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I know something about everyone walking the planet today that is common to every human being, young or old, male or female, famous or unknown, attractive or not-so-attractive, affluent or poor. Regardless of where a person lives, these are things that are universally true of every person.
First, everyone is empty. All humanity is crying for something. The problem is they don’t know what it is. Pascal had it right when he said there is a God-shaped vacuum in every life that only God can fill. And it really is an emptiness for God. This is unique to humankind. God has effectively prewired us for something more. The Bible says that God has placed eternity in our hearts (see Ecclesiastes 3:11), and we see this played out in so many ways. In 2007, after spending time in rehab for alcohol issues, country music star Keith Urban told an interviewer, “Playing massive stadiums is not going to fill any hole in me.” People are looking for whatever will fill that emptiness.
Second, everyone is lonely. The Beatles sang of it years ago: “All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?” Sometimes you feel it in a crowded room, surrounded by family and friends. A loneliness sweeps over you, and it is a loneliness that people will not fill – not friends, not a husband or wife, not children. It really is a loneliness for God. When the lead singer for one of the world’s most successful rock bands committed suicide a few years ago, a note was found clipped to his shirt that read, “I am a lonely soul.” And that is true of everyone. Everyone is empty. Everyone is lonely.
Third, everyone feels guilt. Why? Because we are guilty. Because we have broken God’s commandments. Some may deny this, however. Actress Angelina Jolie has said, “I don’t believe in guilt, I believe in living on impulse as long as you never intentionally hurt another person, and don’t judge people in your life. I think you should live completely free.” Really? Free from all restraints? No rules? No laws? No sense of right or wrong? Not according to what the Bible says: “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Romans 3:23 NLT).
Last, everyone is afraid to die. Deep down inside, death frightens us. The Bible even speaks of those who are held in slavery by their fear of death (see Hebrews 2:15). Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, has had his own health struggles and has come quite close to death’s door. In an interview with Fortune magazine, he said, “Life is brief, and then you die, you know?” Woody Allen famously said, “I’m not afraid of death; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.” But of course he will, just as every person will.
Regardless of who we are and where we live, we all feel emptiness, loneliness and guilt. And we are afraid to die. So what is the answer? I believe that Jesus Christ is the answer to our emptiness, loneliness, guilt and fear of death.
The problem is that people probably know less about the Bible and Jesus Christ than at any other time in history. The so-called Millennial Generation, young adults age 18 to 29, is incredibly illiterate biblically. They have, in many cases, been raised without biblical values – not even basic moral values – and so they are a generation adrift. According to a recent USA Today article, 72 percent of Millennials say they are more spiritual than religious. What that means is they don’t believe in organized religion. They are making up their own spirituality as they go. We live in a time when people are customizing God as though he were an app on an iPhone. They borrow a little of this and little of that, shake it all together and come up with their own concept of who God is.
There is an entire generation adrift, and there are Christians today who are not connecting. Far too often, we come across as narrow-minded, argumentative, condemning and holier-than-thou. And unfortunately, that is true sometimes. Far too often we are known more for what we are against than what we are for. We are more adept at burning bridges than building them. We need to figure out how we can connect to the culture today.
And if there is one thing Christians and non-Christians have in common, it is the simple fact that both are uptight about evangelism. Christians are uptight about sharing their faith, and non-Christians are often uptight when it comes to talking about God.
Evangelism has fallen out of favor with a lot of people today. Some churches even emphasize other things instead of it. They may have great social programs in the community. They may volunteer their services to assist in cleaning up areas that need help, or they build homes or give out food and clothing. And those are great things. I am all for those things. However, if in the process of doing those things the gospel is left out, then it is a fateful omission. If we feed people or clothe them or even house them and have done nothing for their souls, then we have completely missed the point.
Suppose I was a scientist who happened to have cancer. I feverishly work to find a cure for myself and for others I know. Then one day, after a lot of effort, I come up with a cure – a single, one-dose pill that instantaneously removes cancer. What should I do about that? Try to make the most money I can and take my sweet time in getting this new product to the market? How about befriending cancer patients but never letting them know that I have been cured? (I am a caring scientist, after all, and I don’t want to confront them about it.) That would be the epitome of selfishness. Some might even call it criminal. The correct response would be to get the cure to as many people as possible, as quickly as I could. And if that were true of a cure for a fatal disease, then how much more is it true of the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ?
Christians need to care. We need to lovingly engage people with the gospel message. Souls are of the greatest value to God, and they must be to us as well.