The ‘WHY’ Question
One of the first and primary conclusions we draw is an answer to the “why” question. The solution we contrive is going to be the very paradigm which we view everything through and is going to provide the framework wherein we live, move and have our being. We will draw all subsequent conclusions based upon that grand conclusion; we’ll defend all our ideas and propose all our assumptions from that foundation, and often we’ll do this all unawares. So what is the “why” question?
That great 18th century theologian, Jonathan Edwards wrote a discourse titled, ‘A DISSERTATION CONCERNING THE END FOR WHICH GOD MADE THE WORLD’ wherein he opens the matter of the “why” question with this grand, all-clarifying sentence,
“Indeed this affair seems properly to be an affair of divine revelation. In order to be determined what was designed, in the creating of the astonishing fabric of the universe we behold, it becomes us to attend to, and rely on what HE has told us, who was the architect. He best knows His own heart, and what His own ends and designs were, in the wonderful works which He has wrought.”
The apostle Paul offers the answer of the “why” question in one of the most majestic sentences one can read in the Holy Scriptures. Colossians 1:15-16,
“He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him.”
What we have here is no less than the “divine revelation” Edwards demanded we consult when we begin drawing a conclusion. Paul wants us to know, without question, that in reference to the second Person of the Godhead, Jesus Christ, “…ALL THINGS were created through Him and for Him.” Not many things, nor most things, but ALL THINGS: no exceptions.
He is the reason, cause, purpose and result of EVERYTHING in existence.
According to this divine testimony, all things exist for Him, for His glory and for the eternal celebration of His majesty. This may at first seem like an obvious thing, but I would ask you to recall what we earlier concluded regarding the answer to this “why” question. If the question is, “why is everything that exists indeed existing – why are we here?” then the answer to this question will be the very “…paradigm which we view everything through and is going to provide the framework wherein we live, move and have our being.” If the answer Paul provided here in Colossians does not serve to promote and achieve those ends and does not tend, then it is not in fact our answer. We may very well pay it full lip service, yet we are evidently operating on another pre-supposed conclusion which lay even deeper within us, and must be rooted up and dealt with.
A realisation that absolutely EVERYTHING existing, does so because of HIM, for HIM, through Him and by Him – unconditionally everything existing is entirely caused and a result and purposed for HIS OWN GLORY, is the kind of realisation that will revolutionise everything you have ever thought about God and yourself. And we must have a moment of honesty and ask whether we truly, at our deepest level, believe that and live that.
What we humans naturally do with God, is we come to Him with preconceived ideas about who He is to be and how He is to rule His universe, as well as dictating how He is to define and express love and sovereignty (after all we know those things well enough, don’t we?). Whether we are comfortable enough admitting it or not, the truth is that everything we think, say and do, is geared toward achieving a single goal; and for every son and daughter of Adam, this goal is in fact the glorification of man, the happiness of man, the success of man; not collectively, but individually.
This is how we have in fact suffered the curse of eating the fruit of the ‘Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil’, we have, as the devil promised, “become like God”. That is to say, humanity, at that moment, began a transcendental quest for its own glory and a celebration of its own good; the very definition of sin and pride.
God is not bothered by this insolence on behalf of His creation and He is NOT challenged by it. God has infallibly and gloriously chosen such a world to exist and will sovereignly rule it on His own terms. It is immeasurable grace that He should chose to reveal to us HOW He will rule and this revelation is found only and entirely in His word. It is immeasurable grace that despite our languishing and lapse into self-intoxication and sin, God has chosen to reveal to us what has always been true, that He exists entirely for HIS own glory, at all times in every way.
The bible makes no apology about this and demands that we, rebellious creatures, abandon our pursuit for self-glory and concede that GOD is sovereign and WE are NOT; that GOD is glorious and WE are NOT; that GOD is good and WE are NOT. We are NOT in charge, nor the centre, focus or reason for our own existence: or God’s. God created all things and does all things for HIS own GLORY and NOT ours. Until we conclude with the Apostle Paul that ALL THINGS (us included) exist through Him and for Him, we’ll be engaged in nothing more than all-out war against the omnipotent Potentate of the Universe.
Romans 11:33-36 “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and how inscrutable His ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been His counsellor?’ …’For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory for ever. Amen.” [emphasis mine]
God’s Word offers us truth that we cannot conclude on our own: that God is GOD and He is THE all-knowing, all-powerful supreme Sovereign over ALL and He does all things according to His own good pleasure.
The bible teaches us also that because The Lord alone is GOD, He MUST seek His own glory; the very pursuit that would be a sin for God to neglect. Now of course we, humans struggle with this for two primary reasons.
