I suspect the answer is yes, because I often find myself asking the question.
I know that being a Christian is about doing the will of God and following in Jesus’ footsteps. But in the world we live in, we often find ourselves pushing God’s work aside with convenient excuses, like making a living or taking care of family. But every day, better every hour, we should be focused on perfecting our walk with God.
As I approach my seventh decade of this life, it amazes me what I have achieved, and what I haven’t. I first learned of God as a small boy in Colorado, less than 5. I don’t have a lot of visual memories from my youth – I was legally blind when we moved to California in 1965. God fixed that later, but that’s not today’s story. But I remember feeling God’s presence one day, a personal experience I find difficult to describe, and I remember asking my mother afterward who Jesus was, and that her answer was both surprised, an unsatisfying. So began my search.
Christians often refer to their “walk” with God. But I think the relationship is better described, and focused, as a search with God. Once a person can get past the blocks on reading a Bible and read enough in one sitting to see the shape of its purpose, a striking similarity behind successful Christianity appears: successful Christians seek a relationship with God. Every day, in every way, they include God.
Unsuccessful Christians stop seeking.
Let me start with the simple truths that are the foundation of a search for God.
Modern science generally accepts the beginning of our universe to be modeled by the Big Bang Theory (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Bang), occurring some 13.799 billion years ago. Judeo-Christian writings describe the event in both the Gospel of John, and in the Book of Genesis (in English, the book of Beginnings).
(John 1:1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.
(Genesis 1:1) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.
One of the prevalent theories is that something of infinite energy “crashed” into a quantum of infinite mass and created the universe. Christians believe, based on the teachings of Jesus, and the Gospels that have been handed down to us, the Father provided the will to create our universe (“Let there be light”), and created all things through the Word, Jesus. Personally, I find comfort in the idea the two explanations support one another.
Where scientists and theologians seem to divide is on the purpose for creation. Most people try to believe that there was no purpose – everything is cause and effect and we are all just a big magnificent accident. Christians, and to be honest, all religions, support the idea that creation, life, existence, all have a purpose, and that our search is to find the meaning and purpose of our lives and fulfill it.
Here then is the crux of faith, and ultimately, happiness. If we have no purpose, we devolve. But if we have a purpose, we evolve. Look at people who have no purpose. What to do they do with their lives? What do they accomplish? How do they achieve happiness? Or even just contentment? Watching TV? Vicariously adopting the purposes of fictional characters? Watching the purpose, drive, ambitions, accomplishments of others? Who has purpose, or abundant life – the successful person, or the couch potato?
At our core we seek purpose, and to fulfill it. We determine what we want to do by identifying a purpose, and from that purpose developing goals, and then we work to achieve those goals. Why then should we expect the universe to have no purpose? The only logical answer would be to avoid our own purpose, to excuse our not wanting to seek, not wanting to grow, not wanting to live.
How profound is the realization that creation has a purpose, and that everything in creation seeks to fulfill that purpose? How terrifying? How awesome!
Christians go on about sin. What is it? Watch television for a while, and you can come away with the idea that sin is what makes life fun. Sin is doing something naughty, forbidden, maybe even evil. Sin is pleasurable. Work a little harder at a search with God, and one cannot escape that sin is really nothing more than moving away from God, away from the purpose of all creation.
Let that one sink in. It is possible to preach the Word and still be sinning – “But Jesus, we preached and healed and performed miracles in Your name” and Jesus replied, “Get away from me, for I have never known you.” In short, God created all the universe for a purpose, and what we often miss, is that our purpose is to share our lives with our Creator. Anything that separates us from our Creator, that tempts us to put God outside of our awareness, is sin. And this is the crux, that is, the cross of Christianity.
Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, and that more abundantly.” But we also know that “the wages of sin is death.” We have all sinned, and taught others to sin. Who amongst us, besides Jesus, has lived every moment totally open and with God? God can never lie, nor change, nor be untrue. “Thou shalt not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, lest ye die.” The core of Christianity is that we did sin, and so we are under the consequence of death. Very plainly, at some point we separated from our true purpose, and so we chose to “die.” But Jesus, the Word who was with God in the Beginning, through Whom all things were made, and in Whom is Life, died in our place. Hundreds of years of recorded prophecies showed it was God’s will that Jesus would come, would die in our place, and would live again, giving us a chance to turn back to life and fulfill our purpose. So, if we choose to accept this graceful gift from God, we can be saved from our sin, but only by turning (repentance) back to our purpose, and away from that with distracts us from our true life.
