Have you ever felt there must be something more to life? Have you wondered if you could move from a life of merely existing into a life with real purpose, fulfillment and acceptance?
The following are some straightforward accounts that talk about real life and God's role in it.
Have you heard about the guy whose life goal was to climb a certain mountain? When he finally reached the top, he was greatly disappointed. There was nowhere else for him to go, yet something was still missing in his life. It's like the pro football player who gets depressed after winning the Super Bowl (which I hear is very common).
My college experience was a lot like that. By my senior year, I had achieved everything that people were telling me would make me fulfilled. I had become a member of a popular fraternity, been "tapped" into a very popular campus organization, was driving the car of my dreams, was going out with a lot of girls, was making good grades, was in great shape, was successful in intramural sports, was going to lots of parties, and generally just having a great time.
I then became president of my fraternity, which, for me, was like reaching the top of a mountain. But when I achieved it--when I got to the top of my mountain--I was still unfulfilled. Something was still missing, and I had nowhere else to go.
Of course, no one knew this was going on in my life--on the outside I didn't show it. And I sensed that many of the guys in my fraternity looked up to me. Maybe they wished their lives were more like mine. They didn't know how unfulfilled I felt.
There was, however, another group of guys in our fraternity. I called them "Bible-beaters." Even though I made fun of them, and I was always looking for reasons to condemn them, there was something about them I couldn't get over: they didn't seem to be missing anything . . . they seemed to have that real fulfillment I was looking for.
The summer after my last year in school I was invited to a Bible study at a church. For some reason I went. I guess I was feeling more open to spiritual things than usual. When the guy started teaching from the Bible, I was astounded. "Hey, that stuff's right on the money." I was awe-struck by how true the Bible was and how relevant it seemed to my life.
It was as if God was knocking on the door of my heart...but I didn't want to let him in. I kept thinking about how my life would change and how my friends would think I was weird. I was scared. But the more I thought about it, the more God helped me realize that entering into a relationship with him was the right thing to do. So I told him that I wanted him to come into my life.
What happened next is difficult to describe. I can only put it this way: I "met" God. And when I met him I discovered real fulfillment. I felt a wholeness I had never experienced before, as if an empty part of me deep down in my soul had been filled--a wholeness that has been a part of my life ever since that day.
My experience is not unique. It's what Jesus Christ offers to do in anyone's life. Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. Whoever comes to me I will never drive away." Jesus offers us a permanent relationship with himself.
Life still has its ups and downs, its disappointments, and struggles. But what gives my life its value and makes it so satisfying is the real fulfillment I've experienced in knowing Jesus Christ.
When I was growing up, every season had its own TV show--Charlie Brown at Halloween, The Grinch at Christmas. One show, however, was so big it didn't need a holiday--it was the celebrated event. I'm talking of course about The Wizard of Oz.
I'm sure you remember the story. Dorothy leaves Kansas and crash-lands in Oz, where she conveniently kills the wicked witch and thus becomes an instant celebrity. All this homage and goodwill from the Oz residents, however, fails to fill her aching need: the desire to be home. But, fortunately, even that wish can be granted in this land of dreams. All Dorothy needs is a trip to see the Wizard . . . the wonderful Wizard of Oz. So, before she knows it, she's on a journey with three new companions in tow, growing in joyful expectation of meeting this great figure.
Remember what happens next? Instead of a kind and caring wizard, Dorothy and her friends are greeted by an angry, short-tempered warlock who's interested only in getting rid of them. After they present their requests, he booms, "Before I grant your wishes, first you must prove yourselves worthy." Then he gives them a near-impossible task for proving themselves: obtaining the wicked witch's broom (the wicked witch who is the sister of the witch Dorothy already killed).
So much for the wonderful Wizard of Oz.
Much to the Wizard's surprise, they return with the broom. Unimpressed, the Wizard continues to try to get rid of them. But while they plead their case, something very interesting happens. Toto, smelling something funny in the angry Wizard's smoke, finds a curtain in the corner of the room. Toto pulls back the curtain to reveal a kind, old man who is nothing like the Wizard.
When I was growing up, God, to me, was a lot like the Wizard of Oz. I thought God was mean and short-tempered and that he actually knew very little about me. The few images I saw of him in church as a kid made him seem distant, other-worldly, and unreachable. His death on the cross--a constant image--I understood as a great sacrifice, but one he seemed to do reluctantly. What really counted with him, I thought, was how well I behaved, and how well I lived up to his standards. If I was ever going to be accepted by him, I needed first to prove myself worthy. As you can imagine, God was not a great figure in my life. Wonderful was not a word I used to describe him.
Then, in my freshman year of college, all this changed. The curtain was pulled back. For the first time in my life, someone showed me in the Bible--a book I'd always thought was full of a lot of smoke--who God really was. He was not angry or mean--just the opposite. He was loving and compassionate. He knew I was incapable of living a perfect life and of ever keeping his standards. So, out of his great love, he became that perfect human being and met those standards for me.
Jesus Christ, I learned, was not my example, he was my substitute. I wasn't supposed to imitate his suffering, but to take advantage of it. In his death on the cross--which I discovered he did willingly--my sin and my failures were judged. On the cross God demonstrated his great love for me. It was there he showed me how well he did know me. It was there he accepted me. As the Bible says, "God made him [Jesus] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."
Real acceptance, I discovered, lies in the someone new behind the curtain. I challenge you to pull it back and discover him for yourself, and to consider his offer of acceptance, forgiveness and real life.
