One of the most pressing needs of man, if not the greatest, is to have some sense of significance or worth. I suspect there is nothing more tragic in the heart of man than to be overwhelmed with the sensation that he is absolutely and completely of no value…to anything or anyone. This state of mind, no doubt, is a key factor in depression and even suicidal thoughts and actions.
It seems as if we are not only born with this hunger, but we recognize it at a very early age. We long to be held by our mother. We long for our father’s embrace. We crave their approval.
Not only do we sense it in ourselves, but we are quite perceptive that it is a major need in others. So if we want to hurt someone, we do so with words or actions that are crafted to destroy the significance in another, hoping that by stealing theirs, we might therefore add to our own. It I call you “stupid” or “ugly” then my sinful nature is hoping that I can somehow strip you of the one thing that I know you want more than anything else. And, by some twisted form of logic, I think I can become more significant by putting you down.
Children aren’t stupid. They know how to hurt. And they go for the jugular.
When we get to adulthood, we normally have a tendency to temper this, although we never walk away from it. We can still play the game. We just learn how to play it more subtly.
But the game hasn’t changed.
We still long to be significant. And we think we can somehow get it from the people and things in the world around us. So, we chase desperately for significance from anything and everything. We seek applause; we seek confirmation; we seek praise; we seek what we falsely believe is “love”. If we can’t get it directly from people, we will seek to get it indirectly by chasing for significance from physical things…things such as wealth, beauty, power, or control. Some believe they gain significance by being funny or smart or being the quarterback or prom queen. The “life of the party” is often someone who is in a desperate search for garlands of significance tossed to her by the crowd. It is a sad thing to see our Hollywood starlets as they desperately try to maintain significance while their beauty fades and another, younger and now more beautiful and shapely, arises.
Some find that they cannot gain significance from anyone and so they pull into their shell with their own desperation…one that seeks to maintain whatever significance they have. They take no risks…publicly, socially, or in relationships, out of fear that they may lose what they have. This sometimes comes as the result of once trying to gain significance and miserably failing or being rejected…sometimes cruelly by those who think they can prosper by taking yours.
And because this false notion, that one can gain significance from the world around them, eventually fails…either with wrinkles or hollow wealth or just because there isn’t enough applause to go around, we have come up with another deception...possibly the greatest of all.
We live in a culture that has fallen into the well of self-centeredness. We have been taken prey by the belief that it is all about me. With that belief comes the notion that we have value and significance in and of ourselves. I don’t need you. I have myself. In other words, I can be significant even if the world doesn’t think me to be significant or of any value.
This requires some careful thought and wisdom.
The significance of something doesn’t lie in the something. It lies in the value another places on that something. A pot of gold is of no value by itself. It only has value because someone, or possibly a whole lot of someones, consider it to be of value…maybe even of great value.
When a person dies, they often leave behind things that had value to no one but themselves. When my mother passed away not long ago, she left a number of items. Most of those were given away or tossed because they no longer had any value or significance. Their "value" died with my mom. Some were kept because we also valued them and a few were kept, not because we saw direct value in them, but because they were of great worth to her. I suspect that when we die, our children, or our grandchildren, will discard them because they will be of no value to them.
This is also the reason for much of our “rubbish”. We may have valued it for a while, but then it becomes of no significance to us and we toss it. We value the tin can because it contains and protects our corn. We value the cardboard because it contains and protects our pizza. But once the can and the cardboard have served our purpose, we throw them out, for they no longer have any value or significance to us.
The point here is that the item, itself, has no value unless someone values it.
