Thank you for providing such an interesting podcast . I agree with you @Jennifer_Wilkinson that this is not always an easy question to give an answer to. I believe Jo and Vince Vitale are right with their analogy of it being like starting a sports game without any ideas of the rules or objective of the game. Just thinking about being in that scenario would be so frustrating, which I imagine many of us feel when trying to work out the purpose for the many, so-called, monotonous aspects of our lives.
I think the meaning of life is to know God, primarily in a relational context, as opposed to knowing about God at a theoretical level. I draw this conclusion partly from the verse of John 17:3 which was quoted in the podcast. If the purpose of life does not lead to an eternal outcome, in the case of Christianity reflected in eternal relationship, then everything we strive towards is ultimately without hope and value. Also, if God exists eternally in a Trinity, and we have been created in His image, then part of our design must also be relational. This would also seem to make sense of why Jesus said that the greatest command is to love Him with all our being, as well as also to love our neighbour as we ourselves are loved. However, I do think that understanding what it means to love and grow in love for God can be a hard concept to grasp. Like most people who are in a love relationship, love seems better understood in an experiential way. So, in loving God and conforming to His design (Romans 8:29) and purpose for our lives, we in our conformation also bring Him glory. I can only see God being truly glorified by us becoming who He always intended us to be. It is why giving sacrifices in the Bible without having a heart posture of love and mercy meant nothing to God (Hosea 6:6). He wanted the heart transformed. Giving praise is a part of glorifying and honouring God, but extends out of a heart that acknowledges our love and need for Him. God also receives glorify by us becoming His inheritance, which in Christ He paid for (Ephesians 1:18-20).
This means that God’s act of creating us is completely altruistic. God is the most fulfilled, and thus, complete being in existence. God did not need to create humanity. God did not need to create anything. The reason God wants us to obey Him and love Him is because only “in Christ” do we find our greatest joy, peace, fullness and freedom (Galatians 5:1, Romans 14:17, 2 Corinthians 3:17-18). We think that following the world and our flesh will give us greater freedom, where God knows it does the exact opposite. It is why the Cross was not only about forgiving sins but about defeating sins power so as to make us “New Creations” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18). Through this renewing and sanctifying process, we are not only reborn into His inheritance (which is an unbelievable honour), but God created us to be sons and daughters to likewise inherit Him. Remarkably, the God who was fully without need, chooses us as His inheritance and takes pleasure in us, not because of our works, but because of His great love for us. And our value is revealed in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
I think that it is possible to have a meaningful life apart from God. As people we can find meaning in anything we choose. However, apart from Christ I do not think it has specific eternal value for us, though, God can still use the events of our lives for His plans and purposes. Being in fellowship with God from an everyday perspective has incredible practical outworking’s. We can know God now, have individual as well as communal fellowship with Him (Ephesians 5:19-21), overcome temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13), no longer be enslaved to sin (Romans 6:6), know His will (Romans 12:2), have His Spirit, love others more fully with His love (1 John 4:11-12), be made living temples (2 Corinthians 6:16), have the joy and peace of God, be made disciples (John 15:8) and undergo continues sanctification to conformation to the image of Christ. In other words, set free to new life in the identity for which we were always created. Everything we do, or don’t do, has eternal significance one way or the other, but, for those in Christ, we have the opportunity to bring glory to God now that will last for eternity. It is for reasons such as these why I think proclaiming the gospel and seeing people put their faith in Christ is such a privileged work that God has included Christians to partake in.
Those are just a few thoughts from an incredibly important and broad topic. I would love to learn from others thoughts on these questions.