The third question of the New City Catechism asks, “How and why did God create us?” This is a deep question that many of us ask of ourselves at one point or another in our lives. This question usually comes up either in times of spiritual depression or in times when our faith is lukewarm. It is tempting to ask, “What is the point? Why am I even here? What is my purpose on earth?” How and why did God create us? What an important question to answer!
This question also comes up in different forms in other areas of life. For example, when we fall into a lull in our faith we may ask why it is so important for us to go to church, teach Sunday School, or volunteer in children’s ministry each week. In the work place we can become complacent and ask if what we are doing is really all that important or if we are wasting our time. If we are in school it can become cumbersome and tempting to question why we are spending so much time studying and reading. I have recently experienced this very thing with regard to a New Year’s resolution I made.
This morning as I was walking on a treadmill, nearing the point of exhaustion, I asked myself a similar question. Why am I even doing this? Sure, the obvious answer is that I am exercising in order to lose weight. But as I was walking I was tempted to convince myself that it was useless because eventually I would gain the weight back or it would take me too long to lose the weight and I would lose hope. My body will fizzle out anyway and my health will eventually deteriorate, so why bother getting in shape now. Exercise and diet are not enough for me, if the results are merely finite and temporal. Hopelessness is attached to earthly gain.
I was quickly reminded though of a few biblical texts that changed my thinking. My body is not merely mine, but it is the Lord’s and it is meant for the Lord and the Lord for my body (1 Cor. 6:13). Also, it is the immoral person who “sins against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). So, to overindulge in food and totally neglect some form of bodily exercise (if possible) is unthinkable for a Christian. But why is it immoral to sin against your own body? And why do our bodies belong to the Lord?
Firstly, because we were created. The creation belongs to the Creator–and even more so to the Creator-Redeemer. But the primary reason we should honor our bodies through healthy eating, exercise, and abstinence from unhealthy habits is rooted in the purpose of our bodies and even more deeply in the purpose we were created and recreated. The gospel is the ground for the way we treat our bodies.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, or you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. –1 Corinthians 6:19-20
That conclusion is so important for us today. Because of the gospel, do not sin against your own body, but rather “glorify God in your body.” So, the hope I found on that treadmill to continue pushing and the hope I found in eating lighter and healthier is in the gospel. The weight-loss journey I am on this year is what I am calling “gospel-centered exercise and dieting.” When I despair and want to call it quits, cancel my gym membership, and grill cheeseburgers, I will not think of improved health or physical shape for my motivation (as motivating as they are).
Instead, I will find motivation in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. My body is no longer my own, in the sense that I submit to the will of God for my body over and against the sinful desires I have for my body. So, I will glorify God in my body. This is the ultimate reason for exercise and dieting.
So, if you have resolved this year to quit smoking, stop drinking, lose weight, or even improve your relationships, keep trusting in the one ultimate hope that will keep you going–the glory of God. Glorify God in all of your resolutions. And know that this purpose is grounded in the gospel. Your purpose in life is not to live for yourself or your own glory. It is in living for the glory of Another.
God created us male and female in his own image to know him, love him, live with him, and glorify him. And it is right that we who were created by God should live to his glory (New City Catechism, Q/A #3).
And what does it mean to glorify God? Simply, I believe to glorify God is to enjoy obeying God in Christ over and against obeying our own sinful passions. God is glorified through our joyful obedience to him and our glad trust in Christ when we fall. So how do I glorify God in my body? By rejoicing in obeying God according to my body, fighting sinful passions, and showing obedience to God as being supreme over disobedience to him. Pray for the grace necessary to glorify God in every area of your life.
In all of life, not just at church or work or on the treadmill, the purpose of man is to glorify God. In our fallen state we are distorted and unable to fulfill this purpose. But praise God that in his great grace and miraculous mercy, he sent Christ Jesus to live and die and rise for us so that we might be made new in him. And as a result, we can fulfill the grandest and most joyous purposes of all, to glorify God in all of life.
[I]f anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. –2 Corinthians 5:17-18
The words of J.C. Ryle sum up this post perfectly:
The glory of God is the first thing that God’s children should desire…It is the purpose for which the world was created. It is the end for which the saints are called and converted.