Two thousand years ago, the Son of God walked this earth and proclaimed that He was God's redemption plan for humanity. Most people of His day did not recognize Him. They coveted His miracles but rejected His message. Eventually, they crucified Him on a cross. They, too, were part of God's redemption plan, carrying out this work so that Jesus Christ might bear the sins of all humanity unto death and rise again victorious.
A few believed His message. They carried it with them all over the land, spreading the message of Jesus Christ to all they encountered. For their obedience to God, they endured exclusion, beatings, imprisonment, and persecution even to the point of death. That is how much they believed in the message of Christ Jesus. That is how convinced they were of the dire importance of spreading His Gospel message. In spite of their enemies' best efforts, the Gospel spread like wildfire. The power of redemption could not be squelched by threat, persecution, or murder as the grassroots efforts of a few vagabond believers became a movement that continues even to this day.
So all of this talk on faith and believing and sacrifice, where does it get us today? When we take a good look at ourselves, we find that our passion for Christ falls astoundingly short of those who came before us. It seems that these early followers of Jesus had an eternal mindset that we have lost somewhere between the comforts of our excess and the selfish devotion of our culture. Truly, the Gospel message of Jesus has been twisted so much so that it has been reduced to a matter of destination: "where will you spend eternity?" We herald those famous words of Jesus (John 3:16) and we beg people to choose to believe so they won't go to Hell. We dance around and talk of Heaven without much regard for what eternal living might require of us now.
But you see, when Christ spoke of "eternal life" in John 3, He wasn't really just talking about life after death. On His last night with the disciples, the night Christ would be arrested and taken away to His eventual death, Christ imparted His last words of life to them. Then, near the end of His discourse, Jesus prayed for His followers, and He said these words:
"Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent." John 17:1-3
And this is eternal life! This - "to know the Father, the one true God, and Jesus Christ, His Son" - this is eternal life. Eternal life really isn't something to attain one day; it begins immediately at the point of conversion. Can you imagine the implications of such a fact?
For the one who truly believes on Jesus, eternal life starts now.
Those early followers of Jesus understood that He did not give His life just to change our travel plans in the end. He died for our hearts' affections now. He died for our full allegiance always. He died that we might know Him, that we might worship Him, and that we might glorify His Name, in this life first, and then forever after.
Eternal life does require death, but it is not a physical death I speak of here. No, it is a death of the self, a death of the sin nature, and a resurrection into the living power of Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4-8). It is time we reclaim "eternity" so that we might start living eternally now. Genuine belief in Christ means that we may know the Father and the Son. This is eternal life.