by Roger McCay
26 September 2021
Sermon Passage: Revelation 5:1-14
Link to Audio Version
“Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” This is basic—the answer to question number one of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Many of you memorized it as a kid. For some this is the only catechism answer they know. It could even be that you are unfamiliar with it. Whatever the case, the statement “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever” sums up the design of our existence, according to God’s Word.
But do we? Do we live up to this concise statement of the very purpose of our life? Do we glorify God with our entire being? Do we enjoy God now? Or are we waiting for some later time or just enjoying him sometimes? If we are honest, we know we fall short. We do. Of course, those who are not in Christ, cannot live up to this standard at all. But those who are in Christ, are a new creation, the old having passed away with the new having come (2 Cor. 5:17). Our chief end is an expression of our very being in action. We are the redeemed in Christ, inheritors of the Covenant of Grace, living in the freedom of the New Covenant under the gospel, enabled by God himself to actually and truly live for his glory, while enjoying him both now (as the sanctified people of God) and into eternity (as the glorified people of God).
Considering this reality, what is another way to say “glorifying God and enjoying him?” Worship. It’s worship. We are all designed for worship. Created beings can only find enduring life fulfillment, with peace and satisfaction, in our creator. This is a universal need, which we see represented in our passage today (Rev. 5). Yet, even for Christians, though we yearn to glorify the Lord with our lives, our indwelling sin seeks to latch onto anything other than the one worthy of worship (Rom. 7). So, like I said, we know we fall short, finding ourselves, at times, distracted from the fulness of our reality in Jesus Christ, settling for empty satisfactions and glories that come to nothing.
Hence, while it is our nature to worship, we sometimes misplace our worship. Tim Keller gives a familiar example: football.
Here’s a football fan. The football fan, all week, studies the object of his adoration. He reads about it. He studies it. He studies the statistics. He talks about it. Then on Sunday he spends a great deal of time and effort to actually get in the presence of the object of his adoration. When the object of his adoration is actually presented to his senses, his whole posture changes. He praises them. He shouts. His face is aglow. What is that? That’s worship.
It is not that enjoying football is a bad thing, in fact when kept in its proper place it can be a wonderful gift to us, a gift from God. Rather, the issue is that when football, or anything for that matter (family, work, hobbies, whatever) when anything becomes “the thing” (over and above the only one who is worthy), then that thing has become an idol. And this is no small offense. Idolatry is a perversion of our very being, our very createdness. It is out of harmony with reality, an empty delusion. It is theft, stealing from our Lord what is his alone. And for God’s people, it is unfaithfulness—the bride of Christ cheating on the bridegroom. Nothing good comes from idolatry.
In our passage today, in the throne room of heaven with the court in session, the Father extends his hand with the scroll upon it in v. 1. The scene has the sense of constant worship, as an undertone then bursting forth. Worship is swirling around.
Then, with a sense of dramatic anticipation, the mighty angel’s voice booms forth, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” Reacting to the search of all creation, which finds none worthy to open the scroll or to look into it, John weeps. Even though John knew Jesus intimately and his status as Lord (Rev. 1-3, with Jesus having just opened the door to heaven for him) … even so, John weeps.
Why did he weep? Well, John knew Jesus. It’s not that, all of a sudden, he was bereft of his knowledge of the gospel and Jesus’ ministry and status. And put yourself in his shoes. John knew that due to mankind’s failure (our sin), if the elect were to be redeemed, it required Jesus (who alone was worthy) to become the sacrifice. John was there at the cross. He saw Jesus tortured and his horrible death, the perfectly righteous man, who was God, murdered at the instigation of the Jews, his own people, who should have known better. Jesus was John’s best friend. And their people had gone totally apostate, killing their Messiah and fornicating with Rome. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests cried, rejecting their true king (John 19:15).