Tag Archives: Meaning of Life

The Ultimate Gift.

What is the greatest gift you could ever receive? Deep friendships? Perfect health? Unimaginable wealth? Peace of mind? Absolute power? Long life? Beauty? A brilliant intellect? Worldwide fame?

At first blush each of those gifts might sound fantastic. But they all suffer from the same shortcoming. They cease to exist upon your death, at which time you no longer enjoy their benefits. At best, you might have them for a hundred years. Likely, you would experience them for a much shorter period of time. Worse than that, such gifts only satisfy emotional, physical, or carnal cravings but never address the deeper longings of the soul.

The ultimate gift, in contrast to those above, satisfies your spiritual hunger, gives your life meaning and purpose, provides you with the hope and strength needed to persevere through difficult circumstances, and reveals God’s immeasurable love for you. Best of all, the ultimate gift lasts forever.

This ultimate gift is available to everyone. Regardless of your ethnicity, your economic status, your gender, your physical attributes, your moral failures, your religious upbringing, your popularity, your political affiliation, your social strata, or your intelligence, you can receive this gift. No matter how desperate your condition, how much society rejects you, how ugly you view yourself, how unworthy you feel, how poor you are, how heinous a crime you committed, how hopeless you feel, how unsuccessful you are, this gift awaits you.

It is the gift of spiritual salvation: the opportunity to experience a real relationship with God in this world, and enjoy eternal life with Him in heaven.

How does one receive this gift? Before answering that it might help to understand why one needs the gift.

The Bible tells us “all have sinned” and that “there is no one righteous, not even one.” (See Romans 3:10, 23. HCSB translation). The fact is no matter how hard we try we still sin. Not only that, but our best efforts to please God and to do good fall far short of His standards. The Bible says “all our acts of righteousness are like filthy rags.” (See Isaiah 64:6).

What is the consequence for our sin? The Bible declares, “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23. HCSB). This verse is not referring to a physical death. Instead it speaks of a spiritual death in which we remain forever separated from God. Instead of spending eternity in heaven we are condemned to hell, which the Bible describes as a place of everlasting darkness, torment, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Obviously none of us wants to spend a moment there, let alone eternity.

So how do we keep from ending up there? Most religions teach the need to earn our salvation by performing good works, acts of charity, and making sure our virtues outweigh our sins. We are told that when we come before God he will compare our good deeds with our bad deeds. If the former outnumber the latter we will gain admittance into heaven. In other words, we alone possess the power to earn our place in eternity.

The Bible, however, disagrees with that consensus. Instead it teaches “no one is made righteous by the works of the law.” (See Galatians 2:16, and Romans 3:20). In other words, no one can work there way into heaven with good deeds. No amount of righteous living will earn a person eternal life with God. What hope is there, then?

Our only hope lies in Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that only Jesus Christ lived a perfect life. Not once did he sin. He obeyed all of God’s commandments and never violated one. Therefore, He was righteous in God’s eyes.

To reconcile sinful mankind with Himself, God “sent His Son (Jesus) to be the propitiation for our sins” by dying a brutal death on the cross. (See 1 John 2:2, and Romans 3:25). His sacrificial death accomplished two things. First, it imputed (or assigned) our sins to Christ. This means Jesus bore on the cross the wrath of God that rightfully was due us. Second, it imputed to us the righteousness of Christ.

This powerful truth is worth restating. Christ endured the wrath owed to us while His righteousness was assigned to us. As a result we can be restored into a right relationship with God. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What, then, must we do to secure this gift? Place our faith in Christ and surrender our lives to Him. It really is that simple. The Bible says that God’s righteousness is available “through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (See Romans 3:22).

What does is mean to place your faith in Christ? Several things. First, faith includes repentance. Both Jesus and John the Baptist began their ministries with the phrase, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (See Matthew 3:2 and 4:17, NKJV). When a crowd asked the apostle Peter what they must do to be saved he responded, “Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.” (See Acts 2:38). Repentance involves two components. First, we must commit to turning away from the pattern of sin in our lives and, second, we commit to turning to the example of godliness Christ gives us.

Second, faith includes a verbal confession of Jesus as Lord and belief in your heart. The Bible explains it this way: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.” (See Romans 10:9-10, NKJV). In other words, it is not just enough to declare with your mouth, “I believe in Jesus.” You must believe with the heart.

