Today’s question on the Ask Pastor John podcast is really a question for you. Yes, you! Here it is: Are you wasting your life? Right now, as I speak and you listen, are you wasting away your life? Questions don’t get more serious or sober than that. The stakes cannot be higher. To put this more specifically, are you living to make much of God? Or are you living to make much of yourself? The answer to this question divides the course of humanity like the continental divide splits the course of the rivers. It’s a question Pastor John asks frequently, and it’s one he raises in his conference message, “The Essence of the Unwasted Life,” from March 2008. Here is a clip of what he said.
There is this plant in some jungle somewhere, and it flowers. There is a little pool of poisonous water down there, and little bugs come up over the edge. And at the top, it is slippery, and they lose their footing and fall in and die. And they feed the plant. Now that is important. That is interesting. But that is not the interesting thing, ultimately.
The interesting thing, ultimately, is that there is a spider who only lives by dropping — by his little silver cord — down into this and plucking those little dead animals and eating them. Let us all bow down and worship mindless matter and natural selection. I mean, you just need to know where I am coming from.
Why the Universe Exists
When we get to the judgment seat of Mr. Dawkins and Hitchens and God says, “Now what was that you said about the way that spider came into being and the way humans came into being?” And they say, “Well, we thought it was just nothing — I mean, just forces that just kind of, you know, happened.”
And I think God is going to look at me and he is just going to laugh, and the universe is going to shake. I really cannot take it seriously. The universe exists to display the glory of God and, therefore, those who try to give an account for the universe that exists in a non-God way are not only laughable, but they are blasphemous. This is God’s story. “The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1). “Open your ears,” he is saying, “It is all over the place.” And we will give an account of whether we heard that word or saw that glory. This is not fun and games here. This is God speaking to us.
“The wasted life would be a life that isn’t shaped by the meaning of the universe: to display the glory of God.”
Now here I am. I am down in a little hotel about fifteen minutes that way. I don’t know what they call it, “Cottage Inn” or something like that. And there is a swimming pool by the ocean. That is ridiculous. Look at that. It is about the size of this stage, not quite. And I looked at the pool, and then I looked up and thought, “This is a man-pool, and that is a God-pool.” It is everywhere. There are voices everywhere. Just open your eyes and open your ears and pray for the Holy Spirit to give you a sensitivity of what the wasted life would be — namely, a life that doesn’t see it, a life that doesn’t hear it, and a life that isn’t shaped by the meaning of the universe: to display the glory of God. We are being called to join him in his own self-glorification.
Why We Exist
Now that last statement is controversial, and I need to support it for just a few minutes — this idea that the unwasted life is a life in which Paul will, by life and death, make Christ look great (Philippians 1:20), because the universe exists to display God through his Son. That is not Paul’s idea. That is God’s idea for Paul, which means it is God’s idea for the universe, which means God is very self-exalting.
If God comes to you, and you say to him, “Why do I exist?” and he says, “To make much of me,” you are hearing absolute truth. People really stumble over this truth. “You exist to magnify me. Go about it and I will hold you accountable for whether you have done it or not.”
And this is in text after text:
Isaiah 43:6 says, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.” God created you for his glory — that is, to make him look glorious. He elected Israel for his glory.
Jeremiah 13:11 also says, “‘I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me,’ declares the Lord, ‘that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory.’” He saved them from Egypt for this same reason.
And Psalm 106:7–8 says, “Our fathers . . . rebelled by the Sea, at the Red Sea. Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power.”
He rescued them from bondage in Babylon with these words: “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you . . . For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:9–11).
And he sends Jesus Christ into the world for the same reason — Romans 15:8–9: “Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness . . . in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” Christ came to earth that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
John 17:1 says, “Father, the hour has come: glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.”
And he is coming back at the end for the same reason — 2 Thessalonians 1:10: “He comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed.” He is coming to be glorified. He is coming to be marveled at.
This truth that God is constantly, unwaveringly — in all that he does — exalting his Son, magnifying his glory, is vastly more loving than if he devoted himself to help you like what you see in the mirror. If God were to make himself a means to your self-exaltation, he would be a global distraction from what would make you happy.
Love in the Bible
Do you know what love is? It is not what the world says it is. The world says, “Somebody loves me if they make much of me.” And that feels so good, it is hard not to believe. But in that relationship, you are the end and he is the means. He makes much of you. That is not what love is in the Bible. In the Bible, love labors, sacrifices, and even dies to liberate you from your bondage to the mirror so that you can delight in God forever.
You are selling your soul for a bowl of oatmeal when you want God to just meet your earthly needs and call that love. That is not love. Love is when God frees you from your love affair with yourself and frees you to enjoy making much of him forever. You were made to know and love God.
“Love labors, sacrifices, and even dies to liberate you from your bondage to the mirror so that you can delight in God forever.”
You know this is true. You stand by the seacoast. You stand by the edge of the Grand Canyon. You stand with your eye to a telescope, the Hubble telescope pictures or whatever. You stand there, and you find your soul drawn out of yourself. And for a brief moment, you are free from self-consciousness and self-absorption and it is the most full, satisfying, deep, wonderful moment — and it will be forever if God is the universe and God is the Grand Canyon and God is the ocean. That is why you were made.
God would be unloving if he did not magnify himself in your presence over and over and over. If he did not command you, “Praise me, praise me, praise me,” he would not love you. If he said, “I praise you, I praise you, I praise you,” he would satisfy that little teeny ego of yours, and you would perish, and your soul would shrink up like a peach in the back of a refrigerator. You know that is not what you are made for. You are made to know something vastly greater — namely, God. And so, he must constantly tell you that. He must constantly lift himself up, lift up his Son and say, “Make much of my Son, and he will satisfy your soul.”