Life in His Name

By Dr. Jody Bowser, Senior Pastor 

One of my favorite movies is “The Shawshank Redemption.” If you’re Gen X or older, there’s a good chance you’ve not only seen the movie (it’s one of the most-watched movies on cable networks)—but like me … it’s on your top-ten list. It’s the story of a banker, Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins), who is convicted of a double homicide. He maintains his innocence and finds a way to survive 19 years of harsh prison life, all the while creating an unlikely bond with fellow convict Ellis “Red” Redding (played by Morgan Freeman).

Towards the end of the movie, Andy and Red are talking about life outside of prison. Andy has a dream of living in a little Mexican village called Zihuatanejo and he inspires Red (who has resigned himself to the belief that he’s an “institutional man”) with the idea of joining him there some day. What Andy is really doing is planting the seed of hope. He’s giving Red something to dream about, something to live for. Something BEYOND his current circumstances. It’s at this point that Andy says something quite profound: “I guess it comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Some might consider a line like this a little bit too simplistic. But I don’t think so. Jesus, in fact, said something very similar in Matthew 7:13-14 — “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Two paths … life or death. Get busy living … or get busy dying.

Without getting too technical, I think it’s helpful to think about this a little deeper. Jesus is talking here about destruction—and life. The natural thing would be to think of this as being ETERNAL destruction (hell) and ETERNAL life (heaven). But that doesn’t seem to be what Jesus is talking about:

The actual Greek word that Jesus uses for “destruction” is apoleia, which means “ruin, loss or destruction.” Apoleia is translated “wasted” in Mark 14:4. (“But some were indignantly remarking to one another, ‘Why has this perfume been wasted [apoleia]?’”) This is important because Jesus isn’t just describing a path that leads to eternal condemnation (after we die), but a path that leads to a “wasted” life each and every day (just like the perfume that is poured out on the ground in the story in Mark 14).

Conversely, the Greek word that Jesus uses for “life” is the word zoe. This word describes a unique quality of life: Life that is full to overflowing, vibrant, active and vigorous. This isn’t just the kind of life we can expect once we get to heaven. This is LIFE that we can experience each and every day here on earth. It’s the kind of life we are created to live.

In other words there is a wide gate (“Hey, come live life this way!”) and a broad road (“Join the crowd, everyone’s living this way!”) that leads to a life that is wasted (“I know it looked good at the start, but it ends in pain and emptiness!”). And there is a small gate (“Jesus is the only way”) and a narrow road (“You have to die to yourself”) that leads to a joy-filled, satisfying life.

The choice is ours. And it’s why the Apostle John wrote what we now call the Gospel of John—the fourth book in the New Testament.

Listen to what John said in John 20:31: “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

Here’s the amazing news. It doesn’t matter how far you’ve traveled down the wide path that leads to destruction. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done or how far you’ve strayed from God. Forgiveness and LIFE are just a prayer away. Turn to God and God will turn to you. Confess your sins to God and He is gracious enough to forgive you of your sins, and wash away all of your guilt (1 John 1:9).

And if you want to hear more about this, join us on Sunday mornings throughout the year 2018. “LIFE IN HIS NAME” is our theme for the year and we will be working our way through the Gospel of John each and every Sunday. You can also go to our website (, and sign up to receive a daily New Testament reading guide, sent directly to your phone or computer.

The decision is ours to make. The gate is open and the narrow path is there to be found. It all comes down to a simple choice: Get busy living or get busy dying.

Click to see the rest of the Messenger newsletter.