Many think that Jesus Christ wants us to become religious. They think Jesus came to take all the fun out of life, and give us impossible rules to live by. They are willing to call him a great leader from the past, but say he is not relevant to their lives today.
Josh McDowell was a college student who thought Jesus was just another religious leader who set up impossible rules to live by. He thought Jesus was totally irrelevant to his life.
Then one day at a student union lunch table McDowell sat next to a vibrant young coed with a radiant smile. Intrigued, he asked her why she was so happy. Her immediate reply was, “Jesus Christ!”
Jesus Christ? McDowell bristled, firing back:
“Oh, for God’s sake, don’t give me that garbage. I’m fed up with religion; I’m fed up with the church; I’m fed up with the Bible. Don’t give me that garbage about religion.”
But the unfazed young coed calmly informed him,
“Mister, I didn’t say religion, I said Jesus Christ.”
McDowell was stunned. He had never considered Jesus more than a religious figure, and didn’t want any part of religious hypocrisy. Yet here was this joyful Christian woman talking about Jesus as someone who had brought meaning to her life.
Christ claimed to answer all the deep questions about our existence. At one time or another, we all question what life is all about. Have you ever gazed up at the stars on a pitch-black evening and wondered who put them there? Or have you ever seen a sunset and thought about life’s biggest questions:
“Who am I?”
“Why am I here?”
“Where am I going after I die?”
Although other philosophers and religious leaders have offered their answers to the meaning of life, only Jesus Christ proved his credentials by rising from the dead. Skeptics like McDowell who originally scoffed at Jesus’ resurrection, have discovered that there is compelling evidence that it really occurred.
Jesus offers life with real meaning. He said that life is much more than making money, having fun, being successful, and then ending up in a graveyard. Yet, many people still try to find meaning in fame and success, even the greatest superstars.
Madonna attempted to answer the question of, “Why am I here?” by becoming a diva, confessing, “There were many years when I thought fame, fortune, and public approval would bring me happiness. But one day you wake up and realize they don’t..I still felt something was missing..I wanted to know the meaning of true and lasting happiness and how I could go about finding it.”¹
Others have given up on finding meaning. Kurt Cobain, lead singer of the Seattle grunge band Nirvana, despaired of life at age 27 and committed suicide. Jazz-age cartoonist Ralph Barton also found life to be meaningless, leaving the following suicide note: “I have had few difficulties, many friends, great successes; I have gone from wife to wife, and from house to house, visited countries of the world, but I am fed up with inventing devices to fill up 24 hours of the day.”²
Pascal, the great French philosopher, believed this inner void we all experience can only be filled by God. He states, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which only Jesus Christ can fill.”³ If Pascal is right, then we would expect Jesus to not only answer the question of our identity and meaning in this life, but also to give us hope for life after we die.
Can there be meaning, without God? Not according to atheist Bertrand Russell, who wrote, “Unless you assume a god, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.”4 Russell resigned himself to ultimately “rot” in the grave. In his book, Why I am not a Christian, Russell dismissed everything Jesus said about life’s meaning, including his promise of eternal life.
But if Jesus actually defeated death as eyewitnesses claim, (See “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?”) then he alone would be able to tell us what life is all about, and answer, “Where am I going?” In order to understand how Jesus’ words, life, and death can establish our identities, give us meaning in life, and provide hope for the future, we need to understand what he said about God, about us, and about himself.
This post was excerpted from “Is Jesus Relevant Today?”. Continue reading to find out what Jesus said about God, about us, and about Himself.
¹O: The Oprah Magazine, “Oprah talks to Madonna,” (January, 2004), 120.
²Quoted in Josh McDowell, The Resurrection Factor (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publ., 1981), 1.
³Quoted in William R. Bright, Jesus and the Intellectual (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publ., 1968), 33.
4Quoted in Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 17.