‘All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name’ (Psalm 86:9).
Why do we do what we do? Most of the time we probably don’t analyse it. But if we pressed the question on ourselves, what would we say?
For example, why do we take a job? The obvious answer is, ‘I need money to pay the bills and support my family’. Anything else? ‘Well, I need something to fill my time’. Anything else? ‘Employers need workers: someone has to do the job’.
But there is a different perspective. Listen to the words of the apostle Paul: ‘Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Someone may ask, ‘Do you have to bring religion into everything?’ At this point we can observe a fundamental divide in the human race. Most people, even though there may be some religion in their lives, basically live for themselves or, at best, for other people. True Christians, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, live for the glory of God.
Soli Deo Gloria
One of the great principles of the Protestant Reformation was Soli Deo Gloria – which means ‘for the glory of God alone’. It went along with other principles voiced at that time – Sola Gracia (by grace alone), Sola Fide (by faith alone), Solus Christus (through Christ alone) and Sola Scriptura (the Bible alone). These refer to the way of salvation and how it is revealed.
The Church of Rome taught (and still teaches) that salvation, while offered to us by God, is ultimately achieved by human effort. The Reformers (Luther, Calvin and others) insisted that salvation must be attributed to God from beginning to end. Everything was to bring him glory.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins on a sure footing when its first question asks, ‘What is the chief end of man?’ The answer is, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever’. This is a vast subject that could occupy many articles. We cannot do more than suggest a few points.
God is glorified in creation
The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). Most people admire a beautiful sunset or a rainbow, but we should see these wonders not just as objects of admiration but as the handiwork of God.
We can appreciate a painting, a piece of music or an intricate quilt as the handiwork of an artist, and admire his or her gifts. But how much more should we appreciate the skills of him who ‘built the starry skies’, who made the orchid, and gave the blackbird its song!
It surprises me that few believers take much interest in creation. It does not require a degree in botany to appreciate the beauty and scent of flowers. You don’t have to be a trained entomologist to appreciate the wonder of a butterfly or to admire a spider’s web covered with dew.
Our response to these things should be, ‘My Father made all these things through Christ’ (John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2). The triune God is glorified when we appreciate his creation and praise him for its beauty.
God is glorified in salvation
God’s children should never cease to be amazed at the wonder of salvation. Paul said, ‘the Son of God … loved me and gave himself for me’ (Galatians 2:20). Why did God save me when my best friend from high school still lives without Christ? Not because I was smart enough to see the benefits of salvation. Certainly not because I was better.
God saved me and every other Christian in order that he might receive glory – Paul declares that we were chosen, saved and adopted by God ‘for the praise of his glory’ and ‘to the praise of the glory of his grace’ (Ephesians 1:6,12,14).
We weren’t saved primarily that we might have a place in heaven (though by God’s mercy we will); we were saved that God might be glorified. Are we conscious of that? Do we seek to glorify him? One visible result should be a concern to tell others what God has done for us.
God is glorified in our lives
Remember the verse quoted earlier: ‘whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31). Some fear that if we insist that Christians should live holy lives (lives devoted to God) then we are introducing an element of works into salvation.
But that is to misunderstand what Scripture teaches. As far as the basis of salvation is concerned, we are saved by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:4-9). But, Paul continues, ‘we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them’ (Ephesians 2:10). Faith without godly deeds is dead (James 2:26).
We don’t try to live holy lives just because we’re supposed to keep God’s commandments. We seek to obey him because we love him and want to honour him. Whether we are doing our secular jobs, raising our families, serving in the church, or even enjoying recreation, we should seek to glorify God.
God is glorified as we serve Christ
Take the matter of our employment. We need a higher motive than earning money to pay the bills. The apostle Paul told slaves to obey their masters not just to get their approval but to please the Lord. They were to see themselves as serving Christ (Colossians 3:22-24).
We should apply the same principle in doing our jobs. Indeed, we are to seek God’s glory in everything, even in eating and drinking. If we applied this principle consistently I’m sure fewer of us would be overweight and in poor physical and mental condition!
It may seem obvious that we should glorify God in our spiritual life, but it is easy to stumble here. Take our prayer life. Why do we pray? Generally to make requests, and that is not wrong. But why do we want what we pray for? Is it really for God’s glory? A woman may pray for her husband’s conversion, but is it to make her life easier or because God would be glorified?
We all long to see conversions in our churches, but is our desire with a view to God’s glory or that we might grow and be known as a successful soul-winning church? Even in holy things Satan seeks to lead us astray, and we need to be constantly examining our motives.
God will be glorified by all nations
It can be discouraging to see so few conversions – to see the depth of unbelief around us and the advance of Islam in many lands. But if we look into the future we see that one day all nations will glorify God. ‘All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name’ (Psalm 86:9). There will come a time when every knee will bow to the Lord, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11).
Not every knee will bow in joyful submission, of course, but God will nevertheless be glorified – even in his triumph over his enemies and in their damnation.
When we hear the news we are often constrained to ask, ‘How much worse will things get? How much deeper into sin will society go?’ But it is good to remember that a day is coming when all wrongs will be put right and perfect justice will be executed. Those who now dishonour God will eventually glorify him.
God will be supremely glorified in heaven
We are all given to speculation when it comes to heaven. What will it be like? Will the streets literally be paved with gold? Will there be animals there – or computers?
Most biblical descriptions of that wonderful world to come are in figurative language. Most things about heaven (and the new earth) are obscure, given to us in seed form only. However, one thing is clear – all activities will be for God’s praise and glory. That will be the supreme desire of all who are privileged to be there.
That does not mean that we shall do nothing else but take part in some eternal choir practice. There will be meaningful activity in heaven. God’s servants shall serve him (Revelation 22:3). Some of the parables indicate that rewards for faithfulness include different degrees of responsibility (e.g. the parable of the minas, Luke 19:11-26). But what is clear is that in glory the focus of attention will be the Lamb and his redeeming work, and all glory will be given to him.
‘Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power for ever and ever!”’ (Revelation 5:13).
May the Lord help us see something of his glory – and live our lives seeking to promote it!