Exciting phrases, easy acronyms, and memorable lists formed from dense works of systematic theology can be helpful for the everyday Christian. While these reductions of God’s Word and His nature help us understand general frameworks, they are unable to help us understand everything the Bible teaches.
It is one thing to know and use the phrase soli deo gloria, and another thing to know how to glorify God. If we only know the five solas, then we know we are to glorify God. However, we are left with a deficiency to articulate the concept of God’s glory and illustrate how that transforms the mundane and ordinary parts of our lives.
What is God’s Glory?
So, what is God’s glory? First, it is something that can’t be summarized or shortened. A devotional from Ligonier Ministries writes:
God’s glory is a concept that we have an awareness of without necessarily being able to describe it in all its fullness.
This is important to grasp because glorifying God means living for His glory. We need to know what that is before we can glorify Him. And since there is no one-sentence summary of it, we must approach and reflect on the place where His glory is revealed to us: The Bible.
In his study on the Gospel of John, Richard Bauckman writes this about God’s glory:
[It is] the radiance and character of God, the grace and truth about which Moses heard, but which the disciples of Jesus have seen in his human person and life.
Notice a few things: God’s glory is about His character. This seems simple, but often when we think about glorifying God we think of what we should do with our strengths. That’s the wrong place to start! You don’t have to be radical to glorify God—Jesus was radical for you. Look to Him.
Also, note from this definition that we come to know his glory through hearing and seeing. In other words, you acknowledge God’s significance and presence in your life through your posture toward God, inclining your thoughts, words, desires, and actions toward His glory.
For the Christian, that means you can glorify God right now—wherever you are. Here are four postures to help you live in light of God’s glory.
1. Surrender to Jesus’s Lordship
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)
If we compiled all our accomplishments and set them before God, His perfect standard of right living would weigh our accomplishments insufficient (Isaiah 64:6). Our sin severely and deeply defiles us.
However, Jesus’s accomplishments satisfy God’s perfect standard. While we stood condemned in our sin before God, Jesus took on our sin and endured God’s rejection and wrath. By faith in Christ, we are clothed in His righteousness and cleansed in His blood.
Part of surrendering to Jesus’s Lordship is understanding that everything is under His rule. The Galatians verse above makes it seem like we are to be completely done with the world, but Ephesians 1:15-23 helps us understand this idea better.
In this passage, Paul talks about how Christ’s work “put all things under his feet” (1:22). These things were not eradicated but placed under his feet.
Take culture, for example. Some Christians assume that we need to avoid secular culture. This assumption implies that this part of the world has not been put under Christ’s feet. As Christians surrendering to Jesus as Lord, we embrace culture to glorify God.
2. Steward God’s Gifts for His Glory
Why… do you submit to regulations “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” … according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism… but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh. (Colossians 2:20-23)
Asceticism, which today may look more like depriving yourself of God’s good gifts through creation, culture, and society, has the “appearance of wisdom.” It is of no value to you. Don’t mistake glorifying God with simply retreating into a “Christian” bubble.
God provides us with a living, active, and transformative relationship in Christ with himself. Through that relationship, God cleanses us of our impurities, clothes our nakedness, frees us from sin’s power, and conceals us from corruption. He is conforming us into Christ’s glorious image!
In Christ, God makes us whiter than snow, purer than gold, and enrobed with greater glow and splendor than Joseph. We cannot attain more purity, holiness, and blamelessness than that.
Christ accomplished these things at a great cost to himself. And Jesus didn’t redeem us just to make us feel pleasant about ourselves and spiritually superior to others. He redeemed us to advance the Gospel and his kingdom into our neighbors’ minds and heart through our engagement of his good gifts.
Of course, we want to make sure we aren’t making an idol out of anything. That is why the first item—surrendering to Jesus’s Lordship is so important.
We need to ask ourselves: Are the gifts we enjoy fostering thankfulness and honor toward God?
3. Realize that God is Greater than His Gifts
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:25-26)
A paradox that evildoers prosper while the righteous struggle confused Asaph. Initially bitter and ignorant, Asaph nearly stumbled into envy of the arrogant in their success. But God remained ever-present with Asaph.
Here in this Psalm, Asaph reminds himself and us that God must be our ultimate hope. Recollecting God’s faithfulness to his people, Asaph guided himself out of jealousy into worshipping the living and true God.
Besides God, nothing can hold up the infinite weight of our expectations for supreme joy and love. Only God can provide the everlasting, limitless, and constant peace which we crave.
In Christ, God has provided for our greatest need: a way into his presence. And when he gives us gifts, we enjoy them more than we ever could before because we intimately know the One who gives them.
4. See God’s Glory and Enjoy His Gifts
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).
God designed his gifts in creation and culture to serve as a beam for his people to gaze through and along to experience himself. He is the radiance of our existence.
Do not immerse yourselves into the beam and ignore God. Do not retreat from the beam and attempt to experience God apart from his design.
God has designed humans with a set of sensory tools—taste buds, ears, eyes, noses—to soak in tangible real-life experiences. Additionally, God designed us with a mind and heart for us to connect these experiences to Himself, attributing honor and thanksgiving to Him as the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of the universe.
You see, in Christ, our ability to properly participate in this way within the world is restored; rather than becoming strangely dim, the things of earth grow strangely bright.
The world pressures us to find our identity in our performance and tempts us to abuse God’s good gifts and to fear the grievous loss of these gifts. God has reserved for us an inheritance.
This is the Christian hope: the bodily resurrection of the saints into a new world full of potential for adventurous, exciting, and enjoyable experiences joined by unhindered honoring and thanking God for such experiences.