‘Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ (Gal 1:10).
Have you experienced the heartache of rejection because of Christ? Being a Christian does not solve all your problems. For many, it makes things harder. There is a cost, and Jesus himself says we are to count the cost just like someone wanting to build a tower or a king going to war (Luke 14:28-33).
This rejection can come from all sides. It can come from friends and family who do not know Christ. They may reject you and your message, or simply dismiss you as a fool for believing. It comes from strangers, even the wider culture which rejects anyone who does not bow down to the modern morality (or, more precisely, modern a-morality).
Rejection can even come from fellow believers. Because you disagree about how to interpret various portions of the Bible, because you have a different understanding of various topics to them, you’re looked down upon. Either you’re too close-minded, or too open-minded.
This can cause great pain – though we need to be realistic and remember how much easier we have it than others around the world! But we count the cost, and we should come to the belief that it is worth the cost to follow Jesus. It is worth the pain of rejection and heartache because of what we get at the end. Not only does Jesus promise great blessings to those who suffer and lose so much for his sake and the gospel’s (Mark 10:29-31), but we get God himself. We live for his approval, not man’s. The truth is simple: the cost is worth it. Keep going.
The first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism (WSC) is the most well-known and quoted of the entire catechism. And no wonder; it’s the question that has been asked throughout every culture and age. It provides the answer that sets us free from the uncertainty of our place in the world and declares the privilege of our existence.
WSC Q1: What is the chief end of man?
WSC A1: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.
How do we arrive at this answer? Consider the Garden in which Adam and Eve were placed. There they were to walk with God in a land full of gold and precious stones, with glorious food and enjoyable work (Gen 2:7-17). Consider the New Creation where again we will be with God, comforted by him (Rev 7:15-17). And consider the Paul’s urging in 1 Cor 10:31, ‘So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’
What a wonderful message this first question and answer provide. How encouraging that there is a purpose to life! We live in a time where God is dismissed, and therefore purpose is lost. Depression and suicide rates have increased dramatically in our culture despite our freedoms and prosperity. Why? One reason is a lack of purpose.
But despite the hopeless message of the world, the Bible continues to proclaim this hope-filled truth: we have a purpose, and it is good. It is full of joy, serving the God who made us and gave us so much. Worshipping him who made a world full of beauty and variety, rather than stale and boring. What it looks like to achieve our purpose takes the whole WSC to flesh out, but what an encouraging summary we have.
‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom 5:1).
What joy these words should give the believer! ‘We have been justified.’ No ifs or buts. It’s happened, and we can enjoy the incredible blessings that flow– in this verse it’s peace with God.
Can you believe that peace with God is even possible? Can you believe that we can have such assurance we already have it? Consider the story behind the ‘therefore’ in our verse. From 1:18 – 3:20 the sinfulness of humanity was on full display. There was no hiding from it. We rejected God, suppressed the truth he existed, though it was plain from the fact of creation. We were judged by God’s law, our mouths ‘stopped’ because there was no excuse or defence. God’s wrath was against us. There was no escape, no possibility for peace.
And then those beautiful words appear: ‘but now’ (3:21). This is a complete U-turn on a dime. Where there was once hopelessness, now there is a righteousness through Jesus Christ for all who believe – a gift of utter grace. Were there was once hostility and condemnation, there is now justification through the death of Christ, received through faith, and peace as a result.
There is nothing more to be done. Christ achieved it all at the cross, bearing our guilt and shame, dying our death, diverting the fierce wrath of God that was rightfully ours onto himself. How could we possibly add anything to something so marvellous? What else would we want to rely on? Our good works? Our baptism? Our church attendance? Surely not! Only the grace of God will do. Because of God’s grace, we have been justified. No ifs or buts. And so, we have peace with God.