Tag Archives: eternal life

Who Are You?

Grace 101


Our family just watched The Magnificent Seven, the western movie with Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen and other well-known cast members.  The young man, Chico, was an important character in the film.  Chico wanted to be something much more than just a farmer in Mexico, so he took up the gun and rode with the “good guys.”  Chico fit right in among the Mexican villagers, except for the fact that he didn’t want to be like them.

Interestingly, the character of Chico was played by Horst Buchholz.  Note the name.  If you watch the movie, you might expect Chico’s real name to be Menendez or Gonzales, but the actor was German.  Born and died in Berlin, Buchholz was able to make us believe that he was a young Hispanic man.  Obviously, he was a pretty good actor.

Over the past few weeks, we have been unpacking many parts of the wonderful gift Jesus gave to us when we were saved.  All those amazing things—hope, righteousness, wisdom, holiness, peace, and more—are ours in the gift of salvation.  But many people unpack the gift box as though it were an actor’s traveling chest.  From it they take different things to cover up who they really are.  They put on holiness, but know they are not holy.  They put on forgiveness, but doubt that they have really been forgiven.  They put on strength, but feel weak inside.  They try to wear the costumes, to act the part, but they think of themselves as just the same as before.

What these people fail to understand is that the gift box is not so much giving you things as it is revealing what has already become yours.  In fact, it is revealing you.  You don’t have the gift of righteousness in a box so you can take it out and connect with it from time to time.  It was given to you as a gift so that you are now righteous.  That’s who you are.

All of these things describe you.  You are filled with hope.  You are strong.  You are good, and wise, and forgiven, and holy, and free.  Something fundamental has changed.  The old you is gone.  The new you has come.

When you allowed Jesus to enter your life and be your Lord, you became a new person.  The old you died.  He did more than just clean house in you.  He washed away everything that defined you and gave you a new identity.  You became what He designed you to be.  In fact, for the first time in your life, you fulfilled your potential.  You entered in Christ and He entered into you—and that’s the way it was supposed to be from the beginning.  Now the eternal life of Jesus Christ lives in you.  He is your life.

Listen: you are not a pretender.  You are not an actor playing the role of a Christian.  You are a Christian who remembers what used to be.  Perhaps you have forgotten the truth, or no one ever told you, but you are far more than what you were.  Pretenders are weak and afraid and insincere.  They have no assurance and no strength.  That’s not you.  Jesus has made you who you are.

It is time to live as who you really are.  Everything you need is in your relationship with Jesus.  Trust Him and believe Him.  You belong to Him and He is with you forever.  That’s good news!

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Because He Loved Them

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image.  Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”  Thomas Merton   No Man is an Island
“If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it was, and always will be yours. If it never returns, it was never yours to begin with.”  Sherrilyn Kenyon, Unleash the Night


Many of us were brought up with the idea that God controls all things.  We talk about His plan and His sovereignty and His will and we just know that He gets everything He wants.  So when God says that He wants all people to be saved, to come to knowledge of the joy and peace found in Jesus, He must get what He wants.  Right?

But when we open our eyes to the real world, it is plain to see that God doesn’t always get what He wants.  He doesn’t want us to sin, but we do.  He wants us to love one another, and that is rare.  He wanted Israel to follow the Law and to stay close to Him, but they didn’t.  This is the Almighty God!  Why doesn’t He get what He wants?

Because of love.

Listen to God’s own description of love:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.   

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV)

Love “does not seek its own.”  That means it does not demand its own way.  Love allows the other person to be a real person.  Love recognizes that the other person is a separate identity and love values that identity.  Love does not demand others to simply be reflections or toys.  Love lets others be who they are.

And God loves us.  He loves all people.

So God doesn’t force anyone.  From the very beginning, God set Adam and Eve in a beautiful garden where all their needs would be provided forever.  They walked with Him and lived in a wonderful relationship with Him.  But they were free.  They were intelligent and able to make moral choices.  He allowed them to grow and create and live.

And, when the time came, they chose.  They chose something God did not want.  He knew it would happen, but we never say that He wanted it.  We like to say that they turned their backs on Him, but the truth is that they simply chose to do something He warned them against.

They did it their way.

Because they were free.

Because He loved them.

He let them go because they wanted to go.  He warned them.  He grieved when they did it.  But He knew they would.  Because they were free.

And they lost so much.  He knew they would and He told them they would.  But He didn’t stop them.  He already had a plan in place.  Because He loved them.

God made every person to live in relationship with Him because He loved each one.  Yet, because of that love, He let each one go his or her own way.  They would suffer apart from Him because He never made them to be alone.  He would call to them, long for them, and always be ready to welcome them; but they would have to choose Him.

So He set in motion an amazing plan.

