Soli Deo Gloria

Introduction

The Protestant Reformation can be summarized with five Latin phrases known as the Five Solas: Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria (By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone according to Scripture alone to the glory of God alone). Over the past few months we have studied Sola Scriptura and Solus Christus, and today we are starting Soli Deo Gloria: To the glory of God alone.The most famous of all questions within Protestantism comes from the Westminster Shorter Catechism: What is the chief end of man? In other words, why is mankind on earth? What is our purpose? That’s not just a protestant question, but a universal question that nearly every thinking person wants to know: why am I hear? Why do I exist? What’s the point of my life? The answer: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Or as John Piper would say: To glorify God byenjoying Him forever. Piper’s most famous saying and the motto of his life is “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

As we begin this study of glorifying God, I want us to get a grasp of the enormity of what we have been called to. We are going to look at a few texts of Scripture, with Romans 11.36 being our main text. I want us to then see these texts for their truth as doctrine, as theology and see that clearly living with the purpose to glorify God is orthodoxy (right doctrine), but then my hope is to give some orthopraxy (right living) as well. All theology should be practical. To do that, I am wanting to show you the texts around these initial texts because usually in these texts that declare God’s glory, the question of how is generally answered. But before these, I want to explain what it means to glorify God. So, we will start with the explanation of glorify, move on to the expectation to glorify, and finish with the expressions that glorify.

The Explanation of Glorify

When we think about glorifying God, it is easy to think that God is missing something. He is missing glory or He is in need of more glory that we can bestow upon Him. But that is not what we mean or what the Bible means when we talk about glorifying God. God is not deficient in anything. God didn’t create us because He was lonely and needed a relationship. He wasn’t lonely. He had perfect communion with the Son and Spirit. He had the greatest of all relationships with them. God didn’t create us because He needed or desired more glory than He already had. This is what Paul meant when speaking to those at Mars Hill: 

The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things, (Acts. 17.24-25, HCSB).

God is all powerful and so He needs nothing. He doesn’t need us to give Him advice: “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has been His counselor,” (Romans 11.34, HCSB)? God isn’t one to be in need and be in our debt. This is often how health and wealth, prosperity preachers present God (though they would probably never say it this way). If you give just such and such amount, God will heal you or God will give you wealth untold. Or sow a seed of only so much money and watch as God has to give you so much abundance in return. “Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid,” (Romans 11.35, HCSB)?  

So to glorify God doesn’t mean to provide something that He doesn’t have or to provide something that has depleted or to provide Him with that which will need to be repaid as if He is the one indebted to us! This was the opening of Paul’s remarks in Romans 11.36: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen,” (HCSB). Everything comes from Him. This entire created order with all the planets and stars and moons and asteroids and comets and plants and animals and bodies of water and people all come from Him! He created it all. In fact, beyond that, James wrote, “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning,” (1.17, HCSB). All that is good and right that happens to us is directly affect by God. All things are from Him!

All things are through Him. In other words, He is not only the cause of all things, but He is the instrument in how all things word made and sustained. “In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word,” (Hebrews 1.2-3, HCSB). John also wrote something similar: “All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created,” (John 1.3, HCSB). God has the power to create everything we can see and even the things we cannot see. He also has the power to sustain it all.  

Does it really seem like God is missing anything? Where is there even a possibility that He is deficient in glory? There isn’t one. Here is the issue: All things are to Him. In other words, everything that has been made has been made to the glory of God or another way of saying it is as the NIV would say “for him,” for His glory. What does it mean then to glorify God?

The Hebrew word used in the Old Testament for glory meant weight or heavy. God is weighty; He’s heavy. The idea is God is important: supremely important. The New Testament word that is often used for glory means brilliant or shining as though beautiful and attractive. So, then the idea of glorifying God is to see Him as supremely important and brilliantly attractive. He already is supremely important. Without Him we all cease to exist, not just because He wouldn’t have created us, but because He also sustains us. He already is brilliantly attractive to the point that words are unable to describe Him. Ezekiel, Isaiah, Daniel, and John all tried to describe the brilliance of God as best they could, but had to settle for similes and metaphors. He is like this; He is like that. Yet no word would do justice to His beauty and brilliance. Thus, to glorify God is to see and acknowledge and live as though He is supremely important and brilliantly beautiful. Even now, some of us might be thinking: I’ve never really thought of God in those terms.

