The Life of God in the Dead
Dr. Valson Abraham
Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, came into the world to restore peace with God and peace among human beings. Throughout India and the world, billions of people search for peace. Most people look for peace in the wrong places.
Christians say the only true way to peace is through Jesus Christ. Why do they say this? Such claims to exclusivity are considered politically incorrect both in India and the western world. In India, we find many paths to salvation. Why do Christians claim Jesus Christ as the only way?
Jesus Himself answers that question for us. In John 5, Jesus claims to be the only way to God because God is His Father, and He works His Father’s works. See what He says in v. 25 and beyond:
“Truly, truly I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself…If I alone testify about Myself, my testimony is not true…the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent me.”
“The very works that I do testify about Me…” Which works is Jesus talking about? He tells us when He says that the dead will hear His voice and live.
A characteristic of a dead person is the inability to hear or respond to others. They give no reaction to any stimulus. Going to a funeral of a dearly beloved one deeply disturbs us because this person, who once showed and received love, now shows and receives nothing. If someone came into the funeral and raised this person from the dead, we would all sit up and take notice.
In these verses, Jesus is not just talking about natural death but spiritual death, a condition far more serious and deadly than natural death.
Spiritual death is the inability to hear or respond to the voice and things of God. God is our Maker, the Maker of the entire universe. All of life—every breath, every heartbeat--depends upon the will of God, but the spiritually dead person does not respond to Him and acts as if God does not exist or is insignificant to life. The supernatural life of the Spirit of God and the ultimate plan of God for his life and for the world mean nothing to him.
The possibility of relationship with God means nothing to the spiritually dead person. It appears foolish, frightening, unnecessary or repulsive. The spiritually dead person ignores the one thing that most defines his human identity—his creation in the image of God.
He may see himself as no more than a glorified animal. This affects everything he thinks about himself and others. He always underestimates his potential and that of others because how he conceives himself is always less than how the God of the universe conceives him.
The spiritually dead person gives his life solely to the natural life and to his own efforts. He thinks only in natural terms. He gives himself only to natural goals in life, relies only upon his own natural understanding of things. In the end, such a person dies, and he is left with nothing at all but judgement before the holy God who made him and whom he has never known. What a terrible state!
In this passage, Jesus identifies His work as bringing new life to those who are spiritually dead. This new life enables the spiritually dead person to now respond to God’s love and eternal plan for his life. This new life enables relationship with God and change of direction that results from interaction with the Spirit of God.
This new life is what the Bible calls “regeneration.” This is what Jesus is talking about with Nicodemus in John 3 when he speaks of being “born again.” Someone has said there are at least 275 passages in the Old and New Testament that describe in various ways the character and process of regeneration that Jesus is talking about. Regeneration is absolutely essential to true Christian life.
This new life of God in a human being cannot be defined and described in a few words any more than any form of life can be defined or described. Some scientists have succeeded in developing synthetic forms of bacteria, but even the most advanced science has been unable to create a fully-formed human being from non-living matter with life and personality. Human life is more than the sum of its parts.
If this is true for the simplest forms of life, how much more true is this for a spiritually dead person to become alive in God? Yet this is the very thing Jesus Christ claims to do—to bring about a new life in God. This new life, Jesus tells us, testifies to the world that He is the chosen one of God. This regenerate life, often in the most unlikely people, is the biggest proof of Jesus’ uniqueness and authority.
Jesus does not just mean this “new life” to be a theological idea or teaching. He is talking about something much more radical and life-changing. What does this “new life” mean in real life? We can talk in general ideas about this, but relationship with God takes as many forms as there are people whom He has created in His image. Let me give just one example…
I think of a man in my past, known to many of us in India as Pastor Yesudas. He began life as a poor, sickly, almost-illiterate Dalit, an insecure child with a serious stuttering problem. He lay at death’s door with tuberculosis and other ailments.
Then he heard the gospel. He committed his life to Jesus Christ and received prayer for healing.
Immediately, he was healed of tuberculosis and his various ailments. He hungered for more of the life of Christ. He thirsted for the Word of God. Because of near-illiteracy, he lacked the educational requirements to enter the Bible school. He was allowed to sit in class, but because of his severe educational deficiencies, he could not understand what was said.
Only God could help him overcome this handicap. After much prayer and fasting, the Lord gave him a photographic mind to receive the scriptures read to him. Now, he not only understood what instructors told him, but he could also give Bible insights and applications of great wisdom that astounded even people with advanced degrees. God took away his stuttering problem and gave him dynamic gifts of preaching, healing and a stirring prophetic ministry like few others.
Many people followed Christ because Pastor Yesudas showed forth the life of God which came through Jesus Christ. He pioneered a number of churches in new and unreached places. In all his fruitful ministry, he remained a near-illiterate but inspired man of God.
When I was an infant, Pastor Yesudas already sensed God was calling me for ministry. Before I can remember, he prayed daily prayers over me, preparing me for the ministry I have today. I owe my calling and ministry to the prayers of this man with the new life of God.
The life of God is more than religion or morality. Religion and morality require only human effort. Rather, it is the power and peace of God Himself. We cannot force it or fake it. It is the final proof of our faith. It is the reason we say Jesus Christ is the only Way. Who else can duplicate these things?
Pastor Yesudas’ story has taken place in millions of men, women and children of every description and background for two thousand years. One day, this Good News will reach all peoples everywhere.
Let us make sure that we do our part in making sure all have heard of this Prince of Peace who comes bearing the new life of God for us. This is the real meaning of Christmas.
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Father God, I confess that without you, I am spiritually dead. I confess my faith in Jesus Christ who came into this world to replace my spiritual death with your life. I confess that only He is the true way of peace with you and with my fellow human beings. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.