This morning our Internet connection went down at home. Fifteen years ago, this phrase wouldn’t have even made sense. Today, it spells catastrophe for someone like myself, who works remotely and “needs” the Internet to get things done and get paid. So, like many other freelance web developers in the U.S., I packed up my laptop and other gear, hopped in the car, and began my morning commute to the local Starbucks for a refreshing cup (or 3) of my favorite coffee and access to their free WiFi connection.
As I was leaving our tiny town, I heard a sudden cacophony of sirens blasting through the crisp morning air. I then watched as (at least) two ambulances, a fire truck, and three police cars came screaming past me with their lights flashing, and headed straight for the center of town.
Over the years, Sarah and I have developed the habit of praying every time we see emergency workers with their lights on. We never know where they are headed to or from, but we know that the work they do is vital and dangerous. Since we can do nothing to help them physically, we pray. We pray for safety for the workers and whomever they have been sent to help. We pray that those involved who don’t know the Lord will have a chance to meet and respond with faith to Jesus’ offer of forgiveness from sin.
And lately, I have begun to pray a simple benediction: “Heavenly Father, preserve life.” I’m not sure why I started adding this little phrase to the end of my prayer for emergency workers. In fact, I haven’t really given it a great deal of thought, until this morning.
As I was praying for the host of police, EMTs, and firemen headed to the scene in Wilmore today, and breathed those final words and an “Amen”, I was suddenly flooded with emotion at the thought that followed. Hear these words…
God is not in the business of preserving temporal life, He is in the business of creating new, abundant, eternal life.
Now hear me correctly when I say this. I am not saying that God does not care about our physical well-being. He most certainly does. How do I know this? Two reasons come immediately to mind.
First, Genesis tells us that God created humanity in his image and likeness. He created us to rule over the earth and its creatures. And when he was finished creating us, God blessed humanity and saw that what he had made was “very good” (Genesis 1:26-31). We are created in the very image of God, which makes us of inestimable worth, not just as souls, but as whole people, body and soul.
Second, Jesus’ earthly ministry was a two-fold ministry of healing and restoration. He miraculously healed physical illnesses and demon possessions, restoring physical and mental well-being, as well as restoring relationships between those who were afflicted and their families and communities. In the second part of his ministry, his death and resurrection, Jesus healed humanity from the effects of sin and restored our relationships with one another and with God.
So, when I say that God is not in the business of preserving temporal life, I don’t mean that he doesn’t care about our physical lives. What I mean is that His business is far grander. He came to give life abundantly . . .
“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. he will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:7-10)
The Son of God became a man, Jesus of Nazareth, in order to fulfill a life-giving mission. As we saw in Genesis, God is the creator of all life. What we learn in the New Testament is that the work of creation was mediated through the Son.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God int he beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” (John 1:1-4)
The Word is the Third Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, who became Jesus. With the Incarnation the very creator of life became a man; the source of life, life himself became human.
But why would God do this? Surely he wouldn’t go to such lengths in order to simply “preserve” life as we have known it since the garden of Eden. I mean, he is God, right? If he wants to save a person’s life, he just has to will it.
Remember when I said that God’s plans were far grander than this? Jesus Christ didn’t just come to heal the sick and drive out demons, but also to heal humanity from the effects of sin and give us New Life. Only he could do this, because “in him was life”. Through his willing death on the cross, Jesus bridged the gap between God and people that was caused by sin. He laid down his life for ours (John 10:15).
Now, this seems like a pretty crummy trade from my point of view. Why would God himself give up his life, the source of all life, for dead and dying people in a dead and dying world?
Because death doesn’t have the last word.
Jesus said, “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.” (John 11:25) You see, Jesus conquered death through death, and breathed his life, life itself, into dead and dying humanity, so that we too might have that life in us. And we know this is true, because God raised Jesus from the dead. If he is alive, then we can be alive through him. Really ALIVE!!!
Where sin reigns, death follows. Christ has overcome death through the Cross, so that we newly minted humans can experience abundant life, freed from the power of sin and death, for all eternity.
Have you experienced this newness of life for yourself? Do you know that you are made in the very image of God? Do you know that you are of inestimable worth? Do you recognize that you are no longer under the power of sin and death?
Hear the words of Paul to the Romans, and to us: “Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness…now you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:13-14; 22-23)
God is not primarily in the business of preserving life, he is in the business of creating new life. Jesus offers this gift of abundant and eternal life to each of us.
Will you receive it?