The film Miracles from Heaven recounts the real life story of Anna Beam. Suffering from an incurable condition, the 10-year-old girl has a near death experience (NDE) that dramatically changes her life. Made on a modest $13 million budget, the heartwarming story has delighted audiences worldwide and earned about $70 million at the box office. In recent years, there have been increased accounts of people who reportedly had a NDE. Studies focused on the after effects of such an experience have revealed common traits among those who supposedly died and came back to life. An amazing ability to live in the present, an abiding sense of deep confidence, decreased interest in material possessions, a strong sense of life’s purpose and a greater spiritual awareness are among those traits.
Though all survivors do not exhibit all of these traits, they possess enough of them to show how life-changing a NDE is. One’s outlook may change, his disposition may be significantly altered, and life is not lived in the same way as before. In some instances, one may even be completely different after having died and come back to life.
A similar change can be noted in the lives of true Christian believers. Spiritually, they have experienced death and now possess a changed outlook on life. Believing in Jesus Christ means that we have died to sin and have been raised to new life. Paul, the apostle, confirms this in Romans 6:4, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
There should be a distinct difference in our motivations, focus and prospects compared to what they were before we experienced new life. Many believers have attested to the change that following Christ has made in their lives, and to their lives. The late gospel singer/songwriter Walter Hawkins had a popular song on one of his albums that proclaimed, “a change, a change has come over me; He changed my life and now I’m free.” In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul puts it this way, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
This change is revealed in the interactions of the risen Savior with His disciples in the gospels. In the 40 days between His resurrection and His ascension, the Lord confirmed for His followers back then, as well as for those who follow Him now, that salvation is more than just the restoration of fellowship with God, it is a call to service, an assignment in the kingdom, and life’s purpose is now to live in such a way as to bring glory to God.
Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to His disciples were deliberate and intentional. They confirmed that He was indeed alive, but also included specific instructions about the ministry His disciples had been preparing for. He commissioned them to take His message to their people and ultimately to the nations of the world. Their obedience to the Lord’s directives brought about the establishment of the Christian church and way of life, which has impacted the world for 21 centuries.
Having celebrated the annual observation of Jesus’ death and resurrection, believers must now engage in self-examination of their own lives. The truths of our faith must be lived out and validated in our witness to the world. Then, others will know that there is not just life after death, but there is life after resurrection as well.
Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. Call 954-427-0302.