The Supreme Good (the Chief End of Man)
“What is the chief end of man?” It is a question as old as the existence of man himself. Not only is this a very important question we should be asking ourselves (as well as know the answer to) but there is really no way a person can avoid it, although many try.
And how so? If not by brushing it under a rug, people will take on one or more of the various philosophies of life currently present in our culture, all in an attempt to answer this most important question.
As Christians, we should understand that the chief end of man is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Or as John Piper says, “glorify God BY enjoying Him forever.” In fact God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
Some of the current philosophies that try to provide a false answer to this question include:
- Existentialism – Our existence is meaningless
- Pragmatism – Whatever works, que sara sara (whatever will be will be)
- Humanism – Man is number one
- Hedonism – Pleasure is our God
Now when we begin to talk about “glorifying God,” and being “satisfied in Him,” its difficult to get past the “God’s law or commandments” factor. Sadly it is following a set of rules or living by a certain creed that scare many away from the possibility of knowing God in the first place. However it is not really a fear of that set of rules but rather a misunderstanding of what those rules actually exist for.
In Mark 12:28-34, a scribe of the Judaic law approaches Jesus and asks him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus replied “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”
Although a great question, the scribe reveals a basic problem we have with laws and that is that we are always trying to figure out which “law” is most important when in all reality, they are all important. Like the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), we can’t live “without rules” and like the Elder Son, we can’t “live with rules.”
Looking at the story of The Prodigal Son for a moment, many Christians would wholeheartedly agree that the younger son (he who strayed) is certainly not a picture of Christian living. But what about the elder son (one who didn’t stray)? Is he a picture of how we should live for God? Actually both of these individuals miss the boat.
The younger son’s philosophy would read something like this:
“Yes you should obey the law but God loves everybody and will accept everybody. Love is reality; law is secondary. God’s blessings are unconditional.”
And the older son’s philosophy would not be any wiser:
“Yes God is loving but in the end you have to be good or God won’t love you. Law is reality and love is secondary. God’s blessings are conditional.”
Both these viewpoints miss the true God.
So how does Jesus’ answer to the scribe redefine the WHAT and WHY of the law? How does his answer eliminate relativism and moralism?
The key is that Jesus doesn’t choose specific commands to make his point but he chooses Deut. 6:4 (Love God) and Lev. 19:18 (Love People). Matt. 22:40 says on these two hang all of the law.
So now the “matter” (WHAT) of law keeping is that the “law defines what in means to live lovingly” whereas the “motive (WHY) of law keeping is that “love defines why I should live lawfully.” On the cross, Jesus Christ absolutely fulfilled the conditions of the law, so God could love us absolutely unconditionally.
Christians need to grasp the truth that “we don’t keep the law to get God’s love but rather we have God’s love therefore we keep God’s law for His glory.”
The law basically says “you need to do these things before God will accept you,” whereas grace says “God accepts you and therefore you will do these things but not in your own strength because He Himself fulfills in us the very things He requires of us.” Isn’t this an awesome truth?
Therefore our paradoxical obedience to the law is this: “I resist sin like crazy but when I fall I have no condemnation or despair but joyfully repent and believe in Jesus.”
To help you understand if you are keeping the two most important commandments, which ALL the other commandments fall under, take this simple heart test:
- Do I treasure God with all of my heart (Mind, Emotion, Will) above anything or anyone else? (Commandments 1- 4 Ex. 20:1-11)
- Do I meet the needs of others with all the energy, delight, creativity, and consistency with which I meet my own needs? (Commandments 6-10 Ex.20:12-17)
The relativism and moralism both the the younger and elder brothers in the story of The Prodigal Son displayed are motivated by pride and/or fear. They are not the result of a God-changed heart as only a heart smitten by the beauty and love of Jesus Christ can produce a truly loving lawful heart.
Finally I leave you with these two fundamental heart truths which easily tear away pride and fear:
- I am more sinful than I ever dared to believe. (Debt – Humility destroying pride)
- I am more loved than I ever dared to dream. (Provision – Confidence destroying fear)