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Finding our Selves

I have never fully understood why some people insist on making the Christian life so negative.  They talk about what we have to give up, what difficult things we have to do, and how much it costs to follow Christ.  Maybe that’s how they see things.  Maybe they have been told through their own lives that suffering is the price they were to pay for their salvation.

Contrast these two statements:

From Bonhoeffer – “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

From Jesus – “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Bonhoeffer wasn’t wrong, but many of those who teach his words are.  We are called to die, to die to the old and worthless values and attitudes that took us ever deeper into grief and despair.  We are called to die to the things of this world which bring so little benefit and so much trouble.  We are called to die to that which Christ came to deliver us from.

But so many people twist this idea so that we are supposed to die to our selves.  We should have no desires, no hopes, no expectation.  We are, in their teachings, supposed to die to everything that makes us who we are.

And that’s where we find the LIE.  The lie tells us that we are the old man, tied to this world and Adam’s sin.  The lie tells us that the patterns of the flesh, built in us to deal with life apart from Jesus, are who we really are.  That’s the lie.  The truth is that we belong to Jesus now and we have a new life in Him.  New heart, new Spirit, new life.  We died to the old and we live to the new.

Christ does not call us to die to self, but to find our selves in Him.  He is the fulfillment of our self.  In Him we find the abundant life, the whole self.  He gives us what we were made to have and to be.

We are our selves.  Before Jesus, our selves were held in bondage to sin and error.  We were lost, broken, wicked, and unfulfilled.  But when Jesus gave us life, His life, the bondage to sin was broken and we became what and who we were always meant to be.  Our selves found freedom and identity in Jesus.

Let the old man die.  Let the flesh die.  But don’t die to self.  Instead, find your self in Jesus.  Be free and full of the joy of knowing who you really are.

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Living in the Sonshine!

Most of us like a good motivational speaker.  And a good motivational speaker will agree with my statement from last week:  your past does not determine your future—your present determines your future.

Of course, the motivational speaker will say that the decision you make today is the one that really matters because it can change the future.  Just because you were lazy or foolish or whatever in the past does not mean you have to continue that way.  Make a decision today to change your future, they say.

But that’s not what I am saying.  Because you have eternal life, your future is already in your present.  In Christ, you already own what God will give you in the future.  The “mansion on the hilltop,” if you like that image, is already yours.

So what?  If I am not living in the mansion now, in this world, then what difference does it make to know that it is already mine?  Well, it makes a lot of difference.

Living in eternal life is the difference between striving and resting.  Eternal life is the difference between wishing and thanking.  It is the difference between desire and assurance.  You don’t have to strive to measure up, to win the love of God, to deserve Heaven.  You don’t have to worry about what lies in store for you after you leave this world.  You don’t have to be content with wishes and hopes because you already live there.

We are, according to Ephesians 2:6, already seated with Christ in “the heavenly places.”  We are with Him forever.  No one can snatch us out of His hand.  The kingdom of God is already in us and we are already citizens of it.

Apart from the message of grace and the understanding of what we have received in Christ, many people struggle with assurance.  They fear the future and worry whether they are good enough for the judgment.  They long for the day this life will be over and they can enter into hope and promise.

But not you and me.  We know that eternal life means we are secure in Christ.  Because He has loved us, He has given us all things.  Heaven is ours—we will never die.  We do not fear the evil one and his lies, nor the eternal hell that is his.  We do not strive to earn what is already ours.

And, best of all, we are beginning to see glimpses of eternity today.  The Son is shining through!

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Tomorrow is Today

What is the difference between someone who is mature in the faith and someone who has just opened his heart to Jesus?  When the church teaches about leaders and elders and pastors, is there any substantive difference between those positions and that of a new believer?  Is the 90-year-old believer who has been in Christ for 85 years any different than the five-year-old who has just asked Jesus to take his life?

We want to point out the differences, don’t we?  After all, there are mature believers and immature believers and that means something.  But all it means is that some have had the time or the inclination to receive more of what Christ has already given them.  In other words, all of Christ is available to anyone in Christ.  Nationality, gender, age—these things make no difference in the spiritual nature of the individual.

I have always enjoyed the teaching of Major Ian Thomas.  He said it like this: the Christian life is the process of becoming who you are.  Yes, there is growth, but it is growth in understanding the riches in Christ that are already yours.  All that you will ever have is yours today in Jesus.

Why?  Because you have entered into eternal life.  The life that will be yours in the future is yours today.  There is much that you and I don’t understand and we will learn much more, but nothing will really change for us.  Even when we die, the only change will be that we will become even more of what we already are.

Eternal life brings the past into the present and redeems us as whole people.  Eternal life also brings the future into the present and sanctifies us in Christ forever.  We belong to Jesus just as much today as we ever will.  Our sins are washed away and we are whole.