The Expectation to Glorify

Having looked now at what it means to glorify Him: supremely important and brilliantly beautiful, we need to move on to the magnanimity of what it is we have been called to. Every moment of our lives are to be spent showing that God is supremely important and brilliantly beautiful. That was why we were created. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” We were created for the purpose of bringing Him glory and that glory is to be given forever. At the end of what we call this doxology comes the word Amen. Amen means “so let it be” or “so it is.” To Him be the glory forever, and so it is. Glory is forever His. Forever and always and therefore in everything at all moments.

Which is why we find that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory,” (1 Corinthians 10.31, HCSB). Even in moments as small as eating and drinking, we are to reflect that God is supremely important and that He is brilliantly beautiful. We’ll talk about how we can do that in a few minutes.

The idea of glorifying God in everything at all times is daunting. It sounds impossible. And in fact, it is impossible. Yet it is what we were created to do. But none of us do this. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3.23, HCSB). It isn’t that we haven’t been able to attain God’s glory for ourselves, but that we haven’t been able to show that God is supremely important and brilliantly beautiful. Other things get in our way. We begin to desire less important things. We want uglier things. And we put those things on pedestals over and against God. It is not bad to want less important things. It isn’t wrong to want uglier things. It is when we treat those less important and uglier things as if they were supremely important and brilliantly beautiful. It’s when those things take God’s place.  

We have all done this. That doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t even take away the guilt that comes along with it. This is where we go back to C. S. Lewis’ quote: 

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. (The Weight of Glory, p. 26).

This was what Paul meant in Romans 1:

For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles, (vv. 21-23, HCSB).

God requires of us and created us to display the fact that He is supremely important and brilliantly beautiful and yet we don’t, and instead have become darkened in our minds, and rather than seeing God as our top priority in life, we see other creatures, whether human or non-human, animate or inanimate. We see these things as having greater beauty and draw than God Himself. We exchange God’s supreme glory for lesser-glory.

There are those who will live their lives falling deeper and deeper into this darkened state, but there are others who will turn from this depraved thinking and be saved: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 3.23-24, HCSB). Christ died to buy us out of darkness and futile thinking that we may once again live as we were meant: to the glory of God. As Piper wrote,

By requiring of His Son such humiliation and suffering for the sake of God’s glory, He openly demonstrated that he does not sweep sin under the rug. All contempt for His glory is duly punished either on the cross where the wrath of God is propitiated [satisfied] for those who believe, or in hell, where the wrath of God is poured out on those who don’t.[1]

So we who believe have been redeemed so that we can now glorify God as we were created to do, not perfectly, but purposefully. We cannot do this ourselves; it is only through Christ alone that this happens.

The Expressions that Glorify

But then the question always is asked, “How do we glorify God? What am I supposed to do now?” I want to provide you with two principles that you can utilize as you live your life seeking to glorify God: to make God supremely important and brilliantly beautiful.

Give yourself completely over to God. Because of arbitrary chapter divisions in our Bibles we often shut off our brains when we finish a chapter as if the next chapter has nothing to do with what we just read. But often times they do!

 Romans 11 ends with “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” But chapter 12 starts with a therefore. And as they hammered in Bible College, “when you see a therefore, find out what the therefore is there for.” “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12.1, HCSB). Since God has created you to bring Him glory, give yourselves fully over to God. Sacrifice yourself.  

Does that not make sense? If we were created for God’s glory, then ought we not forego our plans and give ourselves to Him to do as He wills with us? Growing up, my dad would always instruct me to use the right tool for the job. I’m sure it was aggravating to him when I used a rubber mallet to hammer a nail or when I used channel locks to hammer a nail or used needle nose pliers to. . .well, hammer a nail. I would get frustrated using the wrong tool for the job, but be too lazy to find and use the correct one. He would be frustrated because I’m using his tools for something they were never meant to be used for, and end up breaking them or damaging them.

If we were made for God’s glory, and we seek to live outside what we were made for, we end up frustrated with ourselves and we end up frustrating God because we will inevitably break ourselves. And sometimes we become so broken that we cannot be fully fixed this side of heaven. We are using our bodies, the tool God has given to us to bring Him glory wrongly if we do not live for His glory. We use His tool for something it wasn’t meant to be used for.

That’s one of the reasons we were redeemed: to use God’s tool God’s way. That’s why Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God,” (Romans 12.2, HCSB). I was trying to conform my dad’s mallet, channel locks, needle-nose pliers, and a bunch of other tools into a hammer. It took many years of me being told, “use the right tool for the job” before my mind wrapped itself around the idea that different tools do different jobs differently. My mind had to be renewed. It had gotten into the idea that I can hammer anything with anything and it will all work out in the end. My mind had to be transformed and when that happened hammering a nail became a lot easier, and when there was something beyond hammering that needed to be done, I didn’t have a broken tool with which to fix it.

