(Life’s Biggest Questions Series Slide)
Good morning. My name is David Sorn, and I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We are in the final week of our “Life’s Biggest Questions” series where we’ve been talking about the 5 biggest, most foundational questions in all of life.
Our 5th and final question, and our question for this week, is: “What happens when I die?”
(Title Slide: “What happens when I die?”
I can’t emphasize enough how important this question is.
And yet, Americans rarely think about it.
In fact, we try really, really hard NOT to think about it.
And our modern culture is one of the first ever that has been afforded the luxury of not having to think about death all that much.
If you go back even 100 years in America, death was a much more present reality.
Many babies were lost at childbirth, mothers died in childbirth, people were much more likely to die even from a farming accident without quick and adequate access to medical help
Not to mention the amount of people who died to infections and diseases that we had no answer for back then.
Moms might give birth to 8 children and see 3 or 4 of them live to adulthood…
Even in 1922, life expectancy was only in the low fifties in America
And most people in the those days died at home, families cared for the body…funerals were often at home.
But now, in 21st century America, death doesn’t strike us as often, or as early, or as near.
And so we feel almost like we are shielded from it.
I think we have thought about it more in the last few years with COVID, and now Ukraine…
But even then, for most people, it’s still abstract, something on the news.
It’s not personal and right in front of us as it was a century ago
And because of that, most of us aren’t forced to think deeply on this paramount question for our own lives:
What happens when I die?
And I want you to know that you will die.
And I know that you know that…but I want you to actually think about it today…to ponder it.
…because hardly anyone else in your life is going to ask you to go there mentally.
So, let’s go there.
4 MAJOR VIEWS
Now, there are lots of different views and opinions out there regarding today’s question
But I want to start by very briefly flying over the 4 major categories of answers to this question that are out there in the world.
4 Major Views on the Afterlife:
1. We become spirits or ghosts
Typically, in history, you would find this sort of belief in the tribal cultures of the South Pacific, in some Native American beliefs, or many of the tribes of Africa.
Much of their religious beliefs were about pleasing their ancestors (who had now become spirits that had the power to make the lives of the living good or bad.
What’s fascinating about this particular view is that it’s having a resurgence.
There’s an uptick of interest, even among regular, everyday Americans in things like ghost-hunting, talking to the relatives who have passed, and more.
4 Major Views on the Afterlife:
1. We become spirits or ghosts
Reincarnation is the idea that after your death, your soul (or consciousness) goes to another person (or animal) and continues on living…but, with no memory of its previous life.
This, in many religions is often connected to your karma.
The more bad deeds you did, the worse your karma, and thus the more likely you are to be downgraded in your reincarnation…perhaps even to an animal.
Traditionally, this kind of thought has been only found in Eastern religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, but things are changing fast in America.
Even though Hindus and Buddhists only make up 2% of Americans, a very recent poll from Pew Research (and they are the one of the best), found that now 33% of Americans now believe that some sort of reincarnation after death.
If you isolate that data to 18-29 year old Americans, it’s 40%.
4 out of 10 young adults believe they will reincarnate after death.
Because 40% of young Americans aren’t becoming Hindus.
We talked about this in January in our message on the Biblical concept of “Christians as exiles”
In 1980, most Americans went to church…
Only 20% had a saving & personal relationship with Jesus (and that number is steady today), but the vast majority of Americans had at least some sort of nominal, inherited Christian worldview back then.
But now, the 80% of people that just went to church to go to church…don’t go to church anymore.
BUT…they’re not flocking to atheistic worldviews either…at least not entirely…and definitely not when it comes to this question about the afterlife
Americans are instead doing a grab-bag, a mix-and-match of other spiritual beliefs, often without investigating them at all.
I can almost guarantee that very little of the 33% of Americans who now believe in some sort reincarnation have extensively studied the Hindu Scriptures on this topic.
4 Major Views on the Afterlife:
1. We become spirits or ghosts
3. We cease to exist
This view is in line with much of the secular theories we’ve talked about during this series.
This is the classic atheistic position.
If there is no God, then it stands to reason, that there is no afterlife.
At our death, we die, and in this view, there is no such thing as a soul, and so that’s it.
