What We Want to Believe (The Doctrine of Man)

What We Want to Believe (The Doctrine of Man)

Feb 04, 2009

Preacher: Jason Wolin

Series: What We Want To Believe

Category: Membership



The Power of Purpose

I thought it would be helpful as we begin this morning to think about the motivation behind someone who feels purpose.  Purpose is an incredibly motivating force.  If a person feels like they have a role to play in something great they are willing to suffer to fulfill that role.  And the reason they are willing to suffer is because they want their life to mean something.  If you are human you are driven to find meaning for your life.  Nobody can honestly say they wouldn’t care if not a single person showed up their funeral.  We want there to be purpose and meaning to our life.

Let me give an example that illustrates this:

Compare the following two jobs.  Let’s say your job was to take those handwritten rebate form and enter those into a computer database.   So your looking at chicken scratch handwriting and converting it to computer text. 

Now compare that job to say a job where you take

The president of the U.S. handwritten notes and copy them onto a computer so that he can then print the very words you type and deliver his state of the union address.  

The mechanical task is the same.  The sense of purpose and significance is not. 

Today in our series on what we want to believe, we come to the doctrine of man.  And one of the most basic questions you can ask in regards to the doctrine of man is simply this:  What is our purpose?  Why were we created?  And the way you as a human being answer that question has major implications on how you live.  And before you write this off as a subject for theologians and philosophers, let me just remind you that every body has to deal with this problem.  This is a question for electricians, plumbers, framers, doctors, lawyers, programmers.  Everybody has to answer this question whether you realize it or not.  People that have no answer to this question kill themselves. 

So we are going to try to answer this question today by asking 3 questions.  The first question is this.

  1. Why Was Man Created?

Depending on who you talk to, there are lots of answers to this question.  All through the corridors of history men have tried to answer this question in a way that is satisfying.  Different philosophies answer this question in different ways.

  • Humanism would say that the meaning of life is whatever people determine human purpose to mean.
  • A evolutionist might say that the meaning of life, is the replication of DNA and the survival of one's genes
  • Logical positivists ask: What is the meaning of life? and What is the meaning in asking?
  • Utilitarianism would way that the meaning of life is whatever brings the most happiness to the most number of people.
  • For a Taoist the meaning in life is to realize the temporal nature of the existence
  • Confucianists the meaning of life is achieving the good nature through strong relationships and reasoning as well as minimizing the negative energy
  • To Bahá'ís, the purpose of life is focused on spiritual growth and service to humanity
  • For Buddhists the meaning of life is to end suffering through detaching oneself from cravings and conceptual attachments.

And the list could go on.  What is the meaning of life for a Christian?  Why do we actually exist?  The answer to the meaning of life question is actually radically different than these and very philosophically satisfying.  The Westminster Catechism takes a stab at summarizing what the Bible says in this regard.   The Westminster Catechism (1647) was a document created by a group of pastors who wanted to teach their children theology.  So they taught theology through a series of questions and answers footnoted with Scripture.  And the first question in the series is simply this: 

What is the chief end of Man?, that is, What is Man's main purpose?. The answer is: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy him forever.

That statement is only good as the Scripture it represents.  So let’s take a look at some of the texts which make this point.

God is speaking to the nation of Israel giving them hope in their redemption and in the middle of this encouragement secion. Is. 43:7, “[bring back] everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

There was a reason God created Israel.  The text makes it clear.  For his glory.  He formed them and made them for that singular purpose. 

Ephesians 1:11-12, "In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose [lock on to that word purpose] of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.." 

The reason we were predestined the purpose of our existence is so that we might be the praise of his glory.

I have been to Bible school for 8 years of my life.  And I don’t know about you, but despite all the theological education I have ever received, every single time I hear the phrase “glory of God” my brain just flatlines.  My brain does not process abstract concepts very well.  What does glory mean?

So I don’t know if this helps or not, but what I do is when I hear the word glory I instantly think of Eli and Absolom.

The Bible describes Absolom’s hair has heavy.  When we read of Eli falling back in his chair and breaking his neck, the text says he was old and heavy.

That word heavy is the same word for glory.  And that really helps me because heavy is a concrete concept.  I can do heavy.  Heavy bag of cement.  Heavy 4x8 sheet of MDF.  And the idea is weight.  So when we say even in our mission statement, “We exist to glorify God” we are saying we exist to make God heavy and weighty in the minds of men.  Right now men think of God and God is light to them and inconsequential to them.  They put him in the same category as dwarfs and leprechauns and woodland ferries.   So we by our preaching, by our living, by our reasoning, by our loving want to make him weighty.  We want to glorify him.

