What Are We Here For?

Excerpted From

Cultural Counterfeits

By Jen Oshman 

What Are We Here For?

Have you ever looked deep into your morning coffee and wondered, “What am I even doing here, anyway?” I certainly have. And not just into my coffee. Into textbooks, babies’ diapers, moving boxes, social media, the bathroom mirror. It’s a good question worth asking. 

Our purpose in this life is to reflect our Maker, our God in heaven—we are, after all, imago dei. Theologian and author Russell Moore says that “humanity is created to be a sign of God’s presence in a unique way.” He says we are meant to reveal a longing, to give voice to the groaning of creation (Rom. 8:22) that what we see in the material world is not all there is. Our very nature points away from ourselves and cries out there’s something more out there, something more to this life than what you see

While we all have the same purpose—to glorify our God—we are a diverse people with innumerable and unique contexts, callings, skills, and burdens. Our God is creative, and he made an immeasurable diversity of people to reflect him. The way you and I create and cultivate will not look the same, but we are each designed to bring order, beauty, and harmony to the place where God has us. That might be in your own home, on Wall Street, in politics, in overseas missions, in your cul-de-sac, or in your city. 

Wherever you are, how can you see—really see—the people and places around you and bring the good, the beautiful, and the true image of God to bear on that setting? To do so is to bring God glory. It is to create his kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven. We were made for this. 

But There’s a Problem 

Our review so far of who God is, who we are, and what we’re supposed to be doing here has been all well and good, except that you likely know we have a problem. Our design has been marred and our roles frustrated. 

Let’s fill in the rest of the story before we go on. This might feel like a theological detour at the moment, but this is the gospel, the good news for everyone, and we’re going to need it fresh on our minds when we get into the next part of the book on idolatry. 

Genesis 3 ushers in the fall, or sin. You may recall that the serpent who “was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made” (Gen. 3:1) approached Eve, along with Adam, and questioned God’s command that they not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, lest they die (Gen. 2:17). 

Implied is the serpent’s suspicion of God’s goodness. His goal was to make our first parents suspicious too. He hinted that God was holding out on Adam and Eve, that they would not die, but really live—have their eyes opened and be more like God (Gen. 3:4–5). And so they ate. 

That original sin affects us all. The harmony we once enjoyed with our Creator and his world is now broken. 

Our One and Only Hope 

How many times have you looked into a friend’s eyes, brimming with tears, pain etched into the lines on her face, and wanted so badly to have just the right words, the exact answer to what she’s going through, an explanation that everything’s going to be all right? Living in a post–Genesis 3 world means that scenario is all too common and way too familiar. 

After the fall, we are all in need of redemption. And praise God above, we have a Redeemer. As surely as sin entered the world through one man, so did redemption. Begotten of the first Adam, we all experience death and commit sin, but begotten of Jesus—the second and final Adam—we receive grace and everlasting life (Rom. 5:17). 

We look ahead with longing and joy and excitement to restoration. Christian, we must remember there is hope on the horizon. Heaven is real. We who trust Jesus will rise with him and enjoy him forever. The very reason we can look ahead to “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28) is because of what Jesus has already accomplished for you and me. 

Jesus, who is fully God, did not grasp onto all of his privileges as God, but emptied himself, left heaven, and became a man who walked on our broken, post–Genesis 3 earth (Phil. 2:6–7). As fully God and fully man, he is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He was even tempted as we are, but never sinned (Heb. 4:15). In his time on earth Jesus drew near to broken and suffering people. When he saw us, he had compassion on us, because we “were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36). He “went throughout all the cities and villages . . . proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction” (Matt. 9:35). While on earth Jesus formed deep relationships and exhibited tender care, weeping even with those who wept (John 11:35). 

And here’s the great scandal of our faith: while we were still weak, still ungodly, and carrying out our own desires as God’s enemies, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6, 8; Eph. 2:1, 3, 5). Because God is rich in mercy, and because he loves us with a great love (Eph. 2:4), God “made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). 

You and I who trust and follow Jesus are healed—forever and ever healed. My husband frequently reminds me that our biggest problem has already been forever solved. We have been reconciled to our holy, good, Creator God. And now nothing—nothing—can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:39). 

When I look into the tear-filled eyes of a friend, or when my own spill over, I look to the cross and I remember. I remember Christ’s beaten body, shed blood, great shame, and abandonment on the cross, where he took on the punishment that I deserve. 

When I remember the cross, I know I can trust Jesus because of what he has already done for me, the great lengths he has suffered for me. Truly, God is love. He is good. We can trust the God-man who took our sure destruction and gave us everlasting life instead. 

Propelled by Freedom 

When I was a nine-year-old I confessed, believed, and was saved (Rom. 10:9), but it wasn’t until almost a decade later that I really, experientially knew the truth, and the truth set me free (John 8:32). As the reality of the great exchange—my sin for Jesus’s perfection—sank into my soul, I was freed from the pressure to perform for the acceptance and love of God and others. I was freed from sin that had ensnared, freed from both pride and self-loathing, freed from fear of my future and what may or may not happen to me, freed from the fear of death and sickness and pain. 

Of course these false masters still crouch and prowl in wait (Gen. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8), and they will until I reach heaven, but they no longer enslave me. They no longer get the ultimate say. The truth has set me free. 

This freedom in Christ is the so much more we were made for. This is our eternal, already-sealed, unshakable hope: “We are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ.” You and I who follow Jesus have been “delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of the beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). It is settled. We are secure, safe, and lavishly loved. 

All that we need, we have in Christ Jesus our Lord. And that can never, ever be snatched away (John 10:28). We are free, truly free! This changes everything. 

Content taken from Cultural Counterfeits by Jen Oshman, ©2022. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.