What Is the Goal of Becoming a Christian?
It is my contention that we spend far too little time thinking through issues of teleology, the study of end or purpose or design. We prefer to leave these questions unexamined, and thus move through our lives less than deliberately. That said, this question comes with at least a potential danger, turning the Christian faith at best, and God at worst into a means to an end. Marva Dawn wisely described worship as a “royal waste of time.” It is royal because we are praising the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. It is a “waste of time” because such worship serves no other end, but is the ultimate end of all things.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with a question of teleology, asking, “What is man’s chief end?” The answer here answers this question as well, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” This is what we were made for. When, however, we are dead in our trespasses and sins, we are not able to ascribe to God the glory due to His name. We cannot safely even come into His presence. We are instead under His wrath and curse. All of us, by nature are children of wrath.
Jesus, however, came and lived a perfectly obedient life, and died on the cross, receiving from the Father the wrath that is due to His own. When the Holy Spirit gives our stone hearts new life, when we are born again, then we are able, indeed must, respond to this work of Christ by embracing it in faith. We repent and believe, becoming Christians, that we might glorify Him. Now, in Christ, we are not only at peace with our Creator, but we are beloved children of our heavenly Father. Now, in Christ, all our lives are lived to His glory. In eternity we will see Him as He is. We will become like Him. And we will glorify Him forever.
Despite the danger of turning the Christian faith into an end, we need to note that the catechism’s answer does not stop at “glorifying.” It speaks also of enjoying Him forever. When we are reborn, and embrace the Christian faith, we are enabled, empowered to delight in Him, even as He, because of Christ’s work now delights in us. This delighting in the tri-une God, is a good and joyful thing. It brings blessing into our lives. It is the very abundant life that Jesus came to give us. We are doing God no favors, (indeed we are failing to properly glorify Him) if we piously refuse the blessing and the joy of enjoying Him on the grounds that our happiness is beside the point.
There are, of course, a host of other secondary goals. When we come to faith we are better able to love our brothers and sisters. We are better able to serve with the church as the bride of Christ the second Adam in His work of ruling over all things, subduing all His enemies. We are better equipped, indwelt by the Spirit, to love our spouses and our children, and our neighbors and our enemies. We are about the business of bringing heaven to earth, as His will is done here as it is in heaven. In the end, however, the end is His delighting in us, and we delighting in Him. That is more than reason enough.