Scriptures

‘I AM’ The Life

Introduction

Jesus Christ! The great ‘I AM’ The significance of ‘I AM’

‘Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your Fathers has sent me to you’ and they ask me, ‘what is his name?’ ‘What shall I say to them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’. And he said, ‘Say to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ Exodus 3:13-14.

‘I AM EHYEH’ first singular present of TO BE. HAYAH denotes that God is personal, eternal, self-existent i.e. absolute being.

1. Eternal.

Psalm 135:13 ‘Thy name, of YHWH, endures for ever, the renown, o YHWH, throughout all ages’.

2. Self-existent.

Psalm 88:6-7 ‘For who in the skies can be compared to YHWH? who among the heavenly beings is like YHWH, God feared in the council of the holy ones, great and terrible above all that are round about him?’

Then God, having revealed to Moses some essential aspects of His (God’s) personality informs Moses of the name by which He (God) wants to be known. God also said to Moses,

‘Say this to the people of Israel, ‘YHWH the God of your fathers, has sent me to you, this is my name for ever and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.’ Exodus 3:75 / Psalm 135:13

YAHWEH plural form

Genesis 1:26, ‘Then God said, ‘Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness’.

The plural in the name YHWH, us and our, can in my opinion be regarded as an indication of the plurality of God’s nature and character, of which the Son and the Holy Spirit are part; three distinct persons who can act individually though never in disharmony and who are united in the godhead as one God. That the Spirit i.e. the force of God was there at creation is clear,

‘and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters’. Genesis 1:2

That through Jesus all came into being is stated in John 1:1-3.

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God with God. All things were made through Hem and without Him was not anything made that was made’. John 1:1-3

And,

‘No one has ever seen God, He who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known’. John 1:18

It was through Jesus, i.e. God Himself Incarnate that redemption would be wrought.

The name YHWH meaning ‘the Becoming One’ is the ‘redemptive’ name of God and refers to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ who is in the bosom of the ‘Father’ God; Jesus who is part of the Godhead. When Jesus made Himself equal with God He was merely speaking the truth and had indeed every right to utter the words, ‘I AM’ in such a special way.

The Jews understood perfectly well what was alluded to by the term I AM used by Jesus.

‘This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the Sabbath but also called God his own Father, making himself equal with God.’ John 5:18 / Leviticus 24:16

Now remember the Bible doesn’t use names for God in the same way as we use names today. God doesn’t have a name as such but He uses certain words to describe His character or nature.

For example, the word El-Shaddai describes His nature as the all sufficient one, the all-powerful One. The word Adonia describes His character as Lord, Master, the One with all authority. The word Yahweh describes His nature as the everlasting, self-existing One.

And so when God speaks to Moses, He is not giving Moses a name as we understand it. But He’s telling Moses to tell His people that Yahweh, ‘I AM THAT I AM’, the self-existing One has sent you. God is basically saying to Moses I don’t need a name but I will give you one to tell my people.

Now remember the Israelites have been in captivity in Egypt for 400 years and so God goes on to say in Exodus 3:15 just in case my people have forgotten who ‘I AM’, tell them

‘The LORD, (The One with all authority), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob has sent me to you.’

Now let’s fast forward a couple of thousand years. We know that the Gospel according to Matthew focuses a lot on prophecy where Matthew points out time and time again that Jesus is the promised Messiah. The Gospel according to Mark focuses a lot on Jesus’ miracles and Mark uses the word ‘immediately’ regularly.

The Gospel according to Luke focuses a lot on Jesus’ humanity and shows Jesus as being the Son of man. And finally, the Gospel according to John focuses a lot on Jesus being the Son of God which shows the Deity of Christ.

But have you ever wondered why all the ‘I AM’ claims of Jesus are found in John’s Gospel?

John writes in John 20:30-31

‘Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’.

Now John never uses the word miracle in his gospel but he does use the word sign regularly. And there are 16 signs recorded in John’s gospel, 8 are things which Jesus did and 8 were things which Jesus said. John is basically saying that the ‘I AM’ claims of Jesus are signs, selected from many other signs. And he says these signs are selected with a purpose in mind and that purpose is that you believe that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be.

