In 1965 Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote a song to promote the film Alfie, entitled “What’s it all about Alfie?” Remember that song?
What’s it all about? That’s an even more important question when we ask Paul, or Moses, or David. What is life all about?
Paul tells us in Philippians 4:20:
To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
That kind of statement is so common in the Scriptures as to become almost trite. Yet it points out the most important issue in all of our lives, in all of history, throughout the whole universe—the glory of God.
God’s glory is the most important thing to God, and it should be the most important thing to us.
Here Paul is saying that the Philippians’ lives—their ability to trust in God rather than the flesh, to put others’ needs ahead of their own, and to give to his needs—these things bring glory to God.
But what do we mean by glory?
The Hebrew word for glory is kavod. It means something that is weighty, heavy, substantial.
Physically it can be used to describe someone who is heavy, like Eli in 1 Samuel 4:18.
Figuratively it can be used to describe Abraham being “wealthy” in livestock and in silver and gold in Genesis 13:2.
Eventually it came to refer to someone’s honor or recognition, that they were an important person. Warriors, princes and judges were society’s “heavyweights.” Of course, the biggest heavyweight is God Almighty.
“No one is more substantial than He is. No one has more influence. No one has a higher position or a weightier reputation. No one is more deserving of honor, recognition and praise. However weightless he may seem in the postmodern church, God himself is heavy” (Philip Ryken).
In the last part of that quote Ryken is pointing out a problem in our current culture. Although God is objectively the most important, most substantial Being in the universe, we are treating him as weightless, unimportant and trivial.
God just isn’t tipping the scales the way He used to.
In his book God in the Wasteland: The Reality of Truth in a Land of Fading Dreams, David Wells describes this curious condition he calls “the weightlessness of God.” He writes:
“It is one of the defining marks of our time that God is now weightless. I do not mean by this that he is ethereal but rather that he has become unimportant. He rests upon the world so inconsequentially as not to be noticeable. He has lost his saliency for human life. Those who assure the pollsters of their belief in God’s existence may nonetheless consider him less interesting than television, his commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, his judgment no more awe-inspiring than the evening news, and his truth less compelling than the advertisers’ sweet fog of flattery and lies. That is weightlessness. It is a condition we have assigned him after having nudged him out to the periphery of our secularized life.… Weightlessness tells us nothing about God but everything about ourselves, about our condition, about our psychological disposition to exclude God from our reality.”
What Wells is saying is that God is still objectively all-glorious and extremely substantial, we just don’t think so. We don’t live that way.
And it is this weightlessness of God—or more accurately, our own tendency to minimize Him in our thoughts and affections—that more than anything else explains the failings and weaknesses of the evangelical church.
Philip Ryken says,
“It is because God is so unimportant to us that our worship is so irreverent, our fellowship so loveless, our witness so timid, and our theology so shallow. We have become children of the lightweight God.” (Discovering God, pp. 15-16).
Because we don’t take God seriously we are not urgent about repenting and pursuing God, it is why we don’t turn off the television to read our Bibles or turn off our phones to pray. It is why we don’t fast.
Again, this current minimizing of God says nothing about God. He is as all-glorious and highly exalted as He ever was. But it impoverishes our lives.
What do we mean by “the glory of God”? What are we talking about?
God’s glory is so far beyond our ability to comprehend that it is somewhat difficult to put into words. It is not so much an attribute or perfection of God, but the sum of all His perfections. It is the—sometimes visible—display of all His beauties and perfections—His blazing holiness, justice, righteousness, kindness, mercy and truth—all of these and more.
Sam Storms defines glory…
As the beauty of God unveiled. Glory is the resplendent radiance of His power and His personality. Glory is all of God that makes God God, and shows Him to be worthy of our praise and our boasting and our trust and our hope and our confidence and our joy.
God’s glory is vitally important to Him. And well it should be. For God to not be vitally concerned about His own glory would be idolatry—putting another more important god before Himself. Sam Storms writes:
What is the pre-eminent passion in God’s heart? What is God’s greatest pleasure? How does the happiness of God manifest itself? In what does God take supreme delight? I want to suggest that the pre-eminent passion in God’s heart is his own glory. God is at the center of his own affections. The supreme love of God’s life is God. God is pre-eminently committed to the fame of his name. God is himself the end for which God created the world. Better, still, God’s immediate goal in all he does is his own glory.
God relentlessly and unceasingly creates, rules, orders, directs, speaks, judges, saves, destroys and delivers in order to make known who He is and to secure from the whole of the universe the praise, honor and glory of which He and He alone is ultimately and infinitely worthy. According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.’ At the heart of the Christian world-view is the fact that ‘-The chief end of God is to glorify God and to enjoy himself forever.’
So glorifying God is to be our great purpose as well. Glorifying God is what it’s all about. It is the supreme purpose of God and should be our primary purpose as well.
God is glorious in what He does—in the works of creation, redemption and return. Psalm 19:1 tells us that “the heavens declare the glory of God,” God receives glory in Israel’s redemption from Egypt in Exodus 15 and our redemption from sin in Ephesians 1. Three times in Ephesians 1, as Paul is declaring the vast spiritual blessings we have in Christ—our election, justification, redemption, adoption—Paul breaks out in praise saying…
“to the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph. 1:6)
“might be for the praise of His glory” (Eph 1:12)
“to the praise of His glory” (Eph. 1:14)
And Jesus will return in glory, according to Matthew 25:31.