And I am telling you, knowing that this is your purpose, will truly give you joy.  When we realize that God ACTUALLY created us to glorify him, and when we start to act in ways that fulfill that purpose (like sacrificing for him, like choosing him over the things of this world), then we begin to experience an intensity of joy in the Lord that we have never before known.  Why?  Because we sense we are fulfilling our purpose!  Have you ever just finished singing praises to God and just say to yourself, “Man I was made for this!”  That is a very accurate statement!

Some may object that this whole concept of God making us for his glory sounds monstrously egotistical.   God is going around saying, “Praise me.  Worship me.”  Certainly it is wrong for human beings to seek glory for themselves, as we see in the dramatic example of the death of Herod Agrippa I. When he proudly accepted the shout of the crowd, “The voice of a god, and not of man!” (Acts 12:22), “immediately an angel of the Lord smote him, because he did not give God the glory; and he was eaten by worms and died” (Acts 12:23). Herod died because he robbed God of glory, glory that God deserved and he did not.

But when God takes glory to himself, from whom is he robbing glory? Is there anyone who deserves glory more than he does?  Being egotistical is thinking that the world revolves around you when it does not.  But what happens when the world does revolve around you?   God is the Creator, he made all things, and he deserves all glory. We cannot say that we deserve anything, because everything good thing we have is derived from God.  Our ability to think complex thoughts, our musical, poetic, artistic, organizational talents.  

When you….

  • paint an amazing picture,
  • or solve a very difficult problem,
  • or exercise decisive leadership who is it that DESERVES to the praise.   He is worthy of receiving glory.  That’s why we read…

Revelation 5:11-12  Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands,  12 saying with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!"

God is worthy of glory and it is never wrong for him to ask us to give to him what is his.  He can give to us gifts we do not deserve (and he often does).  Calling God egotistical for asking for seeking our worship would be like calling someone egotistical for asking if he could have his rake back.  And in the same way not giving that rake back would be stealing, not praising God is stealing from him.  So the next time someone tells you, “

  • Hey just wanted to let you know you have done an amazing job raising your kids,
  • or your example has really had an impact on me,
  • or your financial sacrifice is off the charts here….”,

at that moment, remember God is asking for his rake back.  So give it back.  He wants glory.  You are not at liberty to steal from God.

So the fact that God created us for his own glory determines the correct answer to the question, “What is our purpose in life?” Our purpose is to fulfill the reason that God created us: to glorify him. When we are speaking with respect to God himself, that is a good summary of our purpose. But when we think of our own interests, we make the happy discovery that glorifying God is actually enjoying God and take delight in him and in our relationship to him.

Remember the W. Catechism states that the main purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.  Here’s the enjoy him forever part.

Psalm 16:11 - 17:1   11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. 

So we discover that God has created us such that we are most happy when we are fulfilling our purpose.  That is really cool.  Deflecting glory to an infinite God is ultimately far more fulfilling than the greasy, underhanded absorbing of undeserved glory.

Now this is a what we want to believe series.  We want to have our singular purpose for living be the glory of God.  We want to say that….

  • we eat raisin bran and toast and ice cream to the glory of God,
  • drink a milk, Starbucks coffee to the glory of God,
  • mow grass, pull weeds to the glory of God.

But in reality we are often times humanists, Taoists, Buddhists, evolutionists. 

Let me give you an example. 

How many of you recognize this chart? 

This is the Down Jones Industrial Composite index for the last 40 years.  This chart means a lot of things to a lot of different people.

  • If you are an 18 year old senior in high school with nothing invested in the stock market you look at the chart and pretty much shrug your shoulders. Interesting, but nothing more.
  • If you are a young parent who is just beginning to invest in the stock market you tend to look at it as a good thing. Hey look, all the stocks are on sale!
  • If you are a retired grandparent, who has a large portion of his/her retirement wrapped up in the stock market, you look at that chart and anxiety knots form in your stomach.
  • If you are a trader on Wall Street, that chart has taken 10 years off your life, stripped you of your BMW and given you grey hair and wrinkles.
  • If you are my 6 year old son Caleb, you ask if you can take that chart and make a paper airplane out of it.

The reason the stock broker on Wall Street has such a completely different reaction to that chart than say, my son Caleb, is because the Wall Street trader has his heart invested in the market.  Caleb does not. 

