Friday, April 22, 2011

The meaning of life.

“That’s life; that’s what all the people say. You’re riding high in April, shot down in May.”

So goes the song made popular by Frank Sinatra, an anthem of life’s meaningless.

It ends with this line: “And if nothing’s shaking come this here July, I’m gonna roll myself up in a big ball and die.”

And then there’s this hymn of hopelessness sung by Peggy Lee.

“And when I was 12 years old, my father took me to the circus,
the greatest show on earth.
There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears
And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads.
And as I sat there watching the marvelous spectacle
I had the feeling that something was missing.
I don't know what, but when it was over,
I said to myself, ‘Is that all there is to a circus?’”

“Is that all there is, is that all there is?”

In today’s world, people are losing hope in life. We’ve been promised hope and change, but it seems many are losing their belief that things are going to change for the better. And, friends, don’t be surprised if, in this world, things get worse.

But, I have good news for you today. This world is not the final chapter. This is not all there is. There is a better world coming for all the saints of God of all the ages. It’s a world made possible by the resurrection of Christ, which is what we celebrate on this Easter Sunday.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10:10, ESV)

Jesus Christ promises that we can experience a new and abundant life that begins here on earth and continues for all eternity.

Steve McVey tells how his family recently viewed the movie The Passion, and were deeply moved by the graphic portrayal of the sacrifice made by Christ at the cross. The cross of Jesus Christ is the crux of time and eternity.

McVey continues, “While the whole movie was stirring, one line touched me deeply. The scene was where Jesus was carrying his cross down the Via Dolorosa while the taunting soldiers and jeering crowd surrounded Him. Mary, His mother, watched from a distance as Jesus fell under the heavy load of the cross.

As she watched Him fall, Mary’s thoughts returned to a time when Jesus was a little boy and had fallen, scraping His knee. She had run to Him, and picked Him up, saying, ‘I’m here.’ Now, as He fell on the way to the cross, her maternal love and instinct took over as she ran to his side. ‘I’m here,’ Mary said, with tears streaming down her cheeks. Jesus lifted His head, looked at His mother and said, ‘Mother, I make all things new.’” (Steve McVey, Grace Walk Ministries)

1. Jesus came to give new life.

This is the beginning point for everything. Scripture teaches that, apart from Christ, people are dead in sin; helpless and hopeless. (Matthew 9:36.)

In the hymn, Amazing Grace, John Newton describes his life without Christ as wretched, lost, and blind.

You see, our problem is not that we need to be rehabilitated or re-educated. No amount of rehab will solve our dilemma. We’re dead and we can do nothing about it on our own. The government can’t save us. Obamacare can’t help us. Wealth redistribution won’t do it. Only Christ can make us new.

2Corinthians 5:17 states, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

When you trust Christ for salvation you receive a totally new identity. Through faith in Christ you are set free from sin and given a new life. Your old life as a sinner is put to death. You are crucified with Christ, it states in Galatians 2:20.

Your new life, given by the Spirit, is that of a saint. You’re not a sinner saved by grace, you’re a saint, and this is your new identity for all eternity. At every moment of every day you are in good standing with God.

2. Jesus came to give abundant life.

The Greek word for life in this passage is zoe’. It’s not a quantity, but rather a quality of life.

The Greek meaning of zoe’ is: life real and genuine, a life active and vigorous, devoted to God, blessed.

Jesus himself said: “I am the life.” That is to say: “I am the sole source of real life — life that is independent of physical existence, life that is endless, life that is full of meaning, life that is totally satisfying — life with a capital ‘L.’” (Pass the Toast devotional)

The abundant life is characterized by love, joy, peace and all the other fruit of the Spirit. It has nothing to do with one’s worldly success or the measure of one’s possessions. In fact, the abundant life is not for sale. No amount of money could buy it.

Simon Bickersteth, an Anglican vicar in England, relates this account of Leo Tolstoy’s search for fulfillment.

“Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace, wrote a book called A Confession, in which he tells the story of his search for meaning and purpose in life. He describes how he rejected Christianity as a child. As he went through life he became very ambitious. First of all, he thought pleasure was the answer. Having a great time. He entered the social world of Moscow and Petersburg, drinking heavily, sleeping around, gambling and leading a wild life. But it did not satisfy him. He then thought maybe money was the answer. He had inherited an estate and made a large amount of money out of his books. Yet that did not satisfy him either. He then sought success, fame and importance. But still he said, it didn’t satisfy. Then he thought, maybe the answer is family life, to give his family the best possible life. He married in 1862 and had a kind, loving wife and thirteen children. He had achieved all his ambitions and was surrounded by what appeared to be complete happiness. And yet one question brought him to the verge of suicide: ‘What meaning has my life that the inevitability of death does not destroy?’ He searched for the answer in every field of science and philosophy, but without satisfaction. Eventually he found that the peasant people of Russia had the answer he had been looking for, in their faith in God through Jesus Christ.”

“The truth is that the (abundant) life is not found in pleasure, performance, possessions, position, or pursuits; it is found in the person of Jesus Christ.” (William Richard Ezell)

3. Jesus came to give eternal life.

In this same passage in John’s gospel, Jesus declares, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)

Through faith in Christ you are promised eternal life. When Jesus saves you he promises that you are his for all eternity. In his crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus Christ has once and for all conquered death and the grave.

In the subsequent chapter of John, he states, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26)
Jesus made this declaration after calling forth Lazarus from the grave. He truly has conquered death, and he promises that we will dwell with him forever.

This is the message of Easter; The pre-existent Christ, God the Son, came to earth as Jesus of Nazareth. He lived a sinless life, then, in the fullness of time, he was executed on a cruel cross for the sins of the world. He was buried, and on the third day he arose from the grave. He is alive forevermore, and one day will return for all his followers. In the meantime, he promises to give us a life of abundance and meaning.

Let me repeat his question: Do you believe this?