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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JESUS ATE with SINNERS!

This confrontation of the All-Good meeting face-to-face with Serpent-breath in the wilderness didn’t go the way the Dragon had become accustomed to. Even more baffling to him was what the Eternal Son did next. Rather than going to the supposed ‘rulers of this world’ He went to the despised and inconsequential: the people of His hometown, Nazareth and those in the socio-economically challenged region of Galilee. 

¶ And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and He stood up to read…When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.
¶ Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them. And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that He was the Christ.
Luke 4:16, 28-29, 40-41

Even more baffling to the Satan was that instead whipping up the mobs and leading a rebellion, the Christ went to the shunned, the despised, the broken, the humiliated, as their dinner Guest! It seemed like an odd strategy, especially to those who had been longing for so long for the arrival of the Promised One…

CHRISTIANITY IS A PROPOSAL NOT AN IMPOSAL

I do not want to give anyone the impression that Christian is just a set of intellectually propositions. It is much more but it is certainly not less. One of the propositions that we Christians make is that Christianity is a spiritual transformation of a soul. While its propositions are true, they are not just true, they invoke a miraculous transformation in a human being. Jesus described this as being “born again” (John 3:3). The New Testament describes the moment this happens as being a transaction with God where we surrender our life and our sin to Him and He gives us His life and His pardon (1Jn. 1:8-9)! This transaction includes a hope that goes beyond the grave. God the Father adopts all those who turn to Him. It results a new way of seeing life and the world. The things that once troubled us no longer do, because we have a growing confidence that God has a plan and is currently outworking that plan. If you have never surrendered your life in a transaction with God, you can now. You are just one prayer away from peace with God and purpose for your life – both now and beyond the grave! The choice is yours. We can’t impose this offer from God on you, but I do have a proposition for you.

DIVINELY PRECIOUS TRIPLETS

Some of the profound truths in the Bible are expressed in just three words. The late J.I. Packer, one of the world’s most respected modern theologians, was asked to sum up the gospel message. He did so in just three words: “God saves sinners.” Many of the most eloquent prayers ever uttered have consisted of no more than three words: “Help me Lord”, “Thank You God”, “God save me”, “Please heal her.” One of the greatest royal invitations only consisted of three words: “Come unto Me.” Three words is all it takes to start an exciting journey: “Come and see.” Many of these three words statements, prayers, and invitations, have become divinely precious triplets that have rescued a lost soul, repaired a broken relationship, and replenished the worn-out.  

ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT JUST MERELY A MATTER OF TIME

The beauty of John 3:16 is that it is so simple it can be understood even by a child; and yet, as a believer’s knowledge of God and His Word grows, he or she will come to discover that there is a wealth of spiritually-satisfying treasure to be mined! In its simplest form, Jesus died so that all those who turn to Him in trust will go to heaven after leaving this life. Dig a little deeper though, and you also discover that the eternal life on offer is not merely about a location (‘heaven’) or a duration of time—but a quality of life and status of existence that elevates the believer into a glorified state with God Himself (Rom. 8:17; 1John 3:2). Our lives are now the training ground for our status as co-regents and co-rulers with Christ over all of His redeemed creation (1Cor. 6:2-3)! 

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU FOUND A NEWBORN BABY AT YOUR DOORSTEP?

What would you do if you found a newborn baby that someone had left at your door? Hopefully your answer sounds similar to “I’d take care him or her.” What if it wasn’t a baby? What if it was a young child or a teenager, or an adult, who turned up at your door requesting to be helped? I hope that each of us would also be prepared to help whoever it was. What if it was not an abandoned child, a youth, or an adult? And what if it was not your front door? Instead, how might we each respond if it was a spiritually abandoned, and spiritually hungry, person who turned up at our church seeking help to know how to be saved? While you might feel a similar compassion as you might have felt for the child at your door, you may not be as confident in how you would spiritually help this person seeking a spiritual connection for God through Jesus Christ. “Where would I begin?” “How could I be an effective discipler of a new believer?” you might ask. Well, I’m glad you’ve asked. For any Christian to effectively disciple a new believer it must involve an individual, a small group, and a congregation.

A DECREASING VISION

There is one sin that is worse than all others. It is the worst because it is insidious and imperceptibly deceptive. It is always at the root of all other sins. It was the original sin. In C.S. Lewis’s classic book, Mere Christianity, it warranted an entire chapter (“The Great Sin”) and Lewis claims that it is the greatest threat to any person – including the Christian – and their standing before God. Thus, to be truly spiritual, Spirit-led, Spirit-empowered, and spiritual, demands that the man or woman of God be on guard against what Lewis called “spiritual cancer” — pride. To have any chance of guarding against the spread of this deadly spiritual and character blighting ‘cancer’ requires that we adopt a decreasing vision of ‘greatness’.

