Life without Christ

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Phil 3:8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. (NLT)

My mother-in-law resides in a retirement community in downtown Seattle. Her lifestyle is limited by her modest means, but she lives among some very wealthy couples who, in non-Covid times, travel a lot. It appears that few of the residents are followers of Christ, as measured by attendance at on-site Bible studies or the demand for transportation to local churches on Sundays.

Is there a connection between wealth, travel and the status of one’s soul? Maybe. I’ll echo what a myriad of Christian authors down through the ages have maintained: this fallen world is NOT meant to satisfy the soul.

As a child, teenager or young adult we don’t know this. Life DOES seem exciting – going off to college, diving into a career, finding a mate, starting a family. But as we age and change patterns of work and life, all the possible life experiences, no matter how diverse, lose their lustre, their thrill. Ravi Zacharias has captured this fact by stating:

“The older you get, the more it takes to fill your heart with wonder, and only God is big enough to do that.”

I’m guessing that the wealthy octogenarians who cruise in luxury or fly to lush second homes can’t escape the sense that ‘all this doesn’t satisfy the way it used to!’ (are they even courageous enough to articulate that feeling so explicitly?)

At 63, were it not for the gift of being a Christian, I would be depressed thinking about decreasing pleasures as one ages. In fact, this week I’ve been pondering just what my life would be like if I did NOT know Jesus Christ. Why this topic? Something I read caused me to take a few minutes to write down what I would miss most were I not a follower and disciple of Christ.

If I didn’t know Christ, if I weren’t in union with Him by grace through faith, then I would…….:

  • Lack knowing the meaning and purpose of life. This is SO important to me. It stabilizes and undergirds me. Many people search and search for the meaning of life, intent on knowing why they are here. Understanding the big picture reassures me. I don’t have answers to a lot of my questions, but one thing I am confident in is: WHO God is and WHAT He has done and WHY He created the world and everything in it.
  • Be bereft of constant fellowship with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. As a little sister of Christ, I’m constantly chattering to Him as I go through my day. Out loud, I remind myself why I can rely on Him. I know the Lord is WITH me, always.
  • Have no access or right to all the promises that are in the Bible. These promises of supernatural power, provision, wisdom, protection, correction, comfort are mine because of Christ. They are my treasure.
  • Be deprived of hope for the healings and rescues that God CAN give, even though He doesn’t always give them. This kind of relaxed, confident hope allows me to leave the outcome in His hands.
  • Live with Mike in a marriage that was deprived of the freedom to love and be loved in spite of sin and selfishness. Priceless is a husband who is both brother in Christ and true friend.
  • Know that I would never again see loved ones. Now I am certain that I will SEE and be with fellow Christians, like my Mom, who have gone on before.
  • Lack the power-filled intercessory prayers of many brothers and sisters in Christ. Furthermore, I would not have the blessing of my own growing faith as I pray for others and watch God come through for them.
  • Be rocked by my suffering and that of family, friends and world. I don’t know all the reasons for an individual’s suffering. But what I do know is that God is good, that He uses the suffering He ordains/permits to make us, His adopted children, more like Jesus.
  • Have NO confidence that all the injustices in the world will be paid for, justly and perfectly.
  • Have no amazing, joy-filled future awaiting me, but only judgment and a forever future set in ‘outer darkness’, one filled with anguish and despair.
  • Not be able to let go with peace some dreams that probably won’t be fulfilled in this life, on Earth 1.0.
  • Have NO friends with whom I can be really real. Now I have many genuine friends, most whom I have yet to meet! The bond of Christ creates instant connection.
  • Not enjoy reading my Bible and Christian authors every day. I am richly fed.
  • Be deprived of recognizing when I commit sin, so I can repent, ask for forgiveness and be cleansed!

This gift of Christ’s forgiveness and union with Him satisfies me like nothing else. Knowing Him makes all the difference in my life. Without a doubt, I am much happier than when I was younger.

