What is the chief end of man?
Man’s chief end is to glorify God, (1 Cor. 10:31, Rom. 11:36) and to enjoy him forever. (Ps. 73:25–28)
The Westminster Shorter & Larger Catechisms – Question 1
A criminal can be grateful that his previous crimes have been pardoned and that he does not have to pay the penalty for his crime, but if his passions have not changed for doing good rather than evil, what good was the pardon? He merely escapes punishment. He will continue to commit crimes because that is what brings him satisfaction – whether that is to be sure he gets food & shelter, or to support a bad habit, to feel powerful, to gain wealth, or that he really enjoys harming others. Forgiveness does nothing for such a person if his passions have not changed.
Why would forgiveness not affect a person? One reason could be that even if they know their crime is against the laws of the land, they do not see what they are doing is really wrong. As a matter of fact, they often may think they are entitled to do what they do because of their situation in life. Many people think it is alright to treat others in a certain way because of the way those others have, or the way society has, treated them. In this case, they think they are entitled to forgiveness because they didn’t really do anything wrong.
Another reason could be that the person is so driven to have a better life that they will do what they think they need to do to in their own eyes to get it, if they won’t get caught. Some could feel remorse if caught, and may appreciate any forgiveness, but the passion that caused them to want to have the better life is not likely to have gone away – the desire still lives, even if it got beaten up a bit.
So, when a person becomes a Christian, having accepted Jesus’ death on the cross as the payment for the penalty of their sins against God, there is a good possibility, that their passions never changed. They could feel regret. They could be thankful. But, there is not a change of passions.
When a person accepts Christ, do they now have passions to enjoy Him and seek to glorify and please Him? Or rather, do they not really care about Him when the rubber meets the road? Is their primary concern in life still to please themselves instead?
If Jesus’ death was to reconcile us to God (Eph 2:16; Col 1:20), and His resurrection represents the new mankind that a believer unites in (Eph 1:10; 2; 2 Cor. 5:16-21), then the old passions are to be put to death with Christ, and new ones are to come alive in Christ (Rom 6). Merely accepting forgiveness in order to escape judgment does not result in this transformation! Many of the religious of Jesus’ day accepted forgiveness in the offering of their sacrifices. Yet their hearts were far from God. That is not much different for many today who merely walk an aisle because they felt conviction. Conviction alone does not change our hearts. God must change them. Just as we can’t get out of a slippery pit without someone from the outside to pull us out, we can’t change our own hearts. A change must come from outside of us.
So, how does one become a child of God united in Christ such that they truly have a changed heart and eternal life? Where eternal life is not just life in heaven one day, but is according to John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. Where knowing God, the Father, and Jesus Christ is not an intellectual assent, but an intimate relationship, such as should be in a marriage, where our passions are for God! We must realize that to be saved means to be snatched out of a life of love of selfish deeds and turned to a love for God and His righteousness (1 John 4:7-21). Heaven is the dwelling place of God. A life in heaven would be hell for anyone who doesn’t love God. Thus to be saved from judgment means we must love God. Too many fear judgment, but do not have love for Him. They see God as the overbearing father with strict rules and no love, no mercy, and no grace. Those that see Him that way live in fear of making mistakes and either live legalistic lives that are overbearing or decide it is too much and continue to live in rebellion while saying they are saved. One who loves another with the deepest of their passions will bend over backwards to show their love by doing what the one they love desires. They will put aside their own interests and engage in the interests of the other.
As we continue to answer this question about how one becomes a child of God let us ask how one falls in love with one they would want to marry? Why do they even date in the first place? They may date for selfish reasons – to not be lonely, because it is expected, because of sexual passions, or any number of other reasons. Why did people come to Jesus in the Gospels? Usually it was to get healed. They came for selfish reasons, initially. But they had to realize they needed healing. If you had a rare cancer and not only found out that there was a doctor known for curing it, but that the doctor wants to get to know those who come to him/her personally, wouldn’t you want to get to know him/her?
