The Intimacy of Eternal Life-You Get Christ, Not Earthworm Jim

{A newly edited retread from the late great blog “Enabled by God.” May she RIP}

Eternal life is scary.

At least it was to me as a child. Every time I pondered for any amount of time about being somewhere forever, an incredible aching formed in the pit of my stomach. An aching that would persist to the point of either nausea or panic attack, until I drove all thoughts of immortality out of my mind for the moment. I understood heaven was preferable to hell as far as eternity went, but I couldn’t fathom being anywhere for forever, no matter how celestially blissful it may be. Even Earthworm Jim got old after you’ve beaten it for the seventeenth time, right? According to my concept of heaven, after a couple of years the monotony would be mind-boggling.

We get to run on streets of gold. But then what? We get to swing on gates of pearl. But then what? We get to hang out with our deceased grandparents, Moses, and maybe one of the band members from Creed. But then what? It all seemed a bit…..boring after awhile. As an atheist coworker told me recently, “I don’t want to imagine being anywhere forever. I’d die of boredom being in one place forever. Especially if there are no dogs there.” Chubby little nine year old Bryan would have wholeheartedly concurred with that statement (especially the dog part, which I don’t even think is true).

This gripping sentiment of fear was held way before I came to the realization that eternal life was Christological and God centered; and nothing like anything I knew on earth (Revelation 1:1). In a word, the prospect of eternal life was frightfully boring to me before I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. After that happened, I learned eternal life did not primarily consist of an infinite quantity of time, but an intimate quality of relationship.

It was Jesus Christ Himself who graciously gave me a wholly adequate solution to my childhood dilemma in (John 17:3):

“This is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God and the Son whom you have sent”

Here I found Christ never meant for us to be enamored with streets of gold, seas of crystal, or gates of pearl; He wanted us to be enamored with Him.  A heaven of harps and cloud loitering satisfies not, but one vision of His blazing grandeur and glories will enrapture us for an eternity (Hebrews 1).

What Christ says about eternal life in his John 17 High Priestly Prayer would be altogether shocking and ludicrous to the passive bystander of His day. This is an average Jewish carpenter with no political clout, no royal entourage, and nowhere to even lay his head. And to his concerned disciples he gives this sure promise hours before He dies on an excruciating cross:

“After this, you will get to know my Father and me forever.”

The Islamic Extremist gets 72 virgins. The Hindu gets a better cultural status next time around. The cultist gets his own world and god-like state. The prosperity propagator gets his best life now and maybe a private jet. But Christ makes all of those false promises burn in the light of this one profoundly simple assurance:

“You get Me.”

“You get to know Me.” Clearly, this is a ridiculously audacious promise if we are talking about a mere Jewish man.

The greek word for “know” here is ginōskō, which is translated in three primary tenses:

1) to learn to know, come to know, get knowledge of perceive, feel

2) to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of

3) Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman

To “know” God, in its fullest biblical sense holds much more weight than an introductory understanding of bible stories or an intellectual assent to a few orthodox doctrines.

We are called to an intimate knowledge of God, so much so the word is used interchangeably in Scripture with the way only a husband could physically “know” his wife.  You know, the way Joseph didn’t know Mary before Jesus was born? (Mat 1:25)  We are given the same type of relational status only it is eternally deeper than that of human marriage. This is a spiritual relational intimacy a holy God has granted us through Christ from the foundation of the world. This union is not only for super apostles and church leaders, it’s for any who belong to the bride of Christ. It belongs to all who are being washed in the water of God’s word. (Eph 5:25-28)

Paul called the heart of the gospel the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2Cor 4:4-6) You can find the glory of God in many places: Lightning storms, mountaintops and holding your first-born for the first time. But Paul says the highest point of the glory of God rests in knowing and beholding Christ Himself, His face, His person, and His work at the cross and resurrection.

