Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group provide a brief, 2-minute summary of Sunday’s teaching.
- The Teacher of Ecclesiastes was frustrated by 3 things related to time and life. Which of these 3 things resonates with you the most and why?
- Read Psalm 102:11. Life is short – and the brevity of life can be frustrating. What feelings emerge when you think about this verse? What is the right way to live and act in response to this reality?
- Interact with this statement: The Eternal God sets eternity in our hearts not to frustrate us, but to lead us to an eternal kind of life. Based on Sunday’s message, what does this statement mean? What relevance does it have in your life personally?
- How do we typically understand the term “eternal life”? What did you hear in Sunday’s teaching that brought greater clarity to that term? How does that change your life right now?
- What is one action step you can take in response to what you heard in Sunday’s message?
I'm just out of curiosity, how many of you here on this campus or any of our campuses, how many of you have seen the film Interstellar? Show of hands. Okay, there's a bunch of us. Not everybody has. I'm not going to be a spoiler today. That's not going to be my job. But what I will tell you is ... Nor am I am necessarily recommending the movie. It was nominated for a bunch of different awards, particularly with special effects. It's kind of a Sci-Fi space kind of movie. Some of it's far-fetched and some of it's based in science and it's true.
But the thing that I enjoyed about that particular movie that I was really intrigued by was the idea of how they dealt with time. The multi dimensionality of time and then even the bending or the slowing of time. And it was a really unique thing. I remember in the movie that the main characters were in the spacecraft and they were, wherever they were in the galaxy, and they were going to be visiting this planet and the guy who was there, Romilly I think was his name. And he was a physicist and he was calculating when the two main characters Cooper and Brand were going to be leaving the spacecraft and they were going to this particular planet. And they were only going to be gone for maybe a handful of hours.
But he calculated, because of their proximity to a black hole, which by the way, this is kind of true science. I'm not a scientist but I found this to be true, is that the nearer you are to a black hole, it's as if time actually slows down and almost comes to a stop. And I was like, "What." When I was reading that kind of from scientists talking about this, I was going, "What." And so the physicist was actually doing calculations and he was saying, "Hey, for every hour that you're gone, I will have to wait on you here in this craft and seven years will pass for every hour that you're gone." And I was like, "What."
They ended up actually leaving the craft and they were gone for a little over three hours and they came back and the guy had been waiting on them in the craft for 23 years. I mean, like he had a beard like a gray beard at this point. And in my mind, like here's what was happening to me as I was watching this. I'm starting not to now track with the story because my mind is just going ... Right. It's just detonating in my head. And so part of me was actually frustrated after watching the movie because I found out that there's actual science around the idea of the slowing or bending of time. Some of the other pieces that they did with the multi-dimensionality of time were a little far-fetched. But nonetheless kind of the slowing or bending of time I was like, man, I could not get my mind around it. So I actually became frustrated because I couldn't understand this conception of time.
But, I even get frustrated around conceptions of time that I do get my mind around. Anybody else? For instance, I've got some couple of jars over here and they've got jelly beans in them. Not because I'm going to start throwing them out like candy to make you love me. All right, here's jelly beans.
Some parents have a tendency to use jelly beans or marbles or whatever to represent the number of weeks that they have with their child from the time the child is born till the time the child is out of the house a little after 18, kind of after high school graduation and they go off to college or whatever, right? So theoretically, if you calculated that in weeks, it's a little under 1,000. But we could just round it to ... You basically got 1,000 weeks with your kids from the time that they're born to the time that they're gone. And so when you start this out, right? You've got this empty jar, and you just brought a kid home from the hospital having a baby, right? And you just go like this. After one week. There's a week, right? After week two. There you go. And guess what? I'm going to put two more in there. There's a month. This represents a month.
Now, here's the thing. You look at this whole thing of jelly beans with 1,000 jelly beans in there. And you're like, "I'm not even making a dent in that thing." Well now you're not. Not after this. But it's amazing how before you know it, the jelly beans start adding up. In fact, Edie and I are in a place in our lives where this is what ours looks like now. This is us. Nothing. We got no jelly beans left. Kids are grown, they're off to college, they don't live with us anymore, done.
And you know what is interesting about all of this, this frustrates me too. The reason it frustrates me is not because I didn't rationally know that week by week these things were going away from me, I understand how time works. I get it. That one by one these are going this way. I completely and totally understand. But what was frustrating was that I couldn't slow it down. I couldn't when they were at two and acting a fool, I couldn't speed it up. So you understand what I'm saying.