And so just as `I AM’ is God’s own identification of Himself in Exodus 3:14 to Moses. Remembering that strictly speaking, it is not a name, but a declaration of His Nature. When we come to the ‘I AM’ claims of Jesus, we need to remember that Jesus was not giving Himself a Name or a title, but was asserting His Deity. In other words every ‘I AM’ reveals some aspect of His nature and purpose.

‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’

There is a very logical and natural progression in the text, for, commencing with Jesus as the Way, we find that it is the way truth which leads us to life.

There is, also, a special fitness about the choice of subject for today, and I do not say that because this is what the Western Christian world generally describes as ‘Easter Sunday’.

As a matter of fact, I do not personally, make much of religious festivals or special days, though I do manage to remember important ones, such as my wife’s birthday and our wedding anniversary. But I remember those dates for a very important reason. (No! you’re wrong! not because I should be in trouble if I forgot) but because I am sure that those dates are correct.

There is nothing like the same accuracy about the date of Easter, which is why the religious world describes ‘Easter’ as ‘movable feast.’ It has been given this designation, because, in 325 A.D, the Council of Nicea decided to settle a long-standing argument about the date of Easter, by decreeing that it should be determined by the full moon which comes on or around March 21st each year.

And the result of that decision is that Easter Sunday may fall any Sunday between March 22nd and April 25th. So much for the accuracy of the celebration!

However, if the date is uncertain, the fact of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus is not. That he rose from the Dead on the First Day of the Week, and became the Lord of Life and Glory, the first-fruits of those who sleep, is a fact. It may have been questioned, but Lord Erskine, one of the greatest forensic minds the Western world has known, whose reputation as an advocate is said to be without equal, once stated,

‘The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is attested to by more evidence than I have ever been called upon to consider in any Court of Justice’. And that is why I say that there is a special fitness about the subject with which I am to deal this morning. Today, and every First Day of the week, following the practice of the New Testament Church, we celebrate a risen, reigning and returning Lord, who is said, ‘I AM…..the life.’

But, before we consider Jesus as the life, we ought to ask the question, what is Life? How should we define that word? I ask this because, to find an adequate definition is not as easy as you might have imagined.

1. Don’t go to the poets, because they are no help!

John Dryden wrote,

‘When I consider life, ‘tis all a CHEAT.’ Robert burns wrote, ‘O life, thou art A GALLING LOAD, along a rough and weary road, to wretches such as I’.

2. And don’t turn to the philosophers, otherwise you will meet up with people like Kierkegaard, who wrote;

‘MY life is absolutely meaningless’.

And Frederic Nietzsche, Adolph Hitler’s favourite Philosopher, whose theories he followed in pursuit of a ‘Master-race’, with such devastating consequences for millions of men, women and children; actually said:

‘If you look into Life you look into suffering.’

(And you may be interested to know that 12 years before he died, Nietzsche, Hitler’s favorited philosopher was certified insane!)

3. Don’t go to the playwrights either.

The most famous of them all. William Shakespeare wrote those oft-quoted words, which pessimistically declared, that life is,

‘a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’

4. And if you turn to your dictionary, looking for a less-emotional, more rational definition, you will still be disappointed. What do you make of this? The oxford dictionary says that life is,

‘the State of functional activity peculiar to organized matter, especially to the portion of it constituting an animal or plant, before death’.

The simple fact is that Poets, Philosophers, the Playwrights, and you could add Scientists to the list, are all at a loss to tell us much about life. Therefore, definition for which we are looking must come from the realm of the spiritual. In other words, the mystery of life is a puzzle for religious to solve. And for that reason, when Jesus says ‘I AM…the life’, we should be ready to listen to what he has to say and to look at what he has to offer.

1. Now, the scriptures reveal that Jesus, was always concerned with ‘life’ and willing to talk about it. All through the Gospel accounts to John, I say, more than twenty times, Jesus had something to say about life.

