Monday: Does life have a purpose?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. (Nehemiah 9:6)

For our lives to have true purpose, we must look to a source that is both personal and transcendent.

We all make plans every day. Some plans are short-term, like planning to drive to work or making a grocery list. Others are more long-term, like deciding what career to pursue or who to marry. Forming plans is one of the things that make us unique as humans. We don’t simply operate according to animal instincts or mechanical laws of nature; we set goals and we work toward them.

There are times when we long for a greater purpose—one that goes beyond the level of personal preferences or mere opinion. Our individual plans may come and go, but we want to know that life itself has a purpose and is heading somewhere meaningful. In other words, we desire a higher purpose.

Christianity teaches that life does have such a purpose. In the Christian understanding, God created the universe and everything in it with the goal of demonstrating his glory and love to his creation. We as humans are the pinnacle of God’s creation, and he has given us the responsibility to reflect his glory in the world. That is our ultimate purpose— to give glory to God with our lives. Without this purpose, meaning and fulfillment will never be experienced.

Consider This:

  1. What, in your mind, would give your life substantial meaning? What actions or achievements?
  2. If there is no higher purpose than self-actualization and achievement, would that be satisfying to you? What would be more satisfying?

Take Action:

Reflect on the times in your life when you have felt most content, satisfied and fulfilled. How long did those moments last for you? What characterized those moments for you?

 

 


 

Tuesday: Wouldn’t the world be better without religion—especially Christianity?

Dear friends since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4:11)

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. (Romans 1:18-19)

To do away with the negative repercussions of religion, we would have to do away with humanity itself.

John Lennon asked us all to “imagine no religion.” It sounds like a great idea, but it does not match with reality. That world does not exist and cannot exist. By nature, human beings are religious.

Some might reduce “religion” to the search for spiritual truth, but more accurately it is anything you do devotedly. Some have made a religion out of saving the whales, fighting global-warming, climbing the corporate ladder, or following the Grateful Dead. We seek a purpose. We want to leave a legacy or simply feel a sense that we are somehow making the world a better place. Each of us gravitates toward causes or groups that stand for something bigger than ourselves.

The problem comes when we don’t value others enough to engage them in conversation. We steamroll or shun those who don’t buy into our areas of passion. Every “religion,” including Christianity, has devotees who have fallen into that trap. They make their interpretation of their cause more important than the person across from them. It is they who give “religion” a bad name.

Consider This:

  1. What would you identify as one of your passions?
  2. Has that area of passion guided, in any way, your career path? How?

Take Action:

Make a list of your “religious” practices (the things you do habitually, faithfully, or devotedly) and why you observe them. Now make a list of the “religious” practices in others—even ones that annoy you—in others and try to think through their reasons for following them.

 

 


 

Wednesday: Where did I come from?

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. (Genesis 2:7)

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13)

Christianity is the only story that allows us to account for both our dignity and our brokenness as humans.

If you have ever walked in late to a movie, you may recall your disorientation. Characters were interacting, a plot was unfolding, but you couldn’t quite make sense of what was going on. With no prior explanation or background information, none of the pieces came together.

Life can be that way as well. Thrown into circumstances outside of our own making, we wonder how it got to be this way.

Different worldviews offer different explanations for our origins. Some say we are merely the product of natural processes and random accidents. Others say life is only an illusion or an endless cycle, repeating itself over and over. In other words, every worldview has its own story.

The Christian story stands unique. It tells of the one perfect and eternal God who created this universe and everything in it. He created humans in his image as a reflection of his glory. But through rebellion we distorted that image and the rest of creation with it. We are now a paradoxical combination of glory and misery, honor and shame.

This is the only story that allows us to account for both our dignity and our brokenness as humans.

Consider This:

  1. What explanation of where life came from seems most plausible to you? Why? Are you satisfied with that story?
  2. Which worldview seems most inspirational and full of hope? How do you respond to it?

Take Action:

Draw a simple chart comparing different worldviews (you may want to further your study by looking up more detailed charts through online resources). Use these categories to compare and contrast what you know of each: God/gods/Higher Power; the Origin of Man; Man’s Purpose; Man’s Nature; What’s Wrong with the World; the Solution (if any); Man’s Destiny (after death).

 

 


 

Thursday: Are some creatures more valuable than others?

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:10)

Although all of God’s creation has value and worth, humans occupy a special place in the world because we alone bear God’s image.

Those who grew up with pets know what it means to have an animal become a member of the family. We know what it’s like to have the pleasant distraction of a cat during the pressures of study or work, or the loyal companionship of a dog amid life’s disappointments. We also begin to see our pets’ distinctive personalities, causing us to wonder where the line between animals and humans lies.

The naturalistic perspective states that the difference between animals and humans is one of degree, not kind. We may be more complex or intelligent than other animals, but our intrinsic worth is the same. Some have even argued that a mature dog has more value than an infant human.

The biblical perspective differs radically. Scripture states that, unlike the animals, humans possess God’s own image. As a reflection of God’s character, wisdom, and authority, each human has dignity and worth.

That does not diminish the value of the rest of his creation, because he declared all of it to be “very good.” But God intentionally placed humanity at the pinnacle of his creation, and for that reason we must treat human life with a special reverence.

Consider This:

  1. What makes humans unique, according to Scripture?
  2. Does that diminish the worth of the other created beings? How should we, as humans, treat other living things?

Take Action:

This week, strive to treat other human beings as those who bear the image of God. Speak respectfully, open doors for others, and figure out other little ways that you can treat others as people of great value (and as you would wish to be treated)! As an image bearer yourself, strive to care for the created world around you, just as God would care for his creation.

 


 

Friday: Does everyone know God?

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

God has implanted an awareness of his existence in each of us. It is not belief, but rather unbelief that is a human invention.

Some have asserted that religion is nothing more than an opiate of the masses—something humans concocted to escape the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Although such a suggestion has gained wide currency in the modern world, it has some difficulties. For one, the universal human need for “something more” supports the existence of God.

As atheist-turned-Christian author C. S. Lewis wrote, “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Although we all seem to have an inherent awareness of something higher, we also know that God threatens our autonomy. We may not like the idea of someone exercising absolute authority over us, perhaps because we’ve seen abuses of authority in our own lives.

But the God of the Bible is entirely worthy of our trust. He is wholly loving and good, and he will not abuse his authority over us. Placing our faith in him is thus the most natural thing in the world.

Consider This:

  1. Have you ever had a dream so wonderful that you didn’t want to wake up from it, even when you realized it was “only a dream?”
  2. Do we expect God to have created us with an innate longing for relationship with him?

Take Action:

Read the excerpt below from C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. Write down the phrases that challenge you, as well as any questions the reading provokes.

“This is the fix we are in. If the universe is not governed by an absolute goodness, then all our efforts are in the long run hopeless. But if it is, then we are making ourselves enemies to that goodness every day, and are not in the least likely to do any better tomorrow, and so our case is hopeless again. We cannot do without it, and we cannot do with it. God is the only comfort, He is also the supreme terror: the thing we most need and the thing we most want to hide from. He is our only possible ally, and we have made ourselves His enemies. Some people talk as if meeting the gaze of absolute goodness would be fun. They need to think again. They are still only playing with religion.”