Well, good evening to you all, it really is great to be here - I didn't know if I was going to arrive or not, I'm not too au fait with this part of the country, at least when you come off towards Portrush. I'm used to going up to Portrush, I'm sorry Ballymoney folk, but I very seldom come this way! But there were good directions on the little leaflet that I was given from Andrew, and it really is a delight to be here with you tonight. I've been anticipating these meetings for a long time, and praying about them, and I know that the folk in Leaney here have been doing the same, and I do appreciate that. I'm really excited, I have to tell you, about what the Lord is going to do this week through His word and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I know that there is a burden, particularly with Andrew and the folk organising the meetings, and that's a good start - to have a burden - and they have been praying and looking to God, and we're now waiting on Him for to come and to bless the truth of His word.
Now, the title that has been taken for this week is 'Life As God Intends For His People'. I didn't take the title initially, it was suggested, and I took the suggestion - as someone once said to me many years ago: 'It's only a suggestion, but remember who's making it!'. I took the suggestion and all of a sudden, and I really mean this, all of a sudden one night, just sitting by the fire with my Bible, the titles of the subjects just came to me one by one. So I'm going to preach to you under that heading: 'Life As God Intends For His People', and tonight we're looking first of all - we're going to do a real Bible study tonight, I hope you've come for a real good page turning of the scriptures - we're going to look at 'Life Eternal'.
So we're turning in your Bible to John's gospel chapter 17, John chapter 17 - in fact, there's the very bit of paper, the very bit of paper with all the headings on it - tomorrow night, in the will of the Lord, we're going to look at 'Life Empowered By The Spirit', and we're going to look at the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Then the next night we're going to look at 'Life Of Grace Not Law' - that's very important, a lot of Christians are trying to live their Christian life by obeying a set of rules and regulations, that's not how you live the Christian life. Then the next night, that will be Wednesday night, we're going to see that it's a 'Life Of Hearing God' - you may not be aware of that, but the Christian life is a life of hearing from God on a constant basis. Then Thursday night and Friday night I'm going to take two nights to cover 'Life Free From The Enemy'. On the first night, that's Thursday night, I'm going to look at a life free from oppression, the demonic oppression comes from the devil and evil, and also a life free from unforgiveness, because often those two things come together. Then on Friday night we're going to look at a life free from anxiety and fear. Then the last night, this day week, we're going to look at a 'Life Of Love' - for that is the very thing that the Lord Jesus and the Apostles told us would define us as Christians, our love for one another, and our love for this lost world.
But tonight we want to lay a foundation, if you like, what this life is in essence - essentially what this life that we have been given is: it is 'Life Eternal'. I just want to read one verse initially from John 17, this has come to be known as the High Priestly Prayer of our Lord Jesus just before He travels to the cross - just one verse, verse 3 please of John 17: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent". Amen.
Let's pray together just for a moment please, and I want you now as we pray - and we will probably do this every night - I want you to come to the Lord with an open heart, and say: 'Lord, what do You have to say to me?'. Now, I believe if you come like that, and you ask the Lord to speak to you, He will - I believe that with all my heart. So, whatever your situation is, you're maybe not even a Christian, I don't know, but I want you to come and say: 'Lord, speak to me'.
Father, we thank You for Your holy word, we thank You for the precious scriptures, we thank You most of all for the Word that was made flesh and tabernacled among us. Lord, we thank You - we've even been singing already tonight about the wonder of the Lord Jesus, and how He not only captures the mind but He fills the heart. Lord, I pray tonight, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that the Lord Jesus Himself will stand among us and that we will encounter Him in a new and living way - perhaps people who have had the gift of eternal life for years, but never really understood it, tonight will get a grip of the privilege of what You have deposited deep down in their soul; and those, perhaps, who are not even saved, have never believed, that tonight they would receive the gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Lord, we want to glorify Christ alone tonight. We pray that He will receive all the honour. In His wonderful name we pray, Father, Amen.
