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Founders Journal · Spring 2004 · pp. 1-10

All to the Glory of God

Tom Ascol

What comes to your mind when you think of the glory of God? His great works? His excellencies and perfections? His revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ? Certainly, God’s glory is displayed in these ways. But that is not all that the Bible means when it speaks of the glory of God.

The Old Testament word for “glory” comes from the Hebrew word for weight, or heaviness. The idea behind it suggests substance and importance. For example, when Joseph finally revealed himself to his brothers in Egypt, he instructed them, “So you shall tell my father of all my glory in Egypt, and of all that you have seen; and you shall hurry and bring my father down here.” In other words, he wanted his greatness, his privileged position and exalted status and power, to be reported to Jacob.

In the New Testament, the word “glory” conveys the same idea. A man’s glory is his good reputation. It is that about him which is praiseworthy. Jesus uses the word this way in Matthew 6:2, “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” These people made a production of their giving so that the greatness of their generosity would be observed by many people.

So when the Bible speaks of the glory of God it is referring to His worth and honor and greatness. Or, when this word is used of God, we could say that His majesty or supremacy is in view.

All of creation has as its goal and purpose the glory of God. He created everything for His own glory. Everything that exists has its existence from God and for God. Romans 11:36 says, “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”

John Calvin was correct when he said that creation is the theater of God’s glory. [1] Because this is true, we exist for the glory of God. And just as the inanimate creation has been called to glorify God, so have we. The inanimate creation and the lower animate creatures, bring glory to God simply by being what God created them to be. As Psalm 19:1 teaches, by virtue of their mere existence the heavens declare the glory of God.

But how do we who are His image-bearers glorify Him? Do we fulfill our responsibility to glorify God simply by staying alive? No. People are called to glorify God actively and intentionally.

What is involved in this? What does it mean for us to glorify God? In what activities can we engage to glorify God? Bring this question up to your Sunday school class next week. “What kinds of things can we do to glorify God?”

Glorify God in All Things

You will probably will get answers like, “worship,” “witness,” “acts of kindness and mercy,” etc. While these are certainly true, they are too narrow. God calls us to glorify Him in all that we do. “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). The Apostle Paul calls us to consider our responsibility glorify God in all that we do—not just in the “spiritual” activities of life.

There are two main focal points in this verse: our doing and God’s glory. The latter is to be the goal of the former. All of our doing is to be with a view to God’s glory. As creatures designed by God and for God we are obligated to bring glory to Him

This is taught many times by direct commands. For example, Psalm 22:23 says, “You that fear the Lord, praise Him! All you descendents of Jacob, glorify Him and fear Him all you offspring of Israel.” The same call is made in Psalm 29:1–2, Give unto the Lord, O you mighty ones, Give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

The Bible also instructs us on how and when we are to give glory to God. We are to glorify Him: in our inner lives and in our bodies—“For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20); with our praise—“Whoever offers praise glorifies Me;” (Psalm 50:23); through our works and daily life—“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16); in our suffering—“Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:16); even in our death, as we learn from John’s commentary about the Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s death—“This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God (John 21:19).

Christians are to glorify God in everything we do. That is to be our purpose and our goal. Well, what does it mean, exactly? What is the Bible really talking about when it says, “glorify God?”

Two Ways to Glorify

There are two ways to glorify or to give glory to something or someone. The first is by making that thing or person glorious; to impart or confer glory so as to make it (or her or him) glorious in ways that it otherwise would not be.

God has done this in the way that He has created mankind. “What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor” (Psalm 8:4-5). God’s people can make His praise glorious—“Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. Say to God, “How awesome are Your works! Through the greatness of Your power Your enemies shall submit themselves to You” (Psalm 66:1-3). We can improve our worship to make it more glorious than before.

But we cannot make God more glorious than He already is and always has been. So when the Bible calls us to give glory to God it is not suggesting that we can in any way add glory to Him. He is already infinitely glorious within Himself and nothing we can do can increase His inherent worth and supremacy. He is God—the God of creation … and the God of providence…and the God of redemption…(who gave us Jesus Christ!). He is inherently all-glorious! No creature can ever do anything to add to His glory.

