“Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.“
If you do a Google search on the question, “Why am I here?,” you will be presented with inexhaustible numbers of digital pages containing links to some 6 billion places around webdom that purport to give guidance, insight, perhaps even answers, to this fundamental human query. There will be an endless list of doctors, philosophers, psychologists, psychotherapists, spiritual gurus, self-stylized thinkers, life coaches, consciousness experts, mediums, witches, and inner light analysts eager to opine for you, usually merely at the price of their latest best-selling tome. The world’s answer is as clear as it is voluminous: it has no answer.
Sadly though, if you ask the average Christian the same question, perhaps rephrased in light of their professed faith, such as “What is God’s will for your life?” or “Why did God save you?” the response may be as bewildering as Google’s virtual oceans of digital ink. Ask the question of the typical contemporary pewsitter and a deer-in-headlights gaze may descend across their face. Furrowed brows of uncertainty are likely. Many professing Christians, it seems, are simply unable to give a coherent, biblical answer.
Why the problem with what should be such a simple question?
Steve Lawson, in a sermon from the 2001 Shepherd’s Conference, stated the woeful reality of Christendom:
“Beloved, not all churches are in God and in Jesus Christ. Many churches, if not most churches, are filled with vast untold multitudes of people who are religious but lost. Vast multitudes have walked an aisle, raised a hand, been baptized, have been joined to the church but have never been regenerated by the Spirit of God from above. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven.” Many are on the broad path, few are on the narrow path.”
Though assuredly not every Christian who can’t answer the question is unregenerate, Lawson’s observation is as true as it is tragic. One reason the broad path is burgeoning not only with expected crowds of unbelievers but also with myriads of faith professors who will yet be those who cry “Lord, Lord” is perhaps best captured by Paul Washer’s insight.
“Contemporary evangelicalism has been grossly infected with a ‘once saved, always saved’ teaching that argues for the possibility of salvation apart from sanctification.” Paul Washer
The average churchgoer might be able to say, “God saved me to forgive me of my sins” and, while that would be a correct answer, it is not a complete answer. It doesn’t reflect an understanding of “what now?” in light of God's glorious, always-transformative salvation. “Since I’ve been saved, what happens now? What does God will for me as a saved person?” And this is Washer’s point.
The product of decades of consumer driven, culture driven, purpose driven, seeker sensitive church growth hooplah, under which evangelicalism continues to suffer, is precisely the problem. It is the product of a compromised gospel. It is the effect of an incomplete gospel. In order to attract the world, the church has had to detract from the gospel. The genuine, biblical “repent and believe” gospel has become, in practice, mostly a “believe” gospel. The “believe” gospel proclaims forgiveness just by asking Jesus into your heart or repeating some missing-from-the-Bible sinner's prayer, but the “repent and believe” gospel, which is THE biblical gospel, proclaims – and demands – much more.
Why Did God Save Me? For His Own Glory
The biblically informed answer has two fundamental parts. From the opening words of Genesis to the closing chapter of Revelation, Scripture emphasizes a consistent truth. As Paul put it the Romans, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). First and foremost, then, we have been saved for the glory of God. Indeed, mankind’s very imago Dei creation was in order to reflect the glory of the triune God, not to magnify ourselves. The fall has impacted that capacity on our part, but it has not altered the inherent glory of God Himself, nor has it altered His original plan for man.
The glory of God is why we are here. The glory of God, according to John MacArthur in Biblical Doctrine, is “the splendor, greatness, and magnificence of God.” It is the unfathomable and infinite beauty of God in the eternal, unwavering exhibition of the fullness of His revealed essence and attributes.
Over 100 times Scripture speaks to the glory of God, but Psalm 19 might be the single chapter of Scripture in which God’s glory is most exceptionally and concisely celebrated. In its opening six verses, David speaks of the cosmic testimony of the created universe to the resplendent glory of God. He then shifts from God’s glory revealed in nature to God’s infinite and majestic perfections given to us in His written revelation.
Following three verses extolling the law of the Lord, the testimony of the Lord, the precepts of the Lord, the commandment of the Lord, the fear of the Lord, and the judgments of the Lord, David writes “Moreover, by them your servant is warned; in keeping them is great reward” (Ps. 19:11). By identifying himself as a servant [In Hebrew the word ‘ebed, corresponding to the New Testament’s use of the word doulos, meaning “slave”], David recognizes his own existence as subject to God. He was made for God and, by obeying God, “there is great reward.”
In the concluding verse comes David’s faithful response to the refulgent glory of God in His cosmic handiwork and His pristine Word which he has just proclaimed. David prayerfully asks, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer” (Ps. 19:14). In speaking of God as “my rock and my Redeemer,” the Psalmist is expressing what the Lord would later declare through His prophet Isaiah:
“Everyone who is called by My name … [has been] created for My glory” (Isa. 43:7).
The response of David to God’s glory is consistent with the New Testament’s exhortations for believers. Jesus preached, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). In two separate exhortations to the Corinthians, Paul writes “For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20), and “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).
We were created for the glory of God. Our being, our life, is not primarily about or for us. It is about God, for God. And, as Christians, we are commanded to pursue His glory in “whatever” we do.
