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THE SEARCH FOR SIGNIFICANCE
By Robert S. McGee Jack Crabtree
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Robert S. McGee with Jack Crabtree
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSOMETHING'S MISSING
Teenagers have a pretty simple job description-just two major assignments to accomplish and eight years to get them done:
1 Get along and fit in with your peers.
2 Develop your own identity.
The SAT scores, the sports teams, and all the schoolwork are overrated as "critical steps to becoming a teenage success" compared to the lessons you learn in those years between leaving childhood and entering adulthood. The job is simple-find out who you are and how you fit into this messed-up world.
Whoever thought such a simple job could get you into so much trouble? Life was easier when Mom and Dad were calling all the shots. Unless you were a child prodigy at getting your own way, your parents' agenda was your agenda. No questions asked.
But it wasn't a total waste of time. You learned a lot about life by watching them. What you saw and heard became the foundation of what you think about life and who you are as a person today. So before you even signed on to be a teenager, the wet cement in your brain was already starting to dry. You had a pretty good idea about who you were and how life worked by the time you reached double digits. It wasn't all good, but life sure seemed more peaceful and secure as a kid than it did once puberty started changing your body and rocking your world.
Somehow when those growth hormones started streaking through your body, your world began to change. There was no going back. And you will never be the same. It can be a jackhammer time of life-busting up all your assumptions about what is right or wrong, true or false. Your identity is no longer built around your parents. In fact, the thought of growing up to be like them is now one of your biggest fears. You fight for your freedom and blow holes in the protective bubble your parents carefully constructed around you. There is a fresh, unexplored world out there. You want to be part of it.
What your parents don't fill you in on about life you learn from television, movies, and music. If you're like most teens, the amount of time you spend watching and listening to the lessons of love and sex, being cool and looking hot, developing power and attaining success amounts to more than double the time you spend in school. With eyes focused on the screen and ears encased in headphones, the basic expectations of happiness, fulfillment, and the rules of life are embedded into the creases of your brain and deep into your soul.
So, how is it for you so far?
Is life all it's cracked up to be?
Or is something missing?
WHY AM I SO UNHAPPY?
Mark's senior year is wearing him down. Life has been tense at home. He is waitlisted at the colleges where he applied. So basically he's worked really hard, and some committee decides he is second choice at best. "Second choice" sums up exactly how Mark feels about life. If he doesn't get in, he will never hear the end of it from his dad. You try hard to do the best you can, but your parents and teachers can always find something wrong with you. What you do is never good enough.
Mark's dad is still talking about the bad grades he got his freshman year. He won't let it go. He knew then that Mark would never get into college. These days Mark stays out of the house and hangs with friends. Even with friends, Mark has the feeling that when they leave for college (and he inevitably stays home), they won't stay in touch. All those guys will make new friends. That's a great feeling-they're only your friends until someone better comes along. Second choice again. Isn't life great?
At sixteen, Amanda isn't doing so great. Her mom caught her cutting herself in the bathroom and took her to a therapist for teenage girls. Amanda hates being there-she feels like she's some kind of psycho-case. She's unhappy and depressed about life, like most of her friends at school. What's weird about that?
Her father left years ago. She fights with her mom about her friends, going out, and the clothes she wears. Her mom calls Amanda a sponge because, in her opinion, she just soaks up the attitude and behavior of everybody she's around. That is track #3 on her mom's I'm Really Worried About You greatest hits and lectures CD. She can repeat it back to her mom word for word. As the therapist probes about feelings and missing her father, Amanda puts up the hard shell. Life stinks. Who can change that?
Nobody will ever love me. If people really knew me, they wouldn't like me. I've been a failure all my life. I guess I'll always be a failure. I'll never be able to change. Not even God really cares about me.
SOMETHING IS MISSING
People say the years between twelve and twenty are the best years of your life. If these are the best years, then life is a cruel joke. But lots of us have some serious reactions. The young girls starving themselves to be thin are not a joke. The anger boiling over in many young men has school counselors and parents in a major panic. A spirit of depression and hopelessness presses down on young people who don't like themselves or feel like they have no significant place or role in this world.