But there is a second way to give glory or glorify someone or something. That is by acknowledging, declaring and valuing the glory that is there. It is magnifying glory that is already possessed. This is what the heavens do. They “declare the glory of the Lord” (Ps. 19:1). This is what we are called on to do when the Scripture admonishes us to glorify God. It is what Paul has in mind in 1 Corinthians 10:31 when he instructs us to do everything to the glory of God. The responsibility that we are given is to declare, to make known, to reflect, to display the glory of God that He already and at all times possesses.

This is what the scripture means when it speaks of “magnifying the Lord.” Oh, magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together (Psalm 34:3). I will praise the name of God with a song, And will magnify Him with thanksgiving (Psalm 69:30). Mary sang, “My soul magnifies the Lord” (Luke 1:46). She was glorifying God—declaring His greatness and power and ascribing honor to Him.

John Piper has helped me think clearly about this by distinguishing between the magnification of a microscope versus the magnification of a telescope. He explains:

God’s goal at every stage of creation and salvation is to magnify His glory. You can magnify with a microscope or with a telescope. A microscope magnifies by making tiny things look bigger than they are. A telescope magnifies by making gigantic things (like stars), which look tiny, appear more as they really are. God created the universe to magnify His glory the way a telescope magnifies stars. Everything He does in our salvation is designed to magnify the glory of His grace like this. [2]

God is infinitely great and glorious, but often His glory is not properly seen and declared. Of all of His creatures, we who have been made in His image are most responsible to make His glory known. And of all of His image bearers, we who have experienced His saving grace in Jesus Christ have the greatest opportunity and obligation to bring Him glory.

Sin Is a Rejection of God’s Glory

All of this is what makes sin so hateful and heinous, as Paul describes in Romans 1. As he says in verse 21, “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” They knew the glorious God but rejected that knowledge, choosing to follow empty thoughts and foolish desires. Rather than glorifying Him as God—by aligning their thinking and affections and living with the truth and reality of all that He is—they became fools, choosing to believe lies rather than the truth and exchanging the worship of God for the worship of creation (v. 25).

People choose to sin because in those moments they believe lies rather than truth. They do not believe in His presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11), they do not believe that the law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul, or that His statutes are right, rejoicing the heart, or that His judgments are true and righteous altogether and are therefore more valuable than much fine gold and sweeter honey. Nor do they believe that in keeping God’s commandments there is great reward (Psalm 19:7-11). Otherwise, they would not choose to sin.

Instead, at the moment of giving into temptation a person is convinced that the way of disobedience to God is best. “You will not surely die,” the devil said to Eve, and he has been using the same lying tactics ever since. “God’s ways are not good for you. You are the exception. Your situation is unique. If you expect to have any pleasure, any relief, any joy, then you must take this course of action.” In those moments of conscious sin, a person believes lies, rejects truth and fails to glorify God as God.

This is what makes the first question and answer of the Shorter Catechism so profoundly wise: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Our ultimate purpose is to bring glory to God and joy to ourselves in Him forever. According to 1 Corinthians 10:31 we are to do that in all things.

Delighting in God’s Glory

So, how do we actively engage ourselves in glorifying God? We do it by showing the worth and value of the Lord by the way that we live. Our talk, our relationships, our choices and our desires must all be shaped by a genuine delight in God above all things.

For this to happen we must see and appreciate the infinite worth of all that God is for us and does for us. The Christian life is not a charade. It is not a call to pretend to be pious by saying and doing the right things. It is a call to see and believe the truth and to order our lives accordingly.

A newly engaged woman does not have to pretend to be excited about her fiancé. Her conversation and choice of how to spend her time will be influenced by her delight in him. Sometimes she may go overboard in her expressions of admiration of him, but it is not fake, or something that she does simply because it is her duty or is expected. She is speaking out of the overflow of a heart that has been joyfully captured by a man she desires to spend the rest of her life with.

