This week I bought a bottle of concentrated cleaner for fuel injectors for my truck. You add a bottle of cleaner to a tank of gas to clean your fuel injector while driving.

This is an "off the shelf" product that can be purchased in many, many stores. But the clerk told me only an adult can buy it. Young people sniff it to get high, so it can no longer be sold to someone under age.

What a profound commentary on an ongoing transition in our society! What a telling symptom of one of the core sicknesses within society itself. If you mentally dig down to the foundation of this situation, it asks this fundamental question about life: "Does life have a purpose?"

  1. Does it? Does life have a real purpose, a purpose worth living for, a purpose worth sacrificing for, a purpose worth dying for?
    1. All of us from oldest adult to teenager can identify with one of three reactions.
      1. Reaction # 1: "What a stupid question! Why waste our time by even asking that question? Of course life has a purpose, and everybody knows that!"
      2. Reaction # 2: "Yes, I believe that life has a purpose. But I struggle when I try to identify that purpose. Trying to find that purpose is very confusing."
      3. Reaction # 3: "Life? Has a purpose? Are you serious? Life has no purpose--not beyond the immediate moment."
    2. Why would anyone flirt with death by putting a plastic bag over his or her head to breathe the fumes of a fuel injector concentrate?
      1. Some of us cannot imagine why anyone would do that; it makes no sense; there is no explanation.
      2. Some of us do not need an explanation; we clearly understand why someone would do that. In fact, we understand why it makes sense to them.
      3. The clear dividing line that runs between these groups is this: to one group, life has a purpose; to the other group, life has little or no purpose.
    3. Those who understand why someone does that see two realities that many of us never see.
      1. Some people are desperately trying to escape the pain of human existence.
        1. Just existing is painful.
        2. They want to escape the pain.
      2. Some people are desperately seeking pleasure in a meaningless world.
        1. To them, life has no meaning.
        2. Where there is no meaning there is no joy.

  2. I want you to reflect on this thought.
    1. I want you to reflect on it deeply, to carry it in your mind, to struggle with it.
    2. "As evil increases, life becomes increasingly meaningless."
    3. "As life becomes increasingly meaningless, evil increases."
    4. If you question those statements, I suggest that you do the following.
      1. Look back through Bible history and note, as evil increased, life lost meaning; also note that as life lost meaning, evil increased.
      2. Look back through secular history and observe the same thing; remember specific ages and situations when that is exactly what happened.
      3. Think about current history that has occurred in your lifetime and observe the same thing.
      4. Look within your own extended family and observe the same thing happening.
    5. Evil increases when life loses its purpose; life becomes meaningless when it loses its purpose.

  3. The Bible does something that is truly astounding.
    1. We become so involved in examining details and discussing special interest questions that we fail to see the obvious "big picture."
    2. With incredible quickness the Bible introduces us to the primary problem of human existence, the foundation problem that supports all other human problems: the problem of evil.
      1. In the first three chapters of the Bible (Genesis 1-3) we are told:
        1. There was a time when there was no evil in this world.
        2. But that situation ended when evil entered this physical world through human decision and choice.
      2. In the next five chapters of the Bible (Genesis 4-8) we are told:
        1. What evil did to the family.
        2. What evil did to society.
        3. That evil totally corrupted the physical world.
        4. Then, with time through generations, evil brought humanity and society into complete ruin.
      3. From Genesis 9 forward to the end of the New Testament, the rest of the books of the Bible relate in some way to the problem of evil in human existence.
        1. Justice demanded the deserved destruction of humanity.
        2. The merciful God did not want to erase humanity.
        3. God immediately confronted these questions:
          1. How could He refuse to impose justice on all humanity?
          2. How could He redeem the guilty and rescue the corrupt from the consequences of their own failures?
    3. Stated in a condensed manner, this was God's plan and goal.
      1. Objective one: find a righteous man.
      2. Objective two: through the descendants of that righteous man build a nation.
      3. Objective three: through that nation bring His own Son into this world.
      4. Objective four: sacrifice the life of His own Son for the guilty and the corrupt.
      5. Objective five: through the Son's death, create redemption and establish an eternal spiritual kingdom.
      6. God's overall objective: to give people an eternal purpose by calling them out of an evil world into Jesus Christ.
    4. And that is precisely what God did.
      1. God found a righteous man in Abraham.
      2. God created the nation of Israel through Abraham's descendants.
      3. Through the nation of Israel God allowed his Son, Jesus, to be born into this physical world.
      4. Through the crucifixion God sacrificed His Son for all of us, the guilty and the corrupt.
      5. Through Jesus' blood spilled in death, God created redemption.
      6. All who accept redemption in Christ become a part of God's spiritual kingdom and will eternally exist with God himself.
      7. As Christ's church, we are to be God's spiritual kingdom on earth.
      8. God's purpose in Christ and in the church: to call people to eternal purpose by accepting redemption from evil and salvation in Jesus Christ.

