Why Should I Live?

I have lived my life boiled down to one simple quote: Nicolaus Zinzendorf’s ‘Preach the gospel, die, and be forgotten’ as to shine light on the meaning of 1 Corinthians 2:2 in my life. All of my studies and all of my toiling and to a much larger, unavoidable influence, the way that I love and live my life, are all wrapped in up that one little quote. It is a quote that I have mediated much on and it is a now philosophy I cannot let go. I am shaken to the core by it.

Often I ask myself, ‘What else am I suppose to do? Not preach the gospel? Not die? Not be forgotten?‘ To which I always answer myself, ‘Impossible!’.

Then I run into this quote:

My question—that which at the age of fifty brought me to the verge of suicide—was the simplest of questions, lying in the soul of every man… a question without an answer to which one cannot live. It was: “What will come of what I am doing today or tomorrow? What will come of my whole life? Why should I live, why wish for anything, or do anything?” It can also be expressed thus: Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?

– Leo Tolstoy, A Confession, as quoted in The Reason for God by Tim Keller.

If I allow it, I could be haunted by Tolstoy. Let me think about when I am fifty—less than 13 years from now. Dying and be forgotten out of my control. But preaching the gospel? Let me mediate on the distinct possibility of never getting to preach, week in and week out. Let me dwell on the fact that I will never get to preach even just once. Let me think about never getting to teach and thus, never getting the opportunity to present the gospel of Christ.

It would be weird to go 13 more years and not be there. However, the sheer fact is that I have nothing else I can do. That is all I want to do. Day in and day out. Just do that.

So what if I don’t. Ah, but I have. A few times. God was so good to me and so loving to others that I got to do a little. And I will remember those times fondly. And I will look forward to the day when we won’t have to proclaim the gospel because I will be joyously satisfied seeing my Lord and God face-to-face.

The question might get asked, ‘How will you feel 13 years from now?’ To which I have to confidently answer: it won’t matter how I feel because I will have the Spirit of God dwelling in my heart and in my soul. He will always be with me from now until eternity no matter I how I feel, think, or do. My hope is not in my life, success of my marriage, the raising of my kids, or the success of my career but my hope is in perfect Christ alone. Because I hope in Him, I have hope for my life and loves.

Is it enough? Absolutely.

The Current Philosophies of Not Wanting To Think

“Every effort to account for the birth of the church apart from Jesus’s resurrection flies in the face of what we know about first-century history and culture. If you don’t short-circuit the process with philosophical bias against the possibility of miracle, the resurrection of Jesus has the most evidence for it.

The problem is, however, that people do short-circuit the investigation. Instead of doing the work of answering these very tough historical questions and then following the answers where they lead, they bail out with the objection that miracles are impossible.”

Timothy Keller. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. Dutton Adult, 2008. 211.

The Gospel Does One Better

Reflecting on the movie, Angels with Dirty Faces and the novel, A Tale of Two Cities:

“I always found these stories of sacrifice very emotionally affecting. I came away from them resolving to live more courageously and unselfishly. I never did follow through on my resolutions, however. The stories moved my emotions and pricked my conscience, but my heart’s basic patterns stayed intact. I was still driving by a need to prove myself to others, to win approval acclaim, to control what people thought of me. As long as these fears and needs had such power over me, my intentions to change could not go very far.

The gospel, however, is not just a moving fictional story about someone else. It is a true story about us. We are actually in it. We are those delinquent boys, and to save us Jesus gave up something infinitely greater than human celebrity. Also, Jesus has come to us in our prison and despite out unwillingness to be saved has taken our place. The seamstress was moved by a sacrifice that wasn’t for her. How much more can we be empowered by the discovery that Jesus has given himself for us, has changed places with us?

I can only say that observing these stories from the outside stirred me, but when I realized I was actually inside Jesus’ story (and he inside mine) it changed me. The fear and pride that captured my heart was finally dislodged. The fact that Jesus had to die for me humbled me out of my pride. The fact the Jesus as glad to die for me assured me out of my fear.”

Timothy Keller. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. Dutton Adult, 2008. 200.

The Logic of Miracles

The other hidden premise in the statement “miracles cannot happen” is “there can’t be a God who does miracles.” If there is a Creator God, there is nothing illogical at all about the possibility of miracles. After all, if he created everything out of nothing, it would hardly be a problem for him to rearrange parts of it as and when he wishes. To be sure that miracles cannot occur you would have to be sure beyond a doubt that God didn’t exist, and that is an article of faith. The existence of God can be neither demonstrably proven or disproven.

Timothy Keller. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. Dutton Adult, 2008. 76.

“Ha, ha! Too Late!” said God never

Modern people inevitably think that hell works like this: God gives us time, but if we haven’t made the right choices by the end of our lives, he casts our souls into hell for all eternity. As the poor souls fall through space, they cry out for mercy, but God says “Too late!” You had your chance! Now you will suffer!” This caricature misunderstands the very nature of evil. The Biblical picture is that sin separates us from the presence of God, which is the source of all joy and indeed all love, wisdom, or good things of any sort. Since we were originally created for God’s immediate presence, only before his face will we thrive, flourish, and achieve our highest potential. If we were to lose his presence totally, that would be hell—the loss of our capability for giving or receiving love or joy.

Timothy Keller. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. Dutton Adult, 2008. 76.

Let Me Control My Environment in Order To Make My Life Better

In ancient times it was understood that there was a transcendent moral order outside the self, built in to the fabric of the universe. If you violated that metaphysical order there were consequences just as severe as if you violated physical reality by placing your hand in a fire. The path of wisdom was to learn to live in conformity with this unyielding reality. That wisdom rested largely in developing qualities of character, such as humility, compassion, courage, discretion, and loyalty.

Modernity reversed this. Ultimate reality was seen not so much as a supernatural order but as the natural world, and that was malleable. Instead of trying to shape our desires to fit reality, we now seek to control and shape reality to fit our desires. The ancients looked at an anxious person and prescribed spiritual character change. Modernity talks instead about stress-management techniques.

Timothy Keller. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. Dutton Adult, 2008. 57.

Fanatical Christians Actually Haven’t Gone Far Enough

Think of people you consider fanatical. They’re overbearing, self-righteous, opinionated, insensitive, and harsh. Why? It’s not because they are too Christian but because they are not Christian enough. They are fanatically zealous and courageous, but they are not fanatically humble, sensitive, loving, empathetic, forgiving, or understanding – as Christ was. Because they think of Christianity as a self-improvement program they emulate the Jesus of the whips in the temple, but not the Jesus who said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” (John 8:7). What strikes us as overly fanatical is actually a failure to be fully committed to Christ and his gospel.

Timothy Keller. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. Dutton Adult, 2008. 57.

The Mainstream of Religion

Religion is not just a temporary thing that helped us adapt to our environment. Rather it is a permanent and central aspect of the human condition. This is a bitter pill for secular, nonreligious people to swallow. Everyone wants to think that they are in the mainstream, that they are not extremists. But robust religious beliefs dominate the world. There is no reason to expect that to change.

Timothy Keller. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. Dutton Adult, 2008. 6.

Why Do I Believe What I Believe?

A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts, which should only be discarded after long reflection.

Timothy Keller. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. Dutton Adult, 2008. XVII.