Paul also called everything else a four letter word (in the original Greek) compared to the surpassing worth of the knowledge of Christ. (Philippians 3:8) That’s because Christ is the Alpha and Omega (Rev 1:17), who upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3), who sits on an unrivaled  throne as King of the universe (Isaiah 6:1), in charge of angel armies (Heb 1:7), with eyes blazing with fiery holiness (Rev 1:14), a voice that thunders like crashing waterfalls (Rev 1:15), who made all things as all things were made for Him (Col 1:16), and will righteously judge the living and the dead at the end of time (Revelation 19:11). And this all culminates at the cross, where He is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world for our sins (Rev 13:8).

Indeed, this is no mere Jewish carpenter.

Through Him we are called children and heirs of God (Rom 8:16-17). That means we get God; we are afforded the incomprehensible privilege of knowing this God through Christ. This is what we received when we received the gospel, and it all happened at the point of our conversion. Which means eternal life doesn’t begin when we die, eternal life begins when we come to know Christ. Eternal life isn’t just then and there, but it is a here and now reality for those who are in Christ.

In Christ alone, the glory of God is made manifest to us. In Christ alone, the blazing holiness of God is made tolerable and accessible to us. In Christ alone, the righteous Judge has become a righteous Father. In Christ alone, we can know God and not just know things about Him in a second-hand way.

In the life to come, we will be eagerly chasing down the unsearchable riches of His excellencies; and after an eternity we will not have even reached the foothills of the majesty of King Jesus and His kingdom.

Better than wealth, health, fame, sex, food, relationships, toys, self-esteem and all the glory of the world combined.

You get Christ.

Bryan Daniels

The Intimacy of Eternal Life-You Get Christ!

Eternal life is scary.

At least it was to me as a child. Every time I pondered for any amount of time about being somewhere forever, an incredible aching formed in the pit of my stomach. An aching that would persist to the point of either nausea or panic attack, until I drove all thoughts of immortality out of my mind for the moment. I understood heaven was preferable to hell as far as eternity went, but I couldn’t fathom being anywhere for forever, no matter how celestially blissful it may be. Even Earthworm Jim gets old after you’ve beaten it for the seventeenth time, right? According to my concept of heaven, after a couple of years the monotony would be mind-boggling. We get to run on streets of gold. But then what? We get to swing on gates of pearl. But then what? We get to hang out with our deceased grandparents, Moses, and maybe one of the band members from Creed. But then what? It all seemed a bit…..boring after awhile. As an atheist coworker told me recently, “I don’t want to imagine being anywhere forever. I’d die of boredom being in one place forever. Especially if there are no dogs there.” Nine year old Bryan would have wholeheartedly concurred with that statement (the man who made the statement  is  nearly fifty years old!).

The game that revolutionized the Sega Genesis

This sentiment of fear was held way before I came to the realization that eternal life and the book of Revelation was Christological and God centered; and nothing like anything I knew on earth (Revelation 1:1). In a word, the prospect of eternal life was frightfully boring to me before I came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. After that happened, I learned eternal life did not primarily consist of an infinite quantity of time, but an intimate quality of relationship.

It was Jesus Christ Himself who graciously gave me a wholly adequate solution to my childhood dilemma in (John 17:3):

“This is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God and the Son whom you have sent”

Here I found Christ never meant for us to be enamored with streets of gold, seas of crystal or gates of pearl; He wanted us to be enamored with Him.  A heaven of harps and cloud loitering satisfies not, but one vision of His grandeur and glories will enrapture us for an eternity.

What Christ says about eternal life in his High Priestly Prayer would be altogether shocking and ludicrous to the passive bystander. This is an average Jewish carpenter with no political clout, no royal entourage, and nowhere to even lay his head. And to his concerned disciples he gives this sure promise hours before He goes to the cross, “You will get to know my Father and me forever.” The Islamic Extremist gets 72 virgins. The Hindu gets a better cultural status next time around. The cultist gets his own world and god-like state. The prosperity propagator gets his best life now and maybe a private jet. But Christ makes all of those false promises burn in the light of this one profoundly simple assurance:

“You get Me.”

