Ever think about “LIFE” with a big question mark behind it?
When I was a kid, for some reason, I began thinking about God and wondering about things. There at rest, with a pillow beneath my head, I thought, “If I were God, I would want to be among my creation, interacting, enjoying and loving it all.” I couldn’t understand why God made such a beautiful world and wasn’t here personally evident to enjoy it all with us.
What I knew about God at that time was like an overheard conversation, a whisper, or a rumor about someone you figured was real, but had not yet met. He was real to me, but distant. It was as if He was avoiding me on purpose (and everyone for that matter). You see, He felt so very far away. I believed there was a God, but at the time, the Deist idea made the most sense to me (God being real, but distant). However, I was only about 8 years of age, and the word Deist wasn’t in my vocabulary. In blunt terms, I wanted an abundantly relational experience in life and I figured that was related to God being present with us, but he was not present.
However, my thoughts didn’t end there. What’s more, I believe the Holy Spirit confronted my reasoning that God was distant. I realized that if God were present, as I longed for Him to be. I would not altogether be comfortable around Him. That in fact, I was the one distant. I was very young at the time. Nevertheless, I was at this young point in my life already acutely aware of sins’ devastating power. Bad behavior (sin) was the big reason, I assumed, why God wasn’t here as I felt He should be. The Holy Spirit I believe brought this to my attention to clue me into the reality that my desire for God to tangibly be among us was shared by God. God pointed me to the fact He wasn’t as far from us as it felt. My thoughts turned to many good things and good people like my mother and some kind, loving folks who called themselves Christians. I believe the Holy Spirit stilled the deist idea from taking root in my mind and turned my attention to God’s Will to be with us. To be near and among us as we live in His creation under His guiding hand, learning and desiring to experience Him.
Also, I was reminded of the cross of Jesus which at the time I did not comprehend. I had heard Jesus died for me, (I believed that happened) but I didn’t understand redemption. What I believe the Holy Spirit impressed on me most was that God is aware of us… God was mindful of me. However, since God was not bodily present and there was a reality to my felt detachment. I intuitively knew it was going to take some time to understand Jesus’s life-giving sacrifice. I, of course, didn’t think of it all like that at my young age, but I believed that God would bring things to be the way He willed them and that meant He would be with us here on Earth someday.
It has been many years since I had those thoughts and I have learned a thing or two since then.
I still ponder life, and still, think the big question mark in our lives can be dealt with if we relationally interact with God. We can cope with life relationally if we dwell in Scripture and see that Jesus Christ offers redemption from the sinful lifestyle with right human living. He alone condemned sin in His body and conquered the power of death. The Immortal God-Man Jesus is the Way and the Truth (we need to hear and accept) and the life through Whom all life emerged and is upheld. He reveals God’s Will for humanity on earth.
Reading the Bible through the lens of the cross and thinking about the cross through the persons of the Godhead as revealed in and through Jesus the Messiah, is key. We are told that Jesus Christ on the cross reveals to humankind how much God loves us. He gave His life that we might, through repentance, believe in Him and be granted eternal life. All Christians say this is true. However, I think too few understand how this all works. Very few. I am not saying I altogether understand, but I do know there is more to be declared. I find the mainstream explanation true, but minimal, and without meaty depth. If it is LIFE we are seeking and not merely safety, we will need to seek God relationally but as the Bible says with the totality of our person.
All Scripture offers to deal with that question mark attached to life… So, let’s consider what is commonly said… and I will say a little more than is typically discussed.
In the Bible, God relates to fallen humanity by way of covenants. The covenant made with Abram/Abraham in the Bible is key (see both Genesis 12 and 15). We learn in Abraham’s story (confirmed in the New Testament) that the promise God made is both a covenant with Abraham and his seed (singular) and a means of addressing sin. For the rest of the nations, this meant they do not have God’s Law and were under the rule of the powers and principalities of the world. They have no covenant means of a relationship with God. Only the nation of Israel knew such privilege.
Gentiles (the other nations) could become an Israelite through turning from the worship of their gods and following the Law given to Israel. This meant they needed to put their faith in YHWH, the God of Israel. In any case, both Jewish and Gentile humankind lived out their lives under the power of death, since nothing but the righteousness of God fulfills God’s Will for humanity.
It was in this process that Jesus Christ came into the world as God incarnate. Jesus, being a Jewish man, was under the Law of God’s Nation. Jesus, being the Son of God, had righteousness apart from the Law itself manifest in his person as God’s will on Earth.
Jesus was victorious as we are told in the Christian proclamation of the Gospel. He fulfilled the covenant made with Abraham and all other promises and requirements attached by way of the Law and the Prophets as revealed in Scripture. Therefore, those that repent through the proclamation of the Gospel make Jesus their King. For, Jesus condemned sin in His flesh (see Romans 8:3) by becoming sin for humanity rather than suffer the loss of all mankind to death. Jesus was without sin and had the very nature of His Father. By dying and conquering death, Jesus kept the covenant made with Abraham.
That may all sound familiar.
But let’s start thinking further (and a little more) towards our aim. Consider this: Jesus did not only die for your sins but did so in expressing the Person, the Nature of God in His human incarnation. In that way, He provided purification within the dominion God (YHWH) established in man at the Creation. In this way, God in Christ through forgiveness disarmed evil powers and puts those with faith in Christ back on the course of rightly imaging God. (See Genesis 1:26 that in part says, “let us create man in our image. In our likeness, so they may rule.” To “image God” is to rule.)
