None of us want to waste our lives. We desire our lives to count. Most of us inwardly understand that there is some meaning, some greater purpose, for us being here. If you stop for a moment and withdraw your senses from the chaos of our culture, you can begin to discern that nearly everyone in the Western hemisphere is scrambling around in a pursuit of meaningfulness to life. Whether their point of focus is wealth, image, success, sexuality, parenthood, business accomplishment, religion, entertainment or athletics, most people have an internal radar that is looking for a signal that communicates, “Here it is! Your reason for being alive has just been found, and it is blinking on the screen so you can hone-in on it!”
Please hear this loud and clear: the vast majority of people living in Western culture have completely missed their reason for being here. The reason I can say this with boldness is because it is undeniable that the majority of the population seeks their individual life-purpose outside of who God is, what God is doing and what God is saying. I am not even going to take time to try and substantiate that declaration. It.Is.True. Most people either ignore God completely, or they dabble in Him a few times each month religiously. Very few are diligently sourcing their own purpose for being alive in Him. The notion that God is centermost in the majority of humanity’s pursuits is simply not realistic. Our neighbors, our co-workers, our schoolmates and our extended families are comprised with people who have never once stared at the throne of God and petitioned the One seated there by asking Him, “Show me who You are. Tell me what You are doing. Help me know what You are saying. Tell me who You have made me to be and what You desire for me to do with my life.”
I’m going to risk it: even most Christians have not initiated that conversation with God and waited on His answers.
We hurry and scurry with a fury until our souls are blurry with worry (that was fun to write!). We also might sit down, look around, find something to distract us from the holy hungers of our hearts as we continue to live independently from the most essential components of the life Jesus has for us. Please do not read my words in a shaming tone – that is not what I am trying to do here. What I am seeking to accomplish in today’s post is to help us acknowledge that we have countless inferior options available to us that many hope will define who they are in this life. Our hearts yearn for something outside of us to help us make sense of whatever is going on inside of us. God actually created us in that way. He left a hollow spot at the core of each human. That hollow spot cannot be satisfactorily filled with what our culture offers or our flesh desires. Most of us enjoy money (and wish we had a little more), but both the poor and wealthy will come to find out that finances cannot fill the hollow spot within. Buying things produces a sense of satisfaction that might last days…but then it is gone, and our hollow spot begins to cry out inside of us even louder. We are living in an intensely sexualized culture where nothing is taboo any longer. I recently became aware of an online Ted Talk that featured a woman calmly communicating that pedophilia (a sexual longing for children) is an unalterable condition that many people are born with. Her speech was merely one step away from considering that, perhaps, sexual attraction to children is not something those people should seek to suppress. The individual who is defined by his/her sexuality is an extremely empty person – whether heterosexual, homosexual or the deceived pedophile. Sex does not silence the groan of the hollow spot. What does the person who filled their hollow spot with fame do when they reach that point where their name is no longer topping the charts? Those who live to fill their hollow spot with even the healthiest relationships with others will eventually find those precious people they love were insufficient to bring lasting satisfaction to their hearts. Relationships are noble, but they are insufficient to answer our deepest soul-groans. We are called to love, honor and serve other people, yet we will become sadly disappointed when we attach our identity and primary purpose to others who cannot remain with us forever. I could continue on listing hypothetical options for the various things with which we might seek to fill the hollow spot, but I think you understand what I am saying.
That hollow spot within each of us is nothing less than the God-deposited longing in our soul for relational intimacy and oneness with Him. It may very well be the most important component within God’s design of human beings.
And most people are cramming the wrong things in there.
Let me shock you: that deep longing in your soul is not fully satisfied when we receive Jesus as Lord. You heard me right. Salvation does not fully fill the hollow spot. For so long, the messaging in the Western church has been, “Receive Jesus as your personal Savior and you will be made righteous. He will forgive your sins. He will make you a child of God forever. You will go to Heaven when you die because you have trusted in Him.” While those words are 100% true, they are not 100% complete. Being justified before God through faith in Jesus is the beginning of the hollow place’s groan finding its mark. But it is certainly not the end of it. Jesus declared in John 10:10 that He came to impart His life to us. That is a reference to being born again, being saved, being made into a child of God – it’s awesome news! In that same verse, however, Jesus spoke of His imparting to us something called abundant life – life to the fullest! As a matter of fact, Jesus actually says in that verse that our receiving His life in abundance is His reason for coming to us. The moment we receive Jesus, we receive eternal life. He did all of that for us, and our lone requirement to receive eternal life is to repentantly believe on Him. That moment of trust from us opens the door to what He described as the abundant life. Eternal life requires our trust in His sacrifice, but the abundant life requires our aligning with His eternal purposes that He has sovereignly attached to us. This is why I am writing this series of blogs. After preaching the Gospel for twenty-five years, and after pastoring for twenty-two of those twenty-five years, I am convinced that the Church has made a serious mistake in preaching the message of eternal life while not communicating (or miscommunicating) the equally important priority of Jesus’ offer of abundant life. We have made the message of Jesus more about transportation (flying away to heaven when we die) than transformation (Jesus leading us in the abundance of the life He has always reserved for us).
This must change. Christians everywhere are walking around with eternal life coursing through their spiritual veins as they frustratingly try to find abundant life in things that are more rooted in our culture than they are in God’s Kingdom. Most Christians I know are living with a regular sense that, although they are saved, there is a large gap between what they believe about God and what they are actually experiencing with Him. How can we remedy this struggle in the Western Church? By helping one another grow in our ability to discern the answers to the three questions:
- What is God doing?
- What is God saying?
- How does God desire me to respond to what He is saying and doing?
I plan to begin to address these actual questions in my next post. Until then, seek God to answer the question, “Father, where am I seeking to find abundant life? What have been giving my life to in order to satisfy the grown of my hollow place?