by Jon Wood, Groups Pastor
In his most recent (and profoundly significant) book, Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal, United States Senator Ben Sasse discusses technology that’s being developed right now with the goal of extending human life. Through bionic implants, advances in medicine and other developments that are seemingly straight out of Star Trek, some researchers are claiming that human life expectancy could one day reach 200 years or so. The idea is mind boggling and the information surrounding it makes for a fascinating read. Facing the possibility of living for 200 years, however, I’m left with a question…why would anyone want that?
Ever since Genesis 3, mankind has wanted to extend their life. We have a primal fear of death, and a longing for immortality. This isn’t surprising though. Ecclesiastes tells us that God has set eternity into the heart of man. Even so, death is an uncomfortable subject for us. Because death is so unsettling we invent ways to think we’re prolonging our life, all the while forgetting what the Bible says is our natural state: that we’re dead already.
In Ephesians 2, Paul makes the somber statement that apart from Christ we’re dead in our trespasses and sins. The first four verses describe just how bad our situation actually is. All of mankind, in our natural state is born in sin, making us spiritual corpses. Like the children following the Pied Piper of Hamelin, we follow the prince of the air (Satan) and walk in lockstep with him.
All of us, by our very nature, are children of God’s wrath. Therefore, we’re not sinners simply because we sin, we sin because we’re natural born sinners. Apart from Christ, it’s who we are and we’re professionals at it. Even more amazing is that we don’t even know how bad off we are because sin seems so normal to us. We’re comfortable in that state because we’ve never experienced anything other. It makes sense then, that we’d try to prolong our lives because in our death, we have no category for what life really is. Without God intervening to save us, we’re relegated to rearranging the Titanic’s deck chairs until we finally sink into the hopelessness of physical death.
But God… (Ephesians 2:4)
There may not be a better, more hopeful phrase in all of the Bible. God, in His rich mercy, in His great love has made us alive together with Christ! If you’re a believer, if you’ve confessed with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead you’re no longer left in your natural state. The Bible says you’re now alive to God! That means you’re no longer a slave to sin, no longer under God’s wrath, no longer dead. Just as Lazarus walked out of the physical tomb when Jesus called him, Jesus has called you to walk out of the spiritual death of your natural state. All that we treasured before, all the sin we held so dear is no longer desirable to us when we’re made alive like this. Sin becomes repulsive and Jesus becomes irresistible.
He has awakened our souls to love Him, to walk with Him and to be captivated by His beauty so that He may show us the immeasurable riches of His grace.
That grace, Paul says in verse 8 is how we’ve been made alive. There is nothing we could’ve done to earn it or deserve it. God is the one who decides to give it as well as the faith to receive it. It’s God who makes us alive so that no one can boast in anything but His amazing and saving grace. Is there any better news in all of the universe?
God Himself has called us to be alive to Him! And God has purpose in this. Look at verse 10. We’re His workmanship and created to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do. Don’t miss the significance here. God has made us alive with a mission to carry out in which we should walk. In verse 10, the verb “walk” in the original Greek is active, carrying with it the idea that we’re made alive to “continue to be walking” in the good works God has given us to do. This is precisely why we have been made alive. That we may carry out the mission God gave us for His glory and for our joy.
So then, because we’re alive to God, we can pour ourselves out for His cause and be about His business. Of course, we still don’t like the idea of physical death. It strips away our dignity, separates us from those we love and comes for us all without impunity. But when death comes for the Christian, it’s a passage way into what life really is. We’ll be with Jesus and He’ll eagerly welcome us as a bridegroom welcomes his bride. He’ll look us in the eyes and say, “well done good and faithful servant.”
With that waiting for us, who would want to be on this earth for 200 years, mechanically and artificially alive through technological advances? We Christians have real, true, eternally joyful and everlasting life waiting for us. This life is only a shadow of the one to come so let’s not waste our time trying to prolong the inevitable. Instead, let’s embrace the truth that we’re alive to God. Let’s exhaust ourselves for the cause of the Kingdom. Let’s give our lives away instead of foolishly trying to extend them. When we’ve finished our race, when we’ve completed the good works God has prepared for us to do, when God calls us home to be with Him, then we can collapse, exhausted on our deathbed, knowing we gave it our all and that death isn’t the end. We’re no longer slaves to our old sin nature and have been made alive to God. We’ll be with Jesus and more alive than we’ve ever been.
Some years ago, when he was contemplating his own death, Billy Graham said the following:
“Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.”
God has made us alive. May every Christian live in this kind of confidence.
*For Further reading on this topic, I recommend Finally Alive by John Piper. In this book, the author explores the significance of the new birth from Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus in John 3, and what it means to be fully alive to God. You can order it here: https://www.amazon.com/Finally-Alive-John-Piper/dp/1845504216/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1548255515&sr=8-1&keywords=finally+alive+john+piper