And, indeed, if the number of times a subject is referred to in a book says anything about its importance, I can tell you that if you care to search John’s Gospel, you will find the word ‘life’ used at least 37 times! And 37 times in 21 chapters is very impressive, by any standard.

Now, when the Lord used that word, He was not speaking about mere physical existence, or about meeting ordinary physical needs, but about real life, life in its fullness. He was concerned about quality of life, concerned that we should experience the life which God intends us to enjoy.

That is why he said,

‘I have come that they might have life abundant life!’

The word which is here translated ‘abundantly’ is a word which means ‘vehemently, passionately, ardently, life to the full’. ‘perissos’. And this is what the Church, with its good news, is seeking to help people to understand; that, to know Jesus Christ is to really live, to experience life at its richest and finest.

1. So, what gives him the right to say ‘I AM …the life’?

Because, as we have already seen, and as John tells us in the very first chapter,

‘In Him was life and the life was the light of men’.

Jesus is able to say.

‘I AM the life, because he possesses independent and self-sustained life’.

And by that I mean that Jesus has life in Himself, because that is what means when he says,

‘in him was life’.

In Acts 17, When Paul spoke to the distinguished members of the Areopagus, the council of wise men of Athens, he spoke to them about the One true God, and he pointed out that.

‘In Him we live and move and have our being, He gives to all, life and breath and all things. He made of one, all the nations of the earth to dwell together upon all the face of the earth.’

The point which Paul was making, in view of all the pagan altars and Temples he had seen as he walked through the Agora, the Market-placer, was that the One True God, unlike the gods which they worshipped, did not need to be maintained and looked after and kept in good repair.

Paul says He, the True God

‘is not served by men’s hands.’ And why not? ‘Because He made the world and everything in it.’

Now this means that, whilst God is dependent on no-one, our life, yours and mine, is entirely dependent on Him. But, in contrast, Jesus was able to state,

‘As the Father has life in Himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in Himself’. John 6:26

Now, what do you make of that claim? Is it not staggering? I will tell you this! The only thing you can reasonably make of it, is that the Lord Jesus claimed to share the nature of Deity, and, consequently, He possessed the attributes of Deity. And it is this fact, which throws light on that statement in John 1:4

‘In him was life, and the life was the light of men’

2. Further Jesus was able to ‘I AM…the life’, because His is an indestructible life, everlasting life.

Now, we are not indestructible! I hardly need to remind you that there are many agencies, or forces at work, which are capable of bringing our physical life to an end. We could meet with violence in an increasingly violent society.

We could contract some ailment or disease which brings us to a premature death. And, even if we do not meet a premature end, and are allowed to enjoy a relatively untroubled life and live our allotted span, it comes to virtually the same thing, we shall still die.

As Shakespeare quaintly expressed it,

‘Golden lads and girls all must, like chimney sweepers, come to dust!’ But nothing could touch the life of the Lord Jesus! Violence? When the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate said, ‘Don’t you know that I have the power to release you or the power to condemn you?’ And Jesus said, ‘You could have no power over me at all, unless it were given you from above’.

Death itself?

Death is the consequence of Sin, it is the legacy which Sin has left the whole human race. Romans 5:12 tells us that

‘Sin came into the world… and death through sin; so death has passed to all men because all have sinned’.

But Jesus was sinless. He could throw out the challenge, which of you convicts me of sin? This means that death had no claim on him. He was not subject to Death, as we are and he did not have to die! In fact, He was able to make that tremendous claim,

‘no man takes my life from me; I lay it down of myself. ‘I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again’.

And in all of human history, no-one has ever dared to make such a claim! Even when the leader of some out-landish cult has claimed immortality for himself, and persuaded his deluded, brainwashed followers that he could not die, Time has rolled on and proved him to be a fraud. But not Jesus! He is the Word, who,

‘existed in the beginning with God and who shared the nature of God’. ‘All things were made by Him and nothing not anything, was made without Him’.

