home > Pastor’s Desk > 2022 > Mar 11th > HOW TO MAKE SENSE OF IT ALL

YOU ONLY HAVE TWO OPTIONS FOR MAKING SENSE OF THE WORLD

How do we answer the deep questions of life? This is a challenge at the best of times, but it is particularly a challenge when the world — or at least your world — is in turmoil. The deep questions of lie can be summed up into four words: Origins, Morality, Meaning, and Destiny. You really only have two options when it comes to being able to coherently answer these four deep questions of life. Either, there are no answers to these deep questions about life which means life has no order, meaning or purpose; or, there are answers to these deep questions and the world is ordered, purposeful, and has a Cause. I am going to appeal to reason and intuition to substantiate my claim that the second option is actually the only rational explanation for our world and our lives – and is especially necessary to grasp when it is difficult to make sense of it all when the world seems to be going mad.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
John 14:6

OPTION #1, NIHILISM 

The idea that life’s deep questions have no answer and therefore life has no cause, source, purpose, or destiny, is known as nihilism. In Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi’s book, The Book That Made Your World, he opens with the story of Kurt Cobain [pictured right], the former lead singer of the world’s highest selling rock band, Nirvana. “On April 8, 1994, an electrician accidentally discovered a dead body in Seattle, Washing ton. A shotgun had blown the victim’s head into unrecognizable bits. The police investigation concluded that the victim of this ghastly tragedy was the rock legend Kurt Cobain (b. 1967) and that he had committed suicide a few days earlier” (Mangalwadi 2011, 3). Mangalwadi goes on to describe how Cobain had increasingly accepted nihilism. His song lyrics included lines like I want to die and other more obscene expressions of despair. Since nihilism is the belief that life has no purpose, meaning or destiny, and therefore there is no right or wrong conduct (morality), there can be no true justice in this life. This can only lead to the type of despair that Cobain experienced. I think Option #1 is not a positive way of looking at the world and its effect on those who embrace it is nearly always destructive. 

There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
Proverbs 14:12

It is very difficult to be a nihilist because it does not correspond to reality or what we all know intuitively. It’s like being in the deep end of a swimming pool and trying to push a large inflated beach ball under the surface of the water. No matter how hard we push, it just keeps forcing its way back to the surface. That’s similar to how it is for the nihilist. Reality and intuition just keeping pushing the truth back to the surface.

¶ Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation
Psalm 42:5

HOW THE ANCIENTS THOUGHT ABOUT THESE GREAT QUESTIONS

The ancients looked at our world marked by natural disasters, human despotism marked by wars and violence, as being directed by some intelligent power. The Greeks called this power, Logos “the reason.” The New Testament writers, particularly the apostle John, picked up on this term coined by the Greek philosophers, and used it to refer to Jesus in John 1:1, 14 —

In the beginning was the Word [the Logos],
and the Word [the Logos] was with God,
and the Word [the Logos] was God.
John 1:1

¶ And the Word [the Logos] became flesh and dwelt among us,
and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

To the New Testament writers, Jesus provided the most coherent answers to mankind’s four greatest questions – origins (where did we come from and why are we here), morality (what are the rules of life that will enable me to live my best life), meaning (what is my purpose, potential and place in this life) and destiny (after this life is over what is my eternal destiny). The ancients knew there were answers to these universal questions and that the quest to coherently answer them was mankind’s deepest longing. 

To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles [non-Jews]
are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Colossians 1:27

 

OPTION #2 – JESUS CHRIST 

Jesus stated that all of mankind’s deepest longings could only be satisfied in coming to know Him! He was either a deranged lunatic with false visions of aggrandisement; or, He may have been telling the truth and thereby been true! There really is no third option.

