Summary: The most important choice we'll ever make in life is the choice between life or death. When we choose Jesus, we choose life. It's always the best choice.
We’ve journeyed five weeks together exploring some of the choices we have to make in life. The choices we’ve explored are purpose or popularity, surrender or control, discipline or regret and important or urgent. Each are important choices, and the one we choose ultimately determines the course and quality of our lives. There remains one choice that will determine the course and quality of our lives more than all the other choices, and that is the choice between life and death.
None of us would ever consciously choose death. That choice is antithetical to human nature. Besides, we don’t have to choose death. It’s already been chosen for us, right? We are all going to face death. The old saying is true: The only certainties in life are death and taxes. Even so, we don’t like to talk about death. Some folks even have a superstitious fear that talking about death causes death to happen. Start talking about death, and sure enough, someone you know is going to die! I hesitate to even bring it up this morning. We’ve been blessed to not have any deaths in our congregation in a couple of months. That may change after today’s message. Let’s pray otherwise. Maybe you should just pay me to stop talking about it right now! Too late! We already did.
I also suspicion some of you, when you saw the topic for today’s message, immediately thought this would be a pro-life message. I can honestly say that it is, but not in the way you may initially believed. I’ll confess. I’m adamantly pro-life. I believe life begins at conception, and that we must do all we can to protect the life of the un-born. This, however, isn’t a pro-life message in that regard. It is, however, a pro-life message in the sense that each one of us have been called to life, eternal life, and eternal life can be ours as we choose to live our lives walking in the light of Jesus Christ. That’s the simple point of this message: Choose Jesus, choose life—eternal life.
For the people of the new Testament death was often in their thoughts. They were a persecuted Church for whom the next day, the next hour even, could signal arrest and possible death. There are some 200 plus references to death or dying in the New Testament. But, death was never referred to as something to fear. The message of the gospel was that the fear of death has been removed. In the place of death is eternal life. Far from fearing death, the believer can see death as a necessary step that leads to new life, to release from all the ravages of this world.
So John writes to the Christians in the late first century words that are equally applicable to us at the beginning of the 21st century. He says: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life.” There’s no need to fear death if you believe in the name of the Son of God, because belief in Jesus’ name brings eternal life. Back in chapter 4 John tells the believers that there is no fear in love but perfect love drives out fear, and it’s the same here. Believing in Jesus Christ isn’t just about knowledge and belief, you see, it’s about a relationship. It’s about a relationship of love. Believing in the name of Christ and loving Christ are the same.
This same writer, John, is simply reiterating something he heard Jesus utter years before. Ad he recorded his gospel account, he recorded Jesus’ prayer as he was preparing to face the cross. Listen to the words he records on the lips of Jesus:
After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. 2 For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. (John 17: 1 – 3 NLT)
Here’s John’s point: If we’ve chosen Jesus, we’ve already chosen eternal life. God’s life has begun in us now. Death, as great an enemy as it is, is nothing to fear. Life has overcome death, and we can have a blessed assurance in the knowledge that Jesus is ours and we are his. It’s about a relationship.
Assurance. Such a nice word, but the assurance of eternal life can be ours. Assurance is knowing that we know. Look, we’ve all doubted our salvation at some point. That persistent sin in our lives, the challenge of adversity or any low point in our spiritual journey causes us to doubt. John Wesley, too, had doubts. Before his Aldersgate experience in 1738, he wrote and confessed his own identity as a child of God was missing. There may be moments when a difficult situation will remove any sense of personal assurance. Maybe lapses into sin will lead us to doubt. Nevertheless, relationships—and being a child of God is just that—are not broken off instantly. The same God who gracefully justifies us also preserves us in our weakness. The merit of our identity is not based on our subjective knowledge but on the work of Christ and the Spirit in our lives. Assurance is nothing other than a gift of God to his children.