God the Father wants us to exist which is why Jesus Christ provided purification for us. What’s more, He wants us to have continuance forever ruling as servant kings. Continuance is only for those that believe God. God alone can bring His Will forth because He alone is Creator and Self-Existent. God’s nature alone is eternal and immoral agents that fall short of the eternal nature will die. Therefore, we must abide in what is eternal. God the Father offers us His Son, the God-Man as King. His Son has resurrected from death, and God offers eternal life “In Christ.”
It is at this point that we can genuinely start to deal with the big question mark when we think of LIFE. Consider this: We answer the question of “LIFE?” by investing our focus in living our lives after the nature of Christ. That’s right, no secret knowledge here. Ask yourself… are you invested in learning of God’s character in a living way or are you content with something less? Jesus Himself tells us that the worries and pleasures of this life crowd in and draw us away from God and thwart us from maturing in the likeness of God’s nature (see Mark 4:19).
Now the question matures to: What is this LIFE in Jesus Christ?
I believe the meaning of life is to image Jesus Christ. There are several passages of Scripture that lead us down this path. First though, let me repeat myself in proclaiming God has conquered sin and death. Only when we turn to Christ and are released from sin’s thwarting power, in us to reflect God, can we indeed focus on what life is about for humanity. Once we accept we are justified freely by grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24), we can properly begin learning to image God. Then reflecting God is the priority for us. The answer to life’s questions can be profound and time-consuming to understand. They only become clear once Jesus takes His cornerstone role in our lives and we are in Him focused on imaging God.
Now, to “image someone” you must understand their nature and then live after that nature. The Bible tells us many things about Christ’s nature, but the most important is that Christ is the clear image of God and Who we are to reflect (see Colossians 1:15-20). This means He is of the unique nature and eternal Spirit of God (God as a human being). To know such verses from Scripture is beneficial, but the Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 2:11 that the Holy Spirit is the only Person that understands the thoughts of God. So, we learn much about the nature of Christ from Scripture, but it is by the Holy Spirit (God Himself) that we genuinely come to understand the nature of God. That Spirit is, of course, one in the same as He who dwells in the Christian heart (see 1 Corinthians 2:12). Therefore, we can by the Holy Spirit come to understand and live after the thoughts of God.
God’s thoughts produce life in us. Thus, holy behavior through our bodies created to bear God’s image should have a like result. In the context of Hebrews 10, we read that God’s nature (that we are to acknowledge and follow) is what God desires to be manifest in sacrifice and offerings. In Scripture and in the heart of the believer, the Holy Spirit tells us that God is a life-giving Person.
It is the giving of Life that God wants us to partake in by living after His nature by actually giving of ourselves. The author of Hebrew puts it better quoting from Psalm 40. Scripture points to Jesus as the True Image Bearer. Hebrews 10 tells us, “Sacrifices and offerings you did not desire, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, “Behold I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book’” (10:5-7 ESV).
So, the animal sacrifices and blood offerings God did not want without the understanding that He was bearing their sin and giving life. Moreover, He provided what was to be offered as the Law required.
So, you may ask, why did He ask for what he did not want? The point is God provided LIFE of His own means, and human beings need to submit to His condition. God is a life-giving Spirit, and life alone comes from God. The reverence that life comes from God must always be in a person’s heart for sacrifices and offering to be genuine. It is in that way God recognizes the sacrifices and offerings as authentic. Sacrifices without a respectful heart were undesirable to God.
So, you might ask, “Why even bring an offering since God knows our hearts?” It’s not for God’s benefit, but ours. It is also good to remember even in belief and faith we must mature. The offering was always required for through it the pure heart is revealed. In the same way, an impure heart is revealed. The sacrifice is for the revealing. As James 2:18 tells us, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my work” (ESV). Real faith is revealed in real down-to-earth action. Therefore, it is not the means of revealing the heart, but the heart itself that brings God’s response. It is the belief in God that God desires, not the sacrifice itself.
Therefore, in the life of Jesus, we have something profoundly unique in the relational process of life-giving life, revealing the very heart of God. The death of Jesus Christ brings the cleansing of our souls by His very will. Again, as stated above, He made purification within the dominion He established in humanity at the Creation. Genesis 1:26 says, “Let us create man in our image that they might rule.” Remember “to rule” is to “image God.” In this way, He not only forgives sin but disarms all powers (see Colossians 2:15) and re-established God the Father’s will for human beings to rule the Earth. Christ indeed redeems those that put belief in His sacrifice (forgiveness) revealing God’s will, the very heart of Christ sacrificial offering. The sacrifice that purifies us to be in God’s presence by means of Christ eternal Life. When faith is found placed in the faithfulness of Christ.
This is LIFE beyond repeated repentance. This is LIFE established with righteousness apart from the Law yet fulfilling it. This is LIFE under the order of King Jesus. The “Imaging God” and the “reigning with Christ” is not enough pursued. When we think of LIFE, imaging God should be first and foremost on our minds. Hebrews 10, quoted above, tells us of Christ’s mindset in living His human life, which is played out for us in the Gospel accounts of His life, death, and resurrection. “In Christ,” we see the life question is answered by enriching life within the life you are given. GOD is a life-giving Person and “In Christ” we can be His reflection.
If by chance or providence you do not know Jesus Christ, He is not that far away even now. If you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, in your soul even now, He will come in His Spirit to dwell, to renew, and as a promise that He is coming in fullness to be here with us forever.