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Posts Tagged ‘new life in Jesus’

Series on Witness

We are back to our series on witness, encouraging us all to be focused on reaching out to others to share our lives and faith with them. We are working with an acrostic from the word witness and so far we have covered:

The “W” – which is for Why we reach out. Our motivation is Christ’s love for the lost.

The “I” – which is for Idolatry and reaching out. The end is not growing and getting big in itself, but being faithful to God to reach out whether there are results or not.

And the “T” – which is for Taking risks. Sharing our faith seems risky, and we prefer to be comfortable. But we need to step out in faith, and trust that God will work. This is how God works in every area of our lives – we have to take risks and live by faith.

Today we look at the “N” of the word witness, and the title is New life in Jesus is the point.

What I mean here is that the goal of reaching out is not just trying to make new friends, or getting people to come to church or helping people with pressing needs. Now, these are all good things. But the goal of reaching out is to have each person we share with, experience new life in Jesus. This is the point.

We want God to work in people’s lives so that those who don’t know Jesus or have wandered away from him will come to him and will receive the gift of new life; we want their lives to be powerfully transformed.

Jesus talks about this –

New life in the gospel of John

This life comes from God through Jesus. Jesus said, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself.” – John 5:26. As Jesus said later, “I am the resurrection and the life.” John 11:25. He has this life in him from the Father and he is this life.

And Jesus came to share this new life with others; with us. As he said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” – John 10:10. Notice he came not to give us just a taste or a little bit of life – but he wants us to have this new life in great abundance.

Jesus describes new life in different ways. First he talks about it as a new birth. He talks about being “born again” in John 3:3, and being “born of the Spirit” in John 3:5. We are all already born of the flesh. We live and breathe and walk in this world. But by the Spirit we can be born again or from above by the work of God in us. We move from being dead spiritually to coming alive with a new heart that is alive to God.

Jesus also talks about it as living water. “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” – John 4:14. We are all spiritually thirsty. There is a longing in our hearts for more. Jesus is talking to the Samaritan woman here, who has gone through several marriages and was living in sexual immorality. And Jesus offers her new life – seen as a spring of living water in her heart, that brings true satisfaction; that quenches spiritual thirst.

And as we just saw, Jesus talks about new life as eternal life. “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life” – John 6:40. This is the life of God within us right now, not off in the future.

It’s not just talking about life that endures forever – a quantity of life, but about a certain quality of life – the life that comes from God himself who is life within us.

And then to help us further understand what this new life is, let’s look at some –

Stories of new life in Luke

This gospel has a number of these – I have chosen just a few to share, briefly.

A sinful woman – Luke 7:36-38; 48; 50

“One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.”

And he said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ And he said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’”

So here is a woman, likely a prostitute –  “a woman of the city, who was a sinner.” She had apparently already heard Jesus’ message of repentance. And so she finds him and in an act of humility and love and anoints him with perfume. She shows faith in Jesus and he responds by forgiving her sins. All her shameful past is wiped out! She is saved and Jesus tells her to go in peace. Instead of her old life she now has a fresh new start. She is forgiven, saved and at peace.

A demon possessed man – Luke 8:26-39

“Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.’ For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Legion,’ for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.

When the herdsmen saw what had happened, they fled and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how the demon-possessed man had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked him to depart from them, for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.”

Here is a man who was tormented under the power of Satan. He was homeless, mentally ill, naked, and living in a graveyard. And he is unable to be bound even by chains. He must have been terrorizing people. But Jesus set him free! The demonic powers that were too much for him and those around him were as nothing before Jesus. Look at the transformation. Now the man is clothed and in his right mind, sitting at the feet of Jesus. And he is seeking to serve Jesus; he has a new life purpose. And Jesus sends him to share with those in the city where he is from.

A tax collector – Luke 19:1-10

“Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’ So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully.

And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’ And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’”

Zacchaeus was a tax collector who made his riches overcharging people. He was a sinner. He was lost. But he repents. He gives away his wealth and he makes amends for cheating people. As Jesus said, he was saved. He has a new start and a new life in Jesus. He moved from a man of greed and fraud to a person of generosity and righteousness.

So this is the goal of our sharing – that people will receive new life as Jesus teaches about in John, and that lives will be transformed as we saw in the stories from Luke. We are not just trying to make new friends, or just getting people to come to church, or just helping people with pressing needs.

New life in Jesus is the point! This is what God’s love is all about. As that most familiar of all verses says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” – John 3:16.

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The theme of hope is a core distinctive of Christianity, based, as our faith is, on a resurrected Jesus, who lives forevermore. Peter speaks of the “living hope” that Christians have in 1 Peter 1:3. And Paul prays that his readers will be enlightened so that, as he says, “you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, (and) what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints” – Ephesians 1:18.

And it is this “glorious inheritance” that I want to talk about this morning. What is our hope as Christians? What are “the riches of his glorious inheritance?” I am focusing on this because I fear some Christians aren’t getting the full scope of what God has for us. I say this because some believe that going to heaven when you die, is what it’s all about.

