Eternal Life

A few weeks ago, I was honored to participate in a Celebration of Life service via Zoom. It was a first for me but there have been many firsts for us all in these challenging times. Thurston Shumway has been a local resident of Enfield for some time living with his daughter on Mecklenburg Road. The Zoom gathering was on what would have been his actual 103rd birthday. Thurston, whom I had known as Dad, had a sharp memory and whit.
As the Celebration began, folks popped up one after the other on my computer screen. From the start, even though they were from all over the country and all had their own personality, it was obvious they were a family. They had shared experiences and history and they had Thurston. The memories they shared painted a picture of him. He had a long life filled with accomplishments. The most obvious one was pictured before me in the faces of his family. Thurston was a farmer, a home builder and a house builder, and a pastor to at least three small rural churches. He had travelled to Uganda in search of a missing man in an area that was unstable and was able to find the man and return home safely. It was an honor to be present as the family shared their abundant memories.
Have you ever thought what might be shared about yourself by your family and friends at a Celebration of Your Life? What have you spent your life, your time, doing? When was the last time you thought about what was really important in life and what things were worth investing your life in? When was the last time you sat down and wondered if you would be pleased when you got to the end of your life, with the way you chose to spend it?
Think for a moment about the value of time. Someone wrote, “To realize the value of one month ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby. To realize the value of one hour, ask the sweethearts who are waiting to meet. To realize the value of one minute, ask the person who just missed their plane. To realize the value of one second…
There was a time one second seemed like a lifetime to me. A few years back, I had the pleasure of getting away from a New York winter for a couple of weeks. I went with some of the family to Florida in January. The sunshine, the warmth…
Enough of that. On with it. The second we got to the rental, I changed my clothes and ran to the pool. My grandson, Alex, who was three or four at the time, followed closely behind me until we reached the pool. I went to the shallow end to enter the pool, Alex went to the deep end and jumped in.
I turned to see him jump in. His head bobbed up for a couple of seconds and as we made eye contact, he quickly sunk out of site. Alex couldn’t swim. A fact he had failed to consider.
Every second it took me to jump in the pool, grab him from the bottom of the pool and drag him up for air, seemed like an excruciatingly long time.
Time. If one second can have that much value, then how much must eternal life be worth? Life in this world is very short. What do I have to do to have Eternal Life in Heaven?
John 3 Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus at night? There are many suggestions. Was the night the only time that Nicodemus had in his schedule? Was he worried about what his peers might think? Was Nicodemus seeking time with Jesus because he anticipated that Jesus would be interrupted by the crowds?
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” 4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” Jesus was saying to Nicodemus that in order to have salvation, one must be born from above.
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” 9 “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.
The reason why we must be born again spiritually is because physical birth can only give physical life. Horses produce horses. Dogs produce dogs. Cats produce cats. Jellyfish produce jellyfish. And mortal people produce mortal people. That is why in verse 6, Jesus said, 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” That which is given birth by God’s Holy Spirit has eternal, spiritual life. The Holy Spirit of God produces a new kind of person by a new kind of birth. It is the spiritual birth that gives us God’s eternal life. When we are born again, we become children of God, and we become part of the family of God.
10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11 Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? 13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. 14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” Nicodemus was a Jew. He was an Israelite. He was counting on his birth, his family, his heritage, God’s promises to the nation of Israel to get him to heaven. That’s why Jesus specifically mentioned to him that he needed to be born again, because the birth he was counting on wasn’t going to get him there.
16 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. 
God the Father loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so that we could have eternal life. The Bible clearly teaches us that eternal life is a gift from God. We could never earn it. God’s eternal life must be received as a gift.
A famous actor by the name of Steve McQueen was much like the characters that he portrayed on screen. He was successful until alcohol and a failed marriage left him empty and broken. He attended a crusade led by one of Billy Graham’s associates. McQueen made a profession of faith and requested to speak with Billy Graham personally. Later on, Graham did meet with McQueen for a couple of hours between flights while he was in Los Angeles. “Steve McQueen struggled with the thought of God giving eternal life to a man who had such a checkered past. In Titus 1:2, Steve McQueen found his hope: ” in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time. He requested something to write down the verse, but Billy Graham gave McQueen his Bible instead. Later, Steve McQueen died in Mexico while seeking experimental treatment for his terminal cancer. He passed into eternal life with his Bible opened to Titus 1 and his finger resting on verse 2. Regardless of our past, we have the hope of God’s eternal promise.” Much like Nicodemus, Steve McQueen was seeking some time with a religious official.
Eternal life is a free gift for all who will receive it, but it came at a high price! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Everybody needs to believe in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. But what does it mean to believe? What does it mean to have saving faith? Well, since eternal life is a gift from God, then believing is like receiving a gift from someone who loves you.
In order to receive God’s gift of eternal life, you don’t open a box, you open your heart. And you don’t take something out. You let someone in. By faith, you let Jesus Christ into your heart. By faith, you receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
Revelation 3:20, Jesus said: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Eternal life doesn’t start when you die. It starts when you believe, and it lasts forever.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 6:23

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