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APRIL 17 2016 ENJOYING GOD

Enjoying God

 

When she looked ahead, Florence Chadwick saw nothing but a solid wall of fog. Her body was numb. She had been swimming for nearly sixteen hours.

Already she was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. Now, at age 34, her goal was to become the first woman to swim from Catalina Island to the California coast.

On that Fourth of July morning in 1952, the sea was like an ice bath and the fog was so dense she could hardly see her support boats. Sharks cruised toward her lone figure, only to be driven away by rifle shots. Against the frigid grip of the sea, she struggled on - hour after hour - while millions watched on national television.

Alongside Florence in one of the boats, her mother and her trainer offered encouragement. They told her it wasn't much farther. But all she could see was fog. They urged her not to quit. She never had . . . until then. With only a half mile to go, she asked to be pulled out.

Still thawing her chilled body several hours later, she told a reporter, "Look, I'm not excusing myself, but if I could have seen land I might have made it." It was not fatigue or even the cold water that defeated her. It was the fog. She was unable to see her goal.

Two months later, she tried again. This time, despite the same dense fog, she swam with her faith intact and her goal clearly pictured in her mind. She knew that somewhere behind that fog was land and this time she made it! Florence Chadwick became the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel, eclipsing the men's record by two hours!

 

  • One of the quandaries of life is that we become dejected,
  • sometimes uncertain as to the direction that we are supposed to go.
  • Even when things seem to go well for us, we occasionally find that our emotions don’t seem to match our situation.
  • Sometimes even when we accomplish something, we feel as if something is missing.

All of these things: dejection, uncertainty, low spirits, and a feeling as if something is missing are symptoms. And these symptoms plague Christians almost as much as those who are not in a covenant relationship with the living God.

 

They are symptoms of not knowing the goal, the purpose of life. Yes, we can be saved, on our way to heaven, active in the Lord’s work, but still not know the goal, the purpose of life.

 

Sometimes we can know what some good, even godly, objectives are. But if we get objectives confused with purpose then we will still find these symptoms arising.

 

There are many good objectives that we may have.

 

How about rising to the next level at the company for which we work? If we’re an employee we can become a supervisor. If we are a supervisor, we can become an executive. If we are the vice-president, we can become the president. If we are talented, we ought to advance because we may be able to do a better job than the person who is there now. In fact, you are probably sure you can do a better job wherever it is that you work. If you are successful you will also make more money which you can use wisely to bless your family. But we already know, don’t we, that is not our purpose?

 

How about to have a deeper, more loving, more meaningful relationship with our wife, our husband, our fiancée? That is a virtuous objective that will have enormous benefits in this life and the life to come. But, as good as that is, that is not the goal. On the positive side, what happens if we reach the deepest and most caring level of relationship that we can have? What then? On the negative side, what happens when they leave us? For our loved ones will all leave us eventually, or we will leave them. We don’t want to confuse an objective with our purpose.

 

How about pouring our lives into our children: educating them, caring for them, teaching them moral wisdom and avoidance of sin? If we don’t have children, we can help teach and care for other children. That is righteous and something that will have positive results. But one day your children will be on their own. We don’t want to confuse an objective with our purpose.

 

How about bringing the gospel to the lost in our community? That is a very good objective and something we ought to do. But, as good as that is, that is not the purpose of being here. I have no doubt that if we pray and work together we can accomplish the task of at least bringing the gospel to the whole community. Maybe even within a year. After all, Winfield is not that big of a community. And, if we should succeed in that, we could reach out to surrounding communities. But, the Lord is coming back one day and then evangelism will cease. But our purpose will live on. We don’t want to confuse an objective with our purpose.

 

We need to know our purpose. There was a time when Christians knew their purpose but it seems, if you review literature of faith for the last century or more, as if its been lost.

 

The Baptist Catechism of 1689, which is based on the Bible, seeks to teach children and new adult converts the fundamentals of the faith. This was the same catechism that Charles Spurgeon promoted. He was not only the greatest Baptist preacher of history, but by most accounts, the greatest preacher of the whole church since the apostolic age. It was also adopted by the Philadelphia Baptist Association in 1742.

 

The second question of the catechism asks: “What is the chief end of man?” In other words, what is man’s purpose?

 

The answer is: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

 

This answer is absolutely correct. But as I break the bread of life to you this morning I hope you will see that it is appropriate to change one tiny word in the catechism answer which will not change the meaning but will add something to what is being said.

It will, by God’s grace, clarify this central idea and will do away with a common misconception among God’s people.

 

If you have your Bibles please turn to Isaiah 43:6-7. 

  1.  

The proper understanding of everything in life begins with God. Both the necessity of conversion and the direction of our lives after conversion cannot be understood unless we know why God created us.

 

But it is possible to know that, even as a Christian, and not find it exciting. But it is exciting. It is exciting because it is true, but it is also exciting because of what it means. Before we talk about what it means, let’s look at one more passage: I Cor. 10:31. READ.

 

If God made us for His glory, then it is clear that we should live for His glory. If we know this and embrace this then our life takes on direction. We can, like Florence Chadwick, see our goal and find fulfillment and success in every endeavor.

 

So, how do we glorify God? What does it mean?

 

There is something about the nature of man that even precedes the fall of man that will help us to understand what it means to glorify God and to see the way God created us.

 

Remember the answer to the catechism question: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” That little word “and” tells us something but maybe not enough.

 

“And?” Like eggs and ham? Two different things? Sometimes you glorify God and sometimes you enjoy Him? No, those theologians from the 17th century who wrote the catechism did not have two ends in mind but only one: “the chief end of man is to glorify him and enjoy him forever.” Not the chief “ends” of man.

