Generations upon generations of people have wrestled with understanding the meaning of life. Some believe they find hope, putting their trust in anything that brings some form of comfort. During the days Jesus walked the earth, the religious leaders of the day leaned on having a knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures, and trying to live out their lives as close to what was written.
Once Jesus gained notoriety as being a great prophet in the Jewish community, the religious leaders struggled with what to do with him. In an attempt to potentially trap Jesus with a question on the law, the Pharisees asked Jesus, “Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:36).
Jesus responded to the Pharisees “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:37-38).
And just like that, Jesus had summarized the meaning of life and the goal each person should strive to live out while on earth.
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind
- Love your neighbor as yourself
Humanity has been created in God’s image. We have each been created to know God and to make Him known.
Jesus expressed significant importance to loving your neighbor as yourself. Notice the importance of linking this command to loving the Lord as well. It is not enough to simply love a neighbor without loving them according to the parameters set through Scripture for what love actually means.
So what is love? The apostle John explains the meaning of love in this way, “by this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16).
This begins to make a little more sense when we consider the focus of defining love is to focus on what Jesus has done first, and then how we can serve others.
The motivator for loving others should be the reminder that we have been saved from the penalty of sin, there are those that have been created in God’s image – that He loves that do not yet know Him, and that we are the vessels God has chosen to make His glory known to those that do not yet know Him.
In theological terms, there are three phrases that are important to understanding the relationship between becoming a Christian, living as a Christian on Earth, and going to heaven: justification, sanctification, and glorification.
Tony Merida so well explains them as:
Justification: God saves us from the penalty of sin.
Sanctification: God is saving us from the power of sin.
Glorification: God will save us from the presence of sin.
(Merida, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, 150).
Having awareness that one has been saved from the penalty of sin, and will be saved from the presence of sin, should motivate to work towards being saved from the power of sin. This can be done in a Christians life by striving to live more like Jesus, who Himself was able to overcome the power of sin. Martin Luther so well stated, “I live as though Christ died yesterday, rose again today, and is coming again tomorrow.”
If the purpose of our creation was only to know God, then once someone becomes a Christian, then they would be immediately taken up to heaven. Since that does not happen, there is clearly a purpose for remaining here on this earth. Christianity is not a works based religion, so how we choose to live our lives will not have an impact on our entry to heaven, but our actions will have an impact on whether or not someone else will learn of God’s majesty. And that is of eternal consequence.
With Jesus’s final words before ascending to heaven, he established a commissioning for his followers that has become central to the identity of the church.
“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
This great commission is the battle cry for the church. To acknowledge our new identity in Christ and to work hard to fulfill our purpose while we remain still here on this earth awaiting his final return.
How will we know when all the nations have been reached with the gospel of the kingdom?
George Ladd answers this question so well in The Gospel of the Kingdom, explaining, “”God alone knows the definition of terms [here]. I cannot precisely define who all the nations are, but I do not need to know. I know only one thing: Christ has not yet returned; therefore, the task is not yet done. When it is done, Christ will come. Our responsibility is not to insist on defining the terms; our responsibility is to complete the task. So long as Christ does not return, our work is undone. Let us get busy and complete our mission” (Ladd, p. 137).