June 27, 2014

Why would anyone reject eternal life?

“ . . .  I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

Before my husband became a Christian, he thought eternal life would be boring. He has since changed his mind. Both of us realize that getting to know God is an endless delight, and as Jesus said, “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)

But Jesus also said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39–40)

Why would His listeners refuse to come to Him for eternal life? Did they think eternity would be boring? I doubt that was their reason. While excuses abound for rejecting Jesus, it seems the main one goes far deeper than the prospect of forever having nothing to do.
Something happened to me this week that sheds light on why Jesus said this to those religious people. He knew the reason behind their reluctance and showed it to me with an unexpected reluctance in me. I have a Christ-like friend that is a delight to talk to, but this seldom happens. I was talking to the Lord about having more opportunities for such a blessing when His Spirit suggested to me, “What if you could have a meaningful conversation with ____ every week for the rest of your life?”

At first, I thought I was hearing things, or that this thought was my idea. However, His sheep hear His voice and I knew this was from the Lord. As I thought about it, I was first delighted. More time with someone who is like Jesus would be wonderful. Then my delight slowly turned to reluctance. If this happened continually, I know that God would expect me to participate unselfishly too. Instead of taking and receiving, I must also be unselfishly giving and being a blessing as well. For that, I must rely on Christ because I cannot be unselfish apart from total dependence on His Spirit.

These verses from John reveal to me how much I am like all other sinners. The Jews did not want to come to Christ because they didn’t want to be totally dependent on anyone. For that reason, they refused Him and the life He offered. This came out quite clearly a bit later when Jesus told them He was the living bread that came down from heaven. If they ate this bread, they would live forever, and “the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

They were upset. Some took it literally and grumbled. When many of His disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” Jesus knew His disciples were grumbling too so He challenged them . . .

Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.

The Scripture says that after this, many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. They did not want to be totally dependent on Jesus. They wanted eternal life, but for them, their way of salvation (though Law-keeping) was more appealing than relying on Jesus for it.

At that, Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:49–69)

Peter was right. Anyone who wants eternal life must be utterly depending on Jesus Christ for that life. It comes no other way. Yet eternal life is not merely future life; it is also the life that I live now. Being a Christian means relying on Him all the time and for everything.

The bottom line is that if I want to enjoy the company of Christ through transparent fellowship with my friend or anyone else, then I must also be willing to draw my sustenance from Christ, not depend on that friend to do all the giving. Following Jesus is never about selfishly getting everything I want.

One day, “We who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17) but even now, my relationship with God and His people is about drawing nourishment from Christ, totally relying on Him, not on my friends, that I might be a blessing even as they are a blessing to me.

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