This is very, very contrary to modern thinking, where we have come to believe that the individual has worth all by himself. This thinking has, of necessity, arisen because we have rejected a belief in God. For without God, the individual human being becomes nothing but an empty tin can or a used piece of cardboard…he is nothing but “star stuff” as Carl Sagan put it. And, because of our hunger for significance, we have to come up with the notion that the “individual” has worth in and of themselves…so that we can feel significant without God. That is why there is such a big fuss over whether or not the baby in the womb has become a “person”. Peter Singer, Princeton’s elite Professor of Bioethics, argues that a baby doesn’t really become a “person” until he or she is two years old and therefore we should be able to “dispose” of them up until that time. Without God, the baby in the womb becomes mere tissue. And if the mother sees no value in it, then neither should you. But the truth is that God made man in His image, and therefore the human being, in the womb or outside of the womb, has value, not in and of itself, but because God gave it value. And if we remove Him, then humanity becomes trash, valuable only in the eyes of someone else, or in a desperate mode to maintain significance, valued by oneself. The argument for euthanasia follows the same line of thinking. If the individual no longer finds value in his own being, then he is of no ultimate value and can be disposed.
In a culture that removes God, one is left with the hopeless task of either finding significance in the praise of man or in the hoarding of wealth or power. And when this doesn’t pan out, in some sort of self-defense mode, we turn to the vain notion that I can generate my own significance internally…I am of value because “I am”.
Now, this sounds really good, but it is foolishness without the reality of the Creator God.
I know there are some who have taken exception to my position that God has given us this drive, but I believe they do so from misunderstanding. Just as He has given us the sexual drive and it can be focused on that which is wrong, so too, the hunger for significance can become sinful when misdirected.
When we hold our own children and tell them that we love them, we impart to them a sense of significance. It isn’t found in themselves. It is found in knowing that they, a mere child, have the love of their father and mother.
So, too, the love of our heavenly Father, and the great sacrifice that He gave on our behalf, fills a divine need within the human soul…the longing we are here calling “significance” is satisfied by the love of Christ.
There is a divine significance that is granted to us when we are called the children of God.
This comes from Him…not from us.
What significance can compare to being a child of God and fulfilling His purposes?
But, the enemy and the flesh and the world go to great lengths to turn this upside down. We believe that significance comes, not from the Father, but from how I stack up to the world around me…how I measure compared to others. We pervert the divine hunger for significance, which was meant to drive us to Him, and divert it toward the carnal…from the only One who can truly satisfy, to the world which can never satisfy.
This deceit leaves us as hopeless addicts desperately chasing a fix that is barely temporary, providing only a false taste of something that we wrongly believe to be satisfying, yet it merely makes us more desperate.
Jesus said that one might gain the whole world and yet lose their soul.
Solomon declared that one may love money, but they can never get enough of it.
Because you will never be wealthy enough; you will never be funny enough; you will never be beautiful enough. Nothing that the world has to offer will ever be enough because it can never really satisfy.
To think so is a fool’s quest.
God certainly knows this, and He therefore calls us from the unsatisfying to the satisfying:
Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Isaiah 55:1-2
Jesus said the same thing to the woman at the well:
Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. John 4:13-14
You and I have been given a hunger for significance. The world, the flesh and the enemy want us to try to satisfy that with things that perish. It is a hopeless chase. Our significance can only come from God Himself. And the significance that comes from His love is never ending. It is eternal. It is the water that does not leave us thirsty. It is the bread that does not leave us hungry. It is the significance that comes from the spring of water than wells up to eternal life. It is the food that is the richest of fare.
He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose. Jim Elliot
THE WAY TO DO A GREAT DEAL IS TO KEEP ON DOING A LITTLE. THE WAY TO DO NOTHING AT ALL IS TO BE CONTINUALLY RESOLVING THAT YOU WILL DO EVERYTHING. CHARLES SPURGEON
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In our hopefully upcoming DVD series “the Engagement” we will have a tour entitled “Fruit, Weeds and Counterfeits”. One of the key elements of that tour will include a survey of the many “counterfeits” that we find in our culture that deceive and pull us away from the true meaning of agape love. One of those counterfeits is best described by Linus from the cartoon “Peanuts”:
I love mankind…it’s people I can’t stand!
It’s funny, but this is so true of our modern culture. This is the Hollywood notion of gushing about loving the World, but in so doing, loving no one, really.
The true agape love that we are called to (we will try to define it in tE) can only be carried out within the context of a deep relationship. If you fervently seek the true good of an individual, you can only do that with a small number of folks.