  4. God used two kingdoms in this physical world.
    1. The first kingdom was a physical kingdom, a nation, a people who existed as a nation in a country on the map.
      1. It had a physical ruler, most of the time a king.
      2. It had nationalistic goals; it was concerned about the common things that all nations are concerned about.
      3. In the Old Testament nation of Israel, I want you to note two things.
        1. Both the blessings and consequences were physical (Deuteronomy 28 is a specific example.)
          1. If the nation diligently obeyed God and kept His commandments:
            1. They would be a leading nation (verse 1).
            2. God would bless their cities (verse 3).
            3. He would bless their children and their livestock (verse 4).
            4. He would bless their work and give them food (verses 5, 6).
            5. He would destroy their enemies (verse 7).
            6. All other nations would fear them (verse 10).
            7. He would give them great prosperity (verse 11).
          2. If they did not obey God and keep His commandments, God would curse:
            1. Their cities (verse 16).
            2. Their food supply (verse 17).
            3. Their children and livestock (verse 18).
            4. Every deed they undertook (verse 20).
            5. He would send disease (verses 21, 22).
            6. He would send drought (verse 24).
            7. Their enemies would defeat and destroy them (verse 25).
            8. Other consequences are enumerated in 21 additional verses.
        2. God tried to sustain a relationship with a physical nation through physical blessings and physical curses.
          1. You do not learn about heaven and hell in the Old Testament.
          2. Heaven and hell were not factors in the teaching or the theology of physical, Old Testament Israel.
    2. The second kingdom is spiritual.
      1. Its citizens come from all nations, all cultures, all economic levels, and from all kinds of earthly governments; every person who belongs to Christ is it.
      2. Its ruler is the resurrected Jesus Christ; he is its Lord and King.
      3. Its goals are spiritual, not material.
        1. This world is a better place because of them, but they do not live for material purposes.
        2. They love God, and they express it by loving and serving people.
      4. They use material things to help achieve God's eternal purposes.
        1. They understand that God's greatest blessings are spiritual.
        2. They understand that life's greatest consequences are spiritual.
      5. This kingdom gives us an eternal purpose that no set of physical circumstances can destroy.
      6. Spiritual well being and spiritual purpose are not dependent on physical well being and material purposes.
      7. In this kingdom, life is given a real purpose, a purpose worth living for, a purpose worthy of sacrifices, a purpose worth dying for.

"David, all that is interesting. But we need to focus on the real problem. We need to teach our teens and young adults responsibility. We need to motivate them to apply themselves, to get to work. That is the real problem. Troubled people just are not responsible; they just aren't motivated."

Not motivated to do what? To work hard for what? To have bigger houses? nicer cars? more possessions? more money? If they just learned to want more, if they just learned to work harder to get it, would that create the responsibility that they need?

Stop and honestly look all around you. One of two situations will become obvious. One of two things is true. The bigger houses, the better cars, the more possessions, and the more money are not motivating them. If that is all there is to life, they conclude life is empty. Or, that is motivating them, and they think all life is about is houses and cars and possessions and money. When they live long enough to discover that emptiness, life crashes into despair because life has no purpose.

We say that we are Christ's church. We say that we live for the eternal. We say that we place our faith in the eternal. We say that we have discovered life's true meaning and real purpose in Christ. Look at our children. They are not deprived. But how many of them never find the purpose of life.

That is hard to admit. It is hard for me. But this is the truth: if we do not help people, including our own children, find purpose in Christ, they won't find a lasting purpose for life.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 14 June 1998

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