Eternal Life: Is it a Quantity of Life, or a QUALITY of life?

In John 14:6 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the LIFE”: This life Jesus mentions is eternal, and that’s what we usually focus on, isn’t it? John 3:16 says that whosoever believes on him has everlasting life. It captures our interest because it is immortal and incorruptible. It will be everlasting. For many people, Christianity is an eternal insurance policy because it offers the possibility of living after death, and who doesn’t want to live forever?

But to me, that’s not what makes Christianity so compelling. In John 10:10 Jesus describes not a quantity but a QUALITY of life: “I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” This type of living begins NOW, not when we die. It is yours now, in the midst of a dying, broken world. It’s a lifetime free from worry, fear, death, prejudice, injustice, hopelessness, and selfishness. It is living within the possibility of joy, peace, faithfulness, forgiveness, and love. Eternal life does not erase the realities of a fallen world, but it creates new realities about how we live within it.

Puddleglum’s Logic

This eternal life does not transport us directly to heaven, but it brings heaven to us, and offers a spiritual means to navigate a carnal world. In “The Silver Chair” by C.S. Lewis, a pessimistic character named Puddleglum is held captive by a witch in her depressing under world, which she claims is the only real world. Even though Puddleglum’s group follows the great Lion Aslan, she denies his existence and tries to seduce them into giving up.

The witch holds them prisoner in her underworld and surrounds them with false enchantments. She offers an alternative world, and suggests that Aslan and his world do not exist. Puddleglum and his friends are beginning to believe her fabrication when he rouses himself and even without full proof or certainty, makes the following declaration:

life

“Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow.”

life

A Choice Worth Making

In times of doubt, I’ve often looked at Christianity that way. What if it is all made up? What if there’s no heaven, no eternal existence? Well, for my money the values that Jesus taught still offer a better life than everything else. Even if Jesus didn’t live on earth and die (although we know he did) and even if he was not resurrected (although the evidences strongly suggests he WAS), then it would STILL be worth living a Christian life that offers love, service, peace, and comfort.

In Puddleglum’s words, the qualities of the Christian life “lick the real world hollow”. The world calls you to anxiety, stress, and discouragement. It offers you temporary pain and temporary solutions. Jesus came so that your life could be abundant. From all that’s around you, choose abundance today. You might just find eternal life to go along with it. What do you have to lose?

The WAY, the Truth, and the LIFE

Jesus said, “I am the Life”, and it is not redundant
To think: was longer life his aim? Or life that’s more abundant?
Pie in the sky when you die by and by might matter most to some,
Eternity, and what will be in all the years to come;
But rather than the quantity, the thing that means the most to me
Is life that’s lived abundantly and characterized by quality.
Jesus said, “I am the Life”, and then He came to give it.
For those of us who follow him, our job is just to live it.

To purchase my newest book Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

John Said, “In Him Was Life.” But, Was It REALLY?

I said a couple of days ago that the three I AM statements in John 14:6 built upon one another, and today we come to the final one: “I am the life”. Let’s start by remembering John’s testimony about Jesus.

Of the baby born in Bethlehem, John said, “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:4-5, NIV) Men have been misunderstanding Jesus since the time he was an infant. Apparently it is really easy to not understand Jesus… and one of the easiest ways to do that is to assume you already know, and to avoid really looking at him.

I mean, all of us know something about Jesus. Perhaps because you’ve heard a parable or two, you’ve never taken the time to look at his entire life. (But wait, there’s more!”) People often look at small snapshots of Jesus without ever watching the whole movie. (Or, without reading the whole book.)

See the Whole Picture

Some folks assume that Jesus must be like people who say they know him, and that can be like looking at a diamond through a broken microscope. The spectrum of behavior from folks who say they follow Jesus is both incredibly varied and incredibly misleading. Jesus Followers (as well as those who merely claim to follow him) range from misguided religious nuts to sincere believers who make mistakes, still live in the flesh, and yes, still commit sins… It’s very easy, if you are skeptical, to look at the Church—the imperfect, stumbling, bumbling followers of Christ– and decide Jesus is not for you. In fact, there are many times you could have looked at ME and said, “this Jesus stuff just doesn’t work.” I wouldn’t blame you for judging me, but to be honest, my mistakes are just not a good excuse for you not to look at Jesus himself.

It’s easy to avoid looking at him closely because you think he is like “nominal” Christians, people who attend church. They wear the mantle of “Christian” but they may not actually be connected to him at all. So many people say, “Yeah, I know about Jesus, I know about his teachings”, when all they have done is given a cursory glance at what he said, or listened to a secondhand account (yeah, like this one) of what he said.

