When we say that man’s chief end is to glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever, we are speaking of our constant and conclusive aim held in view. Our far-reaching view is to God. He is our end. Looking to that end we also keep in view our own earthly end. For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. This we must consider while we. have health and strength. The Lord had said of the nation of Israel, “Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” (Deut. 32:29). This means that we should give some thought to what we shall do and say on the occasion of our death, when we then immediately appear before God; as Job put it (Job 31:14), “What shall I do when God riseth up? And when He visiteth, what shall I answer Him?” When dying, a saint is more troubled and tempted by the devil. At such times, the’ only comfort of the gospel will alone be of use and help. From now until death, therefore, we must live “rejoicing in this, the testimony of our conscience that in simplicity of godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation (behavior) in the world” (II Cor. 1:12). At the end of life, what comfort will it be that we have been practicing the ways of the heathen, indulging in berserk lusts, in swill parties, wild revels, gorging contests, wife-swapping, and occult idolatries! “For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revelings, banquetings (carousings) , and abominable idolatries” (I Pet. 4:3). If we too long have lived contrary to the chief end for which we were created, dishonoring God, serving the devil and destroying our own souls, then in the day of judgment, what in the world will we do? But if in days gone by we have been careful to glorify God, when we come to die we can review the past with comfort, and be able to pray, “Remember now, 0 Lord, how I have walked before Thee in truth with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in Thy sight” (Isa. 38:3).
For the Christian, what is it which brings glory to God? It is worshiping and serving Him. That takes hard work. You can’t worship with a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep. Mere profession of religion without action in a work of faith is like using an air-freshener to disguise the whole city’s high mass of air pollution. The Lord is puffed and praised in flowery profession, but the spiritual atmosphere is polluted by smelly behavior. The lives of many professing Christians are a scandal to their religion. Therefore, what glorifies God is not wishes, but work. Yet so many would have God glorified who don’t work at doing so themselves. They are rather passive about it, would do it by proxy. The office-bearers represent the congregation, so let the minister do it, or let the elders and deacons do it. Their concern for God’s name may bring them to repeat ultra-piously Joshua’s words, “Lord, what wilt Thou do for Thy great name?” But you never catch them saying, as Paul, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” They are more troubled about what the Lord should do than what they should do.
This glorifying of God is the whole scope and end of our lives and conduct, of all that we have, all that we are, all that we do, and*all that we desire. God must be first, second, last and the living end. Take our common, everyday activities. The Word of God counsels us concerning them. “Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Cor. 10:31). If we do not make this our aim, our “homework,” then we slip into idolatry to offer meal-offerings and drink-offerings to the belly-god (Phil. 3:19). When we have the most on our tables, then we are the most liable to unthankfulness. If he can, the devil will bring his dish to our tables: murmuring over slender portions or mere basic staples; family quarrels; constant complaining (the complaint button controls the unleashing of a whole computer full of things to find fault with); criticizing God’s people and endless gossip. How we need to work hard at bringing glory to God in our common activities! If we do not, then the creature, not the Creator becomes our ultimate end. There is more than just hard work involved. I Corinthians 10:31 involves battle! Neglect to put this word of God into practice and we fall into atheism! So we battle against atheism. Modern atheists tell us that man’s ultimate end is his own happiness. The self-improvement shelves in the secular bookstores are full of works on egoism, individualism, and self-love. Our chief end principles and practice these books call “puritanism,” “mysticism,” “fundamentalism,” and “fanaticism.” Yet they will admit that “God” is a “good God” on the basis of how happy He keeps some of His devotees. This makes man his own end, his own idol, and makes his own interests the standard of good and evil. But if we would be truly happy, then it is most assuredly to be found in the way of obedience to God. Doing God’s will and promoting His glory is the end and aim of all holy obedience. Failure in this is to put, not the creature subservient to God, but God to the creature, so making the creature better than God and the creature even the ultimate end for God Himself. God’s goodness is then made to serve the happiness of the creature. How easy it is to become ensnared in pure humanism!
