Is There Meaning To My Life?
The focus of these messages is relationship with God, hearing God’s voice and responding in practical ways allowing us to live with constructive thoughts, constructive words and constructive actions. Through this next sermon series, I would like for us to recognize the importance of the reality of God’s existence. Encouraging messages, without grounded purpose and meaning, only help momentarily. There is a deep burning question in every human being, Is there meaning to my life?If there is, what is that meaning for me. People might not talk about it. Many times people are afraid to ask the question because they think it is a lack of faith if they ask. Most people just rest on other people’s theology, not a belief or knowing that one has come to their own conclusion. Purpose and meaning type questions all stem from the greater question, does God exist?
Psa. 46:10 “Cease striving and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”
Theist say there is a supreme being, Atheist say there is no god, Agnostics say we can’t prove the existence of God therefore He is unknowable. If God does not exist, there is no transcendent reality. The universe and all of creation are doomed to death. The laws of thermodynamics are all working against us moving toward the heat death of the universe and an inevitable death of every living organism. This does not paint a very happy picture for existence upon this earth. There had better be a greater purpose and meaning then were all waiting for a cold death. Science is showing that the universe is expanding faster than we thought and through the process it becomes colder and colder. Stars burn out, black holes other replacement, matter collapses in on itself. There’ll be no light, heat or life. This is not science fiction. This is not some conspiracy theory. This is indisputable science. If we take this reality and then add postmodernism, nihilism and ultimate atheism to our societies, we’ve got a cocktail of hopelessness. Purpose,value and significance need to be identified within our current reality. The word purpose is related to setting goals in life. Ultimate value leans toward understanding of moral worth and or life-giving truth. Significance points to importance or why something even matters. Many atheists do agree that without God life is absurd meaningless and worthless. Without God existing, there is no ultimate purpose in life. If physical death is truly the end, than what is the goal of life. Is the universe just a pointless evolutionary creation? Is the purpose of the universe just to expand to death? What about us? Are we just a random addition to expanding heat death. The universe and/or existence without God is just an extended death sentence. Without God, value of life takes a hit. It’s difficult to calibrate belief without an objective archetypal compass of what right and wrong is or good and bad being tampered by human opinion. Are values social biological or are they instilled by a transcendent being?
Rom. 3:10 as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one;
Rom. 3:11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God;
Rom. 3:12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”
If we are to believe the Bible to have archetypal truth in regards to values, we will see things in the Bible that are contradictory to our human nature. Example the 10 Commandments and Jesus Commandments. Even story of Cain and Abel shows that we all have a shadow that we better contend with. If there is no God, there is no Godly design to follow that would bring life. Cain was fully aware that God existed, yet he still chose to work outside of God’s design. Negative consequences followed. Without God there is no significance to our lives. One might hold disbelief, yet when they experience the death of a loved one or even a traumatic event, even a near-death experience, it seems that belief systems change. If there is no God, we are all doomed to destruction. What difference does it make if we influence anything? Every action and development to make the human existence better becomes meaningless.Advances in medicine, advances in science, social economic advancements all for nothing. Frederick Nietzsche proclaims that God is dead and goes on to say that you killed him and that there is not enough water in the ocean to wash away all the blood. These are strong words. Societies, governments and countries have removed God, killed God. We, in the process, did not realize that something will and must fill the void of the missing God. Even in our contemporary churches, we haven’t exactly killed God, we have reduced God down to an impotent, legalistic insurance policy or created him to meet our own desires. We’ve filled the empty space where God used to be with something else. This condition,I believe, is worse than atheism because it affects a large group of an established belief system in negative ways. If there is no existence of God, there is no existence of hope. If there is an existence of God, hope shines as a bright day with brighter tomorrows. Is there away to get back to the basics of biblical theism that allows God to be who He is? The fact of the matter is that God IS always who HE is. Are we willing to embrace him? The Scriptures made it clear that we have been created for the purpose. We can say that we are to be the praise of God’s glory, mirrors of the Almighty. In what practical sense can we and are we doing this? The Westminster Catechism shares that the purpose of life (chief end of man) is to know and glorify God and enjoy God forever.God goes beyond the values of subjective sociological mores that provides timeless anchoring of archetypal truths. Even the 10 Commandments give us a glimpse of objective moral duties related to God and to our fellow man. Because God’s design includes that we live beyond this world, our actions and behaviors make a difference now and later. With God and the design of immortality, now we have room for values purpose meaning and significance. None of what we talked about today proves the existence of God. There are many arguments for God’s existence beyond theology. We are discussing that there is absolute meaning for life and our existence and I’m encouraging each of us to reconsider our view of God analyzing if we have reduced him to an emergency first aid kit. There is an old Christian saying that we should magnify the Lord. Magnification usually means optically making something that’s small, larger. I am convinced that our challenge is not that. Our challenge is accepting and responding to God appropriately based upon his actual size and who He is. Let’s move beyond mental belief to concrete knowing when it comes to the anchor of our soul. God wants us to know that we are significant to him. We need to realize how significant God is for us and our well-being.
