“Jesus performed many other wondrous signs that are not written in this book. These accounts are recorded so that you, too, might believe that Jesus is the Anointed, the Liberating King, the Son of God, because believing grants you life in His name.” John 20: 30-31John had one goal: to convince his readers that Jesus was God in the flesh so that they would believe, because believing grants life in Jesus’ name. A couple questions come to mind: What life did he come to share? How do we know we are living in it?
That life’s ultimate and eternal expression will be life in the New Heaven and New Earth. Throughout the New Testament, the writers cling to the promise of a heavenly reality where we see Jesus fully and we experience life fully. But that life also starts now. When Jesus taught about the Kingdom of Heaven, he gave earthy examples about how life looks when God’s Kingdom comes and His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. Life granted “in his name”  happens now. We can participate now in a life in line with the character, nature and will of God. That’s a huge claim, so let's look at what Jesus said and did to get an idea of what that looks like.
- he preached peace, hope, love, gentleness, kindness, and forgiveness.
- he taught respect for authority even as he taught how to respond properly to corrupt or oppressive power.
- he taught generosity over greed.
- he argued that justice was important, but so was mercy.
- he preached repentance and modeled forgiveness.
- he claimed we could know God and know the truth about how He wants us to live in holiness.
- he said that knowing this could set us free from bondage to sin and from eternal punishment for our sins.
- he demonstrated that God loves the world, not just one race, class, or sex.
- he treated even the most marginalized people with value, worth and dignity.
- he said the world was broken by sin, but He could fix it – at great cost.
- he explained that we were dead in our sins, but he could bring us back to life.
- he proclaimed we could be a part of the Kingdom of Heaven now and for eternity.
The word got out relatively quickly. In AD 100, there were about 25,000 Christians. In AD 300, there were about 20 million. As best I can piece together what historians have to say, the number of Christians went from about ½% of the populations they were in in AD 100 to 15% of the populations they were in by AD 300. Jesus was compelling; something about who He was and the life that He promised was motivating people to commit in spite of intense persecution.
In about 130 AD, Justin Martyr formalized what the early church was already noticing. He noted that the Kingdom of God was exploding because followers of Christ were dong three very specific things: they were believing, belonging, and behaving. I want to revisit this today not as a formula that promises specific results, but as a model (just as the Lord’s Prayer is a model) for how God intends to mold us into the image of Christ so that our life is truly ‘life in His name.