If you are still with me, things get both heavier and easier from here. Let’s assume we are okay with God having a purpose for creation. If we serve the purpose, we evolve, and if we ignore the purpose, we devolve. What do we want? Some set out to become rich, or famous. Our literature and filmography abound with the unfulfillment that attends success in riches and fame. Many who achieve these things turn toward philanthropy – helping others – and achieve a measure of peace.
Most of us know loneliness, but if we walk with God, we are never alone. And it is being alone that makes most of us unhappy. We seek love, the opposite of loneliness, and when we cannot love, we substitute sex, or wealth, or fame, or drugs, or television – we seek to medicate our loneliness. And when these don’t work, we sometimes just end it.
But Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, and that more abundantly.” His promise is that there is more in Life, in creation, than what we can achieve with wealth, with fame, with praise from others, with the distractions of this life. We can achieve the happiness, and permanence, of sharing our life with God.
The facts are that happiness only comes from love. The hard truth is that the only way to be loved is to give love first. The whole of Judean law is summed in two laws, love God with all you are, and love others as you love yourself. Jesus and his disciples all teach that God is love.
Christianity is a daily search. It is an effort each day to find God, find something new to be happy about, find a new way to give love, and to appreciate the love we are given. To be a good Christian, we must constantly search, constantly grow, constantly learn, constantly evolve. We must understand why we do what we do and focus our efforts on achieving our goals, and thus our divine purpose.
We also must recognize that accepting the gift of God is a personal choice. Many people don’t want to grow, evolve, or even be happy. They are content to just be, to accept the universe is just an accident, and that when we die, we cease to be – we don’t evolve to another state, a more important state, a more fulfilling state. Most people are afraid to try, afraid to fail, afraid to live.
Evolution is a natural process in the universe. Individuals, species, planets, and galaxies which do not evolve, die. Some people will choose to not evolve, not grow, not live. This is the truth of free will – we can choose to die. Embracing the teachings of Christ means choosing to live, specifically through aligning our goals, our efforts, our lives, with God’s purpose in creating us. The hardest part of this choice is understanding that God loves us, and wants to share our lives with us, and that the only way we can die is to exclude God from our lives; that is, to sin.
We refer to the Gospel as the Good News. And this is the good news: we have sinned, that is, divided ourselves from God and God’s purpose, and so we must die. If we remove a branch from a tree it dies; if we remove ourselves from God, our source of life, we die. But Jesus, who is God, and through Whom we have life, died in our place, so now, if we choose to accept God’s gift, we can repent, turn away from the distractions, and focus on being who God wants us to be. On our own, we cannot achieve life or happiness – but God has loved us, and accepting God’s love, and giving it freely to others, we who condemned ourselves achieve forgiveness and life by rejoining with God.
Reading the Christian writings, Christians are focused on achieving eternal life. Why? If we accept the idea that life is an accident, there is no appeal in living forever. In truth, with no purpose, life becomes a burden, one best ended quickly.
But if there is a purpose, then we find happiness by fulfilling it. Being a Christian means that we accept the gift of God to realign, by our personal choice, to fulfilling God’s purpose in our life. Maturing in Christ means daily finding something new and exciting in our Search. And eternal life means being with God eternally. Jesus speaks of the resurrection, showing that the life to come is not like this life – where we are born, grow up, get married, have children, work for a living, grow old and die. Instead, he tells of incorruptible existence, a sharing with God and all of God’s creation, happiness, fulfillment, love and joy for all eternity.
Given a choice between 120 years of life as we currently know it, and then nothing, or an eternity of happiness, challenge and fulfillment, and therefore abundant life, which would you choose? Or more realistically, if there is a part of us that lives on after death, would you prefer to choose 120 years of pointless life as we know it now, and maybe someone remembers you a few centuries late, then endure many billions of years as a soul who chose not to live, while others live the life you could have had? Wouldn’t you choose billions of years of happiness and love over billions of years of loneliness?
We are a part of creation, so as creation goes on after we die, we obviously don’t end when we die. Indeed, parts of the body keep living after we die, which is why fingernails and hair keep growing and so on. All that is physical continues, just without what we vaguely recognize as the person – the soul – that once resided in that body. This is true of all life – ask anyone who has lost a pet, and the recognition of that loss is like the loss of any loved one. We instinctively recognize the departure of something most of us don’t understand, something that made that soul unique and precious.
For me, I choose to live. I choose to love. I have had the times in my life where I climbed the corporate ladder and achieved a measure of success, wealth and power – and profound emptiness. I have also had those times in my life when I have shared while I had almost nothing to share and evolved in my walk with God. I will take the joy of the latter, despite the trials and adversities I experienced at some of those times, over the emptiness and pointlessness of “worldly” success any day. But that was, and continues to be my choice, and I am convinced of the rightness and eternal effect of my choice.
The real question is, what will you choose?