At Gateway Church in Austin, John Burke shared on What’s After Life?
There’s something strange about the intense desire we all have to love and be loved, yet it can be difficult at times to give or receive it. Why is that? C.S. Lewis, an Oxford scholar, once said “creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists.” What do you think will ultimately satisfy our desires? All across the globe, people who clinically die and then resuscitate come back to talk about a God of Light who satisfies the deepest cravings to be known, seen, accepted, and loved—like finally being home with ultimate belonging. But who is this God of Light?
An extended interview is at the bottom of this post.
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
MESSAGE NOTES FROM JOHN BURKE:
Have you ever noticed how much humans crave love? Think about all the millions of love songs over the centuries. Think about how much love and relationship motivates most all we do. And yet, there’s a painfulness to love on earth—right—if there weren’t, we wouldn’t have Country Western music, or all the heartbreak songs, or any Taylor Swift song…we wouldn’t have such a high divorce rate. There’s something strange about our intense desire to love and be loved, yet our struggle to give or receive it.
Why do we crave love?
C.S. Lewis, an Oxford Scholar, once said:
“Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water… If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
What if all the deepest desires we have to be known, accepted, and unconditionally loved–never fully satisfied on this planet—is because we were made for another world?
All across the globe, people who clinically die yet resuscitate, come back to talk about a God of Light who satisfies their deepest cravings to be known, seen, and loved—it was like finally being home, where you belong. But Who is this God of Light? I’ve come to believe this God has been revealing himself all along—for all who will listen to that deep craving that nothing on earth can satisfy—for all who seek the Creator of our souls. God wants to be known, and all who want God can find him. That’s what I want to show you today as we look at what God revealed about himself for over 4000 years (for all of written human history) through the Jewish Prophets and Jesus and how medical research and science have found evidence of this God through the millions of Near-Death Experiences reported. Today I want to show some of the core traits NDErs reveal across the globe.
God is Light
In 1500 BC, God appears to Moses as a brilliant light in a bush that did not burn up. The Jewish prophet Ezekiel in 600 BC saw a vision of Heaven:
High above on the throne was a figure like that of a man. I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. – Ezekiel 1:26-27 (~600 BC)
The Jewish prophets saw this Man of Brilliant Light who is the Yahweh, the Lord. Daniel in Babylon, modern Iraq, sees this same God NDErs see:
On April 23, as I was standing on the bank of the great Tigris River, 5 I looked up and saw a man dressed in linen clothing, with a belt of pure gold around his waist. 6 His body looked like a precious gem. His face flashed like lightning, and his eyes flamed like torches. His arms and feet shone like polished bronze, and his voice roared like a vast multitude of people. – Daniel 10:4-6 (~450 BC)
This God of Light has claimed to be revealing himself for 1000s of years—before any of the world’s religions were formed.
In fact, He tells Abraham in 2000 B.C., he would use Abraham and Sarah to create a new nation, the Jewish People, for a purpose—to bless all the nations by coming to earth in the form of the Messiah, who would die to pay for the sins of all people. All these things were foretold by the Jewish Prophets like Isaiah:
“there will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles…will be filled with glory. The people who walk in darkness will see a great light… For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah 9:1-6 (680 BC).
This Messiah would come to Galilee, but be the Mighty God revealed as the Son of God. All this was foretold. And when Jesus lived and taught in Galilee, he said
“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” – John 8:12 (30 AD)
At one point, Jesus disciples saw him transfigured and he became as brilliant as the sun. After his resurrection, when John saw the risen Jesus
He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest…his eyes were like flames of fire. 15 His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves…And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance. – Revelation 1:13-16
This is the same God people encounter today around the globe. Simran in India died in a bus crash and said:
“Then a bright light appeared which had a soft male voice. It said “You will leave everything behind. Your loved ones, the hard-earned awards, money, even your clothes. You will come to me empty handed.” The light also gave me an important message and [told me] to remember it. . . . The accident rendered me disabled to this day. When people see me smiling, they wonder why I have a glow on my face. It is the glow of God. I feel very homesick. . . I have to live this life and obey the message until He calls me back. He only had love for me. It is very hard, but I am trying my best to spread the LOVE and PEACE God has for all of us.”
