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To Live Forever

Date: Mar. 18, 2016

Author: Jim Rarick

1 John 2:15-17

Key Verse: 1 John 2:17

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

"To Live Forever."  Isn’t it a beautiful theme?  Isn’t it an incredible promise?  Today we will hear God's word through John the apostle on the way to live forever.  God is our Father who loves us and wants us to live forever.  As a father I have many desires for my son, such as getting a good job, doing well in school, playing basketball well, etc.  Maybe my desires burden him a little.  But God's desire for us is that we may live forever with him.  In fact, the main point of Easter is that in Christ, through Jesus’ death and resurrection, we may live forever with God our Father.  Therefore, our theme, "Forever" may be the best theme for an Easter Conference.  However, for us, it is not easy to think about eternal life or living forever.  Each person has many immediate pressing issues and you can’t see or touch eternal life.  You can’t go and buy eternal life at the store.  Yet for each person, there is nothing more important that to live forever in Christ.  To show this, I will focus on two points.  First, is the contrast of eternal life versus temporary things of the world.  And second, what living forever with God is.  May God Almighty bless us to accept his word so we may live forever with him in Christ. 

First, the world and its desires pass away

Let’s read verses 15-17 together.  “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”  In these verses, John contrasts what comes from the world and what comes from God.  His main point is that everything from the world is temporary while what God gives is eternal.  The contrast couldn’t be more extreme. 

In verse 17 the Greek word for “forever” is “aiōn” which means several things, but here it means time without end.  Sometimes we say, “It is taking forever to get there” or “this download on the Internet is taking forever” or even, “our food is taking forever to arrive.”  But in reality, nothing we experience is remotely close to taking forever.  In fact, no human being can actually comprehend how long forever is.  “Forever” is something that can never be reached.  “Forever” means no matter how much time we have spent we are no closer to the end than when they started.  That is the meaning of forever or eternity, which no one can really comprehend. 

Yet, we are all marching toward eternity.  In fact, we are now in a journey that will never end.  It is because our infinite, eternal God made each person in his image.  God himself is eternal.  Daniel 7:14 says, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”  The universe as we know it had a beginning.  It will also have an end.  But our God is the eternal Creator God.  Hebrews 13:8 describes Jesus as our eternal God.  It says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”  God exists forever.  This eternal God then did something magical—he placed eternity in the hearts of all people.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart….”  Each person is not merely flesh and bones, but has the eternal image of God placed in them, living in them.  C.S. Lewis was amazed at the eternal nature of people and described his faith in a short story called the “Weight of Glory,”  where he wrote, “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”  When we look at any person, no matter what they look like now, we realize they are eternal beings made in God’s image. 

Human beings are all eternal and God is eternal.  We should long for and love the eternal things of God.  Yet we find it often isn’t the case.  We instead have a tremendous pull to love the world.  Verses 15-16 say, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.  For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”  In these verses the word “world” means the worldly systems, such as power, human affections, etc, as well as material things in the world.  The things of the world grab our attention because they are immediate and tangible, and they satisfy our flesh desires.  They consist of the lust of the flesh—such as sex, drugs, laziness and overeating—the lust of their eyes—like people, clothes, cars or gadgets--or the pride of life—like winning a video game, becoming a boss of others or whatever.  All of these can give us an immediate thrill or pleasure.  So they are very tempting.  However, those who love the world cannot experience love of the eternal God.  Verse 15 says, “Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”  According to John, if we love the world, we cannot love God.  It is because we have only one heart.  The doctor in the Dr. Who series has two hearts so perhaps he can love the world and God.  But we only have one heart, so we must decide whether to love the world or God.  When we lose love for God, God’s love evaporates from our hearts.  God wants to love us as his Father God.  But those who love the world lose God’s love from their hearts and become like orphans.  The world becomes very scary and cold, because there is no Father God to love and protect them.  We absolutely must not lose the love of God. 

