How is knowing God synonymous with eternal life? For those raised in the church or Christian surroundings we have heard, as long as we can remember, that heaven is our eternal home. We come to Christ with an expectation of eternal life when we die. Absent from the body, present with the Lord to paraphrase Paul’s writings to the Philippians. But Jesus did not define eternal life in this way.
It may come as a surprise to some that Jesus did not define eternal life as something only to be gained when we die. He did not equate it with a heavenly reward.
In fact, Jesus did not equate eternal life as some kind of endless extension of the present life with its hurts and hang-ups.
More Than Time, a Relationship
Jesus defined eternal life in terms of a relationship, not a length of time. He defined it as knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ, the One sent to us. If eternal life is defined in terms of a relationship then we are not merely awaiting for Christ’s return or our death. Far from passivity, eternal life is an active, engaging relationship with our Creator, Redeemer, and Savior.
As we come to God’s Word our expectation should be a greater relational knowledge of God. This is how Paul expressed it, “My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:10). Such knowledge is gained over time by walking with God.
Think about this kind of relational knowledge in the context of marriage. (If you are single think about a couple you admire for their love and the longevity of their relationship.) When a couple says “I do” on their wedding day, it is because they are in love and committed to one another. They love each other because of what they know of each other. It is new, fresh, and exciting.
Compare this with a couple that has been married for 30, 40, or 50 years. Their marriage has weathered seasons and storms. They have raised children together, perhaps to adulthood. They have been through better, worse, sickness, health, temptation, aggravation, sin, and forgiveness. In short, they have experienced life for a long time. It is not uncommon to hear one or the other say, “I love her so much more than the day we got married.”
How can this be? Were they holding back in those early days? Not at all. Love increases with knowledge of another person and knowledge increases with shared experiences of life.
Developing Relational Depth
In the same way, our knowledge of God increases the longer we walk with Him. We learn His faithfulness, come to expect His intervention, understand His timing, increase in faith, and experience His mercy, love, and forgiveness.
This, according to Jesus, is eternal life. It is this kind of relational depth of soul that carries into eternity itself. It is this kind of life the hymn writer called “a foretaste of glory divine.”
This growth in the knowledge of God comes from the same gracious working of Christ by which we were called and saved.
One of the reasons I am excited about serving as Editor of the Bible Studies For Life Curriculum Series, being released this fall, is because of our commitment to disciple people about knowing, growing, and loving Jesus Christ. Bible Studies for Life is very committed to discipling people of all ages into the likeness of Jesus Christ. This involves knowing, growing, and loving Him.
Our growth in relational knowledge of God is not dependent on our strength or positive thinking. It is a result of Jesus’ gracious, continuing work in our lives. We grow in our relationship with Christ because His grace is sufficient for saving us, growing us, keeping us and, ultimately, presenting us to the Father.
Yours For The Great Commission,
Many years ago I articulated a vision statement for my life. I operated from that statement for several decades. It was passionate. It was clear. It was personal. In fact, it was mostly about focusing my gifts to the cause of winning the world to Christ. Vision was big. Heart was pure. Goal was not realistic.
Just over five years ago, I noticed that something was beginning to happen within me. In fact, and in reality, it probably began a decade ago. I began to realize that regardless of how hard I worked and how great my vision may be, only through God would the world be impacted for His Son Jesus Christ. Additionally, I began to realize that if this is were to ever be accomplished, it would take more than the ministry of one man to see it done.
Just Over Five Years Ago
Just over five years ago, God began to move me into a distinct clear direction; the ultimate goal was the same, but my role changed. During a season of fasting and prayer the Lord gave me a statement. I call it the missional vision for my life. My missional vision is:
To influence and invest in others to win the world to Christ.
Once I changed my vision, God began to confirm it immediately. He has confirmed it both privately and publicly. Opportunities have opened up for me to operate by this missional vision that have shocked me. God is faithful!
Break It Down
Let’s take a moment to breakdown my personal missional statement. Notice:
*Vision: To win the world to Christ.
*Process: Influencing and investing in others.
*People: Involves my role of influencing and investing in other people who will be involved in this worthy vision, this, I believe, is the heart of God.
Therefore, my heart has always been to do what I could to win the world to Jesus Christ. My role is now is influencing and investing in others to see this vision is accomplished.
What I Have Seen
I have seen doors open to see this vision move toward fulfillment. God still uses me to make a difference personally, but He also uses me to influence others and invest in others to win the world to Christ. I have seen this begin to shape me:
*Personally: My greatest fulfillment comes from influencing others, organizations, ministries, churches, and denominations in this worthy endeavor.
*Generationally: Within our church, I have seen every generation affected by this shift in my missional vision. A cross-generational church is a great way to see vision fulfilled through our ministries.
*Denominationally: God has opened all kinds of doors, like preaching in all kinds of venues, and leading all kinds of efforts towards seeing this vision fulfilled. The joy of leading the Great Commission Resurgence for the Southern Baptist Convention was seeing God use influence and investment in others to impact the future of a denomination through the Great Commission.
What Is the Missional Vision For Your Life?
Begin to pray and ask God to show you what the missional vision needs to be for your life. Whether you are a Christian leader, a Pastor, a missionary, a business-person, or retired, God has a future for you. Therefore,
*Pray: Ask God to begin to show you what His vision is for your life.
*Formulate: Begin to attempt to formulate this vision that God puts in your heart.
*Insure: Try your best to insure your missional vision is . . .
*Concise: having few words, all in one sentence.
*Clear: easy for you to see and others to see it also.
*Concrete: you must be able to evaluate its effectiveness.
*Compelling: it must light your jets! It must fire you up!
I will pray God gives you His will and absolute clarity of this for your life. Whatever it is and however it is fulfilled, let’s both insure, it is for ultimate eternal impact.
Yours For The Great Commission,