahweh our Heavenly Father, and His Son Yah'shua (Jesus). But this kind of knowledge isn't knowing about God - knowing God does not mean you have some doctrinal propositions about God up in your head - for the word "know" in Hebrew always means an intimate relationship. This same word "know" (Heb. yada') is used euphemistically of Adam and Eve in their intimate relationship together (Gen.4:1) so that we understand that the kind of knowing that gives eternal life is to be compared on a human level with the kind of intimate relationship that exists between a husband and a wife. What is so special about marriage is that it provides the kind of intimacy that no other human relationship can give. To possess eternal life means to have an intimate relationship with God - so intimate that there is a deep knowledge of each other in the relationship.
True spiritual knowledge is once again seen to be a state of being. It is the way you are inside, not a collection of facts about something which you have in your head. Saying you are a Christian doesn't make you one. Claiming Yah'shua (Jesus) as Lord and Saviour doesn't mean that you are walking in an intimate relationship with Him. To walk with Him, we have to take that spiritual deposit which is the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) which we receive upon a genuine confession of faith and doing something with it.
Yah'shua explained this principle many times using parables. One well-known parable is the parable of talents. The talents are our spiritual deposit, like the leaven in the dough. If we bury it, we lose it. A Christian life not lived is eternal life given and removed. Yes, mark that well - that talent was taken away from the man who did nothing with it! If Christ isn't put to work in your life through choosing to life that life in obedience to the commandments, then that Christ-life - that spiritual deposit - eternal life - is taken away from you! And what happens to the soul who has that deposit removed? It is his guarantee of heaven. Take the heavenly guarantee away, and what do you have left?
Eternal life is compared many times in scripture to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is the Kingdom of Heaven within you. But unless you use it, and multiply it like leaven, it is, to all intents and purposes, dead within you. It is stillborn. It's like petrol (gas) in a car which is never started. What use is a tank full of petrol (gas) if the car is never used? And yet that is what many nominal Christians are doing with their spiritual life.
There is a world of difference between a car with a full tank of petrol (gas) sitting in a garage doing nothing and a car which is used. The first car isn't being used as a car. The second one is being used for what it was created.
This divine deposit of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is the most remarkable power in the universe (2 Cor.1:22; 5:5; Eph.1:13-14; 2 Tim.1:14), but it can never be discovered until it is actually used. And the only way it can be used is if the one possessing eternal life - no matter how mature or immature - starts giving his life to others in service. Eternal life thrives and multiples in relationship with other people. It is the only place it can flourish. Human relationships are the medium that it was designed for. It was what Christ died for. It was not given to us to be hoarded and used unproductively. Like the spiritual manna in the wilderness, if it is not used when it is supposed to be used, it disintegrates.
Now here is a great mystery. Christ, you will remember, liked himself to the manna that the Israelites were fed on in the wilderness (Jn.6:31-25), only His origin was different from that kind of food. The manna that Yahweh gave His children was designed only to last one day except for the manna which fell the day before the Sabbath which lasted for two. If anyone tried to hoard the manna for himself, it rotted away.
The divine deposit of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit), though it does not rot, does withdraw. This is something vitally important for us to understand. Each day the Lord gives us eternal life it is designed to be used and multiplied. And the only way it can be used and multiplied is when we use our lives to serve others. The more we give, the more we receive! If we give nothing, we lose even that we were given. Eternal life thrives in loving relationships and grows, and grows, and grows - try to keep it for yourself, then, as with the steward who was given one talent and hid it, on the day of accounting, it is taken away.
We are judged and weighed not only at the end of this life but once a year at Yom Kippur, once a month at the New Moon, once a week on the Sabbath, and every evening. We are in a continual cycle of judgement, and for the most part we are entirely ignorant of it because it is an invisible, spiritual process. And yet we sense the after effects of these judgements, especially if they are negative - emptiness, a sense of failure, of being cut-off, of loneliness even if we are surrounded by people. And when these feelings come, we are restless and try to compensate by doing other things - different activities, changing job, moving from home, or any number of other things.
Eternal life is both infinitely powerful and at the same as delicate as a poppy flower. It is infinitely powerful when it is in its right environment, the human heart living the Christian life, and hopelessly weak when outside it. Eternal life was built to a unique spiritual specification - and the more you think about it, the more amazing it is. I am pleasantly surprised each summer when our poppy plants come into bloom - parts of the garden are a sea of pink petals. And yet with the slightest wind, they are gone. They last for only such a short, short time.
