Seeing God Ė The Purpose Of Life
"What is the purpose of life? How can I find it? How can I be sure it is the right one?" These are questions to which many a professing Christian yet needs to find the answer, as well as the man who has no knowledge of God.
However, when we turn to the Bible we find a clear and simple answer to this fundamental question. It plainly states that there is but one purpose for mankind, and that purpose is the same, whatever our sex, our age, our nationality, or status in society.
"What doth the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him" (Deut. 10:12).
"He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to Öhumble thyself to walk with thy God" (Mic. 6:8, margin)
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength" (Mark 12:30).
It appears, therefore, that the Bible answer to the question, "What is the purpose of life?" is to know, and to love, and to walk with God; that is, to see God. Indeed, men in former times came to speak of "the end of life" as being the "Vision of God." The divines who in the seventeenth century produced the Westminster Confession answered the question, "What is the chief end of man?" with the words, "Manís chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever."
Today, however, we do not hear much about the need to see God. It is only as we turn the pages of the past that we become aware of our lack of this emphasis, both in preaching and in living the Gospel. In former days, we find, even in times of spiritual darkness, that there were always some who were gripped by a consuming passion Ė the longing to see God. For them there was only one goal, to know their God. They were heart-thirsty, and they knew that God alone could satisfy their thirst.
As we read of their search for God, we find some traveling along strange paths. We see them living in desert or cave, or withdrawing to the monastery. In their desire for that holiness "without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14), they might strip themselves of every earthly possession, or mortify their bodies by self-inflicted torture. They were sometimes fanatical, sometimes morbidly introspective. We look back on many of them now as poor, misguided souls who were in bondage to legalism and asceticism. But let us always remember that these things were done in the longing and search for God, and that their emphasis was on personal holiness in order to see God.
At the present time the situation is very different. We have much more light on the Bible and the message of the Gospel, and we look back rather despisingly on many of these seekers of old. But the solemnizing fact is this, that the coming of more light has not brought an increasing passion to see God. In fact, it seems to have had the reverse effect. That deep hunger for God Himself is obviously lacking, and it would appear that we have lowered our goal in the Christian life to something less than God Himself.
Two emphases stand out today: First of all, instead of stressing holiness in order to see God, the emphasis is on service for God. We have come to think of the Christian life as consisting in serving God as fully and as efficiently as we can. Techniques and methods, by which we hope to make Godís message known, have become the important thing. To carry out this service we need power, and so instead of a longing for God, our longing is for power to serve Him more effectively. So much has service become the centre of our thinking that very often a manís rightness with God is judged by his success or otherwise in his Christian work.
Then there tends to be today an emphasis on the seeking of inner spiritual experiences. While so many Christians are content to live at a very low level, it is good that some do become concerned about their Christian lives, and it is right that they should. However, the concern arises not so much from a hunger for God, but from a longing to find an inner experience of happiness, joy, and power, and we find ourselves looking for "it," rather than God Himself.
Both these ends fall utterly short of the great end that God has designed for man, that of glorifying Him and enjoying Him for ever. They fail to satisfy Godís heart and they fail to satisfy ours.
From We Would See Jesus by Roy Hession. Copyright ©1958 Roy Hession Book Trust. Published by CLC Publications. Used by permission.