CONCEPTION TO ETERNAL LIFE

When we die life as we know it is over.   Now think about this.  When we are born life as we know it is over.  In the womb we live in a dark fluid filled container.  This is the only environment we know.  It is our existence, and we have no idea of change.  Then one day the plug is pulled, so-to-speak, and our fluid world ceases to exist.  Our head is jammed into a tunnel at the end of which is a shocking never before experienced thing, light.

From the trauma of this transition we enter into a new world of existence.  This world now becomes our place to grow and explore.  There is good and evil in this world, and we experience varying amounts of both, but it becomes our home.  This is what we know.

Would you like to change from this world to a new one?  The other way to ask this question is would you like to die?  The new world is vast and peaceful where the struggle between good and evil no longer exists.  Most of us want to stay in this life.  We want what we know to continue even though a better existence is ahead.

When we are conceived, birth is inevitable.  Once we are born death becomes inevitable.  Our time in the womb, as well as our time here on earth, is important for our growth, but we were never meant to stay in the womb, and we aren’t meant to stay in this life.  I think that this life is like another gestation period leading to the eternal life that God intends for us.  What does God intend for us?

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him. (1 Corinthians 2:9)

THE RESURRECTION

Romans 6:23  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. “

Jesus is alive!  He was raised from the dead on the third day.  We celebrate Easter because everything that Jesus came for is completed with his resurrection.   From his birth, to his death on the cross, and then his resurrection, the miraculous plan of God for our redemption was accomplished.  For us we can be confident that life does not end in death because Jesus overcame death.  God raised him from the dead, and he has promised to raise us.  Eternal life is his gift to us.

I like Paul’s analogy in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 where he compares resurrection to the planting of a seed.  You put a seed in the ground and bury it.  If conditions are right, a living plant rises from the ground.  What comes up is totally different in appearance than the seed you planted, but it has new life.  When we die and are buried, our bodies as we know them are finished, but when we are resurrected, we’ll have a new body.  Unlike the old body, our new body has eternal life which is God’s gift to us.

Jesus is alive!  All that we hope for is centered on this truth.  If Jesus is not alive than what do we have?  Yet, he is alive, and our future is secured.  Praises be to God!  We are like little children standing in awe and wonder at what God has done for us.  The greatest gift has been purchased, and it is now freely given to you and me.  Oh what amazing things you have done, our holy and wonderful God, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

THE HOPE IS STILL ALIVE

A while back I wrote in my diary, “Today I’m 60, but I’m going to live forever so I’m just a kid.”  I haven’t felt much like a kid since I wrote this, but the hope is still alive.  One of my old flippant sayings when confronted by a health conscious (health food nut) person was, “I don’t get my new body till I wear this one out.”  I want you to know I’m doing well with the wearing this one out part.  However it’s not as fun as it once was.  The wearing out is now quite painful, but the new body hope is still alive.

Sunday morning I found myself doing what I used to think was a strange activity that old people did.  I was reading the obituaries in the newspaper.  Not only was I reading them, but I was emotionally involved in reading them.  The short assessment of a person’s life was somehow hauntingly relevant.  As I sense the nearing of life’s end, I think, “What might be written about me?” What in my years was good and what was bad?  Fortunately, most obituaries focus on the good.  The family usually keeps the bad to themselves.  Woo, I say as I contemplate this.

I could get lost in these thoughts, but what I wrote on my 60th birthday is the real truth.  I have the promise of eternal life in Christ Jesus.  I’m going to live forever.  The assessment of this short beginning time is recorded by the eternal God.  He makes the final evaluation.  Praise be to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  The bad is forgiven and forgotten because the most significant act of my years was receiving the great gift Jesus purchased for me on the cross.  The worth of my other acts is in his hands.

Life has seemed long, but when I look back the part that has passed went by rather quickly.  There is still more to come.  I relish what remains.  And, the hope is still alive!

More

Adam and his wife Eve, as he was later to name her, shared in the bliss of the beautiful Garden of Eden God had made for them.  They played with the animals, climbed the majestic trees, and ate the fruit the trees produced.  At night they chose a comfortable place on the ground and slept the sleep of the content.  Fear did not exist.  They lived in perfect harmony with all of God’s creation.  As husband and wife, they never disagreed or argued for they had no awareness of self.  In fact they didn’t realize that they were naked.  There was no shame in their world.

One day Adam and Eve were walking near the middle of the garden.  Adam went a short distance away to look at one of the plants he’d not seen before.  Eve went near the forbidden tree to view it more fully.  The serpent seeing his chance was quick to join her.

