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What On Earth Am I Here For?
The question that has plagued man since the beginning of his existence has been "What on earth am I here for?" From the beginning of time men have struggled with this perplexing question. As Shakespeare wrote;
"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace till the last syllable of recorded time. And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle! Life is but a shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."
Sadly, the words of Shakespeare are akin to what many people go through their whole lives feeling, believing, and experiencing. Though man's existence on this earth has spanned thousands of years, the sad reality is that most still fail to have a good answer to this question. The secret to truly living and enjoying this life is to discover and then fulfill the answer to this question. As has been said, "What are the two most important days of your life? The day you were born and the day you figure out why."
Because this is true, one could understand the importance of grasping the purpose for this life. The purpose of this paper will be to cause the reader to consider what the purpose of life is and then cause him to consider how he could fulfill that purpose in his life.
In considering this subject matter, it is wise to recognize some of the ideas that others have had about the purpose of life. There are a few differing ideas as the reader can see in the following statements. The humanist would say, "this is the only life of which we have certain knowledge and that we owe it to ourselves and others to make it the best life possible for ourselves and all with whom we share this fragile planet." From this statement one could conclude that this system of belief focuses on the centrality of man to all things. Another idea concerning the purpose of life comes from the materialist; who holds to "the theory that physical matter is all there is." One who adheres to this philosophy of life would live entirely for the material giving almost no thought to the other aspects of life. Their belief system could be summed up in the statement "get all you can, can all you get". In considering the above two philosophies it would be easy to see that one would deem the purpose of man in this world to live entirely for man, while the other would be prone to live entirely for material things.
Both of these philosophies of life have some legitimacy. For instance, humanism recognizes the superiority of man above the rest of the created beings. He is seen as the focal point of all that is in existence and being that focal point is the highest being in existence. Thus, life will revolve around him. He will be the greatest, wisest, and most important thing in the world. Humanism makes man the supreme being in existence. For those who adhere to this belief system, man is god. For the materialist he has recognized that the material things in this life have value and meaning. He understands that many of these things are necessary for life and that there is wisdom in paying mind to them. However, the materialist will find himself making things god. His life will be lived entirely for things.
To gain the true purpose of man in this life one would need to go back beyond the material things in this world, and beyond the beginning of man and look at the source of these things. This brings up the third possible source for the answer to life's greatest question, theism. Theism is "The belief in one personal God, both immanent and transcendent, who exists in three personal distinctions, known respectively as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Those who hold to a theistic belief system would believe that neither man nor things are the highest in existence, but instead he would see the highest being as God, the Creator and sustainer of all things. One who would hold to this belief would recognize life and all that exists in the creation to be in existence for the purposes of God, the Creator. This truth brings the created being to the reality of the purpose of his existence, to glorify God. In the Bible, which is the source of man's understanding of God, it says, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." 1 Corthians 10:31. In Revelation 4:11 the Bible says, "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." In both of these verses the reader is given a glimpse of the purpose of man. "What on earth am I here for?" The answer lies in these verses, to bring glory to God. As Colin Brown states, "the highest duty of man is to glorify and praise God in worship, word and act".
To properly understand this statement, which is presented as the purpose of man's existence, it is necessary to answer two questions: first, why should man live his life for God? And then secondly, what does it mean to bring glory to God. To answer this first question one would need to understand man's origin. The theist believes that man, as well as every other thing in existence was created by God. Because God created man, then it would only stand to reason that man would then belong to God and would be subject to the purposes of God. Colossians 1:17 says, "And he is before all things, and by him all things consist". Everything that God created also depends upon Him for it's existence. As the Puritan writer wrote, "Should we not live to him, seeing we live by him?" We depend upon God for every bit of our very existence and thus we should live for God with every bit of our existence.