“You get to know Me.” Clearly, this is a ridiculously audacious promise if we are talking about a mere Jewish man.

The greek word for “know” here is ginōskō, which is translated in three primary tenses:

1) to learn to know, come to know, get knowledge of perceive, feel

2) to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of

3) Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman

To “know” God, in its fullest biblical sense holds much more weight than an introductory understanding of bible stories or an intellectual assent to a few orthodox doctrines.

We are called to an intimate knowledge of God, so much so the word is used interchangeably in Scripture with the way only a husband could physically “know” his wife.  You know, the way Joseph didn’t know Mary before Jesus was born? (Mat 1:25)  We are given the same type of relational status only it is eternally deeper than that of human marriage. This is a spiritual relational intimacy a holy God has granted us through Christ from the foundation of the world. This union is not only for monks and ministers, it’s for any who belong to the bride of Christ. And it belongs to all who are being washed in the water of God’s word. (Eph 5:25-28)

Paul called the heart of the gospel the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2Cor 4:4-6) You can find the glory of God in many places: Lightning storms, mountaintops and holding your first-born for the first time. But Paul says the highest point of the glory of God rests in knowing and beholding Christ Himself, His face, His person, and His work at the cross and resurrection.

Paul also called everything else a four letter word (in the original Greek) compared to the surpassing worth of the knowledge of Christ. (Philippians 3:8) That’s because Christ is the Alpha and Omega (Rev 1:17), who upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:3), who sits on an unrivaled  throne as King of the universe (Isaiah 6:1), in charge of angel armies (Heb 1:7), with eyes blazing with fiery holiness (Rev 1:14), a voice that thunders like crashing waterfalls (Rev 1:15), who made all things as all things were made for Him (Col 1:16), and will righteously judge the living and the dead at the end of time (Revelation 19:11). And this all culminates at the cross, where He is the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world for our sins (Rev 13:8).

Indeed, this is no mere Jewish carpenter. Through Him we are called children and heirs of God (Rom 8:16-17). That means we get God; we are afforded the incomprehensible privilege of knowing this God through Christ. This is what we received when we received the gospel, and it all happened at the point of our conversion. Which means eternal life doesn’t begin when we die, eternal life begins when we come to know Christ. Eternal life isn’t just then and there, but it is a here and now reality for those who are in Christ.

In Christ alone, the glory of God is made manifest to us. In Christ alone, the blazing holiness of God is made tolerable and accessible to us. In Christ alone, the righteous Judge has become a righteous Father. In Christ alone, we can know God and not just know things about Him in a second-hand way.

In the life to come, we will be eagerly chasing down the unsearchable riches of His excellencies; and after an eternity we will not have even reached the foothills of the majesty of King Jesus and His kingdom.

Better than wealth, health, fame, sex, food, relationships, toys, self-esteem and all the glory of the world combined.

You get Christ.

What more do you want?

Bryan Daniels

The Agony of Eternal Life-God Loves You and Has an Agonizing Plan For Your Life

Strive to enter in at the narrow gate” (Luke 13:24)

Jesus would not be a minister of evangelism/missions at your church. It’s likely he would have never gotten past your search committee. You may not even want him on a visitation team. Not if you attend a church like most in modern American “churchianity”.

A cursory reading of Scripture shows that many times instead of making it easy for people to come to him, Christ put up formidable barriers to their coming. The harshness of tone and content in his invitation was usually in direct correlation to the hidden pride of his hearers. Amazingly, Christ didn’t always hit an inquiring person with a John 3:16 or a Mat 11:28 like we do. The Rich Young Ruler got smacked with the Ten Commandments when he came in Mark 10. The Pharisees were told their mom shagged the devil in John 8. Christ referred to a needy Samaritan woman as a dog when she asked for help in Mark 7:28. In general, his call in the Gospels consisted of “Turn your back on everything you know, and come die with me.” To which the response was either instant obedience to the command or “This dude’s crazy!” and “He just has a demon.”

