Having an Eternal Perspective on Life
1) It casts out fear
2) It’s built on faith and confidence
3) It’s found in Jesus alone
Imagine yourself getting a call from the doctor’s office a few days after a routine visit. You come in and the physician asks you to take a seat. He gets right to the point, you have a life-threatening disease. If you don’t do anything, you’ll pass away in a month or so. There’s no special drug or pill to take care of it. But there is good news, it can be fixed. One small surgery and everything can be taken care of, it’s actually pretty easy. So easy in fact, that the doctor says you can do it yourself. Hopefully at this point, you would speak up and say something to the effect of “huh, you want me to operate on myself?”
“Sure” the doctor says, it’s not hard at all. In fact, I’ll tell you everything you need to know and I’ll write down each step for you on piece of paper, you just follow the instructions. Even more, you can use my scalpel, I’ll provide the medications, and you could even use my facility. But I’m really busy that day so you’re gonna have to do the procedure. At this point, the situation is so preposterous that you get up and start to walk out, you’re not gonna deal with this nonsense. The doctor quick rushes over and stops you and says, “Okay, okay, I get it, that won’t work, you’re right it’s too much for me to ask you to operate on yourself. Tell you what, bring in one of your friends or relatives, you pick, and they can do the procedure.”
Hopefully you never find yourself in that situation and I doubt you will, because it’s quite foolish and ridiculous. No sane physician would expect or even allow a patient to perform a life-altering procedure on himself, even if he wrote it down step-by-step. You can give a person all of the instructions on how to do something. They can know with great certainty the steps that need to be done, they can even memorize them. But it doesn’t mean that they can do it. Having knowledge involves more than just knowing the bare facts. It involves having the right perspective, having experience, and having confidence in what needs to be accomplished. Therefore, you can know how to do something, but it doesn’t mean you can do it.
Sin is a disease that we all suffer from, and we all, if the world lasts long enough, will die from it. God gives us precise instructions in His Word about how to defeat that disease. Think of those instructions as His law, the moral commandments. If you follow those steps you will live. But the problem with this disease is that it also negatively affects our ability to keep the law. Sin continually keeps our works and actions short of God’s holy standard. Therefore we know how to live, but we can’t.
This is a problem that all people suffer from and so all people choose different remedies to fight this disease. Some choose to mentally ignore it. They believe that if they can put mind over matter, they can get past it. Others spend their entire lives trying to do more good than bad, hoping in the end that the scales will be tipped in their favor. Still some give up entirely, forsake all avenues of help, and just live for today, fully content to believe that death is the absolute end of everything. And many Christians, especially today, are trying the scalpel of God’s and cut sin out of their lives on their own. I’d like to offer the alternative found through Christ, the Great Physician of our souls, who works on them without our help and doesn’t force us to fix ourselves. This eternal perspective on life, comes from John 6:67-69:
Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?" 68 But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 "And we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
These words came at a very critical point in Jesus’ ministry. John 6 opens with the feeding of the 5,000, one the greatest miracles recorded from the life of Jesus. In the wake of such an amazing act of love and care, the people flocked to be with Jesus. As chapter 6 continues, however, it becomes quite apparent that they looked to Jesus only as someone to provide them with the physical needs of life. They clamored for more signs and miracles. They pressed about Him to receive more and more.
Jesus tempered their fervor by reminding them that true bread comes from the Father in heaven and that this is the bread He was meant to distribute. Though they shouted all the more, “Give us this bread always!”, the message was lost on them. They still were thinking only with their stomachs. This is the point where Jesus delved into the deeper and richer meaning of His ministry. Yes, He was able to help them with their needs but He came for something much greater. He came to gain eternal life for all, and that all who believe in Him would receive that life. But He was the only way. A life with Jesus is a life of self-denial and personal repentance and confession.
Jesus further elaborated by explaining that this spiritual truth was the meaning behind the feeding of the 5,000. It ultimately was a picture to teach the people that Jesus could provide for the eternal needs of their souls, not just the daily needs of their bodies. He implored them to gain this eternal perspective by believing in Him, not as a worldly leader but as their Savior from sin. Jesus said, “I am the Bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and are dead. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die (John 6:48-50).”
In this one chapter, Jesus gave the people everything they needed. He taught them that He not only knew how to get to heaven, He could actually take them there! He was the way. He was the Bread of Life. All they had to do was eat this bread; that is, believe in Him by faith and they would have eternal life. But it was too much for them to handle. We’re told that many who had once followed Him, left. Many disciples said, “This is difficult teaching, who can accept it?” And so despite the great power and miracles, many left on that day. In what was supposed to be a moment of great clarity and success, the number of followers began to dwindle.
The main culprit here was fear. There wasn’t a gap in Jesus’ theology. His preaching didn’t contain any errors or contradictions. It was the peoples’ fear that led them to their conclusion. Fear of the unknown. Fear of having to trust without seeing. Fear of relying on someone else. Life with God is elusive for people. We don’t know what it feels or looks like by nature. We can’t rely on experience or understanding to achieve it or to know that we have it. It takes trust in Jesus. The people wanted more signs; they didn’t want to trust. They desired more physical proof to keep their spiritual lamps burning. They wanted a little more each time so that they had a reason to keep following Jesus. But when He stopped the miracles and taught, they didn’t want to listen; His simple words of truth were too hard to bear because they were afraid.