Hebrews 1:2 tells us that

‘He created the worlds.’

Colossians 2:15 states that,

‘He is the visible manifestation and representation of the invisible God and in Him all things were created, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, principalities or powers – all things were created through Him and For him. He is before alt things and in Him all things hold together.’

In other words, He is the Creator and Sustainer of all life. And that is why He can say,

‘I AM……the life.’

3. He is the life, because, as the Word who existed in the beginning with God, He has independent and self-sustained life.

‘As the Father has life in Himself, so the Son has Life in Himself.’

He is the life, Because He is the author of life.

‘All things were made by Him and within Him nothing was made’,

which means

‘He gives to all life and breathe and all things’.

He is the life, because His life is everlasting and indestructible. After surrendering, sacrificing, His life in order to

‘pay the price of sin’,

He took it up again, because it was not possible for Death to hold him, and He ever lives in the power of His resurrection.

John, on the isle of Patmos heard Him say,

‘Fear Not! I am the First and the Last, and the Living one. I died, and, behold, I am alive for evermore.’ Revelation 1:17

He is the life, because as the author of life, He is able give life to those who follow Him. In John 6:21 He makes yet another astounding claim.

‘As the Father raises the dead and gives them rife, so also the Son gives life to whom He will’.

This, then, is the Saviour whom we celebrate and serve today. The one who comes to our restless world, and says to men and women who find that their lives are unfulfilled and unsatisfying. He who comes to Me and drinks; it shall be in him a spring of water, welling up into eternal life.

So, what is this life which is to be found in Jesus Christ and which Christians claim to experience? You want to know if it is possible? Does it exist? You may be sure of this, People certainly want it to exist! Because one thing is certain; we ail long for life. And that is a fact!

The famous Poet John Keats, expressed this very powerfully, when he wrote to his beloved Fanny Brawne.

‘I long to believe in immortality. If I am destined only to be happy with you here, how short is the longest life! I wish to believe in immortality. I wish to live with you for ever.’

Keats could not believe that we can form friendships and love people, only to have those affections ended at death. Hence, his longing for immortality.

And do you remember the Rich young Ruler’s question? It is not surprising therefore, that whenever Jesus spoke about life, people listened! There was an instant response, because they wanted to hear about life.

Are we Any different today?

You know we are not! We are always ready to listen to anyone who is able to tell us something that will improve the quality of our lives. This is what makes millions for the advertisers on your T.V. and in your newspapers and magazines.

Let me ask you. Do you think our fellow-men ever feel tired of life the way it is? Do they feel the constant anxiety, and worry and strain of modern living? Do they ever grow weary of the incessant demands that are made upon them? In fact, let’s make that personal!

Do you ever wonder, when you are feeling low, what it all means and what purpose there is to it, and if it is really worthwhile? Well, that is the problem which Jesus offers to solve! The burden he is prepared to ease! So, let ask the question, when Jesus says,

‘I AM the Life’,

and promises that ‘He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life’.

Just what is it that He offers?

How can we best describe the kind of life which you, if at this moment, you are not a follower of Jesus, may begin to experience, if you let Him into your heart? Well, the New Testament describes life under several different metaphors. For instance, in the verse I just quoted, John 8:12, Jesus promises that if we follow him, we

‘shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.’

1. There, life is likened to light. ‘The light of life’

And, for that reason, followers of Jesus are described as,

‘the children of light’.

Peter tells us that says that they have been

‘called out of darkness into His most marvellous light.’ 1 Peter 2:10

Notice the mention of darkness and light. And the contrast. Jesus offers light.

2. Liberty

He also offers the liberty of Life. In Isaiah 61:1-2 there is a beautiful prophecy concerning the ministry or the

‘The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives. And the opening of the prison to those who are bound.’

Notice that statement

‘To proclaim liberty to the captives’,

because when we come over to the New Testament, we discover that, in Luke 4, beginning at the 16th verse, Jesus takes this prophecy and applies it to his own ministry.

