One of my favorite books is the Westminster Shorter Catechism. It is a teaching tool birthed in the midst of the English civil war. Penned by an assembly of pastor-theologians in the 1640s this little book has stood the test of time as a sure guide for those interested in growing in their knowledge and love for God. Today it is a foundational document for Presbyterian and Reformed churches who are serious about the Bible.
As with all great writings its introduction sets the tenor and trajectory for the work as a whole. Being a catechism, it is designed to instruct individuals in the Christian faith in a question and answer format. Its first question comes to us in this way:
Question 1: What is the chief end of man?
Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.
Look at how short that is! Nevertheless, its brevity in form does not detract from the nigh unfathomable depths of consideration its size betrays. What do I mean? In this short sentence you find the answer to the great question that’s plagued man’s heart as long as there has been a heart to plague; what are we here for?
Now that is a dangerous question. For many of us we are content to simply meander about the soup dish we call life floating from one end to the other never considering our own lives. As children, we follow our friends in kicking a ball thinking that such a great act is the greatest good of our world. Then it changes to romantic love for another. Then to a career. Then to a family. Then to retirement. Then to … what? What are we doing? What is the great destination of our lives?
This little tool, this catechism, gives its own answer. You exist to make much of God and delight yourself in Him. This is a dramatically different claim than our present age offers. It’s quite the opposite to be honest.
The Apostle Paul gives us these sobering words about God to remind us of what our lives are meant for. Paul writes, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36). God is the origin of all things, the means by which all things exist, and the goal of all things. In other words, every point and parcel of our life is meant to lead us to glorify God. This is very difficult for us to see in general, especially when life appears most cruel. But the darkness of our day will always function as a foil to His glorious light not an argument against it. All things exist to glorify His Name. And by His wisdom, even our pain will one day display His glory in ways we never understood this side of heaven.
What about enjoying Him? We can only find joy in Him as we learn to see Him rightly. Though a broken clock is right two times a day, and even a blind squirrel finds a nut, a heart at odds with God finds Him neither glorious nor enjoyable. To the unbeliever God is a sweltering encumbrance whose presence causes disdain to exude from our very pores. As a cracked lens distorts the light which enters its gaze, so a sinful heart misunderstands God and His benefits. We need less of our musings and contemplations, and more of what He has to say for Himself.
The Bible teaches us, “Happy is that people, whose God is the LORD.” (Psalm 144:15) “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2) “Rejoice in the LORD always: and again, I say, Rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)
I cannot but notice an abiding wave of joyful expectation to be the hope of every Christian. It is that abiding warmth that sustains even the heaviest heart because Christ dwells within His people’s hearts, as does His Father, and His Spirit. How can we not rejoice as we see the seal of salvation forever settled upon the mantles of our heart?
God’s design then is simply this: Man ought to live with an eye toward eternity. Not merely in fearful expectation, but a blissful hope in the God who is not distant or in scorn. Instead God reminds us that we are His. We are the apple of His eye through Christ. Repentance and faith become the shoes that enable us to dance in His presence. The bread and wine lift up our hearts to heaven. The Spirit is our great friend. You see, we have reason to hope, reason to sing, and reason to enjoy our glorious God. How will you glorify God this week? That which brings you joy reflects the estate of your heart? Will you enjoy Him with me?
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