Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What is the Meaning of Life?

Why are we here? Why are we on this earth? Pretty much everyone asks that question at some time in their life. Just about every society has had an answer to that question. Ours, however, doesn’t seem to offer one. In fact, there are a number of popular philosophies that assert that there is no reason why we are here. To them, life is without meaning or purpose. Oddly enough, the chief proponents of these philosophies tend to commit suicide.

We have a better answer than that: “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere Him” (Psalm 33:8).

What God wants from everyone in the world is for us to fear and revere him. However you want to phrase it — God’s will for your life, the meaning of life, your purpose — it all boils down to one simple concept. We are supposed to know God more and more and seek to help others know him. Let’s refine it a little more. “God” can be so broadly applied; many think just believing in some concept of God is enough to get a person to heaven. It’s not. So let’s take any ambiguity out of it.

The reason you and I are on this earth is to know God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) and make him known.

Let’s look at this concept a little closer. In Genesis chapter 3 we get an interesting picture of God. He comes to visit with Adam after the day’s work is done — just to chat. This shows that we were made to commune with him.

In Jeremiah, the Lord says, "Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me..." (9:23-24).

Skip forward to Jesus’ life. We all know John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Jesus came, lived, and died so that we could have everlasting life.

On the night that Jesus was arrested, he prayed, “... This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

Eternal life is more than heaven; it's knowing God. So Jesus came, lived and died so that we could know God. That's how big a deal this is.

It is amazing that a holy God would want us to know Him. Our triune God was perfectly happy communing with himself before making us, and yet he decided to create us, knowing the price that would eventually have to be paid so that he could have a relationship with us. Is it not amazing that we are invited into a closer relationship with God Almighty? He created us — for no good reason. He redeemed us out of the goodness of his heart — what more could we ask for? And yet he says he wants more — for us to know him. This is the reason we were made. This is the reason we were saved. It is the reason we exist.

Paul demonstrated this for us when he wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ …” (Philippians 1:21). We’ve all seen shirts saying things like “football is life” or “golf is life;” Paul’s t-shirt would say, “Christ is life.” Those for whom football is life are obsessed with the game. They watch it, read about it, think about it, and talk about it as often as they possibly can. It consumes them. Paul was consumed by Christ. He made his life about knowing Jesus more and more.

How can we do the same? Paul left us a glimpse into his mind that can help us to have his attitude.

“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord…” (Phil 3:8). Everything Paul had that the world might consider of value — family, possessions, renown, pride, his own life — he looked at as garbage when compared to the “surpassing greatness” of knowing Christ more. Much as the choice between a moldy piece of bread or a steak is a no-brainer for most of us, when it came time to choose between Jesus and something else, for Paul there was no choice.

But it is not enough to simply know God. We are to share him. Jesus commanded us, “… go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

When the man who had been host to the legion of demons became a disciple of Jesus, the Lord’s instructions to him were not to build a church, tithe, or start an anti-abortion campaign. His instructions to that man were, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you” (Luke 8:39). This is not to say that building a church, tithing, or starting an anti-abortion campaign are bad — far from. But that is not what is most important to Jesus. God’s will for every Christian’s life can be stated quite simply: Know God and make him known.

Why does this matter? It’s said, “There's no point in carrying the ball unless you know where the goal is.” But knowing your purpose in life can help you filter through all the clutter and see what is important. Many Christians are looking for "God's will for my life." This is it. The truth is, in most cases, God isn't hung up on the details. And if he is, he'll let you know. As one pastor put it, most of the time, finding God's will for your life is like looking for hay in a haystack. Just pick one!

If you are doing something or if you are contemplating doing something, and if you cannot see how it could help you know God more or make him known, you don’t need to be doing it — it is out of “God’s will for your life.” If what you are doing or want to do can help you know God more and make him known, then it's good.

So the question for us all is, "Right now am I doing anything to know God and make him known?" Next time we'll look at ways to do that.