There are many Christians seeking to live for themselves and for their desires rather than offering themselves to God as a living sacrifice. Every morning, and throughout the day, we ought to be saying, “Don’t you know that your body is the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body,” (1 Corinthians 6.19-20, HCSB). I’m Yours, Lord. Mold me and make me after Your will. The first thing is to give yourself completely over to God.

Having given yourself to God, give yourself to others. If you are serious about glorifying God, then you must do it by giving yourself to others. You are God’s tool. Tools don’t work for themselves. They work on behalf of those in need. Hence we see right after Paul wrote that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can know God’s will, he immediately starts telling the Roman church to live for each other. “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one, (Romans 12.3, HCSB). So he explains that we are members of a body working together and for each other.

If we go back to 1 Corinthians 10.31 we see something similar: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory,” (HCSB). But look at the context. The context is about eating meat from the market. If you don’t know anything has been sacrificed, eat without asking questions. Be thankful to have food. However, if there is a brother in Christ with you and he tells you it has been sacrificed to idols, don’t eat it. Why? Not for any other reason than it could cause our brother to stumble. Your action, or in this case inaction, is not for self, but for your brother in Christ. We don’t glorify God by dismissing the feelings of our brothers or sisters. We don’t glorify God by saying, “I am free in Christ to do such and such, and I don’t care what you think or how you feel about it.” Hence, if we eat we take care that eat to God’s glory by being sure that we are not doing so in defiance or without the consideration of those around us. The same when we drink. If our brother is a “teetotaler” and we are not, and we go out to dinner only to find out that he would be highly offended by our ordering a glass of wine, then we are to refrain from the wine or order good ol’ fashion Welch’s Grape Juice. The same when we do anything. That’s the second principle: give yourself to others.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest command, He responded: 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands,” (Matt 22.38-40, HCSB).

What does it meant to glorify God? It means to give yourself fully to Him and to others. Another way to say it is to love Him and love others.

Take-Aways

Since it is Mother’s Day, I want to end by giving moms some practical ways to be moms that glorify God. I am going to take these two principles: giving self to God and giving self to others and apply them to motherhood.

Love God more than you love your children (or husband) and so first give yourself to Him. Let me give you two ideas on how to do this:

Give your bodies to God every morning before getting out of bed (for mothers of young children whose feet have hit the floor before actually waking up, do it the night before). Let your prayer be something like: God my mind is yours. Let me think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable. My eyes are yours. Let me see your workmanship in my children and in my husband and in my own life. Let me see You as supremely important and brilliantly beautiful. My ears are yours. Let me hear your voice in the midst of my chaotic day. My tongue is yours. Let me give life with the power of my tongue, and may I not bring death. My hands are yours. Work through them to touch with grace and discipline in love. My feet are yours. May I always be ready to share your Word, your gospel, your peace. May I always be ready to go, wherever you may send me.

Renew your mind. Be careful what you put into your mind. Garbage in, garbage out. Fill your mind first with God’s Word. Meditate on it and pray it. Again, for moms with young kids, you may not have a lot of time to read a lot of God’s Word. Let quality be your goal, not quantity. If you only get one or two verses read in the morning, let those verses sink in. Think about them and pray them. Read your verses, having prayed for God to show you the wonderful things from His Word. When a verse hits you, take a picture of it. Set a reminder in your phone for three or four times throughout your day to look at the picture of those verses and think about them. Pray over them quickly if need be. Quality, not quantity.

Other things you can do, if you have the time: read Christian books. For every secular book you may read, read 2 good books by good biblical authors. They don’t have to be parenting books or books on being a good wife. If that’s what you want to read, great, but they don’t have to be. Just grab a book and read. If you don’t have time to read, put on an audio book and listen while your work.

Listen to Christian radio or podcasts. I love talk radio. I listen to podcasts constantly. I listen to Bott radio if I’m not listening to my podcasts. It is good to get Christian music into your mind, but don’t forget to get good sermons in your head.

Give yourself to your family. Only after you have given yourself to God through giving of your body and putting some quality verses in your head, can you be prepared to give yourself to the never-ending needs of your family. But let me show you ways in which you can give yourself to your family so that God is glorified in you as a mom.[2]

Love your husband first. God created woman from the man because it was not good for man to be alone. He created her to be a help fit for the man. Thus He created woman first to be what man is not and cannot be. Jerry Maguirewas not lying when he said, “You complete me.” That is what a wife ought to do: complete her husband.

Model godliness. That means living intentionally. Let your children (and husband) see you reading God’s Word. Let them see you praying. Pray with them. Let them see you wrestle over decisions and ask them to pray for you and with you over them.

