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What's the Reason for Being?

What is the reason for being?  This is what philosophers of old called, a first order question.  The bottom line question that would define how the rest of the questions of life were answered.

 

Now I realize that the question, donde esta el bano? might be a more important question from time to time, but truly deciding why we exist is among the most important questions of all time.

 

Well the question is a philosophical question because it is a question open to all manner of speculation.  Unfortunitely, no single school of worldly philosophy today provides the definitive answer – it is still a matter of debate.  Even though “Eat, Drink, and be Merry” is an all time favorite of the masses, even among those who have never taken a philosophy course!

 

What’s the reason for being is not much of a scientific question because science is not equiped to answer questions outside of what can be observed or measured.  The closest science can get to answering that question is this:  What’s the reason for being?  Propogation!  The reason that any species exists is to populate and to do whatever it takes to make sure the specie survives.  Anything else is just speculation, which brings us back to philosophy again.  And scientists are poor philosophers!  Allowing me to once again, quote the scientist Carl Sagan, who said, “We owe our existence to a random colision of gaseous clouds.”  That’s random!  A guy with all that education, and that’s the best explanation?

 

Well, it’s no secret that the scientific community has answered the question, “What’s the reason for being?” For this earth… The reason we exist here on earth is because some kind of life got deposited on this planet from somewhere else (Unless you belong to the hot ocean vents crowd – but they’re a dying specie!)  Science is fun!  But not equipped in answering this question – only seems equiped to beg the question or to employ parody… yeah, for those of you who know about the Flying Sphaghetti Monster – it’s kinda funny, But for the mockery that it is – it’s just another attempt to avoid the more direct claims of the Christian faith.

So this brings us to the realm of theology.  Now, There are different religious theologies.  First of all, I want to discount those theologies that suggest that we are really not here at all, that this is all an illusion, that’s pretty extreme!  Of those people I always say, I’ll take your finances, and put it in my illusory bank, and you can go create a another reality for yourself…

 

But here we arrive at a really simple challenge – who do you believe best answers the question, Why are we here?  Why is there something rather than nothing?  Why are we humans the ones plagued with self reflective thoughts that even question the concept of existence?

 

And the religious folks answer these questions quite extensively – One thing that the religious folks have done is to distill their core beliefs in documents known as Catechisms…

 

Of course, among the most famous is the 150 question, Westminster Shorter Catechism.  We’ll talk about that in a moment.

 

But there are also other catechisms for example, I found a Jewish Catechism for children that addresses our question of “why we are here” written in 1863…

3. What purpose do you think God had in creating so many varied living creatures, and especially man?

Their happiness: that is to say, God made them, not for his own sake, since He cannot be assisted by them, but in order that they might have the means and capacities to rejoice in their existence, and to become better and wiser by education and the knowledge of His will.

The Jewish God wants every creature being happy -- and smart! And to rejoice in existing!

 

The Roman Catholic Catechism, is not arranged in a question and answer format, but of the 2865 points of instruction, point #1 does mention our reason for being… 1 God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.

 

God is the originator, He is good and He has a plan, and His plan is to share with humankind the blessing of life that He possesses.

The Baltimore Catechism, designed for instruction in the American Catholic school system; written in the 1880’s, and endorsed by a plenary council has of its 499 questions, question 3 that deals with our reason for being: 3. Why did God make us?

God made us to show forth His goodness and to share with us His everlasting happiness in heaven.

A good God wants to share with us happiness in heaven – little scary if you’re not ready to go there just yet.

The Reformed penned their own Catechism called the Heidelberg Catechism

Their question #1 comes very close to answering our question, “what is our reason for being,” but makes the question very personal…

Q. 1. What is your only comfort, in life and in death?

A. That I belong--body and soul, in life and in death--not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ,

The answer goes on and expresses profound Christian convictions; but for our purposes, we learn that we are both body and soul, that we will live and die, and in all of this, we belong to Jesus – the application being, we here to recognize that God owns us, and whatever we are or have is directly related to God’s plan.

 

The Westminster Catechism directly answers the first order question of why are we here: Q. 1. What is man’s primary purpose [the chief end of man?]
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God,[1] and to enjoy him forever.[2]

 

Now, before I go on, let me tell you why we’ve just examined some catechisms.  Firstly, because neither modern day philosophy nor science answers the question for our existence with real clarity or conviction.  Secondly, the religious have been concerned with this question for thousands of years and have sought to answer this question with inspired insight.  One such person would be the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon.

 

As an OT book, Ecclesiastes actually evaluates life from a limited perspective -- even with scientific observation and philosophical reflection. But when the author arrives at the end of his teaching seminar in chapter 12, He can’t help but conclude that life without the knowledge of God is vain.

 

8 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

 

Why is everything Vain?  Because what is the benefit of living when we ultimately do not mean anything!  Sure we can make up our own meanings – to say that life is all about capturing the joy of family, or to simply look at everything with a positive attitude – but is that really going to carry the day?  WE ARE HERE, and we all seem to attempt a few goals to bring some personal satisfaction, But then our life ends – What is it all about?  Well, we are vain if we think that life is all about our personal objectives, and our self actualization.  Life is about acknowledging the Creator and Sustainer of the universe by living according to His truth – otherwise, whatever we replace that truth with, will only be a short ride to nothingness.