Now, the biblical expression 'eternal life' is one that has come to really be associated with heaven, and that is not wrong - but it certainly is far from the whole story. It has been understood down through the years, specifically, as being the very life of God - that's what 'eternal life' is in its essence, it is the life that belongs to Deity, the Triune Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Therefore it is that very life of God imparted to us. There is also another sense that is given right throughout the Scriptures from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament right through to the Synoptic Gospels, which are the first three Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, right into the major Pauline epistles, into the pastoral epistles, the pastoral letters, and into the little epistle of Jude - eternal life is spoken of as a future life, something that is all wrapped up in the concept of resurrection when Jesus Christ returns again and we who believe in Him are raised from the grave, given new bodies, and go to live with Him forever in an eternal state, the Bible says 'a new heaven and a new earth'. That's the understanding in most of the New Testament about eternal life, it's the idea - if you can remember it like this - of quantity of life, it's everlasting. Once we are raised from the dead we will live forever with the Lord Jesus in this eternal bliss, it's thinking of the quantity of eternal life, it's thinking of eternal life in a temporal sense, in a time sense.
What the apostle John does for us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is, he gives us a far deeper understanding of eternal life, he gives an added dimension to it - for his emphasis is not so much the quantity of eternal life, but the quality of this life. In one sense, he is telling us that this is different from the old existence: before we are regenerated, before we're converted and born-again, life - well, that's a bit of a laugh in itself, because it is far from life, it's filled with hate and sin, pain and death, it's not life as God intended for any of humanity let alone His people - but this life that God imparts now by grace gives us a total transformation to what life has been known to us to be. John's eternal life does not therefore just begin in the future when Jesus returns and when we are raised from the grave, but, as we read through John - and you'll feel by the end of this evening that you have read through John! - but as we dip into it in great detail you're going to see that John tells us that eternal life is already the present personal possession of anyone who believes in Jesus. Those who have entered into fellowship with Christ through faith, they have life as God intended for His people.
So let's look tonight at how John himself explains this life eternal. I'm going to give you about six headings, and if you have pen and paper it would be a good thing to jot these down. I don't imagine you will remember them - I thought of them, but I'll not remember them, so you'll hardly remember them! So I think you should write them down if you possibly can for your benefit. The first thing that John teaches us about eternal life is right back in chapter 1, so I want you to turn back there with me. John tells us the origin of this life, John 1 and verse 4: 'In Him was life, and the life was the light of men'. Right away John is introducing us to a Person, not a concept, not a principle, but a Person: 'In Him was life, and the life was the light of men'. Immediately the Spirit of God is teaching us that if we are to know this eternal life we must know a Person, the Lord Jesus. Of course, if you go to chapter 5 and verse 26, again we see this reiterated by the Lord Himself: 'For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself'. It's in Him, you see, so don't be thinking of eternal life as this sort of cosmic thing, this substance, this spiritual type of entity that exists apart from Him - it cannot! It is Jesus Christ! This is the very life of God, and this life has been manifested in Jesus.
Right away John couches this term 'eternal life' in a relationship with the Son of God, in keeping with our text tonight: 'This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent'. So right away, at the beginning of John's Gospel, he shows us that eternal life is not a list of rules, or regulations, or principles, or even religious practices, or moral practices. Neither, for that matter, is eternal life a collection of doctrines. It's not simply dogma - and that's something that we, particularly as conservative evangelicals, need to realise. We might have all off pat what the ABCs of salvation are, but the fact of the matter is: that's not how the Bible defines eternal life. Let me show you again, chapter 5 of John, verse 39 of chapter 5, speaking to the Jews who were of course studious concerning the scriptures, they knew their doctrine better than probably you and I do, in verse 39 Jesus said to them: 'You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life'. Do you understand the equation that they made? They equated eternal life with having the Scriptures, and having the right teaching. Many evangelicals do that. 'You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me'. He's saying: 'You don't realise that these Scriptures are actually presenting a Person to you, and it's Me'. Verse 40: 'But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life'. 'This book that you take so much pride in, and you know back to front, you rabbis and scribes, this book that you can quote since you were knee-high - this is the book about Me, and I'm the only One who can give life, but you won't come to Me'.
