Today I’ve entitled our message “Do You Have Eternal Life?” God has placed in the heart of every person the desire to live forever.
Ecclesiastes 3:11b (ESV) … He has put eternity into man’s heart.
What is eternal life? Eternal life is not just eternal existence. The spirits of every human being ever created will exist forever. Eternal life according to the Bible is life with God forever and ever in heaven. The other option is eternal death, which is eternal torment in hell without God. Each person at the end of their physical life goes to one or the other existence, eternal life or eternal death.
So how to have eternal life is a question of the utmost importance. There are two main ideas of how to have eternal life. Majority of Americans believe that if you’re a good person, you will go to heaven and have eternal life. According to God’s Word, the belief that being good will get you to heaven is false.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
This verse tells us that a person is not saved by doing good things. People are saved by receiving God’s gift of eternal life through faith. The second idea of how to have eternal life is given in that verse, through faith. However, is faith enough to have eternal life?
James 2:17 (ESV) So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
This verse and others in the book of James indicates that faith and works must go together. As we read the Bible carefully, we see that good works are the evidence of genuine faith. True faith will always lead to good works.
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
This verse tells us that when someone is created in Christ Jesus, that is saved, their purpose is to do good works. If someone claims to be a Christian, to have faith, but there is no evidence or fruit of good works, then there is reason to doubt that person has eternal life. Good works therefore are a test of whether someone’s faith is genuine.
Today, we’re going to learn how Jesus answered the question - What must I do to have eternal life? In His answer, He will bring together the aspects of faith as it relates to God. And the aspect of good works, as it relates to other people. It will help us answer the question “do I have eternal life” for ourselves. And it will help us discern whether those around us have eternal life.
Luke 10:25-26 (ESV) And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?”
The term lawyer here means a Jewish expert in the Law, the Old Testament. He asked a very important question, what must I do to have eternal life? Jesus answered him with a question of his own. He asked the lawyer how the Bible answered his question. The answer to all our questions of importance are found in God’s Word.
Luke 10:27 (ESV) And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
The lawyer answers combined two Old Testament scriptures. Deuteronomy 6:5 commands us to love God with everything we have, our heart, soul, strength and mind. To love God is to put your faith in Him. Faith is not just believing that God or Jesus exists. Faith is to love God with everything you have.
It is critically important that loving God comes first in our lives. Everything else stems from loving God first and foremost. The second part to the lawyer’s answer is found in Leviticus 19:18. It says that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. You must love yourself as someone created and loved by God. Then you are to consider your neighbor as someone to love, just as you love yourself.
Luke 10:28-29 (ESV) And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Jesus acknowledged that the lawyer had given the proper answer to having eternal life. The answer is to love God and show your love for God by loving your neighbor. The lawyer then had a second question for Jesus, “who is my neighbor?” In this verse, we have a clue that this was not a good question. It says that the lawyer was seeking to justify himself.
He was trying to limit the options for his neighbor so that he could fulfill the command without going out of his way. As we go through the account today, we’ll see that Jesus never directly answers the lawyer’s second question. Jesus wanted to help him and us answer another more important question. To have eternal life, one must love God and his neighbor.
We might have the same qualms about loving our neighbor as ourselves that the lawyer had. If we’re honest, most of us love ourselves a lot. To love our neighbors as ourselves is really a tall order. Especially if we have a lot of neighbors. So, if we could eliminate some people as our neighbors, that would make life easier, right?
We’re going to learn that judging who is and isn’t our neighbor is the wrong question. When we truly love God, He is going to help us love our neighbors as ourselves. We’ll learn more about how to do that as Jesus illustrates the principle with a story.
Luke 10:30 (ESV) Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.
The road from Jericho to Jerusalem was a steep descent of 19 miles through a desolate rocky area. It was a prime location for bandits to raid unsuspecting travelers. Robbers attacked him, stole his belongings, beat him and left him nearly dead. The man would probably not survive without someone to help him. However, the road was well traveled and I’m sure the man was looking out for the first traveler to help him.
Luke 10:31 (ESV) Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
It seems that the injured man had been left lying on the road itself or close to it. A priest from Jerusalem was the first traveler to see the injured man lying there. Rather than getting involved, he altered his path to get as far away from the man and quickly walked by.
