Message # 5 | December 4, 2016
Why does a young child run into the kitchen with a torn and ragged piece of paper containing the drawing of – well, you never did figure that out. Why? Because they wanted you to see the evidence of their work and creativity. They want to hear, “Wow! That’s amazing!” They want you to enjoy it with them.
Why do players or performers look up into the crowd during a sporting event or concert to see if their girlfriend or parents or close friends are watching? Because they want them to bear witness of what they’ve accomplished. They want them to cheer for them. They want them to nudge the parents next to them and say, “Hey that’s my kid!” They want them to find enjoyment in what was produced or accomplished.
Why did I drive Linda to all the houses I built during seminary? Because I wanted her to see all my hard work and the beauty in the construction that my hands had accomplished. I wanted her to enjoy it with me. I wanted her to be impressed and proud of me. I wanted to hear her say, “Wow! You’re amazing. I wish we could stay together forever.” J
God looks at his creation, and he as well stands back and marvels at it. He calls out to us. Look! Look what I’ve accomplished. Isn’t it amazing? Instead of turning to Him and being amazed and being impressed, much of his creation reject that He even exists. His creation thinks, “Hey, look what I’ve done. Look what I’ve accomplished.” Instead of His creation enjoying his creativity and power, they reject Him.
Now then, this analogy may in some way present God as either egotistical – demanding everyone acknowledge His amazing power and abilities. Or, maybe even a bit insecure – needing everyone to acknowledge his creativity. This may be true if he wasn’t drawing us to where our greatest joy would be experienced. God is not like the young child who needs affirmation by his parents, or the young high school basketball player wanting her boyfriend to see her score the goal, or an insecure young seminar student that wants to impress his fiancée. He doesn’t call us to glory in His creation and Himself because he needs us to, but because he wants us to find the ultimate source of joy and peace. To point us anywhere else would be unkind and ungracious of Him. He knows he is the ultimate source of joy. He is the source of ultimate satisfaction. So, he calls us to Himself, not out of insecurity and pride, but out of grace and love.
Soli Deo Gloria, to the Glory of God alone. The final of our Reformation solas. (1) Sola Scriptura. We are called to look to scripture as our sole authority. Anything from the traditions of the church to one’s own experiences do not supplant the scriptures as our sole authority. (2) Sola Fide. Faith is simply the empty hand that grasps the salvation found in Christ. We do not gain our salvation through penance mediated by the church or the good deeds we act out in our own righteousness. We simply receive the work of Christ as our payment for sin. (3) Sola Gracia. Our salvation was entirely dependent upon God’s divine and effectual grace and call. We were darkened in our minds, dead in our sin, and he alone made us alive and enlightened our minds to the truth. There was nothing in us that had any part in our salvation. (4) Solus Christus. All of this was accomplished through the perfect life and sacrifice of Christ producing both our payment and our righteousness.
If we add anything to anyone of those, even a little, God does not receive all the glory alone. If we add man’s traditions and experiences to God’s Word, God does not receive all the glory. If we add our own good deeds and penance to our salvation, God does not receive all the glory. If we agree that our salvation is through God’s grace but it included just a bit of my own free will, God does not receive all the glory. If I need to add just a little of my own righteousness to Christ’s sacrifice and sole role as mediator, God does not receive all the glory. So then, all the other solas are simply rivers feeding one primary source and purpose – God’s glory alone.
The manner in which we will consider Soli Deo Gloria this morning is by way of four questions. (1) Why should we glorify God? (2) What is God’s glory? (3) How do I glorify God? (4) To what extent do I glorify God?
Here is a reason for the simple conformists in our group, for those who simply want to be told what is right and are not demanding to understand the intricacies of all the reasons. The God who created us commands us to glorify Him. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV). This verse makes it very simple.
While the simple command ought to be sufficient for each of us, too often we want more. So then, let us add to the simple demand to glorify God. He as well desires it. Consider the following passages. In Isaiah 42:8 we are told that the LORD desires glory and that He desires it alone. “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” In the next chapter of Isaiah we learn that the entire purpose for our being created was for His glory, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made” (Isaiah 43:7 ESV). In Isaiah 48, God informs Israel that before He did a great work He would tell them that He was going to do it. He would then do it.
Isaiah 48:5 (ESV) I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.’
Just a few verses later he communicates to them why He did this.
Isaiah 48:11 (ESV) For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.
