Today’s post starts with a pop quiz. It’s only 1 question long. But it’s harder than it seems.
What does it mean to ‘glorify God’ in language that your unchurched neighbor could understand? (If you can’t put it in a way that someone outside the church can understand it, then you probably don’t understand it, either).
Take a few seconds and wrestle with this before reading on.
Why This Is So Important
The idea of ‘glory’ is everywhere in the bible. In fact, depending on the version you’re using, a word search for ‘glory’ turns up roughly 275-400 results. Without question, it’s one of the most important themes in the bible.
While God is full of glory, we are called to ‘glorify’ him. For example, Jesus said, ‘Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven’. (Matthew 5:16)
Many of our catechisms reflect the importance the bible places on the idea. For example, the very first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism goes like this:
Q: What is the chief end of man?
A: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever.
In other words, the whole point of our existence can be summarized in just 2 things, 1 of which is to ‘glorify God’. Again, pretty important stuff.
All this means that, when it comes to important biblical themes and words, we need to know what we’re talking about. It’s so easy to use a bunch of buzzwords and church-speak that are true yet so familiar that we don’t know what they really mean. The depth of our walk with God, and our ability to explain our faith to others, is at stake.
Before we can talk about glorifying God, we need to take a step back. To God himself and his ‘glory’.
When it comes to explaining weighty biblical terms like this, Pastor John Piper is a ninja. Here’s what he says:
‘I define the holiness of God as the infinite value of God, the infinite intrinsic worth of God… [and the glory of God] is the public display of [this] infinite beauty and worth of God’.
I think your neighbor could understand that. Piper is saying that God is holy, or, infinitely beautiful and valuable. God’s glory is simply what happens when he shows his holiness to us. (See more from him in this short post here).
So God is holy (perfect in every way) and when he shows his holiness to us, we see his glory.
So How Do We Glorify God?
God’s beauty and value never changes, but when we see it (it’s everywhere: see Psalm 19), we have a choice. Will we ‘glorify’ him, or, will we miss it?
But – back to our original question – what does it mean to glorify God? Remember, this is important stuff, at the very center of what it means to be human.
Once again, Piper is helpful:
‘ “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’. (Full message here).
To put it more simply, we could say that glorifying God is living in a way that reflects and displays his infinite beauty and worth (his holiness).
And while our neighbor might disagree with us in terms of what it looks like in everyday life, I think she could understand this, too.
Two Ways You Can Glorify God Before You Go To Bed Tonight
So far, I’ve said that we need to be familiar with the bible’s key themes and what they actually mean. Not only for the sake of the people around us, but also for our own. We want our lives to look like God wants them to.
One of these key themes is ‘glory’, the public display of God’s perfections, or, holiness. And when we act in a way that puts God’s holiness on display to others, we ‘glorify’ him. This is what our lives are all about.
But how can we actually do this? Before our heads hit the pillow tonight?
The possibilities are literally endless and as unique as you are. But here are two ideas from Matthew 21:1-11, the passage that describes Jesus’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem just before his crucifixion.
- Do the quiet things Jesus asks you to. In verses 1-3, Jesus asks his disciples to go into a village and borrow the donkey that he’ll use to ride into the city. There’s a lot going on here, as Jesus is showing Jerusalem yet again that he is its Savior and King. But one of the takeaways comes from verse 6, where we read that ‘the disciples went and did as Jesus directed’. Not glamorous, exciting stuff, but this is one picture of what it means to glorify God with your life. Quietly doing the next thing that Jesus asks you to. Jesus said, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments’.
- Let Jesus shine. Think of how bizarre it would have been if, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem, one of the disciples had tapped him on the shoulder and said, ‘Hey, Jesus. Everyone’s going crazy for you and that’s great, but would you mind stepping down for a minute so that I can have a turn?’ That’s not how the story goes because we’re not supposed to get the glory. Jesus is. But we try to steal his glory all the time in the little moments of our lives. Like steering the conversation toward ourselves; failing to give God credit; making our social media posts all about us; and, stubbornly trying to do things own without input or help from God. (I am a repeat offender on all of the above!)
So phrases we tend to throw around without much thought – like ‘glorifying God’ – are meant to be full of meaning, rich ways of summarizing some of the most important things in life. When we slow down just a little and give them some thought, we’re transformed, others are helped, and… God is glorified.
Let’s live it out: How would you explain God’s glory to your unchurched friends? And, what’s one way you can practically live out God’s call to do what he asks and let Jesus shine? Share it with our community in the comments below.