Read the chapter and you see that he had just emerged from the wilderness of Judea and had gone to the river Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptizer. Then he had launched out on his own ministry. Back home, in Nazareth, away to the north, the people had heard about this and all kinds of stories were finding their way back to them, about the things which Jesus was doing and saying.

It is not surprising therefore that, when He eventually returned to his home village, his arrival created something of a sensation. So much so that, when the Sabbath day came around, since they knew that he regularly attended the synagogue on that day, the synagogue in Nazareth was filled with curious and excited people.

You see, the villagers of Nazareth were wondering why he was doing what he was doing, why he had not come home to carry on his normal life, like other young men who had gone out to John at the river There is no doubt that they expected him to explain himself, and perhaps see him do some wonderful thing.

So, when he stood up, indicating his willingness to read the scriptural appointed for the day, their excitement knew no bounds. The official in charge of the sacred scrolls handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and when Jesus had found the place he began to read this very scripture. This is how He explained his conduct.

‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me… He has sent me…..to proclaim liberty to the captives.’ ‘He has sent me to set people free.’’

And in John 8:36 he makes this claim,

‘If the Son make you free, you are truly free’.

And so, Jesus, the way, brings us to light and to liberty.

3. Light, liberty, and then life, the strongest metaphor of all

Jesus said,

‘I am the resurrection and the Life; He who believes in me, though he were dead yet shall he live and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.’

Now I want you to think, very briefly about these three metaphors, these descriptions of the Christian life.

1. Think about coming to Christ as coming to the light of Life.

Have you ever experienced real darkness? Oh! I am not talking about being out at night, when the moon and the stars are obscured by clouds. I mean real darkness, the kind of darkness that you can almost feel! The coal-miner knows what I am talking about! I too, have been down a coal-mine, over 1000 yard deep, I and know what it is like to have the lights turned out! I give you my solemn word that it is an eerie and unpleasant sensation.

Or, let me ask you to use your imagination. Imagine that it is night-time, in some tropical country, and you are alone in the heart of the jungle. You are in fact, lost. There is no moon, no stars, because no light is able to penetrate the dense canopy of the forest. The dense tropical growth and the massive trees tower above you, blotting out the sky. And so you stumble along, the undergrowth trips you up.

The branches of the bushes whip across your face, the thorns tear at your clothing and bite into your flesh as you stagger on through the darkness. Panic fills your mind. You experience an overwhelming sense of being closed in by the darkness.

And then, as dawn breaks and the first glimmer of light filters through the trees you find a tree which you manage to climb, in order to try to get your bearings. Out there, to your right, you catch sight of a distant mountain range. And to your left, the morning light is glinting on the ocean.

You learn the general lie of the land and so, as the morning unfolds, you begin to move with greater certainty because you now know the direction you need to take.

Of course, you have not reached the end of your journey, but you are at the end of your wandering. The way ahead of you may still be long; but you have the peace of mind which comes from knowing that you are on the right course.

And why is this?

Because light has broken; the dawn has come Darkness has given way to light, and you have found the way home. Now, becoming a Christian is something like that. Getting to Jesus is like that. It means that light has entered and driven out the darkness of your life, the confusion the uncertainty, and you are on your way home, walking in the way.

2. Then, think about that second metaphor, liberty.

The New Testament teaches that, because Jesus is the life, coming to know Him as your Saviour is like passing from slavery to liberty.

‘He breaks the power of cancelled sin; He sets the prisoner free’,

the old hymn says,

‘Have you ever been in a prison, No! I am not asking if you have ever been to prison, as an inmate.’

Have you ever visited a prison?

You don’t have to be a prisoner to appreciate what a miserable existence prison is, for most of those confined there. I assure you that when I visited a prison for the first time I found it to be probably the most depressing, claustrophobic experiences I had ever known.

The oppressiveness of the atmosphere inside a prison is something which, once experienced, is never forgotten, no matter how many times one may visit. The first thing you notice has to be the constant clanging of steel doors and the rattle of keys.