Some people call it self-esteem. Others say self-worth. Whatever it is-it is the feeling of significance deep inside us that is crucial to our emotional, spiritual, and social stability. Everyone wants to be happy and successful, and to regard himself or herself as a worthwhile human being. What's so bad about that?
The problem is that more and more teenagers are asking, "Is this all there is to life?" They are not happy about being young and living in this world. They don't like being who they are. Happy. Successful. Believe in yourself. It's just hype for a lot of youth today.
Before everyone starts shaking their heads, let's ask ourselves: "Could it be that what we have been told about fulfillment is a lie? That chasing after personal success, status, beauty, wealth, and the approval of others is a dead-end street? Is it possible that we have been told the biggest, boldest lies about what is most important in life?"
DOES GOD CARE?
The Bible tells us that God created us each individually, and He constantly keeps His eye on us. Do we know we are significant and valuable to God? Jesus said that God knows details like the number of hairs on our head, sees everything we do, and loves us personally and unconditionally. Jesus said that God is not some distant, uninvolved deity but, in fact, wants to know us authentically and have a moment-by-moment relationship with us. Even more remarkable to our modern minds is the fact that this personal God loves us and wants to know when we are mad at Him, messed up by the mistakes of life, or even when we simply don't care anymore. God offers unconditional love and acceptance as the basis for a strong sense of personal self-worth. Can you believe that?
GOD'S ORIGINAL DESIGN
The way you see life right now isn't the way it started. When God created the first people, Adam and Eve, He made them to live in intimate fellowship with Him. Adam and Eve were remarkable, magnificent people made in God's image. They were placed in a perfect environment where all their physical needs were met. They were responsible to oversee paradise with all its vegetation and animals. They knew God and walked and talked with Him. Adam and Eve were perfect in body, mind, and spirit.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
Adam and Eve had a visitor in the Garden of Eden who came to destroy what God had given to them. Lucifer (the name means "Morning Star") had been an angel of the highest rank created to glorify God. He was clothed in beauty and power as he served in the presence of God. Sadly, Lucifer's pride caused him to rebel against God. When this happened, he and one-third of all the angels were expelled from heaven.
It was the same Lucifer who came to visit Adam and Eve in the form of a serpent. If he could get Adam and Eve to rebel against God, they would lose their authority and their perfection. They would become slaves to Satan and sin and be under God's wrath and judgment. If this worked, Satan would screw up Adam and Eve's relationship with God and destroy God's great plan for these people He had created.
Jesus called Satan "the father of lies." Satan deceived Eve by getting her to doubt God's honesty and suggesting that she would gain greater power and wisdom apart from God. When she ate the forbidden fruit, she traded God's truth for Satan's lie, believing it would make her become like God. When she offered the same opportunity to Adam, he accepted and turned away from the love and security he had known with God. It was a sad day that changed the future of the world, and the future of all who have been born in the years to follow.
WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH ME?
When Adam and Eve did this, they lost their secure status with God and began to struggle with feelings of arrogance, inadequacy, and despair, valuing the opinions of others more than the opinions of God. This robbed Adam of his true self-worth and put him on the continual but fruitless quest for significance through personal success and the approval of others.
As descendants of Adam and Eve, we are born with a sinful nature that rebels against God and attempts to find security and purpose in this world apart from Him. We stand guilty before God and deserve His wrath. Nothing we can do as human beings can pay the penalty for our sins against God.
What are those sins? We could make a long list of specific attitudes and actions. The best overall explanation of sin is that we ignore God (the real God) and act like we are god (not the real god), doing whatever we think is best for us. In the process, we disobey many of the specific commands God has given us. Worst of all, we go through most days without acknowledging that the God who created us is a very real part of our lives. We ignore Him and try our best to take care of life in our own human strength.
