This past Sunday I preached on Being Clear on the Purpose of Life from Genesis 1:26-28. Below are some questions that got texted in during the sermon. If you haven’t listened to the sermon yet, it will be hard to make sense of these answers. If you have listened, I hope this provides some additional clarity for you.
Also, if you’d like to study this topic further I’d recommend the following resources:
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Question#1 How would you answer a skeptic who would say that they are completely satisfied with the purpose they have created for their lives?
First, I wouldn’t try to answer them. I would seek to ask them questions to draw out of their heart the discontentment that the Bible says is there, but they are suppressing either consciously or unconsciously. The Bible says that we were created to live for the glory of God. Inherently everyone knows this, but suppresses this truth, because of our desire to live for ourselves (Romans 1). So the Bible allows me to make the assumption that people are either consciously or subconsciously suppressing what will bring them maximum joy, living for God and so if I dig enough, eventually that will come to the surface.
For example I have an atheist friend who is very altruistic, makes great money, travels the country regularly and is very happy with his life. However, as I have drawn him out more about his altruistic acts what has come to the surface is that he is very angry that more people aren’t living like him, but just for their own selfish ends. Picking up on that, I have probed why he thinks that people should live for the good of others, since there is nothing inherently logical, nor natural, about that? Evolution is constructed on the mechanism of selfishness, my survival is all that matters. He hasn’t had any answer and so that’s where I have focused in and sought to explain how the gospel gives us both the answer for why people are selfish and for how we can be transformed.
So I’d use questions to probe for a disconnect between the happiness they think they have and where they are actually frustrated.
To know what questions to ask, I’d encourage a lot of prayer as each person is different and the Holy Spirit is going to need to lead you. Here are a few examples of questions you might ask:
What do you think the purpose of life is? How have you arrived at that conclusion?
What happens if….? Give scenario for their purpose falling apart.
Why do you think that…? Give scenario for why other people don’t follow the same purpose.
How do you know that your purpose is the right one?
What happens if you fail?
Question #2 If we are called to stay in the city because this is where the majority of people are, and so we have the great opportunity to share with them the gospel, how come we don’t have more evangelism programs?
First, I am not against programs. I think it can be helpful to have structures in place to help us pursue sharing the gospel. However, while I think programs can be good, I think it is far better to equip each and every member of the church to share the gospel of Jesus with people that they come into contact with every day. I don’t want our church so overburdened with programs that we don’t have time to build relationships with our neighbors. I think it is way too easy to be like the Pharisee on the Jericho road who passed by the man lying bleeding on the side of the road, because he had a program to get to. If we are so busy showing up for “evangelism” time at 4pm on Saturday that we walk right past our neighbors and don’t spend time with them sharing about Christ, that’s a mistake. Also, we need to remember that the mission is to see disciples made, not to get people to say a sinner’s prayer. When we just go out randomly and share the gospel, that’s not a bad thing, but the best we can do is just hope that somehow the people we share with get connected to a Christian community where they can actually be discipled. Whereas, when we share with those we see on a regular basis we can do more than just get them to say a prayer. We can actually build into their lives and help them learn to be disciples.
This is the reason that we are trying to build a culture here at Christ Church where every Christian feels the call to be a missionary to the people on their block and at their work. We want to be people that live with gospel intentionality in the normal rhythms of our lives. To help us to do that, we do offer some programming. We try to offer at least 4 programs a year that can be connecting points to share with people about Jesus. We have an easter outreach in the spring, a street party in the summer, a big thanksgiving meal in the fall, and something around Christmas for the winter. If that was all we did, that’d be pretty lame. But again, the purpose is to keep our church calendar free, so that people have time to be disciplemakers on their block and in their workplace.
Finally, I view every Sunday as an evangelism opportunity. We gather as a church to be matured together in our faith, but also to see lost people saved. Our service is thought through, very intentionally, with those in mind who don’t know Jesus. I actually was criticized one time for “preaching as if people here don’t know the gospel” to which I replied, “Thank you.” I want to preach the gospel every Sunday and never assume it, not just so that existing Christians might continue to be matured through the gospel, but so that new disciples might be made as well.
Question #3 Genesis 1:29-30 says, "And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so."
Does this mean we were originally intended to be vegetarians? If so, there was wisdom in it because God said it so should we consider? Not because we are under the law, but because it was God's original will for us?
I didn’t address these verses in my sermon, but I do want to answer this question, because I think there is a biblical principle here that needs to be understood. It is very important that we never try to speak where the Bible doesn’t speak. We can’t argue from silence and assume the voice of God. And so we can only say what this text says, that God gave plants and fruit for food. We cannot say what this text doesn’t say and that is that God does not want us to eat other foods such as animals. Later in the Exodus God will cause bread to fall from the sky and bring Ravens to be eaten. The Jewish sacrificial system that God put in place involved a ton of meat eating. Now, that isn’t to say that a vegetarian diet is bad. That might be a great choice for you. But it shouldn’t be thought of as biblical wisdom.
On a personal level, I actually can’t eat fruit or veggies because of my Crohn’s disease. Before my second surgery, under the guidance of a celebrated holistic nutritionist, I tried a vegetarian diet and literally almost died through starvation, because my body can’t break that down. So it is really important that we not assume what might be wisest for us, is universal for everyone.