(Life’s Biggest Questions Series Slide)
Good morning. My name is David Sorn, and I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We are continuing this week in our “Life’s Biggest Questions” series where we are talking about the 5 biggest, most foundational questions in all of life.
This week, our question is: “What am I here for?”
(Title Slide: “What am I here for?”)
Another way to state this famous question is: “What is the meaning of life?” “What is our purpose here on earth?”
Like every other question of this series so far: This is a MASSIVE question, right?
So…what are you here for?
Why are you alive on this rock called earth at this moment in time?
What deeper purpose is there to your life?
Is there a purpose to your career? To making money?
How about your relationships? Your family?
For those of you with kids or grandkids, if they asked you, “What am I here for?”
How would you answer that question?
Let’s see if we can begin to answer this big question of life.
As we’ve done most weeks, I don’t want to give you just the Christian and Biblical answer to it, but I want to compare that answer to the secular answers in our culture (secular means non-religious)
And we’re going to start with the secular answers today, so it’ll take me a bit to get to the Bible…which isn’t our normal custom, but it’s been the way we’ve been comparing answers throughout this series.
I AM HERE TO EXPERIENCE AND ENJOY LIFE
--So let’s start by looking at 4 common secular answers to this question: “What am I here for.”
(Slide #1: I am here to experience and enjoy life).
This answer isn’t quite as common in philosophical circles, but it may be the most common answer among everyday Americans.
For many people in this camp, they’re probably not thinking as much about “the meaning of life,” but instead they’re thinking about this topic in terms of “How to be happy…fulfilled”
And for many people those answers are found in the common pursuits of life:
A good career
Having good health
And Millennials and Gen Z would add to this more feelings-based experiences like: experiencing what life has to offer, traveling, friendships.
Still others they would say the goal of life is to just find happiness, in a relationship, in love, or even just in finding pleasure
Actually, for most people, you can reverse-engineer what they think the meaning of life is by studying what they spend most of their time on
Is it their work?
Is it entertainment?
But can you really find meaning and purpose in the things of this earth?
If you’re wondering deeply about this, I encourage you to read the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.
It’s written by King Solomon, one of the wisest people ever to live.
A man who had everything the world could offer him in terms of money, sensual pleasures, success, and power.
And yet he wrote:
(Ecclesiastes 2:10-11) – NIV
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
And even if you’re skeptical about the Bible, you’ll find this same sort of philosophical emptiness from those in the modern world who looked for deep meaning in worldly pursuits.
Read the writings of Steve Jobs, or the emptiness of professional athletes after they hang up their shoes, or celebrities that reach the pinnacle of fame but are so empty that they turn to drugs instead.
If we were put on this earth to find meaning in the things of this world, surely those folks would be the picture of joy, not the epitome of emptiness.
#2: I AM HERE TO DO GOOD AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Okay, let’s take a look at the 2nd common secular answer to “What am I here for?”
(Slide #2: I am here to do good and make a difference).
You can see this idea in popular quotes, like this one from Albert Einstein:
“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” – Albert Einstein
(back to slide #2)
Many people out there want to make a difference for others, and often seek to do so through their career, or volunteer work, and they see this as the primary thing that gives their life meaning.
These are the folks who talk often of leaving a legacy in their families or at their place of employment.
Now, this isn’t a bad thing per se, right?
It’s definitely better than just self-indulgence and not caring at all about others.
In fact this “make a difference talk” sounds SUPER good…
And it does speak to purpose.
But it doesn’t, and it can’t, truly speak to MEANING.
Many people are essentially saying that they want to leave the world a better place, but doesn’t secularism say that there’s no point to the world in the first place?
Back in 2016, (you can look this up on our website if you want) we did a teaching series related to this thought called, “A Chair with No Legs.”