C. S. Lewis put it this way:
It is easier to be enthusiastic about Humanity with a capital ‘H’ than it is to love individual men and women, especially those who are uninteresting, exasperating, depraved, or otherwise unattractive. Loving everybody in general may be an excuse for loving nobody in particular.
And G. K. Chesterton noted this, which might seem as if he were speaking of the progressive elite in our culture today:
They hate kings, they hate priests, they hate soldiers, they hate sailors. They distrust men of science, they denounce the middle classes, they despair of working men, but they adore humanity. Only they always speak of humanity as if it were a curious foreign nation…They are ceasing to be human in the effort to be humane.
What is happening here is that we have embraced a counterfeit of true agape love. True agape love operates only in the “small”. We have substituted in its place the “large” and in so doing have destroyed it.
I have, of late, been fascinated by the understanding that Jesus, when He started His ministry, did so by calling together a few men…twelve in number. Yet He really concentrated on three. If you study the Gospels, you will find that Jesus did heal many and He did speak to the multitudes, but it appears that His focus was on these few men. And when He left, it was to these few that He gave the charge to then go and make disciples of the nations. But how were they to do that? I would submit to you that they understood it within the example that He had given them.
Paul expressed it this way:
And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:2
All of this is in keeping with the God who created only two human beings and then told them to fill the earth. They were not expected to have a million babies. They would have a few and those would have a few and eventually this notion of the “few” would become the “many”.
In summarizing the entire law, Jesus told us to agape God and to agape our neighbor. He didn’t tell us to agape the world, for we cannot do that.
We are awash in a culture that has bowed the knee to itself. We worship ourselves. We believe that we are a god who can generate truth within our own heart. Because we are a slave to our hunger for significance, we then dream of big things for ourselves…in our daydreams we are the one that ends up being so, so significant. We get the girl, we get the guy, we win the lottery, we become famous, we become the greatest entertainer or athlete, we are loved, we are adored, we are the center of attention.
Motivational speakers after motivational speakers encourage us to think big, to dream big dreams. We love to think big. We love to dream big dreams.
I am not saying that there isn’t a place for that at specific times and places in one’s life, for there is a need to not settle for that which is less than what we can do or accomplish with the gifts God has given us. But we are in danger of reinforcing the lie that anything "significant" has to come from that which is “big” and never from that which is “small”….that “big” is “significant” and “small” is therefore “insignificant”.
It keeps the body of Christ from thinking that there is something quite grand about dedicating your life to your family and the neighbors that live next door. It keeps us from action because we think our part is too “small”. It fuels our sense of insignificance. It ignites lust. It fans the flames of jealousy and class warfare.
It destroys contentment.
It makes us want.
It renders us ineffective.
We want the “big” and not the “small”.
Despising the few, we want it all.
Even when we want to help others, we can get overwhelmed by the reality that there are too many needy, too many sick, too many abused…just too many. The problems are just so large…
And we end up doing nothing.
Oh, we resolve to do something…but we have to make the “something” big in order for us to think that it is worthwhile and significant.
But we can’t.
So we don’t.
I suspect that if Linus were real and he were sitting around the fireplace with Jesus and he uttered his sad commentary: “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand.” that it is possible Jesus would have smiled and then quietly said, “I can’t stand mankind. But I love people.”
Don’t let “big” get in your way of taking time for the widow next door.
The way to do a great deal is to keep on doing a little. The way to do nothing at all is to be continually resolving that you will do everything. Charles Spurgeon
I just returned from a filming trip with Dr. Marcus Ross. We met at the 50-acre Discovery Park of America in Union City, Tennessee. If you ever find yourself near there, it would be worth visiting. Although there are exhibits in many different areas, our interest was in the natural history section with full skeletons of very diverse creatures from T-Rex to Apatosaurus, from Pterosaurs to the Woolly Mammoth and Saber-Toothed Tigers.
