Are you a pragmatic person? Practical? I say this about myself often. And the curse of being a very practical person is that when I am confronted with something that appears to be a waste of time or pointless, I find it very difficult to muster the motivation to do it or follow through with it.
Not long ago, I took a class on global missions. It was for graduate level credit, so it was important that I do well, but a couple of things happened along the way. About midway through, I realized that since I was taking this class through a different school than the one I usually take classes through, when all was said and done, the only thing they would be transferring would be either “pass” or “fail.”
So, the degree of my passing would not matter, at all. Then towards the end of the class, with one final thing to complete, I did the most dangerous thing I could do to completely deplete my motivation. I looked to see what my grade was currently, and how poorly I could do on the final project before I would be in trouble of getting that failing grade. Bad move. Going into the final project I found it difficult to stay focused. I would find any reason
at all to NOT study or spend time completing it until the end when I finally said, “forget it,” and I just did it and handed it in.
Now before all you overachievers and teacher’s pets think poorly of me, I did make a good grade. I got a low B, and my grade of the class was an B+ overall. I was pleased with that.
The biggest problem at the end was that I asked myself a dangerous question…”What’s the point?” “If I am going to pass the class anyway, if the transfer credit is going to be transferred passing, what’s the point?”
Why put in additional effort? It wasn’t like I was sitting around twiddling my thumbs 7 days a week. With my role here at Ashworth Road, marriage, and 6 kids, I promise you I stay plenty busy. So, what was the point?
Have you ever asked yourself that question? Maybe it was when you were in that algebra class in high school. You learned all about how to solve quadratic equations and you thought to yourself, “What’s the point? When will I EVER use this in real life?”
Or maybe it was when you were in that relationship, and you hit a wall, you seemed to be at an impasse, the relationship that was once fun and enjoyable wasn’t anymore, and you might have asked yourself, “Why keep this thing going? What’s the point?”
Or maybe you’ve even asked yourself this question about your own life. You get up every morning, you get dressed, go to work, come home, eat something along the way, watch some television, go to bed, only to do it all over again the next day. You hate your job. You see no purpose in what you do or even in your existence. And you’ve asked yourself, “Is this all there is? Is there something greater? What’s the point?”
I think we can all see ourselves in these examples to some degree. That question, “What’s the point?” can be one of the most de-motivating questions we can ever ask, especially if we don’t have a good answer for it.
And I think this carries over to matters of faith as well. It is for these issues of faith that we begin a new series called, “What’s the Point?” Over the next several weeks, we will answer this question as it relates to Jesus, judgment, and the church. And it is my hope that as we address these questions, we find not just answers to the immediate questions, but maybe answers to some of the questions we aren’t asking but should be.
So, we begin today with “What’s the Point of Jesus’ life?”
That may seem like a silly question, but stop and think about it for a moment. Why did Jesus live? We talk about his birth. We talk often about his death and resurrection, but if we aren’t careful, we can completely miss the meaning behind why he lived.
Even the historic creeds of Christian faith aren’t much help. For instance, the Apostle’s Creed says, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried…”
What happened to the 33 years between his birth and death? Is it important? And what are we supposed to take away from his life?
We all know it is important. Why else would we have the four gospels sitting at the front of the New Testament in our Bibles? And why would almost 80% of those gospels deal with his life and only 20% be about his birth, death, and resurrection? There must be something significant from his life that we need to know. And I want to look at reasons for the life of Jesus.
An Example to Follow
One of the most obvious reasons I think we find is in Matthew 16:24.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
Jesus tells us his life provides for us an example to follow. He is modeling and demonstrating for us how to live.
Now a problem can arise with this reason: instead of seeing Jesus as an example to model our lives after, we relegate him to the position of good, moral teacher.
And yes, he was a great teacher. He challenged the status quo. He raised the bar when it came to morality and ethics, but if we leave him in the classroom and see him as nothing more than a teacher, we miss what he shows us, demonstrates for us, models for us.
What do we find in Jesus? We see compassion. Look at how he interacted with the outcasts of his day. He did not turn them away, but received them, welcomed them. His compassion brought him to tears when he looked over the city and saw the hardness of the people’s hearts toward God.
We see in him humility and service. Right before his death we see him take the lowliest of positions, that of a foot washer: he took water, a bowl, and a towel, and did what the lowest servant would have done. And he told his disciples, what I’ve done for you, do for one another.
We see someone willing to stand up for truth. He challenged the wrong thinking and sin of those who were perverting salvation. He took to task those who had turned the house of God into a marketplace to
steal and cheat people out of money. When he welcomed sinners, he didn’t overlook their sin and say, “It is ok.” He lovingly called it out and challenged them to repentance.
He shows us how we can handle suffering. He was rejected by friends, by family, falsely accused, mocked, abused, put to death, and yet he didn’t retaliate. He didn’t threaten. He entrusted himself to God.
And we see One who pours out himself in order for God to be glorified. Philippians 2 gives us the best picture of this when:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! —Philippians 2:6-8
And do you know what Paul wrote immediately before this?
Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus… —Philippians 2:5b
And above all else, what we see modeled for us in the example of Jesus is love.
Now with Jesus as our example, we must exercise caution because there are some pitfalls. We cannot run his example into nothing more than a moral life, or doing the right things. It goes deeper than that. We must also be aware that as our example, he was perfect. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: You are not perfect. Sorry to burst your bubble.
Yes, Jesus is our model, our example, but as Tim Keller wrote, “Jesus as only an example will crush you; you will never be able to live up to it. Before he can be an example, he has to be a Savior.”