I wonder is that speaking to anybody in the meeting here tonight? Have you ever come to Christ? He's the only way you can have life. You can come to church, but you'll not get life there, you need to come to Christ. You see, the law of Moses, the first five books of the Bible, really to sum it all up they simply said: 'Do this and live' - that's what law is. But the problem with the law - in fact, it wasn't a problem with the law, the law of God is perfect, the Ten Commandments, there's nothing wrong with them, the problem with them is us. As Romans chapter 8 says: 'The law was weak through the flesh' - now the law doesn't have any flesh, we have got the flesh, and that's what it means. The problem with the law was not the law, but the people to whom the law was given - they couldn't keep the law! We cannot keep law. Whether it's the Ten Commandments, or whether it's your particular personal list of ethics - I don't know if you have one or not, most people do, even Christians do - what we need as sinners is not a new list of rules, we need a Saviour! That's why the law was given: to show us our sin. That's why John says in John 14, quoting the Lord Jesus: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me'. In other words, you can't come to the Father through law, you can't come to the Father through being a Jew, you can't come to the Father through being a Protestant or being a Catholic - you can only come to the Father through Jesus.
In chapter 6 and verse 68 we see this again, the origin of this life, chapter 6 - Peter said it, didn't he? Simon Peter answered and said to the Lord, when the Lord said 'Will you also go away like the others have?', 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life'. You are the Source of this life, you are the Origin of this life - if we go to anyone else, we will not have this life. So John immediately presents this life as knowing God through knowing Jesus. Now put your finger where you are just as a marker, and turn with me to 1 John - I hope you know that 1 John was written by the same John, and 2 John, and 3 John, and the book of Revelation, written by the same author as the gospel of John. It's warm in here tonight, isn't it? Or is it just me up here? Take your coat off, or whatever you have to do to make yourself comfortable - maybe a door could be opened or something just to get a bit of a draught, we don't want anybody dozing off! First John chapter 1 verse 2: 'The life', this life, 'was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us; that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ'.
There it is again - 'We have seen this eternal life, we have touched this eternal life, it's Jesus!'. Do you know something? I believe the Christian life could be summed up in one word: relationship. The Christian life is a relationship with the Godhead, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Knowing God as your Father, through Jesus Christ the Saviour Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit - that's it! We write big systematic theologies, and those aren't wrong, but it's as simple as that - it's what God intended from the very beginning, and His intention is that we might get to know Him, the only true God, through Jesus Christ whom He has sent, the revelation of Himself. And wait till I tell you something, Christian: He wants you to have a deep personal intimacy with Him. I wonder is that what you have? That's what we're going to be talking about this week.
Turn with me quickly again to John 10, and this is the gospel of John chapter 10, John 10 verse 14: 'I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep'. Now if you have an NIV, or an ESV, or a more modern translation it will read thus in verse 14: 'I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own, just as the Father knows me, even so I know that Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep' - do you know what that's saying? This eternal relationship that was with Father, Son and Holy Spirit throughout all eternity, a perfect love-fellowship, Jesus is going to the cross here in chapter 10 to lay down His life for His sheep, that - just as the Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father - that we could have such an intimate relationship with God. Does that not blow your mind? Or maybe I should ask it another way: is that what you're experiencing?
You see, in Ulster - and I hate to always sound as if I'm hammering people's conceptions in our land, but there's a lot of checks and balances need to be brought in. In our wee country, salvation and eternal life is just thought of as: 'You need to repent of your sins and believe Jesus Christ died for you, and you've got a free ticket to heaven' - and that's the sum total of a lot of people's conception, when Jesus never defined salvation in those terms. That's part of it, but it is to know God through Jesus Christ, it is to share in the fellowship, the life, and the love of the Godhead of heaven! Now, is that your Christian experience?
The origin of this life is a Person, and this life is really a relationship with Him. Here's the second thing I want you to see, the commencement of this life - chapter 1 again, verses 12 and 13. Now look how John defines this commencement of eternal life: 'As many as received Him, to them He gave the right', or the authority, 'to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God'. Right away he's again saying that if you want to have this eternal life, what do you need to do? Receive! What you need to receive? Him! Isn't that what it says? It doesn't say you need to receive this truth, or this list of a basis of belief - is that what it says? It says you must receive Him, and receiving Him results in what we call 'the new birth'.
