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What Does It Mean to Glorify God? [7-30-23]


July 30, 2023

“What Does it Mean to Glorify God?”


We are called to praise God. Every Sunday, we glorify God in our worship. Something would seem out of place if a specific time weren’t set aside each week to give God glory and honor and praise.


First, here’s what Paul says in Philippians 1:12-26:

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.


And then we are going to loosely connect that with what is one of my favorite passages, Philippians 4:4-9:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me - practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.


Here's the first thing you might want to write down:

GOD CREATED THE WORLD FOR HIS OWN PRAISE.


Everything hinges on that. How we see the world and how we function in the world is grounded in that understanding of God.


Here is the first question of the historic and foundational Westminster Confession of Faith:

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.


Key passages in support of the primacy of glorifying God include:

All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.

  • Psalm 86:9


For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

  • Romans 11:36


The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

  • Psalm 16:5-11


Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.

  • Isaiah 12:2


God’s grace is displayed perfectly in the death of Jesus Christ. The primary purpose of all creation is to praise God for this gift. In other words, God created the world for his own praise…for His glory.


Here’s why that’s elemental to our lives. It is a worldview that grounds us in eternal truth. It defines for us our earthly purpose.


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was a Russian writer and Soviet dissident. He was born into a family that defied the Soviet anti-religious campaign in the 1920s and remained devout members of the Russian Orthodox Church. However, Solzhenitsyn lost his faith in Christianity, became an atheist, and embraced Marxism - Leninism. While serving as a captain in the Red Army during World War II, Solzhenitsyn was arrested by the secret police and sentenced to eight years in the Gulag and then internal exile for criticizing Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in a private letter. As a result of his experience in prison and the camps, he gradually became a philosophically minded Eastern Orthodox Christian.


Here is one of his shortest and sweetest observations:

“MEN HAVE FORGOTTEN GOD; THAT’S WHY ALL THIS HAS HAPPENED.”


Belief in and desire to glorify God in Biblically described ways keeps us in our best reflection of the image of God in which we were created. When we lose our grip on the glory of God, all areas of life go into decline. Narcissism increases. Fear grows…we’ve certainly seen the effects of that in the past several years. Our culture becomes more course. Respect for life is diminished. And overall contentment in life is negatively impacted.


As we explore the glory of God, we’re now going to listen to five comments by people who stumbled over the glory of God. They are, in no particular order:

  • Oprah Winfrey {What would deep spiritual insight be without Oprah Winfrey?}.

  • Brad Pitt {You probably know who he is}.

  • A young C.S. Lewis.

  • Erik Reece {Author and English instructor, University of Kentucky}.

  • Michael Prowse {Columnist for The Financial Times of London}.

It’s quite a diverse group of thinkers and opinion makers. They all stumble over God’s holiness, or, as they see it, God’s self-promotion.


Oprah Winfrey walked away from Reformed Christianity when she was in her late 20s because of the Biblical teaching that God is jealous. Apparently, it bothered her that God and no one else gets our highest allegiance and affection. It didn’t sound very loving to her.


Brad Pitt turned away from his childhood faith because, as he said, “If you have to say that I’m the best…It seemed to be about ego.”


C.S. Lewis, before he became a Christian, complained that God’s demand to be praised sounded like “a vain woman who wants compliments.”


Erik Reece rejected the Jesus of the Gospels because only an egomaniac would demand that we love him more than we love our parents and children.


Michael Prowse turned away from God because only “tyrants, puffed up with pride, crave adulation.”


Back to Question One of the Westminster Confession. It’s problematic for some people that God created the world for His own praise. They see it as unloving and unkind. Interesting conclusion.


This kind of obtuseness leads us back to Philippians 1:20. Remember, Paul wrote, “As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.” When Paul declares his desire for Christ to be honored in his body, he uses a word, megalunthesetai, which is literally translated, “to make or declare great.” How we live our lives…our courage, our grit, our kindness, our generosity, our love, our gentleness, our happiness, our perseverance, our worship…all these things glorify God because they show how He works in the lives of poor, ordinary people like you and like me.


Think about it this way. God’s glory shines in your happiness. God’s glory shines in your struggles, as your perseverance reflects your trust in Him. As well as all these other things. God is the source of all of these, and many more, wonderful things in our lives. God is the greatest treasure in the world. We treasure Him about all others. And that’s why we glorify Him. That’s why glorifying Him is the most satisfying gift He could give us, because God has given us every good reason to glorify Him. We glorify God because He has given us everlasting enjoyment. As Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”


That is why God calls us to treasure Him above all others.


Here are the theologically correct responses to the five objections to God’s call to glorify Him:

  • Oprah, if God were not jealous for all your affections, He would be indifferent to your final misery.

  • No, Mr. Pitt, if God didn’t demand that you see Him as the best, He wouldn’t care about your supreme happiness.

  • No, C.S. Lewis, God is not vain in demanding your praise. This is His highest virtue, and your highest joy.

  • No, Erik Reece, if Jesus didn’t lay claim on greater love than your children do, he would be turning your heart over to what cannot satisfy forever.

  • No, Michael Prowse, God does not crave your adulation. He invites you to give it as your highest pleasure.


Here’s something else you might want to write down. I read this once from John Piper:

GOD IS MOST GLORIFIED IN YOU WHEN YOU ARE MOST SATISFIED IN HIM.


Why does God pursue His own glory? 1 John 4:7-11 is our first clue:

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so

loved us, we also ought to love one another.

God’s love provided the way for us to live eternally in His presence. What joy there is, then, in glorifying God. In Christ, we will live eternally with Him. Of course God would command we give Him and Him alone all our honor and glory and praise. It’s in His perfect love that God commands the utmost of our praise and honor and glory. Anything less would diminish what He has done for us in Jesus Christ.


C.S. Lewis – the better, sanctified, older, more mature C.S. Lewis, wrote about praising God in his book, “Reflections on the Psalms”:

The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had noticed how most often the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least.

I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever

they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.


We will carry on from there next week. Until then, a major point to ponder.

God’s relentless command that we glorify Him and treasure Him above all others is a command that we settle for nothing less than our complete joy in Him. Praise is not just an expression. It is the consummation of our joy in what is supremely enjoyable…that is, God. That is something unbelievers will never understand. As we’ve already seen in Psalm 16:11, “In his presence is fullness of joy; at his right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

One last thing to write down:

IN DEMANDING OUR PRAISE, GOD IS DEMANDING THE

COMPLETION OF OUR PLEASURE.

God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.


Until next week:

SOLI DEO GLORIA…

To the Glory of God Alone









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