Genesis 3:1-6

“Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it.  She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

 

Adam and Eve lived in a state of perfect peace.  They wanted for nothing.  Death did not exist, there was no fear, and even the weather was nice.  They had world peace!  And, for those who have experience the presence of God in times of worship, you know there is nothing sweeter then the presence of God.  Adam and Eve had that all the time!  The choice to disobey God and open themselves to the knowledge of good and evil came at a high price.  They had everything we desire.  What were they thinking?

Adam and Eve were created good, but they had no knowledge of good.  They just were.  Just like hot and cold define each other, so good and evil must define each other.  You can’t understand “good” without the contrast of “evil”.  Imagine being inherently good without having to make the choice to be good.  For us we know that having the knowledge of good and evil isn’t that great.  Now we have to make a choice.  How often we choose evil.

I can’t blame Adam and Eve for wanting something more.  I know the wonders of God, yet everyday I’m looking for something more.  God knows what I need, and He provides it daily.  The “more” I want will most likely harm me, but I want it.  Every day I have to remind myself that God is sufficient. He is all I need.

The Right Choice

Looking over the topics that I post weekly, I see a common theme.  I write mainly to encourage my brothers and sisters to trust that God exists, and he is who he says he is.  This week I want to approach from a different direction.

We begin by being born into this world.  The world we are born into exists with no input from us.  We didn’t choose where we would live, what race we would be, or what economic level our existence would embrace.  We are given an unknown number of years to live in this world.  We seem to have arrived with certain elements of personality and ability, but from the very start they are molded by the influences of our placement.  None of the beginning circumstances of our life have been our choice.   We will, throughout our lives, make numerous choices, but they will all be influenced by the placement we did not choose.

With this perspective in mind, the question that presents itself is what choices do we get to make?  We get to choose our response to each event in our lives, but not without outside pressures.  As I said, our responses are affected by surrounding influences.  We seem to have an inherent awareness of what is right and what is wrong.  A basic morality if you will.  Yet, if our culture says for instance an eye for an eye, we’ll be compelled to comply with that concept.  It’s our choice whether to comply, but we are under the pressure of what we are expected to choose.

So, why am I here?  Is this all there is?  Can I break away from this temporal existence upon which I have arrived?  Certainly these are reasonable questions that mankind has asked throughout the ages, and there are a lot of answers to these questions floating around.  When presented with these answers, we get to choose which one we believe is the right one.  Of all the things that are not our choice, choosing the right answer to these questions is our choice.  Trusting that God exists, and that he is who he says he is, seems the right choice to me.  I’m not trying to influence your choice, — oh yes I am.  Please forgive me, and please make the right choice.

Mortality

It is a fact that we are all going to die.  The mortality rate among humans is 100%.  People around me are dying.  Recently, a friend of mine who was 15 years younger died from brain cancer.  We’ve lost two women in our church in the last year.  I know others who are currently fighting cancer trying to stay alive.  The death of others always brings us closer to the reality of our own mortality.  The loss of a loved one is deeply painful, almost unbearable.  So, for a Christian what is a good perspective?

Our pastor, Eric Nelson*, Spoke on resurrection last Sunday.  He brought up two points that I believe help us to deal with our mortality.  First, he reminded us that the Apostle Paul referred to death as falling asleep (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-15), and who is afraid to fall asleep?  The second point was that the life we are going to is far better that the life we leave.  For one thing, it is eternal.  Once we pass from this life, death will never again be an issue.

In our eternal life we will be living in heaven.  In heaven we will live a sinless existence.  Try to imagine what living without sin would be like.  I find it really hard to contemplate.  What would it be like living with no sin? The earth and all of creation is tainted by sin.  Imagine what the new earth will be like when sin is gone.

For me, when facing mortality, my greatest fear is what if my wife should go before me.  How would I be able to survive such a loss?  We are true soul mates, partners for the last 34 years.  But, notice that the concern is for me.  She will have gained.  She will be with Jesus.  Her time in a sinful world will be over.  She’ll have arrived in eternity.  She will be home, her work will be done.

So, in looking at mortality, I find there is much to rejoice about.  The future is only going to get better for those who belong to him.  Christians live by faith not by sight.  All we know now is this world, but through faith, we believe that God has prepared us an eternal place.  The greatest truth in our mortality is that we will be with him forever.

(If you don’t know him, he’s just a prayer away.)

*Eric Nelson is pastor of Delta Life Four Square Church in Madera, California.  Hear his sermons at deltalifechurch.com