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"This Is Eternal Life"

John 17:3,17-19

Pastor Robin Fish

Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church  
Laurie, MO

Sun, May 9, 1999 

John 17:3,17-19

"And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.

"Sanctify them in the truth; Thy word is truth.  As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth."

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Our Gospel lesson this morning is a portion of the prayer of Jesus which has come to be known as his High-Priestly Prayer.  This is only a portion of that, and I am choosing just four verses out of the nineteen from our Gospel.

Jesus prayed, obviously, so that the disciples would hear Him and learn from the things which he said.  Prayer does that, you know.  It is pedagogical, that is, it teaches.  God doesn't need our prayers.  We need to pray.  And part of what prayer does it teach.  This morning we will listen to a few words from the prayer of Jesus and let Him teach us.  Our theme borrows from the words of Jesus, This is Eternal Life.

Jesus says it right out, This is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only True God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou has sent.  That is the purpose of the Christian church.  We exist so that you, and others, may have eternal life.  Many people think that we exist as a morality society, or as a rules enforcer of some sort.  They are wrong.  We want people to have everlasting life, and the way to that everlasting life is to know God.

God wants you to know Him.  The chief problem with Adam and Eve is that they did not know God.  They should have, but somehow they got it all confused and they sinned.  When they sinned they forgot God as they had known Him and they could only see the threats of the Law and the promise of death, and so they were frightened of the One of whom they should have been confident.

That condition continues to this very day.  And God wants you to know Him.  He wants you to know him as He is.  Many people claim to know God and haven't the foggiest idea about the true God.  They think He is a cruel taskmaster, or they think He is a kindly, semi-senile, white-haired old man in the sky.  There are a lot os strange notions about God.  But God wants you to know Him as He is, for who He is, and what He is like and what He wants.

To accomplish that, you must know Jesus.  Hebrews 1 says God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also made the world.  And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.

You have to know the Jesus that exists, not one of the pious counterfeits we hear of in our world today. You need to know what He is like, and what He wants and what He demands, and what He does.  He is not the milk-toast, "Whoever you are, however you are, I love you!" Jesus that so many obviously think He is.  He is the real Jesus, who cleansed the temple, and lectured the Pharisees, and warned of the wrath to come Jesus.  Only the real Jesus has eternal life to give.

And the knowing that Jesus speaks of is the "what" of faith the fides qua - the facts of the case, the history, the meaning, the promises, and all that doctrine stuff.  And if you know all of that stuff I mean really know it, you cannot help but believe it and place your trust in it.  It is what Paul referred to as "faith."  That is why Jesus says, this is eternal life.

This knowledge of God of the true God as He is makes us holy.  It cleanses us, because God cleanses us by the forgiveness of sins.  It cleanses us because if you really know God and His love and His will for you, you gotta love Him.  What is the will of Gd for us?

And if you really know that and here the word "know" means "I have seen it," or "I have experienced it,"

A.  If you know Him You must love Him

B.  If you know God, you will repent

C.  You will find that knowledge in Scripture

III.  Eternal Life is the Purpose

A.  Jesus came that you might have eternal life

B.  Jesus called you that others may also have life

C.  You are to be a walking sign, saying, This is Eternal Life

Jesus pulled no punches.  He was not the kind of preacher most Americans would appreciate at all.  He simply told the truth and didn't worry particularly how anyone was going to take it.  Take the text today.  Jesus straight out told His audience that they were children of Satan and did not know God.  It's kinda fun to read it, but it was not fun to hear.  I imagine He irritated the Jews to whom He was talking really a lot.

Well, Jesus' message is no more polite today than it was two thousand years ago.  It is precisely the same message for you as it was in those days only you can tell how it applies, just as only those specific Jews could make the application in the days of Jesus.  The question is, and this is our theme, "Can you hear it?"

No matter what He said, they had an answer and would not believe.  They stubbornly refused to hear Him, although not all of them.  The Bible says that as He spoke many came to believe in Him.  Finally, though, it came to a confrontation.  Jesus said "If you abide in my word, then you are truly disciple of mine and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."  Well, that set them off.  They insisted that they were free men, and Jesus told them that anyone who sins is a slave to sin.  They said that they were Abraham's children, not slaves, and Jesus told them that if they were Abraham's children they would do the works of Abraham, but they works they do reveal them to be the children of the devil.  They said, God is our Father, and Jesus' response to them begins our text.

In His response, Jesus tells them the truth that nothing they are doing suggests that they are children of God.  In fact, their continuing misunderstanding said else.  Then He said it verse 47, "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God."

The hearing of which Jesus spoke was obviously not simply experiencing the sounds the Jews had been experiencing the teaching of Jesus all along.  He referred to actually hearing with understanding and faith.  God's people take the time to hear it, and they believe it when they hear it, and they act in accord with it.  That is what the saying of Jesus meant here, and everyone who heard Him say it understood what He meant.