I couldn't slow it down. I couldn't speed it up. I couldn't control it. It just kept going. Time, after time, after time, it just kept on moving and it became insanely frustrating to me. Because for me, I couldn't know everything. Hey, when I look at these jelly beans, by the way, and I started thinking about all that happened during this time, I could never have known when I was just putting one and one and one in here. I could have never known every high and every low. I could have never known every joy and every disappointment. I could have never known all the laughter and all the pain. I couldn't have known any of those things and they're all right here. And that's why for me, it became frustrating.
Because as I started to think about it, I couldn't possibly know everything. I couldn't possibly control everything. I couldn't possibly understand everything that was going on even though I could wrap my mind around the fact that time was going to move in this way. It became frustrating for me. And you know what it does for a lot of people, it opens the door for bigger questions. It's not just questions about that. Hey, where did that time go? But it actually starts opening your mind to ask other questions about what is this all for anyway? Like, it seems like we just have a really short window here. What is this all about anyway?
Maybe it wasn't parenting that did that for you. Maybe it was something different that started causing you to ask a whole bunch of different questions. I don't know. Maybe it was something like you had an event in your life that happened and you started asking, "How could this event happen at this time?" Or maybe you started coming face to face a little bit with your own mortality, and you're starting to ask the question maybe because of your age, or because of your health and you're asking the question, "How much time do I really have left available to me?"
Or maybe you started asking different questions. Maybe questions about, you're super busy and you paused in the rat race for just a little bit and stepped away and started asking questions like, "What am I doing with my time and my energy?" Or maybe it was the opposite. Maybe you're super bored and you're asking the question, "What do I do with all of this time that I have on my hands?"
You see the frustration of time is real and it's affected every single one of us and I can promise you this, that the teacher in Ecclesiastes, he's facing the same thing. In fact what we see at the teacher in Ecclesiastes these into chapter three that these questions are questions that he's dealing with and that he's asking, but he does it in a kind of unique way.
You see, what the teacher does is the teacher actually ends up writing a poem. And it's a poem that I'm guessing that you are eminently familiar with. Here's how that poem goes in Ecclesiastes chapter three, beginning in verse number one. "There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the Heavens. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot. A time to kill, and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build." By the way that were kill there was not the word for murder in the Hebrew. It's just talking about there's a time ... Like oftentimes in a war, right?
"A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them. A time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing. A time to search and a time to give up. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace."
Now, quick show of hands. How many have ever heard the words of this poem before? Raise your hand. Yeah, you see, these are probably the most famous words in all of the book of Ecclesiastes and people have a tendency to use these words all the time in a variety of different ways and sometimes they even use them in their proper context. Sometimes, but not all the time.
You see, when we look at this passage, what we find is, we find that it's a poem written by a frustrated teacher. You'll find that out in just a second. But you can't just divorce it from its context. You see, the poem itself is descriptive, it's not prescriptive. In other words, it's not saying to us, this is what you should do. That's not what it is. The teacher is observing life and in fact, he's observing all of life. That's why the poem begins by saying, that there's a time and a season for everything under the Heavens or under the Sun, right? That there's a time and season for everything.
And then he begins the poem, as many ancient poets did, by summarizing everything by saying, there's a time to be born and there's a time to die. Everything else that flows out of that poem is actually in between those two pieces, right? A time to be born and a time to die. He's basically saying all of Heaven and earth and kind of all of the time that you have under the Heavens, it's all encapsulated in a time to be born and a time to die.
And so then what you have, is you've got 14 different couplets of opposites, right? Time to be born, time to die. Time to plant, time to uproot, right? You've got all of these opposites and the teacher is saying that there's a time for everything and there's a season for every activity under the Heavens. But even if things are opposite, sometimes there's a time for this but then there's a time for its opposite, right? It makes perfect sense to all of us when we look at it and then we start to see that he's describing not only things that are in the physical realm, a time to be born, a time to die. A time to plant and a time to uproot, right? These are in the physical realm.
