I am currently in a study entitled, Jesus Among Secular Gods: The Questions of Culture and the Invitation of Christ, by Ravi Zacharius and Vince Vitale. This student has been challenging (to say the least) because I find myself sitting with the book in one hand, my Bible on my lap, a highlighter or pen by my side, and the dictionary on my phone in the other hand. Apologetics is an area that stretches me; yet, I find following Zacharius’ and Vitale’s train of thought and reasoning exhilarating! As I encounter more and more people who honestly view the Bible and Christianity as mere historical content and another religion from which to choose a path to God, I am so thankful for deeper theological reasoning and open-ended conversations that do not have a target to argue, but to reason together over spiritual issues.
So far in this study, we have jumped head-first into the belief systems of Atheism, Scientism, Pluralism, Humanism, and Relativism. Before we’re finished, we’ll also look at Hedonism and how these beliefs line up with Christianity and the Word of God. Last evening, as I gathered with several believers who are striving to glean as much content from this material as I am, I was taken back by a quote from Zacharius concerning Humanism: “The funeral at which real life begins for each of us is the burying of one’s own pride and self-sufficiency” (69). As we discussed this thought, I realized that I have seen this played out in my own lifetime and time again and also in the lives of some of my closest friends and family members. In fact, I’ve witnessed it on the far extremes of two views of the spectrum.
One view of this spectrum comes through a family member who reached a point in life in which all he/she (I do this so you won’t try to figure out who I’m talking about) wanted to achieve vocationally, financially, and personally (in the eyes of success) had been reached. The eye-opening moment came when he/she realized that there was so much more to this life than success and this life really is not “real life,” it’s simply preparation for the next life. The investment in people and making a difference for the Kingdom was what this person realized brought true meaning and “life.” Real meaning and purpose come when the burial of self-sufficiency is no longer just a contemplative thought, but a reality.
The other spectrum view is a friend who reached the bottom of the barrel, so-to-speak. Divorce, loss of a job, a home, a family and overall identity threw her to the lion’s den of despair and depression, the continual bottom of the empty bottle, the loneliness of isolation, and even the serious thoughts of suicide. The reliance on her own pride and self-sufficiency for over half her life left her helpless, heart-broken, and longing for something of meaning and purpose. This friend is still grappling with her true identity in Christ and trying to weigh truth in the balance, but one thing is for certain — she’s tried pride and self-sufficiency’s way and it has proven disastrous. I continue to pray for my dear friend and talk with her, not in an argumentative way, but in such a way that will breathe life, hope, and redemption into her soul. I’m standing in confidence that the hardship that God has allowed in her life will be turned for His glory and my friend’s good. Good, not as the world would describe, but spiritual good and Kingdom purpose.
As I’ve meditated on this thought of “the funeral at which real life begins,” I’m more inclined to think this is what Paul meant when he told the Corinthian church “I die daily” (I Cor. 15:31), because he knew his purpose was not his own will but the will of the Lord Jesus Christ. In essence, I believe this is the same thought Jesus was relating to the disciples in Luke 9:23: “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Each of these examples seems to speak to Zacharias’ quote: “The funeral at which real life begins for each of us is the burying of one’s own pride and self-sufficiency.”
I believe I have had that funeral many times in my life over several different scenarios that I won’t bore anyone with in this particular blog post; however, I will say that I believe I have reached the point where I understand the meaning of real life (abundant life is what Christ calls it) and surprisingly, it’s not all about me. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Unlike the enemy who comes to steal, kill, and destroy by telling me I should be more “me-focused,” Christ tells me abundant life is available not only in the future with Him in heaven but here on earth — today! The more I pour myself into other people, look at a person’s soul instead of a person’s outward appearance, strive to encounter others with true love and concern for their well-being and eternal destiny in mind, and keep my focus on more of God and less of me, I experience abundant life. I experience a life of meaning, of purpose, of fulfillment, and yes, less pride and less self-sufficiency. I serve an all-sufficient God, and the more I understand his character, the more I understand He deeply desires to have an intimate relationship with me. What’s amazing about that is that He knows all about me and He STILL desires that relationship. That’s not only amazing, that’s amazing grace.
If you want to be stretched in your theology, equipped to better talk with people of other belief systems, encouraged that the God you serve is all-sufficient to empower you to understand more about Him, and to have that difficult faith conversation with a friend or family member, I urge you to pick up this study. I don’t believe you’ll walk away discouraged, unchallenged or unchanged. Would you like to talk more about any of these topics? I’d love to hear from you.
Real life. Real meaning. Real purpose.