What is the bedrock of a worthy life? This is the question I’d like to ask. What is a life worth living? But even more than that, what is the motive for living that life? What motive is sufficient to tie together the various strands of human responsibility, to bring together the diverse commitments of marriage, family, community, business, country, church? What can unite these purposes, arrange them and decide between them, so that the worthy life has both direction and endurance?
It must be something that takes in the big picture, something that conceives of a man as all that he is, without reducing him to a stunted and distorted image. There are many lenses through which life is viewed, and each of them seem to leave something out for the sake of focusing our attention on a particular task, man the artist, man the lover, man the father, man the statesman. But if we seek a purpose to give order to the rest, to shepherd and safeguard man in each of his roles, if we seek a motive to preside over all others, to ward off corruption and point the way toward true nobility of character, we seek God. Only our relationship to God and our total devotion to him has sufficient scope and strength to form the basis of the life well lived.
Now our relationship with God, if it is to avoid becoming comedy or farce, must begin with God as the center, and all of his creatures arrayed around him, and by him, and for his purposes. We are created by God, we are made things. And as a thing made, a man’s purpose is that which his maker has intended. This is the crucial point, we can not begin at ourselves. To begin with our desires or our intentions is to introduce a distortion from the very beginning. We can no more choose our own purpose than we can create ourselves from nothing. The creating has been done, and it is fixed. So, too, is our purpose, and our grand purpose is nothing less than to serve and glorify God forever.
If you consider this grand purpose, you will see that it immediately begins to impose a structure on life. It threatens to order all of our disordered thoughts and impulses. There are must’s and must-not’s in this grand scheme of things, and even if they are not always clear, it is clear that they are absolute. This supreme purpose, to glorify God, is the court of last resort. There is no appeal above it or beyond it. It takes everything in, beginning at our beginning, our creation by God. Because it is all-encompassing I used the word “threaten” a moment ago. It threatens to answer all of our questions. “May I do such and such a thing, and violate my supreme purpose? No, clearly I may not.”
Because of the inescapability of this conclusion, the carnal mind must reject, forget, or ignore man’s supreme purpose. The carnal mind has an illicit desire to supply its own answers to life’s questions, and indeed, to make them up and change them as the mood strikes. This may actually be the definition of the carnal mind, one which rejects that its own ultimate purpose is to obey and glorify God.
As followers of Christ we reject that rejection. We say to God “not my will, but thine be done.” And we say to the carnal mind “Shut up! For you are not setting your thoughts on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
So then this is the grace of God: that he has extended to us the opportunity to know the path that we should walk, and to see the pathways of our lives illuminated by our ultimate purpose, the glorification of a sovereign God.
For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.