So it shouldn’t surprise us that when Christ was met with a seemingly simple question, he handled it in an utterly unique and refreshingly blunt way. In Luke 13:23, as Jesus is teaching and journeying towards Jerusalem, an inquirer asks, “Lord, are there few who are saved?” Far from a simple “Yes” or “No” answer Jesus gives this response: “Strive to enter in at the narrow gate” (Luke 13:24).

He doesn’t just say “whosoever believes in me” will have eternal life. He doesn’t just say, “All who come unto me will be saved.” He says in effect, “Those who are saved are those who strive.” In the Greek he seems to be saying even more than that. The Greek word here used for “strive” (agonizomai) is a very expressive and emphatic one. It literally means to “agonize.” The questioner lobs an underhanded softball to Jesus, and according to our modern standards of evangelism, Christ Himself whiffs and pulls a hamstring in the process. He doesn’t tell him to just believe, he tells him to agonize. This is not friendship evangelism, the Roman Road, or even the F.A.I.T.H. outline. I have yet to see a gospel tract with the call for the unbeliever to agonize and anguish their way into eternal life.

The early church knew something of agonizing into Eternal Life

Grace is clearly free and sovereign in Scripture. (Eph 2:8, Rom 9:16) So why strive to enter into eternal life, why must we agonize for something free? It probably has to do with one of the most important words in Scripture: repentance.  Repentance is a heart-rending world-view shattering change that happens within a person. It’s a gift of God’s grace, and it is a gift that is indeed agonizing for those who experience it. When a revelation of our iniquity crashes against a revelation of God’s holiness, repentance is birthed in us and we are broken. Agonizingly and beautifully broken.

And it doesn’t stop with a one time act of repentance, but a continual repenting, a putting to death the deeds of the body for the rest of our God-given lives. Rom 8:13 As the chief of Puritans, John Owen, said, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” The word (agonizomai) used in Luke 13:24 is the same word used in 1Cor 9:25 of an athlete battling to win a victory. It is also used in 1Tim 6:12, of the Christian who “fights the good fight of faith.” The life of Christ is a severe struggle, a battle, and even a life of shocking violence. This is in no way a violence to others, but a violence to self- our own flesh, desires and dreams, and everything remaining of the old nature. It’s better to gouge out your sinning eye and amputate your transgressing arm now so that you may gain King Jesus and entry into his kingdom for eternity. We see why the gate of salvation is “narrow” now. As Christ said in a tandem passage, there are “very few” who find it. (Mat 7:13-14)

This is not to deny the true abiding joy a Christian experiences. But even our joy in Christ is an agonizing joy. Our persevering on the narrow road with Christ is an agonizing persevering. I am not a woman, and thus have not experienced firsthand the sacred rite of childbirth. But after witnessing the birth of my son and hearing the testimony of many women, I venture to guess it is not just a beautiful process for the mother, but an agonizingly beautiful process. Everything worth anything is. This is especially true for the only thing worth everything-Christ Himself and gaining an eternal knowledge of him. (John 17:3)

This verse is a warning to me, and all who may be casual confessors of Christ. The kingdom of heaven does not consist of decision cards and  church attendance, the kingdom of heaven is much like a war within you. When we came to Christ we were automatically enlisted into a battle for the ages; we were set on the beautiful and agonizing path of life with Christ. Nominal striving is no striving at all. Do we agonize over our sin, the very sin that put our precious Savior on the cross? Do we agonize over our lack of fervor and obedience to our perfect Lord and Master? If we do, we may take heart that God’s grace has taken effect in us.

If not, the solution Christ offers is beautifully, agonizingly simple: “Repent and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

Bryan Daniels