Knowing God is knowing His character. Jesus revealed the character of God perfectly to a people whom God was among, but that didn’t know Him. Knowing God also means praying to Him. Knowing God does not mean asking Him for selfish wants. However, knowing God does mean expecting He will meet your needs, even if you don’t know what you need.
Fact is that all people have an incurable cancer. We are born with it. The cancer is called being separated from God. It is equivalent to being born in a foreign country because your great great grandparents were banished to that country many years back. As such, we live for ourselves – like citizens of the foregn country. Even when we come to know about God, we are so accustomed to living for ourselves that we find it impossible to not do so. Our ingrained passions are for pleasing and living for ourselves above all else. We might sacrifice at times for others, but we are still number one in our lives. Because of this, all religions but Christian faith are about people saving themselves through their own efforts – it is thought that only they can clean themselves up. But a person in a foreign country can’t place themselves in another country they either know nothing about or that they don’t have the legal expertise nor authority to do (only a lawyer in the country they want to enter can do it). Nevertheless, we all seek to do what is right in our own eyes. When we come of age and of knowledge to know better, we still do things for selfish reasons and that is called sin. God knows what works best. He created the universe and each of us. To get what works best is to know Him. He has the cure for broken relationships, with Him, with others, and with nature. He is the doctor who wants to know us. He provided His Son as a means to get to know us. We can have a better life. But it is not by achieving it through our own means and wisdom. It comes from falling in love with the Creator and Redeemer of the universe. To fall in love, we must date Him. First we must believe that He is the best and has the best for us. As we read His Word, the Bible, we learn about Him. We see what love He has for us. We don’t see it if we don’t seek it. But, God promises that those who seek Him will find Him (Matt 7:7-12).
Some get mad at God and turn away from Him. What that shows is that they were thinking of themselves with regard to a matter that they expected God to for them in a very specific way. We must trust that God has our best interests in mind. When something doesn’t go our way, we are probably thinking about it wrongly. We must seek wisdom on the matter and trust Him (James 1:5). God does no evil. Rather evil is part of this broken world. Yet, evil can help us see the truth, wisdom, and love of God amidst a broken and groaning world (Rom 8:18-39).
When the people on the day of Pentecost heard Peter preach, they were cut to the heart and asked, “what must we do?” (Acts 2:37) Peter said, “Repent, and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Repent is often a misunderstood word. But in this case it means to stop living for yourself and to let Christ live through you by His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to a person by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:14-17). This is the dating process! To become saved does not mean to go forward at a service and pray a prayer. That is a nice start – but THAT does not save a person. The Holy Spirit saves a person. Jesus works through Him as the doctor to bring healing to our souls. But to get healed is to know Him. That starts by reading the Bible and to begin being discipled by a seasoned Christian who is truly saved. (I say “truly” saved, because there are too many who merely confess Christ and have no evidence of a love for Him. They never dated Jesus themselves!) When the people who listened to Peter on Pentecost responded, they got baptized and began learning from the apostles (Acts 2:41-42). Discipleship can happen in a group, but the best discipleship is in small groups or one on few. Jesus taught a very small group, who then taught others. It is too easy to hide in a church. Commit to dating Jesus, to get real healing for this life and beyond, and you will fall in love with Him! Going to church is important, but not enough. Study of Scripture is extremely important!
In the end, being saved has nothing to do with following the Ten Commandments or what not. Trusting in Christ’s death and resurrection is all that matters. Doing so will result in a love for Him. But God must draw us to Him, and He does that through things such as this note, other Christians who talk to us, and even by difficulties in our lives. If you are already in love with Jesus, spread that love by helping others come to know Him. Don’t assume that just because someone claims to be a Christian that they have a love for Jesus.
A love for Jesus results in new passions that will cause us to live a life that follows the Ten Commandments out of our mere love, not out of a legalistic rule keeping. Love transforms. Jesus loved us first, that He died for us. So, let us come to know Him and have eternal life!