Here is a real practical question.  As you watch your money pour out of the stock market like a leaky bucket, is it wrong to feel a sense of loss?  It depends.  The feeling of loss is legitimate.  That is real earnings being flushed.  But if you see that loss as affecting your ability to fulfill your purpose in life, then you are misguided.  If you feel like some of the meaning of your life has been peeled away then we have a problem. 

Practically, many of us live our lives with the purpose of a hedonist, “The purpose of man is to….

  • be happily married with 2.4 kids and drive an SUV,
  • or to be comfortable,
  • or to not have to work,
  • or to travel,
  • or to live in 4000 s/f house
  • or to retire on a golf course in Palm Dessert
  • or to enjoy dining at the Gamekeeper and the Cottonwood Grill.”

If that is your answer then you will look at that chart and feel sorrow because you will not be able to fulfill what you think the purpose of your life should be.

If on the other hand you answer that question, “The purpose of man is to glorify God.”  Then you can look at that chart and you may feel a sense of loss but not sorrow because there is this larger principle governing your sense of purpose.  

  • You can still fulfill your purpose to glorify God as a mom when the stock market tanks.
  • You can still fulfill your purpose to give God glory in your witness to unbelievers as Micron continues to downsize.
  • You can still fulfill your purpose to glorify God in serving God’s church when your portfolio is cut in half.

If people know they are fulfilling their purpose, they can endure a lot of suffering and still feel joy.  Think of even the simple example of a mom giving birth to a daughter.  She is willing, even happily willing at times, to endure lots of pain in order to give birth to a child.  There is something deeply fulfilling about knowing you are living your role as a mother.  And similarly there is something deeply fulfilling about knowing you are glorifying God with your life.

So your assignment this week is to find joy in fulfilling your purpose.  So we asked the question, “Why was man created?”  Answer to glorify God and enjoy him forever.  How do we glorify God?

  1. How do we glorify God?

If God created us for his glory, it is reasonable to assume that our composition is designed for glorifying.  Just like every part of a mousetrap serves a purpose in catching mice because it was designed to do so, so it would seem to make sense, that every part of who we are is designed to maximize God’s glory because it was designed to do so.

And that does seem to be something that the Scriptures talk about.  We were designed to be beacons of God’s glory.  So when we walk around the very essence of who we are screams, God had something to do with this!  The Bible says that we were made in the image of God.  God designed us to be representations of his weight and worth.  What does that mean that we were created in his image?   I think you can simply say that man is like God and represents God.

When God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26), the meaning is that God plans to make a creature similar to himself. Both the Hebrew word for “image” (צֶלֶם, H7512) and the Hebrew word for “likeness” (דְּמוּת, H1952) refer to something that is similar but not identical to the thing it represents or is an “image” of.

A lot of people try to define specifically what that is.  Is it our reason that makes us like God?  Our emotional capacity?  The fact that God calls us by name?  I think it is a mistake to try and specify what that is.  Because being like God is complex.  In fact, we would have to know God in a much deeper way for us to even have the information needed to say what part of us is “like him.” 

So are we like God? Well, yes and no. Yes, in a sense we are like God, even as sinful and unbelieving rebels there is a likeness.  Think about Genesis 9:6 where God said to Noah, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image." In other words, even in a world where sin abounds (with the likes of murder) human beings are still in the image of God. They may not be killed like mice and mosquitoes. You forfeit your life if you murder a human being (See James 3:9).

So the focus of being made in the image of God has more to do with taking the image of God and projecting it into the world than it does than it does being somehow enriched by knowing the specific way in which we are like God.  In other words, God wants us to make God look weighty, God wants us to glorify him by being accurate representations of who God is and what he is like.  How do we glorify God?  By being accurate image bearers.

III.  What Effect Does Sin Have on our ability to glorify God?

So clearly we are made in the image of God, but I think it is very important to talk about the relationship of sin to that image.  In fact we have to talk about this.  Because the doctrine of man is incomplete without.  So much of who we are is related somehow to sin which indwells us.

When we talk about the relationship between man and sin, the question inevitably arises, how did sin enter into the equation?  If man was created free from evil and was said to be very good, how did evil come to be such a large part of who we are.  I’m not going to try and solve the problem of evil in 10 minutes here, but there are some important points to make as it relates to the doctrine of man.

Whose fault is it that there is evil in the world?  Is it God’s fault or man’s fault?  We are tempted to say God because we reason, that if God is starting with a clean slate then he must have created the world knowing evil would have existed, and yet he did not stop evil from existing, and so therefore, God is responsible for evil. 

