Soli Deo Gloria
If the chief purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, how do we, as His people, ensure that we do glorify Him? What gives Him glory? The anthem gives quite a number of things we would typically think of—His displays in nature, the grateful hearts of the redeemed, etc. But there is much more to consider, and some of them may be surprising to us.
John Calvin said, “God has prescribed for us a way in which he will be glorified by us, namely, piety, which consists of obedience to his Word.” Piety isn’t a common word anymore, and most people don’t view it in positive terms. It’s also not surprising the obedience isn’t seen with a positive light, either (and we wonder why our culture is in the mess it’s in). However, obedience is still what God requires, and it is our chief means of bringing Him glory in our lives. The converse is also true: to do anything but His will would be to dishonor Him. It would be good for us to ponder whether it would be worse for His glory if someone who claims to be His child acts contrary to His word than it would be for an unsaved person who knows no better. That notion should sober us and lead us to be even more diligent to know and obey His Word.
In a comment on Calvin’s quote, Joel Beeke said, “Obedience to God’s Word means taking refuge in Christ for forgiveness of our sins, knowing Him through the Scriptures, serving Him with a loving heart, doing good works in gratitude for His goodness, and exercising self-denial to the point of loving our enemies. This response involves total surrender to God Himself, His Word, and His will.” That “taking refuge in Christ” is so moving. The only safe place from the justifiable wrath of a holy God is in His own arms. Our nature is to flee when we sin, but His invitation is to flee TO Him, not from Him. This glorifies Him the most.
Indeed, that second aspect of the chief end of man, to “enjoy Him forever” is the thing that truly glorifies Him. When those He has saved love Him, not just for His salvation, but for the delightful Being He is, that brings Him great glory. We glorify Him most when we enjoy Him most!
So often when we pray, we may think that the outcome for which we are pleading would be the best way for God to display His glory. Surely a supernatural healing, or rescue from disaster would show the world that God is in charge. It would be undeniable to even the blindest of eyes that His glory is on display. But when He doesn’t intervene as we desire, we wonder at His missed opportunity.
It must have felt that way when Jesus showed up “too late” to heal Lazarus. But Jesus had in mind to display a greater glory than had ever been demonstrated before. Often the alternative glories God may reveal in most of the things over which we pray are not quite the showy contrasts we see in the case of Lazarus. There the greater glory was apparent. But the one thing we can be sure of, God is seeking the greatest manifestation of His glory in every case. It may not be apparent to us at the time, maybe not even in our lifetime, but He is at work in history and in the smallest details to ensure His glory, and His alone is displayed.
We get hints of this in some of the incidents in the Scriptures. In the Exodus, praying people would have hoped that God’s demonstrations of power would have released His people much sooner. The opposition of Pharaoh may have made it look like he had the upper hand, that he was unswayable. Think how we might have been praying if we were there at that period. Yet Scriptures make it clear that the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart and his stubborn refusal to submit to God’s will actually gave glory to God! Just a warning—this is NOT the preferred method to give God glory. We don’t want to be the object of His justice in order to showcase His righteousness and display His glory.
When people sinned (such as Aachen) they were often told to “give God glory.” While obeying Him brings glory, so does confessing our sin. It acknowledges His ways are right and we have violated them.
Another unusual mention of glorifying God is found in Jesus’ conversation with Peter after the resurrection. Jesus told Peter about the death by which he would glorify God. We so often pray against death, but how often do we pray that death will be God-glorifying? When my mother was in hospice the personnel commented how peaceful our room was, and said it was not typical. It gave us the opportunity to glorify God through our hope in Him.
As we approach this anthem, let us give thought to how intentional we are for God’s glory. Are we seeking it in the difficult times in our lives? Are we glorifying Him through striving to live in obedience to His Word, and through confession when we fail? And is our desire for His glory so great that we even seek it in our death? Above all may we glorify Him through our enjoyment of His presence in our lives.
by Sheri Cook, Director of Special Ministries