Romans 11:33–36 (ESV) Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” 35 “Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
“For who has known the mind of the Lord?” No one has. His ways are unsearchable and inscrutable. He is beyond us and our understanding. “Who has been his counselor?” No one has. There is no wisdom within man that would be of any assistance to God. We have nothing to offer him. “Who has given him a gift that he might be repaid?” No one has. He is lacking in nothing and he owes no debt to any of us. Why? Because “from him and through him and to him are all things.” All glory is to go to Him. He deserves it.
God’s glory is any manifestation of His character. God’s glory is God’s character put on display.
Deuteronomy 5:23–24 (ESV) And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders. 24 And you said, ‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the midst of the fire. This day we have seen God speak with man, and man still live.
Exodus 33:22–23 (ESV) and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”
Exodus 40:34–35 (ESV) Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. 35 And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.
John 1:14 (ESV) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV) For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 1:3 (ESV) He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
During our times, God has so chosen to manifest His glory in one place – the Church. He has not chosen parachurch organizations, colleges and seminaries, any specific charity. He has chosen the Church. You may struggle with this because you know that the Church is made up of struggling people, people who can by hypocritical and judgmental, people who at times display little difference between those around them in the world. And yet, God has chosen to display His glory in the Church. God’s glory is manifested when he takes a corrupt and hostile people and conforms them to be like Christ.
Ephesians 3:20–21 (ESV) Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
It’s not that God has limited His glory to just the Church. Yet, for this time, He has so chosen to primarily reveal His glory through the Church.
Psalm 19:1 tells us that “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” All creation reflects in some way the incomprehensible and amazing attributes of God. Paul continues this thought in Romans. “His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20 ESV).
In Luke 19, we read of Jesus entering Jerusalem for what is called His “Triumphant Entry.” When asked by the Pharisees to rebuke the people’s praise, Jesus responds by saying, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Lk 19:40). How might these stone cry out? How do the heavens declare the glory of God? They have no voice. They possess no mouth. How then do they declare? Their very presence cries out to the glory of God. When you see their beauty, when you stand in awe at their heights, when you are overwhelmed by their power, when you see the strength and endurance of such amazing creations, you look upon the creator with adoration. Chrysostom writes, “The heavens may be silent, but the sight of them emits a voice that is louder than a trumpet’s sound.” God’s glory is manifested not audibly through the ears but through our sight.
It is important for us to realize that God is glorified based on who he is not on what we do. We are going to discuss, in just a moment, how we are to glorify God. But, before we get there let’s first establish and embrace that regardless of anything we choose to do, God will be glorified. God is inherently glorious. He does not need us to do anything to make him glorious or to add to his glory. His glory is in no way dependent upon us. Romans 9:15-23 communicates to us that everyone will ultimately bring glory to God, either as vessels through which God’s mercy will be displayed or as vessels through which God’s wrath will be displayed. I understand the discomfort that a passage such as this may bring, yet the truth remains – God is glorified regardless of what we do.
With that said, my preference would be that I’m a vessel of His grace. I know that he’ll be glorified either way, but I’m thankful that I’m a recipient of his grace. In so being, I desire to reflect His character. How do I do that?
If God is glorified when his character is put on display, I personally glorify God be reflecting and declaring his character. The physical created world reflects God’s power, creativity, etc., but mankind has a unique ability above the rest of creation. We can reproduce, in a small way, the attributes of God. The ocean can reflect God’s power and beauty, but it can reproduce love. The rocks reflect in a small way the sturdy foundation we experience in God, but they cannot reproduce and extend grace to someone. Humanity can. Unlike the rest of creation, we were created in the image of God. We possess a personality, creativity, and a will. These can uniquely be used to reflect outward the character of God.
Consider a mirror. The mirror is never the source of beauty, just the reflection of that which is beautiful. We are to be a mirror, reflecting the character of God – His love, grace, mercy, truth, justice, righteousness, holiness, etc. When we display these attributes, no glory is to go to us. We are simply reflections of the character of God.
God’s Word tied to His glory. If I glorify God by reflecting or declaring His character, is it not true that I must know Him? If I must know Him to correctly reflect or declare His character, is it not true that I must know His primary source of self-revelation, that being His Word? If this is true, is it not fair to say that to glorify God you must know His word? Let me take this one step further. Is the reverse as well true? If I don’t know His word, I cannot glorify Him. God’s Word is the only source we possess of God’s self-revelation. It is through His Word alone that we understand His character qualities. How then could we reflect them properly or declare them verbally if we don’t know what they are.
The simple answer. First Corinthians 10:31 answers the question for us. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I am to glorify God in whatever I do. There is never a moment in which I am not to be reflecting the glory of God. Do you find that hard to believe, or at least find reasonable? The cynic in you might respond, “so I have to be thinking about God every moment! I have to be spiritual all the time! Aren’t I allowed any moment from religion and spirituality?” Let me ask a few questions.
