Can we know that we have eternal life? If so, how do we know? We have begun a series in order to explore what the Bible has to say about these very questions. (I encourage you to check out parts 1-3 of Examine Yourselves if you’ve not done so.)
We are continuing our study into how we can know that we have eternal life. We stated in part one of Examine Yourselves that sometimes the way to help discover the reality of what something is, is to first consider what it is not. Previously, we have discussed the fact that salvation is not simply a self-help tool designed to make me the best me I can be. We’ve discovered that salvation isn’t merely keeping a list of do’s & don’ts. We’ve examined the fact that the presence of the miraculous is not proof- positive of communion with Christ. In part four we will see that mere mental assent to the facts concerning Jesus does not mean one is in communion with Christ.
Later, as we get further into our study, we will discover how Jesus taught us that a true relationship with him is a right now, on going, present tense reality. One can be aware of and acknowledge the reality of certain facts and not be impacted in any real way. Think for a moment of all the things you know to be true. How many of these truths are impacting the right now of your life?
Let me try to illustrate what I’m talking about by using an example out of the Old Testament story of Saul & David (I Samuel 23-26). Remember David had fled for his life, fleeing from a tormented, jealous king who had every intention of killing him. You will find in reading this story that twice David spared Saul’s life. Saul’s response to David’s mercy went something like this, “David, David, is that you? Is that your voice. You are a better man than me in that you have spared my life. I have sinned, played the fool and committed serious error.” See, Saul knew he was wrong. He knew he had sinned, but; if you read the story in its entirety you find that he never changed his behavior. Simply knowing and acknowledging the facts did not impact his life in any authentic lasting way.
Looking in the New Testament we find another example of someone who knew the truth in the person of Herod. John 6:20 says this, “for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.” (NLT) Herod knew the truth, but it had no real impact on his life. He was not changed by what he knew. Herod went so far as to protect John for a while, he even seemed to enjoy the effect John’s preaching had upon him, but; he remained the same old Herod. I’m sure you remember how this whole thing ended up with John’s head on a platter.
In John 3 we find the story of Nicodemus, a Pharisee who came inquiring of Jesus by night. He says to Jesus, “Rabbi, we know that you have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do the signs you do unless God is with him.” I love Jesus’ response, ” I’m telling you the absolute truth, unless you are born again you can’t see the kingdom of God.” Here we find a very learned and religious man saying what he thought he knew about Jesus, and Jesus goes on to tell him that one must born again and totally turned into a new creation to truly know and see the Kingdom. Unless we are born again, unless we are totally and completely impacted by Jesus, we don’t even know what we think we know. (On a side note, there is so much talk about the Kingdom today, but; unless we are born again, we don’t even know what we’re talking about.)
The point of all this is if we truly know, if we truly believe, our lives will show it. Once, while preaching a sermon, I wanted to illustrate the fact that authentic knowledge and belief is always accompanied by corresponding action, so; I put it like this (In hind- sight I could’ve picked a better illustration): “If you folks believed, if somehow you knew that I was going to take out a shotgun and just start blasting away (for just a millisecond I saw questioning uncertainty and a little, ‘Has he finally gone crazy’ look in their eyes); you would all run!” True, perhaps in the society we live in that’s not the best example I could have used, but; you get my point. If you really know something, if you really believe something; your life will show it.
So, we see that salvation is not merely knowing the facts and acknowledging them as being true. One can know the truth about many things and yet have no serious interaction with it. One can know the truth about Jesus and yet have no true communion with him.
We said back in part two of this series that we would approach these sections on what salvation is not in a Myth Buster kind of way, and; the next section may indeed be the biggest Myth Buster of them all.