The following is an excerpt from an article I was asked to contribute to the new HCSB Mission of God Study Bible on John 17:3 about the nature of eternal life and how to know if you have it.
“And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and the One you have sent—Jesus Christ.” John 17:3 (HCSB)
The question that screams out from the Gospel of John is, “Do you know Jesus?” Not, “Have you prayed a prayer?” or “Do you go to church?” or “Is your obedience to the 10 commandments better than most other people’s?” but “Do you know the love of Jesus and have you received His free offer of salvation?”
Jesus said that many people who called Him Lord would be turned away from Him on the last day because He never knew them (Matthew 7:21-23). I used to interpret that as if Jesus were giving a warning that only the upper 10% of “Christians” would actually make it into heaven and “many” would be cut. So, each time I heard that passage taught, I determined that I was going to be in that upper 10%. I’d redouble my efforts to give more sacrificially, be more regular in my quiet time, and be more pure. “Then,” I thought, “There’s no way God could cut me from the team. I’m going to be on the Dean’s List of Christians.”
The people who will be turned away on the last day are people who served God. Jesus said they were plenty busy—going to church, preaching sermons, making offerings, doing miracles, and even casting out demons. Their problem is that they never knew a Jesus so gracious that He receives sinners freely. And they didn’t value that Jesus enough to forsake all the treasures of this world for Him. As a result, they never rested their souls in His grace or feasted their souls on His pleasures.
Even then, on the last day, they think their religious activity will earn their right to heaven. They say, “Look, Lord… look at what we did!” That proves, you see, they never really knew who He was. Jesus is not known by doing enough or giving enough. Jesus is ‘known’ only by believing in His compassion toward you and resting in His promise of eternal life.
The good news is that knowing Him is easy, at least for you. Jesus did everything necessary to reconcile you fully to God. You simply repent and believe that what the Gospel says about Him is true. He is a God who stands ready to accept you, completely, because of what Jesus has done for you. He is a God whose mercy and love for you knows no bounds. It stretches out toward you right at this very moment. Following Jesus as Lord means that your life will change radically, as He must now rule your life, but you’ll find that obedience and even sacrifice are sweet because of His presence in and with you.
Have you ever felt that love in your heart? Have you believed and embraced it, personally? Have you ever heard His voice in your soul saying, “You. You are my child. I died for you. I have accepted you.”
If not, open your heart to Him today.