And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
John 17:3

Jesus claimed to be the eternal One and thereby the Cause of all things (Col. 1:16-20). Jesus also claimed to be the highest moral authority and thereby the source of the Law of God for all mankind (Matt. 5:21-22; John 5:22, 27; 8:16). He summed up the ten commandments that He gave to Moses with just two commands that if a person lives by them “they would live forever” (Matt. 22:37-40; John 6:51). Jesus stated that the meaning of life was not a task – but a relationship. This was to be a loving relationship of the highest order and commitment involving devotion to, and worship of, the Source of all Love and Truth (Jn. 17:3; 1John 4:7). He also claimed to be the sole Judge with His Father of the eternal destinies of each person who has or will ever live (John 5:22). Consider Christ’s claims to deity in this unmistakable declaration of His supremacy over your destiny based on your acceptance or rejection of His Lordship-  

For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself. And He has given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
John 5:26-29

 

MAKING SENSE OF A SENSELESS WORLD

But how do these claims of Lordship by Christ help us to make sense of a world at a time when a powerful nation instigates a brutal invasion of its neighbour and wreaks massive loss of innocent life? The Word of God affirms God’s control over nations and history — despite despotic national leaders and dictators — with the assurance that all injustices will be brought to account.

The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;He utters His voice, the earth melts.
“Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
Psalm 46:6, 10

¶ God reigns over the nations;
God sits on His holy throne.
Psalm 47:8
 

Making sense of this world, especially at a time like this, still requires answering the four deepest perpetual questions of mankind. But it also requires understanding our Creator’s unfolding story of redemption. This story has often been summarised as: Creation; Fall; Redemption; and, Restoration. It was the fall of the original mankind from innocence into rebellion that introduced evil into our world. It was at this moment that God the Creator was revealed as God the Redeemer because His plan of redemption was instigated with the announcement that the Redeemer would be sent into the world as a human to be born in the usual way (Gen. 3:15) but later declared by the prophet that He would be born from a virgin mother (Isa. 7:14; Mtt. 1:21-23). After Jesus fulfilled His role in His Father’s plan of redemption and was raised from the dead and then ascended back into the heavenly dimension of eternity, He had set in train the ultimate destruction of evil and its devilish promoter.

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil,
for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
First John 3:8

But if Jesus Christ is the Logos, the One who enables us to understand our world’s origin, meaning, morality and destiny, who is the Central Character in the Story of Redemption, has conquered evil and the devil, then why is there still evil and devilishness in the world? Two things are important to understand in answering this question. Firstly, no matter what evil schemes and acts of wickedness any devilish dictator has wrought, history reveals that despite this — and despite the tragic losses of life — God has redeemed subsequent events toward the eventual culmination of His yet-to-be-concluded-plan-of-redemption. Secondly, God has decreed that an ultimate day of Judgment will come, but not yet! It is on this basis that I can say with some testable confidence that the present circumstances in eastern Europe will be redeemed by God, and that those not brought to justice in this life will face the full consequences of their actions on the last day (Jn. 12:48). To fully make sense of all this – and every other future act of devilish evil – we need to understand the most important truth of all: God is good and can only do good.

 

THE SOURCE AND STANDARD OF GOOD

The ancient Greeks raised a different  problem. Was God actually ‘good’? This was referred to as the Euthyphro Dilemma. Was something ‘good’ just because it was what commanded by God? or, Was something commanded by God because it was good? This dilemma is resolved by discovering the God is the Source and Standard of all that is good. Therefore, God only ever commands that which is good (it doesn’t become good because God commands it). 

One of the emotional/intellectual problems that people who accept that there must be a God that resembles closely or exactly the God described in the Bible have had over the years is the problem ow Why would an all good and all powerful God allow suffering, evil, and tragedy in His world? Either He is not really all good and doesn’t care — or He is not really all powerful and is unable to do anything about it. Theologians refer to this problem as Theodicy (the problem of evil). This problem is resolved by asking a greater question: Does God ever ordain or allow what we perceive to be “wrong” because He has a morally good reason for doing so? This greater question is answered when we reflect on Christ’s passion and crucifixion. By working through these questions we may be able to understand why God might allow or ordain natural evil (floods, fires, disastrous weather events) and committed evil (such as wars, violence, crimes against people, brutal oppression of others). Especially when we view the world from the perspective of there being an eternal Judge who redeems those who turn to Him, and holds to account those who don’t. This is why answering the question of mankind’s destiny is so important to making sense of life and the world we live in. And it is only in discovering that the questions relating to our (and our world’s) origins is found in the Logos of the Father who became one of us to show us the way back to His Father.

