What are we here for? - Questions we would like to ask God

One of my series of magazine articles following a survey to find out what questions our congregations would like to ask God.

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What are we here for?

We've reached number seven on our top ten questions for God. This was the very philosophical question about our purpose in life: What are we here for? Without an answer, life becomes meaningless, which is what many people feel today. Perhaps this explains why so many people now seem to be living ruthlessly for their own pleasure and enjoyment. As Paul, quoting Isaiah, says in 1 Corinthians 15:32 “If the dead are not raised, 'Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die'” (NIV).

Of course, like Paul, Christians believe both that Jesus was raised and that the dead will be raised and this gives us a better alternative. The Bible teaches us that we were made by God to glorify him. So, for example, Isaiah writes “I will say to the north,`Give them up!' and to the south,`Do not hold them back.' Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:6-7 NIV) and Paul reminds us that whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NIV).

I think this leaves us with four questions:
  1. What does it mean to glorify God?
  2. How can we glorify God?
  3. Is God not a bit self-centred making us purely for the purpose of glorifying him?
  4. Is this glorifying God boring?

So, one at a time. What does it mean to glorify God? God's glory is his infinite greatness and worth. So to glorify God does not mean that we add something good to God, we do not make him more glorious than he already is – that is just not possible. It means that our purpose is to show God to be as wonderful, great and amazing as he really is. The author John Piper describes it as magnifying God like a telescope. When we use a telescope to look at the stars, you take something that is incredible, but hard to see, and make it's reality more visible. So the purpose of our lives is to make the awesome, incredible, greatness of God, more visible.

How can we do that? We need to see that this is centred on Jesus Christ. Talking of Jesus, Paul writes “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him” (Colossians 1:16 NIV) and so primarily our purpose in life is to accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour. If we reject him, we are rejecting God (Luke 10:16) and so our life will lose its purpose. If we have accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour, then we are to live our life in every respect to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). In practice that means knowing and applying God's word to all our lives. The Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer (which is well worth a look), looking at the 10 Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and then Jesus summary of the Law (Mark 12:28-34), summarises this as loving God and loving neighbour, noting that we are unable to do it without God's grace working in us.

But is God really a bit self-centred asking this of us? The reality is that whenever we make something it says something about us, if it is good then in some sense it gives us glory and it's not a bad thing if it's a deserved glory and we are not trying to achieve for some evil intent (which we usually are!). And here we see the difference between God and us. On the one hand he is worth infinite glory (unlike us). On the other he does not seek it with evil intent and in fact he does not need it. In fact rather than seeking his glory for evil purposes, God does it for good purposes, which include our good.

This leads to the final question. We do not have to dutifully live out a boring life, because that is our purpose. Rather God, in his great love, has made us so that we find complete joy and fulfilment glorifying him. So, for example, the Psalmist can write “Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD” (Psalm 114:15) and Jesus can tell us that his followers, “I have have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). To quote John Piper's summary, (which is a modification of the Westminster Shorter Catechism if you are interested!): “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.” So God's purpose for us in life is also a great joy. Let's pray that by his grace we can seek to have that purpose for our lives.

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