(Chair with no legs series slide) – keep up until next slide
And the basic premise of that series was that many of the good things that people believe we should do in the world (fight for justice, serve, live unselfishly) have their foundation in Christianity
But even though the culture has now sought to free itself from Christ and His rule over their lives, the culture has retained these principles of justice, equality, and service…
But they removed the legs (Christianity), the foundation for WHY we started to believe those things are important in the first place.
And a chair without legs is destined to fall
And so think about this.
The culture is saying, “Do good…make a difference…change the world”
But gone are the Christian legs that used to hold up those truths.
All that’s left is an incredibly wobbly foundation that says: We’re a scientific accident and someday we will all completely cease to exist.
And if those are your philosophical foundations…then, honestly, what real reason is there to “do good?”
What deeper meaning could you find in it?
#3: THERE IS NO MEANING TO MY EXISTENCE
And that leads us now to the 3rd secular answer to this question, and this one, while far less common among regular people, is far more common among secular philosophers and thinkers
(Slide #3: There is no meaning to why I am here).
This sounds depressing, right?
But this doesn’t come out of some sort of depressed state or melancholy soul…
What secular philosophers are trying to do, and I appreciate this, is they’re trying to be consistent with their secular answers to the rest of “Life’s Biggest Questions”
They’re saying, “What am I here for?”
Because in their worldview, Human life has no purpose because they believe that Nobody put us here for a purpose.
If there is no God, then there can’t be such a thing as meaning, or purpose.
And they start by looking at the big question of life we covered in Week #1: “Where did we come from?”
And the secular answer, the answer without God, is that we are a scientific accident.
Or as the famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking puts it:
“The human race is just a chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet.” – Stephen Hawking
And if you are just an accidental, chemical scum, then, yes, it is an outlandish leap to then declare that there is then some objective, transcendent purpose that you are here for.
But reading thoughts like this, I think most people still want to say, “even if there is no Creator, and even if I am just an accidental, evolutionary byproduct, can’t there still be meaning to my life if I’m making a difference in my family, community, in politics, and the world?”
--To which the atheist Graham Lawton, in the regarded science magazine New Scientist, replies:
“(What is the meaning of life?) The harsh answer is “it has none.” Your life may feel like a big deal to you, but it’s actually a random blip of matter and energy in an uncaring and impersonal universe. When it ends, a few people will remember you for a while, but they will die too. Even if you make the history books, your contribution will soon be forgotten. Humans will go extinct; Earth and the sun will be destroyed. Eventually the universe itself will end. Against this appalling reality, how can a human life have any real meaning?” - Graham Lawton
That’s a harsh word, but they’re trying to be consistent and not just give contradictory answers to all of life’s biggest questions.
And if you want to be logically consistent, try to create a morality that matters out of those answers (that you’re an accident and no one will even remember you (or humanity!) in the future).
Why even be good? What’s the point if there’s no right and wrong?
Timothy Keller says it this way:
“If there is no God, or anything beyond this material world, then whether you’ve been good or cruel or murderous will make no final difference.” - Timothy Keller
#4: THERE IS NO MEANING TO MY EXISTENCE, BUT WE CAN DETERMINE OUR OWN MEANING
But most people just can’t live with this, so they try and salvage something out of this third theory…which brings us to our 4th common secular answer.
(Slide #4: There is no meaning to why I am here, but I can determine my own meaning)
If you think that doesn’t make sense, you’re right ☺
It’s very postmodern (that we find the truth within each of us)
The famous scientist and agnostic Carl Sagan (who by the way refused to be an atheist because he couldn’t get around how finely tuned the laws of Physics were) explained this 4th view this way:
"We live in a vast and awesome universe in which, daily, suns are made and worlds destroyed, where humanity clings to an obscure clod of rock. The significance of our lives and our fragile realm derives from our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life's meaning." - Carl Sagan
In other words, there is no objective, higher-level meaning out there, so make up your own meaning.