Turn to chapter 3 of John verse 3 - and of course Nicodemus has come to Jesus by night and has asked Him questions about this whole issue, and in verses 3 through to 7 we get an exposition on the new birth: ''Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'. Nicodemus said to Him, 'How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?'. Jesus answered, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again''. The commencement of this life is by receiving the Son of God and being born-again - that is how this life is imparted. It's only possible, as we see John expounding here throughout verses 9 through to verse 13 and into 14 and 15, it's only possible because of the sacrifice of Calvary, the payment that has been made for sin on our behalf by Jesus at the cross. Verse 14: 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up'. It is sin that has prevented us partaking of the life of God, but He who was life - chapter 1 verse 4 - in whom was life, He yielded up His life so that we might partake of life. How do we partake? By responding to the Saviour, receiving Him in repentant faith - verse 15 of chapter 3: 'that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life'.
Therefore then follows in verses 16 through to 21 a simple explanation of the gospel if ever there was one, reiterating that the means of entering into this relationship with God is through faith in the Saviour. Look at these verses, verse 16: 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God'. In chapter 6 and verses 28 and 29 we get the same teaching, that it is by faith that we enter into this life. Chapter 6 and verses 28 and 29, the context is that the Jews were questioning the Lord Jesus about what they had to do to earn God's salvation. In verse 28: 'They said to Him, 'What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?'. Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent''.
Now maybe you think: 'Did I come all this way to hear something I already know?'. Well, I'm sure many of you know that you're saved by grace through faith - that is how you receive eternal life, by receiving Jesus Christ - but many believers do not realise that their relationship with God cannot be substituted by good works. We're very quick to tell people: 'That's not how you're saved', but as we will see throughout the week, neither is that how you continue - and you certainly cannot substitute any relationship by works. It's like trying to replace your earthly father with your boss - one you are employed by, and the other you are begotten by, you belong by blood - two totally different relationships. You cannot come to God by works, and you cannot maintain any association with God merely on the basis of works - this is a faith-based relationship! On Tuesday night we'll talk much more about that when we talk about this life being a life of grace and not law.
Other people try to substitute this relationship through flesh and blood, human relationships. This relationship with God cannot be substituted by a relationship with others - people who seek satisfaction, and meaning, and connection, and belonging with their family, or in sexual or marital relations - it cannot be done. We see in chapter 4, if you look at it, a woman who tried to do exactly that, we know her as the woman of Samaria. She was at the well at noon time, nobody wanted anything to do with her - that was the hottest time of the day, and because people didn't want to associate with her, she had to go there at that time when no one was around; but Jesus, He needed to go through Samaria to meet this woman. She was married five times, and the guy that she was cohabiting with was not her husband. Right away we realise that she's trying to gain meaning and satisfaction and belonging through marriage, through relationships, we might say through sex - like much of our society today. Jesus came to her in verse 10, and He says: 'If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him', 'Me', He means, 'and He would have given you living water'. Verse 14: 'Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life'.
Do you see this? She was trying to substitute eternal life with human relationships, that's what a lot of people are trying to do - they think that the reason they are here is to care and look after their family, and that is part of the reason why we're here, but that is not the goal. Here's the problem: human relationships were given to us by God to be a pointer to our intended relationship with God as our Father, that's why you had a human father, to point you to your Heavenly Father. The problem is, some of us had rotten fathers, and maybe that has skewed and spoiled our view of Heavenly Father, but that's not the way it was meant to be. Your human father was meant to be an example and a signpost to you, to realise that there is a Heavenly Father. 'Husbands love their wives, even as Christ loved the church and give Himself for it' - the marriage bond and institution in society is meant to be a pointer, it's meant to point people to the eternal relationship between Christ and the Church - but what do people do? They stop at the signpost. It's like getting the bus to Belfast, and getting off at Ballymena at the first sign to Belfast, because you've mistook the sign for the destination - and that's what most people in our world are doing. That is why Satan wants to destroy marriage and family-parental relationships, that's why he wants to pervert human sexuality and marriage, because they're signposts!