The world as it exists today has no concept of this great reality that it exists to bring glory to God. Instead it has settled for much less than this wonderful privilege. However, the world is not the only one that has failed in this area. For what will be discovered in this study is that the Church has also failed in its primary responsibility as well. Below it will be discovered how this author believes that the conservative church has failed to keep the glory of God at the focus of everything it does and, just like the lost world, has shifted its focus off of this most important purpose that it has and placed it on something lesser than that which God has set as the supreme focal point. It is pertinent that the Church grasp the reality that its purpose is to bring glory to God and then ensure that it is doing that very thing.
Writing the Biblical Foundations for the Theological Research Project
"The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." The Westminster Shorter Catechism clearly states that man exists for the purpose of bringing Glory to God, below effort will be made to analyze the Scriptures to discover if this is truly the main purpose of man, and if so how man might accomplish this task according to the Word of God.
It seems that the Scriptures teach not just that glory is to be given to God but that "glory belongs to God intrinsically". Passages such as Matthew 6:13, where believers are taught to pray "thine is theâ€¦. glory" and 1 Chronicles 29:11 where David says, "yours is theâ€¦. Glory" teach us that the God whom the Bible reveals to the reader is a God of Glory. M.R. Gordon wrote, "It is not some accidental feature of God's character, but an essential quality in it." Mr. Gordon makes the point that glory is not just something that belongs to God but is actually a completely necessary part of His character, and that God is glorious in His very being. Thomas Watson said it this way, "Glory is the sparkling of the Deity; it is so co-natural to the Godhead, that God cannot be God without it." Glory is truly an inseparable part of God's being.
However, although God is glorious in His being, believers are told to glorify God. M.R. Gordon said it this way, "The intention of God is that man and all creation should give glory to Him." His glory is God's intent. Passages such as (Romans 15:6, "That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God..."), (Romans 15:9, "And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercyâ€¦"), (1 Corinthians 6:20, "For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."), each instruct the born-again believer to bring glory to God through his life. The Apostle Paul goes a step further by not only telling the believer to glorify God but he tells him that he is to Glorify God in everything he does, "Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31). The Apostle Peter shares a similar instruction by stating, "..that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ.." (1 Peter 4:11). These verses in Scripture make it clear to the reader that his task in this life is to bring glory to his God.
Because it is clearly stated that man is to spend his life bringing glory to God, it would be vitally important to understand how he is to accomplish this task. As stated above, man is called to glorify God in everything he does. That being true, the question arises, "How can man glorify God in "whatsoever" he does?" The answer to this question lies in the Scriptures. Because God made us for the purpose of bringing glory to Him, then He will reveal to the believer how he can accomplish this task. Watson breaks down the means by which man brings glory to God in four actions; he says they are 1. Appreciation, 2. Adoration, 3. Affection, 4. Subjection. The first action of man that can bring glory to God is appreciation. "To glorify God is to have God-admiring thoughts; to esteem him most excellentâ€¦", by this is meant to be ever thankful for God and who He is and what He does. The second action of man that brings glory to God is adoration. This word means worship. Worship is, "the believers response of all that they are-mind, emotions, will, and body-to what God is and says and does." Adoration is the believer's response to all God is. Affection is the action by which man loves God. It is the emotion that man engenders when he realizes who God is and then the affection that he holds toward God. The final action that Watson prescribes to man to bring glory to God is subjection. "This is when we dedicate ourselves to God, and stand ready dressed for his service." In these four actions is contained all that man can do to bring glory to his God. Intermingled here is prayer, witnessing, obedience, desire, seeking, faith, trust, joy, kindness, forgiveness, and many other commanded attributes that the believer is to possess in response to His God. God is glorified when His people believe and obey Him.
The greatest thing a man can do is bring glory to God. Because this is true it will be worthwhile to consider how man can fail to glorify God. A failure to glorify God through one's life would be the greatest of failures. To not glorify God would be to fail on the primary level of a human life. Albert Barnes wrote that a man fails to bring glory to God when, "when he has no respect to his authority; when he breaks his laws; when he leads others to treat him with disrespect." When man lives such that God does not exist and when he is not mindful of Him he sins and fails to bring glory to God. To say it another way, to disregard God is to fail to bring glory to Him. To disobey God is to fail to bring glory to Him. To disrespect God is to fail to bring glory to Him. To try and live independent of God is to fail to bring glory to Him.