You find a way to say that your life matters
But this is like saying, “If your previous answers to life’s biggest questions lead you to believe that life has no meaning, don’t think too hard about those answers, and instead make up your own meaning”
Where, what I’m saying to you in this series is seek the truth.
Keep looking for the truth until you find a system (a worldview) that is logically consistent the whole way through.
See, think through this series…the truth is…
Most people don’t want to believe their life is an accident.
They don’t want to believe that there’s no purpose or point to changing the world
Or that there is no right and wrong
Or that their life has no meaning.
They want to believe in meaning and purpose.
And you might even ask yourself, why is it that humans are so desperate to find meaning and purpose in the first place?
Perhaps it’s because we were created to find it?
People are so desperate to find a sense of meaning, or a reason behind why they are here, and a reason behind what’s happening in their life…
…that I hear more and more secular people nowadays say things like, “It was just meant to be”
As if there is some magic thing out there guiding your life called fate.
Or people say, “The universe just wanted it that way”
As if we could personify the universe (or fate) and make it a being that loved us and had a plan for our life.
What are people looking for?
Is it possible that they are looking for God?
And is it possible, that God Himself is actually the most logical answer to this question.
THE CHRISTIAN ANSWER
So what is the Christian answer to this monumental question: WHAT AM I HERE FOR?
While there is no one Bible verse that explicitly says verbatim, “The meaning of life is ____”, from systematic theology (that is studying the whole Bible on one topic)…
…I can tell you that the most famous answer to this question is from the Westminster Shorter Catechism:
The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
The chief end, the main point, what we are here for…is to glorify God.
That is that our lives should bring Him, our loving creator, glory
You see this throughout the Bible, in verses like
(1 Corinthians 10:31) – NIV
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Or, the prophet Isaiah, tells the Israelites what God says to them about bringing them back to his land and to Him:
(Isaiah 43:6b-7) – NIV
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
The way that we live ought to cause people to glorify God.
That the people around us would say, “Wow, that person makes me want to believe in God. I see God in them. That’s amazing. Praise God”
---This is why…when he was asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied…(…)
(Matthew 22:37-39) – NIV
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
As we Seek first the Kingdom of God (and we love God and we love our neighbor), that will bring praise and glory to God.
Now, I’m going to say a bit more on this, but before I go any further, let me quickly cover two common objections to this answer.
Some people say, well, if that’s “what I’m here for,” that makes the purpose of my life pretty centered on God, and not on MY life.
Which, understand that modern Western culture is the first culture to ever even make that objection.
Trust me, our ancestors wouldn’t have even asked that question…because it was intuitive to them that life was about God, not us.
And also remember all of the Christian-answers to Life’s Biggest Questions are logically consistent with one another.
So therefore, next week, when we cover “What happens when I die,” and we talk about life going on for all of eternity…
If that is true, then when we talk about “the meaning of life,” meaning must be more expansive than our current earthly-focused definitions are
If life is eternal and this current life is just a blip on a timeline of billions upon billions of years in eternity…then why in the world would the meaning of life be ONLY about life on earth?
Ever thought about that?
When you remember that life is so much longer, it seems odd than to say that the meaning of my existence is my 40 year career or enjoying the trips I go one or doing good in retirement.
It doesn’t make sense that the meaning of life would entirely be about this short blip of our time on earth.
That would be like a 4th grader demanding to find all of life’s meaning in the first semester of 4th grade!
You’d say, “no, there’s a lot more to life buddy!”
The Christian says the same thing.
We say, “there’s a lot more to life…than this current life”
And therefore, we live for God’s glory, because we’ll be living in His glory for all of eternity.
And the second objection to this Christian answer for “What am I here for” is that it feels too duty-bound, or too dry to people.
“All right…my purpose is…serve God, obey Him…I guess…it doesn’t feel very exciting or life giving.
And I think, that’s just a caricature. That’s not what the Bible really says.