They never do glorify God who run lotteries, operate casinos, open up “adult” book stores, manage massage parlors, place on the market amulets, good luck charms, idol-images, statues of saints, rosaries, and crucifixes. Nor do loan-sharks, industrial pirates, cult quacks, comedians, stage-players, pimps, whores, homos, lesbians, and transvestites. The heathen, belonging to all this crowd, had guilds or unions for every trade and a god for every union. They glorified man. The same is true of the whole retinue of patron saints and the TV revivalists who are ostensibly protestant preachers but are crypto-Jesuits. These all rob God of His glory. Their intrusions into the field of religion are like Uzza putting his hand to the ark of the covenant. They should know that they are out of their calling and how dangerous it is for Uzzas and Uzziahs to meddle with the glory of the Almighty God of Zion and of His holy temple. A man is as his end or purpose is. He is base because he pursues base ends by base behavior. His eye is evil, so his whole body is full of darkness. He is as worldly as his worldly end. He is like Bunyan’s “Muck-raker.” He sometimes talks of heaven. All want to go to heaven, especially when they think their time on earth is about expired. But they have spent life feathering a nest about as fireproof as dry tinder. They do not seek the crown of life, but play games with life for pins and match-sticks.
Because God is God, He will be glorified by all His creatures, by His rational-moral creatures either willingly or unwillingly, either by them or upon them. God will not give His glory to another, or actually be robbed of it. For “the Lord hath made all things for Himself,” for His own end (margin), “yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Prov. 16:4). He “will be sanctified in them, and,” as well, be glorified before all the people (Lev. 10:3). Even the wrath of man, including his refusal to glorify God willingly, shall glorify Him (Psalm 76:10). God will have the glory of His grace in the day of His longsuffering and mercy. He will have the glory of His justice and of His wrath, both in everlasting hell and in the day of judgment. So either He will be glorified by us, or His glory will shine against us. If He does not receive the glory of obedience to His will, He will have the glory of His providence working all things according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:11). The saints give Him all the glory. Mere sinners are in the position of serving no other use than setting forth the glory of His vindictive justice. The saints respond obediently to the command, Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the peoples, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto His name; bring an offering, and come into His courts. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. . . Psalm 96:7-9. From this word of God you see that God cannot be glorified apart from worshiping and serving Him. This is done by faithfully attending in His courts the preaching of the Word, by receiving instruction in the catechism and Reformed confessions, by using the Bible class and the young people’s and other societies, by spiritually preparing for the worship service, by study, by discussion of the truth, and by fellowship of the saints.
God is glorified also by our offerings in the grace of giving. Do we faithfully give to the Lord as He has prospered us? (I Cor. 16:2). Do we train our children to do the same, not only by placing a quarter or a dollar in their hands before the collection plate comes around, but by having them bring an offering into His courts out of their own earnings? Smaller children earn money in odd jobs, peddling newspapers, cutting lawns, or whatever. Do they lay by in store an offering as the Lord has prospered them? The older children and young people have a regular or part-time job. They now earn more money than they ever saw before in their whole lives. This enables them to buy a car, or to save for college tuition. Do they also give to the Lord a portion of their earnings as the Lord has prospered them? Or do they assume, “Well, Dad pays the church budget figure, and that takes care of everything!”? God is glorified in our offerings, which must not be given superficially, spasmodically, and without a concern. Rather, let it be, as in every aspect of godliness, “in holiness and righteousness before God all the days of our life” (Luke 1:75).
All this means that in our aim to glorify God we will glorify His Son (John 5:23). God’s aim in all nature, redemption, and providence is to glorify His Son (John 13:31ff). We glorify the Son by more than a moral life, by a Christian life. There is more to the Christian life than that which comes out of a school of philosophy. We glorify Him by bowing to the truth, “without Me ye can do nothing”; by living in the hearty confidence of, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengtheneth me”; and by always having His interest and holy will the great end of our lives, as in, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). As a regenerated man I want to live not as my own man, but as the Lord’s. And that is how I hope to die (Rom. 14:7, 8).