The surprising thing that’s incredibly strong evidence to me—Indians don’t experience the Vedas descriptions of God, they experience the God of Jesus.
People around the world experience this same God. Scripture says,
For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:12-13
Even Atheists who didn’t expect to find the God of Jesus, when they cried out to him, found him on the other side. Howard, an atheist college professor, who by his own admission denied God, lived for self, was not a good husband or father, lived to build his own kingdom—he died in a hospital in France and at first had a hellish NDE–we’ll talk more about in week 5—he found himself in the outer darkness Jesus described, but listen to what He discovered about the God of Light
Howard came back from this experience and left his tenured professorship two years later to become a Christian pastor—What would motivate that kind of radical life change? Only the God of Love! And…
God is Love
People around the globe say this God of Light Loves them beyond words. Now some Christians might hear this and think, Why would Hindus or Buddhists or people who don’t know or believe in Jesus experience the God of the Bible? Because He loves them—just as much as He loves you. 500 times in the Bible God speaks to all nations. He did what He did through Jesus for all people.
But Just because someone experiences the Light and Love of God does not mean they are necessarily right with God. Case in point, Saul, who became Paul was a Jesus hater, killing Christians, when on the Damascus road:
a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” – Acts 9:3-6
Notice, this God of Light, Jesus, does not tell Paul the Gospel, or what to believe. Jesus sends Ananias to the city to explain to Paul Jesus had paid for his sins, to forgive him, and set him right with God as a gift. Paul still had a choice—Relationship with God is free—it’s a gift, Heaven is a gift.
NDErs who see this God of Light and Love still must choose. Have you chosen to accept God’s gift of forgiveness, loving relationship forever? God paid the price of Justice through Jesus, so that none of his children will remain separated from him forever if you simply want his love and forgiveness—Howard and many others discovered that and got a second chance. But once you cross that border or boundary many NDErs knew if they crossed they could not return to earth—your choices become eternal—that’s eternity—when all our choices are eternalized. So don’t wait to choose God.
Revelation 1:7 says
And everyone will see him—even those who pierced him. – Revelation 1:7
So it shouldn’t surprise us that people see him who don’t yet know who he is. Many come back and discover who He is and follow him like Paul, Howard and many others did—others don’t. But God is Love regardless.
The Lord passed in front of Moses, calling out,“Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness.7 I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But I do not excuse the guilty….” – Exodus 34:6-7 (~1500 BC).
God has unfailing love for all people—as Howard said, he doesn’t excuse our bad actions, he paid for them—so we will follow him and learn how to reach our full potential as loving humans created in his image
Do you realize how much God loves you—He has compassion on you—He wants you to experience His love and remain connected to that love. Jesus claimed to demonstrate God’s great love—listen to how Jesus explains it to Nicodemus the Pharisee:
The Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” 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. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already…” – John 3:14-18.
Jesus’ love for you can be experienced now in this life—believing in Jesus is the beginning of walking daily with him:
“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. 10 When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. 11 I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! – John 15:9-11
God is Personal
God is not an impersonal force, God is personal. Our personalities, our humor, our creativity, our love for adventure, our every pleasure—all comes from God. We were created in God’s image, not the other way around. God is not less personal than we are. [ God knows you better than you know yourself. God is like your best friend, your Father, Mother, spouse/lover all combined. Sounds funny, but that’s because we’ve so distorted the image of God down to something less personal that we are.]
But God revealed a personality from the start. He loves to give good gifts to His children, it delights Him when we are grateful and enjoy His good gifts with thanksgiving. And God has feelings, He even gets hurt, just like we do. God says to the Jewish Prophet Jeremiah:
“I thought to myself, ‘I would love to treat you as my own children!’ I wanted nothing more than to give you this beautiful land—the finest possession in the world. I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’ and I wanted you never to turn from me.20 But you have been unfaithful to me…like a faithless wife who leaves her husband. Jeremiah 3:19-20
Howard Storm discovered as he was watching his life review that God has feelings. It brings joy to the heart of God when we are faithful to Him and kind to others, but it hurts him when we turn away and do things against his will and hurt others.
