How to Be Sure You'll Live Forever

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : 1 John 5:13

As far as we can tell, human beings have always dreamed of finding immortality. Well, here’s the way you can be sure you will live forever.

Many of us act as though we’re going to live forever. We make long-range plans for the future with easy confidence. We expect that the diseases and disasters that cut down other people will pass us by. Death happens – we see that all around us – but surely it won’t happen to us, at least not any time soon!

Now we wouldn’t come right out and say it in that way. If you asked, “Are you going to die some day?” We would answer, “Of course. Everyone has to die sooner or later.” But we’ve never faced that truth in a personal, realistic way.

Have you ever wondered why that is? In a world where everyone dies, where death is the most evident of all facts, why is it so hard for us to realize this, to accept it about ourselves? The answer may be partly psychological. All we’ve ever known is life. It’s almost impossible for us to conceive of that existence ending. Part of it, I suppose, is emotional. Unless our days become unbearably bleak and painful, most of us don’t want to die. And we have a way of blocking, of banishing from mind what seems unpleasant to us. Death is the great unknown, and every hint of it makes us profoundly anxious. Our consciences make us dread what may lie beyond it. We grasp at every hope, however faint, that life may somehow be prolonged, endlessly replacing organs. Yet we know in our reflective moments that living forever here is a delusion, and that those who hold out such hope to us are either fools or frauds.

But I come to you today to say that in another way, in a far better way, you can be sure of living forever. Listen to these words from the apostle John’s first letter, chapter 5, verse 13:

I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

You can have life everlasting, says this great apostle, and you can have it “for sure.” That’s enough to kindle anyone’s interest. Think of it – eternal life – a certainty. We wonder, all of us, how? How can we know?

The New Testament writers are saying to us first, realize that God wants you to be sure about this. Second, remember that eternal life can begin here and now, and third, receive the Lord of life, the Son of God, by faith.

GOD WANTS YOU TO BE SURE

Let’s dwell on that first thought for a moment: God wants you to be sure. It may be surprising to you. God wants you to be sure of living forever. To some people I’ve known, such assurance seems preposterous. How, they object, can we know with any confidence even that God exists, much less that he cares about us and gives us a future? Isn’t all talk about immortality simply a projection on our part, a belief built not on fact but on our wishes?

Others may grant that eternal life is a possibility, but would frown on any thought of assurance about it. To them, such confidence seems like presumption. For anyone to claim certainty in these matters is for them a sign of insufferable pride. Who are you to imagine that you’re one of heaven’s special favorites? Are you holier or worthier than all the rest of us? What have you done to warrant such claims?

These same people might have serious doubts as to whether assurance of salvation would even be good for us. Suppose it were possible, suppose it were not arrogance. They feel it could still have bad effects on one’s religious life. Wouldn’t it make believers complacent? Wouldn’t it discourage the putting forth of effort? Wouldn’t it make us careless, even irresponsible?

I’ve known people who feel decidedly uncomfortable when this subject comes up. They don’t want to hear or think about assurance. They don’t see it as important. Any stress upon it seems to them ill-advised. To their minds, certain knowledge about our ultimate destiny is neither necessary nor desirable. Genuinely religious people, they insist, shouldn’t even be concerned about it.

But here is this apostle of Jesus Christ, this divinely authorized messenger, John, writing to people in God’s name so that they can know that they have eternal life. Isn’t that a marvelous encouragement? Whatever other people say, the apostle John is proclaiming the Word of God. The content of his message, and the motivation behind it, have been given him by the risen Lord Jesus. It’s as though God himself were saying to his people, saying to you, “I want you to know that you have eternal life.” Once I realize that, the whole question of assurance appears in a new light. If God wants it for us, then it surely is possible and it needn’t be presumptuous. In fact, if he wants us to have certainty in these matters, it seems oddly perverse to offer objections. Are we wiser, more ethically discerning, than God is? Shall we ignore or reject as undesirable a gift he wants to give us? No. If assurance of salvation is God’s provision for his people, then pride and presumption would lie not in receiving such a gift but in scorning it.

Oh, friend, let it sink in today that God doesn’t want you to be uncertain or confused about this great issue. He wants you to rejoice in the fullest confidence about the future, to live with radiant hope. He wants you to know that you have eternal life.

ETERNAL LIFE – NOW

Secondly, remember that eternal life begins here and now. John wants believers to know that they have eternal life, not that they will have it some day. In fact, it’s because we taste of it here and now that we can expect its fullness in the age to come.

In the Bible, life is always associated with God, with his creative Spirit. We live physically because he has breathed into us our vital breath, and we live spiritually, eternally, because he imparts himself to us, his own Spirit.

There’s a sense in which all of us have lost our true life. Because we have gone our own way, throwing off God’s authority and forgetting his love, we are like cut flowers. We still may seem to be alive, but the forces of death have already begun to work in us.