In a similar way a Christian will glorify God to the extent that he is overwhelmed by the greatness and glory of God. And where is the greatness of God’s glory most clearly revealed? In the person and work of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle John put it like this: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The Apostle Paul saw it the same way. “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Paul was mesmerized by the glory of God that was revealed in Jesus Christ. All the things that he once boasted in, that he had judged to be of great worth, he came to regard as worthless in comparison to Jesus Christ. “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:7-9).

Paul saw something in Jesus Christ, something that made him willing to give up everything in order to know Him. He saw that Jesus is more valuable than money or education or health or ease or fame or fortune or reputation. And because he saw this, he did not think himself shortchanged in any way by gaining Christ and losing everything else.

The mid-twentieth century martyr, Jim Elliot, was thinking the same thing when he wrote, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.” [3]

In our self-centered, entertainment driven, modern American culture we desperately need to recover this vision of the greatness and glory of God in Jesus Christ. As we do, and as we contemplate what it means to know God through Christ, we will inevitably begin pursuing His glory by making it our aim to demonstrate His great worth in every area of our lives.

This is what makes Eric Liddel’s story so compelling. In the 1924 Olympics, he was willing to give up an opportunity for a gold medal—something that he had trained diligently for and desired for years—because He valued God’s honor more than his own reputation. When he refused to compete on the Lord’s Day because it would violate the fourth commandment, his team members and many of his friends thought he was crazy. But he was firmly committed to living for the glory of God and demonstrated the greatness of God by his refusal to break His law, even at great cost. An Olympic gold medal was not worth violating the will of His great and glorious God.

Glorifying God in Mundane Things

But it is not just in big things that we are to seek God’s glory. Even in mundane, day-to-day things we are consciously to show how glorious He is. That is the reason Paul puts it like he does in 1 Corinthians 10:31. He writes, “whether you eat or drink….” What is more mundane that eating? We eat as a matter of course. It is a daily routine.

The point is this: we are to glorify God not only by going to church, or reading the Bible, or praying and praising His Name—all of these things are good and can glorify Him. But God calls us to glorify Him in simple things, like drinking a glass of water; eating a sandwich; taking a nap!

How? By eating and drinking and napping not only to satisfy our hunger and thirst and weariness, but with other thoughts and goals in mind. We should enjoy the benefits of life with thanksgiving to God recognizing that they are His provisions to us. We are to remember that God is more important than food and drink and sleep. We should desire to use our strength and life (which food and drink and rest supplies) for His honor.

We learn from 1 Corinthians 10:31 that it is possible to eat and drink to God’s glory. In fact, it says that lots of other things can be done to God’s glory, as well. “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Schoolwork, business, driving your car, sports—all these and more are included.

For the last eight years I have coached a Home School girls’ basketball team. Among the many lessons that this experience has taught me is that if a Christian is going to play basketball, then he or she must do it for the glory of God. There really is no option.

After my first two years on the coach’s bench, I began to figure this out. Granted, when you are not winning many games, the incentive to think of reasons to keep playing is much higher than would otherwise be the case! Regardless, as I began to apply 1 Corinthians 10:31 to girls’ varsity basketball, I challenged the girls to play “basketball to the glory of God.” That became our team motto.

In pursuit of this goal I have encouraged our team and their parents to remember that basketball is not the most important thing in life but that God is. As they practice and play they should thank God for the opportunity to participate and desire to use whatever experiences and opportunities basketball provides to demonstrate the worth and supremacy of God.

In this way basketball can serve as a microcosm of life. The hard work, successes, failures, injustices, disappointments, accomplishments and joys all provide opportunity to prove and magnify the superiority of Jesus Christ to sports.

Two years ago our team attended a rally sponsored by our Christian School league to kickoff the state tournament. The young fundamentalist minister who preached made the comment, “You can’t serve God by playing basketball; God isn’t interested in your basketball!” The girls turned to me with looks of disbelief and horror. They understood far better than the preacher that you must be able to play basketball to the glory of God. Otherwise, you better not play. Do you see how radically God-centered our lives are supposed to be? God is to be in all our thoughts, Every moment of our lives we live coram Deo, before the face of God—the God who is infinitely glorious and more valuable than life itself.

