A source of constant sorrow for me is that people reject Christianity with a faulty understanding of what the religion really teaches. To help clear up the confusion I’m starting a new series called: “This is Christianity.”
This series explores basic teachings of the Christian faith. The goal is to serve those who have been confused and perhaps even disgusted by a version of Christianity that fails to live up to the Bible. I also want to build up those who are already Christians but who may struggle to explain their beliefs to friends. These posts will also aid those who just need a reminder of the fundamentals of the faith for encouragement.
I use the basic structure of the Westminster Shorter Catechism to determine the sequence and selection of this series. You can access the confession here. Christianity is a diverse religion with many adherents and denominations that differ on various aspects. Some of those differences are major, others are relatively minor. When I say “This Is Christianity” I’m coming from a Reformed theological background. Others would approach this series differently, but I choose the Reformed perspective because, in my analysis, it interprets and applies the Bible the more faithfully and robustly than any other theological system. You don’t have to believe me just yet. Keep reading.
We begin with the first and most fundamental question of our existence.
Why Are You Here?
Why are you here? What is the purpose of life? The Confession answers succinctly but eloquently, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” What does that mean?
First, the assumption is that we have a purpose. That statement in itself gets questioned these days. Many people think humanity is simply here. This life is all there is and we have no grander purpose than to eat, drink, and be merry.
But the belief that all people have a purpose changes our perspective on reality. It means that this life has meaning beyond the meaning we attempt to create for ourselves. We are not here simply to exist. We don’t live just to eventually die. Our lives matter and our lives are considered “good” to the extent that we fulfill our purpose. In the Christian view, that purpose is established by God, the Creator. This contrasts with popular culture which says human individuals determine their destinies for themselves. This sounds great. It sounds like ultimate freedom, perfect liberty. But it is actually perfect tyranny.
If we are all free to define our own purpose for existing then conflicts and contradictions are inevitable. If one person says, “My purpose for being is to make the world a better place by educating children” and another says, “My purpose for being is to control the population by extinguishing the life of children” then we are at an impasse. The latter proposition is an extreme one, but the principle holds. For the billions of human beings currently walking the planet all of us would come up with a different (selfish) purpose for existence if left to our own judgment. This results in chaos and intractable disagreement.
Instead, Christianity teaches that all people have the same purpose: to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. We are made to worship God. We are made to enjoy worshiping God. Anything less is a failure to fulfill our purpose. Some aspects of glorifying and enjoying God are universal. For instance one universal path to enjoying God is following the Ten Commandments. The commandments outline “the good life” for all people without exception or distinction. They encompass our duties toward God and our fellow human beings.
But there is also diversity in the midst of glorifying and enjoying God. We can glorify and enjoy him by being a plumber, an accountant, a politician, a homemaker or any other profession. We can be rich or poor, male or female, Jewish or Greek. Unity of purpose does not require uniformity of life paths. As long as we honor God by obeying him in our thoughts, words, and deeds then we glorify him.
If you were made for a purpose then you are not free to live any way you please. You have certain restrictions—attitudes and actions that lead you into your purpose and those which lead you away from you purpose. But don’t view these restrictions as harmful. Rather, they are guardrails to prevent you from falling into harm. Just like a bird would be ill-advised to attempt to live in the sea, so we as human beings heap difficulty on ourselves when we live contrary to God’s design for our lives.
If you’re struggling to find a sense of meaning. If you are still searching for a mission or a unifying vision in your life, begin with God. Your purpose is to proclaim the Lord’s worthiness in all you do and enjoy the effort while you’re at it.
In our next post we’ll look at how Scripture allows us to know our purpose and how it guides our interpretation of life itself.