Jesus said, ‘anyone who hears my word and believes the one who sent me has the life of God’s coming age’ (John 5:24; other translations say ‘eternal life’).
The degree to which we receive the life of God’s coming age is down to us.
What is the life of God’s coming age, or eternal life as some versions have it? By the life of God’s coming age, I mean this: ‘That they (that’s us) should know you, (that’s God) the only true God and Jesus the Messiah, the one you sent’ (John 17:3).
In Mark 4, we read the parable of the sower, which I am updating to the parable of the smartphone app. The same seed (the word of God) produces different outcomes – from nothing at all, to limited and short term change, or ultimately to reproducing the same seed but to a much greater extent. Which of these happens is dependent on us, the receiver. And Jesus is the word of God so this parable, and our illustration, is concerned with the extent to which we know Jesus and receive his life of the coming age, not as knowledge or even as a theological belief but as a lifestyle of being with Jesus to become like him to do what he does.
‘Knowing about’ is quite different from ‘knowing’. It is possible to know about God, and have a spiritual life a mile wide and an inch deep. In these circumstances it will be very hard to put down deep roots to sustain a walls down life.
We can choose to live an intentional and spiritually formed life, incorporating practices such as prayer, the bible and wilderness, to deepen our history with God, seeing Him face to face and being changed into His likeness.
We may not know how to pray (frequently the best qualification to pray!) but we learn how to pray by doing it. We can be formed by prayers such as the ‘Our Father’, that have stood the test of time. In allowing the words of Jesus to inhabit us, we are not just praying to Jesus but praying with Jesus. We can also pray conversationally, chatting to God and catching his reply.
Jesus said to the religious leaders of his day, “You study the bible, because you suppose you’ll discover the life of God’s coming age in it. In fact, it’s the bible that gives evidence about me” (John 5:39). When we read scripture we are seeking to find Jesus in the words and joining the story of our lives with the bigger story of the people of God and God’s story itself. We can read scripture aloud and listen to the voice of Jesus as He shapes our lives, being with Jesus to become like Jesus and to do what Jesus does.
The wilderness, a place Jesus often went to, is an intention of being fully present to the voice of God by practices of solitude, stillness and silence. Often at these times we can come face to face with the noise and drama of life that we have been shutting out by activity and by self-distractions. Only when we confront this can we choose to allow God to remove the blocks and barriers to our spiritual formation and so change how we hear, see and think in order to be transformed.