Colossians 1:16 says, "â€¦all things were created by him, and for him", revealing to the Christian that his existence is for God. The demand of God upon man is that he bring glory to Him. Above, the Scriptural grounds for these statements has been identified and discussed. Truly, "the chief end of man is to glorify Godâ€¦".
Writing the Historical Foundations for the Theological Research Project
"The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." The Westminster Shorter Catechism clearly states that man exists for the purpose of bringing Glory to God, below effort will be made to analyze the historical stand of the Church to discover what its emphasis has been down through the years. Has the Church always had this as the forefront of its goal or have there been lapses in its commitment to this truth? What about the Church of today? Where does it stand on this subject? Below effort will be made to analyze this very important issue.
It was around 1647 that the Westminster Shorter Catechism was finished. The writers no doubt were focusing on trying to gather the core doctrines of the church and compile them into this format. There is no doubt that the composers of this document fully recognized the preeminence of God's glory in the believer's life. Though this was only a few hundred years ago, this will serve to begin to search back in history to discover exactly what the Church's view has been on this important subject.
It doesn't take long in studying historical theology to discover that man has moved in cycles concerning his beliefs. In most cases, it seems that man has swung almost as a pendulum from one extreme in theological beliefs to another. Instead of looking to a more balanced position, on most issues there seems to have been an almost knee-jerk reaction swinging from one extreme to another. Because this is true, history is plagued with times of true commitment to a life fulfilling the purpose of bringing glory to God and then a lull of man-centered religion that operates centered around man and his needs in the place of God and His Glory.
The invention of deism proves to be a reflection of man and his understanding of his purpose in this world. This philosophical system of belief came to be during the 16-1700's. Deism says that God created all things but is not involved with life on earth in any way. Those who propagated such a system of belief definitely had no understanding of the truth that man exists for God. The end result of this philosophy is best stated as follows:
If God is not in control, the universe has no purpose and God created the universe for no particular purpose other than to watch its inhabitants suffer. It gets worse. From what we now know, within a few hundred million to a few billion years, the earth will be too hot from the expanding Sun to support any life. Everything will die.
The loss of man's purpose for existence has most certainly lead to many corruptions of what God intended life to be.
When the focus is shifted to the present day illustrations of the loss of man's purpose abound. Humanism is the by-product of this loss of purpose. It is man centered and self-serving. Because there is no god, according to the humanist, then there is no reason to be concerned with glorifying a god who doesn't exist. John Murray describes the present day view of man in the following quote:
To be sure, with such gross idolatry we have zeroed out the almighty, transcendent God from our worlds. We live in a God-zero culture: I can drink the artificial because I choose to do so. And it is OK because it tastes, feels, and sounds good to me. The god of my creation, an impostor, is the real thing because I say so. In this radically reductionistic and idolatrous world of self-adulation, a world in which I am lord simply because I want to be, the transcendent God becomes transcendently absent.
The present day church world has an erroneous view of the purpose of man as well. From the "seeker-sensitive" movement to the fervent push to evangelism at all cost, there is a dangerous swinging of the pendulum away from truth once again. The "seeker-sensitive" movement says "If you want to know how to build a church, ask the community, and give them what they want." This is the epitome of man centered religion. This is the church movement of the day and it has completely lost sight of the purpose for man's existence.
Why does man exist? The Word of God makes it clear that it is for the purpose of glorifying God. It is evident that the church has historically had those who got this wrong and it is even more evident that there are those who have it wrong today. The endeavor for each true believer in Christ is to acknowledge this truth and spend all of his life striving to achieve this end.
Proving Your Thesis for the Theological Research Project
"What on earth am I here for?" Though man's existence on this earth has spanned thousands of years, the sad reality is that most still fail to have a good answer to this question. The secret to truly living and enjoying this life is to discover and then fulfill the answer to this question. As has been said, "What are the two most important days of your life? The day you were born and the day you figure out why."
