Thursday, February 26, 2009

What does it Mean to Give Glory to God?

I've posted this in the past, but just this morning I spent some time with a brother in the Lord glorying in the truths that are, in part, expressed here. I hope this helps you to increase in your passion to glorify the Name of the Lord.


Some thoughts on what it means to give glory to God:

Some years ago I undertook a study of the glory of God in which I located, read, and categorized every occurrence of the word “glory” in the Bible, as well as several corollary words. Part of the way through this study I became a bit perplexed at what the Bible could possibly mean by the phrases “give glory to God” or “glorify God” (see, e.g., Jer. 13:16 & Rev. 14:7). After all, I reasoned, what do I have to give God that he does not already have? How can I in any way, or in any sense, give God anything?

I was greatly helped in this by getting clear in my mind what the two primary meanings of the words for “glory” are. First, “glory” means radiance, effulgence, brilliance, brightness, and the like. It is the intrinsic brilliance of God that is of necessity, and in a variety of ways, displayed and beheld and prized and praised. As one carefully studies the Bible, he will see that we are never commanded to give God glory in this sense of the word. That would be like asking a book of matches to add to the brilliance of the sun—not only would it fail, it would be utterly consumed in the attempt!

Second, “glory” means honor or respect or praise or credit. Take, for example, Matthew 15:29-31, “Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them, so that the crowd wondered, when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled healthy, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they glorified the God of Israel.”

What happened here? The crowd (1) beheld the outworking of the great power of God through Jesus, (2) they had a natural and irrepressible sense of awe and wonder in their souls about it, and (3) they expressed that awe and wonder by giving verbal honor or credit or praise where these things were due, namely, to God. What the Bible means, therefore, when it commands us to give glory to God is that we should give him honor in all things, for it is due him in all things—whether in healing or eating or drinking or sleeping or working or playing, ad infinitum.

It is tempting to say, then, that giving glory to God is simply a matter of integrity and honesty, that it is a matter of giving credit where credit is due. But the Bible is calling for more than this: the Bible is calling for us to behold the glory of God, which is manifested in a variety of ways, to prize and love and rejoice and stand in awe of the glory of God, and then, with glad and sincere hearts, to declare the beauty of what we have seen, first to God and then to others. In other words, the Bible is calling for deep, heart-felt, authentic, grateful, humble responses to the surpassing greatness of the glory of God beheld. It’s calling for the kind of honor that is completely enamored of the person being honored.

But this raises a question: Why did God design creation to elicit this kind of response? Or put another way, why did God make himself the ultimate end of creation if he was already full in himself? To state the answer briefly, God did not create the world to add to his fullness, he created the world to display his fullness and to share his delight in himself. To say that the glory of God is the end or the ultimate purpose of all things, including our joy in him, is to say that he created us to delight with him in the infinitely delightful, i.e., in God himself. The God-centeredness of God, far from being the death of joy, is the very fountain and life and fullness and longevity of joy. And hence John Piper’s now famous dictum, God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

22 comments:

  1. Anonymous8:20 AM

    blessed me pastor thank you...

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  2. I have just tried to begin word study on "glory." Do you know Rich Mullen's song, "There is such a thing as glory"? I just would like a fuller understanding of what glory is. I was prompted as I read John 17 where Jesus says that he wants those God had given Him to see Him in His glory. And He says that He had given His disciples the glory that His Father had given Him. What does all that mean? I want to find the depth of meaning. I appreciated this article that you wrote, especially the last paragraph. Thank you.

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  3. Karen,

    Thanks so much for your response and your question. John 17 is one of the deepest oceans of the Bible and you will do well to meditate on it as deeply as you can. I preached a few sermons on this text earlier this year which you can access at www.gcfmn.org. Click on "Resources" and then "Sermons." Sorry to say I don't remember the exact dates but it was sometime in the Spring of 2010. Other than that, I would rather leave it to the Spirit to guide you and encourage you once more to meditate deeply on this text. It could shape your entire life--and that's not preacherly exaggeration! The more we comprehend the depth and profundity of the being of God, the more unspeakable it becomes to think that he has drawn us so near to him in Christ.

    Thanks again for the comment, and know that I prayed for you as I posted this note.

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  4. Anonymous3:13 AM

    When I awoke at 3 this morning to pray, the prayer ended with a question which was how do we give God glory? This is confirmation. However, there is also a great joy in knowing that we all must have glory to give to God. We all must know in our heart of hearts that there is a Person in the universe that is worthy of our praise. We have glory to give to God for the sake of giving, and we are blessed when we give it.
    Praise the Lord for your obedience to the Spirit!