Factual and Actual

But I would say to you and to anyone who encounters the actual Jesus of the Bible, the rabbi who gave the Sermon on the Mount, the teacher who confounded the Pharisees, or the healer who healed, the same man whose birthday we celebrate every year at Christmas, that John’s description of the Word is accurate and applicable. Use the “It’s a Wonderful Life” template, and let’s pretend Jesus had never been born… How different would the world be today? How much has his teaching and his sacrifice influenced the affairs of men?

life

It certainly influenced John. After 3 years of walking daily with Jesus, of watching him heal and listening to him teach, and after having meals and walking along the road and going to parties with him, he understood who Jesus was, and he captured it perfectly here in his introduction: “In him was life.” To Jairus’ daughter in Luke 8, Jesus was life. When Mary questioned him just after Lazarus died, he said, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” To Lazarus in John 11, Jesus was life; and to the thief on the cross beside him in Luke 23, Jesus was life. To Stephen in Acts 7, even as he fell beneath the stones, Jesus was life. Saul of Tarsus, better known as the Apostle Paul, said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)

Ripples on the Pond

To me, in the 20th century as an insecure teenager, Jesus was life. As an adult who could be living in Pottersville instead of Bedford Falls, Jesus is life. The life of a Jewish Rabbi from over 2,000 years ago has reached out to me. His influence is undeniable, not because I’m so good but because without him my life would have been a train wreck. His teaching has challenged me and changed me.

Having said that, Here’s the Question YOU should be asking yourself: have you REALLY investigated Jesus of Nazareth? Do you know what he taught, have you truly looked at what he was about? John says that “in him was life, and that life was the light of men.”

I would suggest that there is indeed darkness in this world, and that the darkness not only doesn’t understand Jesus, it doesn’t want anyone else to understand him either. To those who understand Jesus and discover life in the Word, John promises illumination in the darkness. He promises the ability to see new things, to grow, to stretch outward and upward to life-giving rays of hope! I hope you investigate. I hope you understand. You know who said, “I am come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly”? Yep. But don’t take MY word for it. You can read it all yourself. And you should.

Would You Say This About Your BFF?

He walked with Jesus every day. John talked with him along the way;
He heard what Jesus had to say. He ate with him. John watched him pray.
He saw the things that no one sees, saw him confound the Pharisees!
He heard him preach and saw him heal, and decided Jesus was for real.
Then, finally, he wrote a book. It’s short. Go read it, take a look–
A book I heartily commend, John’s own account of his best friend:
He wrote this down, and it’s worth saying again:
“In Him was life. He was the Light of Men.”

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Truth is Being Assaulted Every Day. So What?

Yesterday we focused on “I am the WAY” in John 14:6; today we will look at “I am the TRUTH”, which is a little more complicated these days than it was when this was written… Truth today is deemed to be almost totally subjective, and there are fewer commonly accepted universal truths than ever before in my lifetime.

Veracity today is treated much too casually, and we are lied to all too often. Our perception of truth is colored far too much by culture, advertising, and media. In a year of confusion about the pandemic, when misinformation seemed more common than truth, why does this matter? Here are a few random scatter-shot thoughts about that:

Sheer Volume

First, think about advertising, which is ALL slanted to try to influence you or change your opinion. “The average American is exposed to 500 to 1,000 commercial messages a day (Arens 1999). That’s anywhere from 182,500 to 365,000 commercial messages that a person will view this year alone.” (And that’s OLD research, so it’s a very conservative number, what with internet banners and Facebook ads bombarding you as you surf online or use your phone…) We see, read and hear hundreds of lies, Every. Single. Day. Do you think that doesn’t blur the line even just a little bit?

Living out the Truth

Second, and totally unrelated, they called basketball player Paul Pierce “the Truth” because he was able to score against anybody. Shaquille O’Neil gave him that nickname after he dropped 42 points on the Lakers. Pierce was a solid player, and he could indeed score. But for the rest of us, the truth is this: if you’re going to identify someone as the Truth, it should probably relate to something bigger than basketball.

The name doesn’t make the man as much as the man makes the name. Even though he has my respect, knowing Paul Pierce (the Truth) won’t make me free. However, knowing the Man who made this claim in John 14:6 certainly has (Free from worry, free from guilt, free from hate). Jesus understood that a life unsupported by truth is pursuit of an illusion. Living a lie only results in dead ends and disappointments.

Can You Handle THIS?

Third, I think of Jack Nicholson’s famous line in “A Few Good Men”: “You want the truth?! You can’t handle the truth!!” (Kind of ironic when you think of the fact that he is an actor pretending to be a Marine, but we believed it…) If the absolute truth was presented to you, could you handle it? Would you really even want to hear it?

truth

And finally, Zig Ziglar used to ask an audience, “How many of you read the newspaper every day?” (Lots of hands went up). Then he said, “How many of you believe everything you read in the newspaper is true?” (Almost no hands) “Ok, how many of you believe everything in the Bible is true?” (Lots of hands) “How many of you read the Bible every day?” (Almost no hands) Point made. Then think about those thousands of media messages you absorb; how much ‘less than true’ information hits your brain there every day? With all media combined—you have commercials, politics, Facebook posts, magazines, the news…. Really, there’s an amazing amount of stuff.

