Vol. 8, No. 11
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The biblical material under consideration herein is the most important ever contained in any sermon or Bible class lesson. The reader will never encounter a more important lesson from the Bible, irrespective of the venue or the presenter. The significance of the topic herein is neither owing to any special ability that I have as a preacher nor to any special insight that I might have as a longtime student of the Bible. This article, though, has life-changing power owing exclusively to the biblical material under consideration.
Let's get to the heart of such an all important biblical study immediately. There is nothing--I repeat and emphasize, nothing--any more important for the child of God today to master than the realization that his chief duty in this life is to glorify God. "...whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31 emphasis added). The Greek noun doxa and the Greek verb doxazo both are sometimes translated "honor." W.E. Vine defines doxazo including "to magnify, extol, praise." There are a number of ways that one can honor God, or on the other hand, dishonor God.
Just how important is it to honor or glorify God? Glorifying God is more important than lessons about salvation! Glorifying God is more important than lessons about how God wants to be worshipped. Glorifying God is more important than lessons about church attendance, Christian living and Christian service. Glorifying God is more important than lessons about what we usually cite as the mission of the church--evangelism, edification and benevolence.
The reason that glorifying God is more important than any and all of these biblical subjects is that we cannot satisfactorily for very long do any of those things--unless we first glorify God, and continually glorify God. Glorifying God first before consideration of any other New Testament subject or duty is a huge and immensely important shift from the customary preaching of hell avoidance and course correction in the churches of Christ. It is no wonder that today the churches of Christ, like denominations around them, often face a staying problem with respect to its members and members' children. I am indebted for some of the basic thoughts contained in this sermon to a thought-provoking article written by preacher and elder T. Pierce Brown appearing in Gospel Gazette Online (www.gospelgazette.com/2006/oct/page13.htm).
Unless we purpose to glorify God, our response to the Gospel will be one of frequent wavering. A response to the Gospel that is motivated primarily by the desire to avoid punishment for sins (i.e., receive forgives of sins) lacks staying power. A religion motivated on avoiding hell and attaining heaven is really a self-centered rather than a Christ-centered religion. Essentially, this type of a response to the Gospel is the mentality of "What do I get out of it?" The idea of "What do I get out of it?" as the fundamental basis of our religious life lays for us a trap of evaluating every command and religious activity by this rule.
The most obvious manifestation of the "What do I get out of it?" attitude are thousands of empty pews throughout the churches of Christ around the world. No wonder, since we characteristically invite lost souls to become Christians by unwittingly asking them to buy into this mentality of "What do I get out of it?"
How many hundreds of us have started off with the crippling psychological barrier like this: "The water is warm, the baptistery is ready, the clothing is prepared, and we are happy for you to come" with the subtle and unrecognized implication that if the water is cold, and you have to walk a mile in the snow, breaking the ice to be baptized, and the lions, the rack or stake might await you at the end of it, you really ought to wait! Do you not see that if the ultimate purpose of your life is to "get saved" as it is often inelegantly put, then when you have done what it takes (or what you think it takes) to do that, all of your intellectual and emotional being is geared to stop at approximately that point. Why should a person whose goal is to win a hundred-yard dash run on for half a mile? But if your ultimate purpose from the beginning is to glorify God, then there is no stopping place for you. (Brown emphasis added)
While being goal-oriented is helpful in attaining benchmarks of progress, we have the wrong primary goal unless we first purpose to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Peter 4:11).
"Glorifying God should be the ultimate purpose behind all preaching, programs, building or activity, no matter what is its nature" (Brown). Glorifying God as one's decided purpose in life automatically speaks to proper Christian conduct for worship. "You do not ask the question, 'Do I have to come on Sunday nights or Wednesday nights to be saved?' for it never occurs to you. The thing by which you measure each response and action in life is, 'Does it glorify God?' and not, 'What benefit do I personally get from it?'" (Brown). Further, may we sing hymns, psalms and spiritual songs for the purpose of glorifying God (Ephesians 5:19). May we glorify God through our prayers (1 Corinthians 14:15). May we glorify God on purpose through the sermons preached and sermons heard (Acts 20:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:13). May the way we give according to purposing in our hearts and in keeping with our prosperity glorify God (1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7). May we truly glorify God through the reverent memorial of the Lord's Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Besides our public worship, may we through our prayers and Bible study in our private worship truly aim to glorify God.
