Monday, June 23, 2014

The Purpose of the Christian Life

When asked about the purpose of the Christian life, practically every elementary child growing up in the Christian church will shout, "The glory of God!"

Now that's all well and good. We definitely are called to glorify God in our walk with the Lord. Indeed, we get this very admonition in I Corinthians 10:31,
"Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God."

Now of course, we have just divorced this verse out its context a bit (its context is actually about extra-morality in case you were wondering).  However, there is certainly truth to the statement found here in this verse that we are to glorify God. Indeed I Peter 4:11 explains further,
"If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

So there we have it, the purpose of the Christian life is to glorify God, that post was short and simple, I'll see you Friday!

Not so fast. It is one thing to say that we must glorify God, it is another thing entirely to have any sort of clue as to what that means.

A former Sunday School teacher of mine made it a point to not allow Sunday School answers in his class. What he meant by this were answers that we had been trained since youth were right, but that we just didn't understand. As regrettable as this is, I believe many Christians today are in this particular batch of understanding when they proclaim that their only purpose in life is to glorify God.

The common perception on how the glory of God is supposed to work, is we do things by the abilities God has blessed us with, and then voila! When we are starting to reap the benefits, we shout to the world, "Don't give me the credit! To God be the glory!"

But is that really all that is required to glorify the Lord in everything that we do? A few simple words after our accomplishments are made? Certainly there is absolutely nothing wrong with these words themselves (they could even come from a noble heart), but are they the only prerequisites necessary to bring God glory?

It seems to me that if this were the case, the Christian has life pretty easy. He can do whatever he wants and just be sure to give the necessary words of God's glory and then on the final day, hear, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

But we have so many other commandments given to us in Scriptures about loving our neighbour, about sharing the word of God with those around us, about not being judgmental towards other believers. We know that our purpose in life is not that easy to accomplish.

We could say that we have to obey God's commandments in addition to glorifying God. This is possible, but then we have to admit that we have two purposes in our life. That's not a problem at all, but I don't think the purposes are truly separate.

In the second chapter of the book of Malachi, the priests are being rebuked for not giving glory unto the name of the Lord. Verse 2 declares,
"If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart."
However, as the rest of the chapter tells the priests their specific abuses, we don't hear that they didn't tell the people, "to God be the glory" when people tried to congratulate them on their service to the Lord. Rather, we hear about how they broke the covenant, led people astray, and called evil good.

The reasons why they have failed to glorify God are truly actions of disobedience to the Lord. Could it really be that the glory of God is all about the works that we do?

This should come as no surprise to those familiar with Matthew 5:16,
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."

Even in the aforementioned I Peter 4:11, where we hear a direct command to glorify the Lord,  that glorification is tied to our actions and service of the Lord.
"If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

Glorifying God is not about the words we say when people start to credit us. Ultimately, bringing glory to God is an attitude of submission, service, and sacrifice. That then is the true duty of man - to respect and obey God at every turn.

As Ecclesiastes 12:13 says,
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man."

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