You see, the only way effectively to fulfil our human relationships is to have a relationship with God in a rightful place, for then those relationships will fulfil their purpose. We must first pursue a relationship with our Heavenly Father through His Son Jesus Christ. Most people, as I said, have mistook the signs for the destination, and they have even substituted their human relationships - there's someone here tonight doing this, Christian or not - you've substituted your heavenly relationship with the human relationship that you have with a husband, a wife, with your children, or with your parents. Do you know what that is in God's eyes? I'm sorry to shock you by saying this, but it's idolatry! Family is good, but when family gets in the way of your relationship with God, it's sinful - and do you know something? It can be cursed, because we don't have God in His rightful place in our lives. If I had time I would show you from 1 John, John's first epistle, do you know what the very last verse of the first epistle of John is? The epistle is all about fellowship, the same as John's Gospel, all about fellowship with the Father, the last verse reads thus: 'Little children, keep yourselves from idols'. An idol is anything that is a substitute for a relationship with God, that takes the place of this special relationship - it can be someone, it can be something, can I tell you: it can even be something religious! It can be something spiritual! It can be your prayer life, it can be your Bible. Don't misunderstand me now, the Bible is how we know God, as we will see throughout the week, and He reveals Himself - but, as the old hymn says, 'Beyond the sacred page, we seek Thee, Lord'. There's a lot of people, and they know their Bibles back to front, just like the Pharisees we read about did, but they don't meet Christ through the word.
It could be a spiritual thing, it could be spiritual gifts, it could be an idiosyncratic pet doctrine that you have - and our land is full of it. Do you know what I believe? You can have your doctrines, and I have mine, and I believe them - but I believe many people who are on a crusade for a particular pet doctrine, whether it's Bible versions, or a particular mode of dress, or whether you're a Calvinist or Arminian, or whether you believe the Lord's coming before the tribulation, during it, or after it - now, I'm not saying this for everybody, and I have my own beliefs on those things, don't get me wrong: but a lot of people, that's all they live for, and it's because they haven't got a vital, intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus! It's a substitute for that, it makes them feel good, it pumps the blood through their veins, but it's an idol, because they're not satisfied simply with walking with Jesus, because they don't have the walk!
I don't know what denomination you are - someone once called them abominations - maybe that's wrong, but I don't know which you are, and I don't really care. You don't know which I am, I don't even know which I am! But sometimes our denomination becomes an idol - and do you know how you know? When you look down your snout at somebody else because they're not yours - that's how you know. Ministry can even become an idol, doing the Lord's work, and it can substitute a relationship with Him. I'm tempted to digress, but we'll not.
The origin of this life: the Person. The commencement of this life: new birth, it's by faith, it's not by works, and it's not meant to be substituted by any other relationships. Here's the third thing: the superabundance of this life. Chapter 10 please, chapter 10 verses 9 and 10: 'I am the door', Jesus said, 'If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly'. That 'more abundantly' there could be translated, 'That they might have it overflowingly, to the full'. Let me ask you: is that your experience as a Christian? If you knew some of the places I travel round, and some of the faces I have to look at - honestly! You wouldn't think they had overflowing, superabundant life - I'm not speaking about you dear folk! But is that what you experience? Overflowing life! Often the reason why we're not experiencing it is: Satan is robbing us, do you know that? That's why I'm going to spend two nights on the enemy this week, because Satan can use so many means, whether it's sin - sin will rob you of the superabundant life; whether it's habits that mightn't be particularly immoral, but they are weighing you down from running the race and enjoying this life; they may be mental or emotional disturbances, that's why we're going to look at fears and anxieties; they may be insecurities that you have; there may be pain in your past, there may be bad memories, there may be unforgiveness that has been unresolved for years; there might be demonic oppression - there could be all sorts of reasons, but if you are not enjoying the superabundant life that is spoken of here, overflowing, bubbling over, it could be that Satan is robbing you.