And with Paul, I can say that any created thing, as beautiful as it is, cannot compete with the gift of knowing God personally and intimately.

Finally, I appreciate the fact that I will NEVER run out of things to marvel over. I like it that God is BIG enough to satisfy me forever.

Looking forward to when Jesus comes back and I get a new body to go with forever life on Earth 2.0!

What is the meaning of life?

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UVa

Traipsing wearily across the grounds of ‘The University‘, as those affiliated with Mr Jefferson’s proudest legacy like to refer to UVa, I was lost in existential thought.  Not unusual for a 20 year-old with too much time on her hands.  What was the meaning of life?  Why was I here?  Where was I headed? Why was I so unhappy?

“Smile!” chirped the startling and uninvited voice of the stranger who passed me by.  I felt like snarling, “I wasn’t frowning! and what’s it to you!” Non-plussed, I said nothing.

Those at the beginning of adulthood share the propensity to seek meaning with two other cohorts – those in midlife and those approaching death.  It’s then that one has time to think about what’s important.

I remember flirting with those issues a few years ago as I was nearing 50.  One mom whose last daughter was about to leave my school where I taught dealt with that approaching emptiness by outfitting and equipping a new house with fancy décor. This was the temporary diversion she had found to put off those nagging questions that matter.  She didn’t need a larger house now that she was soon to be an empty nester.  And as an example of a man approaching death, I have only to look at my dad.  The more his body betrayed him, the more earnestly he sought to insure that we wouldn’t forget him or his accomplishments.  He commissioned self-portraits and published chronicles of past exploits, gifting all his family members.

Recently I’ve been thanking God for one of His benefits that provides me with daily comfort and assurance. It’s one that I had almost taken for granted.  Paul’s shorthand statement sums it up:

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.

If the 2nd half is clear, (when we die, we get to be with Jesus face to face if we have been redeemed by Him), the first half is cryptic.

But it’s not THAT difficult to flesh out.  A Christian is someone who can now see, thanks to God removing the blinders. And what is it that we see?

Was blind, but now see

 

 

For one, we see the big picture of life (aka – the ‘meaning of life’), that is:

  • who created the universe
  • why we were created, our purpose
  • someone IS in control and the universe is not subject to random chance
  • there is TRUTH and it consists not just in principles but in a person who embodies truth
  • despite much evil in this world, one day justice WILL HAVE its day in court; there will be an accounting.

Spoiler alert

 

 

 

 

What will be the nature of this accounting?  Every one of us perpetrators of evil (whether we’re the proverbial little ‘ole lady or an Isis member, or the ordinary sinner who lies, steals, covets, envies, gossips) will either pay for our own deeds or know and be thankful that Jesus suffered in our place as a substitute.

Thanks to Truth, I walk around every day KNOWING that all authority is in God’s hands.  When I meditate on God’s promises in the early morning and look up at the stars, I thank Jesus that He is holding each one of them in their place by His breath and the power of His word.  I don’t have to guess what my purpose is for the day.  I don’t have to wonder what will happen to me when I die.  I don’t have to struggle to reconcile how a supposed loving God can allow all manner of pain and suffering to happen in the world.

Why

 

 

 

God doesn’t reveal to me the purposes behind allowing every bad thing, but I know that He is 100 % in control and that He is a good God and that I can trust Him when He says He works even ‘this’ for the ultimate good of those of us He has called and given the ability to love Him.  That is enough for me.

So back to the part of Paul’s verse that sums up my peace.  The way to live this toilsome, troubling, sometimes terrifying, sometimes terrific life on earth is to center on Jesus, the risen and living Son of God.  He gives me all I need for life, for walking step by step through each day with purpose, peace and provisions, as I need them.

Even though I want to SEE with my eyes the provisions laid up for me, I have to remind myself that He calls me to walk with my eyes of faith (that He has provided).