During one summer, a tall, stately tulip tree in our back yard became overgrown with vines. We decided to cut off their growth at ground level. For two or three days, the leaves and tendrils above remained green, and the vines clung stubbornly to the bark. But then, gradually, they all began to wither and turn brown. The vines had been severed from their roots, cut off from their source of life. It was only a matter of time before the effect of that separation became apparent. And so it is with our severed ties with God.

The grand message of the Bible is that God has restored to us our true life by bringing us back into fellowship with himself. It’s possible now for us to be born again, to receive God’s own life.

You don’t have to wait until the other side of death. You can know in the midst of your common days what Jesus called “abundant life,” the life that is life indeed. What are some of the marks of it? Those who are born again have a hunger for and a delight in the Word of God. They have a vigorous appetite for spiritual food. Those who have eternal life have a new confidence, joy, and freedom in their prayers. They know God as their Father now, and themselves as his beloved children. They have a joy that endures amid suffering, that keeps springing up even in trouble and pain. Knowing themselves to be marvelously loved by God, they discover a new capacity for loving and caring for others. They have a sense of life-purpose and a great hope. They have experienced the firstfruits of the Spirit in their lives, the first installment, as it were, of eternal life. And they are deeply sure that there is more to come.

RECEIVE JESUS BY FAITH

Now for the most important part. How can we be sure of living forever? Through receiving Jesus Christ by faith. Those who know that they have eternal life, says John, are those who “believe in the name of the Son of God.”

Remember how much Jesus talked about life? He said of his words, “They are spirit and they are life” (John 6:63). He claimed to be himself “the bread of life,” (John 6:35) and offered to all thirsty souls a “living water” (John 7:38). He said he had come so that we might have life, and have it abundantly. In fact, his word was, “I am the life.” Listen: “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believes in me, though he were dead, yet he shall live. And he who lives and believes in me shall never die” (John 11:25). Never really die!

Since true life is to be found in Christ, since he himself is the life, it follows that we become truly alive in relationship with Jesus. We receive life when we receive Christ. John puts it just that way. “He who has the Son has life, and he who has not the Son of God has not life.” Our dear friend from Uganda, Titus Baraka, who spoke on the program weeks ago was converted through that verse. He heard a preacher saying, “It’s not the one who has wealth who has life, not the one who has many wives who has life, not the one who has education who has life. It’s the one who has the Son of God.” Having Jesus. And when Titus heard that, he knew that he wanted the Son of God in his life.

Everything depends, then, on believing that Jesus is the Son of God. Life comes when we rely on him completely as our Savior and Lord. As we trust Jesus to be the one who died for us and rose again, as we depend on him for pardon and peace with God, and invite him to reign in our hearts, we receive the gift of eternal life.

Now think back to those objections to the idea of Christian assurance. Those who raise them are speaking from a certain conception of what religion means, of how we find acceptance with God. To them, salvation, eternal life, comes at least in part as the result of our merits and our efforts. Assurance, on that basis, becomes a personal attainment. To claim it for ourselves sounds arrogant: “We have succeeded, in effect, where others have failed.”

But now let’s suppose, as we’ve been seeing, that the Christian message is in reality very different. Suppose that salvation has nothing whatever to do with our good works, or our worthiness, or our efforts. Suppose that it’s the free gift of God to people who don’t deserve it in the least. Suppose that it depends completely on Jesus Christ and what he has done for us. Suppose that salvation can become ours only when we renounce all trust in ourselves and in anything else and rely completely on God’s mercy in Christ.

Now what I’m asking you to “suppose” is the Bible’s clear teaching. Jesus tells us that “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Paul reminds his readers, “By grace you have been saved through faith,” by God’s unmerited kindness, “and this is not your own doing. It is the gift of God, not because of works lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9).

Once we see that Christ has died for sinners and that God accepts the ungodly through him, then assurance rests on a new basis and has a new character. We are sure not because we deserve it, but because he is deserving. We are confident not through what we have done but through what Christ has done for us.

What effect do you think it will have upon your life if you deeply believe this? Will it make you proud? Proud of what? You’re simply a needy, sinful person to whom God has shown mercy. You haven’t done a thing to deserve it. It’s all grace. Will assurance make you feel superior to others? No, you will know that the same grace that has saved you is available to all who believe. Will it make you feel complacent, self-satisfied? That doesn’t seem likely either. Being greatly loved and forgiven can spur us to action like nothing else in the world.

Let me tell you what I think will happen as you put your trust completely in Christ. You’ll be freed from a good deal of anxiety. You’ll become a grateful person. And, knowing that you’re forgiven, knowing that you’re accepted, will set you free to serve others.

It is unspeakably good, friends, to know that God is your Father, to know that Christ dwells in you by his Spirit, to know that you have eternal life. So trust in the Son of God with all your heart and then live with the confidence that for you, eternal life has already begun!