 

 9 Besides being wise, the Preacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs with great care. 10 The Preacher sought to find words of delight, and uprightly he wrote words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd.

 

Here is the acknowledgment of his vast knowledge and accomplishments.  He had hoped to encourage people with his wisdom, but found that Truth was the most important to share – even if truth feels like a humiliating kick in the crotch.  This Truth comes from only one place, the Shepherd!  The one who watches and supplies and leads the sheep – so we must regard ourselves as being dependent sheep upon the Shepherd of our souls.  If we are loners, or explorers, as sheep, we are targets for destruction.

 

12 My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. 13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

 

And that’s it!  The end of the matter is to fear God and keep His commandments because there will be an accounting of our lives.

 

A political candidate was interviewed recently regarding the will of God, and she said, “I would never presume to know the will of God…”  Well, I would!  I’m told what God’s will is: loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving my neighbor as myself – this is the will of God, and I’m not being presumptive in saying it!

 

In the same manner, Ecclesiastes says, we don’t get to make up our own rules!  Nature has it’s rules, and nature follows the rules that God has set up.  God has placed us here on this earth for a time, and we had better abide by the laws He has given us – for they are the standard of determining if we are good or evil!

 

So that was Solomon’s answer for the reason for being – this is also God’s word!  And I think it is in keeping with the first answer of the Wesminster Catechism =  we are here to glorify God and find eternal enjoyment in that task!

 

Whereas other catechisms describe a God who willingly shares happiness and comfort with His creation, the Westminster states that we will never know those qualities unless we first glorify God –

 

Well what does that mean, to Glorify God?  It’s related to the conclusion of the book of Ecclesiastes.  When you weigh all your personal knowledge and accomplishments, are these the things that give your life worth and significance?  Or is it in acknowledging the God who created you and giving Him all the glory by subjecting your life to His purposes?

 

There are a million voices attempting to tell us what we should think, feel and do; but there is only one voice that claims to be the Reason for why we even exist.  And since we began with Him, we will also end with Him and we had better apply His truth to our life.  When we do that, we reveal His glory in our life.

 

Let me share some examples of how the Bible defines “giving glory to God.”  First of all, we can’t contribute to God’s glory – he is glorious without us; but we are asked to display that glory in our lives, and to reflect that glory to others.

 

So, when we declair God’s praises, that reflects His glory in our hearts and attitudes.  I’m not talking about mindless repetition, “glory, glory!”  But as a response to God’s power and grace – He should be glorified for that, and if you never do glorify God for his power and grace – I doubt that you could describe your relationship to God as “Enjoyable.”

 

When we believe in the truth about God, He is glorified!  When we excersice our spiritual gifts, He is glorified!  When we are faithful in ministry, He is glorified!  When we live like our very body is a temple of the Lord, He is glorified!  Even dying a martyr’s death brings glory to God (which is far different than some other religions) Even an illness or disease can lead to God’s glory.

 

So a philosopher asks, “What’s my reason for being?”  And we say, “To Glorify God and enjoy him forever.”  And he says, “how do I do that?”  By being a good philosopher!  Love wisdom, love truth, seek, ask, knock.  And when you realize that human philosophy brings you to the door of theology, be a good theologian!  Embrace the Shepherd and His commands!  Bring Him glory in everything you think and do!

 

If the scientist asks, “What’s my reason for being?” And we say, “Glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” And he says, “How do I do that?” By being a good scientist!  Love widom, love truth, seek, ask, knock.  And when you realize that the sciences can’t address every question for our existence, then be a good theologian! Embrace the Shepherd and His commands! Bring Him glory in everything you think and do!

 

And if a severly handicapped person suffering from cancer and wracked with bodily pain asks, “What is MY reason for being?”  And we say, “Glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” And he says, “How do I do that?”

By believing in a God who has come to deliver us from pain and the fear of death by subjecting himself to it in the person of Christ.  And by believing in the promise that when we embrace the Shepherd, He will lead us to an eternal glory beyond what we could ever hope for or imagine here…

 

In the meantime, allow me to minister to you as I reflect how gloriously God has been to me!

 

As a brutally honest presbyterian, I know that the first part of our first answer is true for every person who has ever lived – everyone gives glory to God – they reveal his handiwork, his power, and His design, they are a reflection of His image.  How could that NOT be glorious?  The brutal part is that those who are saved by His grace will glorify God for his love, patience, and mercy.  Those who are not saved will bring God  glory when he righteously delivers unbeliever’s to their just punishment – Both God’s Salvation and Judgment ARE glorious.

 

But the second part of that question says that our primary purpose is to enjoy Him forever.  That means that some are missing out in their primary purpose – If you do not enjoy God – then a new relationship must be established where God receives your glory, and then you will share in that joy.

 

That joy is shared among the glory of the triune God, and our salvation is described as entering in to that joy.  The total expression of our salvation is beyond our ability to comprehend – I can only imagine! 

 

It is also with that second part of our answer that I dare speak to anyone who doubts the reason why they exist would have glorious consequences – God takes that which is frail and broken and exposed to suffering and reveals a glory beyond anything we would dare to call glorious!

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