This vision of life, this worldview, sets us free to enjoy fully the wonderful gifts that God provides us without becoming idolaters, a sin to which we are prone. How does a believer fall into this sin? By placing greater value the gift than we do the Giver.

How often has the creature stolen the heart from its lawful Sovereign! That heart that was once so simply and so supremely the Lord’s, those affections that clung to Him with such purity and power of grasp, have now been transferred to another and an inferior object; the piece of clay that God had given but to deepen the obligation, and heighten the soul’s love to Himself, has been molded into an idol, before which the heart pours its daily incense. The flower that He has caused to spring forth but to endear His own beauty, and make His own name more fragrant, has supplanted the “Rose of Sharon” in the bosom. Is it thus that we abuse our mercies? Is it thus that we convert our blessings into poisons, that we allow the things that were sent to endear the heart of our God, and to make the cross, through which they came, more precious, to allure our affections from their holy and blessed center? Fools that we are, to love the creature more than the Creator! [4]

Love your wife, but love her less than the God who gave her to you. Enjoy your wealth, but far less than the God who placed it in your hand. Delight yourself in your children, but not more than you delight in the Lord who entrusted them to your care. Work hard to develop huge, glorious thoughts of God—thoughts that are commensurate with the revelation of His glory in Jesus Christ. Work hard to see what is there. And be stunned by it. Be overwhelmed by the greatness and grace of the God who did not spare His own Son but has delivered Him up for you and has promised that with Him, He will also give to you everything you need. Then love and delight yourself in Him supremely.

Conclusion

How do we show the value and worth of God in all that we do? I have two responses to that question to make in closing.

First, we demonstrate the greatness of God not primarily by doing but primarily by receiving. Charles Spurgeon said, “We shall bring our Lord most glory if we get from Him much grace. If I have much faith, so that I can take God at His Word…I shall greatly honor my Lord and King.” [5]

This is what God says in Psalm 50:15, “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” Do you see the Lord’s point here? If God is a glorious deliverer, then we glorify Him when we are joyfully delivered!

The Psalmist also expressed this in Psalm 116:12-13. After recounting several of the blessings that he has experienced from the hand of the Lord, he asks, “What shall I render to the LORD For all His benefits toward me?” And his first answer might surprise us if we are not thinking carefully about how a great Savior God is glorified: “I will take up the cup of salvation, And call upon the name of the LORD.” If God is glorified in saving, then we glorify Him by being saved.

Several years ago a number of French chefs were brought to Naples, Florida to help raise money for the local art league. Their sponsors arranged for them to prepare exquisite meals in expensive homes and then sold tickets for the meals to art patrons. Suppose you were given one of those tickets and out of joy and gratitude you wanted to show your deep appreciation by honoring the chef. How would you do it? What would be the best way to honor a professional chef who came all the way from France to prepare a meal for you? Would you show up for dinner with a casserole you had prepared, “just a little something to show your appreciation?” Hardly! Such a gesture would be an insult. A chef takes pride in his cooking. You honor him not by adding your dish to his, but by eating. He will be glorified as you enjoy and make much over the meal!

In the same way we glorify our gracious, giving, loving God by receiving, by being loved and by rejoicing in all that He has provided for us in Jesus Christ. Living by faith—trusting Christ in all that we do; believing what God’s Word says even when it may not feel true—that is what is necessary to show the infinite worth of God in the everyday activities of life.

A second way that we can show the value and worth of God in all that we do is by recognizing the relationship between our joy and God’s glory. Consider again to the answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” It is important to note that the Westminster Divines phrased the question in the singular: What is the chief “end”—only one end or purpose is ultimate for our existence. And so the answer should not be seen as two things but as one thing: “glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.”

Glorifying and enjoying God are two sides of the same coin. They are two ways of describing the same activity. John Piper has made this clear by tweaking the answer through substituting a preposition for the conjunction: man’s chief end is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. This slight grammatical change simply highlights an important point that both the catechism and the Bible teach: God’s glory is bound up in His people’s welfare.

