True and sound wisdom consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.
John Calvin unlocked the door to wisdom with these words that launched the Institutes of the Christian Religion.
Wisdom means knowing what to do, and it’s required to make it in this world. Its source is most basically reduced to what we think about God and ourselves. This is true for the whole of our lives, and for tomorrow morning.
Our theology and our identity will impact our actions. And God has not left us alone to figure these out. As Calvin goes on to say, God has told us in his word both who he is and who we are, typically teaming up these truths to work together.
First, “The knowledge of ourselves not only arouses us to seek God, but also, as it were, leads us by the hand to find him” (Institutes, 37).
And then again, “Man never achieves a clear knowledge of himself unless he has first looked upon God’s face, and then descends from contemplating him to scrutinize himself” (37).
Knowing God enlightens our identity, and knowing our identity fuels our quest to know God.
This is felt no more fundamentally than in the fact that we’re worshipers. To be sure, we are a lot of things — spouses, parents, friends, children, neighbors, employees — but at the bottom of all that is our most foundational identity: worshiper. That’s some important knowledge of ourselves to carry into this new work week.
Highest Experience, Highest Identity
Worshiper as our most foundational identity makes sense when we consider the reality of our creatureliness. We were made by someone else, and we owe that Someone, as Calvin says, our entire lives. “Whatever you undertake, whatever you do, [it] ought to be ascribed to him” (42). God refers to his people as those “whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7).
In other words, God is worthy of our worship. It’s right that we “recognize his honor, and feel the worth of it and ascribe it to him in all the ways appropriate to his character” (Piper, Desiring God, 84).
Worship is gladly reflecting back to God the radiance of his worth, and it stands as the act of which no greater act can be conceived. Piper writes, “To see [God] and know him and be in his presence is the soul’s final feast. Beyond this there is no quest” (87). We don’t worship God to get anywhere else. “The highest good,” says Augustine, “is that which will leave us nothing further to seek in order to be happy, if only we make all our actions refer to it, and seek it not for the sake of something else, but for its own sake” (92). Worship is our highest experience — which we know only partially now, but will know perfectly in eternity (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Therefore, if the act of worshiping God is the most ultimate act any human could realize then the identity of worshiper must be the most ultimate identity any human could be.
Two Relevant Implications
And if that’s the case — if a worshiper of God is our most fundamental identity — then it means two crucial things that have immediate relevance.
Our minds and hearts are the most important things about us.
Worshiper of God is our foundational identity. True worship requires spirit and truth. Therefore, realizing our foundational identity depends upon our knowledge and affections. And since those are realized through the head and heart, the head and heart become the most important things about us.
Jesus tells us that true worshipers worship the Father in spirit and truth (John 4:23). Piper comments on this verse, “The two words spirit and truth correspond to the how and whom of worship” (81). We must have sincere, strong affections (spirit) rooted accurately in God’s revelation (truth).
This helps us examine our priorities. Of all the things that we’re going to invest in this week, what are we doing to increase our knowledge of God and stir our affections for him? How will this guide us in entertainment decisions? How will this lead us to manage our mornings? Steward our free time? Optimize our commute? Amplify our exercise?
Jesus is the most important person in the universe.
Worshiper of God is our foundational identity. Sin is the obstacle that forbids us from realizing this identity. Therefore, our rescue from sin is the reality for which we are most desperate. And since Jesus is the only one who brings this rescue, he is the most important person in the universe.
Jesus came to both reveal God and redeem man. This means that he showed us the object of our worship and saved us as subjects of worship. Whoever has seen Jesus, has seen the Father (John 14:9). And whoever will come to the Father, must come through Jesus (John 14:6).
This helps us to know where to focus our minds and hearts. Of all the good books out there we could read, and many we should, it’s most important that we see Jesus in the Bible. It really comes down to knowing and loving Jesus.
In the days ahead, might we come to see him more clearly? Might we love him more deeply? Might we say with Paul, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8)? — for the whole of our lives, and for tomorrow morning.