You can watch the message John shared at the McNeil campus at www.gatewaychurch.com/podcast.
Here are some resources for this week as well as the upcoming themes for the series:
Here are some of the notes from John’s message:
“God wants to breathe new life into us. All He needs is your permission. We’re starting this series The Exchange—because when we open our hearts to God through Christ, he says a number of things happen.
“Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-18
Opening your heart to this gift offered through Christ breathes into us new life. It’s not always that we instantly feel different but because of who God is – everything changes. It’s a new beginning!
Imagine if once there was an illegal immigrant child whose parents got killed by drug dealers on the streets of Washington DC. Now he’s a 5-yr-old orphan with no home. Living on the streets of Washington among dealers and thieves, struggling to find food in garbage cans, getting abused and taken advantage of, its a rough life, but after years, he learns to cope and survive. Now he’s 10—and tough. One day, The First Lady found out his plight, got to know him, and went and adopted him into the President’s family. Think of what’s changed for that young orphan kid. He’s gone from homeless, to legally having the White House as his official home. He now has a place—a safe, warm room prepared just for him. He went from his only playground being trash in the alleyways to having a huge, immaculate yard and any playground he wants built. He went from illegally here to a U.S. citizen, with all the rights and benefits of citizenship and has a loving family who want him.
But, what if in his tough, wounded pride, he refused? What if he refused to be adopted, and he chose to stay on the streets? His future will lead to death instead of life.
Why would anyone not choose life?
Some may struggle with believing there is any more than what we see in this life.
Thousands of stories of Near Death Experiences (NDEs) have convinced skeptical doctors and professors that there is life after death. Cardiologist Michael Sabom says: “I didn’t believe there was such a thing as a near-death experience…I wanted to see if it would pass scientific muster. It did. After five years of research, I published my findings in the book Recollections of Death.” – Dr. Michael Sabom
An oncologist named Dr. Long started out skeptical, but since conducted the largest study of NDEs and concludes, “By studying thousands of detailed accounts of NDErs, I found the evidence that led to this astounding conclusion: NDEs provide such powerful scientific evidence that it is reasonable to accept the existence of an afterlife.”—Dr. Jeff Long
Now we should not shape our theology or view of God and Heaven off of NDE stories. Those who went through this experience are all making interpretations of something they all say is impossible to describe. We need to shape our view from the Scriptures, but it is remarkable how so many of these stories sound like what we find in the Scriptures.
The Lord shows us the way to say “yes” to the exchange from death to life that God offers us. God says:
“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life.” Deuteronomy 30:19-20
Choose Life! It’s the great exchange that God freely offers every person. God offers a new life that starts now, a life reunited with the One who loves us and created us for eternal life with himself and with each other. God doesn’t force anyone into his family, so we must choose. He wants to adopt us, to bless us, to help us through this life’s trials and sufferings, then one day take us home. All we have to do is love him, commit ourself to him, and seek to follow him. We don’t have to prove we’re good enough, jump through religious hoops, or pay for all our sins. We can’t! Good deeds don’t make bad ones go away!
God told the prophet Isaiah in 680 BCE how he would make the Exchange for us Death for Life—he would send the Messiah, his self-revelation in the form of a man, who would pay our debts.
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all…he was cut off from the land of the living…He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth…and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days…After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied…my righteous servant will justify many. Isaiah 53:5-11
When Jesus hung on the cross, he said 2 critical things: “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they do” then He said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus experienced separation from the Father—spiritual death, on our behalf—so all who turn to him don’t have to experience it. All He needs is a humble heart.
The Great Exchange—Death for Life—it’s real, and you can leave here today absolutely sure of the same welcome Home. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it’s here now, when the dead will hear my voice—the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live…I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 5:24-26; 11:25-26
Since He was willing to die for you, will you live for Him?
If you’ve already made the choice of Death for Life, so many things become true of you, but like that little orphan boy, though it may be positionally true that he’s been adopted by the most Powerful family on earth, he’s got to stop playing with garbage in the alleyways and learn to live as the President’s son. The next 5 weeks, we’re gonna talk about how to live the Exchanged Life God’s offering, starting with a Life of Hope next week.