This gift of KNOWING, of having the Big Picture, of being held securely through a Biblical Worldview is a blessing worth more than treasure can buy.  (Just think of countless quests and books penned.)

To Live is Christ

And to set forth that worldview or ‘Meaning of Life’, Paul dictated ‘to live is Christ’.  It is a handy way of communicating that Jesus Christ is our God, is our Creator, is our Savior, is our Righteousness, is our Wisdom, is our Intercessor, is our Brother, is our Provider, is our Ezer (helper), is our Comforter, is our Protection, is THE Explanation for all that is and ever will be.  Whew!  That is enough for me.

No more taking pride in those bleak ‘Ecclesiastes’ moments!

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“The specific quality of faith is extraspective and in that respect is the diametric opposite of works. …….Faith looks to what God does; works have respect to what we are……,” John Murray on Romans

Psalm 131:2 – Instead, I have kept my soul calm and quiet. My soul is content as a weaned child is content in its mother’s arms.

I think I was approaching 50 when I started occasionally detaching and viewing myself and others around me in a kind of surprise.  I’d be at a red-light at a major commercial intersection looking at fellow drivers to the left and right.

drivers all together

 

 

 

 

I would start to wonder, “What is the point of life? ”  Now, don’t get me wrong; I was a Christian then, well-grounded in my Bible.  I’m just sharing how I was feeling.

Ennui animal

Soon I started going further down this ‘pseudo-sophisticated’ and semi-existential path.  It was a kind of mild depression. It had to do with the daily sameness of an ordinary life, thinking that there was nothing exciting to look forward to.  Maybe it was a kind of weariness of life.

I would even indulge in a bit of superiority in my own special ennui, knowing that buying new stuff  or going on a vacation wouldn’t satisfy me, like it would many of my mid-life peers.  I was one of those ‘deep thinkers who needed much more!’

I infected my husband.  He was in a similar boat in a job that brought no joy.  And when I named my feelings, my unoriginal term, ‘Eccleasisates Moment’ (as in ‘all is vanity’ à la King Solomon) resonated with him.

Not much good comes from all that introspection except for the helpful and salubrious-to-the-budget realization that spending money is no antidote to what is immaterial, namely a feeling.

Recently I have been helped by God’s word to me about taking joy in the simple provisions of life.  I have stepped down from indulging in those super-serious but unfruitful thoughts about the meaning of life.  More and more I am content to settle into and accept  what God says is the meaning of life.

If all life is a gift from God, no matter the form it comes in, then I am meant to live moment by moment with the anticipation that little kids have who are about to receive a treat.  God the good Father via His Spirit implanted in me is growing my feelings of love, joy, and peace.  He is giving me practice (through trying circumstances) to develop the habits of restful waiting, of being kind, of offering grace, of faithfulness in work, of  gentle words and responses to others and most of all teaching me how to control my emotional reactions to life.

Peace - Dove

 

 

So just as the Psalmist himself had finally realized, I am finally learning as a young weaned child of God simply to rest my head on Him.  It is enough to know that I belong to the Eternal God as an adopted daughter.  My good Father plans out my daily events and walks by my side to provide the helping hand and steadying I need as I depend on Him and practice keeping pace with Him.  Our Father is very much like Corrie Ten Boom’s dad who quieted her anxiety about an upcoming train trip and her need of a ticket. He assured his young daughter that he would hand her ticket when she was about to board the train.  So too, God – our Father will give us what we need when we need it, not before. I don’t have to know more than what He has told me and shown me today.

And when I start to fret about the seeming ordinariness of life, I try to remember that Jesus celebrated daily life by living it with bickering fishermen and complaining housewives and restless children.  He didn’t hang out too often with the Important People who were doing ‘big stuff’. He liked good food and physical labor and walking over hill and dale and camping out.  He celebrated with the wedding party and accepted people’s gifts.  He was a mensch.  May we be ones too!

Jesus and kids

 

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