Teach them. Not every parent was made to homeschool. But every parent was made to teach. It can be done passively by children watching more of what you do than what you say, or it can be done actively (thus giving to your children) with words and actions that reinforce those words. “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up,” (Deuteronomy 6.6-7, HCSB).

Discipline your children. God disciplines us as His children because He loves us. Discipline is different than punishment. Discipline comes from the same word as disciple, one who learns. When you discipline you are seeking to teach your child hard truths. You are not seeking simply to punish them in anger, but to teach them even if it means pain that they were wrong and that there is a right way that they must choose next time.

Encourage your family. Moms, you know your children better than anyone, second only to God. Encourage your children and also encourage your husband. Encourage them to do what is godly for sure. But also encourage them in a way that builds them up in life. Pick words carefully so that you can encourage and not discourage. “A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand,” (Proverbs 27.15-16, HSCB). Remember that life and death are in the power of the tongue. I’m not telling you to lie or stretch the truth, only to find ways that you can encourage rather than exacerbate.

Let your family go. Remember that they are God’s. You are only a steward. You have given yourself to God, you’ve given yourself to them, now let them go. Give them to God daily. Remind yourself that they are God’s. You cannot change their heart, but you can speak to it. You cannot determine their future, but you can prepare them for it. In the end, it is God who changes the heart and determines their steps. Trust God and let them go.

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Children, the Church, and the Pastor

I love children. I’m just not that good with them.  I love my own children, and I seek to do my best in showing my love and support to them, as well as discipline when and if needed.  But I’m not good at getting down on their level.  I try, but I usually fail.  The other day I was reading Stone Soup to a class of first graders at our local elementary school.  I tried to teach them what it meant to “think outside the box.”  I quickly realized that I had not been called to teach first graders.  That being said, I still love children and I love to see them in big church.  I get why churches tend to go for children’s church and nursery.  Which, by the way, we offer the nursery.  Children are wiggly.  They can and usually are noisy.  They can be distracting.  But that’s children.  That has always been children.

Children can be taught to be quiet, but it is almost impossible to teach children to be completely still.  For that matter, how many adults do I see wiggling around during worship service?  Legs cross, arms go up, seats are adjusted, bathrooms get walked to, notes are written, Bibles get flipped through, and sadly some statuses are checked and updated on social media.  Children just haven’t learned to fine art of refined wigglement.  They will though.

Children are wiggly.  They can and usually are noisy.  They can be distracting.  But that’s children.  That has always been children.

Here is the thing with children though.  Children are natural explorers.  They want to learn.  The reason babies put so much in their mouths is not because they are tasty, but because the mouth is their mode of exploration.  They want to learn about an object in their hand so they explore it with their mouths.  Children are interested in just about everything, including Jesus and God.  Why do we do what we do?  Who are these people we cannot see, but give so much devotion and time to?  What are these big books in the pews?  We were all there at one point in time.  At one time it was all fresh and new and confusing and great all at the same time.  We’ve lost much of the excitement and wonder that comes with worship service.  And children get it.  They may be noisy about it, but excitement tends to be a bit loud (just watch me watch the Atlanta Falcons play).

When Jesus’ disciples wanted to push the children to the side and not bother him with such as they, “Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven’,” (Matthew 19:14, ESV).  Jesus would not allow the children to be treated as second class, but elevated their status by healing them and defending them.  I bet that these children were much like our children.  They clamored and they wiggled and they talked above a whisper.  Jesus said, “do not hinder them.”  Children need Jesus as much as adults do.  While children can be distracting and easily distracted, adults ought have the maturity to  block out distractions.  We do so in our cars (hopefully), we do so at our jobs, we do so in all areas of life, and so we should not be so shocked when we may be called upon to muster up the will to block distractions caused by the wonderment (and sometimes boredom) of children.

Personally, as a pastor, I find it hard to be distracted.  I rarely even notice noise or bathroom-goings.  I’m in a zone.  Perhaps I owe that to my mom.  When I was a kid playing recreational basketball, she would tell me to zone out the shouts from the bleachers and heckles from the opposing players, and concentrate on what I was doing.  That’s what we need to do as adults.  Zone out what is going on around us and zone in on what we are doing: worshipping and part of that being the hearing of God’s Word expounded.

While children can be distracting and easily distracted, adults ought have the maturity to  block out distractions.

I am thankful that my church gets it.  I have not heard complaints from our members on having children in the service.  They get the need for children to hear and receive God’s Word.  Praise God for the people who will not hinder the children from coming.

As always, I’d love to read your comments.  All comments will be published as long as they are respectful.  If you liked this post, by all means share it.