Worse still, is that the things of the world are temporary.  Look at verse 17a.  “The world and its desires pass away….”  This verse says that the world and its desires pass away.  The world itself is passing away.  So we hear about many environmental issues, including lack of water, lack of food, pollution, etc, which are legitimate.  Also, everything we desire will pass away as well.  There is nothing in this world that will last forever.  Everything is temporary.  Everything in the world people cherish is perishing.  Because everything passes away, all our hopes in the world end in despair.  There is no exception.  People try to forget this reality, but it is inevitable that anything a person clings to in this world will pass away.  I know one woman whose five-year-old daughter loved to collect coupons and put them in an envelope.  The girl clung to the envelope, even sleeping with it.  One day the mother looked inside the envelope while her daughter was sleeping.  She found all the coupons were expired and worthless.  She realized her hope in the things of the world is like clinging to expired coupons.  Last year my mother passed away.  I am convinced that I had the best mother in the world.  But last June she passed away at the age of 82.  We all lose loved ones in the world.  On a more trivial note, a few years ago my son and I watch our two favorite teams win world championships.  We follow them so much.  But they have only lost since then and we heartbroken every year.  Verse 17a says, “The world and it desires pass away….”  This is 100% true.  God wants us to love eternal things, beginning with him.  There was a man who had more than almost anyone before or since.  He was Solomon, the third king of Israel.  The temple he built was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  He had wisdom beyond measure.  In his day, only gold was used for cups and dishes, because they were so wealthy, silver was considered worthless.  He defeated his enemies on every side.  He studied and enjoyed every pleasure his heart desired, including 400 wives and 600 concubines.  But when he loved the things of the world, he became so miserable he believed everything was meaningless.  He said in Ecclesiastes 1:1-2, “The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: ‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher.  ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’”  He lost the love of God in heart and became meaningless.  Those who love the world end tragically.  Moreover, they face the judgement of God.  (Rev 21:8)

Second, “Those who do the will of God live forever”

The world and its desires are passing away.  But God promises those who do the will of God will live forever.  Verse 17b says, “…but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”  Those in God hope of a certain future, even to forever.  It is a promise to live forever.  We don’t know exactly what it will look like, but we will live forever in God.  The pictures in Scripture give us a glimpse of life forever with God.  We have to study and meditate on these often.  For example, Revelation 22:1-5 says, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.  No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.  There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”  In this life forever we will be given a glorious resurrection body.  1 Corinthians 15:42-44 say, “The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”  No matter what we looked like in this life or how we suffered, we will receive a glorious resurrection body to live in forever which is powerful, glorious and imperishable.  This is a real hope. 

But we don’t have to wait to begin experiencing eternal life in God.  Jesus promised us in John 5:24, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”  Those who accept Jesus’ word and believe in God Almighty have eternal life already.  It is God’s life already planted and bearing fruit in their lives today.  God’s eternal goodness begins to circulate in their souls.  His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control grow and bear fruit a person’s life.  One person I know is a world famous PhD in chemistry who developed medications to save people’s lives.  But before she met Jesus, she confessed a terrible irony, that though she performed research to save lives, she herself was so miserable she felt like dying.  She was lonely and sorrowful and didn’t know the meaning of life.  Then someone introduced her to Jesus and eternal life entered her.  She felt God’s love and hope.  She became sweet and started caring for others, and by God’s grace married a man of God.  She feels alive and has a living hope.  Eternal life also has great power and influence.  Loyola University was founded by St. Ignatius Loyola.  He was once a mercenary soldier who was wounded in battle by a cannonball in Spain.  While recovering he read stories about men and women in Christ, because it was the only book in the hospital.  He wrestled with one thought—should he chase the fleeting love of a woman he knew, or seek a life in Christ.  He realized the life in Christ was the only true joy and meaning, and gave his life to Christ.  With Christ’s life he began universities to raise disciples of Christ who were well-educated so as to serve the world.  God’s life is working through this one man’s new life even to this day.  This life we experience is a deposit of the eternal life we will experience forever in Christ.  I know many students study hard for a bright future.  For this, they sacrifice years, study long hours and spend tens of thousands of dollars, especially at Loyola and IIT.  It is worthwhile.  But how much more important to invest to live forever in God!