Dr. Ross is a paleontologist who has focused his research on dinosaurs. So our purpose for this part of the documentary (Is Genesis History?) was to learn more about that fascinating world…a world that no longer exists. Peter refers to the pre-flood earth as “the world that then existed perished” (2 Peter 3:6) and that God “did not spare the ancient world” (2 Peter 2:5). Clearly, the world that existed before the Flood was very different form the world we live in today. As Dr. Steve Austin and Dr. Kurt Wise explained in earlier filming segments, our common Christian understanding that the Flood simply soaked the earth is all wrong. The crust of the earth broke open and with enormous magma eruptions and tsunami forces of unimaginable size, God essentially remade the surface of the earth…and most probably the atmosphere as well.
The old world was filled with huge creatures; strange creatures. They swam in the ocean, walked the earth, and flew in the skies. The Megalodon shark had a jaw opening of nearly 100 square feet and teeth that were 7 inches long. The “Loch Ness” monster of that world was the Mauisaurus with a neck that was 49 feet long. On land, the Apatosaurus had a tail that was 50 feet long and was likely used as a defense mechanism, not physically threatening, but it could be “cracked” like a bullwhip and create a deafening boom like a cannon. In the air flew the Pterosaurs. This was the exhibit that fascinated me the most, I guess because of my love for flying. The Pterosaur could fold its wings, somewhat like the F-18 on a carrier, but the pterosaur had hands at this bend, so on the ground they were a quadruped, walking on four “legs”. The conventional paradigm would say that they evolved from land dwellers, somehow growing wings and taking flight. Dr. Ross explained how the pterosaur, like every flying creature, had to have a special hollow bone structure and body and organ design in order to fly. This isn’t a land creature that evolved wings; it was built to fly from the ground up (pun intended).
We talked about the fossil record, how each “layer” has been used to show the evolution of life, but it can just as well show the order of communities of creatures that were swept up in the catastrophe of the flood, beginning with the low-lying marine creatures, and subsequently deposited in the enormous sedimentary layers that we find all over the earth…some layers, like the Redwall Limestone, are up to 800 feet thick. All of these layers are filled with the remains of creatures that were destroyed in the Flood. We walk on top of a literal grave yard. Everywhere.
But, of all we talked about, the complexity of the creatures from the bottom to the top, the grand diversity of life throughout the layers, the lack of evidence for evolutionary development…it was the reason for the destruction of life that ended up being the focus of our interview.
Dr. Ross pointed out that the evidence we have from that world is that is was an extremely violent one. We often think of the violence that seems to be escalating in our current world, but it was nothing to what the ancient world experienced. I had mistakenly thought that God destroyed the world because of the evil of man, and that is true. But Dr. Ross pointed out something very important.
So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them. Genesis 6:7
God didn’t just destroy man, but animals as well. Why did He do that?
We know that the Fall dropped the entire universe into a world of decay, but we are most familiar with the sin and evil that infected the human race. Indeed, it appears to have been rife:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. Genesis 6:5
But we also know that something happened to the animals. They were created herbivorous, but after the fall were carnivorous. The future hope is that the lion will lie down with the lamb and the cobra will not strike. This is a picture of the way animals were supposed to be. But just as the whole universe fell with Adam and is now groaning in its decay, so, too, did the animal kingdom. Ferocious creatures roamed the earth and swam in the oceans and flew in the skies. Dr. Ross talked about the teeth marks that are found on dinosaur bones.
It was a world and environment that allowed both plants and animals to live long and grow large, but they were infected with the savage disease of the Fall.
It was a world filled with abundant violence…both in man and beast.
And therefore God “wiped them all out”.
Understanding this is critical. Ignoring it is perilous. Peter refers to those who scoff at it, those who close their eyes to the evidence that is obvious...those who "willfully un-see". But he puts it in the context of judgment. If you ignore the judgment of God in the past, when He destroyed the world that then was, then you might think you can ignore the judgment that is coming. Peter mentions that the world was cleansed before with water and it will, in the future, be cleansed with fire.
In between, it was cleansed with blood…the blood of the Lamb.
If one ignores the judgments of God, one will not only ignore the notion of sin, but miss the entire “good news” of the Redemption and the Restoration.
All of this has been preserved for us in the bones...in the earth’s graveyard.
Look at them with wisdom and understanding.