Glorifying God as one's decided purpose in life automatically speaks to proper Christian conduct for Christian living. Robertson writes respecting "glory to God" in 1 Corinthians 10:31: "This is the ruling motive in the Christian's life..." When glorifying God is one's chief pursuit in life, he does not have to ponder whether so-called social drinking is acceptable behavior or if dancing is okay (Galatians 5:21). One does not have to wonder about any host of things over which he may be conflicted as to whether God absolutely prohibits it or requires it; one need only ask himself or herself "Does it glorify God?" With the intention of glorifying God at every opportunity, a child of God will automatically refrain from much useless or hurtful speech and conduct. Every Christian needs an abiding consciousness of proactively seeking to glorify God.
In order to know how to glorify God, one must arm himself or herself with a thorough knowledge of the Word of God. There is no getting around studying the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15; Acts 17:11). Only by becoming Bible literate can one properly discern between good and evil, and no one can glorify God while embracing evil (Hebrews 5:14). God's Word is the spiritual food that turns babes in Christ into mature Christians (1 Peter 2:2).
Largely, one's conduct either glorifies God or it does not glorify God. Sinful activity always negates glory to God in one's life. The apostle Paul noted that generally Gentiles were guilty of not glorifying God when they were unthankful and turned to sinful behavior (Romans 1:21). The apostle Paul concluded after citing the sins of Gentiles and Jews, that everyone sins, which detracts from the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Every child of God ought to purpose to glorify God. The apostle Paul emphasized the glory due God now and forever (Ephesians 3:21; Philippians 4:20). Personally, I purpose to glorify God through my preaching and pray about that prior to every sermon I present. While one does not have to become charismatic, nevertheless he needs to consciously intend for the sum of his life to glorify God. There is no more worthy motivation in life than to purpose to glorify God at every opportunity.
What are some of the ways in which we can glorify God? Christians in conjunction with each other need to glorify God together as though we do so with "one mind and one mouth" (Romans 15:6). Christians can glorify God when it is necessary to suffer for being a Christian (1 Peter 4:16). A follower of Jesus Christ may find it necessary to glorify God in death (John 21:19). Christians can glorify God through benevolence and through the weekly contribution in worship (2 Corinthians 9:13). Christians glorify God through their good works that lead their fellow mankind to glorify God (Matthew 5:16). The children of God must glorify God through the use of their bodies as well as the preparation of their souls (1 Corinthians 6:20). There is no more exemplary way to glorify God than through evangelism, leading others through the Gospel to salvation (Mark 16:15-16).
Each of us can make a checklist of ways in which we can glorify God, and a rival checklist of ways in which we are detracting from or at least wasting moments to glorify God. Does my speech glorify God or detract from glorifying God (Colossians 3:8)? Does my choice of companions and friends affect my ability to glorify God (1 Corinthians 15:33)? Does my choice of entertainment or the way I spend my money affect me being able to glorify God (Hebrews 11:25)? Do the clothes that I choose to wear serve to glorify God or detract from my ability to glorify God (1 Timothy 2:9-10)? Can I glorify God at school, or at the workplace? The questions we could pose for ourselves along this line are endless, and profitable.
In conclusion, promoting any New Testament doctrine before emphasizing the need to glorify God produces an unbalanced religion. Well-meaning preachers and elders have actually damaged the body of Christ ultimately by not emphasizing the Christian duty to glorify God before rightly emphasizing New Testament doctrine about evangelism, worship, Christian living, Christian service, etc. Of course, one cannot glorify God properly unless he conforms to New Testament doctrine about evangelism, worship, Christian living, Christian service, etc., but none of this will ever be what it could be, or endure indefinitely unless one's motivation for it all is glorifying God. "God's glory is paramount; human appetite and convenience have no weight whatever when opposed to God's glory" (Coffman). Until we set our minds to glorify God, we will never be the Christians we could and ought to be. Until we set our minds to glorify God by becoming and remaining faithful Christians, we will waver in our Christianity.
Of course, one cannot glorify God while neglecting to become a Christian (Acts 2:38). Further, one cannot glorify God while being an unfaithful Christian either (1 John 1:9). Dear reader, beginning at this very moment, please make glorifying God your chief pursuit and duty throughout your remaining days among the living. Surely, every child of God who enjoys heavenly habitations will glorify God endlessly throughout eternity.
Coffman, James Burton. James Burton Coffman Bible Study Library. CD-ROM. Abilene: ACU P., 1989.
Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville: Broadman, 1985. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1997.
Vine, W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words. CD-ROM. Nashville: Nelson, 1985.