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TEXT: Psalm 37:4
SUBJECT: Watson on Man's Chief End #4
Tonight, with the Lord's blessing, we'll finish our study of Thomas Watson on the Chief End of Man. Watson you surely know by now: he was a Puritan pastor and author. As for the chief end of man? It's explained in the Westminster Shorter Catechism,
What is the chief end of man?
Man's chief end is to glorify God
And to enjoy Him forever.
The chief end of man means your highest goal. Goals in life are good as long as they're kept in their place. And that place is second to the glory and enjoyment of God.
The chief end of man means this stuff is not just for pastors or missionaries or church ladies. It's for everyone! All believers-and unbelievers-ought to glorify and enjoy the Lord who made them. That's why some of you need to be saved. Not just to get out of hell-though that's important-but, mostly, so that you can glorify the Lord Who's worthy of all praise and enjoy the sweetness of His company forever.
To glorify God doesn't mean to make Him more glorious than He is. Nothing you say or do can add a drop to His infinite glory. No, what it means is make Him look good in the world. I once heard a pastor define preaching as "Bragging on Jesus". If I brag about my kids it doesn't make them good, but it makes them look good to other people. That's what we do when we glorify the Lord.
We glorify the Lord-Watson says-by appreciating Him, by worshiping Him from the heart, by loving Him more than anything else, and by cheerfully submitting to His will for our lives.
This is what we've studied so far. Now we move on to the second part of the chapter. Which is the enjoyment of God. Man's chief end is not only to glorify God, but also to enjoy Him forever.
It seems to me that Reformed Christians don't stress this as much as we ought to. We emphasize the sacrificial parts of discipleship, the self-denial, the cross-bearing, and the laboring parts of the faith, while forgetting the majestic sweetness of knowing and having fellowship with the Living and True God.
But the Bible plainly teaches this other part. Our text commands us to "Delight ourselves in the Lord". An earlier Psalm names God as the source of all happiness in this life or the next-"In Your presence is the fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forever more". Solomon who tasted everything in the world that promised happiness found them all-without God-to be "vanity".
It is right to enjoy God! To not enjoy Him or to enjoy anything more than Him is to sin and to fall way, way short of the happiness He has for you. Nothing is more right or more necessary than the enjoyment of God.
The Puritans were famous for defining things-often in too much detail. But here, I'm happy to tell you, Watson does not tell us what enjoy means. And that's good because we all know what it means.
Everyone enjoys something: good work, time off, friends, good food, books, walks on the beach, camping out, ball games, shopping, taking a nap, TV, gameboys, whatever.
Think of what you enjoy the most. Multiply that by a million, billion, trillion-by infinity, even-and you'll have some inkling of what it means to enjoy God. When you think of perfect happiness-happiness so great it hurts you to think about it-then you've only scratched the surface of joy in God.
Man's chief end isn't to tolerate God or to like His company; it's to enjoy Him more than anything you could imagine and to do it forever. The happiness He offers is so wonderful that you'll never get tired of it, but it will keeping getting better for eternity.
ENJOYING GOD NOW
Watson begins by saying we ought to enjoy the Lord now.
"It is a great matter to enjoy God's ordinances, but
to enjoy God's presence in the ordinances is that
for which a gracious heart aspires. The sweet en-
joyment of God is when we feel His Spirit cooperating
with the ordinance and distilling grace upon our hearts,
when the Spirit quickens the affections, when He revives
the heart with comfort, when He sheds His love abroad
in our hearts.Oh how sweet it is to thus enjoy God!"
The word to understand here is "ordinances". When we speak of them, we usually mean baptism and the Lord's Supper. Watson has these in mind, too, but he means much more. He has in mind all the means of grace, both public and private, things like preaching, prayer, meditation, fellowship, singing, self-examination, and so on.
These things are good in themselves. It's right to do them even when we feel nothing. But how much better it is when these things carry us into the Presence of God!
Confessing sin is never an easy thing-if you do it from the heart, I mean! But confessions are often times of great intimacy with God and immense joy! I've gone to bed feeling rotten about myself-what I've done or not done. I begin to confess my sins and before long the words come to mind, Son, your sins are forgiven".
I remember coming to church one Sunday feeling cold and dead toward the Lord. I wondered who I was to speak for God! My sermon was right, but my heart wasn't. Yet what could I do? The brother called out a hymn, and as we plodded through it, I was struck by the words,
"The Lord forsaketh not His own,
His chosen generation;
He is their refuge and their rock,
Their hope and their salvation".
It was as if God Himself told me, "You've quit Me, but I don't forsake My flock. And you've looked for happiness elsewhere this week, but I'm still your refuge, rock, hope, and salvation".
Just like that I was made right! My sins rolled off my back and my dead heart sprang to life! The sermon I so dreaded became a song!
These are my stories. I'm sure you have your own. In any event, the enjoyment of God for now comes through the means of grace. From hearing His Word in the sermon or from meditating on Him in your bed or from the love and acceptance you feel in the fellowship with His people.