By the way, if you think about that, you have no control over those things. A time to be born. Nobody goes, "It'd be a good time for me to be born." No one does that. You don't have control over that. And in the natural world, you also don't control the time of your death. If things go naturally. Just like a plant does not say, "It'd be a good time for me to be planted, and then it'd be a good time for me to be uprooted." Plants don't do that. This is beyond their control. So the physical realm is talked about in this poem, but the emotional realm is also talked about. There's a time to weep, and there's a time to laugh, right? Things like that. But also the national realm or kind of the social or governmental realm is also talked about. There's a time for war and there's a time for peace.
You see, we often don't control outside of ourselves. The time for our laughing, we laugh because something happened. We don't control the time of our weeping. We weep because something happened. We don't go control the time of war because we're not making those decisions. We don't necessarily control the times of peace because sometimes people want to make war with us. So all of these things, interestingly enough, seem to be things that we can't quite grab hold of and control. And I can promise you that the teacher is painting this picture, not just so we go, "This is a beautiful thing for me to put on a plaque," but because we need to somehow keep reading to understand why he's frustrated.
You see, he's taking these opposites and he's saying sometimes this and sometimes its opposite. You know how that goes, right? All year long, you are constantly doing this. "Income, income, income, income, income. I want more income." You're doing that all year long. While during that same year you're going, "Okay, I'll write a check to the church or to a charity or whatever," and you're kind of hurting to do that. But I can promise you, around tax season, what you're doing is going, "Lower income, lower income, lower income. More charitable giving, more charitable giving, more charitable giving," right? That's what you do around that season. It just depends on what season you're in as to which one that should be done.
You see, this is what the teacher is kind of showing us. And he's saying, he believes there's a time for everything, and a season for everything and every activity under the Heavens. Now, the good thing is, is that the teacher believes that there is a time for everything, and that there is a season for every activity under the Heavens. And in fact, the teacher even believes that it's God who does that. The teacher ... We'll see that in just a few moments. The teacher actually believes that. But if we just looked at the poem, and we took verses one through eight and took it out of its context and put it up on a plaque. We would just go, "Wow. That's beautiful. That's nice. That's a really nice thing." Well, it is.
But in the Bible, sometimes you know how you solve problems? Listen carefully. I'm going to give you a great kind of insight as to hermeneutics principle as to how you interpret scripture. Do you know sometimes how you solve problems in the Bible? Keep reading. Just keep reading. And sometimes that solves your problems, right? So you read this passage and you go, "Oh man, that was sweet. That was so nice. I want to cut that out. I'm going to put it on doily at my house." Does anyone have doilies? Just my grandmother. Yeah.
But if you keep reading, notice what he comes out saying. He basically comes out saying he's frustrated. Look in verse number nine. Right after this poem he says, "What do workers gain from their toil? I've seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He's made everything beautiful in its time. He's also to that eternity in the human heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
See the teacher is frustrated. And in fact, I want to point out three, these are my words that I'm going to use here. But I want to point out three of the reasons that the teacher is frustrated, but I'm not going to leave you there. So just stay with me here, but maybe you can identify with them. I think the first reason that teacher is frustrated is because he feels like there's a lack of meaning, right? There's a lack of meaning. And that's part of what this poem was intended to convey. But let me show it to you in verse number nine. Here's what he says. Right out of that poem he writes this poem, and then he says, "What do workers gain from their toil?"
Well, what's he doing there? Listen, he's actually converting back to what he said at the very beginning of the book. He's quoting himself from the very beginning of what he wrote in Ecclesiastes chapter one. Look again, at what it says in chapter one, verse number two and three. "Meaningless, meaningless," says the teacher. Utterly meaningless. Everything is meaningless. Here it is. What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the Sun?
You see now, he comes out of this poem, talking about all these opposites that are supposed to have seasons and times, and he believes they do. And he believes God's the one who does it, but he's frustrated, because he can't figure out what's the meaning behind all of this. So why should I then be working in the midst of this orderly thing that God has put together? I can't figure out what the meaning behind it all is. And so you know what he lands on? Because he's like, "What do you gained from all of this toil?"
Well a few verses later, he basically just says, "Well, I guess the best you can do is just get what you get." Listen to what he says in verse number 12 of chapter three. "I know that there's nothing better for people than to be happy and do good while they live, that each of them may eat and drink and find satisfaction in all their toil. This is the gift of God. So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that's their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them? In other words, he's saying, I can't figure out what the meaning of it all is. So, you just better enjoy it. Get what you got because it's all you got. So, hopefully you enjoy it, and that's that.
