Everyone wants to live well. We all want to be successful in marriage, or with kids and grandkids or in business. Everyone wants to be happy and enjoy life and unless you’re seriously mental, no one really wants to be miserable. We all want a life that works.
Christians take this desire one step further. Most Christians not only want a life that works and that has a reasonable degree of “happy-ness,” but we also think God wants us to do something great with our lives – something eternal, something that makes a difference in the “now” because eternity is a really long “then.” But between “now” and “then” most Christians also think God wants us to be free from evil compulsions – y’know, all that nasty fleshly stuff that seems to forever trip us up…but it’s just NOT happening all the time, even for “serious” Christians.
And everyone, Christian or not, seems to have some notion of what a “life that works” should look like but everyone has issues that keep us from success. We all have habits that trip us up. So – what do we do?
Well, Jesus said in John 14:6 "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus didn’t say He was “a” way or “one truth among many” or “one way of life that you might prefer.” He makes the claim that if you want to find true completion for your existence, if you want to find validation for your soul – if you want a life that works – you will only find it in Him.
This is a pretty big claim. Anyone who thinks Jesus was just a good teacher or a guru peddling his own version of self-help has never considered what Jesus actually said about Himself. In more than a few places in His biographies, Jesus made it plain that other than connecting with Him, no amount of wealth, no artistic or political or spiritual pursuit will ever give you the meaning you crave. This is a big claim – a God-size claim and you and I should take His claim seriously too. After all, in real life it’s easy to see that everyone seems to be missing something. People chase everything from romance to rockets in their pursuit of meaning but even people who gain every sort of wealth and fame tend to end up in rehab!
Worse, a whole bunch of professing Christians who say they “follow” Jesus don’t seem to be doing a whole lot better. We have a Celebrate Recovery (CR) program as a Christ-centered Alcoholics Anonymous at our church for a reason! The open secret is that CR is not just for people off the street. Could this be because too many Christians are not getting what Jesus is saying in John 14:6? The truth is, Jesus cannot be an addition in your life if you want to get past being ruled by your hurts, habits and hang-ups. He is not the A-1 sauce on your life-steak. Nope – He needs to be your main course.
Jesus said in John 10:10, “I came so that they would have life, and have it abundantly.” Too many Christians are not experiencing the abundant life, at least not until, or as much, as they are willing to enter into a deep relationship with God through Jesus. It’s simple – to get wet, you must enter the water. If you want real life, deep joy, effective power and enduring peace, you must dive INTO the One who has life “within Himself.” Jesus is calling for total immersion, completely selling out to His absolute Lordship in your life. He makes this claim and calls out this demand because God is life itself. If you want a life that works, you need to connect with the creator of life. So how does that work?
Well, Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” “In His image” means that you and I are designed to reflect the goodness and character of God. In fact, you should be able to look at any human being and honestly say “that is what God is like. That is how God acts and thinks and talks.” That is what we were created to be, but none of us actually do this very well. Every single person has betrayed the image of God. We have all done our own thing (some more, others less). But the more we reflect ourselves, our own desires, and our own standards as we try to rule ourselves, the less our life works as it should.
The truth is, we are only a reflection – an image – of God. We are not an exact duplicate and anyone who has been breathing very long knows this is true. When God introduced Himself to Moses, an encounter at a miracle burning bush recorded in Exodus 3:14, God told Moses “I am who I am” after Moses asked “who are you, Lord?” There is more to this than a name, by the way. Moses was an educated man, well versed in Egyptian and Ancient Middle Eastern philosophy. His question wasn’t about a name – Moses was asking about essence. There were lots of gods in ancient times. Moses wanted to know what made Yahweh, the God of the burning bush - what made Him “THE” God. “Who are you?” And God’s answer was just as deep as the question. He said, in short, “I am existence itself. I simply exist…I am.”
This means that whatever exists in this universe is only an effect – God is the cause. Now…an effect cannot have something it does not get from its cause. An effect cannot be greater than its cause either – so whatever you have, God IS in a pure sense. You have existence as a “being” (a human being) but God IS existence itself in a pure sense – no beginning, no end, no cause – just BEING itself.
So – you have experienced love only because God IS love. You have felt life – God IS life. You have some knowledge – He IS knowledge itself, so there is nothing hidden from Him.
You are…He IS…
But God is also free. He did not HAVE to create anything – that was a free choice. In the same way, in God’s image, you have the freedom to choose. This is vital to understand – God will not force relationship on you because that would violate the free-will image you have in your being. Relationship is not relationship unless it is free. So – you do not HAVE to have a life that works. You can freely keep chasing empty stuff that leaves you cold and alone. But if you want a life that works – you need to go to the one who is life itself.
Being a Christian should not, therefore, be a religious journey. Saying “I believe” should not be a spiritual mantra. Being a Christians should be a vital, real, freely chosen, freely entered RELATIONSHIP with the God who is life itself. That’s not achieved by a magic prayer or going to church. It’s a heart thing. Jesus said it this way in Luke 9:23, “Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”
To deny yourself is to recognize that your main occupation is usually to pursue whatever you want, whenever you want it. All of us who have betrayed the image of God – that includes wee little-ol ME… Yeah…We all put our own self-interests ahead of others, ahead of God, sometimes even ahead of our own physical health. This is why a person will abuse their own body to pursue a high. We need to choose, from the heart, a lifestyle of denying our self-interest, our self-absorbed selfy selfishness – and make him the absolute leader of everything we do, say or think – every day. And that will feel sometimes like carrying cross because denying ourselves is about as unnatural as you can get. In fact, it’s supernatural to deny yourself.
That’s why you won’t get it right out of the gate.
Heck – you won’t get it perfectly right until you check out of this miserable world. You won’t get it right all time right up until you step away from your body of flesh that is constantly screaming “me first” in your spiritual ears. Until that day, you just need to keep clinging to Him. That’s how you get a life that works!
Fortunately, we get do-overs. The Holy Spirit says in first John 1: 8 – 9,
If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
So - turn to the One who is life itself. Use your “image of God” free-will to turn away from a self-directed life to a Jesus-directed life. Don’t do this once or superficially. Do it daily. When you mess it up (and you will), own up, confess it, ask His forgiveness and try-try-again. And do it so seriously that trusting Jesus is like trusting the air that you breathe.
Because when you do – Jesus becomes your WAY of life…He becomes the TRUTH that defines every part of your existence…He becomes your LIFE…
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life...a life that works...
Ad Dei Gloriam…