The warder walks by your side. The steel door ahead of you is unlocked, and locked behind you. Somewhere else in the building, another door slams and echoes through the hollow-sounding building. The door ahead of you is not unlocked until the one behind you has been secured and so you are always enclosed between locked doors, always shut in; and thus, it continues until you eventually reach the cell of the poor soul you are visiting.

Can you imagine what it must be like for a man to be taken to such a place as a prisoner, and to have the cell door locked behind him?

That is how the Bible describes the condition of men and women who are not yet reconciled to God through the Lord Jesus. They are prisoners. Prisoners of sin. Sin is slavery; sin is bondage; sin is captivity; sin is imprisonment.

But Oh! The Joy when the cell door is thrown open and the prisoner is led to the massive outer gate, and it is unlocked for him, and he finds himself outside! Imagine what it is like for one who has served a long sentence to stand outside the prison knowing that he is a Free Man! Life! Liberty!

3. And then there is what I have described as the strongest metaphor of all, life!

Because Jesus says

‘I AM the life’,

we may have new life in Him, and becoming a Christian is a passing from death to life.

Some years ago, a group of archaeologists were at work in the Valley of the Kings, in Egypt, where so many marvellous discoveries have been made. I have had the privilege of entering several of the tombs of the Pharaohs in that valley. It was a surprised to me to discover just how many tombs there are!

The tragedy is that when many of them were found and opened, they were already empty, because they had been plundered by grave robbers, probably centuries earlier, and many of the bodies of the Kings of Egypt had been removed.

But on the occasion about which I am speaking the archaeologists discovered a tomb which had remained untouched for about 3000 years, and inside they discovered a beautiful little coffin, the coffin of a child. Over the coffin they found an inscription which read. ‘Oh! My life! My love! My little one! Would God that I had died for thee!’

The archaeologists were so moved by this inscription that they removed their hats and stood bareheaded. And then they softly withdrew from the cool and darkness of the tomb, into the blinding heat and sunlight of the Valley of the Kings and they sealed up the tomb again and quietly went away.

What they felt, we may feel, when we read John 11, which records the story of the death and burial of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, and dear friend of Jesus. Jesus comes to the tomb, the entrance to which has been sealed by a huge stone. And He weeps! But, then, he commands them to roll away the stone, and he calls out the name of the dead man,

‘Lazarus! Come forth!’

Or, as he would really say it in the Aramaic of that time,

‘Lazarus! Here! Out’.

And Lazarus rose from the dead and came out of the Tomb.

What must it have been like to have been there that day, when Jesus commanded death to yield to life, and to have seen the joy that lit up the faces of Martha and Mary and the looks of startled amazement on the faces of those who stood by!

There is something even more marvellous even than that and it is the glorious fact, that, when we come to know Jesus as Saviour it is nothing less than a passing from death to life.

So, there we have just three metaphors; light. Liberty. Life. This is what it means to find that Jesus is the life. I do not think that I overstate the situation when I say that out there is a world of darkness, of lost men and women. Wherever you care to look today, at home or abroad, you see a world which has lost its way and if Jesus were present right now, I am sure that he would describe our world in the very terms used so long ago,

‘helpless and harassed, like sheep without a shepherd.’

Speaking of shepherds, is there one world-leader who makes you feel absolutely confident that he knows where he is going? The day I prepared these notes, the ‘Daily Telegraph’ published the result of a nationwide survey; i.e., conducted throughout the British Isles, seeking the public’s view of Mr Major our prime-minister.

Of those interviewed;

77% said that he is not effective.

84% said that he is unable to unite the nation.

85% said that he is not really in charge.

And I suggest that he is not the only national leader of whom such things might be said. None of them is able to lead the way to the right. Take that word ‘prison’. I am not thinking about the places in which our law-breakers are confined. There is another kind of imprisonment, and they are chains that cannot be seen.

There are vast numbers of our fellow-men who are the prisoners of life and soul-destroying habits; Addicted to Drugs, Alcohol, Gambling and who are held in the grip of all kinds of fear. In fact, not to put too fine a point on it; the Bible says that we are all the slaves of sin, until we are set free by Jesus Christ.