CS Lewis saw this, and it caused him to write: “It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can.” [6] Now that may sound very strange to many serious Christians today. After all, doesn’t Jesus tell us that we are to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him? How can a believer pursue his own joy while taking seriously the call to self-denial?

Lewis insightfully addressed this question in a sermon entitled, “The Weight of Glory.”

The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased. [7]

Self-denial is never an end in itself. It is always for a greater good. Jesus calls His followers to deny themselves lesser pleasures so that we might pursue and experience the greatest pleasure of knowing and living with Him.

And it is as we do this—as we intensify our desires for pleasures in Jesus Christ and pursue those pleasures by fighting hard to believe all that God has promised to us in Him, that we magnify His worth and glory to ourselves, our loved ones, the watching world, and the unseen powers and principalities all around us.

To understand this and to approach life in Christ this way will bring three beneficial consequences to us. First, it diminishes the enticing power of sin in our lives. Second, it cuts the ground out from under self-pity and, third, it eliminates boasting.

The deceitfulness of sin must not be underestimated. It never delivers all that it promises. How can we find strength to glorify God by resisting the tempting pleasures of sin? By screwing up our wills simply to deny ourselves pleasure? No! We will find such strength by going hard after greater pleasures that are offered to us in Jesus Christ. Psalm 16:11 says, “You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 36:8 says that God has a “river of pleasures” from which He draws deep, life-giving joy by which He provides refreshment for all His saints. Go hard after those pleasures! In doing so you will magnify the glory of God in your life.

If you develop a taste for T-bone steaks you will not be so easily enticed by fast food hamburgers. Why settle for the junk food of worldly pleasures when exquisite meals of God’s grace are available to you in Jesus Christ?

This way of thinking also destroys the basis of self-pity. Does the Olympic athlete feel sorry for himself because he has missed out on lazy mornings and extra helpings of food and desserts at meals? No! Did Paul look at all he gave up and say, “poor me!” Hardly! Why not? Because in both cases all that they gave up—that they denied themselves—could not begin to compare to the prize on which they were focusing. No gold medalist ever thought himself worthy of pity because of the rigors of his training.

Pursuing your joy in God’s glory also stifles boasting. What is there to brag about if you deny yourself lesser joys for a greater joy? Who can boast about how much he has given up when he has gained so much in the exchange?

In Matthew 13:44 Jesus said, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” What an interesting spectacle this man must have been to his neighbors. He goes home from his discovery and sells all of his possessions. They may have felt sorry for him, thinking how sad that he has come upon circumstances that require him to sell off his possessions. But Jesus said that he did this “for joy.” He had just made the greatest exchange in his life. There is no room for self-pity or for pride. What he gains in the hidden treasure is so much greater than what he gives up in his possessions that he does not consider the exchange as his loss.

Jesus Christ is the believer’s great treasure. This truth is repeatedly taught to us throughout the Bible. If we have Him, we have everything. We must remember this, believe it, and order our lives according to it. As we do, then we will show forth His great glory by finding our greatest joy in Him.

This is what John Piper means when he says that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. Our satisfaction in Him displays His worthiness to a watching world. Having Him is more satisfying than health, wealth, painlessness or ease. Yet, such satisfaction in Christ does not come automatically. We must fight to obtain and maintain it. That fight is a fight of faith—a daily war to reject lies and to believe the truth; to receive what God has for us in Christ. Living by faith in the promises of God—that is how we will glorify God in all things!


Notes:

1 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. and indexed by Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1967), 1:6:2 (72).

2 Cited in John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight(Sisters, Oregon, Multnomah, 2001), 17.

3 Elizabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1979), 15.

4 Octavius Winslow, Morning Thoughts: Daily Walking with God, ed. by Joel R, Beeke (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2003), 170-71.

5 Cited in John Piper, Future Grace (Sisters, Oregon, Multnomah, 1995), 9.

6 Cited in John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight (Sisters, Oregon, Multnomah, 2001), 14.

7 Cited in John Piper, Desiring God (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 1996), 17.

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