 

THEREFORE, THE FOUR ANSWERS

ORIGINS – of our world and our lives can only be explained by the existence of an uncreated eternal Creator who is the cause of this world and our lives.

MORALITY – we live in a world of rules and laws that govern physics, chemistry, biology, and astronomy. This is why we observe order in the cosmos from gigantic galaxies to the structure of the small cell. It is also why we intuitively know right from wrong which enabled us to conduct the Nuremberg Trials after World War Two. It is why we know that certain wrong conduct is wrong even when a government or court says that it is not (as happened in 1930s and 40s Germany).

MEANING – we are created to worship, to express thankfulness, and give due adoration to our Creator. We do this by praise, prayer, working, creating, playing, loving, helping, teaching, building, judging, nurturing, protecting, and being restored into the True Image of God (2Cor. 4:4-6) we were created to be. The meaning and purpose of life is not happiness, but holiness.

DESTINY – life does not stop at the grave. C.S. Lewis stated in Mere Christianity, “There is no such thing as a mere mortal. No person is a mere mortal because every person that God has created in His image has been created as an Immortal. We will all live forever. Our eternal destiny is determined by whether we yield to Christ as our Saviour from our sins and accept His lordship and live by the power of the Holy Spirit whom He has sent.

By seeing the world this way we will be able to make sense of it all.

Your Pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

1 Comment

  1. LYDIA

    I see. Your Pastor’s Desk spiel is appreciated because it removes the emotive responses people can have and walks thru the logical, biblical texts, roads, so that the net again falls gently back over God’s infallible inerrant Word, knowing that God can only be good, is always good. It’s man that makes a mess of things and will either turn to Jesus and receive life eternal in His presence forever or those who refuse to, will also receive life eternal, without God. Many many years back I recall a sermon where this preacher explained that ‘Hell is a place where God is not’. So if God is only good which He is…I know who I’d rather be close to.

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Follow Me AS I FOLLOW JESUS

We all walk a path in life that is set before us. We start with very little experience and knowledge about the purpose of our life and the world beyond us. All of humanity experiences joy, wisdom, strength, weakness, suffering and hardship, especially those who are “contending for the faith”. Knowing Jesus is a very special part of this life journey.

A CERTAIN GOD

We can be reasonably certain about many things. In fact, without this certainty about life, none of us could function. We can be certain that tonight the sun will ‘set’. Tomorrow the sun will ‘rise’. After the February 28th it will be February 29th. This year there will be international unrest and much political instability in many parts of the world. In the coming months global warming will be identified by politicians as the source of floods and wildfires. Several high profile international celebrities will die this year. Archaeologists will make a discovery that will require some aspects of history to be rewritten. And you will certainly have one of the most memorable moments in your life in the coming days. You see, there are clearly some things we can be quite certain about. However, there are some aspects about our future that we cannot be certain about, yet in those moments we can be certain about what we should do.

LOW COST LIVING

Turn on any TV or radio news lately and there’s bound to be a story about the current “cost of living crisis”. We all feel it. Initially most people accepted the widespread price-rises were caused by 2020-21 pandemic lockdowns. But whatever the reasons for the rapid price hikes over the past two years, every time we go to the supermarket we feel it again. While governments are striving to curb the impact of this cost of living crisis, there remains a way to enjoy low cost living. The key to this is recognising that the most valuable things in life are literally priceless. The path to enjoying low-cost living is to be found in Christ, and what He taught — and it begins with treasure.

How To Know Jesus Better

It’s a scary thought to realise that the Jesus we have been told about and worship may not really be known to us at all. We can ‘know’ about someone or something, but not really know them. In Christian circles it’s often referred to as head knowledge not heart knowledge.

