Many of us who are reformed in our theology (yes, even us Baptists), can recite the first question of the Westminster Catechism in our sleep: What is the chief end of man? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
We can wax eloquently about the glory of God in His attributes, lovingkindness, mercy, and even the glory of His wrath and justice. Yet, when we get to the second part of that answer our voices trail off into an inaudible mumble, and we become uncomfortable. Why is that?
Part of this I believe is due to our understanding of man. We believe that man is totally depraved. Romans 3:10 is our “life verse,” and we will declare this biblical truth from the rooftops – that all of man’s thoughts and intentions are polluted and tainted with the sin of pride and prejudice. So, when we consider this sinful, depraved and prideful man “enjoying” a most holy and perfect God, something inside of us cringes. I believe the root of this to be an over emphasis upon the unregenerate man, and forgetting, even neglecting, the change that is wrought in the regenerated man.
Declared A Saint
Earlier this year I was preparing a sermon on Romans 5:6-11, and as I was reading through the book of Romans, while studying the grammar of the passage, two things suddenly hit me about a common trend in Paul’s letters.
First, he wrote to, and about, “the saints in” such and such city (Rom.1:7, Eph.1: Col. 1:2, Phil. 1:1, 1 Cor. 1:1, 2 Cor. 13:13, Phi. 1:5, 7). As born-again believers, we are declared saints before God. We are set apart, consecrated, and holy. What does this mean?
Throughout the Old Testament, we see many profane, simple objects, declared to be “holy” – dirt, bread, incense, lamp stand, altar, tent, etc. However, those ordinary objects were only declared to be holy because God had called them to be set aside for His purposes. Their holiness did not come from their own essence but from the essence of the God who used them. He declared them to be holy, because He is holy, and they were to be set apart, and used only in His presence, for His purposes.
Likewise, the regenerated soul is no longer profane and common but has been made holy in Jesus Christ, by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. By the Holy Spirit of God, the common, ordinary man is used and energized to do the will of God for His purposes.
Philippians 2:13 “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”
So when we think about man enjoying God forever, it is not the image of the sinful rebellious soul who hates God and His ways, it is the redeemed who has been joined to the Son, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, and reconciled to the Father.
The Forgiven Saint
Secondly, Paul speaks of the reality of this new transformation and our peace with God as a done deal. This is clearly seen in the tense of the verbs Paul uses in Romans 5:6-11. We were (past tense) weak, ungodly, enemies of God. We are now (present tense) and have been (past tense) strengthened, justified and reconciled through Christ’s work upon the cross.
Again, in Ephesians 2, we formerly (past tense) walked according to the course of the world and Satan, in the lusts and desires of the flesh. We were (past tense) without Christ and alienated from the people of God, but now (present tense) we have been brought near. Now, we have been made a new creation where the old things have passed away and new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17).
By the grace of God in Christ Jesus, you are not who you once were. No longer are you a dead, rebellious, unholy, unrighteous, ungodly sinner, but a living, holy, righteous, obedient, and godly saint. That is why when we sin, we are acting out of character. It is contrary and destructive to our nature and who we are in Christ. That is why James 3:10 says, “from the same mouth blessing and cursing. Brothers, these things ought not to be so.” It’s antithetical to who we are and who Christ has made us to be. Like honey that is bitter, a sinning saint is not only contradictory but wrong.
Simultaneously Sinner and Saint
The problem we run into is the fact that we still sin, and do act contrary to our new status. It is the great bane of the Christian existence.
“For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:19, 24
Sin will ruin our enjoyment of God. Whether that be an unrepentant persistent sin in our life or the over introspection of sin in our hearts. Too much time spent upon sin that Christ has already forgiven breeds guilt and shame, robs us of joy, and makes us reluctant to come before God. It keeps us away from the only One who can heal the wounds of past sin and purify our current corruption.
Enjoying God as God
Enjoying God starts with enjoying the privileges He has given to us in Christ.
Ephesians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”
What blessings has He blessed us with? Unlimited access to Him.
The veil has been torn in two, and we now have unmitigated access to the throne room of God. Anytime, anywhere, we can come to our Creator and Redeemer and drink deeply from the well of grace. We can cast our burdens upon Him, and He will not only listen to cries but will bear them for us.
“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
He has given us spiritual gifts through His Holy Spirit, to serve Him and His church. Gifts and works He has created for us beforehand to use, do, and bring about great joy when they are exercised and accomplished.
He has placed us in His body, the Church, to suffer with and bear one another’s burdens. To encourage us and others with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. To provide healing, and discipline as we inevitably hurt ourselves and others by our sin.
To neglect so great means of grace and privilege is not only unloving towards ourselves, as we desperately need them but unloving towards the One who died to gain them for us.
The One Whom My Soul Loves
In short, God has given us Himself, the only source of true blessing, peace, and satisfaction.
“Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart fail, But God is the rock of my heart and my portion forever….But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have set Lord Yahweh as my refuge, That I may recount all Your works.” Psalms 73:25, 26, 28
Before our conversion we sought these things in the world, only to be like salt water. Not only did the world not satisfy us, but made us more thirsty. It was a drink that would ultimately have led to our death had we not been given a drink from the Rock. The bitter waters of Marah have been made sweet (Exodus 15:22-35).
“On my bed night after night I sought him Whom my soul loves; I sought him but did not find him. ‘I must arise now and go about the city; In the streets and in the squares I must seek him whom my soul loves.’ I sought him but did not find him. “The watchmen who go about the city found me, And I said, ‘Have you seen him whom my soul loves?’ 4 “Scarcely had I passed them by When I found him whom my soul loves; I seized him and would not let him go.” Song of Songs 3:1-4
We know that our God is infinite. One of the implications of this truth is that every child of God can come to Him as long as they live, and never exhaust what He has to offer to them. The well will never run dry (John 4:13-14). He is not something we must carefully ration for fear of running out. No, there is enough for us to not only glorify but enjoy Him forever.
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