 

In other words, glorifying God and enjoying him are not two ends, but the same end. The same purpose.

 

To see this it helps to know about the way God created us.

 

I mentioned briefly the greatest preacher who ever lived and now I want to mention the smartest man who ever lived. When people talk about the best person in history in any category (intelligence, strength, influence, etc.) there is never a consensus, but there are certain names that continue to come up on a consistent basis. For instance, Albert Einstein and Blaise Pascal are two names that come up the most often when people talk about the smartest men who lived. Blaise Pascal lived in the 17th century and discovered several importrant laws of physics and mathematics before devoting himself more fully to Christ; he was a committed Christian. In 1645 he invented and built a rudimentary computer…talk about being ahead of his time!

 

He made an important observation:

 

All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different

means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going

to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended

with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this

object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those

who hang themselves.

 

 

This truth is both experientially and intuitively obvious. But there is a notion out there, especially among Christians, that if we do something good because it makes us happy or because it brings us pleasure then it diminishes its goodness. That notion is not only wrong but is antithetical to what the Bible teaches.

 

It is a Stoic idea, an idea from Greek philosophy, that the desire for our own good and the enjoyment of it is a bad thing. This is also an idea that is promoted by Catholic mysticism.

 

But the truth is that this is the way God created us before the fall.

 

It is not a bad thing to desire our own good. In fact our main problem is that we are too easily pleased. We are pleased with overripe oranges when we can have steak and mashed potatoes.

 

It is not only not wrong to seek happiness but we ought to seek it.

 

We need to know where to find it. The place where we find the greatest happiness is in God Himself. The truth is that it is unbiblical and confused to worship God, to serve God, to praise God for any other reason than the pleasure to be had in Him. One could say that we ought to praise God because it is the right thing to do. How can you disagree with that? But, I say to you, that if that reason is divorced from the pleasure that is found in God then it missing something very important. And that missing element is in us.

 

Therefore, we can change that one, little word “and” in the catechism to “by”: “The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

 

Think about praise. Not praise to God, but praise in general. All enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise. The world rings with praise:

 

  • Lovers praising who they love,
  • readers praising their favorite book,
  • hikers praising their favorite countryside,
  • listeners praising their favorite song,
  • watchers praising their favorite movie,
  • patriots praising their favorite country.

 

Don’t be absurd and deny to the lover of God, the Supremely praiseworthy and Valuable One, what we delight to do, what we can’t help doing about everything else we value.

 

Praise is the consummation and completion of our enjoyment.

 

Why is it this way? Because when people find something of value they want others to experience what they have experienced. Since God is the most valuable and virtuous being there is, it is only natural to praise Him as we enjoy Him.

 

This is the testimony of Scripture:

 

       Then I will go to the altar of God,

              to God my exceeding joy,

       and I will praise you with the lyre,

              O God, my God.

(Psalm 43:4 ESV)

 

       You make known to me the path of life;

              in your presence there is fullness of joy;

              at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

(Psalm 16:11 ESV)

 

       Delight yourself in the LORD,

              and he will give you the desires of your heart.

(Psalm 37:4 ESV)

 

In this age we can only find joy in the Lord through Jesus Christ. Jesus said to his disciples just before His crucifixion:

 

John 15:11. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.

 

 

Let us summarize where we have been:

 

  1. The longing to be happy is a universal human experience, and it is good, not sinful.
  2. We should not try to deny or resist our longing to be happy, as if it were a bad impulse. Instead, we should seek to nourish it with whatever will provide the deepest and most enduring satisfaction.
  3. The deepest and most enduring happiness is found only in God. Not from God, but in God.
  4. The happiness in God reaches its consummation when it is flows out in praise, in other words, when it is shared.
  5. God can be enjoyed only through His Son Jesus Christ.

 

In other words, the chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying him forever.

 

The Bible says more than this pertaining to the glory of God.

 

We can say: The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy Himself forever.

 

Consider Isaiah 48:11  (Isaiah 48)

In answering why He does not destroy the  Israelites for their disobedience, God says:

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,

for how should my name1 be profaned?

My glory I will not give to another

 

God’s own glory is uppermost in His own affections

In everything He does, His purpose is to preserve and display that glory. To say that His own glory is uppermost in His own affections means that He puts a greater value on it than on anything else. He delights in His glory above all things.

He Himself is uppermost in His own affections. A moment’s reflection reveals the inexorable justice of this fact. God would be unrighteous (just as we would) if He valued anything more than what is supremely valuable. But He Himself is supremely valuable. If He did not take infinite delight in the worth of His own glory, He would be unrighteous.

For it is right to take delight in a person in proportion to the excellence of that person’s glory.

 

This is why we glorify God. Because he is so worthy and so excellent. And we enjoy Him because of His excellence. And this is also why God glorifies Himself.

 

This is why we glorify Christ. Because He is the express image and reflection of God. He is worthy. He is excellent. He deserves glory. So much so that even God the Father glorifies the Son. The Father takes delight in the Son. As do we.

 

Here is the conclusion of the matter: our purpose is to glorify God by enjoying Him. If we know that purpose, we will both be able to press on, as was Florence Chadwick, and we will be able to find fulfillment in all that we do. For, when we love our spouse or children, we know that we are reflecting the virtue of God and so His glory in some measure. And, in like manner, in all the other things that we do.

 

Seek after joy and you will find God.

 

Seek God and you will find enjoyment.

 

And never let this goal pass from your sight.