No Counterfeits

How well do you know the truth? How much time do you spend getting to know it? In Politics, in Social Media, or even in commercials, every side seems to have an agenda that obscures truth and promotes something else.

In all of the subtle (and blatant) misrepresentations in commercials (a deodorant is so good that it makes girls attack you, or all beer drinkers are fit, active people), in news (whatever happened to objective journalists?) and in politics (Politicians provide spin to “recalibrate” actual truth), we totally forget John 8:32: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus said, “I am the Truth”: maybe it would make sense to listen to what he taught. Fact-check JESUS. Seek the truth. Live by it,and be free.

Truth Under Fire

Today you’ll see a thousand things that really just aren’t true;
Facebook Ads and stores will try to sell their stuff to you.
Out of all the messages and ads that you will see,
Remember, no one ever said, “The Spin will make you free.”
So out of all the things you’ll hear, and stuff that you will read,
Just get to know the Truth, and He will make you free indeed.

To purchase my newest book Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Jesus said, “I am the Way”. Too Exclusive?

As we reflect on the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus, we come to John 14:6, where he offers us three of them, each one building upon the other. The first part of his statement, “I am the Way” is perhaps the most volatile thing Jesus ever claimed.
Jesus said, “I am the WAY, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
Read the first four words of this sentence four times, and put the emphasis on each word, one at a time. Each different emphasis brings a slightly different twist to the statement, but overall the message is still consistent, and the meaning is uncompromised.

way

Lots of Ways?

Think about this one for a minute, and the sheer exclusivity of it: I am the way. I AM the way. I am THE way. There is no ambiguity here. No one else is the way but me. No one else is the truth but me. What an intolerant, arrogant, audacious thing to say! How could such a wise and loving rabbi burn all those bridges? Surely he didn’t mean the ONLY way… Certainly he didn’t mean THE truth… Surely there must be lots of other ways!

This one statement by Jesus is an implicit indictment of all other religions, and probably one of the biggest reasons people in our culture reject him. They can’t imagine taking a stand that excludes other “good” options. They can’t imagine going “all in” and believing in one way over others. (Perhaps you know the old saying, “The good is the worst enemy of the best”? Don’t settle for “good” and miss the best.) If Jesus is the only way, is it unloving to share that with others? To be so exclusive? Well-known atheist Penn Jillette (of the magic team of Penn & Teller) actually says that he doesn’t respect Christians who know the key to eternal life but don’t attempt to share it. https://youtu.be/ZPe3NGgzYQ0

There’s also the possibility that there IS a devil who promotes death but loves good marketing. If I were the devil, I would offer numerous choices for religion and spirituality to call people away from the true one. I would include things to give my religions authenticity–some truths, some prophets, holy books, even legalistic morality– in order to dissuade people from seeing the true way. “Many ways” is the perfect platform to obscure THE way.

Examples of Exclusivity

So Jesus makes the watershed claim, the one that calls for a decision. Does that seem preposterous in our enlightened age? Doesn’t it run contrary to our culture to exclude some religions? Isn’t it ok for people to pursue many paths to God? But let’s put it into the right context. Do you want your doctor, to say “Well, you have many choices, so do what YOU want. Here’s 10 or 15 things that might help.” Or, “Here’s your diagnosis, and this is the antibiotic that will help you.”

Or, consider this: Would it be a good thing to drive your car the wrong way down a busy one way street? (“You’re going the wrong WAY!”) It may limit your travel options, but finding the right way might help you arrive safely at your destination.

wrong way

Jesus says, “I am the way”. There is no gray area here, but only a very narrow claim that excludes other options. Crazy, you say? Too exclusive? If you really look at this statement, isn’t it very much like a proposal of marriage? I love you, and ask you to join me, forsaking all others, excluding everyone else. I am committed to you, and I’m asking you to be committed to me.

one way wedding

We hear that in weddings all of the time, and no one jumps up and says, “That’s preposterous! How can they do such an intolerant thing?! This choice limits their whole future! They should keep their options open, because there are still lots of other possibilities out there!” No one objects because we see their exclusivity and commitment as good things representing the truth of their love for one another.

An Audacious Claim

Jesus said, “I am the way. No man comes to the Father but by me.” People might be offended because they see this as exclusive, but we have to remember that He is speaking as a groom to His bride. He is asking for commitment, undoubtedly the same measure of commitment He demonstrated to us on the cross. It may seem intolerant on the surface—but if it’s true, then it’s the most loving thing Jesus ever said.

“I Am the Way, the Truth, the Life, and someday you will see
The only access to the Father has to come through me.”
This claim was quite audacious, and it sounds intolerant, too;
But it holds everlasting, passionate love if it is true.
If Jesus lied on this one, and is not the only way,
Then we should not acknowledge anything he had to say.
But if He is the Way, the Truth, the Life–both then and now–
Then every seeker will confess, and every knee shall bow…
We’d love to find the Father’s love, and Jesus tells us how.

To purchase my newest book Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread