Life After the Born-Again Birth (6/5/16)

Posted by on Jun 14, 2016 in Sermons | 0 comments

There is life after death, and so it’s critically important to prepare for that life.  To enter that life, we must be forgiven and to be “in Christ”… in other words, we must be Born Again.  But what happens between that salvation experience and eternity?  Is there life after birth???

During our sermon of 6/5/16, PUMC Lay Leader Larry Bakely shared his experiences on this “Life after the Born-Again Birth” by looking at Paul’s ministry as described in Galatians 1:11-24.  Larry was filling in for Pastor Jim Bolton who was on vacation.

The following recording is from the 9:30 service.  Click on the play button, then scroll down to follow along…

Our scripture reading was from Galatians 1:11-24  Open the below drop down box to follow along.  The New International Version is shown…

Galatians 1:11-24

11 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up.

12 I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.

14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased

16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man,

17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus.

18 Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days.

19 I saw none of the other apostles — only James, the Lord’s brother.

20 I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie.

21 Later I went to Syria and Cilicia.

22 I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ.

23 They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”

24 And they praised God because of me.

 

 

Let me run some dates past you: July 4. December 25.  April 15.

What thoughts do they conjure up?

Now what about these dates:       July 5.  December 26.  April 16???

Chances are, you might greet these dates with relief.  The parties and cookouts you planned are all done.  The Christmas gifts that you spent so much time thinking about have been bought, wrapped, and unwrapped.

And that tax return- it’s filed!  You clicked “send” or dropped it in the mailbox.  It’s done.  Check it off!!!

Are you saved?

Some of us can name the date, and time and place where we “got saved.”  Others may not remember a specific date, others may not be certain.

But all of us can probably feel this sense of “check it off.”  “Punch your ticket to heaven.”  “Don’t have to worry about it any more.”

But what happens when your July 5, or your December 26, or when your April 16 comes?  We often think about the question, “Is there life after death?”  But do we consider the question  “Is there life after birth?”

Or more specifically, is there life after the born-again  birth?  What happens after we get saved?

 

Life After Death…

As most of you know, my wife Kim passed away last year on June 20.

Since that date and during this past year, I’ve been especially sensitive to listening to what God is telling me about the rest of my life. KimnLarry_100_1340

During this time, I have had three mountaintop experiences… Moments when I knew that God was trying to teach me something.  Not to force everything into a tidy 3-point sermon, but I really have experienced three distinct moments  that others might chalk off as “coincidence” or “wishful thinking.”  But I consider them to be holy moments where God was, and still is, working with me.

When I chose this morning’s  passage from Galatians, it was clear to me that the life of Paul: his calling, his passion, and the authority that he had from Jesus Himself, dovetailed with these three holy moments that I’ve experienced over the past year.

And so, as we consider the question, “is there life after birth?”,  these three holy moments help describe what that life after the born-again birth is all about.

I’ll summarize these moments with three words:  Go, With, and Gloria.

 

 

Go…

First of all, the Life after the Born-Again Birth gives us the power of “GO.”

When Kim was in the hospital, her Mom and I were visiting,  and somehow the question about lunch arose.  There was a discussion about my going downstairs to get some lunch and Mom offering to wait around for me to return.  I hesitated a moment, and Kim said with a loud clear voice: Go!

Now you have to realize that at that point, everything she said was only in a whisper.  The breath wasn’t there.  But she said, strong and clear with her full voice- Go!

It didn’t take me long to realize that this was a God moment.  This word Go meant a lot more than just going for lunch.

The Power of Go is a call from God.  It’s a challenge.  We’re called to Go from our comfort zones and to change.  Look at Saul in this passage.  Verse 13 talks about his “previous way of life”  …. how he persecuted Christians.

But the Power of Go hit Saul and changed him to Paul.  Verse 15 tells us that God called him.  God changed Saul –  a man who persecuted the faith,  into one who preached the faith.

 

 

Genesis 12:1-4

The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram left…


What about Abram? He’s another person in the Bible whose name was changed.  In Genesis 12 God called him to a different land.  Go.  Leave your country.  Leave your family.  Leave your people.  Go.  You may not understand where I’m sending you, but Go.  That couldn’t have been easy.