When you think of your life in Heaven, don’t you think of it as a relief, a rest from the labors and frustrations of today?  Haven’t we been taught that life in Heaven will be good, while this life is evil?  But what if that was not true?  What if this life, the life we have in Christ, is just as good as life in Heaven will be?  What if the victory over sin that we long for and expect in Heaven is already ours in Jesus?  What if the reconciliation and peace we look toward is already available to us today?  This is what eternal life means.

All that you look forward to is already yours.  The more you look to Jesus and away from the struggles and distractions of this world, the more you will understand that peace He has already given.  The struggles and distractions are the things that will no longer be in the life to come because they are inconsistent with who He is and who you are.

The joy of the Christian life is already ours.  The forgiveness, the reconciliation, the acceptance, the love—these are all ours now.  We just have to begin to understand who we are and what Jesus has done for us.  He has given us eternal life.

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It’s All Good

We have learned all our lives to think of time according to the simple formula of “past, present, future.”  I suppose we really have no choice, since that’s pretty much how we experience life.  But when someone tells us about eternal life, we then assume it somehow fits into our basic formula.

Last week I wrote about the past and how the past, even those sins and mistakes we did, have been redeemed by the present in Jesus.  Because of Him, we live in the present—always.  Just like He does.

Remember the name God gave Moses?  I AM!  Not: I was and I will be.  Just: I Am.  In the present.  Right now.  Right here.

He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Joseph—not was.  And Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I Am.”  When you and I received eternal life, this is the life we received—life in the present.  We do not live in the past.  The things of our past are part of us in the present—redeemed, forgiven, loved.

We often wonder how God can see everything and know everything at once.  I have had people deny the full deity of Jesus because they didn’t believe that He could be everywhere at once.  But all of that misses the point.  God is present.  Wherever you are, He is there.  And He is here.  He is with all of His people at the same time—in the present.  It doesn’t matter if they lived 2000 years ago, or they live in some far away land, or they haven’t yet been born.  He is with them.  That’s His promise.  And He can do it in His eternal present.

The ramifications of this are nothing less than astounding.  It means that there is no time in my life when I was without Him.  Once I entered into eternal life (or eternal life entered into me) my past, present and future became a single point, the present.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I am not one of those who think that all people are already saved.  I believe that personal faith is a choice and is necessary.  But when you and I came to Jesus, we were saved “to the uttermost,” from beginning to end.

So I never have to deal with my past again, in terms of spiritual repentance or compensation.  And whatever consequences continue with me today, even the simple memories, are part of who I am in Christ and it is all good.

Now here’s a thought to chew on:  Your past does not determine your future.  Your present determines your future.

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Live Today!

My past doesn’t feel gone.  So when the preacher tells me that my past is washed away, that those things belong to a different person, or that God has removed them from me, I struggle.  I still remember those things.  I still suffer consequences from those things.  It is hard to say that they are gone.  The message is wonderful, but is it true?

One of my favorite stories about Abraham Lincoln is about a time, just after the end of the Civil War, when Lincoln welcomed a man into his office who had been on the side of the South.  They talked and parted as friends.  When others saw Lincoln’s openness to the man, they criticized him.  They said, “Don’t you remember that this man was your enemy?  You should destroy your enemies!”  Lincoln answered in his simple logic, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Perhaps the most powerful way to wash away sins and overcome mistakes is to change their purpose.  What once was meant for evil is now used for good.  What once was stained like scarlet is now white as snow.  If the evil of your past works together with everything else for good in your life, then that evil is truly gone.

You see, we do remember those things and why should we try to act as though they didn’t happen?  Some of us live with consequences for the rest of our lives after the things we did.  We are stuck with remembering.  But our Lord does not want us to look back and relive the shame and guilt.  He does not want us to place new accountability on ourselves when we remember.  He wants us to know that we are forgiven and those things have been made new.

Please don’t misunderstand.  I am not saying that sin is not evil.  I am not saying that we (or anyone) should just go do whatever we want because God will work it into good somehow.  Sin still has consequences.

But the Lord has taken the sins and errors of your past and has given them a purpose in your present.  They have worked together to bring you here.  Those things no longer bring shame and guilt because they no longer need to do that.  Now they are simply part of the path you walked as Jesus brought you to Him.

Today you belong to Jesus.  Today you are free and clean and victorious.  Today you are alive.  Live today!

