What Is the Meaning of Life?

Today begins a new blog thread. Our topic is the meaning of life. It’s a vast subject that should take us well into next year. How will we find the answers? We’ll use science, logic, philosophy, and evidence—apologetics, if you will. Apologetics uses general revelation, the truths God buried in the world around us in science and nature. This is for the skeptic, for those with questions, and for those who just need to be shown. But our search will also rely heavily on God’s special revelation—in the book we call the Bible.

The answers to our questions are important. And let me say right here that the answer to the meaning of life is not “42”, as The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would have it. If only it were that simple…

meaningOfLife-MarkTwainEver since man first walked the earth he has known, deep inside himself, there was something greater than himself. And he has sought it. He’s looked for fulfillment, hunted for truth, and sought the meaning of life. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis says this: “Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promise.”

Whatever you want to call it, mankind has been on an endless search for something lasting and true. Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT): “God has planted eternity in the human heart.”

We look at ourselves and realize we lack something fundamental and essential, that by ourselves, we are incomplete. We want to know whether there is meaning behind it all. We are mortal, yet we long for immortality. We are temporal, knowing that someday death awaits, yet we long for eternity. In the quiet of the night or the stillness of the day, we may feel the basic loneliness of the human condition. So we long for a love greater than ourselves that will end our loneliness forever. Yes, every human heart longs for something greater than itself.

Throughout the ages, this deep-set need has propelled storytellers, holy men, and novelists on one quest for truth after another. Ever since Adam, humankind has been seeking it. For a time Adam and Eve possessed it. Yet they let it slip away. And because of what they did, every descendant of theirs has been trying to regain what they once had, what was lost.

Psalm 42:1-2 (NLT) describes the longing this way:high-desert-mule-deer “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?”

Ah, now the psalmist has put a name to the quest. Is it then God we seek? Is He the object of this endless human quest, the center of mankind’s desperate search?

But too many will say, “No, it’s not God I’m looking for.” So they keep on looking in all the wrong places. And the world has no shortage of answers. The world promises happiness through sex, drugs, and alcohol. Before spiritually impoverished eyes, it dangles the prospects of career, power, wealth, and fame. It marches in the false prophets of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. It promises utopia on earth through Communism and Socialism, but forgets to mention the mass starvations of North Korea in the 1990s and the millions who died in Stalin’s Soviet Union and in Chairman Mayo’s China. And then, as if this weren’t enough, we get Madonna, Paris Hilton, and Justin Bieber. So much for the world’s answers.

So today we begin our search for the meaning of life, knowing that many who have gone before us have failed. But we have something they didn’t have. We have the truth given us by the God who created the universe, the truth preserved in an ancient book. We also have general revelation, the truth God reveals in the natural world around us. So let us begin. Note that for this blog I’ll be posting once a week.

The Greatest Miracle of All

We’ve seen how the miracles of other religions always glorify a creature or created thing. But the miracles of the God of Creation always glorify Himself, the messengers He sends, or His message. The Bible lists some 250 miracles.

But what is the greatest miracle of all? Perhaps it’s that God sent his Son to earth to live as a man, work in the heat and cold like the rest of us, and then to die on the cross and rise to life again—all for a race of men who repeatedly reject Him and turn away from Him. What kind of love is this? Before it occurred, who would ever have thought this possible?

We read the story of the crucifixion and resurrection from Luke 23:33–24:9 (NLT):

33 When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.
34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.
35 The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.” 36 The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. 37 They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 38 A sign was fastened above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”
39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”
40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” jesusSavior

44 By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 45 The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. 46 Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.
47 When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.” 48 And when all the crowd that came to see the crucifixion saw what had happened, they went home in deep sorrow.

49 But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching.

… Here Joseph of Arimathea took the body down from the cross and brought it to his own tomb in a cave in the hillside and there they placed it. The soldiers guarded it and rolled a heavy stone across the entrance…

54 This was done late on Friday afternoon, the day of preparation, as the Sabbath was about to begin.
55 As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. 56 Then they went home and prepared spices and ointments to anoint his body. But by the time they were finished the Sabbath had begun, so they rested as required by the law.

24:1 But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. 2 They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. 3 So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.
5 The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? 6 He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, 7 that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”
8 Then they remembered that he had said this. 9 So they rushed back from the tomb to tell his eleven disciples—and everyone else—what had happened.

One of the Trinity, a part of God Himself, appearing on earth in human form, had died for mankind. And then Jesus rose again from the grave. This, surely, is the greatest miracle of them all. That God would send His Son to die for us.

This is the last blog in the “Miracles” thread. I will begin a new thread the first week in June. The subject? The meaning of life.

God At Work Today

The question before us is whether we have examples of God at work today performing “miracles”.

For one example we turn to David Platt’s book, Radical, which describes one such encounter. java-indonesiaWhile in Indonesia, Platt met a young seminary graduate, Raden. Platt gives us Raden’s story:

“ ‘Before I became a Christian, I was a fighter. I learned ninja, jujitsu, and a variety of other techniques for taking people down.

“ ‘One day I was sharing the gospel in an unreached village with people who had never heard of Jesus. I was in one house sharing Christ with a family, and the witch doctor from the village came to the house.’ Witch doctors and magic men are common in villages like these. They hold sway over entire communities with their curses and incantations.

“ ‘The witch doctor called me out,’ Raden said. ‘He wanted me to fight him.’ Raden smiled as he confessed, ‘My first thought was to walk out there and take the witch doctor down. But when I turned to go outside, the Lord told me that I no longer need to do the fighting. God would do the fighting for me.’

“So Raden walked outside, pulled up a chair, and sat down in front of the witch doctor. He told his challenger, ‘I don’t do the fighting. My God does the fighting for me.’

“Raden recounted what happened next, ‘As the witch doctor attempted to speak, he began to gasp for air. He was choking and couldn’t breathe. People came running to see what was wrong and within a few minutes the witch doctor had fallen over dead.’

“By now the entire village had crowded around the scene. Raden said, ‘I had never seen anything like this, and I didn’t know what to do. But then I thought, I guess this is a good time to preach the gospel.” Raden smiled and said, ‘So that’s what I did and many people in that village trusted in Christ for the first time that day.’”

Platt goes on to discourage, as an established church-growth policy, the permanent dispatching of your pagan opponents through the Holy Spirit. But the point of the story is that today, even in our age, God is at work. This might be counted as a minor miracle. A witch-doctor, an enemy of God, tried to halt the preaching of the gospel. The Holy Spirit struck him dead. The result? The gospel was preached.

Next time we’ll look at the greatest miracle of all and the last entry in this blog thread.