Take the word ‘death’. I know that there people who cringe at the very mention of that word. They don’t care to talk about it and if there is anyone present this evening who feels that way, I am sorry, because I have to speak about it; and if it disturbs you, perhaps some good will come from it, if it causes you face up to something which is vitally important.

Now, I believe in life after death. But, you need to know that when Jesus promised eternal life to those who follow him, He was thinking of more than that a life in heaven when you die. Many years ago, I knew a man who was the secretary of the Communist Party in the Scottish town where I then lived. In many ways, Jimmy was a likeable person. But he was an atheist and, naturally we had a great many discussions.

Like most communists, he was fond of telling me that people

‘don’t want pie in the sky when they die, they want pie now’.

The inference being that Christianity offers them pie in the sky and Communism gets it for them now! But that is as far from the truth as one can get! And I told him so. I told him that the poor souls who are deceived by his atheistic, political philosophy don’t get pie in the sky when they die; and they don’t even get it now!

It is the Christian who has the blessings of both worlds, because when Jesus said ‘I have come that they might have life’. He was talking about this life and the life to come! On the other hand, there are men and women walking our streets at this moment who are already dead.

That is how Paul described them.

‘Without God and without hope in the world’,

and he spoke of certain people who, looking for pleasure and fulfilment in all sorts of ways, are

‘dead whilst they still live’.

The life which Jesus offers us is not just life after death and that is comforting enough, to be sure. It is life now! You do not have to wait until this life draws to a close before you begin to experience eternal life, the life of the ages, Jesus wants you to live today. Now! This very moment!

Now you may think that am overdramatizing it when I say that outside of Christ, the world is dead. And I know that there are many who are not Christians who seem to be nice people. Jesus himself tells about one such person in the story of the Prodigal Son, in Luke 15.

You all know the story, and, I have to tell you, that, in my opinion and I admit I may be wrong about this, of the two sons, the younger one was the more likeable fellow! A much more attractive person than his selfish, stay-at-home elder brother!

That young fellow was probably the sort who would not do anyone a bad turn, and, if you had been able to get to know him, you may well have found yourself liking him – for all his obvious faults.

But wait a minute!

That is not the whole story! Even if he was an appealing rascal, Jesus, who is telling the story, says that he was dead! He was lost! Those are the very words which the Lord puts into the mouth of the boy’s father. Now, when the young man left home, he did it because he thought he was going to live!

For the first time, out from under the shadow of his father. He was going to enjoy freedom, liberty! And you know what happened to him in the far country, you know the depths to which he sank and the privation to which he was reduced.

And you know also, that he eventually came to himself, which literally means that he regained his sanity, and he made up his mind to come home, hungry, ragged and dirty, and very much ashamed of himself. To say nothing of feeling sorry for himself. But when he reached home, do you recall all what the father said?

‘This my son was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found’.

Now that is what Jesus is able to do. He is able to give life, because He Himself is the life. Do you believe that? Do you believe that Jesus is able to give you life? To set you free so that you may enjoy life? To enlighten your way, and show you life at its very best beginning here and now?

Maybe someone is saying,

‘Well, if you had told me that 30 years ago, it would have been different, but I am too old to change now!’

I heard that not very long ago! Let me remind you of three of the favourite words of Jesus. They are the words least, last and lost. The least shall be the greatest in the Kingdom, of God. The last shall be first. The lost may be found. And, friends, if these things are not true, the New Testament is a lie and Jesus is a deceiver.

If it is not true that men and women can change, and be changed, regardless of their age, and whatever their past history of failure and frustration, I say if that is not true, then Christianity is a sham, and I, personally have wasted more than fifty years of my life on a fantasy.

But I know that what I am telling you is no myth; no fantasy, because I have seen the change that Jesus can make in men’s lives, throughout the world when prodigals have returned, men and women, they have received the ring, the robe and the shoes of life and liberty and service.