Now, that's a frustrating posture to have. But I'm afraid that sometimes people in a present day faith environment and present day church and people that claim to follow God, I hope that you don't embrace that thinking. Because that thinking is the kind of thinking that says, you know what, I'm just going to work and I'm going to do my thing because really, for me, my great goal, my great goal is to live on the beach and drink fruity drinks with umbrellas in them, and pick up seashells.
Let me just break it down for you, that's not meaning. You're welcome. So, I hope you don't embrace that kind of thinking. But he's frustrated because of a lack of meaning. But he's also frustrated because of a lack of control. You see, when you go on to read in verse number 10, and the first part of verse 11, you see it. He said, "I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time." Now, when you pause right there, you're going, "Whoa, wait, what?" Yeah, you see, this is actually an issue for the teacher that he's frustrated by because he sees that there's a God who makes a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens. But what he realizes is that he's frustrated by that. In fact, what he says is he says, God has laid on the human race a burden. A burden. Really, a burden on the human race. That's how the teacher is understanding that.
Well, what's the burden? The burden, he says is that God, not me, can make everything beautiful in its time. The burden is, is that I can't do this, I can't control this, God makes everything beautiful in its time. And I am not the one who can control this. And he said, this is a burden He's laid on humankind. In fact, when he uses that language, he's actually calling back what he said in Chapter one. Because basically, in Chapter one, he was basically saying this. I just said, basically, twice really close together, I shouldn't have.
He's saying this. God's just given us busy work to keep us busy, because we don't really know what to do with ourselves, and it's a burden that we have because we can't control everything. It's a burden that God has placed on humanity. Look at Ecclesiastes 1:13-14. The teacher says, "I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind. I've seen all the things that are done under the sun, all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind."
You ever tried to control the wind? Good luck with that. I mean, you yourself, I'm not talking about ... Just you yourself try to control the wind and just go, "Look, no wind, you're going to blow that way." Well, wind's going to do what it wants to do, right? You can't control it. The teacher is frustrated because he can't find meaning, and because he can't control the circumstances of his time. And then he's also frustrated because of a lack of understanding. He's frustrated by a lack of understanding. Look at the last part of verse 11. "God has also set eternity in the human heart. Yet, no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
Can you see his frustration? He's basically saying this, "I've got this thing inside of my heart, this longing inside of my heart, that there's more, that something's bigger, that there's something going on." God has set, eternity in our hearts, but I can't grasp how and when God does everything that He does. In other words, the teacher believes that there are reasons for everything that God is doing, and there are seasons for everything God is doing, but he doesn't understand them. And he's frustrated because he can't grasp it all.
That ever happened to you? Where you go through something and you say to yourself, "I know there are reasons for this. I just don't have any idea what they are." Is that ever happened anybody or is it just me? Am I alone? Right, great, two of you, fantastic. Great. I'm talking to the wrong crowd. So, it's a lack of understanding. So, the teacher is frustrated. He knows that there are order and seasons for every activity under heaven, but he can't figure it out.
So, what he decides to do is he settles for little pleasures. I'm just going to enjoy what I can enjoy because that's all I've got. He just figures that's all I've got. Listen, it's not all we have. We have Jesus. You see, when we begin to look at Jesus because we actually have more revelation than the teacher had. This is why when you read the book of Ecclesiastes, you can't get stuck because you have to realize what's going on here. The teacher of Ecclesiastes does not have the same amount of revelation about who God is and what God has done as we do. We got more. We don't have to be just stuck, we can actually learn and grow. Here's why. Because when we look to the life of Jesus, here's what we figure out real quickly, that God makes everything beautiful in its time. This is what we begin to learn when we see the life of Jesus, because with the program of God, God is always doing what He wants to do in the manner in time and season that He wants to do it.
We actually see that even at the birth of Jesus. If you remember the words of the Apostle Paul when he was writing a letter to the Galatians, he actually talked about Jesus' birth in these ways. Look at what he said, in Galatians 4, "But when the set time had fully come, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law." Did you catch that? When the set time had fully come.
It's frustrating for us is that we can't always understand what those set times are, what God's doing from beginning to end. We don't always understand it, but God knew exactly what He was doing and why Jesus was coming at the exact set time, in the exact set circumstances, in the exact season, He knew exactly what He was doing.