The results are predictable. Amanda and Mark and millions of other people have found out how empty life is without God.
In what ways have you turned away from God, and how often?
What experiences have made you feel that life without God was empty?
WHY THEY CALL IT "GOOD NEWS"
Just when our situation was hopeless, God acted on our behalf to pay the penalty for all these sins that we have committed by sending His own Son, Jesus Christ, into our world. It was God's plan that Jesus would willingly die on the cross taking the punishment, as if He had committed our sins. This sacrifice made us pure, and nothing demonstrates God's love for us more clearly than His giving Jesus to die for us. Through Christ's death on the cross our relationship with God has been restored. We can experience His nature and character in our life as we live in a spiritual relationship with Him and show His love to the entire world.
Through Jesus Christ we experience the security and significance for which we were created-not just in eternity beyond the death of our human bodies, but here on earth as well. Adam and Eve's sin had tragic consequences on our world and on each one of us, but through God's plan of redemption we can be brought back to God and start our relationship with Him all over again.
God has made it possible for every person to be restored to Him. Jesus clearly explained God's wonderful plan when He told Nicodemus:
God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to judge the world guilty, but to save the world through him.
Getting reconnected to God is not about how you can pay God back for the sins you've committed-you can't. And it's not about what you can do for God or about being a nice person or about giving your money away. That's not ever enough. We can't make ourselves right in God's sight; only our belief and trust in Christ's death and resurrection are sufficient to pay for our sin and separation from God.
Paul wrote about this gift from God:
I mean that you have been saved by grace through believing. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. It was not the result of your own efforts, so you cannot brag about it.
Then he explained to Titus what God did for us:
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior was shown, he saved us because of his mercy. It was not because of good deeds we did to be right with him. He saved us through the washing that made us new people through the Holy Spirit.
If you want to receive God's unconditional love, you can respond by trusting in Christ and accepting His payment for your sins. You can say the words of this prayer to express your faith:
Lord Jesus, I need You. I want You to be my Savior and the Lord of my life. I accept Your death on the cross as the complete payment for my sins. Thank You for forgiving me and for giving me new life. Help me understand Your love and power, so that my life will bring honor to You. Amen.
CAN GOD CHANGE YOUR LIFE?
When you trust Christ, you experience many wonderful changes.
* All your sins are forgiven: past, present, and future.
* You become a child of God.
* You receive eternal life.
* You are delivered from Satan's domain and transferred into the kingdom of Christ. * Christ comes to dwell within you. * You become a new creation. * God declares you righteous.
* You enter into a love relationship with God. * God completely accepts you.
THE CHOICE IS YOURS
You would think that everyone hearing this good news would run to God and put their faith and trust in what Jesus Christ has done for them. Sadly that is not so. We are extremely stubborn and really quite full of pride. Rather than receive God's unconditional love, we create false gods in our own image when we should be humbling ourselves before the real, living God. This is how Paul describes it:
They knew God, but they did not give glory to God or thank him. Their thinking became useless. Their foolish minds were filled with darkness. They said they were wise, but they became fools. They traded the glory of God who lives forever for the worship of idols made to look like earthly people, birds, animals, and snakes.
God has given us plenty of physical and spiritual evidence to know that He is real:
But since the beginning of the world those things have been easy to understand by what God has made. So people have no excuse for the bad things they do.
We ignore the evidence and only believe what we can understand with our human minds. We make substitute gods to worship and look to them for comfort rather than the real God:
Because they did these things, God left them and let them go their sinful way, wanting only to do evil. As a result, they became full of sexual sin, using their bodies wrongly with each other. They traded the truth of God for a lie. They worshiped and served what had been created instead of the God who created those things, who should be praised forever. Amen.
Excerpted from THE SEARCH FOR SIGNIFICANCE by Robert S. McGee Jack Crabtree Copyright © 2007 by Robert S. McGee with Jack Crabtree. Excerpted by permission.
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