Why Did God Save Me? To Conform Me To The Image of His Son
But there is a second part of the Christian’s answer to the question. That answer comes to us from the inspired pen of Paul to the Romans:
“For those He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom. 8:29).
God has sovereignly saved us for the purpose of conforming us to the image of His Son. It is by this increasing conformity, or sanctification, which is how “whatever” (1 Cor. 10:31) we do is able to bring glory to God. It is the missing issue of sanctification to which Washer’s quote spoke. If you merely have a “believe” gospel, you may apprehend forgiveness, but you won’t understand repentance as the spiritual posture of the born again, Christian life. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Repentance and forgiveness are riveted together by the eternal purpose of God. What God hath joined together let no man put asunder.”
But as Washer points out the absence of sanctification, and as Lawson observes its practical effect, the contemporary church has largely severed from the gospel the necessity of repentance and the pursuit of holiness. The gospel of the modern church bypasses the difficult command for genuine repentance and fails to expect, or teach on, the evidence of increasing Christlikeness that genuine salvation always produces. The biblical gospel offers not merely forgiveness, not merely the imputed righteousness of Christ to us, and then nothing more. The biblical gospel also demands (and God graciously gives) repentance. It demands, and in the genuinely regenerate produces, the response of David in Psalm 19; we desire our life to be focused on, obedient to, and acceptable in the sight of God. We desire not merely to relish the promised holiness we’ll enjoy in eternity; we also strive for it in the here and now. Indeed, we are commanded to “be holy as I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16).
Spurgeon gives us a helpful definition of biblical repentance:
Repentance is a discovery of the evil of sin, a mourning that we have committed it, a resolution to forsake it. It is, in fact, a change of mind of a very deep and practical character, which makes the man love what once he hated, and hate what once he loved.
While the contemporary church may rightly, though shallowly, define repentance as a change of mind about who Jesus is and what He did, our Lord gives a much fuller, and more demanding, explanation. The Lord’s gospel call is not simply “believe” and be on your merry way because you’ve invited Him into your heart. His is not a gospel which saves but doesn’t sanctify. His is a “count the cost” command (Luke 14:25-34) and it is repeated across all four gospel accounts of His life and ministry.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me’.” Matt. 16:24 (See also Matt. 10:37-39)
“And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it’.” Mark 8:34-35
“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it’.” Luke 9:23-24
“He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:25-26
John MacArthur has written, taught, and preached much about contemporary Christianity’s diluted gospel and diminished doctrine that has produced the “Lord, Lord” professors which Lawson identifies as comprising the bulk of evangelical churches. In a 1989 sermon entitled “Fleeing From Enemies,” MacArthur stated, “The goal of the Christian life and the pursuit of sanctification is simply reduced to Christlikeness.” “We are,” he says, “to be like Christ. That is to consume us.”
“The simplicity of Christian living is to be like Christ. That covers all bases. That will take care of living to the glory of God. That will take care of all the relationships in your life because Christlikeness produces right relationships. That will take care of the matters of Christian service. That will take care of the matters of evangelism. How did we ever get diffused into so much stuff and lose sight of the simplicity of becoming like Jesus Christ?” John MacArthur
Burk Parsons, formerly co-pastor alongside R.C. Sproul, and now Senior Pastor at St. Andrews Chapel, has said, “If you claim to be justified but show no evidence of being sanctified, you’re not justified. If you trust Christ, you’ll follow Christ. If you know the gospel, you’ll walk worthy of the gospel. If you have the Spirit, you’ll walk in the Spirit.” In other words, if you claim to be saved, but don’t experience or exhibit the effects of increasing Christlikeness, you are not saved. Puritan Thomas Watson has likewise said, “It is absurd to imagine that God should justify a people and not sanctify them, He should justify a people whom He could not glorify.”
Glory & Image
The divine intent to conform us to the image of Christ creates in the truly redeemed a desire and ability to obey Christ’s gospel call of self-denial, the willingness to forfeit our own life for Him, and the capacity to walk in the Spirit in order to follow Him. A.W. Pink has warned that “It is a fatal delusion and a wicked presumption for one who is living to please self to imagine that his sins have been forgiven by God.”
The two-pronged answer for the Christian to the question, “Why did God save you? What is God’s will for your life?” is clear from Scripture. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone, and as born again believers who are new creations in Christ, we are pursuing the will, or purpose, of God for our lives: conformity to the image of His Son. When we consider God's original imago Dei design for mankind, and realize what He does in salvation by justifying and sanctifying us, we understand that to be conformed to the image of His Son is nothing less than God restoring to eternal perfection what man's sin has corrupted in the Fall. That perfection, the prize as Paul calls it in Philippians (Phil. 3:12-14), is the purpose of our sanctification in this life, and it is the promise of our glorification in the next.
As we worship, may we praise God who has given us not only a gospel of grace that grants to us His merciful gift of forgiveness, but also a gospel of His sovereign power that transforms us to the glorious image of His exalted and glorious begotten Son, the King of glory. May we daily heed our Lord's call to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him as we, like Paul, “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14). This is why He has saved us. This is His purpose. It is for His glory and, in that, “there is great reward” (Ps. 19:11).