You know what the great thing is, is that Jesus being God in the flesh, being the son of God, He also knew what God's timetable was all about. Because, for instance, Jesus one time as is recorded in the Gospel of John, one time some of those people that were around Jesus; family and friends were trying to convince him to go to the festival. You know what Jesus said? John 7, "Therefore, Jesus told them, "My time is not yet here. For you, anytime will do." The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that it's works are evil. You go to the festival, I'm not going up to this festival because my time has not yet fully come.
You see, Jesus understood what this looked like. In fact, He understood it so well that Jesus not only knew when the times were coming, but He knew what was happening right before the time was supposed to occur. Because when Jesus is actually praying in the garden, and He's about to be captured, and taken to a cross by His captors. Notice what John says about that event in John 18, "Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to Him, went out and ask them, "Who is it you want?"" He knew what was going down.
This is a great difference, isn't it from the teacher. The teacher is freaking out, and he's frustrated because he's like, "I can't understand the meaning of all of this. I can't control all of this. I can't understand what's going on and when it's going on." Yet, when we see Jesus, we see God's program perfectly aligned that at the set time His time fully came, and He was born of a woman. Jesus says, "My time has not yet fully come. For you anytime will do." And then Jesus says when he's about to be taken off to the cross, John records, "Knowing all that was going to happen to him, Jesus says, "Who is it that you want?"" In fact, when He went to the cross and He died, do you know how Paul said that to us in the book of Romans 5? You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. At just the right time.
Here's the reason, because God makes everything beautiful in His time. In fact, we see that play out because of the ramifications of what Jesus' death on the cross and His subsequent resurrection mean. Jesus in dying and in rising from the dead, He inaugurated and inserted, listen to this, new creation into an old order. What that means is, is that when we run all the way toward the end of the story of the narrative of redemption. In the book of Revelation, we figure out real quickly that God makes everything beautiful in its time because of what Jesus has done.
In fact, John the revelator tells us that in Chapter 21. He says, "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. For the first heaven and the first earth that passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride ..." Say it with me, "Beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look, God's dwelling place is now among the people and He will dwell with them, they will be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He'll wipe every tear from their eyes. There'll be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who is seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new."
Then he said, write this down, "For these words are trustworthy and true." The teacher is frustrated by the old order of things. Just like we can be frustrated sometimes by the order of things. But what we're reminded of is that God makes everything beautiful in its time. Now, if I could pause there for a second, and at the risk of causing your brain to leak out of your ear, when we talk about God in relationship to time, we need to pause and think for a moment. This is me being a little philosophical, because for God, who is eternal, time functionally is irrelevant.
Let me go further. Let me step out further. God doesn't experience time in the same way that we experience it. Let me explain further, time is a created thing. When we read the beginning of Genesis, we figure out that time as we know it is actually something that God has created. We regulate time based on lunar cycles, and Earth and Sun and all of that stuff, right? All created things. God has actually created these boundaries that we know as time, but God Himself is not subject to those boundaries. He can and does and has entered into what we know as time, but God is bigger than and beyond time as we know it, because God is eternal and transcendent. That means that time has no claim on God, so to speak, but that God having created time enters into what we know as time when He wants to, but He is bigger than time all together.
The great thing about God being eternal, listen carefully, the great thing about God being eternal and transcendent is that God actually has no history. He's eternal. Forever that way and forever that way. Uncreated, forever that way, and always in forever that way. You can't contain Him, He has always existed. So for God, everything that we know as time is always on now, not a then. Some of you, right now it's just like GAAHHHHH! We can only experience time this way. One event, after one event, after one event, after one event, because one event leads to the next event, leads to the next event, right? It's the only way we can experience time.
If I had a piece of paper, I don't, but you're using your imagination. Let's say, I've got a large piece of paper right here. I would represent our lives this way, starting from point of birth, all the way to point of death. And then everything in your life would be experienced point to point to point to point because that's how we understand time. But here's what you have to understand if our lives are the line on the page, God is the page. It's all there in front of Him at the same time. He's eternal, He's transcendent.
