Hellfire and Life Eternal
1 John 5:13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.
As a kid, I was easy pickings for anyone giving an alter call. Anyone who grew up in an evangelical church knows that of which I speak. Frequent reminders of the fires of eternal hell resulted in frequently asking Jesus into my heart. I must have done it a hundred times or more by the age of 7, as I really did not want to go to H-E-double hockey sticks.
Seven-year-old me was probably a little preoccupied with hell and eternity. So, I came to know this verse well as it gave me much comfort. John’s insistence that I could have confidence in eternal life was the assurance that I sought.
As an adult, I am perhaps, a little more short-sighted. The cares of this world have a way of distracting me from worrying about eternity. To adult-me, John says that I need to remember that I have eternal life in me now.
I tend to think of this eternal life as something that starts after I leave this world. The reality that John speaks of however is something that I should know here and now. Jesus taught that eternal life starts when I am born of God. This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God (John 17:3). When I first came to know God, He caused this new life to be birthed into me. For now, I live in this flesh, which like the flower will fade and decay. The spirit life born of God in me however, is the part of me that will live on for eternity.
Seven-year-old me just did not grasp this reality. I am not sure forty-year-old me did either. I just did not appreciate, cultivate or pursue the new spirit life in me. I pursued self and thus, my reality was closer to my flesh life than to my spirit life. This is the daily choice I now have, to sow the seeds of the flesh life or to sow the seeds of the eternal spirit life. I can allow God to meet all of my deepest needs, thus growing closer to the eternal life in me, or I can try to satisfy all of my desires with the destructive immediate gratifications of my flesh.
As an adult, the distractions of self and world often consume my interests. I could perhaps learn from 7-year-old me, and be a little more preoccupied with that which will truly last. It is in daily pursuing the eternal life in me that I am truly satisfied. So today, as always, I will ask Jesus to stay in my heart.