Your life is over.
This view is pretty straightforward.
And it’s held by 17% of Americans.
4 Major Views on the Afterlife:
1. We become spirits or ghosts
3. We cease to exist
4. Heaven & Hell
Now, within this there is a decent amount of variation, right?
And we could do a whole other series just on this point
Many religions have in view a kind of heaven, and a kind of hell
But the Biblical view is that heaven is a place of great joy, and no more suffering…no more tears, and no more pain.
It’s a place for believers in Jesus, where we get to be in the goodness, the blessing of God's presence for all of eternity",
and Hell is a place of suffering where people are separated from God's presence for all of eternity
THE LOGIC TRAIN
And a question we need to ask ourselves as part of this overall series is this: Does my answer to this final QUESTION OF LIFE logically fit with my other 4 answers to Life’s Biggest Questions.
Let me show you what I mean:
(Logical Train of Thought Illustration).
And shout out to Kiah Ortman from our staff who did a great job taking some of my chicken scratch ideas for this series and creating all of our slides!
But here we have a Logical TRAIN of thought ☺
The first train is on the track of secularism. (non-religion)
And it’s going to follow a logical train of thought.
I’m not saying I agree with its conclusions, but I am saying that as secularism answers Life’s Biggest Questions on Origin, Meaning, Morality, and Destination, one thing follows from another.
So in this case, on the secular train of thought…
“If I am a result of random chance…” (amino acids bumped together and started life on earth.)
Then, “My life can’t have meaning”
We talked about that last week.
Therefore, without meaning and purpose, there is no ultimate right or wrong
And without God, there is no afterlife.
Again, I totally disagree with that.
But that is logic.
One thought building upon another
It’s a consistent worldview.
And then we have a Christian “logical train of thought”
If God created me…
My life has infinite meaning
God determined right and wrong
And because all of those things are true (my life has meaning…there is a God…)
We believe there is an afterlife.
Now, you could add train cars in there “He gave us His word, which tells about heaven,” etc.
But each thing is logically consistent with the others…they don’t contradict each other.
But here is the challenge of our times, and this is a good summary to this entire series.
The truth is most Americans struggle to stay on a logical train of thought.
We pick and choose answers to Life’s Biggest Questions…
…answers that feel good, or that we like, or allow us to live how we want.
--But we don’t pay too much attention to whether these beliefs necessarily even follow from our answers to life’s other big questions.
So, unfortunately, many American views look more like this:
(Illogical Train of Thought Illustration).
Here’s an example of the views of a typical American:
“If I am a result of random chance… (life evolved and here I am)
“I believe I am here to make a difference…do good with my life…live out of meaning and purpose.
“But don’t tell me how to live
That’s my private choice. Each person can decide what’s right as long as you don’t harm anyone.
“And, at the end of my life, yes, I believe I’m going to heaven.
Do you see how those VERY common answers to Life’s Biggest Questions, just jumped from track to track…from one train of thought to another.
They pull a little bit from secular thought:
They pretend like God doesn’t exist when they speak of morality…but then use Christian concepts for meaning and eternal destiny…
And back and forth
But one of THE MAIN THINGS I’m hoping you get out of this series is that your answers to all of Life’s Biggest Questions should be consistent, and logical, and fit together in a cohesive worldview.
They should stay on one track.
And I believe the Bible’s answers to Life’s Biggest Questions does exactly that
And so let’s connect this to today’s question then about our final destination: “What happens when I die?”
Because you’ll notice on the screen that many Americans believe that they are going to heaven even if much of their other beliefs seem to even contradict that idea.
In fact, 73% of Americans still believe in heaven.
(Show Gallup “Life After Death” Poll)
It’s a number that, according to Gallup has been virtually unchanged since 1944!
This is beyond fascinating to me.
Americans have changed their view on almost EVERYTHING since 1944, but our view of heaven….UNCHANGED.
And most believe they’re going there.
But do you know that you’re going to heaven?
And are you certain?
(Title Screen: “What happens when I die”)
Most Americans haven’t investigated this question very much at all.