Look at our answer again:
The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
I think one of Pastor John Piper’s greatest contributions to Christian thought has been his take on this when he very famously wrote:
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” – John Piper
So this is the beautiful promise of the Christian faith.
It’s not just…trust God, serve him, follow Him, and obey Him.
Yes, do that.
But the teaching of the Bible is that God is actually the most glorified not just by you learning about Him or even obeying Him…
but God is most glorified (and thus you are most deeply living out your purpose), when you are deeply satisfied in Him.
Because when that happens, people will look at your life…and glorify God
It’s kind of profound.
And this is where I find the Christian answer to this Big Question of Life so deeply fulfilling.
Not only is it logically consistent, but the Christian answer fulfills all of the longings of the heart found in secularism.
Look at this.
(Slide 4 again):
The first secular hope is that “I am here to experience and enjoy life.”
And that innate desire isn’t completely wrong.
It’s just that many people haven’t pointed that desire in the right direction
They’ve pointed it inward instead of upward
The truth is, you are here, most deeply, to enjoy……..God.
And if you’re going, well that seems like a letdown, not very exciting…
I would tell you that you haven’t truly met God yet.
You were made, first & foremost, to find your deepest fulfillment in enjoying and knowing Him…not the things of this world.
And even the things of this world, the trips, and the sights, and the people…
Turn from hollow to beautiful when you see God’s hand behind them.
This is so true.
Let’s keep going:
Again, the 2nd secular hope is “I am here to do good and make a difference”
Again, those impulses are right, and noble, and true.
But the reality is, you don’t have to make up a “good” that has no meaning and no ultimate purpose underneath it.
You can now say, “I am here because God wants to use me for good”
God actually has a plan for YOU.
And He wants to use you to bring good to this world and glory to Him.
It’s pretty amazing.
And when the famous philosophers of this world say that ultimately, your life has no meaning, that there is no reason for why you are here…
If that leaves you feeling unsatisfied, please, don’t just, in an illogical contradiction, make up some sort of imaginary meaning.
Seek the truth.
Because here’s the truth the Christian believes:
“The King of Kings has created me, loves me, and decided to use me for His glory. Therefore, my life is infinitely meaningful”
Think about that for a minute……..
This is KEY
WE need to know this in a world where so many of us have friends who take their life because they can’t find meaning.
If the Bible is right, and God knit you together in your mother’s womb…and that He loves you…and has a plan for you…
And that He wants to use you to do things that will affect all of eternity…
Then, yes, your life is infinitely, amazingly meaningful.
The Bible’s answer to this question is BEAUTIFUL.
And it’s logically consistent too with every other answer we’ve had
And it’s the truth.
That God is real.
And He loves you.
So much so that He sent His son Jesus Christ to earth for you.
And Jesus, in dying on the cross, was dying for your sins.
For your mistakes.
Taking the punishment for you.
And when you believe in that…when you surrender your life to Him…your faith in Him is what forgives you and makes you right with God.
But life will never be right until you do that.
You won’t find meaning, or purpose, anywhere else…because you weren’t meant to find it anywhere else.
It’s like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole
And for many people the process to come to this conclusion to surrender your life to God, and let Him lead you…to believe His son died for you…for many that is a long process.
But for most people, it does eventually come to a decision point.
A point where you have to say, “yes, I accept this sacrifice.”
I believe that this does make the most sense.
It takes the least amount of faith to believe that God is real and sent His son for me, and has a purpose for me.
And if you need to make that decision today…
To turn your life over to God
To be forgiven and made right with Him.
As we sing this next song, what I want you to do, as everyone gets up to sing, I want you to slide out of your row, and as I walk out into the lobby, I want you to come meet me and our follow-up team in our lobby during the song.
As a way of saying, “I’m surrendering. I believe”
Some of you need to make this step today.
And we’ll get you started in how to take the first steps of following Jesus Christ.
It’s a big first step.
But one that will change your eternity.
Let me pray.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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