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  5. Anonymous6:16 PM

    For a few months, I have been struggling with why God would create the world knowing full well how imperfect it would be and the suffering that we all would face. When I first became a christian, I made a conscious decision to believe the Bible as my word from God and the truth of every word in it. I slowly began living my life lining my actions and thoughts with the Bible, then gave control of my life over to God. Occasionally, I try to take control back, recognize that fact, and give control back to God. As everyone does, I have encountered difficult, heartwrenching, unbelievably devastating events in my life and the lives of those I love. As I ponder why we have to endure these, my thought would go back to "why create the world in the first place?", "just so those who choose to follow you can suffer? and give GLORY to You?? I searched scriptures and found many verses that addressed christian suffering and most of them stated the reason as "to bring glory to God and good to us". I became a bit negative as I read the Bible wanting to find an answer from God. But...I have started reading books from trusted authors and just tonight I started looking on the internet and came upon your thoughts, Charlie on the meaning of giving glory to God and it helps. Thanks!

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  6. Anonymous1:02 PM

    Hi pastor,
    Once a preacher pointed out his hand towards me and said ,"You need the glory of God". Could you please explain to me what does it mean, what should i do to engulf in the Glory of God. Thanks!
    S.K

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  7. To the author of the "fifth" comment,

    Thanks so much for sharing something of your journey with me. I know that struggle well as I've been there. What helped me get through the depth of the pain of that particular struggle was settling into the fact that God is God and I am not, and that God is always holy, wise, and good. These are constants in his character so that even if I don't understand what he's doing in a given situation, or in suffering on a larger scale, I can trust him. There is still mystery here for me, and still some pain, but I also have peace because I know that God is great and trustworthy. I have learned to rest in the Master's hands.

    One of my spiritual "fathers" used to say to me, "You can trust the heart of God when you cannot trace his hand." Amen.

    Thanks again for sharing, I was blessed by your journey with Christ. May the Lord be near to you as you continue to fix your eyes on Him!

    With hope in Christ,
    Charlie

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  8. Dear S. K.,

    Thank you for your question. I will attempt an answer as a fellow seeker of truth and lover of Jesus Christ. I certainly don't have all the answers, but I have learned a few things on my journey with Christ which I'd be glad to share. With that, I seek to "engulf" myself in the glory of God in the following ways.

    1. I read and study and memorize and meditate on the Bible every day, converse with others about its meaning and application to life, and otherwise seek to let it be what it is: God-breathed wisdom that is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. And by the Word of God, I seek to meditate regularly and deeply on the being and character of God. I seek to understand and delight in the glory of who he is: his holiness and mercy and strength and magnitude and love and plans and purposes and will and ways. As John Owen said in his book "The Glory of Christ," on this side of heaven we must behold the glory of God by faith as we saturate our hearts and minds with the Word of God. Amen. It is "by faith" but it's real nonetheless.

    2. Closely related to the first point, I ask the Lord to reveal himself to me through Jesus Christ and by the ministry of the Holy Spirit. God is not a subject to be studied. He is the Supreme Being of the universe and he is to be loved with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength. He is a relational being. So I ask him to reveal his true self to me that I might not fall into the trap of contemplating ideas about God without ever entering into deep communion with God. The feelings are not always white hot for me, but the Lord is always faithful to answer this prayer in his own time and way.

    3. I love to behold and contemplate the glory of God as revealed in creation. "The heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands" (Ps 19:1). This is a true revelation of God's glory that displays his power, creativity, artistry, mercy, and wisdom, among other things. Meditating regularly on the words and works of God take us a long way toward being engulfed in his glory. So look at the night sky and worship the Lord. Think about trees and streams and lakes and birds and "the beasts of the field" and worship the Lord. Go to the Hubble Telescope website and see the great things God has done and worship him. He created to display his glory for our joy, so enter into that joy!

    4. I give myself to regular fellowship with others who love Jesus Christ. By "fellowship" I mean more than just being around other believers. I mean intentionally interrelating with regard to the person, purposes, will, ways, words, and works of Jesus Christ. When I behold the work of the Lord in and through my brothers and sisters in Christ, I see a manifestation of his glory. And since God is a relational being, who is seeking to form his beloved ones into a people of God together, I actually NEED them in the strongest sense of that word and cannot behold the glory of God, truly, without them. Life in Christ is relational, and his glory is revealed through relationship with him and others.

    S. K., there are other things that could be mentioned of course, but the heart of being engulfed in the glory of God is submitting to the great commandment by the power and grace of Jesus: love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength! God is the glory of God. His glory is not something outside of himself; it is himself. So, to be "in Christ," as Paul loves to say, is to be engulfed in his glory. Learn to love him, by his grace, and everything else will fall in place.

    One passage I would encourage you to meditate on as deeply as you can is 2 Corinthians 3:7-18. Ask the Lord to help you and I'm sure he will!

    Thanks again for the question. Please feel free to write back.

    With hope in Jesus,
    Charlie

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  9. Anonymous3:22 PM

    I prayed this morning-"How do I give you Glory my God?"
    He said to me- "My name in a low voice" "Just do good."
    Later in my car he played for me a passage on my i-pod that the original translation of giving Glory unto God means not lying and being good just to drive the point home.
    I hope this helps you find the Way.
    IC XC NIKA

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  10. Thank you for your note. I don't know you so I don't want to assume too much here, but I do have to respond to what you said because if understood in a certain way your note might lead some astray.

