Monday, September 12, 2005

The Goal of Life

The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.

That, according to researchers, is a commonplace belief among American youth, and I believe, Americans of all ages. I know this: I want to be happy and feel good about myself, rather than sad and self-loathing. Everyone I know wants to be happy and comfortable with themselves. But according to God’s autobiography, the Bible, is that the central goal of life? Is that what God created us for?

Yes and no. God created us to live in paradise, according to Genesis 1 and 2. God created us to be perfectly healthy, happy, and fulfilled. We were made to be like God: strong, joyful, free, creative, energetic, loving, peaceful, content. What sent humanity into chaos and misery was when the first humans turned against God, doubted his commands, disobeyed him, and followed Satan (see Genesis 3).

So God wants us to be more than happy; he wants us overflowing with effervescent joy. Psalm 16:11 says, “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Many people think God is the wet blanket and Satan is the party guy, when it is exactly the opposite. Satan only tempts us to “good times” in order to destroy us in the end. He hates us with a malevolence beyond anything you can imagine. God calls us to do what is right and love him because it’s right and because that is the only road to maximum joy and pleasure.

Ironically, though, we cannot find lasting happiness or self-respect when we seek it as our highest goal. God knows that. God knows that he alone is the source of every good thing and every pleasure and every lasting strength. Satan is not. Satan simply misuses the good things God creates. God knows that the highest good for humans is that we walk in perfect obedience to his will and complete devotion to him. God knows that he is the highest good and the source of all joy and life.

So what is the goal of life? Happiness? Self-assurance? No. A relationship with God is the highest goal of life.

Jesus said it this way: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

Seek God, and you get mega-life and hyper-happiness as a result. Seek life and happiness without God, and you end up losing everything.

The goal of life, according to Jesus, is to obey these two commands:

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength…'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:30–31)

Obey these commands, and you will have happiness and feel good about yourself. You can’t have true, lasting life without your Creator.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

God's high standard for relationships

We’re looking at American beliefs about God and how they square up with God’s autobiography, the Bible. A second belief about God common among Americans is, "God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions."

This is a fine start. It lines up well with one of the central teachings of Jesus: “do to others what you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12) But surprisingly, this falls short of the full teaching of Jesus, teaching which is intended to bring the most satisfying relationships and the happiest society. Jesus calls people to go beyond nice. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

Imagine living in a world where every person who you came across was loving you that much. They were actively and enthusiastically seeking your highest welfare. That’s God’s plan.