This weeks A.S.K question is one of the great perennial questions…..I love being asked this. It’s the question Jesus came to answer. It’s a question that no atheist has an answer to.
But a wee bit of A.S.K news first. The book has now been reprinted. There are talks of A.S.K being translated into German! And I heard of more youth groups and Sunday schools that are using it with their young people. And its not just young people. On Sunday I met a (non-Christian) lady who came into church with the book, which had been given to her by a friend…and asked me if it would be a sin to read it during the sermon! I suggested reading it after might be better 0 but I could think of worse things to do…!
On to the question.
BIBLE READING: Ephesians 2:1-10
TEXT: For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)
This is one of those questions that many of us think that we can answer easily – or that we already know. We find our purpose in our day-to-day existence – and yet sometimes when we think a bit deeper we find ourselves asking what are we really here for? The Psalmist, after looking at the power of God in creation, has a look at humanity and asks ‘what is humanity? Why do you care for them?’ (Psalm 8).
Let’s begin by getting rid of one wrong answer. God did not create us because he needed us, or because he was lonely. When Paul addressed the philosophers in Athens he told them: “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:24-25). He then goes on to tell us that God created us and appointed where we should live, so that we might seek him and reach out for him. In other words he created us for relationship with himself.
Augustine put it beautifully – “Our hearts were made for thee and they are restless until they find their rest in thee”. The Westminster Shorter Catechism has for its first question: “What is man’s chief end?” (i.e. what is our purpose? why were we made?). The answer? “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever”. I love that answer. What a great purpose!
When God made us he saw that we were ‘very good’. We were the epitome of his creation. We were made in his image. Our purpose is thus to show who he is and reveal his glory – even more than the stars and the heavens.
And we are to enjoy him. This is not to be a relationship of servitude and fear, but of love and son/daughtership! As John Piper states “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him” .
But as our passage in Ephesians tells us – we are no longer fit for purpose. Humanity has rebelled and now we are ‘dead in sins and trespasses’ as we glory in the ways of this sinful world, rather than in God. By nature, now, we are ‘children of wrath’, deserving the punishment of God. And that is what we would remain if it were up to us.
But God has not given up on us. He sent Jesus. When we become Christians we realise he made us alive with him. We are born again. We are saved – not because of anything we have done, but because of what he has done. This is a wonderful truth. And we are saved for a purpose. That we may be restored to our original purpose – glorifying God and enjoying him forever. We are ‘created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to’. This is so significant for our self-understanding and our lives. We don’t have to earn our salvation; we don’t have to prove ourselves.
Not only can we not buy a stairway to heaven, we can’t glorify God on our own. What he has done is given us new birth, given us new a new life and he has even prepared in advance the good works that he wants us to do. Our task is simply to seek his will and to do it. He has given us his Word, his Spirit and his church, our brothers and sisters, to help us.
So the next time you wonder what your purpose is in life you can answer ‘it is to glorify God and enjoy him’. You can work out everything else from that. You know the story of the Scottish runner and missionary Eric Liddell – portrayed in the amazing film Chariots of Fire (if you haven’t seen it – get a copy!). When he was deciding to run for the Olympics his sister Jenny was concerned that he was forgetting God’s call on him to be a missionary in China. He told her that he was still going to go to China and he was still supportive of the little mission work they had to do, but he was going to take a break and prepare for the race – why? “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast! And when I run I feel his pleasure.”
When we do what God has called us to do; when we follow Jesus and live for his glory in all that we do…then whatever we do – we feel his pleasure.
CONSIDER: Are you aware of God’s primary calling on your life – to seek him, to reach out for him and to give your life to him? Can you think of things that you are doing now, which do not glorify God? Can you think of things that do? How do you know what is glorifying to God?
RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING: Desiring God – John Piper
PRAYER: O Lord, our hearts were made for you, and they are restless until they find their rest in you. Grant all of us that holy restlessness. Never let us be satisfied with anything less than you. And enable us to live all our days glorifying and enjoying you. Amen.
Or better still go into your local bookshop and order it….there are bulk discounts as well from Ten of Those
If you have read the book and would like to review it – can I encourage you to do so on Amazon. The more the merrier….