Tell me what you think…


Filed under Relationship, Theology and mystery

Life in the Present

Instant replay.  Some say it is the downfall of football.  Giving the fans the opportunity to review, over and over, a play and judge the calls of the officials has certainly changed some of the flavor of the game.  What was an attempt by broadcasters to energize and involve the fans was the beginning of a whole new way of life for those fortunate enough to live in such advanced times.  Today we can replay many of the events of our lives, sometimes events we would love to forget.  The criminal thought he had committed the perfect crime until he saw himself on the television news in the act.  The actions of teens that would have simply been remembered by the ones who were there are now immortalized in the minds of a world through Facebook and YouTube.  We can’t seem to escape our past.

Of course some of us don’t need videos to remind us of the stupid or sinful things we have done.  We remember plenty.  We remember too much.  In fact, because we remember, we find it hard to think of those things as separate from us in any way.  We allow those dumb things to define us.  We say things like: “I am a —,” based on what we have done.  Or: “I always —,” because we remember doing something foolish.

Now, most of us have been taught that we should not let our failures define us.  We know that our sins are forgiven.  But we still look back on those things with regret and fear and shame.  Because we can remember what we did, we find it hard to think of ourselves as separate from what we did.  So what if I could show you that the things of your past have been redeemed in your relationship with Jesus?

Because you have eternal life, you live forever in the present—in relationship with Jesus.  That means that the mistakes and sins of your past have been more than wiped away.  They have been incorporated into the wonder and joy of your present.

Now, so that you don’t think I have gone too far off the deep end, here’s what I mean.  Those evil things you and I did in our past are no longer on our accounts as sins held against us.  We know that.  But, beyond that, those evil things have themselves been used in your life, and apparently in the lives of others, to accomplish the purpose of God.  Nothing you did was a surprise to Him.  When you came to Him, those things were in the package you brought.  Not only did He wash you clean from guilt and shame, He also used those things as part of the building process of your life.

Don’t get me wrong.  Those things were sins and they were evil.  But notice Joseph’s understanding:


But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Genesis 50:20


And God tells Isaiah that the sins, though stained as deeply by evil as possible, will be washed and purified.


 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18


And here is the promise for you and me:


And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

All things?  Even those awful things I have done, those things I regret so deeply?  Yes, even those things!  All things have been brought into your present, washed and made useable for your good.  Under the blood, in your relationship with Jesus, even those things have worked good for you.

Now, I realize this may be a difficult teaching to swallow.  We have been taught to hate our sins and think of them as the reason Jesus went to the cross.  We have been made to feel terrible whenever we think about what we did, no matter how long ago.  But the truth is that we are not to live in the past.  We live in the present and, if we are truthful, those evil things that weighed on our hearts contributed to our need for a Savior.

A wise friend reminded me one day that people who fail need a Savior, so I should never be ashamed of the fact that I failed.  In the same way, people who sinned needed a Savior and—Praise the Lord!—a Savior was sent for us.

I never want to do those things again, but I also no longer will live there.  My life is in the eternity of Jesus, full and free because of His love.

Your thoughts?

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Your Eternal Life

Let’s think about what it would mean to be eternal.  It isn’t the same as immortal.  Those who live forever forward from a certain point in time are said to be immortal.  That means they will never die.  We, because of Jesus, are immortal.  But there is more than immortality in us.

To be eternal is to be outside of time, no beginning and no end.  It is to be separate from creation altogether, different.  To be eternal is to be God.  The angels are not eternal.  The evil one is not eternal.  Only God is eternal.  There never was a time when the Lord was not and there never will be a time when the Lord will not be.  He is.  That’s what He told Moses that day at the burning bush.  He is the One who is.

To be eternal is to live in the present always.  God sees the past and the future and He is there.  He is with Abraham and He is at the end of this world.  He is with us whenever we are.

This is the life that is in you and me.  Eternal life, the life of Jesus, is our life.  The energy and purpose and essence that flows in us is this eternal life.  And we are locked in the present with Jesus forever.

Now here’s the exciting part: this means that everything from your past is cleansed by your present and healed for your future.  The sins of past, present and future are already forgiven and already washed away.  Whatever was promised is already yours and whatever was broken has been restored.

The joy of eternal life is not something we have to wait for, it is something we have.  Eternal life does not begin when we die.  Eternal life began in the presence of Jesus.  There is something wonderful here, something that cleanses and restores and frees.


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Life in Jesus

Romans 6:23 says that the gift of God is eternal life.  If you want to think that eternal life only means living forever, I suppose that’s a verse you could pull out for support.  However, read the verse carefully:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


The life you and I have received through the gift of God is the life that is “in” Jesus.  I take that to mean it is His life.  Galatians 2:20 and Colossians 3:4 tell us that the life in us is His:

 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:4

It is Jesus who is alive in me and Christ is my life.  My eternal life!  I have no life apart from Him and in Him I have His life.

So, when I came to Jesus, simply to receive what He offered me, I received His life.  I received Him.  Because He is eternal, the life in me is eternal.

But, what does it mean that He is eternal?

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