And God is personal in that He gets your humor, your struggles, your temptations, you secret thoughts—he understands the things about you that you don’t understand. The Bible says:
“Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. . . . It was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested. . . .[Jesus] understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. – Hebrews 2:14, 17–18; 4:15–16 NLT.
God understands the struggles, the temptations, the hardships you go through—He merged himself with his Creation to help us. We can turn to him in anything.
And God’s the creator of every pleasure and every good gift you’ve experienced.
God will rejoice over you as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride. – Isaiah 62:5
I think God rejoices in our joy of life when we include God. I grew up surfing, love to surf, something about the mystery and liquid power of riding a wave. When I was single and my relationship with God brand new, there was a day when there were perfect waves, and I called every friend I know to go surfing—no one could go. I wasn’t going to go, then I thought, “I could go with Jesus.” I thought, the God of the Universe created waves, me, and my thrill at riding them—why wouldn’t he go surfing with me? So I went, and I celebrated every fun ride with the Lord. It was awesome. I always wondered if that was a silly, naïve idea I made up in my head…until I heard Heidi’s story. I realized—of course—God enjoys us enjoying His good gifts—just like I enjoy my kids finding joy in my good gifts.
Above all else…
God is Relational
The reason God does not force himself on us, and the reason He doesn’t tell NDErs his identity unless they seek to know Him, is that loving relationship cannot be forced—it must be freely chosen. Relationship is what God wants—it’s all He wants—it’s why He created you. The problem with this world is that we all turn from God and seek our will and ways far more than we seek God or God’s will and ways. Jesus demonstrated God’s unconditional love that met God’s Justice on the cross. To make a way for anyone who wants it to come back into relationship with God. Jesus last night on earth he said,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God[a]; believe also in me…if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” – John 14:1-7
Those who seek God sincerely are seeking Jesus (like Heidi, they may not know it yet) but at the same time, those who do know yet consistently reject Jesus are a different story.
Jesus answered. 44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. – John 6:42-45
Jesus also said “but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” – Luke 10:16
If someone hears all this yet does not even consider what Jesus is saying—Jesus says it’s because they are not really seeking God at all.
As we will see next week through the Life Review, we were never meant to go through life without relationship with God, that’s how we live out our purpose, our destiny. So let’s get real practical, Jesus taught us to pray “Father Your will be done on earth as in Heaven.” So if God is light and love, personal and relational, how should we then live?
1). Start a Relationship with God – if you haven’t yet, really dive in and explore faith—get in a group online and ask your questions—no question is a dumb question. If you’re ready to start a relationship with God, pray with me today and tell God that.
2). Grow in Friendship with God – Maybe you accepted God’s gift of relationship, but have you grown in Friendship with God—that’s God’s desire, Friendship. Every friendship is based on trust, trust God more and more, and watch how God shows up in your life. Abraham trusted God, God called him his friend. Read the Bible so you get to know the God Jesus revealed, start in the New Testament book of John, learn about God and what He’s promised—then trust those promises, put your faith in what He says—Spend Time with God, Trust God more—that’s how relationship grows. Tell God: “God I want to know you more—where can I trust you more? How can I spend more time getting to know you?”
3). Bring the Light and Love of Heaven to Earth. – How can you show God’s love towards those around you? In your own house? Have you checked on your neighbor? Coworkers? Ask God: How can I demonstrate Your love to others during this time? And be a Light—it’s a dark world, many people live in despair, anxiety, fear, suicidal thoughts—if you know the God of Light, be like Ananias, God sends people to let others know of his love for them. Invite friends to go back and listen to this series at Gatewaychurch.com, invite them to join you in an online discussion group. Be a Light.