One would have expected a priest in the temple to care for the man. However, he pointedly ignored him. Perhaps he was late for an appointment. Or, was afraid the robbers could still be lurking. Or maybe he wasn’t sure if the man was dead or not and didn’t want to be made unclean.
Luke 10:32 (ESV) So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
The next traveler was a Levite, a helper to the priests in the temple. He had a lower rank than the priest, but Jesus’ listeners would have expected both him and the priest to help the wounded man. Yet, the Levites response was the same. He saw the man, but moved to the other side of the road and quickly passed by.
Both men knew the command to love your neighbor as yourself. If they were lying on the roadside, surely they would have wanted someone to help. Yet, they did not see the injured man as their neighbor whom they must love. These two are examples of how not to be a neighbor.
It’s easy to not be a neighbor, isn’t it. Just pass by on the other side of the road, not my responsibility. It’s true that we can’t meet all the needs in our world. Yet, God does call us to love our neighbor as ourselves.
To love our neighbor is going to require some time, some concern and some resources. In other words, loving our neighbor is going to cost us something. Yet, for those who truly love God, He provides us with the means to love our neighbors and not pass by on the other side of the road.
Luke 10:33 (ESV) But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.
Now, we come to the third traveler on the road who saw the injured man. Most likely the injured man was a Jew. The Jews and Samaritans basically hated one another. They had fought in the past, their religions were different, and they didn’t like one another. If anyone would have been expected to pass by the wounded Jewish man, it would have been a Samaritan.
The first thing we see about the Samaritan is that he had compassion on the man. This is the same word used to describe how Jesus felt about people who were in trouble. That compassion motivated him to not pass the man by, but to go over to him.
Luke 10:34-35 (ESV) He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
The Samaritan treated the man’s wounds with the supplies he was carrying. As the man was not able to walk, he put the man on his own donkey. And the Samaritan walked along beside, taking him to an inn to stay the night. At the inn, the Samaritan continued to care for the man. When he left, he gave the innkeeper money to take care of the man and promised to pay the entire bill when he came back.
Helping the injured man cost the Samaritan time, riding a donkey and money. Yet, he did it out of compassion, which is part of love, isn’t it. Jesus then asked the lawyer a question of his own.
Luke 10:36-37 (ESV) Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
Jesus changed the lawyers question to a more appropriate question that focused on the responsibility of the lawyer. Jesus asked, which of these three proved to be a neighbor to the injured man? Rather than trying to figure out who is his neighbor, he needed to consider if he was being a neighbor.
The lawyer answered, the one who showed mercy, the Samaritan. Jesus said to the lawyer, go and do likewise. In other words, have compassion on those in need around you and show them love. Your neighbor is anyone around you who has a need. That’s how to be a neighbor.
How do we be a neighbor and love our neighbors as ourselves today? First of all, we need to discard the thought that there are so many needs, we can’t possibly meet them all, so why try. In the story, there was a need and no one else to help. God will show you needs where you are the one He calls to help.
Ask for God to give you compassion for the needs of others around you. The need might be for physical healing. The need might be for spiritual healing. The need might be for resources to live and we could go on and on with different kinds of needs. Each of us has a responsibility for our families.
Yet, this story challenges us to go beyond our families and sometimes even the people we know. To actually show Christ’s love to strangers who God brings in our paths. As we give to missions, we are being a neighbor to lost people around the world. Making it possible for missionaries to be Jesus’ hands and feet to them through our giving. God wants to challenge us today to be neighbors to those in need.
To have eternal life, we must love God with everything we have and are. As we love God, He blesses us so that we can love our neighbor as ourselves. That observable compassion and caring of others is evidence we have eternal life. To love our neighbors as ourselves requires us to be neighbors to those in need.
Besides helping meet needs, our love opens the door for the Gospel. Meeting physical needs, either through natural resources or supernatural healing makes people more receptive to believing in Jesus. We see this throughout the ministry of Jesus and His disciples. As we show our love for the lost and their needs, more and more people will be saved and receive eternal life.