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Are We Misunderstanding Eternal Life?

Several years ago, my friend Pastor Matt Heard chanced upon a small painting by Russian painter Nikolai Yaroshenko. In it, five prisoners press against a small barred window to catch a glimpse of pigeons feeding just outside their prison railcar. Their faces reveal wonder, delight and appreciation for the small grace of those birds. A sixth prisoner stands in the shadows in the background, turned away from the joyous scene and staring out of a barred window on the other side.


The painting is entitled “There is Life Everywhere,” and it got Matt thinking about how often he saw Christians excited about the idea of heaven, but struggling through an earthly existence they were more interested in bypassing or surviving than enjoying. He began to wonder if life for many believers was a bit like that of the sixth man in the boxcar, something that imprisons us and from which only heaven can set us free.


The problem for Matt was that this doesn’t mesh with what the gospels, especially John 10:10, says. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”


This fullness of life, or what Matt calls in the title of his new book “Life with a capital L,” is the “capacity Jesus gives me to fully embrace my humanity and experience the privilege of being human.” Matt realized that Jesus didn’t come to save us from human life but to restore us to it as the life God always intended for us: to be fully human and fully alive.


According to Matt, Christians too often act as if the physical aspects of our lives are in opposition to our spiritual lives and are even an evil to escape. But nothing could be further from the truth.


He writes, “To be fully human, I must engage with life in both a physical and spiritual way, and not just as two parallel, unrelated compartments. … Religion tends to idolize the spiritual and secularism tends to idolize the physical. But the boundary between sacred and secular is fabricated. To be fully human is to take down that boundary and live our days in an integrated way on both a physical and spiritual level.”


In the Incarnation, Jesus perfectly married the human and divine aspects of humanity. And as redeemed children of God, Jesus calls us to enjoy this same integrated life. Now the question is, how do we experience this?


Well, Matt believes the only path forward is found by paying attention to our desires. He writes that “my longing is central to who I am as a human being.” Now of course, most of us experience our longings in a fallen sense, misdirected. Like the Samaritan woman at the well, we drink and drink and are never satisfied, because we don’t realize that Christ is offering living water that alone can fully quench our thirst. That’s the water Christ offers, and it leads us to be what God created us to be.


Now I want to be clear, “Life with a capital L” is not another version of “your best life now,” not even close. It is, however, a much deeper engagement with Scripture and faith offering a practical theology of humanity that many of us have yet to experience. As I wrote in my endorsement, and Matt has confirmed from those who’ve read the book, those who encounter this truth will find themselves asking, “What if? What if this is actually true?”


Understanding demands we take the idea of grace seriously. And to do that, we must contend with the reality and gravity of our sin. But when we do, it illuminates what the redeemed life can look like.


There’s far more in this book than I could ever explain in this short commentary, so I interviewed Matt on our half-hour program, BreakPoint This Week. Please visit BreakPoint.org to listen to this interview with Pastor Matt, and learn how you can get a copy of this book, which both Eric Metaxas and I heartily endorse.


Consider this my personal invitation to embrace your God-given humanity and to come home to the vibrant life a bit earlier than you had planned.


BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

Publication date: February 3, 2015

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