When we trust in Christ for our salvation we “are justified freely by God’s grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” The term justified here means ‘declared righteous.’ Redemption indicates we were purchased at a price, which was the blood Jesus shed on the cross. In other words, by His mercy God declares us righteous because Christ’s sacrifice on the cross paid the debt of our transgressions.

Finally, what does it mean to surrender our lives to Christ and make Him Lord? The apostle Paul offers this thorough definition: “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (See Philippians 3:7-11, NKJV. I urge you to study this passage carefully as it touches on some of the previous biblical truths we discussed).

Jesus defines surrender in more succinct terms, telling potential followers “So, likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (See Luke 14:33, NKJV).

In summation, the entirety of the Good News of Jesus Christ, as discussed above, is captured unambiguously in this final Bible verse. “For you are saved by grace through faith, and not from yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (See Ephesians 2:8, emphasis mine).

If you are still weighing what to believe, take time to read studiously through the above verses a second time. As you do, ask God to open your heart to Him and reveal His truth to you. He will gladly answer that prayer.

Transformational Treasure.

It is impossible to overstate the value of studying God’s Word and the benefits accrued to those who do. For evidence of this we need look no further than the first verse of John’s account of the gospel where he tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, NKJV). That doctrinally significant verse informs us that Jesus is both the Word and God.

Consequently, when we study Scripture we study the mind of Christ and the heart of God. We learn not only of God’s character, attributes, and ways, we encounter Him in a dynamic, meaningful, and personal manner. That encounter, in turn, changes lives and establishes transformational faith in the hearts of those who believe.

During His ministry Jesus linked immersion in God’s Word with authentic faith, telling His followers, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31, NKJV). To fully appreciate Jesus’ statement we need to understand that abide indicates permanence and residence, and therefore means much more than an occasional or casual reading of God’s Word. Jesus is essentially telling His followers that those who reside and remain in His word truly believe.

Perhaps the most powerful description of Scripture is found in Hebrews. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12, NKJV).

We could discuss that verse for hours but let’s focus on that last clause for the moment. God’s Word detects and reveals the secret motivations and desires of our hearts. The importance of that truth becomes clear when we recall the insight of Jeremiah 17:9, which declares, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?

The heart constantly deceives. It convinces us our motives are pure when they are not. It insists we believe when we do not. It persuades us to view some Scripture through a selfish and worldly lens instead of under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Over and over it betrays us, peddling lies as truth and foolishness as wisdom. The antidote to such deception is found in God’s Word alone.

The psalmist identifies another benefit of scrutinizing Scripture when he proclaims, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you”(Psalm 119:11, NLT). As we plant and nurture God’s Word in our hearts we become more like Christ and quicken the process of sanctification.

The Lord weighs in on the matter with these words, spoken through Joshua, “Study this book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do” (Joshua 1:8, NLT). Notice the conditional statement. A meaningful and successful life does not exist without reading and reflecting on Scripture regularly – day and night.

How often do you study and meditate on Scripture? If you do not abide in God’s Word on a regular basis why not begin establishing that habit today? Outside of committing your life to Christ, no decision will change your life more or give it more meaning.

One Thing Will Change Your Life.

Humanity constantly seeks that One Thing that will change life forever. One investment strategy that produces an unprecedented rate of return and makes us rich. One scientific discovery that yields a medical breakthrough and eradicates a disease that ails us. One activity that generates a rush of adrenaline and the ultimate thrill, eliminating the boredom that plagues us. One person who meets our needs for acceptance and unconditional love. One pursuit that satisfies the soul and gives our lives meaning.

Sadly, many of us never find the one thing we believe will transform our lives and make everything better. And those of us who do often learn a painful lesson: the one thing we’ve spent so much of life chasing disappoints and fails to satisfy our cravings, our hopes, and our yearnings.

Interestingly, the Bible uses the phrase one thing on a variety of occasions and it is instructive to discover what it says about the term. The one thing that gives us purpose and satiates our souls. The one thing that changes our encounters with others. The one thing that draws us into a meaningful relationship with God. The one thing that might block our path to eternal life. Let’s examine a few and see what insights the Bible yields.

1] In Psalm 27, David declares, “One thing I have desired of the Lord, that will I seek; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in His temple” (Psalm 27:4, NKJV). More than anything, David wanted to be in the presence of God and dialogue with Him. And as he pursued that desire David experienced such incredible joy he felt compelled to “sing praises to the Lord” (vs. 6b). In God, he found the source of true happiness – one that exists in all situations and which is not predicated on favorable conditions.

