Why Discipleship is Not Preparation for Eternal Life

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daily text logoMay 19, 2015

1 John 5:13-15

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

CONSIDER THIS

new-truth

John continues his march toward a verdict. Yesterday his closing argument turned toward the BIG POINT of the whole letter. He has taken on the false teachers so strongly because they were steering the young church away from the MAIN THING. In the end, this is not a prosecution of the false teachers but a proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what’s the BIG POINT and the MAIN THING? Thanks for asking. It’s ETERNAL LIFE. The Gospel is all about ETERNAL LIFE. As I wrote yesterday, I don’t think I’ve really understood Eternal Life. In one of Jesus’ nine recorded prayers, the longest one known as his high priestly prayer, Jesus prays as follows:

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3. 

We talk about the Gospel as salvation from sin, justification, sanctification, deliverance from death, the abundant life, becoming a new creation, and to be sure, it is all these things. All of these things can be summarized in the two words ETERNAL LIFE.

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3

John wants those who have believed in Jesus to understand the new truth about themselves.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 

Note where he goes next.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.

Note he’s talking about Eternal Life in the framework of discipleship—in this instance—prayer. Eternal Life is not in the category of funeral preparations and what happens after one dies. Eternal Life is the whole tamale. In fact, I’m beginning to think of discipleship in a new way. Discipleship is nothing more or less than the retrofitting of a human person with the gift of Eternal Life. Eternal Life was lost as  consequence of the fall from grace. Eternal Life is now gained as the gift of God, given to those who place their faith in Jesus Christ. Discipleship is the process of learning to express in reality what has in fact become real and true. Discipleship is not preparation for Eternal Life, it’s practicing Eternal Life.

What if this is the organizing principle or the governing dynamic of all of life—Eternal Life? We need to “know” we possess Eternal Life and then we need to be trained in how to fully live into Eternal Life. Because we have largely thought of Eternal Life as what happens when we die, we have never really gotten around to living into it before our death. This helps make sense of all of the New Testament teaching on dying before you die. Here’s a representative example.

But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. Romans 8:10-13. 

Now Take a look at Romans 6 and examine it through the lens of Eternal Life.

Engaging with Scripture, Prayer, Fasting, Encouraging one another in faith, and Receiving the Lord’s Supper all become the ways and means of nourishing the Eternal Life within us. Living generously, serving extravagantly, and loving boldly become the ways and means of nourishing the Eternal Life among us.

Eternal Life. . . It’s all about the extraordinary Life of God indwelling and illuminating the lives of ordinary people.

J.D. Walt writes daily for Seedbed’s Daily Text. He serves as Seedbed’s Sower in Chief. Follow him @jdwalt on Twitter or email him at jd.walt@seedbed.com. Get the Daily Text delivered to your inbox fresh every morning. Subscribe HERE.

All Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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