A NEW AND DIFFERENT LIFE THROUGH JESUS CHRIST ALONE
There's a joke about two prawns called Justin and Christian. They were the best of friends, and used to swim around doing everything together. But one of the problems with being a prawn is that you're always being chased by sharks that want to eat you. And one day Justin got fed up with this, and decided that life would be far easier if only he could be a shark instead. So Justin prayed to God and said "please make me into a shark, then I'll be so much happier because I won't be chased anymore." So a bolt of lightning came down from heaven into the water and lo and behold Justin was turned into a shark. At first he thought this was really great, so he went off to find his friend Christian. But of course as soon as Justin got close Christian saw a shark and swam away as fast as he could. Justin kept chasing him but it was no good, and soon he felt very lonely - he'd lost his friend. So he decided that maybe it wasn't so bad being a prawn after all. So he prayed to God again and said, "I'm really sorry, I've made a mistake, please turn me back into a prawn." So another bolt of lightning came out of heaven into the water, and Justin was turned back into a prawn. Immediately he swam off to find his friend. But when he got to where Christian lived, his friend wouldn't open the door because he thought Justin was still a shark. But Justin shouted through the door: "It's ok, I'm not a shark anymore, I'm a prawn again Christian!"
Now this message isn't about prawns, but I would like us to spend a few minutes thinking about the life we have when we're born again through Jesus Christ.
On Passover we traditionally commemorate the death of our Lord and Saviour for the sins of all mankind. He has paid the death penalty in our stead. And if we're willing to come to him and accept that sacrifice then the curse - the sting of death that has been on all mankind since Adam - is overcome.
But there's something else we celebrate at this time of year. It has a vital and literally life changing significance. Christ was resurrected - he overcame the grave and eternal life was inaugurated. It is only through Christ's resurrection that we can have life. Christ alone had the power to overcome the grave. And when we enter his death - symbolically through baptism - we also enter his life. Romans 6:3-4 says: "Or don't you know that all of us who were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." We are born again through our watery grave into Christ's life.
But what kind of life is that? What does it mean for us? What is the source of it? How is it different to our physical life? Let's briefly look at three areas.
What type of life is it?
In John 10:10 Jesus said he had come that we might have life to the full. But what does that mean? Does it mean we'll be rich and healthy, always have the best food, the finest wines, great company? Does it mean we'll travel the world on cruise ships or first class flights? Does it mean we'll always feel happy, be guaranteed good relationships, never feel lonely?
I think something that puts some people off Christianity is that they look for these physical blessings and instead see that Christians have the same problems as everyone else. This undermines their faith.
So what kind of life is it? In the New Testament there are three main Greek words that are translated "life" in English - it's interesting to understand what is lost in the translation.
The first word is "Psuche", occuring 105 times. It means what sustains our physical life i.e. our soul, breath of life, the spirit God breathed into Adam and Eve. The human spirit. It's the life we have humanly - the life every human is born with.
The second word is "Bios", occuring 11 times. This is as in "biology" or "biosphere." It also means physical life, physical matter. It's the body and the physical things needed to sustain it e.g. food.
But the word translated life most of all in the New Testament - 134 times - is different. The word is "Zoe." We know it as a girl's name but it means something wonderful and profound. It's the spiritual life God himself has! It means the absolute fulness of life which belongs to God and Jesus Christ.
It's the real, active, genuinely love filled spiritual life that God has had always and that will last forever. This is a different level, a higher, deeper, wider, more profound life than we can humanly conceive. It's the top of mountain. It's a different, special, wonderful kind of life. It's the life that we will inherit for all eternity. But it's also a life that God wants us to start to taste and experience now - through his Spirit, when we are born again.
Christ has already passed from death to life so there is no longer a barrier. When Christ says he's come that we may have life to the full - Zoe life - he means we can start to experience the kind of spiritual life he has - now! It's not about physical blessings - though there's nothing wrong with those per se. It's a different, special, wonderful kind of life which God wants us to reach out for, to grasp, and to start to live!
What is the source of that life?
How can we start to have access to that life? That Zoe life that is the absolute fulness of life God has always intended for us to enjoy. The life offered by the Tree of Life way back in the Garden of Eden.
Let's read a few verses, and as we read them, remember that in each case the life referred to is "Zoe" - this spiritual life.
John 1:1, 4: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God In him was life, and that life was the light of men."
John 6:32-35: "Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of life is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.' 'Sir,' they said, 'from now on give us this bread.' Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.'"
John 11:25-26: "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?'"
John 14:6: "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.'"
John 20:31: "But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name."
Romans 6:23: "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
I believe these scriptures are so clear. Jesus himself is the source of this life. More than that he actually is life itself! "I am the life!" he said in John 14:6. Jesus is our new life, our Zoe, our love, our strength, our peace.
Our old life is gone - now we have access to something so much more wonderful, so much more profound, so much more incredible - real life in Jesus Christ alone! There is nothing else. He himself is the life - that's why he came into the world. We must focus totally on Jesus. His words are Spirit and they are life.
We must not refuse to come to him as the Pharisees did. Look at John 5:39-40: "You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life."
The ancient Israelites never had access to that life. No! This Zoe life in Jesus Christ is one of the better promises God has offered us in his great mercy. Will we reach out and grasp it? Will we let go of our old life and allow Jesus in to give us that new Zoe life everyday?
How do we experience that life in action day by day? What does it involve? Our Pastor General has given us three dimensions in which we can experience this life.
Upward - in worship. This means reaching out to God in song, in prayer and in doing everything we do for Jesus Christ. It means giving him - our source of life - glory, honour, praise and gratitude for everything. He is the source of life - this is why we must focus more and more of our worship directly on Jesus Christ. We need songs and hymns with words that concentrate on him, our saviour and king. He is the love, the light, the life. We must focus our eyes on him all the time. We need to fully grasp and appreciate the magnitude of what he has done for us and the new life we have through him.
Inward - this is really about ensuring we are allowing Christ to live in us. Praying and studying to seek and know the will of God. Meditating. Thinking on the things of love, truth, hope and peace - the fruit of the Spirit that comes from our new life. II Corinthians 4:16-18 says: "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."
Outward dimension of our life. We must be focused on bringing this same love, hope and freedom that Christ gave us to others - sharing what we have. So that they too can have access to real life. It's reaching out to people where they are, empathising, understanding, bringing love. It's doing what we can to make their corner of the world a little easier. In I John 3:16-18 it says: "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth."
In conclusion, we need to fully understand what Christ has done for us in his death and resurrection. We need to fully grasp that we have access now to a different kind of life in Jesus Christ alone. It's a wonderful, love filled, hope filled spiritual life that will last forever. And we can start to experience it now - in the upward, inward and outward dimensions.
You know there's a lot of simplicity in Jesus Christ. Let's not be scared to reach out to him and invite him into our lives. Let's not miss out by intellectualising or being aloof. We have access to eat from the Tree of Life. Jesus wants us to live in him now and everyday of our lives. He wants to pour Zoe life into us.
William Barclay said this: "To be a follower of Jesus, to know who he is and what he means, is to have a super-abundance of life When we walk with Jesus, there comes a new vitality, a superabundance of life. It is only when we live with Christ that life becomes really worth living and we begin to live in the real sense of the word."
Let's finish with Hebrews 12:2: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
© Simon Williams
Revised July 2002