July is a great month for sailing in Maine. Watching sails appear and disappear on the horizon makes one yearn for swift winds and stiff breezes, to hoist sails, and to be propelled into open ocean with its invisible boundaries, clear horizons, distant skies, and the mysterious deep.
The forces that compel us in life are complicated and multi-factorial because we are willful, emotional, broken creatures. We are driven by certain desires, the love of power, the compulsion to possess, competitiveness and pride. But the Westminster catechism very succinctly simplifies what ancient Jewish and Christian Scriptures agree upon. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” Those should be the true winds driving human behaviors and attitudes.
Some would say God is egotistical because He created us in order to bring glory to Himself. But that is twisted thinking. God bestowed on mankind the greatest possible honor by creating us with a nature capable of godly behaviors and attitudes and by granting us the best possible life within His goodness and protection. But in our self-willed pride, we lost our righteousness, tarnished the intended God-likeness, broke our relationship with God, and have lived in turmoil ever since.
We know both intuitively and by experience what the Psalmist knew. He recognized his need for restoration and renewal because he had neither the moral ability nor moral compass to be totally upright without God’s assistance. “For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!” (Psalm 143:11) “For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me. (Psalm 31:3) He couldn’t live “rightly” without God’s power and righteousness . That is the “why” and “how” of redemption. We need restoration, and God is the only One who has the power to renew us with righteousness.
Neither our creation nor our salvation are egotistical endeavors by God. Redemption is a work of incomprehensible, loving grace and painful generosity to restore us to whom we were made to be. Because we are flawed and he is not, Jesus Christ has provided the perfect atonement for us. He can be our redeemer and our righteousness because “He is the image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:13-15). He held the glory of God intact throughout his earthly life. And redemption is “for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7).
Furthermore, “Faith does not rest on the wisdom of man but on the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:5) Faith is not simply knowledge but arises from a transformed heart that lives the Gospel with God’s help. It is manifested through learning to live reconciliation and forgiveness, graciousness and mercy, justice, generosity and honesty. The Apostle Peter understood believers to be the expression of God to the world around them and said they are “called out of darkness into his marvelous light” “to show forth the excellencies of him who called you.” (1 Peter 2:9)
Hopefully, the sustaining wind of faith fills our sails. If it does, we will head toward that mysterious deep of achieving man’s chief end by living “to the praise of his glorious grace” (Ephesians 1:6).