Jesus didn’t come to revise the list of do’s and don’ts that would get you into heaven; He came to bring you LIFE! How often we get that mixed up. We end up fighting about what’s on the sin list when we should be all about embracing His kind of life and helping others experience it too. We settle for such ineffective substitutes. So when you look at your own behavior, are you finding real life?
I don’t really mean eternal life, although of course that’s ultimately most important. I’m talking about what makes you feel alive here and now, every day. Let’s get real practical. When you come home from a hard day at work, when your spouse disappoints you, when you worry about money, when you’re feeling lonely or rejected or sick, where do you turn?
If you’re a Christian you probably believe intellectually that God is the One who brings you life. But then stuff happens. And when you feel sick, tired, stressed, lonely, or upset some part of you may believe (consciously or unconsciously) that God isn’t completely coming through for you. And so you go looking somewhere else. Somehow the life Jesus is bringing doesn’t seem real enough, important enough, current enough to qualify.
It can be a sobering thing to realize the cheap and unsatisfying substitutes you’ve been going to for life.
Where are you looking for life?
Mentally survey your last week. What did you find yourself wishing or dreaming for? Where did you expend time, energy, or money even when you knew it might not be the best? What have you been (or would you be) unable to walk away from? What are you upset about when you don’t have it?
It might look something like this:
- Status and money? You feel like a failure unless you’re steadily climbing the business ladder of success.
- Sex? You’re irritable unless you get your fix from pornography, sex outside of marriage, same-sex activity, or even sex with your spouse.
- Entertainment or stimulation? You’re never without your smartphone, the TV, or some other media occupying your attention.
- Comfort and feeling good? Whether started for legitimate reasons or not, now you can’t put down the pills, alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs.
- People’s opinions? You’re not happy unless you’ve received enough appreciation or attention from others. (And some of those people you don’t even like!)
Something in us feels like the life we have is not adequate in itself. We’ve got to go after something else. We sense there is more. And when God doesn’t seem to be coming through with the “more”, we go after whatever promises a temporary fix, a taste of relief, a moment of satisfaction.
But none of the substitutes end up bringing the real life they promised. More money ends up feeling shallow. The physical sexual release is followed by shame and guilt. The entertainment always ends. Addiction or people pleasing become increasingly severe task-masters.
Instead of the life they promised, these substitutes end up bringing more death instead.
Finding Real Life
Think about it; can you imagine Jesus stepping on anyone to get more money, becoming irritable about not having sex, paying attention to entertainment instead of the person next to Him, drinking more wine because He was feeling achy and tired, or wasting one moment worrying about how to get someone to like Him? Of course not.
It’s not that having money, enjoying sex with your spouse, being entertained, feeling good, or having people think well of you are bad things. God has given us good things in life to enjoy. But these things become destructive when we go to them for life. Tweet that.
In the Old Testament God remonstrated with Israel: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) He’s saying, not only have you not come to Me for the life I can give you; you’ve tried to create your own ways of getting life that are completely unsatisfying.
In the New Testament Jesus presents Himself as the only Source of life. “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.” “I have come that they may have life.” “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’” (John 5:40, 10:10, 14:6, emphases added)
On some spiritually high plane we may believe that. But when facing situations in which we tend to grab at cheap substitutes instead of Jesus’ kind of life, what can we do?
How do you Look for Real Life?
The journey of finding real life is exactly the kind of transformation process Jesus invites each of us into. It’s a daily decision. But here are a few ideas to help you move forward in that journey.
- Look below the surface. We each have legitimate needs, wounds, empty places, hang-ups, desires, etc. The substitutes may offer temporary distraction, but the only way to experience life in these areas is to dive below the surface and deal with the root issues. God invites you to go deep. Choose to peel back the layers with Him and deal with the stuff underneath.
- Go for More. Get downright fed up with the unsatisfying substitutes and their deceitful offerings of cheap life that ends up in death. Sometimes the very pain of looking for life in all the wrong places can be the fuel we need to do something different. Get honest about the pain your faulty attempts at life are causing you and others.
- Hold on Tight. Let your desperate need for life drive you to seek it from the only true Source. This is not about religious behaviors; it’s about your very survival. Searching God’s word, connecting with other believers, opening your heart in desperate cries to God and then sticking around to hear what He has to say – reframe those things as a search for LIFE.
One day while in the temple Jesus cried out, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38)
Doesn’t that sound like finding real life?
Your Turn: Where have you been looking for life? Are you satisfied with the results? Are there any ways in which you need to change your search? Leave a comment below.
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- Going to cheap substitutes for life, such as money, success, entertainment, sex, or comfort will end up bringing death and misery instead. Finding real life necessitates going to the Source. That’s not as impossible as it sounds. Tweet that.
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