Which is quite odd when you truly sit down and think about it
If the Bible is right, and you have 10 or 50 or even 70 years left on earth, but then you’re going to spend billions and billions of years in heaven or hell
Isn’t figuring out where you’re going the most important question of your life?
What could possibly be more important than that?
People spend forever trying to figure out where they’re going to go to college for 4 years…
But that pales in significance to where you’re going to be for the next 100 trillion years and beyond
It’s not just about heaven, it’s about hell.
If Heaven is real, then it certainly stands to reason that hell is real.
And if they are both for eternity…
Then it is possible that you could face an unending amount of time…a never-ending amount of your time, in hell…suffering.
This is a serious question: “Why is it that every single person on earth wouldn’t spend most of their life investigating this massive question of life?
I think in part, because it’s heavy…it’s weighty…it’s scary to think about it……so we just…don’t.
THE BIBLICAL VIEW
But I encourage you to investigate it. Look into it.
For WAY too many Americans their answer to this Massive Question of life is completely unconnected from their other answers about life.
I just saw a YouTube video this week from a woman who was talking about death frankly and scientifically and accurately.
And then, when she was asked about the afterlife, she basically said “just find a nice idea of the afterlife that’s right for you”
And many people don’t even pause to question that…that’s why the VAST majority of Americans still believe they’re going to heaven (without even having thought much about it)
…because, just like the woman in the video recommended, they’ve chosen a view of the afterlife that THEY like.
But HEAR ME…please, HEAR ME
The afterlife is not going to be what you want it to be, it’s going to be what it is.
Just like I can’t take a trip to Switzerland and it will be what I want it to be.
No, Switzerland is, what it is.
What I want it to be…is irrelevant
So what is it and how do we get to heaven, and not hell?
Since you’re here, and we’re talking about it this morning, I want to show you exactly how the Bible answers this incredibly important question of life.
The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the one person who can speak with real authority on this question of “What happens when I die”
Because not only did He come from heaven in the first place, but he died while on earth, and rose again.
He defeated death.
And He tells you how to defeat it and join Him in heaven.
And there is PLENTY of evidence pointing to his resurrection.
If you want to study that more, start at our website and watch our message called “Did Jesus Actually Resurrect” in our Reason to Believe series.
(Show Reason to Believe Slide)
So what does Jesus teach then about heaven and hell, and how to go to heaven?
Do me a favor and grab a Bible under the chair in front of you.
Open up to page 725
This is one of the clearest explanations on heaven and hell and how to get to heaven out there.
Look for the Big number 3, and then the small number 16
(John 3:16-18) – NIV
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 because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
And then turn the page and go to verse 36, the last verse of chapter 3.
(John 3:36) – NIV
36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
This is the basic teaching of Christianity.
Jesus Christ, God’s Son came to earth to teach us and show us His love, but most importantly to die on the cross for us.
Do you see in verse 36 where it says that those who do not believe that Jesus died for them (those who reject Him) will not see life (they will not see heaven)?
Why? What does it say?
Because God’s wrath remains on them.
That is God’s holy, and just punishment for their sin.
Listen, God is Holy.
And he takes sin seriously…and for our sin, we deserve his justice.
But God loved you so much (that was verse 16) that He sent His Son Jesus to die in your place…
And on the cross, Jesus takes the wrath that should be on you.
And when you believe in Him, the wrath comes off of you and onto Jesus, and you can be forgiven and have eternal life in heaven.
(Title Screen: “What happens when I die”
But this is the only way: Believing in Jesus and becoming His follower
If you’re unsure about this, I can not encourage you enough to read the Bible for yourself.
If you don’t have a Bible, take this one that you’re holding, and read this whole book of John this week.
Seriously. Investigate it.
That’s not even a weird ask if indeed eternity is real and the risk of hell is real.
Let me tell you something…
We’ve spent much of the last 4 years teaching through the book of Luke in the Bible about Jesus’ life, and my number one takeaway I can tell you about Jesus’ life (as someone who spent hundreds of hours studying it the last few years)…
…the #1 thing I’ve been struck by is just how many times Jesus warned people over and over and over again about hell.
Read it for yourself.
Don’t risk your eternity on a guess…or a hope… of what you want it to say.