 

Exodus 3:9-12

And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.

So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”


Or what about Moses?   Before he had the mountaintop experience on Mt. Sinai, he had that great mountaintop experience in the desert-  at the Burning Bush.  But the bottom line was that God called Moses to leave his comfortable way of life, return to Egypt, and confront Pharaoh.

This wasn’t easy for Moses either.

In fact he even argues with God and ends up telling God to please pick somebody else!  But God gives us mountaintop experiences and burning bushes so that we can Go and serve Him.

 

 

The power of Go brings change.  God calls us to Go and He molds us into something else. But the power of Go also gives freedom.

Beginning with verse 16 in our passage,  Paul tells us that God was “pleased to reveal His Son IN me.”   Paul was freed from the burden of figuring out his theology.

  • He didn’t have to go to seminary.
  • He didn’t need permission from James and Peter.

He only had to preach what God had put into him.

Next week, when Pastor Jim returns, we’ll celebrate holy communion.   And one of the lines in our communion liturgy says “Free us for Joyful Obedience.”

Psalm 103:12

As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

Matt 6:25

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

Matthew  10:19-20

But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.


Once we’ve encountered Jesus, we’re freed from the burdens that take away our joy. We can leave behind our regrets, our doubts, and any sense that we can’t obey because we’re unworthy or unable. In the life after the born‑again birth, the power of Go gives us the faith to let go of ourselves and to trust in God.

Moses may have had a lot of doubts about going to Pharaoh, but the power of Go makes that worry go away. It replaces worry with Joy so that we can serve Him.

 

 

With…

Life after the Born-Again Birth gives us the power of Go.

And secondly, it gives us the power of With.

When you loose someone you love, part of your identity goes away. You feel like you only have one arm. You feel like Swiss cheese. I kept thinking, “how can I be me without her.” Who am I, in this “new reality?”

I also learned that when you’re on the other side of a reception line at a viewing, the thing that people say the most to you is “sorry for your loss.” Without… loss… missing… empty…

From June onwards, the word “without” was heavy in my thoughts.Sunflower-WithAlways _400x300

Three months later, on Labor Day, someone came over to my house with some cards and gifts. One of the items she gave me was a picture with an inscription from Matthew 28:20:

“Lo, I am WITH you always, even to the end of the age.”

That Holy Moment, along with some other moments that were telling me the same thing, convinced me that God was working to turn my “Without” into “With.”

 

Matthew 28:18-20

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,  baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son  and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


God is calling us to leave our comfortable surroundings, to carry our cross, to Go into the world and make disciples of all nations.

But He goes With us, and He is with us always.

 

Verse 16 of today’s passage tells us that not only did God send Paul, but He also revealed His Son IN Paul. The Spirit of God wasn’t just something Paul had to study and learn. He didn’t have to consult with anyone else or to join with Peter and James. In the life after the born‑again birth, God, in some mysterious way indwells us. He becomes part of us. He comes to be With us.

What does the word Orphan mean?

A simple definition would be that an orphan is someone who doesn’t have any parents. An orphan is alone. In other words, an orphan is Without. He doesn’t have the power of With.

John 14:16-21

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth…But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

 

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

 

On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.


In the life after the born‑again birth, we have the Holy Spirit. God promises to live in us. He won’t leave us as orphans.

Instead, He changes our Without into With. God doesn’t leave us on our own. The power of With is God’s power within us.

 

Someone has said that a “coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.

And so many times in this past year, I’ve sensed God’s presence. Little things keep happening. People say or do something out of the blue that answers something that was on my mind at that same moment.  The presence of God… the power of “With”, is unmistakable.

Many times in the Bible we read the phrase “The Lord was with him…”

Genesis 39:2-3

The Lord was with Joseph,

and he prospered…

Judges 1:19-20

The Lord was with the men of Judah.

They took possession of the hill country…

1 Samuel 3:19

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up,

and he let none of his words fall to the ground.

1 Samuel 18:12-13

Saul was afraid of David,

because the Lord was with David but had left Saul.

Luke 1:27-28

The angel went to her and said,

“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

The Lord was with people who were called to do great things.  He didn’t leave them as orphans.  He gave them the power of With so that they could do His will.