And know that there are many of you here today who are able to look back on your lives and ses the changes that coming to Christ has made. He changes people! He changes lives. I know that is true, because I know what Jesus has done for me and what He continues to do for me; He has not finished yet; but we are getting there!

And if you will commit your life to Him, he will discover what he can do. In some cases the change is gradual; in others it comes quickly; in a few it is instantaneous.

But, surely and certainly, once you make a commitment of yourself to Jesus, the way, the truth and the life, you find that he lifts from darkness to light. From the slavery of sin, to the liberty of the children of God. From death, to Life that is eternal.

And the greatest change is yet to come! John writes,

‘Beloved, we are God’s children now and what we shall be has not yet appeared; but we know this; when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope, purifies himself even as He is Pure’. 1 John 3:2-3

Paul adds to this, in Philippians 3:21,

‘Our Lord, Jesus Christ, will change our lowly body, to be like his glorious body.’

Some of us are aware of getting older. Eyes are beginning to fail; Hearing is not as acute as it used to be. Joints are stiffening. We are feeling more aches and pains. What is it, rheumatism? Arthritis? Faces are beginning show the lines! But don’t worry! You are going to be changed! In a moment! No! Quicker even than that! in the twinkling of an eye!

Since our text is taken from the Gospel according to John, let us stay with John, and say that he sets the tone of his entire Gospel for us as early as Chapter 1:4, when he writes; ‘In Him, Jesus, was life and the life was the light of men.’ In His prayer in John 17:3, Jesus reveals his own definition of life, when, he says to the Father,

‘This is eternal life, to know Thee, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.’

This theme continues right through the Gospel, we find that there are, no fewer than 15 chapters in the Gospel according to John which, either in word or deed, connect Jesus with life. And then, in the penultimate chapter, 20:30-31, we find that definitive statement.

‘These things are written that you might believe, and that believing you might have life through His name.’’

During his brief ministry, as he travelled through Judea and Galilee. Just as when he met that women by the well in Samaria, Jesus saw the unhappiness and tension in the strained and care-worn faces of the crowds who came to listen to him. Matthew 8:36, tells us that,

‘the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a Shepherd.’

He was deeply moved. The word ‘compassion’ reveals that He was filled with emotion.

From that point, onwards we hear Jim saying.

‘I have come that they have life and have it more abundantly.’ ‘I am the bread of life, feed on me and you will never hunger’. ‘I am the water of life, drink of me; and you will never thirst’. ‘I am the resurrection and the life, believe in Me and you will never die!’ ‘He that hath the Son hath life he that obeys not the son shall not see life’. ‘I am the good shepherd; and I give to my sheep who follow Me eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand’.

‘O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these is the life of my spirit. Oh! restore me to health and make me live!’ Isaiah 38:16

‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life, the life was made manifest, and we saw it, and testify to it, and proclaim to you the eternal life which was with the Father and was made manifest to us.’ 1 John 1:1-2

Christ is indeed the manifestation of the life that was with the Father. He is just like the Father the source of life.

‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Sod on God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the son also to have life in himself.’ John 5:25-26

When those who are dead in sin hear i.e. heed the voice of Jesus they ‘will love’ i.e. find salvation, eternal life.

‘And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand.’ John 10:28

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16

Also,

‘In him was life and the life was the light of men.’ John 1:4

The man was born blind,

‘Whether he (Jesus) is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.’ John 9:25

For the man born blind Jesus was his physical light but also as for us the spiritual life.

‘If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.’ John 9:33

He eventually comes to recognise the whole truth about Jesus,

‘He said (to Jesus) Lord, I believe, and he worshipped him.’ John 9:38

Jesus is the one who has come down from heaven to give life to the world.

‘For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world.’ John 6:33

‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’. John 10:10

The words spoken by Peter also on behalf of the other disciples and this should include us are indeed appropriate to Jesus.

The words spoken by Peter also on behalf of the other disciples and this should include us are indeed appropriate to Jesus.

‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’ John 6:68-69

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."

Ephesians 2:8

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