I believe we all want to live forever in God.  So how do we get this life?  Verse 17 says, “…but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”   The key to having eternal life is doing the will of God.  What is God’s will?  First and foremost, it is to believe in Jesus, as the Savior.  Jesus said in John 6:29, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”  Here the words “work of God” and “will of God” are the same.  By looking at Jesus on the cross, anyone can receive forgiveness and enter eternal life.  We will study this tomorrow.  Additionally, in light of 1 John, the will of God is to love God and love our brothers and sisters in Christ.  1 John 2:3-6 tells us how to love God, “We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.  Whoever says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.  But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him:  Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”  The will of God is to live as Jesus did, living a life of sacrifice and devotion to the Lord.  It is a life to please God in all we do.  Such a person has love for God in their hearts.  The will of God is also to love our brothers and sisters.  1 John 2:9 & 10 say, “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.  Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.”  God’s will for his children is to love one another, fervently and passionately.  It is to care for one another and the lost people of the world.  It is not easy to love others.  But it is God’s will.  We need to ask God to take away our love of the world, and love God and one another fervently. 

I personally received this eternal life about 32 years ago at an Easter Conference like this.  I grew up in a very loving and caring household.  But I didn’t have love for God or anyone else.  I studied music because it made me feel good and fed my ego.  In college I studied music and partied a lot, thinking it would make me happy.  But I was restless, fearful and had very little hope of a future.  When I wasn’t happy drinking two nights a week I thought I should drink three or four nights a week.  That didn’t work.  Instead, fear of judgment and meaninglessness filled my heart every night.  After graduating I was desperate and read by chance Deuteronomy 6:5 which says to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength.  It was like a light went off in my heart.  I realized I was created to love God and love others, but I had not done so for even five minutes.  I asked God to help me seek him.  He led me to Bible study in UBF.  Then, about 32 years ago, we memorized 1 Corinthians 15, the whole chapter.  I don’t know why I obeyed and memorized it, but I did.  Then a miracle happened.  For the first time I saw the eternal life God had waiting for me.  I realized the hope of a glorious resurrection body is real.  Suddenly the world became full of possibility and life.  And everything changed.  I had never been hired as a musician, but suddenly I was hired as a musician in the Milwaukee Symphony.  Then when I became a musician, I realized it seemed so empty.  I didn’t want to give my life to chase being a musician, but rather seek eternal life Jesus as a Bible teacher with eternal hope.  I studied engineering to be on the campus as a Bible teacher and build a future where I could work and serve God effectively.  I studied the Bible faithfully, writing weekly testimonies, which I do to this day.  Then God blessed me to move to Chicago where I married the most beautiful woman of God, Helen.  Together we have been growing in Jesus for the last 27 years.  We have two beautiful children and serve our orchestra and Loyola ministry, as well as working full-time.  I thought I would die if I worked an eight-hour day in an office.  But with eternal life in my soul, I am happy, which my family can testify.  Life has difficulties.  But through them I grow in Christ and often my hope is refined.  The Lord took someone like me, who was hopeless and dead, waiting for eternal destruction, to eternal life by his grace.  Now I have a sure hope in Jesus that I will live forever with him. 

This weekend we will study the theme “Forever.”  “Forever” or “eternal life” is the most important reality for each person in the world.  Let’s ask God to open our spiritual eyes this weekend and receive eternal perspective.  Let’s ask God to open our hearts to see the immeasurable grace of Jesus to give us this eternal life, rescuing us from eternal death.  Let’s ask God to help us not love the temporary things of the world, but love God and love others so we may experience this life and be alive in Christ forever.  May God bless each of you to do the will of God so that we may all live forever in God. 

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