 

Not only is God With us, but the power of With also means that we help each other.

Last June, as people kept showing up on my doorstep with hot dinners, the verse that kept running through my mind was 2 Corinthians 1:3-5….

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,

who comforts us in all our troubles,  so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

God is with us so that we can be with others.  In the life after the born‑again birth, God gives us the power of With so that we can Go and strengthen others.

 

Gloria!

The life after the born-again birth gives us the power of Go, and With. It also gives us the power of Gloria.

Some of you may remember a hurricane that came through our state some years back. Some of you may remember Archie Bunker’s Daughter on All in the Family. That’s not the Gloria I’m talking about.  Let me explain.

Christmas Eve15 choir _IMG_1460 copySM

The third Holy Moment I want to share this morning happened during the Christmas Eve service. One of the hymns that evening was “Angels We Have Heard on High.” I was in the choir loft, and we were singing that great refrain- “Gloria. Gloria.  In excelsis Deo.” Glory to God in the Highest.

All of a sudden, I got what I’d have to call a vision. Maybe it was an overactive imagination…. I don’t know.  But it was strong. I had this sense that I was in heaven, and that there were thousands and thousands of people- or beings of some sort- who were singing right along with us. Our voices in this room smoothly merged with the voices in heaven. Everything was happening at the same time.

It was loud, powerful, and they were singing with us. After what was probably only a few seconds, my mind transitioned back to “reality.”

Even though I was in the choir loft, surrounded by a lot of talented voices, what I was hearing in the loft was sooo much weaker that what I had heard in my vision. Gloria.  Praise.

In the life after the born-again birth we live in a constant state of Gloria! The life after the born‑again birth begins when we realize that God is God and we are not.

Sometimes that seems simple, and easy to say.

But do we really live it? In today’s passage, Paul goes to great pains to tell the Galatians that he was simply telling them what God was telling him to say. Paul didn’t come with great wisdom. He didn’t try to design a new religion. Whenever he explains his ministry, he puts the focus on God.

 

The book of Acts records several accounts of Paul’s conversion.  One of them is in chapter 22…

Acts 22:6-11

 “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’

 

“‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked.  “‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied…

 

“‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked.

 

“‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’


The Pharisee Saul had his own agenda.  But his encounter with Jesus changed all of that.  Instead of his own plans, Saul turned around 180 degrees and took on Jesus’ agenda with all his heart.

Saul’s conversion wasn’t just a name changer, it was a game changer!

Just as Paul was blinded on that road to Damascus, the power of Gloria blinds us to our own worries, fears, and plans.  It replaces all of that with a complete devotion to God’s assurance, presence, and kingdom.

Max Lucado wrote a devotion on this passage.  He described Paul as being

“inspired by the Holy Spirit and Punch‑drunk  on the love that makes the impossible possible: salvation.” 

 

How many of you are on Facebook?

As you browse through your timeline, what are some of the things people post? If your timeline is anything like mine you probably see a lot of pictures of vacations, or family, things like sunsets or rainbows.

We post things that are important to us.  We want to share a bit of ourselves with our friends.  And we like to read what others have posted because we all have so much in common.  If you really identify with someone’s post, or if it inspires you in some way, you might even share it on your own wall.  You might pass it along to your own friends.

In a way, the power of Gloria is like our Facebook wall.  Gloria brings us into a reverence and awe of God.  It brings us into a deep love of Jesus that just oozes out, and we have to express it.  The power of Gloria is contagious.

Verse 24 of Galatians 1 tells us that the people in Judea looked at Paul’s about-face and praised God because of it.  Paul’s purpose in life had been changed.  His interest, the things that made him tick… they had all been changed.

Our choir anthem this morning is called “Give Me Jesus.”  If Paul had Facebook,  he might have wanted to post the words to this song…

In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.

When I am alone, Give me Jesus.

When I come to die, Give me Jesus

You can have all this world, Give me Jesus.

 

The power of Gloria compels us to make Jesus the all in all focus of our lives.  It makes us “punch drunk” and wanting to sing.