THE WIND BLOWS WHERE IT WISHES – SO IT IS WITH THE SPIRIT

This week I have heard of yet more stories of people who had no knowledge of Christianity as they grew up, yet had an almost sudden conversion to Christ. This has included the stories of several Muslims (now ‘former Muslims’) who knew nothing to very little about Christianity, and had always been taught that Islam was the one true religion, who then heard a Christian explain the gospel and were then supernaturally converted to follow Christ. (Several of these Islamic converts to Christ also had supernatural dreams where they claimed that Jesus appeared to them!) I also heard of an atheist scientist who been taught that science could explain away the need for believing in a God, who then heard the gospel and was resoundingly converted to Christ. The other story I heard was closer to home and involved a young lady who had grown up in an atheist home where her parents were actually hostile to religion and forbad her from anything to do with Christianity. Years later, she ventured into a church one Sunday morning, heard the gospel, and was converted to Christ. Each of these stories confirm what Jesus taught about the work of the Holy Spirit and His mysterious and surprising dealings with people to undergird the church’s preaching of the gospel.

I WAS IN THE SPIRIT ON THE LORD’S DAY

A year earlier all hell had broken loose when the tyrant emperor Caesar Nero had outlawed Christianity; and now, the last surviving apostle of Christ had been banished to Patmos Island. All looked bleak. The youngest of Christ’s apostles, John was just a teenager when he witnessed the brutal and protracted execution of Jesus. John, now in his fifties, had many reasons to feel disappointed and even disillusioned with God. His apostolic colleagues had each been martyred – having been put to death in often gruesome ways including: crucifixion, flaying, and beheading. On this barren rocky island, separated from the woman he had pledged to her crucified Son that he would look after, and away from the people that Christ had shed His blood for, John was alone. Ever since Jesus had risen bodily from dead, these life-time faithful sabbath-keeping Jews now recognised that Christ had sanctified the first day of the week, Sunday, as His day. It was also on this sanctified day that Christ poured out Holy Spirit on his gathered disciples. Ever since that day, no matter how he felt or the circumstances he was in, John had made it his custom to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. And his first Sunday on this island of banishment was no exception. He was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. While some weak Christians find disappointment with God an excuse to forsake God, John did not. While some weak Christians allow their excuses for disappointment with God to walk away from their church family, John did not. John’s example has something to teach us. 
¶ I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day…
Revelation 1:9-10a

NEVER BE AFRAID AGAIN

Fear can be crippling. Being afraid is often the result of not what is happening, but what we fear might happen. Such fears make each of us vulnerable to withdraw, give-up, hide, or excuse ourselves from ever trying something new. The result of this happening is that we each become less than who God has created us to be and in the process we deny the world the benefit of what God can do through us. In the Bible there are many stories of many heroes who learned the secret of overcoming their fears by trusting God and learning how to ‘fear’ Him despite their circumstances or fearful expectations. We read of how Kings led their vastly outnumbered army to defeat immensely more powerful and ruthless enemy armies by fearing the Lord. We read how previously unsure, uncertain, unable people became fearless, decisive, and confident and able to solve previously insurmountable problems by simply fearing the Lord. We read how the arrogant were humbled and transformed into gentle and caring souls when they experienced the fear of the Lord. Then in the early chapters of the Book of Acts when becoming a Christian could cost you your life, we read of the numbers of Christians exploded across the Empire because they also no longer had a reason to be afraid because they learned what it meant to fear the Lord.

THE FRUIT DIET WORTH MORE THAN MONEY

How different would your life be if you were filled continually with the Holy Spirit? This seems to have been the experience of at least the first Christians. We know that Jesus told His disciples after His resurrection to “receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn. 20:22) which may have been the moment that they were “regenerated” which is a fancy way of saying that they were born again (Jn. 3:3). But then Jesus told His disciples to wait for the outpouring of the Spirit (Lk. 24:39; Acts 1:4) which was yet to come. The effect on the disciples when this happened was dramatic — especially in the Simon Peter (Acts 2:14). He went from being a cowering timid fearful backslider to being a bold courageous fearless leader of the Christ’s Church (Acts 2:15-39). Then some days later, as Peter was about to bear witness before the rulers of Judaism, he was filled afresh with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8). When Peter met again with the other believers to pray, all of them were filled with Holy Spirit again (Acts 4:31). Thus, being filled continually with the Holy Spirit seems to have been the usually experience of the early believers. As the Church grew and spread, the early Christians’ understanding of who the Holy Spirit was and what He wanted to do in each believer and church also grew. They discovered that the Spirit didn’t just fill them to be bold proclaiming witnesses, He also enabled them to bear witness to the power of Christ by how they lived. The apostle Paul called this, the fruit of the Spirit.