What is the chief end of man?
As I look forward to this New Year one thought has been rolling around in my mind. It is not a New Year’s resolution but a deep cry in my Spirit. I have been a Christian for 37 years, in Christian ministry for over 30 and a pastor for 23 years. I love the Lord and yet can find myself falling into the routines of life, whether at home, work or in my spiritual life. Routine is an interesting word describing common everyday tasks, chores or duties, and can be both natural and spiritual. Without routines, our lives would fall into chaos. The world in which we live today is a complex set of routines especially in relation to computers and all the high-tech gadgets we enjoy. So, in one sense we all need routine in our lives. There are positive aspects of enjoying the order that routine can bring to our journey through live. However, routine has some interesting synonyms attached to it; monotonous, tedious, dull repetitive to name a few. Sometimes our routines can become ruts in life. Spiritually speaking, I don’t want my faith journey with Jesus to become humdrum and lacking enjoyment or passion. This brings me back to the longing in my Spirit. I have been thinking about my walk with Jesus with all its routines or spiritual disciplines and have been asking myself the question, “where is the joy?”
What is the chief end of man?
The Westminster Shorter Catechism was written in 1646 and 47 by English and Scottish theologians to help teach new converts about Christianity. The first question asked is profound – What is the chief end of man? This question is not asked in the Scriptures but is thought provoking none-the-less. There are many answers that could be given to this question. We are to love God and obey him. We are to be light in a dark world and evangelize the lost. We are to seek to establish his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. The church over the ages has engaged in various practices with the goal of fulfilling God’s purposes on earth and all of these activities are good in and of themselves. However, the theologians behind the question had a different answer in mind.
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God…
The answer is simply this – “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” As I have been thinking about this answer my life has been challenged in several ways. Am I truly glorifying God? Am I full of passion for Jesus? Am I falling in love with God over and over? And secondly, am I enjoying life with Jesus (the emphasis on joy)? Or have I fallen into spiritual routines and disciplines that feed my soul or ego? These might seem like tough questions to ask oneself. Somewhere deep in my spirit, the Holy Spirit is stirring my emotions and thoughts with these questions. There is a longing growing in me for a greater experience of enjoying Jesus forever.
I can identify with Psalm 86, which is one of the passages of Scripture used for teaching purposes in the Westminster Shorter Catechism. I want to read this passage to help you understand the cry of the Spirit of God for his church through the Psalmist King David.
Another passage that speaks of glorifying God is found in 1 Cor 10:31 - So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. As well, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (Rev 4:11).
The strongest pursuit of life must be that of bringing glory to God in all that we do. This begins with our surrender to God and our trust in him, just like in Psalm 86. It involves our thoughts and emotions and actions bringing glory to God. And when we fall short of God’s glory “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb 4:16).
“…and to enjoy him forever.”
The second part of the answer tells us to “enjoy God forever.” One of the most enjoyable experiences of my Christian life is finding people who are full of joy in the Holy Spirit. There are not full of themselves, they are not preachy, they are not perfect, but they are a pleasure to be with. What is different? They have found a way to enjoy, adore or find pleasure in God. No matter what they do find discover how to glorify God and encounter joy. Read with me Psalm 16:11 - You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” One of the marks of a believer is that of joy in the Holy Spirit. The Happiest People on Earth is a classic book about a businessman named Demos Shakarian. God gave him a vision of millions of men all over the world who were blank and struggling in life. It was their salvation experience and the joy of the Holy Spirit that led them to become the “Happiest People on Earth”. This book, along with Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship International, has had a major impact on the church for over 60 years. What was different in these men, they found a new, righteous way of living. “Yes, joyful are those who live like this! Joyful indeed are those whose God is the Lord” (Ps 144:15 NLT). We are told in Phil 4:4 – “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
My hope for 2018 is this, that we would glorify God in our lives, in our thoughts and emotions and actions. We would surrender those areas of our lives that do not please him and in doing so would learn what pleases God. However, if our glorifying God does not produce JOY, then we are not really glorifying God. We are engaged in our own religious efforts and strength. True enjoyment of God is experienced when one’s life is surrendered to grace and mercy. True biblical grace brings great gratitude to one’s life resulting in God’s glory.
Many things can get in the way of our walk with Jesus; false religion, fears, routine, struggles with sin. We must learn not to focus on these negative realities but to focus on God.
· We can let go of the past.
· We can overcome temptations.
· We can surrender ourselves to God and we can glorify God and we can know his joy.