Those who have realized that the world was created by God and that He controls and sustains this world, also have realized through the study of God's Word that man was created for God and that man is the best when he acknowledges this truth. Man is happiest, most fulfilled, and most content when he begins to form his thinking and life around the reality that he exists for God. The reality is, that if man was created by God then his existence is for God. That being the case, then God has created man for a purpose, and as one studies the Scriptures he discovers that God has called man to a purpose. To bring glory to God is the great end of man, but to serve God is the calling of man, this is his purpose. He is to serve God with all that God has given Him and he is to follow God's direction throughout his whole life. When man commits to doing these things he will truly find and fulfill his purpose on this earth. This fulfilling of his purpose is the way by which man finds true enjoyment in this life, or may it be said, "this is how man enjoys life".
The church world has often faltered on this subject. The truth that is being presented here can be clearly stated in the following statement, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." The Westminster Shorter Catechism clearly states that man exists for the purpose of bringing Glory to God. It was around 1647 that the Westminster Shorter Catechism was finished. The writers no doubt were focusing on trying to gather the core doctrines of the church and compile them into this format. The men who formulated and wrote this statement were attempting to sum up the main purpose for which man exists. Because the present-day church world seems to be in disagreement with this premise, if not in fact at least in practice, it is important to establish this truth in one's understanding.
"How has the church faltered on this subject?" one might ask. The answer lies in the focus of the church and how it understands God and all that God is doing. There are many who are involved in the "health, wealth, and prosperity Gospel" of the day who clearly have distorted God's purpose for man. They believe that God exists for them. They view Him almost as a cosmic Santa Clause who awaits their wishes. And upon hearing their wishes is obligated to move on their behalf. Almost to the point that it would seem that they are ordering God and telling Him what to do. A prime example of this kind of thinking would be as follows: "Creflo Dollar says this of prayer: When we pray, believing that we have already received what we are praying, God has no choice but to make our prayers come to pass.'" These individuals have grossly misunderstood who God is and what they exist for.
Another way that the Church has lost its bearings concerning the purpose of man and the place of God has been in the elevating of man's spiritual needs above God. This was not done as deceitfully nor even intentionally. Those who are guilty of this error fell into it by accident. They believed that "the most important thing in the world is to save souls". This sounds very biblical at first, and there is no doubt that God has called the believer to spread the Gospel and bring people to Christ; however, if taken to its extreme this kind of thinking also begins to place man before God and brings the needs of man to a place where they are supreme. Those who preach and push this type of thinking will often fall into the trap of doing things that would be dishonorable to God and fail to glorify Him for the purpose of bringing souls to Him. The means which these individuals might use to save souls often end up being things that dishonor the God to whom they are calling men to come. Those who would fall into this category often use slogans such as "Win the lost at any cost" however, this philosophy is unbiblical and very dangerous.
Because the greatest and highest calling of man is to glorify God, then it is the responsibility of the believer. He must set this as his aim and then structure his life accordingly. If he exists for God and not God for him then he must ensure that his beliefs and behavior line up with this truth. Accepting this as the truth will cause the believer to bring everything that he does under the litmus test of whether or not it brings glory to his God. This may seem contradictory, however, if he does this then he will also ensure that the life he lives will be a joyful one because he is living it unto God for His glory.
The Conclusion of Theological Research
What is the reader to conclude? After considering the many facets of the topic of the purpose of life, and considering whether the glory of God is to truly be at the heart of everything the believer does, what conclusion should be drawn? From those who grossly misinterpret scripture with the intent of creating a man-made god who responds to man's every whim and command as a cosmic Santa Clause, to those who sincerely have misdirected the focus of the church in an effort to accomplish the great task Christ left for it to do, there is no lack of differing views and ideas about this subject. As is expressed in the title, "What on Earth am I here for?", is a question that must be answered.