Knowing Christ Better

As a church, this year’s theme is coming closer to Christ by getting to know Him better. I feel that I am “the least qualified person” to tell anyone how this is done — but someone else has already claimed this distinction – the apostle Paul. After decades of hearing directly from Christ, seeing extraordinary miracles, being taken to heaven temporarily, planting churches across the Roman Empire, he could still say I would give anything to really know Christ – even if it meant suffering like He did! (Phil. 3:7-10). Therefore, I could say: If you do this or that, you will then know Christ better – but in my view, it’s not as easy as that! How we develop our relationship with Christ is shaped by several factors including our personality, our life experiences, our physical health and fitness, and our relationships with others (especially our parents and particularly our father). In fact, I believe that there is a relationship between how we have learned to build relationships with others (and notably how we have learned to relate to those who are closest to us) and how we then proceed to have a relationship with God. Even though I have expressed my lack of qualifications in telling anyone how to have a closer relationship with Christ, I still can, like one hungry beggar to another hungry beggar, offer you a few of the morsels of food that I’ve been able to find.

SOME PEOPLE HAVE AMAZING BUTS

I know of several people with amazing buts. There’s Jo’, Mo’, Sam, Esther, Jerry, and others. Each of these people were gifted by God with an amazing but that changed there life and the course of human history. Sometimes these gifts came with a …then, or …God, or …the LORD. When it comes to the size of things, a but is a relatively small thing (in Greek it can be just two letters: de) but it can have huge implications and enormously great blessings for multitudes. I hope to show you how this was the case with each of the people I have chosen as samples, and then show you how God is your God of buts.

OPEN

What does the word ‘open’ mean to you? Like language itself, it is like any word in which the meaning only comes from the context in which it is used. I can think of at least 12 different understandings of this word, some of which I will point out, most I will not, and one that I focus on because it is prophetically important for where we are at as a church at this crucial time.

ONE THING I HAVE TO SAY

​I’m always amazed at the really cool events I’d organised for my kids to experience, so that they might have happy memories – but now they don’t remember it except the random comment someone made in the car trip on the way there or what snack was eaten. Conversely, if you make a mistake, well that one is remembered! Once I drove Andrew’s car and just lightly hit something so it ended up with an annoying 2cm scratch. The mistake is (still) there in full view to anyone who looks. Is Andrew going to remember this above the years of my devotion to him? (Not likely, but some people do remember the wrong for way too long!) If you had the choice, what one thing would you want to be remembered for? What one thing would you want your family to remember? It’s not often going to be the thing you have in mind.

‘Famous last words’ comes from the hope that you’ll be remembered for them. If you were given the privilege of being able to articulate as the important thing to say, to be remembered by all, what would it be? Would it be a reflection on your love toward someone? Would it be a directive on how to have the best life? Would it be that you wished you had done something? Someone once mused, ‘would your dying words be that you’d wished you’d spent just one more day in the office’? (Not likely.)

AT THE END OF THIS YEAR I WILL RECOUNT 12 WONDERFUL THINGS (An Explication of Psalm 9)

This is my last end-of-year Pastor’s Desk post. When the head of our Live-stream ministry, Sari, asked me what I was thankful for this year, my immediate answer was obvious and predictable. But since then, I have considered that I also have eleven other things for which I am grateful to GOD for. In this last ever end-of-year Pastor’s Desk please indulge as I share my heartfelt thanks to God and for those God has used to bless me this year.

HE WAS BORN A KING

The king who reigned over Judea when Jesus was born was Herod the Great. Herod had no legitimate claim to the throne of Israel. He was from an Idumean noble family who supported the Roman occupation of Palestine. As a reward he was appointed by the Roman Senate as the King of Judea. Despite his attempts to curry favour with the Jews, including several major public works programs (including completing the temple reconstruction) he was still largely unpopular among the Jews. Little wonder then that when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem with their large retinue and requested to view the birth of the prophesied King of the Jews, Herod was emotionally threatened by this revelation. Herod immediately ordered an enquiry from the chief priests and religious scribes.