You're going, "Okay, why is this important?" Well, let me first pause for a second and say it's really important because the fact that God knows everything from beginning to end in our world, and it is a now God, an eternal now God who is dealing with these things, ought to bring us significant levels of comfort. That you don't have to worry about tomorrow, because God is already there. It's today to God. See, we conceptualize future and past. We look at the book of Revelation and say, "Man, when all of this happens, but all of this is in the purview of an eternal God who doesn't experience time like we experience time point to point to point to point, it's all there, He's the paper. He's got it all. That's why you don't have to freak out every one of us who are like, "Could God even hear me? It's like a Sunday. I know I'm praying and it's a Sunday, but there are millions of people all over the world who are praying. And I know that if they're in another time zone, that He's going to hear them an hour later. But if they're in my time zone, in the Eastern Time Zone, there's got to be millions of people at the same time praying, how can God possibly figure it out?"
He's got all eternity. He's got all the time in the world to hear you. C.S. Lewis helped me with this conceptually, as he helps me with a lot of things because I have a man crush on his brain. I'm not ashamed to say it. But he helped me with this conceptually by painting an illustration. I want you to see his illustration, it's right here. But walk with me carefully. "Suppose," C.S. Lewis says, "Suppose I'm writing a novel. I write, "Mary laid down her work, and the next moment there came a knock at the door. For Mary, who has to live in the imaginary time of my story, there is no interval between putting down the work and hearing the knock. But I, who am Mary's maker do not live in that imaginary time at all. Between writing the first half of the sentence and the second, I might sit down for three hours and think steadily about Mary. I could think about Mary as if she were the only character in the book, and for as long as I please. The hours I spent in doing so would not appear in Mary's time, the time inside the story at all.""
You now have a man crush on his brain too. Don't lie, don't even lie. Why is this important? It's important, listen to me, because whatever season under the heavens you're in, whatever time you find yourself walking through, the God of the eternal now has all of your days in front of him at the same time. He's not freaking out about what you're freaking out about. Because, listen, He's the God of every season, of every moment, and of all your days.
Here's what I want to tell you, big idea, jot this down if you have an opportunity. The eternal God sets eternity in our hearts, not to frustrate us but to lead us to an eternal kind of life. Let me read it again, the Eternal God sets eternity in our hearts, not to frustrate us, but to lead us to any eternal kind of life.
Now, I've said that specifically, and there's a reason for it. It seems interesting to me that when we talk about the idea, listen carefully, when we talk about the idea of eternal life, most of the time when people hear that phrase they simply only think about life after death. Now, it certainly does encompass that, but that's actually not the primary meaning of what Jesus was trying to convey to us when he talked about eternal life. You see, when we read John's gospel all the way through, and I have many times, sometimes really slowly recently, you find the phrase eternal life over and over and over and over again. In fact, you find it 17 times in John's gospel, most of the time, out of the mouth of Jesus. When you look at virtually all of those occurrences, it's not solely talking about life after death in terms of the length of our living. It's actually talking about the kind of life that we live in the now. You see, eternal life, as a word, when we look at that word in the Greek language, it's less focused on the quantitative number of our days, and it's more focused on the qualitative nature of our present.
This is the nature of eternal life. You see, when we look at how John actually defines it, actually, when we look at how Jesus defines it in John's gospel, after 16 of these occurrences, Jesus, in John chapter 17, actually defines what eternal life actually is in his high priestly prayer. Listen to what he says in John 17. It says, "After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and he prayed, 'Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people, that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.'" Did you catch that? "This is eternal life, that they would know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." That is eternal life.
Listen to this. That has implications for your now and also comes with it the beauty of the then. You see, we've built entire constructs in evangelism around the idea that eternal life is only about life after death. It certainly is about life after death, but in the usages that we find in John's gospel, the primary emphasis is about now, not about then, even though then is a real benefit. We've built entire evangelistic structures on this. In other words, here's the key word that's often asked in evangelistic presentations. If you died tonight, do you know that you would have eternal life? That's a fair enough question, by the way, and it's a question that we ought to grapple with and we ought to deal with. It's a true question, and it's a fair question. It's just an incomplete question based on how Jesus defined eternal life.
Maybe instead of asking, "If you died tonight, do you know that you would eternal life?" maybe we would be better off asking, "If you didn't die tonight, do you know that you have eternal life?" Because Jesus said, "This is eternal life, that they would know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." Eternal life does not begin when we die. Eternal life is found in the only one who is eternal and the only one who has life in himself, the eternal God. The eternal God, listen to this, puts eternity in our hearts not to frustrate us but to lead us to an eternal kind of life and an eternal kind of living. You see, I know what it's like to be frustrated not knowing the eternal God. I know what it looks like to live in the mud and the mire of the world and ask the hard questions about, "Why am I here? What am I doing? What is going on? Where is all my time going? What do I do with all my time?" I know what that looks like.