Does God desire you to rest? Absolutely. He even offered himself as a model of rest during His creation. Therefore, when we rest we are reflecting God’s purpose for us. This brings him glory. Sleep glorifies God. A time of rest with friends and family around the game table or an appropriate movie, working through a good book – all reflect God’s purpose for us and bring Him glory.
Does God desire you to work hard and display His creative genius? Absolutely. He modeled that for us in His creation and continues to model that for us. When we go to work with the intent of working hard and reflecting God’s kindness, grace, and patience, we are glorifying Him.
Does God desire for us to love one another? Absolutely. He clearly and beautifully modeled this for us in the giving of Christ. He’s established, as the whole of the law, that we love Him and others. When we love one another we are glorifying Him. When we go on a date with our spouse, or spend time with our children, or lovingly share fellowship with friends. When we patiently and kindly respond to the hurtful words of another. When we inconvenience ourselves for the good of another. All of these are displays of love which bring glory to God.
There is no arena in life in which we cannot strive to reflect God’s character to those we are around. When we do we are glorifying God.
Sacred vs. Secular. One of the battles fought by the Reformers was over the distinction made by the Catholic Church between the sacred and the secular.
LUTHER. It is pure invention that pope, bishops, priests, and monks are called the “spiritual estate” while princes, lords, artisans, and farmers are called the “temporal estate.” This is indeed a piece of deceit and hypocrisy. Yet no one need be intimated by it, and for this reason: all Christians are truly of the “spiritual estate,” and there is no difference among them except that of office.
This concept resulted in laypeople living primarily secular lives, while clergy lived in a heightened state of holiness and spirituality. Simply put, they were more spiritual because they did more spiritual things. It was then noble or pious or godly to sacrifice the secular life and embrace the priesthood, or become a nun or monk, where a life could be lived more consistently in the spiritual realm.
This same unbiblical logic is as well present in evangelicalism. We divide up our lives between three areas: that which is spiritual, that which is immoral, and that which is secular. Usually, by secular, we mean that which has no intrinsic morality. It’s stuff that God doesn’t care about, basketball, food, TV, hunting, shopping, etc. With this definition we would all have to agree that most of life is secular. On the other hand, things we do at church, when we read our Bibles, when we pray at dinner or during our normal times or prayer – those are all the spiritual things. And that list, for most of us, takes up from 5 minutes to an hour of our day.
And yet, God tells us that we are to manifest the glory of God in every moment of our lives. The conclusion that we must draw is that there is no divide between the secular and sacred. There is only a divide between glorifying God and not glorifying God, a divide between reflecting God’s character or not reflecting His character, a divide between holiness and sinfulness.
How can this be? Because although there may be many things in life that possess no inherent morality, the people that possess those things do possess moral reasoning. Every one of our actions is motivated by something within us and that motivation is either a reflection of God or it is not. Therefore every decision we make is a moral decision whether or not it involves a moral or amoral activity.
LUTHER. To serve God simply means to do what God has commanded and not to do what God has forbidden. And if only we would accustom ourselves properly to this view, the entire world would be full of service to God, not only the churches but also the home, the kitchen, the cellar, the workshop, and the field of townsfolk and farmers. . . .
In the light of this view of the matter a poor maid should have the joy in her heart of being able to say: Now I am cooking, making the bed, sweeping the house. Who has commanded me to do these things? My master and mistress have. What has given them authority over me? God has. Very well, then it must be true that I am serving not them alone but also God in heaven and that God must be pleased with my service. How could I not possibly be more blessed? Why, my service is equal to cooking for God in heaven!
A man once asked Martin Luther, “Dr. Luther, I am a humble cobbler but I am grateful to God for Christ’s justifying work on my behalf. What should I do in light of Christ’s redemptive work?” Luther’s response was, “make a better shoe.”
(1) Why should we glorify God? Because he demands it, desires it, and deserves it. (2) What is God’s glory? God’s glory is any manifestation of His character. It is His character on display. (3) How do I glorify God? I personally glorify God by reflecting or declaring His character. (4) To what extent do I glorify God? I am called to glorify God in every moment of my life.
 Craig A. Blaising and Carmen S. Hardin, eds., Psalms 1–50, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2008), 148.
 The following excerpt is taken from An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility by Martin Luther. Although it is directed toward the Church in Rome circa 1520, its truth applies to any church at any time that advocates for a sacred-secular vocational divide.