And that is a fitting picture of eternal life outside a life in Christ - a life in relationship with Him (a deep knowing) and a life in relationship with fellow believers (likewise a deep knowing). A relationship in Christ is every bit like a marriage relationship, and as in all marriage, if you don't work at it, your marriage will disintegrate and die.
The apostle Peter tells us exactly what we are supposed to do with this power:
"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (Yah'shua the Messiah). But if anyone does not have them, he is short-sighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (Yah'shua the Messiah)" (2 Peter 1:3-11, NIV).
This divine power which Peter speaks of is the heavenly deposit called eternal life, the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit). By moving in it we actually participate in God's divine nature, and it is through this that we come to know Him.
To have eternal life in Christ is to be daily changed through a life of service, repentance from dead works, and a consistent effort to live the commandments. Deathbed confessions, ordinances like baptism, and tongue confessions alone do not change our behaviour. That is why we are living lives in a world where we are constantly facing choices of doing good or evil. This world is a place of opposites and contradictions - it is a testing ground, a place to learn and choose eternal life or eternal death. It is a place where Satan is allowed to tempt us. That is why political change is utterly useless without spiritual change. As it is, Satan is now trying to create a world where the choice for good doesn't exist. Indeed, trying to find it is getting harder and harder, and it will reach the point where the only good left will be, and already is in many places, small pockets of commandment-keeping Christians living together in community.
To be happy, stable, productive and on the way to heaven means to receive the gift of eternal life, keep it, and multiply it. In order to do that, we have to establish a threefold system of relationships in which the power of eternal life can be worked. These three are GOD, FAMILY, and OTHER BELIEVERS - first and foremost Yahweh, second family, and third other Christians. Every part is important - they give breadth, height, and depth. These are the spiritual three dimensions of eternal life ... and the least important is self - in fact, strictly speaking, it doesn't exist, because it is crucified in Christ (Rom.6:6; Gal.2:20). But more even than that, Paul says:
"But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ (Yah'shua the Messiah), by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal 6:14, NKJV).
The person who possesses eternal life has no interest in the world because all its carnal attractiveness has been crucified with self. For the spirit of the world is the spirit of selfishness. The person who possesses eternal life has a world consisting of three spheres of interest only: Christ, Family, and the Fellowship of Believers. That is eternal life's environment. Outside those spheres it dies. It reaches beyond to unbelievers in the world and invites them to join that sphere of eternal life, to share in eternal living. It isn't interested in anything else. Everything else - all that lies beyond - is death.
But why do people miss this eternal life? Why aren't people embracing it eagerly? Why shouldn't everyone want this happiness and joy? And the answer is because eternal life has a counterfeit - something that looks and feels like eternal life, but which is only an illusion. Worse, it is not eternal. It fades and disappears. It is called the flesh, and its powerhouse is called PSYCHIC ENERGY. It is an intoxicating power, moreover, because it is entirely self-based. It is the energy which all false spirituality feeds off - atheism, materialism, humanism, occultism, and all false religion. I have spoken to you of it many, many times. It always fails and it always disappoints because it never lasts. It is what the world is build on. It is the major temptation - one the biggest and brightest of fruits in our basket called spirituality. In fact, it's THE biggest fruit of them all.
Not the seed called Eternal Life. It is tiny. It is, Yah'shua (Jesus) tells us, no bigger than a mustard seed. It's so small that most people don't even look at it. And when they do, they pass it by for the big juicy fruit called Carnality. And yet - and yet, that little seed grows not only into the biggest of trees but into the Tree called, in Scripture, The Tree of Life - the TREE OF ETERNAL LIFE:
"He showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations" (Rev 22:1-3, NKJV).
Each month there is a spiritual judgement and a spiritual blessing for the faithful. And in what are they expected to be faithful?
"Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. I, Jesus (Yah'shua), have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches" (Rev 22:14-16, NKJV).
Eternal life is there for us to be plucked, not as a right but as a reward for faithful living. We have been saved out of the world through trusting Yah'shua (Jesus) - let us make sure we do not fall back into it where lawlessness and death reign, and where there is no life, save that life which leads to eternal death. Amen.
This page was created on 30 November 2001
Last updated on 30 November 2001
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