Why Are We Alive?  What is The Purpose of Our Lives?

This is another basic question about the universe. Why are we here? What do the various non-Christian philosophies say about the purpose of human life? To begin with, most deny there is such a thing as a purpose. Purpose implies a conscious, personal, active, involved Creator, and Existentialism, Nihilism and Humanism deny that basic assumption. A far more dangerous philosophy that is becoming very popular is the New Age Movement, which says, among other things, that our purpose is to “become one with the universe.”

Another common belief system, The Self Esteem movement, wants us to feel good about ourselves. This movement is represented by popular psychology and psychiatry (including, unfortunately, many “Christian” therapists). Self Esteem is also a foundational belief of various 12-step recovery groups, who have a religious taste to them by use of the concept of “my higher power.” As with any error, there is a grain of truth here–as creations of a Holy God, we are worthy of a certain dignity. But we are fallen; we are rebels. Without salvation through the blood atonement of Christ Jesus, we are not OK! If I help you with some sort of mental and emotional good feeling and heal your anguish about life, etc., and do nothing to bring you to the Cross for forgiveness, I have done nothing for you that will last!

What does the Bible say about the Purpose of Human Life? It teaches that the human race is a special creation of a personal, loving God … and our purpose as a race and as individuals is to glorify Him, to be conformed to the image of Christ Jesus His Son, and to live with Him forever.

The human race is a special creation of a personal, loving, God. Evolutionary “science,” on very fragmentary evidence, has concluded that our race oozed up from some ‘primordial soup’, crawled out onto the shore, eventually became apes, and then progressed to our current form. This is contrary to the teachings of Scripture (and disagrees with the hard scientific facts, too–see reading list at the end of this chapter). The first chapter of Genesis plainly teaches that God created everything ex nihilo (from nothing), that He simply spoke it into existence (God said, “let there be … and there was …”). In Genesis 1:26-28 Moses outlines God’s creation of the race, then in Genesis 2:7-25, he gives a detailed account. The race of Man was personally created by a personal God–for a purpose, for a reason. That reason is given in one of the most beautiful and profound statements in the Bible:

Revelation 4:11 “Thou Art Worthy, Oh, Lord, to receive Glory and honor, and power, for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created. (KJV)

We were created for His pleasure–simply because He wanted it that way. Well, if that is the reason we were created, what is our purpose?

The verse just quoted tells us God is worthy of Glory, so as His creatures we should glorify Him. The truth is that all of the human race will bring glory to God, but not all in the same way. Philippians 2 says (speaking of Christ),

Philippians 2:9-11 “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (KJV)

God has decreed that every knee will bow to His Son, including those under the earth, which is a Biblical reference to Hell. We were created to glorify God, and every human being will. Some will do it as they rejoice in heaven over the salvation of Christ, and some will do it as they suffer the just eternal punishment for their sins.

As believers, however, we have a special place in bringing Glory to God. We are to begin glorifying Him by our life as we live it now.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20; 10:31 “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.”… “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (NIV)

The Bible has specific instructions in many places on how to run our lives. It tells us how to run our marriage, our business affairs, our employed lives, and how to conduct ourselves in society and in the church. Our purpose in life as believers is to learn to follow Christ in such a way as to bring Glory to God. A step beyond that concept, however, is the marvelous truth of the final goal of God’s working in our lives. We are to be molded into the image of Christ.

Romans 8:28-29 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (NIV)

1 John 3:1-2 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (NIV)

It is our destiny and reward as believers to be conformed to the likeness, the image, of Christ. We won’t BE Him, as a pantheistic New Ager might say; we will never have His attributes of Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Immutability–but our actions and our countenance will be like Him.

The final part of the purpose of our existence is to Live with God forever. Oh, what a joy, to live in the presence of God eternally, to have no sin or human troubles to worry us, and to enjoy sweet fellowship with Him!

Now that we have said all this about a purpose for our lives, what are the practical implications of that purpose? How do we take this doctrine and apply it to our lives? This marvelous truth has important implications for all of life’s decisions. We cannot live as if we are independent and free to do whatever we might decide to do. If we are Christians, we don’t own ourselves.

One passage quoted earlier (1 Cor 6:19-20), said that we are “… not your own; you were bought at a price.” We are not, as an old song said, “riding the trail alone.” Paul reiterates this principle in 1 Corinthians 7:23, “You were bought at a price, do not become slaves of men.” All believers are priests (1 Pet 2:5, 9), and are to serve God in every area of their lives. In our family, God is to rule ( Eph 5:33-6:4); our work habits are to be those He wants us to have ( Eph 6:5-9). In our civic duties, we are to exhibit His rule in our conduct (1 Pet 2:13-18Rom 13:1-8). Indeed, as Paul tells the Colossians, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” (Col. 3:23)

When all of this is taken together, a balanced Christian life will emerge. We will not be either lazy or workaholics; we will have an ordered family with a loving atmosphere; we will serve God in every way. This is how life is to be lived–our life is not separated into our “private, religious life” and our “secular” life. The life of a Christian is to be one seamless tapestry, with all parts working together under the direction of the Holy Spirit, by the rule of God’s word, following God’s Son for the glory of the Triune God.

But what about when things get rough–what are the implications of this teaching in times of trial? How can God “get the glory” when His children go through trials and tribulations? There is now a movement claiming to be Christian which says that God always desires for us to be happy, prosperous, and healthy in this world. This movement, called The Word of Faith Movement, or simply The Faith Teaching, unrealistically and cruelly makes all our problems the result of lack of faith on our part. It assumes that God can do nothing without our puny personal faith. As we will learn in chapter 3, God is sovereign, that is, He rules the universe, including determining the circumstances of our lives–(Dan. 4:34-35Job 42:1-6). So, if we are in a difficult circumstance, God has caused or allowed it to take place. Trials, therefore, are part of His purpose for our lives, and we are to glorify Him in our trials.

There are several elements to this whole concept that are beyond the scope of this book, but some things you can look at to begin to understand this principle are: (a) This world is not our natural home–we are strangers and pilgrims here (Phil. 3:20Heb 11:13-16). (b) God’s chastenings are an assurance of sonship (Heb 12:5-13). (c) It is normal for the world system to hate believers; when attacked and under trial from the world, we are following in Christ’s footsteps (1 Pet 2:19-24John 15:18-6:4). (d) God can and does deliver His people from trials–but not always (Heb 11:32-39). Therefore, our proper attitude in times of trial is to be that of the “three Hebrew children.” These youths, captured by a cruel conqueror and pressed into the service of the enemy king, were faced with a choice: worship heathen idols or be fired (with real fire) Their answer is a masterpiece of theology and practical faith.

Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (NIV)

God may deliver, or it may be His pleasure not to deliver–we still serve Him, whatever the case. Christian, your life has meaning and purpose–you are to glorify God in all things.

See Appendix 3 for study questions and projects for Chapter 1.

Related Topics: Introduction to TheologyBasics for ChristiansApologetics


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