Jesus said to that woman at the well, let me just remind you, you don't need to turn back, in John 4 verse 14: 'the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up', bubbling up, 'into everlasting life' - that's what this water is meant to do. The 'water' means 'Spirit' there, that's what it's being used as an analogy for, the Holy Spirit bubbling over, flowing out of your life. When you're completely surrendered to Christ, and when He's welcome in your life, you're not just born-again, the Holy Spirit isn't just resident, but He is President, He is presiding over everything - and when He is, He ought to be satisfying your soul! Are you satisfied with Jesus Christ? A lot of Christians aren't satisfied - that's why they're running after every mod con going, that's why they're trying to embellish their lives, that's why they're trying - and don't get me wrong, I don't think we ought to be in the dark ages as the church - but that's why so often we are hankering after all sorts of gimmicks to try and keep people, because we ourselves don't appreciate the wonder of this all, we haven't tapped into this life!
Chapter 6 verse 35, Jesus said: 'I am the bread of life', here's John giving us it again, 'He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst'. Are you hungry and thirsty after something that you've never found as a Christian? He says you'll never hunger, you'll never thirst - now I'm not saying you'll be complacent, and you'll be wrongly satisfied, not seeking after God any more - but the more you are filled, the more you will want of Christ. In chapter 7 verse 37 we have the same thing: 'On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water''. In chapter 4 He talked about it bubbling up and springing up, now He's talking about it's so overflowing, this superabundant life, that it's reaching out to others - it flows out to touch the lives of those around us.
So that leads me on to the fourth point, the productiveness of this superabundant life. The origin of this life: Jesus. The commencement of this life: the new birth. The superabundance of this life: satisfying. Then the productiveness of this life, it ought to overflow and hit other people around us. In chapter 15 we have a wonderful example that the Lord gives of this in allegory. Of course we don't have time to go into it all, but verses 1 to 8 we will read together. Jesus said: 'I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine', there's the relationship, 'neither can you, unless you abide in Me', relationship. 'I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing' - without being in relationship with Me, you can do nothing. 'If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples'.
Now, just as natural life is productive, so is eternal life. This life abiding in us, John 15 says, ought to bear fruit - the requirement is: abiding in the life source, abiding in the Vine, and He abiding in us by His Word and by His Spirit. So, in other words, just stay where you are in Christ. You've got to learn who you are in Christ, you've got to learn the blessings and the benefits of what it is - read Ephesians chapter 1, for instance, and you'll find out what it is to be in Christ - wonderful! A lot of Christians are down in the dumps, because they don't realise their identity of who they are in Christ - and when you abide in that, Jude says, 'Keep yourselves in the love of God', you start producing stuff without even trying because you're taking the sap of the life from the Vine. But if there is not abiding, John says, there will be no fruition, no production. The Father is the Vinedresser, and He will have to do some work on you, discipline. Verse 2, the Authorised Version says, in fact every version says: 'Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away', but some margins say 'He lifts up', and the Greek actually can be rendered as that 'He lifts up'. The culture of vine dressing in those days, and even now in fact, I believe, in some parts, would lend itself to prove that what was going on here: if there was a vine was not bearing fruit, the farmer, the vinedresser, would come along, and he would raise that vine up - he would take maybe rope, or some other instrument, and raise the vine up so that it could be exposed to the light in order that it might have a chance to bear fruit.
You see, the Lord sometimes has to come along and discipline us, or encourage us, if we are fruitless branches, bring us into the light, bring us into the air, that hopefully we might bear fruit. Or He might have to prune us, we see that here in verse 2 as well, pruning to be more fruitful. Pruning can speak of cleansing here. Jesus says in verse 3: 'You're already clean because of the word which I have spoken onto you' - just as a real vine it needs to be cleansed from insects, and mildew, and fungus; so the Christian needs to be cleansed from worldly things that cling to him, so that he might produce. This is what this life is: it is eternal life, it originates in a Person; it commences in life through the new birth, through receiving this Person; it is superabundant, satisfying, bubbling over life; and it flows out productively in fruitfulness to others - and if it doesn't, we have a Heavenly Father who cares. He doesn't leave us by the wayside, or put us on the shelf, but He starts to get His hands dirty in our lives to try and get us bearing fruit again! Maybe that's what He's been doing in some of your lives lately? Maybe that's what He's doing through this week?