Moreover, he found strength to confront circumstances that had the potential to overwhelm him: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm 27:6b, 13, NKJV). As David reflected on God and His glory, he acquired perspective and perseverance. Armed with those attributes, David defeated the enemy’s effort to discourage and distress him.

2] In Luke’s account of the gospel he describes two sisters who encounter Jesus as He enters a village. One of them, Martha, welcomes Jesus into her home, busies herself with acts of hospitality, and serves Him. The other, Mary, does nothing but sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to Him. Frustrated, Martha brings this disparity in behavior to Jesus’ attention and asks Him to tell Mary to pull her weight and help. But Jesus does not respond as Martha hopes. He informs her she is troubled and distracted about many things. He then proclaims, “One thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42, NKJV).

What an accurate metaphor for most of our lives. We busy ourselves doing good things, pursuing noble endeavors, performing honorable deeds. All this activity, we convince ourselves, reflects those things God wants more than anything. Like Martha, however, we misunderstand. God’s passion is for us, not our busyness. He yearns for us to sit at His feet and listen; develop a relationship with Him; experience intimacy with Him; and worship Him. Mary understood this truth. Do you understand it? Do you, like Mary, carve out time from your frenetic schedule of good activities to pursue the one thing that truly matters: listening to and spending time with Jesus? If not, consider making a commitment to prioritize that above all else.

3] In his gospel account, Mark tells the story of a rich young man who asks Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. It is a question that has interested mankind since the beginning of time and is as salient as ever in today’s modern world. Jesus points the man to the Old Testament commandments and highlights a few in particular. In response, the man insists he has obeyed them all since his youth. In other words, he is righteous before the law.

Jesus recognizes the statement for what it is: a falsehood masking the true condition of the man’s faith. It is dead; yet he has no idea. The man is on the fast track to judgment but believes his place in heaven is secure. Because Jesus loves him, He makes one more attempt to reveal the truth. He says to the man, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me” (Mark 10:21, NKJV).

The man had an idolatrous relationship with the world. His love for the things of the world precluded him from having a genuine relationship with God. More than that, it prevented him from understanding how far removed from God he really was.

Like the rich young ruler, many of us allow something in life to distract us from God and compromise our relationship with Him. The world is filled with attractions, pleasures, and seductions that seek to draw us away from the Lord. Once it does, it can be difficult to recognize that a wedge exists between God and us, and that our faith is floundering as a result. What one thing in your life pulls you away from the Lord? If you’re unsure, ask God to reveal it. Then request He remove its influence and presence.

4] One of my favorite encounters in the New Testament occurs after Jesus heals a blind man. The Pharisees are enraged because the healing took place on the Sabbath and they are more interested in imposing Mosaic law on the people than seeing the captives set free. More than that, they want to destroy Jesus’ ministry because they perceive Him as a threat.

The scuttlebutt among the people is that Jesus might be the Christ. After all, who else has the power to heal a man blind from birth except the Son of God? The Pharisees want to eradicate this belief so they put out the word that anyone who confesses Jesus as the Christ (the Savior) will be excommunicated and kicked out of the synagogue.

They then contact the former blind man and insist he give an account of what happened. To influence his testimony they tell him, “Give God the glory! We know that this Man is a sinner” (John 9:24, NKJV). In other words, make sure you emphasize the fact that He sinned by healing you on the Sabbath. The man ignores their entreaty and replies, “Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know. One thing I know; that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25, NKJV). He refuses to debate the issue they want to discuss. Instead, he focuses on His encounter with Jesus and how that changed his life forever.

Similar scenarios play out around us today. Those hostile to Jesus demand we embrace their inaccurate view of Him: He was a good man but is not the Savior; He is not the only way to eternal life; He doesn’t care about people because the world is a bad place; He is judgmental and an egotist. And like the Pharisees from two thousand years ago they issue threats to anyone who disagrees with them: We will reject you from mainstream society; we will kick you out of the scientific and intellectual communities; we will sully your reputation; we will mock you as a hater, a fool, and a Neanderthal.

In such circumstances we would do well to mirror the example of the healed blind man. Avoid debating the merits of an irrelevant issue. Instead, focus on what Jesus has done in your life, what He means to you, and the miracles you experienced when you surrendered your life and called Him Lord. No one can argue with you on those points and often those are the most persuasive in drawing people to Jesus.