Through the process of this study, it has been proposed that the purpose of man, the reason for life, the calling of the human being is to bring glory to his God. Once an individual realizes this to be the truth, it brings a since of enlightenment and a level of understanding into life that was never realized before. Once this is understood and accepted as truth, then the believer comes to the place where he can better understand what God has presented in His Word and what is taking place in this world. The acceptance of this truth truly opens the eyes of the believer to understand the whys of Scripture. Understanding this truth helps the believer answer the hard questions in life. Coming to grips with the reality that one's existence is primarily for God and His glory enables the believer to see clearly what God has said and what God is doing.
Once an individual comes to the place where he realizes that his very purpose for existence is God's glory, meaning that he exists for God not God exists for him, then he can begin to make decisions on a daily basis to choose to fulfill his purpose for existence. This understanding will bring the individual believer to the place in his maturing in the faith where he will begin to consider every decision not on the basis of how it will affect him, his family, his finances, but how it will effect God. Once an individual comes to this place in his life he then will bring great glory to the God of Heaven. There is no question that this is what God wants out of the lives of His children.
In conclusion, it is important that the believer learn to avoid the philosophies of the humanist and the materialist. They would have every man living for himself showing no regard for God. Also each believer must be careful not to be swayed by those who would take a theological approach and try to shift the order of man's relationship with God. He made each of His children and each one of them shares an ultimate purpose, that purpose is to bring Him glory. May God help each believer come to a realization of this truth and then empower each life to reflect it. As has been quoted earlier in this writing, "The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever."
All About Philosophy Website, Materialism. http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/materialism.htm . Taken 9/22/2015.
The American Humanist Association Website, What is Humanism. http://americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Definitions_of_Humanism. Taken 9/22/2015.
Barnes, Albert. Barnes' Notes. 1 Corinthians 10:31, taken from (Power Bible CD version 5.9), 2010.
Brown, Colin. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Zondervan Grand Rapids, MI, 1986. 47.
Deem, Rich. Why Deism Fails as a Philosophical Paradigm of the Universe. Online Resource.
http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/deism.html. Taken October 8, 2015.
Gordon, M. R.. "Glory," The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill Tenney (Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library., 1976), 731.
Quote from John Macarthur taken from http://rr-bb.com/showthread.php?106566-Seeker-Friendly-Church-definition .Taken October 8, 2015.
McSwain, Steve. Online article for The Huffington Post. Know Why You're Here: The Point of Human Existence. Online http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steve-mcswain/is-the-life-i-live-the-legacy-i-leave_b_3660144.html . Taken September 24, 2015.
Mitchell, Corrie. Online Article. Ten Verses of Scripture that Prosperity Gospel Preachers Need to Stop Misusing. Taken from http://www.faithstreet.com/onfaith/2014/05/09/ten-verses-prosperity-gospel-preachers-need-stop-misuising/32019. Taken 10/15/15.
Murray, John. The Catechisms of the Westminister Assembly. The Presbyterian Guardian. 1943. Taken from online http://www.westminsterconfession.org/confessional-standards/the-catechisms-of-the-westminster-assembly.php. Taken October 7, 2015.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Take online. http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/macbeth_5_5.html . September 24, 2015.
Thiessen, Henry C. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI. 1979, 21.
Watson, Thomas. Man's Chief end is to Glorify God. Sermon Website http://www.puritansermons.com/watson/watson5.htm . Taken 9/22/2015.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism. Catechism 1. Online, http://www.creeds.net/reformed/Westminster/shorter_catechism.html, taken September 29, 2015.
Wiersbe, Warren. Real Worship (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2000), 26.
 Henry C. Thiessen. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI. 1979, 21.
 Colin Brown. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Zondervan Grand Rapids, MI, 1986. 47.
 M. R. Gordon. "Glory," The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, ed. Merrill Tenney (Grand Rapids: Regency Reference Library., 1976), 731.
Watson, (What is it to Glorify God?).
 Watson, (What is it to glorify God?).
 Warren Wiersbe. Real Worship (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 2000), 26.
 Watson, (What is it to glorify God?).
 Albert Barnes. Barnes' Notes. 1 Corinthians 10:31, taken from (Power Bible CD version 5.9), 2010.