There are a fair amount of folks who call themselves Christians and they do a fair amount of goodly things in the world. But, when you get down to gears, why do Christians do stuff? What’s their ultimate aim? Their final goal?
What is Christianity all about, anyway?
Colin Marshall & Tony Payne illustrate the Bible’s answer:
“What do you think is really going on when your unbelieving friend Fred becomes a disciple of Jesus, and joins a church?
According to the world, what is happening is that for a range of personal and situational reasons, Fred is turning to religion and spirituality to fill certain needs in his life – for meaning, for belonging, for comfort, for certainty, to be the best possible version of himself, and more. The world may see this as a positive development for Fred or not, but however they evaluate it, it will be in terms of the various ways in which ‘faith’ helps people improve their lives.
According to some Christians, what is going on is not much different from the world’s description, with the exception that the God Fred is turning to really is there, and really will help Fred improve his life. That is, the key outcome of Fred becoming a Christian is a better life for Fred – more meaningful, more upright and loving, more rounded and spiritual, possibly even more successful in helping Fred to become the Fred that he was always meant to be.
According to many other Christians, this focus on Christianity improving our lives now is a bit tawdry and unspiritual. They would say what is really happening is that God is giving Fred something much better and more valuable than any life improvement he might imagine, and that is a new personal relationship with God through Jesus – a relationship that gives him salvation and peace with God now, and entry into heaven when he dies.
Now that last description is getting closer, and is in fact perfectly true. But it needs to go further. When we zoom even further out and look at what is happening to Fred with the benefit of what we have just seen in the Bible, we can say that what is going on is not just about Fred, or in fact even primarily about him. What is happening…is that God is continuing to move all of history – in this case the little fragment of human history that is Fred – toward its final goal. With the conversion of Fred, God is laying one more brick in an eternal spiritual temple founded no Christ, and glorifying to Christ. Jesus is building his church, his congregation, his assembly, his great gathering of redeemed humanity that will one day throng around him in a new heavens and earth – and he is doing it one Fred at a time.
This is why we want to make more disciples of Jesus Christ: because God’s goal for the whole world and the whole of humanity history is to glorify his beloved Son in the midst of the people he has rescued and transformed.
This must be our first and foundational conviction, because it frames and determines everything else. It reminds us that making disciples is not primarily a human activity with goals that we set. Whatever happens in Christian ministry and in church, and whatever happens in our neighborhood and families and workplaces, is part of what God is doing to move all things inexorably toward their goal and end – which is Jesus Christ.”
If you’d like to see where this is taught in the Bible, Revelation 5 will do the trick. It helpfully describes what all the created universe will be busy doing once God wraps up his plan. In other words, it cuts to straight to the final scene of God’s movie:
“And they sang a new song, saying,
‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10 and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.’
11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,
‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’
13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’
14 And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”Revelation 5:9-14
Christianity is not ultimately about improving your life, finding your purpose, or living happily. It’s not about love, people, Christians, or even this world. Christianity is about Jesus Christ being recognized, cherished, adored, and soul-satisfyingly treasured by redeemed people to the glory of God.
Although for many a sinner-rebel (like a formerly was) this final scene comes as a plot twist to our own life of self-worship, it really does make sense. How could the whole created realm be about anything else but the One who brought it into being? How could God create us for any other purpose than He? What greater gift could the infinitely beautiful and good God give us, but Himself?
Created by Him. Sustained through Him. Designed for Him.
This is what Christianity is all about.