But God is glorious in who He is in and of Himself. Even if God had never created, He would still be all glorious. Even if He had never saved anyone, He would be all glorious.
We try to make ourselves look glorious, but our glory fades. God’s glory never does. He is by nature glorious.
How do we glorify God?
God, throughout history, makes His glory known through His acts of creation, redemption, providence and return. Jesus’ disciples could occasionally see the glory of Jesus as He lived among them.
Of course, we all wish we could see the glory of God like Isaiah did in the temple.
We CAN see God’s glory in creation, if we just look.
God wants us to observe, and be changed by His glory, thus reflecting that glory. In 2 Corinthians 3:18 Paul tells the Corinthians:
18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
As we “see” Christ through the mirror of God’s Word, as we “behold the glory of the Lord” we are changed. We become more and more like Him and reflect His glory.
And realize, we don’t objectively make God more or less glorious by our actions. He remains all glorious no matter how we live.
C. S. Lewis said: “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling “darkness” on the walls of his cell.”
But we can live in a way that makes others see God’s glory.
This is why the New Testament again and again calls us to do all to the glory of God.
Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good deeds and give glory to your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
God’s glory is manifest in creation simply by creation doing the job God created it to do. Likewise, we manifest God’s glory when we do what we are called to do—be salt and light in this world.
John Piper gives a helpful illustration:
Now, here’s a little bit of ambiguity in the word glorify or magnify. Let’s take magnify.
Telescopes magnify and microscopes magnify. If you think of your magnifying of God as doing what a microscope does, you’re a blasphemer. If you think of your magnifying God doing what a telescope does, you’re a worshiper.
How does a microscope magnify? It takes a teeny little thing and makes it look bigger than he is, than it is. Okay, you going to do that for God? I don’t think so. Teeny little God and you’re going to make him look bigger than he is. No way. Don’t magnify God like a microscope.
What does a telescope do? A telescope takes something that looks teeny, like a star. Teeny little prick in the sky. Bigger than our solar system. And it makes it look like it really is. That’s what a telescope does. That’s what you do. Right? That’s what our lives are for.
In most the people you relate to God is small. Zero almost. Little teeny God. Pull him out of your pocket when you need him every now and then. He’s a very small factor in their life.
What are you here for? You are to live in a way, talk in a way, feel in a way, act in a way toward them so that God gets bigger and bigger in their lives. You make him look good.
Philip Ryken explains further that we are like the mirrors inside the telescope:
“A person who glorifies God is like one of the mirrors in a powerful telescope. When an astronomer looks through his telescope, he is not trying to see the mirrors inside. Yet actually that is what he is looking at—not stars, but mirrors. By their reflections, those mirrors enable him to see the bright stars of the heavens. In the same way, the followers of Christ reflect the glory of God. We have no glory of our own. Whatever glory we have is a reflection of God’s glory.” (Ryken, 24).
“Glorifying” means feeling and thinking and acting in ways that reflect his greatness, that make much of God, that give evidence of the supreme greatness of all his attributes and the all-satisfying beauty of his manifold perfections. (John Piper)
“God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied with him,” says Piper. In other words, He is most glorified in me when Jesus Christ is my greatest treasure and greatest pleasure, when nothing means more to me than him.
Sam Storms says…
Pleasure is the measure of our treasure. How do you measure or assess the value of something you cherish? How do you determine the worth of a prize? Is it not by the depth of pleasure you derive from it? Is it not by the intensity and quality of your delight in what it is? Is it not by how excited and enthralled and thrilled you are in the manifold display of its attributes, characteristics, and properties? In other words, your satisfaction in what the treasure is and what the treasure does for you is the standard or gauge by which its glory (worth and value) is revealed. Hence, your pleasure is the measure of the treasure. Or again, the treasure, which is God, is most glorified in and by you when your pleasure in Him is maximal and optimal.
What are some ways we glorify God?
I like to define worship as “treasuring Christ above all things, trusting Him in all things and thanking Him for all things.” In those ways I show His extreme value to me.
Our worship can glorify God, but sometimes it doesn’t. Did you know that? There are plenty of cases in the Old Testament where God told His people, “Stop worshipping me.” God was deeply offended by the way they worshipped him. So not all worship is created equal.
We worship Him by ascribing glory to Him for what He has done from pure and holy hearts.
We can also glorify Him by trusting Him. Anytime we are going through lack or difficulty or pain, we can admit to God that we need Him, that we are powerless, ignorant and incapable and we need His strength, wisdom and authority.
We are saved when we admit that we cannot be good enough for God, that we have no spiritual capital to commend ourselves to God, and that salvation is depended wholly upon Him.
We glorify God by confessing our sins. When we acknowledge that we have transgressed His laws (thus declaring them good and Him right), we glorify Him.
We also glorify God by our good works, when they are done in His strength and for His glory. We can serve for our own glory and in our own strength. That doesn’t glorify God.
In John 15:8 Jesus says,
This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Of course, we can also glorify God by telling others about Him. This is true not only in witnessing, but also in parenting.
“The great battle of parenting is not the battle of behavior; it’s the battle for what kind of awe will rule children’s hearts” says Paul David Tripp in his little book Awe: Why It Matters for Everything We Think, Say, and Do. Listen to David in Psalm 78:
4 We will not hide them from their children [God’s ancient deeds], but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.
Make much of God—in your own heart, in your own home, and to the world.