I've been frustrated, but I also know what it looks like for the eternal God by his grace to reach down and take me out of the mud and the mire and set my feet upon a rock and put a new song in my mouth and give me a firm place to stand and to change everything about who I am because now I know the one true God and Jesus Christ, who he has sent. Jesus said this, just as we sung over us and to one another, Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one, no man, no woman, no boy, no girl, no one comes to the Father except through me." Why? Because he is life, and eternal life is only found, ladies and gentlemen, when we know the one true God through Jesus Christ. If you've been playing religion, stop. Stop deceiving yourselves into thinking that that's what eternal life is. If you've been showing up on occasion, thinking that just because you come to a church building, that somehow that makes you a Christian when you know good and well that just because you're in a garage doesn't make you a car, you know that that's not really true, right? You know it's not true just because you come a little bit or you check off a few boxes or you give a couple of bucks.
Do you know him? Do you know the one true God through Jesus Christ? Have you genuinely been transformed and lifted out of the kingdom of darkness and placed into the kingdom of light by the grace of Jesus Christ? If not, you do not and can not know the eternal kind of life because it's only found in him. You can't find it on your own. You can't find it in the frustrating pursuit of just trying to squeeze out of life all that you can squeeze out of it and hopefully I'm a pretty good person. That won't get you there because there is only being in the universe that holds within his essence eternality and life eternal. It is the one true God that's revealed in Jesus Christ. That one true God has loved you enough that at just the right time, he was born of a woman, born under the law, and at just the right time when we were helpless, he died for us, rose from the dead. At just the right time, he's going to return for those that know him so that he will be their God and they will be his people. Do you know him? Because if you don't, can't think of a better day than today and a better place than here.
Sometimes in the world that we live in, people just don't tell us the truth about God. They soft sell a message to kind of make us feel good so that maybe we'll put a couple more bucks in the plate or put our butts in seats a little more often. They fail to tell us from time to time the Bible communicates to us that those who die separated from God will spend eternity separated from him. After all he's done for us, after every way in which he's tried to reach us, after every grace that he's demonstrated to us and the love that he has shown to us, if we say no to that, that we'll spend eternity separated from him, but it's God's desire that none should perish but that all should come to eternal life. Do you know what it means to come to eternal life? It means to come to Jesus. That's what it means. He's the life. If my begging you would make a difference in your eternity, I would do it, but my begging is not the issue. The issue is the power of the Spirit of God to change your life.
My emotional grappling with this that may make you emotional does not, by default, enter you into the kingdom of God. It is by faith. It is by the grace of God through faith that we are saved. That is not of ourselves. It is the gift of God. It is not because of our works so that we could never boast. You can not save yourself. You can only be saved by a work of God's Spirit in your life. Some of us have never genuinely been transformed. We've played around with religion. We've enjoyed hearing from good speakers at The Chapel and hearing great music that makes us feel better, but we've never actually been transformed by the power of God in Jesus Christ. We don't know what life eternal looks like because we're not living an eternal kind of life in the now. If that's your need today, you have no greater need, nothing than that. When you come to the knowledge of who God is, you can just rest in the fact that every season, every ebb, every flow, he's got it all in front of him, and he will always be the God of the now for you, not the God of the past or the God only of the future. He will always be the God of the now.
Would you, where you are, just bow your heads with me for a moment? You've been gracious to listen, but I would be doing you a disservice if I didn't give you an opportunity to respond in faith to Jesus, to receive the gospel, to receive Jesus and to know life. If you have listened to this message and you have sensed the power of the Spirit invading your life, saying to you that you need to be transformed, that is God drawing at you to himself. No one comes to him unless they are drawn. That's what John teaches us. I say this. If you need to receive Jesus where you are, then maybe as an act of faith in your heart right now, maybe you'd say something like this. My words aren't important, but make them your own. Just maybe say in your heart, "Jesus, I confess that I can not save myself. I confess that your death on the cross was because of my sin and for my sin. I declare that I believe you rose from the dead, conquering my sin. With all the faith that I have, I put my trust in you, and I receive you. I receive your life for my life. I exchange mine for yours."