Pascal said when it comes to God we have got nothing to lose and only everything to gain.
I Am Significant To God.
If we are significant to God, the question that needs to be answered is what is that significance? As we shared before, the Bible encourages us to be the praise of God’s glory, mirrors of the Almighty as human beings who have the Spirit of God within them. As easy as it might be for us to know that God exists, there are plenty of people within our sphere of influence who struggle with this reality. Is it possible that our significance is based upon a calling to help people broach the question that will yield the most important answer in their life. The Bible says that nature bears enough evidence of the existence of God.
Rom.1:20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
As I agree with this statement, I find it more difficult to rest on this statement alone in the year 2019 to help people come to a conclusion of the existence of God. Most Christians struggle with hard questions in regards to their faith, belief, or even the existence of God. That struggle is apparent when Christians respond to those seeking and curious claiming to know that they know that God exists, what God is thinking, how God is feeling, what God is going to do next, and so on. We see the sin of arrogance thinking that we know everything. Then we seethe sin of ignorance, not knowing that we don’t know anything. Maturity says that we don’t know and that we don’t know what we don’t know and we need to be forthright with that information. Shooting straight with someone offers an opportunity of greater respect. Thinking that we have every answer comes off charlatanistic. Within the design of God and his creation we need to rest on the fact that there’ll always be the next question. We also need to come to grips with our concept of God no matter what it is, is not completely accurate. This is why the Bible, within the 10 Commandments, God gives the first commandment.Do not have any other gods before the one true God and do not attempt to conceptualize through graven images or other means to identify him. That doesn’t give us much to hold onto, yet it is a brilliant encouragement because God knows that our concepts of Him will be limited and inaccurate. Even though God does not reveal himself directly, there is an incredible amount of metadata that points back to him both scientifically and experientially. This information is not perfect, if it were there would be no more atheists in the world. This takes us back to one part of our significance and that is to help those come to a solid conclusion of God’s existence. William Lane Craig is a Christian apologist rock star type who debates all types of theological questions with all types of people from different beliefs including atheists. He very cleverly offers five points of information for the existence of God. I would like to share them with you to bolster your belief as well is encourage you to share as opportunity arises.
Does God exist?
1. God is the best explanation of the origin of the universe.
2. God is the best explanation of the fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life.
3. God is the best explanation of the existence of objective moral values and duties.
4. God is the best explanation for the historical evidence concerning Jesus of Nazareth.
5. God can be personally known and experienced.
Unpacking point number one, modern science believes that the universe is not eternal in the past but had a beginning, a finite time ago. Science shows this initial event, many refer to this as the Big Bang, happened around 14 billion years ago.
To say this was a major event is an understatement. All matter, energy, space and time came into being at the moment of the Big Bang. This is completely outside of our paradigm due to the fact all understanding happens enmeshed within matter, energy, space and time. The Big Bang represents the origin of the universe yet it originates from nothing. This poses a paradoxical argument of cause-and-effect. Nothing happens without a cause. There are studies now in quantum mechanics that say that out of a quantum vacuum particles can materialize what seems to be out of nothing. Many scientists will say that this is the proof that you can get something out of nothing. What they failed to divulge is that this quantum vacuum is a sea of immense energy.This is emphatically not nothing. The quantum vacuum state had a beginning. The next question is what caused the quantum vacuum and what brought the universe into being. This leaves us with a transcendent cause for the beginning of the universe. A transcendent cause of the physical universe must be, uncaused, nonphysical,immaterial and non-temporal or timeless. This transcendent cause would also have to be changeless, ultimately powerful as well as personal from the standpoint of philosophy and theology. The Bible,in its mythological language, has made that simple statement all along that an all-powerful transcendent being was that cause. You can’t have a temporal effect from the beginning from an internal cause. You can’t have it both ways it’s either all temporal or all eternal. The transcendent cause must be a personal agent who freely chooses to create a new effect without any prior determining conditions.