An eternal perspective of faith in Jesus is not hindered by the fears of everyday life. Faith supersedes the minor problems of the world because Jesus has overcome the world. He gives us this greater gift. We don’t have to get hung up on all the fears of our heart or body because our promise from Jesus is better than all that. In another writing John phrased it this way, There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love (1 John 4:18). If you’re following Christ out of fear, you need to reset your spiritual focus. Our faith is one of joy, not torment. Those who know God’s love and forgiveness of their sins have no greater reason to follow Him.
All who were there that day heard these difficult sayings of Jesus. All were confronted in their minds and hearts about the spiritual dilemma they were in. How could salvation with God be bound with one Man only? Why must there be only one way to heaven? How come I can’t do it myself? Why must I trust without being able to see? These were the questions that Christ’s words stirred and everyone felt it, just as everyone today still feels it. But not everyone turned in fear and left.
When Jesus tested the loyalty of His faithful twelve, Peter replied, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 "And we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." What a rock-solid confession from Peter! Instead of fear, he stood firm with faith and confidence in Jesus. Peter’s confidence came from knowing that Jesus had ownership of eternal life. Peter spoke with that eternal perspective, not by focusing on himself or his own works. If he had done that, he would have been met with fear only. But confidence in faith comes from believing that eternal life comes from Jesus because He alone has that right. This is precisely what Jesus tried to tell the people, but they were only focused on their own lives in this present world. They had no hint of the eternal perspective of faith that allows you to look beyond this veil of tears.
That Peter’s confidence was not based on himself or things of the world also comes through when he points to Jesus’ words. There was a little confidence to be gained from Jesus’ miracles, but not nearly enough to get past sin. Peter’s faith wasn’t based on his ability to grasp and comprehend Jesus’ works. It wasn’t about seeing with his own eyes what Jesus was able to do. It was based on Jesus’ words – the words of eternal life. The simple promise of His Savior was all that Peter needed, and it’s all you need too.
We tend to place the confidence of our faith in our own words and actions. To make ourselves feel better about this we connect our actions to Jesus or to God’s Word, to make them look a little better. We tell ourselves that the better we are at keeping God’s Word, the closer to God we’ll be. We’re told by many that the true difference between us Christians and the rest of the world is about how we carry ourselves and what we see in our lives as evidence. But confidence in the things that we do is limited, even though we jump through mental hoops to connect them to Christ. Confidence in our works is like seeking physical bread, instead of the bread of life. That’s because our faith is the same as Peter’s. And it works the same way as the many followers of Jesus. It’s not about us. It’s not about how well we perceive God’s power. It’s not about what we do better than others. If that was the case, we would only have fear in God’s presence, and we would turn away at Christ’s preaching. Rather, faith is about the words of eternal life from Jesus, nothing more, nothing less. It’s those words alone that make Christians and keep them confident in that faith. Anytime we turn to the right or to the left away from Christ’s words, be they ever so hard to listen to at times, we will be filled with fear and not confidence.
Through the words of Jesus, we not only have the path of eternal life laid out for us to understand, we become members walking that path in His footsteps. The knowledge contained in God’s Word is not simply instructional knowledge, where God gives us the tools and we complete the task. We’re helpless if that’s the case because we have no ability to put that knowledge into practice. It’s the same as one of us trying perform surgery on ourselves. Our confidence is that Jesus has the words of eternal life; not just to instruct through His laws and commands but to give through His forgiveness and love.
When you tuck your child in at night, you promise them that they’re safe from harm and danger. They don’t trust that promise because they know all about the security and protection of your house. It’s not because they have extensive knowledge about locking doors and securing windows or calling the police. They also don’t trust that promise because they’ve seen mom or dad perform hand-to-hand combat with thieves and invaders. They trust because mom and dad say it, that’s it; because it’s a promise given to them from someone they love and have faith in. The same is true of Jesus when He tells you that you’re free from sin. You don’t need perform. You don’t even need to recognizes everything that Jesus is capable of. Your salvation is not about your perception of God. You simply trust Jesus. This is why He singles out a child-like faith as the model for true Christianity. Our faith and confidence is based on the words of our Savior, the best gift from our loving Father in heaven.
The world is filled with followers who know the right path but are dominated by fear of having to do it themselves. Even in churches, there are many Christians who respond to God’s Word by saying, “These are difficult sayings, it’s too hard to believe them.” Even Peter, the bold confessor, has his infamous moments of failure, on record for people to read about for the rest of time. The same is true of each of the 12 who stayed with Jesus on that day in Galilee. They all faltered and failed in expressing their faith. And so you too will fail at times as well. Sometimes your faith will be really weak. Sometimes it won’t feel very powerful or feel like it has an effect in your life. Sometimes all you’ll be able to dwell on is fear and you’ll wonder where your confidence has gone.
But in those moments, remember what faith in Jesus is. Jesus brings His love and forgiveness to you by faith; whether it’s strong or weak, beautiful or ugly, vibrant or dim. That’s the eternal perspective, and it is received through the words of eternal life, the words of Jesus. If that’s the source of your faith, take courage and have confidence, no matter how you feel or how you’ve failed; for the power and love of Christ is with you. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, Amen.