I have always thought that life should be meaningful. Not necessarily every moment of every day. I mean, how meaningful can it be doing laundry? Nor should life always be serious . . . we all need extremely large doses of just having a good time!
But life has to be more than pleasure-seeking. Partly because pleasure doesn't last. It's here for a moment, then gone. An author, Ravi Zacharias, said it well: "If there is no larger meaning to life . . . then life is without a driving force, without overall substance or explanation."
For several years, I studied the philosophies of Dostoyevsky, Sartre, Nietsche, Socrates and others--looking for an overriding, motivating purpose to my life. Every few weeks I would "try out" a new philosophy to see if it could work. But I found these philosophies didn't make sense or they simply weren't useful in actual life situations. So, what was life all about?
An international news correspondent for TIME Magazine, Dr. David Aikman, shed some light on this subject. He has a couple of post-graduate degrees, is an expert in Russian and Chinese history and communist affairs, has worked in more than 30 countries, and is fluent in six languages (definitely someone with life experience). He said, "Each of us has a purpose, a reason for being here, that no one else can tell you, but you can find out from God." Dr. Aikman recommended beginning a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Dr. Aikman gave this account, "When I heard the words of Jesus [in the Bible], it seemed to me he was speaking to my heart, and he was saying, 'I am the way to life. If you follow me and do what I say, your life will change.'" He then talked about taking the first step to starting a relationship with Jesus Christ, by asking him to enter his life. Dr. Aikman concluded, "I can promise you . . . anybody that takes that first step toward Jesus Christ will have a very exciting life."
Like Dr. Aikman, I came from an atheistic background. And like him, I found that Jesus' statements about himself were unique. Jesus didn't point people to his philosophy on life, he pointed people to himself. Jesus said he could forgive our sins, give us inner peace in the midst of tough circumstances, and guide us to a life of freedom.
I determined that if there really was a God, I wanted to know him. But I was still skeptical. I debated and challenged the Christians I knew. I wanted proof that Jesus was God. One day I took an honest look at the evidence for God's existence and Jesus' deity, and I was shocked to find so many logical, historical facts. I then knew I had a decision to make. Was I going to ask him to enter my life and influence it in whatever way he wanted, or was I going to close the chapter on this part of my life and refuse to consider the possibility of "God" ever again?
I saw there are concrete, intellectual reasons to believe in Jesus. After reviewing these, I asked Jesus if he would come into my life. And that very day my search for meaning in life was completely resolved.
It amazed me that I could have a relationship with God. I talked to him and, through changes in circumstances, he indicated that he heard me. He led me in career paths that are far more expansive and exciting than I ever dreamed. And I asked him questions and he guided me to appropriate, helpful answers in the Bible.
These things didn't occur just on one obscure, stormy day. It was a genuine two-way relationship with God that I was enjoying on a consistent basis, and still do. Not because I became a saint, but because Jesus Christ will enter anyone's life who truly wants to know him and follow him.
There is a deep joy that comes in following God. Unlike anything or anyone else, knowing Jesus Christ has brought real purpose to my life.
Real life is a life filled with real fulfillment, real acceptance, and real purpose. We find it in a relationship with Jesus Christ.
No one in human history has made the claims Jesus made and given such great proofs to back them up. He claimed to be God, to be able to forgive sins, and to be the only way through which we can know God the Father. Jesus backed up those claims through his resurrection from the dead. He is, truly, the most unique person who ever lived . . . much more than a great teacher.
The Bible says that Jesus was God who became man--"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." He was "the exact representation of his [God's] being." In short, Jesus Christ revealed exactly what God is like. So how do we begin a relationship with him?
We don't begin a relationship with God by trying to be a better person. Trying harder to win God's approval is not the way he wants us to live. Have you ever been in a relationship with someone in which you had to try to win that person's approval? It's no fun.
God has such a genuine love for us that he himself provided the way for us to get close to him . . . but there is a problem. Currently, what stands in the way of us connecting with God is our sin (our self-centeredness shown by our anger, our hurtful words, our impatience, our selfishness, greed, etc.). If you've ever wondered why your prayers seem to go nowhere, that is why. Our sin has separated us from God, who is holy.
So what has God done so we can have a close relationship with him? Jesus Christ ("God in the flesh") took all of our sin on his shoulders while he willingly died on a cross. He did this so we could be completely forgiven, completely acceptable to him.
Our problem is illustrated by the college student who gets charged with a crime. The judge sentences her to 30 days in jail or a $1,000 fine. The student can afford neither the time nor the money. The judge, knowing this, takes off his robes, walks to the front of the bench, and with his own checkbook pays the fine. Why? Because as a just judge he cannot overlook the offense. But, because he is the student's father, he chooses to pay the penalty on her behalf.
This is exactly what Jesus did for each of us on the cross. He made the great sacrifice of being beaten, humiliated, whipped and crucified on our behalf. He now asks us to respond to his sacrifice by inviting him into our lives.
He wants to come into our very lives. He wants us to know him and to experience his love, joy and peace. When we ask him into our lives, we receive his forgiveness, and we begin a relationship with him that lasts forever. Jesus said, "I stand at the door (of your heart) and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him (or her)."
If this is now the desire of your heart, the following is a suggested prayer (the words aren't as important as the attitude of your heart):
Dear God, I confess that I have sinned against you. Thank you for taking all of my sin upon yourself on the cross. I want to receive your forgiveness. I want to enter into a relationship with you. I ask you to come into my life as my Savior and Lord. Please give me the real life that comes from only you.
If you've made this decision, we would love to know about it. Please let us know
The Bible says:
© 1995 Campus Crusade for Christ
He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12)
To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith...not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)