What Is Your Purpose?
We are going to pick up with point number two: the complex order in the universe points to an intelligent designer. Scientists believe that given enough time, there would be enough margin for evolution that it would appear creation had a designer. The key portion of this phrase is“appeared to have had a designer.” Discoveries in science of the last 50 years have uncovered that for life to exist, there needs to be a delicate balance to allow it to happen. Science also shows that the universe is fine tuned for intelligent life. They can show this process all the way back to the beginning of the Big Bang. This fine-tuning is so delicate and precise, it goes beyond human comprehension.
Is.40:28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable.
I would like to present you a couple of numbers to share with you demonstrating the odds of intelligent life coming from random evolutionary processes alone. The number of seconds and the history of the universe is about 10 to the 18th power. This is the number 10 followed by 18 zeros. The number of subatomic particles and the entire known universe is about 10 to the 80th power. Keeping those numbers in mind, in order for the universe to be life permitting, the force of gravity and the weak force in the atom have to be fine-tuned to the precision one part out of 10 to the 100 power The cosmological constant that governs the accelerating expansion of the universe is fine-tuned to one part out of 10 to the hundred and 20th power. Roger Penrose of Oxford University says that the odds of the initial low entropy state of the early universe obtaining by chance alone is one of 10 to the 10th power to the one 23rd power. These numbers are so large they are incomprehensible. Because of these large numbers,the fine-tuning of the universe requires explanation. In the literature of fine-tuning there are three possible explanations that have been devised. One would be physical necessity due to the laws of nature. The next is pure chance.The third explanation would the product of intelligent design. This unashamedly points to someone intelligently designing the universe. The first two ideas I shared are not very plausible which means that the most plausible idea for the existence of the universe is an intelligent designer. Multiple prominent scientists feel the same way. Paul Davies, a famous physicist says, “through my scientific work, I’ve come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with and ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact.” Robert Jastrow former head of NASA Goddard Institute for space studies says, “this is the most powerful evidence for the existence of God ever to come out of science.”
Here’s a rundown of logical thought.
1.if the universe began to exist, then the universe has a cause of its beginning.
2.the universe began to exist.
3.therefore the universe has a cause of its beginning.
Breaking down the concept even further.
1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either the physical necessity, chance or design.
2. is not due to physical necessity or chance.
3.therefore is due to design.
The next point I’d like to share is very controversial among theists and atheists. This is our third point. God is the best explanation for the existence of objective moral values and duties. Theists believe that if God does not exist, there is no objective standard for right or wrong. Question: Who authors good and evil. Before we go any further we might need to unpack the definition of morality or its concept. A simple idea is doing right by others. Another concept is something we talked about before, the highest good, for the most people, for the longest time. Ex. Golden Rule Notice that morality theoretically is based upon how we handle the entanglement of other human beings. With this concept, if you were alone on a desert island, morality would not be an issue for you due to the fact there is no entanglement of other human beings. Jesus teachings takes a step further that morality actually begins in our thoughts.
Matt.5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’;
Matt.5:28 but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.
So is it that God gives us the moral compass or is it the argument that social biological encounters guide the morality of human beings? The concept of good and evil is outlined in story within the Bible starting with the rebellion of Lucifer to the fall of this most beautiful cherub and one third of the angelic hosts. Michael Ruse a philosopher of science who is also an atheist states that “morality is a biological adaptation, ethics is illusory, morality is just an aide to survival and reproduction, and any deeper meaning is illusory.” The big question is, is morality solidified by social acceptance and rejection or does morality come directly from God. It seems that there are two sides of this coin yet with closer examination we can realize that it is potentially both and that these ideas are not at odds with each other. The question is, where is the foundation? Our moral social biological or are they given by God and then manifested social biologically. With God inthe picture we have a transcendent plumb line of what is good and evil where social biological may fluctuate based upon human acceptance.
Let’s summarize this point.
1.If God does not exist, the objective moral values and duties do not exist.
2.Objective moral values and duties do exist.