In Acts chapter 16 Paul and Silas are beaten and thrown in prison…

Acts 16:25-34

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken…

 

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas…. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

 

At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized.… he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God — he and his whole family.


Instead of complaining, or worrying, or being in fear because of what they were going through, Paul and Silas were singing hymns!  They were filled with the power of Gloria, and God used them to bring others to Jesus.

 

The power of Gloria reminds us that our eternal home is a place where we won’t have an agenda. Sin will be gone.  God will be in complete control.

 

Revelation 5:11-12

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand.

They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders.

In a loud voice they sang:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”


Throughout eternity, our love and awe will spill out to glorify God!  In this perfect place that we’re all longing for, praising God will be our main activity.

If this is what we’re longing for,  then maybe we should be focused on worship and praise in the here and now. 

 

2 Corinthians 3:18.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.


The song, “Shine Jesus Shine” references 2 Corinthians 3:18. This verse calls us to reflect God’s Glory and to be changed into His likeness.

The song includes the lineMirrored here may our lives tell the story.

How well are we reflecting the Glory of God? In the life after the born-again birth, God gives us a taste of heaven by giving us the power of Gloria.

 

Micach 6:8

He has showed you, O man, what is good.

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.


Go…    With…    Gloria…

The prophet Micah tells us that the Lord wants us to Go-  He gives us action verbs:  to Act, to Love, To Walk.

He also tells us to depend on God’s power of With. We can’t walk unless we walk With our God.

But note that he tells us that our walk must be in humility.   The power of Gloria is what makes us humble.

Our “Punch-Drunk” love of God will let us put Him first.  Gloria lets us lift up Jesus instead of  ourselves. 

 

We hunger for the gifts of With and Gloria.
With is our authority and power…
… We can’t do anything useful for God unless it’s done through the Holy Spirit.

Gloria is our motivation and purpose…
… We’re in Awe of God and we want others to love Him too.

But Go is our life.  Go is what God has called us to do…  It’s why He saved us.  We’re called to Go and reflect God’s Glory in the world, to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

God doesn’t lead us to the mountaintop so we can stay on the mountaintop. He blesses us with the undeserved powers of With and Gloria. He keeps giving us mountaintop experiences so we can grow closer to Him.

But He gives us these gifts so that we can Go. Could it be  that we never get off of the mountaintop? Do we neglect to live the life that comes after the born-again birth?

 

Pastor Jim wrote an article for the cover of the June Steeple Notes.

I think it also applies to the life of Paul and to the life after the born-again birth that we’re called to live.  I’d like to conclude with this story:

 

There’s an old story about a young boy who had a great interest in playing the piano.  As an incentive, and wanting to encourage him, the mother took him to see a performance by Ignance Paderewski.  Paderewski was an accomplished Polish pianist, composer, and statesman. 

The mother and son found their seats near the front of the concert hall.  The boy was awestruck and sat in wide‑eyed wonder, staring at the piano as it sat on the stage.

The mother began talking to a friend who was sitting nearby, and she failed to notice that her son arose from his seat and walked away.

As the house lights began to dim and the spotlight hit the piano, the mother gasped as she saw her son seated at the piano bench!  Her gasps quickly turned to fear as her son began playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star!”

Before the mother could go to the stage to retrieve her son, the famous concert pianist appeared on the stage and quickly walked over to the piano where the boy was still playing.

Paderewski whispered in the boy’s ear, “don’t quit… keep playing.”

He then reached down with his left hand and began filling in the bass part.  Then with his right hand, reached around the boy, encircling him, to add a running abligato.  Together, the older master and the young novice mesmerized the crowd! 

 

 

God is calling us to be filled with awe, to get out of our comfort zone, to get up on the stage, and to join Him at the piano.

Life is difficult, but when we Go,  we’ll find that He is already With us.  God wants us to be with Him so He can wrap His arms around us.  So He can help us to live the music of the life that He’s planned for us.

If you’ve been born again, your April 16 is now.  Have you left your seat?  Are you living the life after the born-again birth?

 

 


Quiz Time!

As you reflect on what you’ve just heard/read, give this quiz a try.  If you don’t understand an answer (or if you disagree with the “correct” answer, post a comment)…

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