But I ask – Is going to heaven when you die the extent of our hope? This past year I visited a church and I heard just this belief expressed. Someone had died in the church and one person shared, in so many words, that the one who died now had all that God has for him.

Let me begin by saying, yes –

When we die, we go to be with Jesus

Anyone who dies in the Lord, goes to be with the Lord at death.

We’ve talked a lot about Sheol in the last few months – the place of the dead. Scripture doesn’t say a lot about what happens to the righteous dead with the death and resurrection of Jesus. But the best way to put together what is said, is to say that those in paradise (the good part of Sheol) have now moved to heaven to be in the presence of Jesus.

And this is a great blessing and something to look forward to. And this is a great comfort as we think of our loved ones who have died in the Lord, and even as we contemplate our own future. We go to a better place.

Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. . .. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.”- Philippians 1:21-22. He also says, “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord . . . and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 5:6-7. Dying and going to be with Jesus is far better than this earthly life so full of sin and suffering.

And then in the story of Stephen, when he is being stoned to death. He says, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” – Acts 7:59. He knew that when he died, he would be with Jesus. His spirit would go to be in the presence of Jesus.

But our hope is more than this. That’s the message today. Our hope is actually so much more than this! And we don’t want to sell short the amazing hope and inheritance that God has given us in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our hope is more in three specific ways: First of all, our hope is not just something that happens right when we die.

Our hope looks to the end when Jesus returns to completely save us

In other words there is an issue of  timing here. The fullness of our salvation awaits the coming of Jesus at the end of all things. This is when we will receive all that God has for us.

To think that our hope only has to do with when we die, is to mistake the end of one short sentence as the conclusion of a grand, complex and long story – made up of many, many volumes. We are talking about all of history here, billions of stories being woven together into the story of Jesus and coming to the end that God has chosen when Jesus returns.

In the bigger picture our time with Jesus in heaven is a place of waiting for this final goal, the return of Jesus and all that God has for us. It is like a grand waiting room. A good one, for sure, but a waiting room nevertheless. And just like any waiting room, it is easy to get impatient.

This is exactly what we see in Revelation 6:9-11. The souls in heaven who died for their faith, “cried out with a loud voice, ‘O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long . . .? Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer . . ..” They are told to be patient.

Our hope is much more than something that happens right when we die. Those in heaven with Jesus, along with us, await the full blessings when Jesus returns.

Second, our hope is not just something that has to do with our spirit.

Our hope includes the redemption of our bodies

Here the issue is the scope of our salvation. Salvation involves every part of us – spirit, soul and body. Our destiny is not to be disembodied spirits in heaven, which is what we are after we die and go to be with Jesus.

Being in the presence of Jesus is far better than life on earth with suffering and sin. But still better is the resurrection. As Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:3-4, in the resurrection we will no longer be “naked” or “unclothed” – that is, a spirit without a body in heaven with Jesus. In the resurrection we will be clothed with our new resurrected bodies.

Christianity is not like some traditions, where the goal is to escape creation or our bodies. Creation is good, though fallen. And the solution is not abandoning it to be in a purely spiritual realm. The solution is the renewal of creation.

So it is in the resurrection, not simply being in the presence of Jesus in heaven, that we will find our completion; our full salvation.

We see that this is true in Jesus’ resurrection. He was not a spirit or a ghost. He was an embodied person. In Luke 24:39 the resurrected Jesus said to his disciples, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” He had a real body, even though it was supernatural, disappearing and appearing at times, waking through walls and so forth. It was supernatural, but it was a body nonetheless.

And this is also our hope. Philippians 3:20-21 says, “from (heaven) we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.”

Our hope is much more than something that happens to our spirit. Every part of us will be saved when Jesus returns. 

Third, our hope is not something that has to do with just me going to heaven.

Our hope includes the fulfillment of all of God’s purposes

The issue here is the excessive individualism. Salvation includes all of creation, not just me making it to heaven. 2 Peter 3:13 says, “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” This is when, as Paul says in Romans 8:21, “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” Then there will be a new creation.

Salvation also includes God gathering together a new community, not just me being in heaven. Jesus sais in Luke 13:29, “And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.” There will be a new community.

Salvation includes the establishment of God’s kingdom over all the earth, not just me in heaven. Just as Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:10, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” so it will be when Jesus returns. The innocent will be lifted up and the wicked will be put down. Justice will be done. All wrongs will be righted, and all suffering will be rewarded. And righteousness will prevail.

Our hope is much more than me being in heaven with Jesus, it is the fulfillment of God’s grand plan, formulated from before the beginning of time, brought to completion through Jesus, when he returns. God’s people living in a perfect creation, in righteousness, peace and joy (Romans 14:17).

 

Because Jesus defeated death, rose from the grave, ascended to God’s right hand and reigns over all we have a great and amazing hope!

But do you have this hope? It is one thing to learn it in your head, but do you have it in your heart? Receive the new resurrection life that Jesus gives. As Jesus said, “ask and you will receive.” Ask for and receive God’s free gift of new life in Jesus. 

William Higgins

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