3.Therefore God exists.
This is one of the larger arguments when it comes to the existence of God because many have been introduced to relativism and or postmodernism that seems to skew the lines of truth and truth that is directly connected to morality. Simply stated that there is no God objective moral values. Truth and values all relative. Even within the argument of this point, those who hold to relative morality even struggle with those who hold to objective morality due to the fact that they want to leave room for opposing thought.
Evidence of Jesus Existence.
Our next point will be point number four, God is the best explanation for the historical evidence concerning the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. One of the first observations we need to make is that Jesus is the most documented individual in antiquity and possibly even to this day.
There are those in the atheist community who attempt to discount the very existence of Jesus. Christianity aside, the historical data makes these claims an uphill battle.Other philosophical icons such as Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and even Confucius do not have the same press coverage as Jesus. Historical Jesus came on the scene with unprecedented sense of divine authority. He presented himself to be able to stand and speak in God’s place. We see this as the Christology of Christ unfolds through the Gospels. Jesus speaks that the kingdom of God has broken into the existence of humanity. There are three radical claims that the Bible makes about this person named Jesus.That He rose from the dead, was born of a virgin, and was incarnate. In human history, each one of these attributes are proof positive for divinity of a human.
1Cor.15:3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,
1Cor.15:4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,
1Cor.15:5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Matt.1:18 ¶ Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.
John1:1 ¶ In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John1:2 He was in the beginning with God.
John1:3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
As radical as an empty tomb would be for some, this is not the incubating evidence for the beginnings of Christianity. Because an empty tomb could be dismissed by doubts of grave robbers or the placement of the body in an unknown tomb there had to of been stronger anchoring for Christianity to take hold. Most scholars feel that moreover the sightings of Jesus’s postmortem seem to be the fuel that accelerated the fire of belief that Jesus rose from the dead. If Jesus really did rise from the dead, that means you must have been who he claimed to be. If Jesus really did rise from the dead it means God has publicly vindicated his claims according to the Bible. Most people take the resurrection story on faith yet Dr. Craig found that there are 4 established positive pieces of evidence that are agreed to, by many of the New Testament scholars, which are best explained by Jesus’ resurrection.
1.One piece of evidence is the history around Joseph of Arimathea. Adding Arimathea when identifying this Joseph helps us to know which one he is in the Bible.
Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy member of the Sanhedrin Council. As a wealthy individual this Joseph owned a tomb that he donated to Jesus after his death. There is not a lot of historical information on this Joseph, yet what is there seems solid. Because we’re dealing with stories of antiquity, it is difficult at times to know exactly who people were and what they did. There are other theories about Joseph of Arimathea, yet this evidence seems the most plausible that he existed and that he donated his all and personal tomb.
2.And then as the story goes that tomb was found empty by a group of women who were Jesus followers on the Sunday morning following Jesus death.
3.Point number three gets more interesting because various individuals and groups in multiple locations witnessed Jesus postmortem.
Atheists push back that it is easily possible for individuals to have hopeful hallucinations of deceased loved ones. It gets more interesting when groups of people are experiencing the same hallucination.
4.Point number four says that the disciples definitively believed that Jesus rose from the dead who would be authoritative figures due to their proximity and relationship with Jesus.
These four pieces of evidence are widely accepted by scholars today. The question is how do you explain these happenings? Did the human Jesus raised from the dead on his own or did a transcendent supernatural being intervene altering the natural laws of nature bringing a human being back to life after three days?
Remember what we had shared earlier, within the Gospels, the book of Mark chronologically is the earliest writings about 50 years after the death of Jesus that do not include the virgin birth or great details of the Christology of Jesus. I bring this to the forefront because the early church did not have this information.The question is what was the fuel for the growth of Christianity? Dr.Luke Timothy Johnson, Prof. of New Testament and Christian origins says this,“Some sort of powerful transformative experience is required to generate the sort of movement earliest Christianity was.” N.T. Wright, a prominent New Testament scholar says, “That is why as a historian I cannot explain the rise of early Christianity unless Jesus rose again leaving an empty tomb behind him.”
In summary we can conclude four pieces of evidence:
Jesus honorable burial.
Jesus empty tomb.
Jesus postmortem appearances.
The origin of the disciples believe in Jesus resurrection
So what’s the best explanation of these facts? Here’s one hypothesis.