Jesus says this in John 14:6
(John 14:6b) – NIV
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
And we enter into eternal life in heaven through our faith in Jesus, that He died in our place.
It’s not by being good enough.
Because the wrath of God will still be upon you even if you do many good deeds.
Only your faith in Jesus can remove that burden from your back.
(Title Screen: What happens when I die?”
And only your faith in Jesus can grant you eternal life in heaven.
So that someday when you die…your soul will be raised to life in heaven.
And you will eventually have a new resurrection body.
By the way, get to House Groups this week because we’re going to dive deep into what the Bible teaches on these finer points of what all happens after death.
But the Bible says that believers in Christ will spend eternity in paradise…and on the new heaven and the new earth.
Rejoicing in the goodness of God
Enjoying God’s creation and everyone else who is there.
There are thousands of amazing stories yet to be told of what we will get to experience there.
But the most important thing is that you need to be there.
And if you’re thinking about it, I want you to know that there are people all over this room who have made this decision to trust in Christ for eternal life.
Many of them have done so recently
And one of the ways we celebrate our decision to follow Jesus is through baptism.
(SWITCH TO BAPTISM SUNDAY SLIDE)
In fact, I want to call our Baptismal Team on stage right now
This is something we do about once a month here
Baptisms are reminders that the change that happens within us is because of our faith in Jesus.
Baptism is a symbol of what Jesus did for you when you, personally, believed in Him (that you were washed clean)
It doesn’t save you.
But it’s an important step for every Christian once they’ve decided to follow Jesus
Every person you see baptized at Renovation Church is baptized by two sponsors (people who’s had a spiritual impact on them)
And so, we’re going to begin! Matthew (1st), Michael (2nd)
WORD COUNT GOAL: 3,430
(Title Screen: “What happens when I die?”
This is the decision in front of every one of us.
Do I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God that came to die for my sins?
And what I’ve tried to show you throughout this teaching series is that believing in that doesn’t then result in a bunch of contradictory thinking, but a worldview that is incredibly logical.
And a worldview that provides incredible answers to the biggest questions of life.
And the beautiful outworking of all of those answers is that…if there is a God who created you, and loves you, has a plan for you…..gave you His Word, and Sent His Son for you, then yes, he wants to be with you forever in heaven.
And He provided a way for that to happen…it was through the death of His son Jesus.
Your faith in that is what will make you right with God.
Your faith in Jesus is what Invites God into your life to forgive you, be with you, save you from your sin, and give you eternal life in heaven.
And we believe it takes faith, but as we’ve been saying all series, it actually takes less faith to believe in this than to believe that we are an accident, and that life has no meaning and no purpose.
And so I ask you again: Do you believe that Jesus Christ came to die for your sins?
If you need to believe that for the first time today, you can right now
And so let’s just have everyone bow their head and close their eyes for a minute
If you need to do that today…
To believe Jesus died for you, to make Him your savior and your leader.
To trust that He paved a way for you to have eternal life in heaven.
You can do that right now, and He will come into your life.
In just a second, I’m actually going to ask you to stand up where you’re at if you need to make this amazing decision to trust in Christ to forgive you or your sin, and give you eternal life.
If you need to tell God for the first time today that you want to Make him your savior and Leader, to be forgiven,
I want you to have a “line in the sand moment,” where you tell him this…where you invite Him in.
And so if you need to believe in Jesus as your Savior & Leader for the first time today, I want you to stand up where you are right now
Repeat after me
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
As everyone still has their eyes closed, for those of you standing up, you just made the most important decision of your life, and I believe that requires some more information…
So here’s what we’re going to do to get you that…as everyone has their eyes closed, I want you, in just a second, to walk back out to the lobby where it will be quiet.
You won’t walk out there alone.
There are others standing with you, and our follow-up team is going to walk out at the same time with you
And I, and our follow-up team are going to get you some extremely important resources & next steps to get you started on the most important journey of your life.
If you’re part of this church, and your friend or family member is standing up right now, PLEASE come out there with them.
All right, you can all go now.
As they’re walking, I’m going to thank God in prayer. Let’s pray
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.
MARCH 6, 2022