“For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” —Romans 14:7
TODAY we are to ask the Bible to answer the deep question, “What is the true meaning of life?” I shall not insult your intelligence by one word of argument as to the importance of that question. You and I are conscious that we are living. We know that the mysterious and wonderful thing which we call life is passing rapidly away. What a mystery life is and one which science has not in the least helped us to solve. It is today the same inscrutable mystery it was centuries ago. That its issues are tremendously important, we know, and we ask what is the meaning, the true meaning, including, of course, the true purpose and object of life.
As a truth about which our thought may crystallize, and which I believe opens essentially the heart of the question, I have chosen for a text:
“For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” Romans 14:7
In other words, it is impossible for us to isolate ourselves from humanity and from God. We can not do it. Now, I want to plead, first of all, in considering this question of the true meaning of life, for a frank recognition of this fact. No life has found its true meaning until the fact is frankly recognized that the chief value of that life is due to the investment which others have made in it. Your life is valuable to you, it is precious, in the measure in which others have made investments in it. The problem that is before us is not a problem which can be considered without reference to past, present or future. Think of the tremendous investment that others have made in your life and mine. For us, mothers have suffered and prayed. For us, fathers have toiled. Teachers have patiently invested years of effort to win us from ignorance into knowledge. All this has been done that our lives might have some kind of value; and the first right thought of life is that we recognize that that which gives our lives chiefest worth has been invested in us by others. My friends, you and I are the heirs of the ages. For you and me Moses wrote and David sang and the seers prophesied. For you and me, Homer chanted his deathless lays, and a thousand men of genius have toiled and thought and suffered, that you and I might be what we are today. We boast of our liberty; we are proud of being Americans; proud of having a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” Did you or I ever do anything much that we might be free today– free to say the thing we believed; free to come and go, free to live out our lives? Columbus crossed the stormy seas, our fathers followed him, and in their toil and pain and self-denial wrought out this new empire for man.
“For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” Romans 14:7
Can you dispense with all this increment of the thought and toil and suffering and sacrifice of the ages and go back to savagery? You can not do it if you would, and would not do it if you could. But how lightly you and I have been using this marvelous thing of life, as if it were only our own!
The second proposition is that no life has found its true meaning which does not take account of two worlds. The life that now is and that which is to come. Is it a credit to any one whose head is gray, that he begins to think of the other life? I would like to reach those whose heads are not gray, and plead with them to think while it is time, to redeem life from unbelief and baseness and selfishness and narrowness into faith and Tightness and nobility, to think of life as belonging to two worlds now. Two worlds, this one so brief, the other unending! What may be in store for us yonder? That is the question which lifts the temporary, the transitory, into eternal consequence and moment. What have I done today means something for me through all eternity. I have not begun to face the problem of life until I have seen that.
Then, I want to say that no life has found its true meaning which is not right with God. That is one of the last things we think of. By what strange involution of reason have men come to think that the principal business of life is to do approximately the right thing by our fellow man? Such a life leaves out of the problem its mightiest factor â€” the final, determining factor of all life — God.
Let us think about this for a moment. We were speaking of investments making life precious and valuable. Dear friends, the investment of the ages in you and in me, the heirship which the poorest child born in civilization has by the very fact of being born, is but the smallest part, after all, of the investment which God Himself has made in your life and mine. In the first place, He gives that wonderful thing which we use lightly and think so ignobly about — life. How can a life be right which is out of harmony with its Creator? Science tells us, modern science, and so far I agree with it wholly, that the problem of life is being in harmony with environment. That is right. What is the environment of every human being? God.
“For in him we live, and move, and have our being:” Acts 17:28
According to science itself, then, no life can be right, no life can, in the best sense, be happy, no life can have any well-grounded hope of happiness in the future, which is inharmonious with God. How many things should move us to get right with God! We are in His universe, we can not get out of it. For weal or woe, for ever and ever, you and I must live within its utmost rim.
How many motives He has given us to make life right with Himself! Think of gratitude. We rightly call ingratitude the basest act of man. There is something about ingratitude — there is something about the man who can receive kindnesses and favors without being moved to gratitude in return, that marks a kind of incurable baseness of nature. You and I have lived on God’s bounty all our lives and perhaps we have never said with David,
“What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me? Psalms 116:13
And remember the answer:
“I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” Psalms 116:13
It is all we can do. Gratitude should move every one of us to get right with God. Prudence should move us to get right with God. Reason alone tells us, and with this the Bible is in harmony, as it is everywhere and in everything with the highest reason — that there can be no enduring happiness in a life which is out of harmony with God. And we all want to be happy, do we not?
Now, the very foundation thought concerning the problem of life is the thought of its being linked with all other life. Take, for instance, the matter of influence. I am living, let me say, without Christ in the world. By as much as I am an honorable, a kindly, a worthy man, I am imperilling the eternal welfare of all who look up to me. If my life is a linked life, linked with other lives, what right have I to live one minute when my influence may leave a blot on another life?
And the second thought, remember, is that we must take account of life as belonging to two worlds, this and the next. Can there be any more incredible folly than for us to live perilously on the verge of eternity, as we know every one of us does live, without being able to count tomorrow as ours, and to take all the chances of the unending days of the life beyond? Ought we not to be glad that God has made the issue between Himself and humanity so simple? What must we do to get right with God? What must we — all out of harmony in our selfishness, with His unselfishness, in our hatred, with His love, in our sins, with His holiness — what must we do to come into harmony with Him, to have our life beat in time with the life of the eternal? He makes one simple, definite proposition to us, and it is wrapped up, not in doctrine, but in a person. His one proposition is Jesus Christ.
All life turns, in the last analysis, on the right answer to that question,
“What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” Matthew 27:22
Pilate’s question. Right with God, we are right with humanity. Right with God, through Jesus Christ, we are right for the next world as well as for this. All the problems of life, the whole meaning of life, centers on that one thing — what is Christ to me and what am I to Him? I can not go back to the law — it only curses me, for I have broken it. I can not begin today, if it were possible for me to do so, to live so that every act of my life shall be pleasing to a holy God, for first of all I have no power to do it, and secondly, there is my record up to today. What can make me right with God?
To do the thing He has commanded me — believe on Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. Trust Him. Give myself away to Him. Put my whole case into His hands. Let Him take this life, so full of evil, and put the evil out of it. Let Him take this life so full of weakness and fill it with strength. Let Him take this life so selfish and self-centered, and let it flow out in all its breadth to humanity. Let Him make it over. Let Him purify it. Let Him solve all its problems. Let Jesus Christ fill it.