Here's the fifth thing about this life: it's a present possession, the present possession of this life - I love this. Chapter 5 and verse 24: 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has', in my Bible I have ringed that in red, 'has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and', and I've ringed this one as well , 'now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live'. Now we've already said that there will be a future day when there will be a physical consummation of these truths, and Jesus talks about it in verses 28 and 29: 'Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth; those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation'. But, you know, John has both regeneration and resurrection in view in verses 24 and 25 - they are not one and the same. Do you see what He says in verse 24? 'Whoever believes in Me has...', present personal possession now. Verse 25: 'The day is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear His voice and be regenerated', that's what He's getting at - they are not one and the same thing. If you look at chapter 6 and verse 40: 'This is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have', that one is ringed as well, 'have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day'. He has it now, but he will be raised up at the last day.
Now, the reason why I'm emphasising that is not just because it's biblical teaching, but there are people going around this very County, not too far away from here, believers, and they are teaching in homes that when you die you're extinct until the resurrection. Many young people are being deceived by this, when John's Gospel clearly teaches - and I love this - that when you believe in Jesus, no matter how young or old you are, you've got that eternal life now! Now! You don't have to wait to the resurrection to get eternal life, you have it as a present, personal possession now! In fact this is the purpose why John wrote - if you turn to the end, John 20 verse 31 - this is what's called the purpose statement of John's Gospel, the reason why he wrote: 'These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may' - guess which word is ringed! - 'you may have life in His name'. The last statements of 1 John, when he gives his purpose statement of his first epistle, 1 John 5 verse 13, is the same: 'These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God'.
John stresses that having eternal life is personal and it's present, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. Can I ask you, and I know this is a Bible study and these are teaching meetings, but do you have eternal life? Do you have it now? Can you say you have it? That's life as God intended for His people, that you might presently, personally know that you have eternal life. You don't have to wait until God gets you to the pearly gates, or some nonsense, and weighs up the good and the bad and all these things, to know that you're going to get in - no! You have now, through faith in Jesus Christ.
But quickly, the final point, you'll be glad to know, number six. We started at number one, the origin of this life, the commencement of this life, the superabundance of this life, the productiveness of this life, the present possession of this life, and then the duration of this life - the duration of this life. John, though he stresses the quality of this life, he also stresses the quantity of it in a sense: it will not cease at death. Isn't that marvellous? That's why these boys are wrong when they say you die in the grave and you're like a dog until the resurrection. Look at chapter 8, John chapter 8 verse 51, what a statement: 'Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death'. Do you say 'Hallelujah' about these parts? Do you? Hallelujah! 'He shall never see death'!
Does that mean physical death? Of course it doesn't mean physical death, because if the Lord does not come we will see physical death - but what it means, well, the opposite is in verse 24: 'Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins'. Death in the Bible doesn't mean ceasing to exist, that's where these boys get it wrong, it means separation. So when you die physically, the soul is separated from the body; when you die in your sins, you're separated from God - that's why, when you have eternal life, you will never see death. In fact, John 11 is a wonderful example of this - you know Mary, Martha and Lazarus, that family that the Lord Jesus had a great relationship with, dwelling with them in Bethany in that idyllic countryside scene. Then you know the story, Lazarus falls sick, Jesus gets the message and He disregards it for a couple of days until Lazarus is dead - and it was all to teach this little family lessons on eternal life and on resurrection. Here in verse 23 of John chapter 11: 'Jesus said to her', to Martha, ''Your brother will rise again'. Martha said to Him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day'. Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?''.
Do you know what Jesus was doing? He said to her: 'He's going to rise again'; she said, 'I know he's going to rise again, every Jew believes he's going to rise again in the resurrection' - but Jesus is saying, 'No, no, no', and He's taking Martha from an abstract understanding of resurrection in a future last day, to understand: 'Martha, I, I standing before you am the life, I am the resurrection, and wherever I am there is life all the time, I can give life at any time'. What He was teaching her was that the personal, present resurrection power of Jesus was available now, and it's available tonight - if you have never received Christ, that resurrection power is available, and whoever has it has it forever! 'Whoever believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and he who lives and believes in Me' - say it! Say it as if you believe it, try again - 'shall never die'. Does that not do something inside you? Shall never die!
