God gave us a garden, but requires from us a City
I wrote this letter for Homer Smith, who helped me develop Telos: the point of life on earth.
Like most Christian people, you know you’re supposed to give God glory. We have talked about this issue at length—in satellite groups, during church services, at barbecues—but the conversation inevitably rolls around to the same quandary: How do we give God glory?
From the Eden stories, we know our work is meant to bring God glory until that glory covers the earth. This global glorification occurs as the boundaries of Eden are expanded and life’s circumstances become increasingly on earth as-they-are-in-heaven. The more good works we do, the more other people will see those noble efforts and glorify God.
Reading through the Bible gives us a massive overview of God’s long-term plans for divine-human cooperation. The end of Revelation reveals that the ultimate goal of God with humanity is a heavenly garden-city. God gave us a garden, but requires from us a city. The city is our gift to God, proof that we have done what he intended.
The Christian vision of the future isn’t about us leaving earth to go to heaven; it’s about heaven interpenetrating earth in New Creation. Our lives are fundamentally shaped by this future—you know this, as it’s the basis for our teaching at Westwinds. We have a forward-looking faith, even while simultaneously having an historical faith. We need to continue along the trajectory, first begun in the garden, carried on through the prophets, locked in by Jesus, honed by the apostles, and carried forward by the Holy Spirit in anticipation of God’s glorified future.
When we do the things God wants us to do and live the way God designed us to live, not only do we give him glory, but his glory spills over onto us. There is a residual benefit for obedience, stewardship, and creativity. We experience abundance and prosperity as life’s conditions, relationships, and holism are improved.
In Hebrew the word that describes this good life is shalom. We previously defined shalom as “peace and undifferentiated wholeness,” but the word can also be translated “blessing.” This doesn’t mean happiness, per se, but happiness is included in the idea. Blessing is more comprehensive than happiness, less constrained by circumstances. Blessing is something we receive from God and cannot create for ourselves. It’s what occurs when God is at work both in and through our lives. As we experience blessing, God gets even more glory by virtue of our praise.
I know we’ve talked about lots of foreign words, but there’s one additional word that bears some examination here. The word is telos, and it is defined as “the end to which all things relate, the aim, or purpose.” 1 Corinthians 10.31 gives us a clear picture of God’s telos for the world. “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
The telos is glory.
Telos can be conceptualized in two ways. One way is filling a coffee cup all the way to the brim so it spills over. The other involves raising up a bull from infancy to adulthood so it’s mature enough to be a sacrifice.
The goal of the Christian life is to be filled to overflowing with the glory of God, which only comes when we achieve enough maturity to offer our lives as living sacrifices.
So, how do we give God glory? Through the infilling of the Spirit, through maturation, and through sacrifice.
Fill up your life so you can give it away.
 Genesis 1.26-31.
 Revelation 21.
 Romans 12.1.