I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
I was 12 when my family moved to Colorado. It was at that time when we started attending an Evangelical Free Church. It was a good church, but every service ended in the exact same way. The pastor would close his message with an invitation to “say a prayer to accept Jesus as Savior.” In all the services I can remember, he never missed a Sunday giving “an invitation.” It seemed strange to me, primarily because it wasn’t the type of church I had grown up in. But, there was something about the invitation that seemed to fall short of what Jesus actually called his followers to live out. There was something that seemed to miss the point of the eternal life Jesus invited people to enjoy.
John spent a lot of time in his letter of 1 John writing about faith that leads to eternal life. In fact, in 1 John 5:13 he claimed that faith and eternal life were the very reason he wrote the whole letter. He wrote, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” What’s fascinating is that in his writing about eternal life, John never mentions praying a “sinner’s prayer.” He also never mentions going to heaven! You’d think in a letter about eternal life, you’d mention heaven at least one time, but John doesn’t. See, for John, eternal life has a lot more to do with life on earth than it did with life in heaven. For John, eternal life is the kind of life that lasts forever, but it was also the kind of life you’d want to last forever. Eternal life was life that caused the kingdom of God to invade and displace the empires of the earth (1 John 5:20).
John writes a lot about the benefits and impact of faith. As people living 2,000 years after the life and death of Jesus, it can be difficult to know what this faith-life looks like. Much of the time we assume that the life of faith is a life without doubt – but faith and doubt are not opposites, they’re dance partners. Faith is not certainty that God will, it’s conviction that God can. Faith is holding onto God even when life doesn’t make sense and when it’s filled with doubt. Faith is the conviction that God is good and that one day, he will set the world to rights. When followers of Jesus live in the way of love, in relationship with Jesus by faith, they pull eternal life into the here and now. It’s more than saying a prayer, and it’s better than just going to heaven when we die – it’s living in the kingdom of God now.
Today, read the Apostle’s Creed. It’s a succinct summary of what followers of Jesus have believed for the past 2,000 years. Identify the time in your faith journey when these beliefs came most alive and reaffirm your faith in Jesus.
By Ryan Paulson