Life after Birth

Reading: John 3.1-16
Tonight I want to talk about "life after birth". Do you believe in life after birth?

A funeral director once told me that his most depressing experience was with the funeral of an atheist. A group of friends gathered at the grave-side. One of them spoke about the man's life - and his death - then said, "Well, that's it! And that'll be it for us all one day!" And they just walked off.

Something in the human spirit says, "There must be life after death!" It is expressed in so many ways in the world's various religions.

But we're not talking about life after death. Today's question for young and old is this, "Is there life after birth?"

People engage in high-risk behaviour. They have been educated about the harmful effects of drugs, but take them anyway. They live - and drive - for thrills, risking the spills. An alarming number actively choose to end it all. They are willing to risk death, but aren't sure they can risk life!

Is there life after birth?

A Better Life

We've watched an older generation spend a great deal of time, energy and money looking for a better life. Yet I've had folk say to me, "If eternal life is just this life going on and on, I don't want it!"

We try to cram a lot into this present life, but it can't hold everything! It does have its limitations. For one thing we are mortal, and the fear of death can hang as a cloud over all that we do.

But the major limitation is personal. Like - "I love life. It's people I can't stand!" Or to bring it right home - "If you could kick your worst enemy in the pants every time he did you a bad turn, you'd be so sore you'd never be able to sit down!"

Some seek the better life in shops and industry. Some follow the beat of the latest music. Others are always looking to "get away from it all" in some favourite holiday spot or an alternative lifestyle.

But we can't escape from ourselves and things can never be just quite right even when we're away from it all. Perhaps that's why some people seem unsure that they would like their present life to go on and on! We wouldn't like our present problems extended into eternity!

Living and Growing

We live in the Burdekin where sugar is the major industry. Have you seen the fertiliser ad claiming that all the farmer has to do is "just add soil"? Actually, it's a little more complicated than that! The farmer opens the fertiliser bag, puts in a couple of shovelsful of soil and a 30-centimetre piece of cane, adds a few buckets of water, and shakes it all up. Then he'll have a big bagful of sugar which can be divided among those little plastic bags of sugar you buy in the shops.

Of course not! Sugar cane has to grow and live before it is harvested and the sugar extracted. In a sense, sugar is the life-after-death of the sugar cane - but you're not supposed to have too much! To get good results in harvest-time, the farmer has to pay close attention to life-after-planting. His focus has to be keeping up the water and nutrients - we have plenty of sunshine already.

And just as surely, we were designed to live in relation to our Creator, God, and separation from him means death. I don't mean instant physical death. That obviously hasn't happened! But, without God, something in us has died and life cannot fully be what it was intended to be.

Paul puts it this way, "In the past you were spiritually dead because of your disobedience and sin" (Eph. 2.1). Sometimes people say, "But I'm just not interested in religion" - as if it's merely a matter of personal preferences. But this is a matter of life and death!

Or, as Paul put it in another letter, "What did you gain from doing the things that you are now ashamed of? The result of those things is death!" (Rom. 6.21).

Life after Birth?

It's no use postponing the whole question of God and eternal life until after we die. That's too late! The better life is meant to begin now! We can know life after birth - in fact, it is the guarantee of life after death!

Nicodemus was a very religious Jewish man who really wanted to find out about Jesus. Something about Jesus must have impressed him.

We aren't really sure what Nicodemus' question was, for Jesus cut across it with this stunning statement, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again (from above)" (John 3.3). For Nicodemus, this was a new and revolutionary concept, so Jesus stated it again - "No one can enter the Kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit" (v. 5). It's not enough to be born physically or "born of water" - we need a spiritual birth too!

To suggest that he might need such a thing could well have offended the good-living Nicodemus, but he was a genuine seeker after the truth and asked, "How can this be?" (v. 9).

The answer of Jesus centres on his own life and work. Nicodemus knew how the Israelites had been dying of snake-bite in Moses' time. The bronze snake on the pole symbolised punishment for their disobedience. When they looked at it, they were admitting the wrong they had done and were healed.

And that, Jesus explained, is like the way this spiritual birth becomes possible for us, for he himself would be lifted up (on a cross) so that everyone who looks to him in faith will have eternal life.

That's where that key verse fits in - "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3.16).

Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (10.10).

And that's life now, not just in the future! John put it this way, "God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5.11,12).

You are alive - heart and lungs functioning! But do you know the reality of life after birth? It is God's free gift in Jesus Christ (Rom. 6.23).

© Peter J. Blackburn, Mount Louisa Uniting Church, 30 November 2003
Except where otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, © International Bible Society, 1984.
PDF (317kB) of an earlier presentation of this theme with discussion questions as presented at a Fellowship Tea at Home Hill, 20 October 2000.

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