This present delight in God is not manufactured by psychological techniques or marketing gimmicks of any kind. These things can counterfeit the experience, but it's a bad copy-and those who know the real thing will never be satisfied with the fake stuff.
I once talked to a young man who worked at a fast-foot restaurant. He said the night before he was handed a counterfeit twenty. I asked him how he knew it was counterfeit. He said,
"It looked like a green marker
on a sheet of binder paper!"
This is what the fast music, the pep talks, the tee-shirts, the slogans, and so on, must look like to the saints who know what real joy in Christ is!
There is such a thing as happiness in this world. The happiness is real and solid and lasting. It's found in fellowship with God-and nowhere else.
"Truly our fellowship is with the Father
and with His Son, Jesus Christ.
And these things we write to you
That your joy may be full".
Man's chief end is to enjoy God. Starting now!
Watson attaches a couple of applications to this first doctrine. They're both obvious, so I won't labor them. The first is a rebuke, aimed chiefly at unbelievers, but it applies to believers, too, at times:
"Is the enjoyment of God in this life so sweet?
If so, how wicked are they who prefer the en-
Joyment of their lusts before the enjoyment of
If God offers real happiness, He must be displeased that you would choose any other happiness. What would an interior decorator think of you if you asked his advice about your living room, but then turned him down by saying, "I think I'll go with lawn chairs instead!"
I suppose he'd be mad at you-and he sure look down on you. How could anyone choose lawn chairs to the tasteful furniture that he recommended?
Or, to use another illustration. What if you went to the finest restaurant in Paris and ordered a fine meal, but sent it back, saying, "Have you got a hamburger and fries?" In France, this would be a shocking insult! The chef would be offended that you preferred McDonald's cooking to his own!
So is God. He is very unhappy when we choose the enjoyment of other things-good things, maybe, in their own way-to the enjoyment of Himself. What do they have that He doesn't have?
The second use is an exhortation:
"Let it be our great care to enjoy God's sweet
presence in His ordinances".
He goes on to compare the ordinances with a king's court. Not everyone who mills about the court sees the king. In the same way, not everyone who reads the Bible or goes to church comes into fellowship with God.
Thus, we've got to "Take great care" about it. Don't just read the Bible, read it with the desire to have communion with Christ. Don't just say words in your prayers, talk to God. Don't just listen to the preacher, listen to God in the preacher's words.
This takes a great deal of work. It starts with a clear conscience. It takes prayer and thought and concentration. But most of all it takes want to. We mustn't be satisfied with getting through our four chapters a day or saying our prayers at night. Use the means of grace, of course, but use them for something-use them to bring you into touch with God.
Through the forgiveness and reconciliation Christ won for us on the cross, we can enjoy God now. And we ought to. That's the first part of the study.
ENJOY GOD FOREVER
The second part is "forever".
"Man's chief end is to glorify God and to
enjoy Him forever".
Enjoying God forever is another way of saying heaven. Man was not made to go to hell or even to live forever on the earth. No, the Lord's goal in creating man was to fit him for heaven. The Fall made us unfit for that world, but through Christ we are brought back to our rightful destiny.
Watson describes the joy we'll have in heaven. He says,
"It is a universal good, a good in which there
are all goods. It is a satisfying good. It is
a delicious good. It is an unspeakable good.
It is an eternal good. Thus God is the chief
Good, and the enjoyment of God forever is
The highest happiness of which the soul
This is a rich vein. Where do I start digging out the nuggets? If heaven is a universal good, then nothing good is ever lost. Every good you can think of on earth is reconfigured for heaven. Though there won't be marriage and children in heaven, the intimacy and sheer fun of family life will be there! Whatever family, friends, food, rest, work, nature, or video games give you here will be carried over and made perfect in heaven.
It is also a satisfying good. Some people have good things, but for some reason or other, they don't have the ability to enjoy them. The nest that family provides becomes a prison for some men. They feel trapped by their money or good looks or fame. But none of that in heaven. God will not only give us everything to make us happy, but He'll also rework our souls in such a way as to make us enjoy the things He provides.
A delicious good speaks for itself. Rice and beans will keep you alive. But they're not the tastiest foods in the world. The joys of heaven will also sustain you forever. But not only sustain you; they'll also please you with their variety and richness.
I'm not sure what I can say for a happiness unspeakable.
Eternal means the joys will never end, but only get better and better.
The believer is on a pilgrimage. It started in sin and misery and is now making its way through the Christian life. But this not the end of our journey. It ends in happiness, perfect happiness forever. Because it ends in God's Presence.
Do you remember the one good thing missing from heaven? It's something we ought to be thankful for now and couldn't live without. It's the sun. But why no sun in heaven? Because
"The glory of God lights it and
the Lamb is the light thereof".
THE SECOND "USES".
The chapter ends with a few more "uses". Let me just cite them with little or no comment,
"Let it be the chief end of our living to enjoy
this chief good forever.Let this be a spur
to duty.Let this comfort the godly in all
the present miseries they feel".
In short, live for heaven and hope for heaven.
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