NOTE: The item below expresses the views of the individual named as the author and does not necessarily reflect the position of the WRF as a whole.
Beloved Father, I Worship You Forever!
WRF Member Dr. D. Clair Davis
So why are we here, anyway? The Westminster Shorter Catechism says it this way, ‘man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.’ Does that mean we should first commit ourselves to give glory to our God, and then move on to enjoying him? That seems right, we tend to focus on ‘what’s in it for me,’ so it helps to give all our attention first to our God and then to feast on his great love for us.
But we still pray ’Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.’ So we begin knowing that the God who made the world, who is sovereign over everything, is always at our side as our Father! Then comes our desire that he be given all glory for he is so worthy. ‘O Lord, we know you so closely and intimately, our hearts’ desire is that your name, all that you are, be hallowed and glorified and worshipped, forever and ever.’ That fits, doesn’t it, that as we know his enduring love for us, our hearts are awakened to love him back, so much so that we desire his glory more than anything else?
So where do we begin, with our worship or with our joy? Maybe it depends. It isn’t easy to battle our own self-centeredness, our self-idolatry, as ‘isn’t it wonderful what the Lord has done in me, now I’m better than anyone else.’ Forever have God’s people struggled with ‘trust and obey.’ They know how ‘obey’ is a vital part of the package, but are worried that if they say too much about it the ‘trust only Jesus’ part will be eclipsed. So then they overdo it in the other direction and keep quiet about our battle with Satan and with our own idolatrous hearts. It can be either idolatrous legalism or indifference to the way we live, and both are so wrong.
Theologian Jonathan Edwards gave his life to understanding this, most of all in his The End for Which God Created the World. So why does God do anything? To display his own glory! For which he is worthy! So there is our clear calling, to see life the way our God does and to live that way too. That mix of God’s glory and our joy is the biggest picture of all, but we can struggle to understand how that can be.
Let’s think out our history. At the Reformation the foolish question then was, don’t we have to do our best to encourage God to forgive us? The merciful answer came, Jesus himself has done for us a lot more than we could ever have done, he obeyed his Father even to death on the cross—so don’t be confused, stop thinking it’s about trying harder, go ahead and trust Jesus for doing it all! That’s what ‘to be justified by faith’ means, to be justified and forgiven by Jesus whom you rely upon totally. Don’t try to add on to Jesus, if you do you’ll just take away from him.
Later the Methodists came along and they found in the Bible, ‘you must be born again,’ you must start over totally in your love for God. He calls you to give him your whole heart. But that can seem hard, since when we think of Methodists, we remember John Wesley and get nervous, since he never outgrew his Arminian background and that made God’s work fuzzy, since it felt like it all depends on us. We are helped when we remember George Whitefield who first got the Methodist message out there, powerfully and wonderfully—and he was a Calvinist! We’ll always rejoice in being ‘justified,’ as God forgives us our sins for the sake of Christ. That’s definitely not over and done with. The righteousness of Jesus is now our righteousness! He took on himself Father’s wrath against our sin and died in our place—what could be more amazing than that? So now there is absolutely nothing between us and our loving heavenly Father, who delights in being always with us, along with Jesus who knows our temptations because he has been there, along with Spirit who keeps on showing us our Jesus! But could some people take that to mean, chill out and sin all you want? That’s the reason why we also needed to hear ‘you need to be born again.’
That got Whitefield’s attention because of the world it came into, an ‘orthodox’ world but in which the gospel didn’t make much difference, and no one believed it should. But when serious Bible study and prayer made God’s calling clear, that we’re called to love him with all our hearts—but how could we possibly do that with the hearts we have? So we’re so blessed that the real gospel is so much larger, and so is our own calling! Don’t settle for trivial ‘religion,’ take ‘the Holy God’ seriously and reverently. It’s not about being respectfully religious, it’s about worshipping the Lord, the one who does so much more in our hearts than just help us do better. He is the Lord who loves us so much that he transforms us!
That’s where God’s election and predestination fit in, how we are so thankful for all the Lord does in our lives, so much and so powerfully, culminating in that blessed doxology: “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:33-36
That’s how our Father explains his love for us, it’s His Own Love after all. It’s his final word for why things are the way they are.
It’s easy for us to get stuck stumbling along trying to figure out God’s strange plan, why some and not others. That’s why it’s so wonderful to rest on “who has known the mind of the Lord and then to do with all our hearts, “to him be glory forever.” Do our little minds still get confused? Remember to shout out Glory!
We sing that old hymn, ‘Trust and obey, For there’s no other way, To be happy in Jesus, But to trust and obey.’ Now that’s both, solidly together. John Murray helped us, he showed us that our ‘union with Christ’ isn’t way off in the distance after we win the last battle, but right now as in Jesus we enjoy both the change of our hearts and the forgiveness of our sins, his blessed both/and. So justification and new birth together is how our Lord blesses us to live for him! How we’ve been thinking and doing has been so foolish and wrong, but he shows us his way: “Thank you Lord for your blessed forgiveness, I ask you again for that, I know you give me that again, all from the righteousness of your Beloved Son! Now here’s that hard and grand challenge you give me today, how can I do that, I’m so weak, where’s my wisdom—yes Lord, I’m a new-born, show this baby how to walk, for you!”
The Lord’s Prayer must be more right than the Shorter, don’t you think? But in our lives there always is that wondrous both/and, healing for our foolish way, then and joy in the Lord for the hard road ahead.