A God Who Pursues
Another reason that explains the point of the life of Jesus is found in Luke 19:10. We find the story of Jesus where he is interacting with one of the most hated people of the day, Zacchaeus, a tax collector, who had heard about Jesus and had gone to great lengths to meet him. What Zacchaeus found was that meeting Jesus was a life transforming experience and in Luke 19:10, Jesus spoke about why he was here.
“ For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Right away, there is a danger in reading this verse. There is a chance for us to misunderstand what Jesus is actually saying. I know this because it is what many, including myself have said before, “Jesus came to save us so that one day when we die, we will go to heaven.” But that’s not really what Jesus is saying here.
Yes, he is talking about salvation, but don’t jump over the first part and miss what is one of the most critical reasons for his life…to reveal to us a God who pursues us.
From the moment of our creation, God’s desire has been for us to enjoy a relationship with him. But if you read in Genesis 3 the story of Adam and Eve and the serpent, we find out that instead of wanting to be with God, we have wanted to be God, to replace him.
But God, undeterred, sent his son, Jesus, not just born to die, but to live, to seek. Jesus is the visible demonstration of a God who is pursuing his creation. He is pursuing you and me. God is giving us himself.
Now you might ask, “couldn’t we see that in the cross? Doesn’t the death of Jesus show that as well?” Yes, it does, but if all Jesus had done was go to the cross with no other part of the story, think about what we would have missed. The times he spent with people like Zacchaeus, or the woman at the well, the beat-up, the broken, the social outcasts, those the religious people said weren’t worth it.
It’s in his life we see him pursuing people just like you and me: the messed up ones, the not-quite-all-together ones. He breaks into our brokenness, infiltrates our insecurities, and seeks us out.
Now I realize that for some, this verse might be offensive in how it describes us. Lost. Some might call this old-school terminology, pejorative, or disparaging, but a book I was reading recently really gave new meaning to this word. When we think of lost, we think “Get your act together. Go and find God.” That isn’t what Jesus is meaning at all.
Being lost doesn’t mean go find God. You can’t. You’re lost. It means God is coming to find you. We aren’t told to go and find God. That is religion. Be good enough. Do enough of the right things and maybe, just maybe God will deem you acceptable. No! We aren’t told to go and find God. In Jesus we are told to stop running and be found. The question is: Do you want to be found?
Establish a New Kingdom
We could go on and find multiple other reasons from the gospel, from Jesus’ life. His life brings freedom. His life gives us life. But I want to give one final reason that I think might be the most important, one that overarches all other reasons. It is so important, that it has the ability to completely transform how we live every day.
Before I tell you what it is, I need to tell you how we think wrongly about it now. For many, Christianity, faith, salvation, whatever word you want to put there, was presented in a way that gave us the idea that most everything about Christianity is future. Far off. One day. Not here and now.
In fact, I dare say, many of us might have even had the thought, “Jesus came to save me, so that I can be a good moral person, so I can fix my life and rid myself of all hardship and difficulty, and so then one day I can go to heaven.”
But what if Jesus’ life on earth had less to do with this and more to do with God establishing his kingdom, establishing his rule and reign, to show us how to live as citizens of that kingdom, and to begin the process of putting right all that sin had messed up in his creation?
The three years of his life that are recorded in the 80% of the gospels are not concerned about us being removed from this place one day and going to heaven. They show us how Jesus is inaugurating the kingdom of God, here and now.
In Mark 1:15 it says
Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” —Mark 1:14b-15
Now to a first century audience, they would have thought, “Great. Here comes the political deliverance we have been waiting for.” The Jewish people were under Roman authority. They had had centuries of oppression at the hand of various empires. And what they wanted more than anything else was their geographical and political freedom.
But the kingdom Jesus is bringing about wasn’t the kingdom they wanted. It was the kingdom they needed. And this kingdom turns everything we think we know upside-down. Where the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Where when we are weak we are actually strong. Where it is the foolish things that confuse the wise. Where it’s not the powerful who inherit the earth, but the meek.
And as one pastor I read this week said, it is in this kingdom where Jesus forms his people and we are marked by “giving rather than taking; self-sacrifice rather than self-protection, dying rather than killing; to find that we win by losing, we triumph through defeat, and we become rich by giving ourselves away.” (The Pursuing God, 224)
It isn’t about us living like we are going to be taken out of this place. It is living like Jesus Christ came to begin the renewal process. It’s not about us breaking out of this world, but Jesus breaking into it. And even though the renewal process is not yet close to complete, it has started and we should live each and every day of our lives as citizens of this kingdom, revealing to the world what awaits them should they chose to stop running and be found by the pursuing God.
Some of you may find it difficult to even ask or care about the question, “What’s the point of Jesus’ life?” because you find it difficult to find the answer to that question for your own life. What’s great about Jesus is that when we understand why he lived, we find the answer for our own life as well. He gives us purpose and meaning. He shows us a better way to live. And he gives us something greater to live for. We live not just for ourselves, but for something greater than ourselves, for him and his kingdom. There we find purpose. There we find life.
This pursuing God, who is a perfect example, bringing freedom, life, and the new kingdom seen in the life of Jesus, is calling us to live for something greater. He calls us to live for something more than a self-defined purpose, more than what the world tells us is important, more than maybe we ever thought possible.
In a world where religion treats the sinners as outcasts with little to no hope of ever being right with God, Jesus comes and welcomes them to be a part of the new kingdom, and he challenges them to
Do you see any value in the life of Jesus other than neat stories and moral teaching? If you aren’t following Jesus, do you see that his life reveals his pursuit of you and an invitation to this kingdom? And if you are following him, do you understand that it is more than just one day when this will matter, but it can and should radically influence how we live every day?
What’s the point of Jesus’ life? It is to begin setting right what is wrong with our broken world and to invite us to be a part of that renewal process. The point of Jesus’ life is to give our lives a point. Will you be found by the pursuing God and be a part of his work in the world?