- We humans are by nature bent on a pursuit of our own glory-seeking. When we hear of another being on the same pursuit, be it God or not, we feel our flesh pinched to think that should they be given glory, deserved or not. Subsequently we actually fear missing out. The human heart, in its most natural disposition sees God as a competitor to the glory we innately want lavished upon ourselves. The depth of the corruption of the flesh is boundless and though this may surprise us at first, should we seek our hearts truly we’ll soon learn this is all true. Paul offers his own admission in his epistle to the Romans when he says, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh”
The second primary reason why the concept of God’s own glory-seeking is a struggle for us humans is because
- We humans often anthropomorphise* God to the point where we actually abuse His image and make Him manlike to the point of idolatry. We have the instinctive desire to view God as we humanity and when we observe another human seeking their own glory it’s an odious thing to us, with good reason. Yet for the supreme, best, first and most glorious of all beings, the one who is perfect in an infinite number of ways, He cannot ever be left seeking the glory of another or abandoning the pursuit of His own glory. He could never worship, or be impressed by another, not only because He’s without comparison (peerless), but also because then He’d be committing sin in much the same way we do when we worship and give adoration to one who is not GOD. This is also challenging for us because we are utterly fallen and surrounded by fallen people who constantly strut and boast as though they were something great, something important; something entirely better than the rest. We rightly find their attitude vile. Yet this kind of attitude is the only possible one befitting of God who is just all those things, the One who is the very “all in all” the One who “fills al things in all ways”, God of very GOD. When humans act like God it is vile and horrid because they’re behaving in a manner totally contrary to who they really are. So also it would be vile and horrid for God to act like a human who is made to seek the glory of another; to be in admiration of another – nothing could be more odious.
In a small, seemingly trivial story from the life of Missionary Adoniram Judson, [1788-1850] is a life-changing truth.
Judson arrived in Burma (today called, ‘The Union of Myanmar’) and through countless struggles with sickness and disruptions he managed to learn the language and immediately began preaching the gospel on the volatile streets of Rangoon. Six years after he arrived, he was privileged to baptise his first convert, Maung Nau. The sowing was long and hard, the reaping was even harder for many barren, heartbreaking years and yet Judson pressed on.
One day a Buddhist teacher/monk whom Judson had been preaching to on many occasions, approached him and said that he was ready to convert entirely to Christianity, he just could not believe that Christ had suffered the kind of death He is reputed to have suffered – death on the cross. This was because, as the monk reasoned, no Reigning King could allow his son to suffer such indignity. The Buddhist monk asked Judson not to make him concede this point and he will happily recant Buddhism and convert.
Judson’s response was, “Therefore you are not a disciple of Christ. A true disciple inquires not whether a fact is agreeable to his own logic, but whether it is in the book. [Your] pride has [not] yielded to the divine testimony. Teacher, your pride is still unbroken. Break down your pride, and yield to the word of God.”
So we see here a resounding echo of the same principle Edwards spoke of when he said, “In order to be determined what was designed, in the creating of the astonishing fabric of the universe we behold, it becomes us to attend to, and rely on what HE has told us, who was the architect.” That the human mind has no right or ground to approach the grand supreme architect of ALL THINGS and dictate to Him how, why or what is true and not true or how, why or what He is to do, act, say, rule! We are clay and He is the divine potter making out of the same lump vessels for whatsoever use He fashions them to be. He is sovereign in all ways, at all times over all things.
Has our pride yielded to the Divine Testimony of scripture? Or are we in much the same way as that Buddhist priest refusing to surrender to all that is written in God’s Holy book. How have we answered the “why” question? Are we in true, lasting submission to the truth that God exists for His glory alone and NOT for the betterment, success or grandeur of man? Are we adequately humble? Or do we reserve full surrender to God and His revealed will? It is very challenging when we begin to journey into the deepest recesses of our soul and unearth what really lays there, what conclusions fashion what we think, say and do, what really dictates to us who God is to be and who we are.
God has not been unclear in any of His dealings with humanity and He is a good God. Note Moses’ reaction to God’s self-disclosure here in Exodus 34:5-8,
“The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. 6The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ 8And Moses quickly bowed his head towards the earth and worshipped.” [emphasis mine]
- Slow to anger
- Abounding in steadfast love
- Abounding in faithfulness
- Keeping steadfast love for thousands
- Forgiving iniquity and transgression
- Visiting the iniquity of the fathers on their children for many generations
And Moses bowed his head towards the earth and worshipped – a most appropriate response to God’s self-disclosure, in fact there could no other worthy response. What I want you to notice is not only what Moses did in reaction to the truth of WHO God is, but how he did it: “quickly”. Let us be humble people of like heart and mind, doing precisely the same….and let’s do it quickly.