God raised Jesus from the dead.
If God raised Jesus from the dead then God must exist.
Experience God for He is Knowable.
The fifth point that would like to conclude with for the existence of God is what seems to be personal experiences that people encounter across the globe. God can be known and experienced. Point number five is difficult to support with consistent measurable evidence from natural measuring devices. This is not an argument for God’s existence, it is a claim that you can know God and experience Him in some and or many capacities. This is the ability to know God wholly and apart from arguments. In other words, if you knew nothing of the five points we discussed you could still have an experience and relationship with God. People of antiquity including those mentioned in the Bible experienced God this way.
John Hick, philosopher of religion and theologian says, “For them God was not an idea adopted by the mind, but it experienced reality which gave significance to their lives.”
This is the main truth I would like us to discover within the sermon series. You are significant to God. An experienced reality with God gives significance to any life. The Bible shares many ways to experience God. The Bible also gives proof positive evidences that we have experienced God through spiritual fruit and gifts.
Gal.5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,faithfulness,
Gal.5:23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
1Cor.12:7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
1Cor.12:8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;
1Cor.12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit,
1Cor.12:10 and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to an other the interpretation of tongues.
1Cor.12:11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
James4:8 (a) Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.
Now that we recognize the five points, what can we say to a questioning individual? As simple as this might sound, encourage an individual to reach out to God with simple communication. Christians use the word prayer. The word prayer could be too formal in some circumstances. Encourage this individual to ask God to reveal himself to them in some way. It has been my experience, that God is completely capable of making himself known when we are honest and transparent with him. Statistics show now that one in five Americans recognize themselves as atheists,agnostics, or nothing at all. That number is growing. Many people fall into the camp that it doesn’t matter if God exists at all. This takes us back to the number one question of significance, purpose and meaning of anyone’s life without the existence of God. The fact of the matter is that anyone who shrugs this question off has not thought deeply about the matter. Understanding our significance to God and his significance to us sets the tone for our relationship with God and with each other. It sets the tone for how we live our life today, and prepare for our tomorrows. It sets the tone for life and the afterlife. Without God there is finite existence, with God there is immortality. This simple fact effects the motivations of the way we do things today. Without God the meaning of our existence is lost. Meaning dovetails with the word significance in terms of why we are here. Relative significance can be attained by affecting the world in a positive way yet ultimate significance rests in the reality of God. Without God even the greatest deeds end in heat death of the universe. With God there is a design greater than our understanding. Without God life has no ultimate value. This reflects back to our point that talked about objective moral values would not exist. History has proven this to be true with multiple countries and governments within the 20th century who have removed God and murdered millions of people. What would you do if you believed there was not an ultimate governing source watching over you? This type of reality moves us into postmodernism and nihilistic belief. The fact of the matter is that there is purpose in everyone’s life. Purpose reflects a goal, and end result.
We are not accidental byproducts of nature.
Atheists state that there is no God, yet at the same time, they behave as if there is a God. It is impossible in the year 2019 not to be influenced by Judeo Christian moral beliefs in the Western world, atheist or not. Psychologists and philosophers agree that a true atheist would only exist for the interest of themselves at any cost. What’s interesting is that, this is not what we see. Many atheists are moral,upstanding, intelligent human beings. They are helpful, concerned about their fellow man, seekers of truth. Even though atheists will say objective moral values do not exist, many behave as though they do. It is not just “Survival of the fittest.” We are not all angels. There are wicked atheists. There are wicked people of faith as well. History proves this from Auschwitz to Stalinist Russia, and Maoist China. Both in the name of God and in the name of human leaders they created hell on earth. Every man for himself in morality doesn’t work. Totalitarian enforcement of morality also doesn’t work. So what works? The reality of the existence of God that embraces self responsibility and yielding to a transcendent design beyond ourselves. Maybe the new question should be can we prove that God does not exist? The next thought should recognize that earthly natural measuring tools will fail to work properly when dealing with the transcendent. As frustrating as this is, we would do well if we could build a bridge from the world of naturalism and philosophy to unbiased theology. We need to know that we are significant to God and that He is significant to us. Rather than placing legalistic road blocks in front of people, lets begin to let people know that they are significant to God. As tempting as it is to get all of our God experiences to match, maybe the beauty is the celebration of diversity that God is working with each of us uniquely every step of our journey here on earth.