It's irrevocable, it's a permanent gift, verse 28 of the previous chapter, chapter 10:28-29: 'I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand'. Do you see if we could be lost, do you see if we could lose this gift of eternal life - listen: God would lose much more than us. We would only lose eternal life and salvation, He would lose His reputation. Not even physical death can separate us from this life of God. I love Romans chapter 8, just listen as I read it to you: 'As it is written: 'For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter'. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us' - what things? 'For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord' - nothing! Do you remember that chorus donkey's years ago they all used to sing? 'The world didn't give it to me, and the world can't take it away' - that's true. This is the very life of God.
Well, I just want to finish tonight by turning your attention to one more passage, Acts chapter 5, and I doubt that any other night in this week I'll be taking you to as many passages of Scripture, but I felt led to do that tonight as a foundation. Here in chapter 5 of Acts the High Priest of the Jews and the Sadducees have risen up against the Apostles because of their preaching and their performing of miracles in the name of the Lord Jesus. In verse 18 we read this: 'And they laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 'Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life''. What a life! Is it yours? Is it? That's what we've been trying to do from John's Gospel, expound all the words of this life - the origin, Jesus; the commencement, new birth by receiving Jesus; the superabundance, the Holy Spirit bubbling over in your heart with satisfaction; the productiveness as it outflows and you bear fruit to others; the present personal possession of it; and the fact that its duration shall be - what does the hymn say? 'Life that shall never end!' - that excites me, does it excite you?
Tomorrow night we're going to see that it's 'Life Empowered By The Spirit'; Tuesday night, 'Life Of Grace Not Law', that's going to be the 'how' of holiness, how to live holy; Wednesday, a 'Life Of Hearing God', do you hear God on a regular basis? Thursday, a life free from the oppression of the enemy and unforgiveness that the enemy can capitalise on; Friday night, a life free from the enemy in fears and anxieties; and Sunday, next Sunday, a 'Life Of Love'. Will you come with me this week and hear all the words of this life that God intended for you?
Let me just say that if you're not a Christian here - I don't know who you are, I know one person, but I don't know all of you, maybe one or two. If you're not a Christian, and you never heard anything like this, and you certainly don't have this life - you could be Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Roman Catholic, Protestant, I don't know - but you've never heard this, and you've never had this, but you want this. Well, see me tonight, and just come and say: 'Look, I want this life, I want this life' - and really that means 'I want Jesus, I want the Saviour', the One who bled and died for you that you may have this life. There is life, life eternal in Him.
Can I tell you something, a conviction of my heart? We can hammer away on revival, and I do it on a regular basis, but we can hammer at it from the angle of telling everybody that they don't measure up - and do you know something? That doesn't work. What works is telling them what God has made you in Christ, and to walk according to the calling with which you are called - that's what we need. We need people hungry for this life that is available, are you hungry? That's what's going to bring revival: people hungry for Jesus.
Father, we thank You for Your presence here tonight, Lord, through these stumbling words. Lord, dear God, such a gift that you have given to us - how could we even begin to try and explain and expound and describe it? Paul could say: 'Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift', Jesus. We thank You for the Lord Jesus, that life, that life - and how, through giving up His life, in faith and repentance toward God in Jesus we can partake of that. Lord, I pray that if there is anyone here tonight who has never been born-again, that tonight they will be born-again, that they will see it, and they'll be born-again right here and now. For Your dear people that have maybe never comprehended the greatness of this life eternal, that tonight their appetite will be whet for this week, and Lord that some spark would ignite from this week that might send that fire of revival across our land. Oh that believers would enter into their inheritance that has been bought by the blood of Jesus. Bless every person here, take them deeper we pray, thank You for this time and for fellowship and refreshment we will enjoy, and take us on our homeward way with Your protection, in Jesus' name and for His glory we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Leaney Mission Hall in Ballymoney, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the first recording in his 'Life As God Intends For His People' series, entitled "Life Eternal" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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