    I agree that our works bring glory to God but only in a certain way. Jesus Christ accomplished everything for those who believe: he positively fulfilled the law of God for us so that nothing we do can possibly add to his infinitely perfect work on our behalf; and he negatively removed the penalty for our many sins so that we no longer need to offer sacrifices to God for atonement, either of blood or good works. God is pleased with us in Christ, period and end of story.

    As a fruit of this fact, God prepared good works for us to do, before we even believed, so that our doing both proves that we are in him and serves to glorify him alone (John 15:1-11; Ephesians 2:8-10). Our works do glorify God but only when they are a fruit of what God has done for us and prepared for us in Christ. If we "just do good" on our own and not in the Spirit then our righteous deeds are no better than filthy rags before the Lord and bring him no glory at all (Isaiah 64:6).

    In fact, if we're not careful, we'll end up preaching a false gospel that says we're saved both by Christ's work on the cross and by our good works. But the Bible speaks fiercely against this way of thinking and so we must take care not to slip into it (for example, see Titus 3:1-11 and the book of Galatians).

    One more thing: the Lord does speak to us by his Spirit when we pray in the name of Jesus Christ but we must test all things by the Word of God and develop all our beliefs from there. This is very important for (1) the Spirit will never contradict in prayer what he has revealed in Scripture and (2) sometimes the voices we hear are not of God but of self or possibly even demons.

    So I encourage you to spend time in the Scripture testing your thoughts but what is written. Thanks again for the note.

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    Replies
    1. So pretty much we do good works to be fruitful and because you love and want to please god.. Not out of mere duty..

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    2. That's right, Stacey, true works are an expression of love for our Father who has saved us in Christ. They are not merely acts of duty, and they earn us nothing. They are the fruit of what God has done for us and in us.

      Thanks for the comment, and God be with you!

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  11. Anonymous5:58 PM

    Hi Charlie,

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful response. I agree 100% with everything you are saying. It is a pleasure to read your words and everyone else's. I would not want to lead anyone anywhere but to Christ. I just felt like sharing and testing the waters on this site. Not to sink into them...lol

    Jesus didn't lead our lives for us but to show us the way to be like him by living a perfect life. So we do have something to accomplish while we are here. I was praying in Christ of course "How do I give Glory to you my God". To find out what more works should I be doing. The bottom line here is over and over he leaves it in my hands to choose what is good from Jesus example. My problem is my introspection sometimes leads to inaction. Really what other instruction do we need than Christs life?

    You are right only by the Lord of hosts and by his divine grace are you called into his near presence. No works that can be done can make up for mans fallen state. Now this doesn't mean that you should not do them.

    You have to be ever vigilant against demons by the Holy Ghost and the by Lords grace and in Christ's name do I send them into the aybss. I have no fear of any demons anymore because I am filled with the Holy Spirit. Bless you.

    IC XC NIKA

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  12. Anonymous4:53 PM

    Thank you for this wonderful explanation of the glory of God! It's been a pleasure to read.

    I have a question about one place I find the word glory used that I'd like to hear your thoughts on.

    1 Corinthians 11:7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

    This is certainly a difficult section of scripture in general, but if you have any thoughts on the use of the word, glory in this context, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks!

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  13. Thanks so much for your note, I appreciate it! You're right: this is a difficult text and I will not be able to comment fully on all of the issues upon which it touches, however, I can say a word about how "glory" is being used here.

    This sense of the word "glory" means "shining forth" so that man, being made in the image of God, images him or reflects his glory to all creation. Man is, in this sense, like the moon which receives and reflects the light of the sun. In this way, the moon is the glory of the sun.

    The reason Paul then says that the woman is the glory of man is because she was made after him, and from him. To quote the fuller context, "3 But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, 5 but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. 6 For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. 8 For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. 9 Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. 10 That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God" (1 Cor 11:3-12).

    Hope this helps, and thanks again for writing.

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  14. Hello Pastor, great article. Just wanted to point out when referencing God, such as Him, His, He, ect., the first letter is always capitalized such as you know when you write/type God it's not "god" it's "God." The big "G" God the true God. Thank you. Be blessed.

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  15. Anonymous3:18 PM

    Thanks for this insight. I have for a long time believed that man could not give glory to God because He is infinitely glorious. Now I can say "Glory to God" and believe it.

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  17. Anonymous9:14 AM

    Did you want to quote Jer.13:16 rather than Jer.13:6? Thanks though for your writing.

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  18. Thank you very much, you're right, and I have corrected that now. God be with you!

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  19. Pastor Charlie,

    You wrote this five years ago but God led us to it today. My husband was wondering aloud, just as you did, how to give God glory--when He already has it all! So I Googled How can we give glory to God and this link came up with the exact question and a complete and satisfying answer. Thank you!

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  20. Pastor Charlie,

    You wrote this five years ago and God led us to it today. My husband Jerry had asked me how we can give God glory when He already has it all. I Googled "What does it mean to give glory to God?" and your link came up, with a complete and satisfying answer! Thank you!

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