In this the love of God was manifested toward us,
that He sent His uniquely-begotten Son into the world
so that we might live through Him.
1 John 4:9

 

It’s morning on the moon, and you’re liking it less and less.

When the crackling voice on the radio woke you up, you somehow expected to see a tide of golden sunlight pouring onto carpets of green grass. Instinctively, you listened for birds, water rushing over rocks, saws or cars or kids. Immersed in a childhood memory, you even thought you caught the scent of bacon, cold cantaloupe, pancakes, maple syrup, and hot coffee.

But now, as you look out the window of your module, you see no movement at all. As you listen for sounds and voices, you hear only silence. As your mind imagines colors, your eyes meet only black and white. A little flurry of panic hits you as you realize the stark truth: This place is dead.

Almost frantically, you search for mother Earth.

Ah yes, there she is: the blue seas, the great swirls of white clouds, the shapely continents of land. Family and friends. Hopes and dreams. Life.

It will be good be home.

The Fight of His Life

The plight of our imaginary astronaut reveals something intriguing about “life”: We are so completely immersed in it that we can barely see it! We live it, enjoy it, and daily seek more of it. Yet it’s not until we take a trip to Death Valley, or Antarctica, or maybe even the moon, that we really begin to think about life, and to realize how strange, amazing, and precious it is.

And as in the natural, so in the spiritual: It is usually a brush with death that makes believers in Christ appreciate the true riches of his gift of eternal life.

We see this clearly in John’s first epistle. Writing to the churches in Asia, the apostle was going toe to toe with a heresy called Gnosticism, a teaching that denied both the deity and the true humanity of Christ, licensed immorality, and encouraged a loveless pride based on mystical “revelations” from a vaguely defined world above.

Many of John’s dear friends had been taken in, or at least shaken. Error, fear, and temptations to sin had arisen in their midst. Death was stalking the camp of the saints. So he wrote—passionately—to confront the heretics and call the faithful back to the true gift of God: eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

But what exactly is this “life” that God is so eager to grant his people; this life that moved him to send us his uniquely begotten Son; this life that demons, heretics, and sinful flesh all hate and oppose; this life that the apostle rose boldly to protect and defend; this life that roused him from Jesus’ breast and turned him, once again, into a Son of Thunder?

Life in the Holy Family

Well, just like physical life, it’s hard to define. But—leaning hard upon Scripture—we can surely say that at its heart eternal life is the kind or character of existence that the living God forever experiences within himself.

Very importantly, it is a trinitarian life—for the Bible reveals that the one true God exists as a “holy family” comprised of three distinct persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Therefore it is also a relational life, marked by mutual knowledge, contemplation, communion, pleasure, and love.

It is purposeful life, full of creativity, planning, division of labor, work, rest, and the satisfaction of accomplishment.

And it is overflowing life, charged with freedom, enthusiasm, and unbounded joy; an overflowing life that, thank God, also overflows onto us, his beloved children!

This life is the pattern and fountainhead of life wherever it is found in the universe. But for all it’s glory and grandeur, the trickle of physical and spiritual life that we humans experience down here in nature and society is but the faintest intimation of the torrent of life that forever lives in the triune God.

Here then, in a single word, is the goal and glory of our most holy faith: Life. Here is the sacred deposit which we must preserve and defend from every heretical counterfeit, including religion, philosophy, and mere moralism.

Three Deadly Counterfeits

Because these three counterfeits pervade our world, they merit some further consideration.

First, we must see that Christianity is not a religion, if by religion we mean a set of techniques, ritual requirements, or human works by we hope to reach God, placate his anger, or win his love and favor. Such religions—which are legion—breed only fear, toil, and frustration. They are the very antithesis of the free gift of new spiritual life that God invites all to receive—in simplicity and gratitude—by receiving his Son as Savior, Friend, and Life-giver, once and for all, and day by day, forever.

Nor is Christianity essentially a philosophy. True, the Bible provides ample material from which to construct—not simply a worldview—but the one true worldview: the holy grail of all true philosophy. But to what end does God give us such precious truth? So that through the contemplation of his truth we might have life, and have it more abundantly!

Nor is Christianity essentially a set of morals, a rule-book by which we can keep ourselves in God’s good graces. Yes, he is indeed a holy sovereign, necessarily ruling over his free creatures; and yes, he has therefore laid down his Law for his children. But law-keeping and ethical holiness are not ends in themselves. Rather, God’s laws are like a corral, fencing us in and keeping us on safe ethical turf, so that we may freely commune with him, and he with us. Thus, the real purpose of the corral—the one nearest and dearest to God’s heart—is that we might be able to graze and run and kick up our heels together with the Holy One. In short, that we, his children might enjoy life together with our Father and our risen Lord.

Coming Home to Stay

Have you ever been to the moon, spiritually speaking? The Christians in Asia had; and to Death Valley and Antarctica as well. They were being deceived, confused, frightened, and tempted. They had lost touch with the living One who came down from heaven to give them life. John wrote to awaken them to the death all around them, and to call them back and bring them home.

In these difficult last days, when the moonscape of our present evil world abounds with so many deadly counterfeits, let’s listen hard to what the apostle had to say. Let’s not allow ourselves to think of our faith simply as a religion, a world-view, or a set of morals. Let’s remember the deep reason for which God sent his Son into the world: so that through him we might live.

In short, let’s come home and let’s stay home, ever seeking, expecting, and rejoicing the rich infusion of his LIFE!