The corollary here is that those who are not God's people, do not hear the Word of God.  Obviously, anyone within the sound of my voice can "hear" the Word of God.  They can detect the sounds I am making and they can interpret their meaning.  The "hearing" of which Jesus spoke, however begins after that process of auditing ends.

Like the Jews referred to in our text, some people simply do not understand because it is not something they want to understand.  Others understand quite nicely, but they refuse to accept it for one reason or another.  Still others hear it and profess to believe it, but they do not bring forth the fruits of believing, but they serve the will of their father below.

Since the question of our theme is "Can you hear it?" we should probably take a closer look at those three groups and see if we find ourselves described in any of them.

The first group are those people who simply have other commitments.  They want to commit sin.  They lust, and so they do not want to hear about self-control.  They lust for adultery so they do not want to hear about sexual morality.  They want to go to the casino, so they do not want to hear about the sin of gambling.  They desire to spend more time on their pleasures, so they do not want to hear about how they ought to be in church each and every day of worship.  They do not want to face the ugly truth that when their loved ones leave our church behind for another denomination that they just might be leaving sound doctrine behind as well and thereby endangering their souls' salvation so they do not want to hear about the errors of other denominations.

They not only do not want to hear it, they get angry if they do, and they refuse to believe anything their are told about it.  Their commitments, whatever it may be, make hearing the Word of God painful and difficult, because it challenges them, and calls their commitments into question.  They cannot believe the Word of God and continue in their ways without acknowledging that they are wrong which should lead to repentance, and if it does not, must lead to unbelief. 

The second group are those who hear and understand the Word of God, but simply refuse to accept it for one reason or another.  Sometimes the reason is that they are too smart for the Word of God.  It is so old fashioned to them, they want something more modern.  Other times they are simply convinced that they are right and the Word of God is wrong.  I often refer to that as "invincible ignorance."  Once you are ceratin that you are right and the Bible is wrong, there is no tool on earth that can change your mind.  God might, but I cannot.

The third type, the ones who believe it but do not bring forth the fruits of faith are the most common type.  You can find them in churches everywhere.  They do not understand that faith is more than church attendance, or accepting historical facts as true.  A man once described such a faith as accepting propositions of low probability.  But that is not what the Word of God is about, and that is not an accurate or fair description of true faith.

True faith is about hearing the truth of God's Word, and believing it; about hearing the promises of God made to us in connection with the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and believing them with not just the thought that they are true, but by placing such confidence in them that you live your life on the basis of those promises.  That's where the "fruits" part comes in.

You cannot believe in your forgiveness, without believing in your sin.  You cannot view the cross with faith without knowing that you cannot walk deliberately in sin and still confess the truth about your sins and, therefore, your forgiveness.  True faith lives in your life and through your behavior.  It isn't just an academic or intellectual thing.  It must surface in your thoughts, in your words, and in your behaviors.  If it doesn't, it isn't true faith, and you serve no the Lord above, but the Lord below, which is who every unbeliever serves, whether they know it, or care to admit it, or not.

Now, I can ask you, Can You Hear It?  Undoubtedly you heard yourself described to some degree in the three types of unbelief not hearing the Word of God mentioned above.  We all wrestle with the flesh, and even if we do not show it on the outside, we all wrestle with it.  The danger is when we give in to it and begin to act it out regularly, as the Jews did in our lesson.  They couldn't hear what Jesus had to say to them, and so they couldn't receive what Jesus had to give to them.

And what did Jesus say to them?  He said,"If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."  He said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death."  He held before them the gift of eternal life, by grace through faith.  He would die on the cross to win it.  He would suffer the punishment of their sins, and ours.  They were not in jeopardy, but they would not hear it.

Can You hear it?  Jesus hung on the cross for you, too.  My sins, and your sins are the reason He had to die on the cross.  That's the shameful part.  The good part is that He cried out before He died, It is finished!  And at that moment, it was!  Our sins were forgiven at that moment.  Our salvation purchased at terrible price and won for us by Jesus.  His resurrection is the proof that Almighty God accepted His death in place of ours.  It is the divine absolution, which gives truth and authority to the absolution that I pronounce each communion Sunday.

Jesus says to us, If anyone keeps my Word, he shall never see death.  So we must keep His Word.  He tells us the same thing He told them, that His Word sets us free so we want to hear that Word and believe that Word and live in accord with that Word, for the freedom that Christ has won for those who believe is the freedom from sin and death and hell.

Can you hear it?  It means the world, you know.  He who is of God hears the Word of God.  Those who cannot hear it cannot hear it because they are not of God.  I pray God each of us hears and believes and trusts and lives in the light of the precious and life-giving Word of the Gospel and of our forgiveness.

He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

These sermons are for the Church. If you find it useful, go ahead and use it -- but give credit where credit is due. Shaped by the Cross Lutheran Church's Website can be found by clicking here.

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