But what do the Scriptures teach?  We know God is holy, right? We know he is too pure to look on iniquity; can't tolerate evil.

  • We know He "tempts no man," neither is tempted by any man.
  • We know he is "Holy, holy, holy,"
  • "No evil dwells in Him."
  • "He is all light and no darkness."
  • God is not the author of confusion.
  • He is not the source of sin. We know that. We believe that.

So from all the direct teaching of Scripture, the source of evil, the source of sin, is outside God.  We can go a little bit further.  We also know from Scripture that to disobey God is to initiate evil.

  • Evil is not the presence of something.
  • Evil is the absence of righteousness. You can't create evil, because evil doesn't exist as a created entity.

John MacArthur said it this way, “Evil is not a created thing. Evil is not a substance. Evil is not an entity. Evil is not a being. Evil is not a force. Evil is not some floating spirit. Evil is a lack of moral perfection. God created absolute perfection. Wherever a lack of that exists, sin exists. And that cannot exist in the nature of God or in anything that God makes. Evil comes into existence when God's creatures fall short of the standard of moral perfection.”

The question really boils down to where are you going to put the mystery?  Did God desire to place evil in the heart of man or did man in his free will desire evil?  The Scriptures seem to me to teach the latter. 

And yet, what did sin coming into the world bring about?  It brought about the cross.  Was this something that was a surprise to God?

Acts 2:23  this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

And so let me ask again, “Whose fault is it that there is evil in the world?”  Is it God’s fault or man’s fault?  When we read verses like Acts 2:23, we are tempted to say God must have designed evil because we reason, that if God is starting with a clean slate then he must have created the world knowing evil would have existed (and knowing that Jesus would die on the cross), and yet he did not stop evil from existing, and so therefore, God is responsible for evil. 

But to that I think we have to say know.  God is not culpable for evil.  Here’s how I put it together in my mind:  The glory of God was put on brilliant display because of the evil of men.  And God never resists the display of his glory.  Therefore, God did not resist a plan that included evil.

What is the absolute apex of God’s glory?  It is the cross.  God is not going to resist a plan that includes evil because he know that evil means a cross.  And he knows that the cross will bring maximum glory to himself.  And that is true to our experience.  You and I glorify God most fully when we look to the cross and are transformed by the cross so that the image of God is restored in us and that restored image is projected into the world with weighty power. 

So to answer our question, “What effect does sin have on the image of God.”  Sin seriously distorts the image of God in man; in our experience there are really only faint echoes of it. And that seems like a terrible thing, yea verily, it is a terrible thing, and yet, it is that terrible wickedness that brings about the most glorious, most heavy portrait of God’s character, the cross.  So let me bring us full circle.

  • The purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy God
  • Man was created in the image of God in order to project God’s glory into the universe.
  • Apart from God and completely outside of God, man sinned.
  • Sin wrecks the image of God in man so we do not enjoy God and therefore are not able to give him glory.
  • But, God intervenes by sending his Son to die for man so that the image of God can be restored in man.
  • As that image is restored, men begin to glorify God be receiving the grace of the cross and enjoying the Son who purchased his redemption
  • The glory of God is magnified in ways it never could have been. God’s justice and mercy and love and wrath and kindness are magnified.

So the very evil that man performs which he intends to squash the glory of God, God in his infinite wisdom uses to actually magnify his glory. 

Three things to take away this week:

  1. Find your meaning and purpose this week in giving God glory. And do not make the mistake in your mind of thinking that this means living some ascetic lifestyle as if the act of ascesticism in itself gives God glory.  Remember, “Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink or play soccer or mow grass or drive to work, or fix leaks, watch the grandkids, or look for a job, do all to the glory of  ”
  1. See the exposing of sin in your life as a mercy of God. If our purpose on earth is to glorify God and God gets glory when his image is restored in us while we look to the cross and receive grace, then rejoice when your sin is exposed.  
    • So if this recession is bringing out weaknesses in your character, that is mercy. God is restoring his image in you. 
    • If you realized your selfishness this week because of a particularly difficult child, that is mercy.
    • If you realized this week that you are very undisciplined in your spiritual disciplines or exercise, or you are just a plain lazy person, that is mercy.

3. Every time you feel exposed, see it as mercy.  That is not natural.  That is mercy.  The worst thing God could do to you is let you stay the person you are.  So cooperate with his mercy.