Why am I here?

Q. 1. What is the chief and highest end of man?
A. 1. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

The Westminster Larger Catechism: With Scripture Proofs. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996. Print.

The Larger Catechism of the Westminster Confession begins with this question, “what is the chief and highest end of man?” At its heart is the existential question we all must ask and answer: “What is the meaning of life?”

How you answer this question will shape and define you.

If you believe that your chief and highest end is financial and worldly success, then you will be driven by the ambition to rise in power and wealth using any means necessary. You may be guided by a set of ethics and mores, but every decision will challenge and tempt you to bend those rules for the sake of your ultimate goal.

Perhaps your chief and highest end isn’t so demanding. Maybe you feel that the greatest life you can live is that of a quiet, fulfilled and happy life, where you do the best you can and let everyone else live their own lives. You’re not driven for worldly accumulations, but just want to enjoy each day, live your best life now, and hope that tomorrow is just a little better.

The sad reality is, both of these world-views are essentially the same thing; they are self-centered and hopelessly doomed to misery. They both seek personal glory and inward joy. Whether driven by the almighty dollar, or just wanting to eke out your own peaceful pleasures, any purpose in life that is not ultimately rooted in what God says about us, or how God defines us, will always come up short.

One of the primary truths of the Christian Faith is that our God created all things “for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness” (Westminster Confession of Faith IV.1). God is the creator of all things, and as creator, all things exist “from him and through him and to him… To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:36).

As God’s creation, the purpose of life, the chief and highest end we may know, is to give God glory. But what does that even mean?

John Piper once said, glorifying God means “feeling and thinking and acting in ways that reflect his greatness, that make much of God, that give evidence of the supreme greatness of all his attributes and the all-satisfying beauty of his manifold perfections.”

We could say, then, that our greatest purpose in life is to live in such a way as to make much of God, to show his goodness, wisdom, power, justice, and love in everything we do; to be satisfied or delight ourselves in who God is and what God has done for us. This is to glorify God.

But notice, the confession also gives a secondary purpose: to enjoy Him forever. We were created not just for His glory, but to find joy in His glory. That is, as we glorify God, as we live in the light of His goodness, wisdom, and grace, we will find our greatest expression of joy. Our primary purpose is to live for God’s glory, and in doing so we will know true joy.

So we come back to our first question, why are we here? If your greatest end is your own glory, if you ever find it it will be fading, and will not produce lasting joy. Live then as you were created, for God’s glory, and know the lasting joy that only God can offer.


Rejoicing Hearts

In the last couple of posts, I have sought to bring encouragement to those who are overwhelmed by the tragedies of this world.  This morning I was reading through an old book that belonged to my dad, and came upon the following devotion that I thought spoke well to what you may be facing today.

This is from Words Fitly Spoken, by Donald Grey Barnhouse, published by Tyndale House in 1969.

Rejoicing Heart

The Christian is the only person in the world with a right to rejoice.  The Psalmist sang, “Our heart shall rejoice in him” (Psalm 33:21). This is true for the Christian in any circumstance whatsoever.  The believer can rejoice even in the midst of the deepest distresses. Calamities, like a tidal wave, carry off the unsuspecting, but having swept away the debris which we believers have accumulated about us, leave us standing on the rock. Our shore is swept clean and we have a new glimpse of the ocean of God’s grace.  The air is fresh washed by the storm and our lungs are filled with new vigor as we breathe it.

The unbeliever often breaks before calamity, or takes the dull, depressing attitude of the stoic, that one must make the best of a bad job.  A stoic may be more admirable than a whiner but he is not whit happier. The roots of Christian calm go deep into the very heart of God.

When we understand this, there is a sense in which we can reverse one of the great thoughts of the New Testament. Paul tells us that the Lord’s Spirit bears witness with our spirit (Rom 8:16). That is a motion which begins with God and comes down to us. There is also a sense in which our spirits bear witness with His Spirit. The yielded Christian has an uprising of the Spirit which constantly moves towards God. This is one of the marks of the twice-born man; we reach out towards God. Some of the words used by the men in the Book are “yearning… panting… waiting… looking… longing… watching… desiring…”

We reach up into the being of God and find that our all in all is there in Him, and our heart comes back rejoicing.  In fact, the only people who really are happy are among those who have been redeemed.  The world has gaiety, but no happiness; forgetfulness, but no peace. The world counterfeits every Christian grace, but never is able to produce a coin with the right ring.  It is popular to say that “the man worthwhile is the man who will smile when everything goes dead wrong,” but even then the weight of unforgiven sins hangs over the heart, and the despair of the old nature has not been removed. Underneath the surface, the unsaved are “like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” They are without peace.

The Christian possesses the joy of the Lord. It is his strength. The basis for this joy is obvious. “Rejoice in the Lord.” How can there be reality in joy that has no foundation outside this changing world? All passes; Christ remains. Fix your joy in Him and it will be steadfast.  As Paul suggests in his wonderful Epistle to the Philippians, we who are in Christ are honest with God and ourselves. Our worship is in the Spirit, our rejoicing is in Christ Jesus, and we have no confidence in the flesh. This, of course, is the exact opposite of the word’s joy which is fixed in self alone and does not look to Christ.  “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice.”

Grace and peace!