January 22, 2017

How can we Most Glorify God in our Lives?

Perhaps the most important question a Christian can ask is: "How can I most glorify God in my life?" How do you most glorify God? How we answer this question informs how and why we worship God, how we think about life, plan our goals, and develop habits. Personally, I think that it is very important to use wisdom and critical thinking to test ideas when addressing this question, and to not just follow along with what other people claim is true in their teachings, because there is so much false doctrine being taught in our time.

There are two concepts that help us to dig down to a wise and firm foundation of scriptural truth, the concepts of “necessity” and “sufficiency.” On a very simple level, it is possible to embrace a statement that is true as a necessary condition for God's glory, but is not sufficient, in and of itself, for God's glory. For example, I could say,

“It is necessary for us to abide in Christ in order for us to fully glorify God with our lives.”

This is a true statement. But if I say, “Abiding in Christ is sufficient for me in order to fully glorify Christ.” - that is not a true statement. Why? Because it is possible to abide in Christ and still be living in idolatry, to be immature, and to be living contrary to God's will. This is shown in John 15. Jesus is quoted as saying:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” (John 15.1-2 NIV).

The above verse outlines how we can practice the presence of God and abide in Christ and yet still require “pruning” as a means of improving and being more fruitful, towards the ultimate goal of glorifying God.

Next, this chapter outlines the importance of meditating on and applying the word of God, in addition to abiding in God: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15.7). So now we have two necessary conditions of giving God the most glory in our lives, and this saying is true:

“It is necessary to abide in Christ and abide in God's word for us to most fully glorify God.”

After this, we are given an explicit explanation from Christ as to how we can bring God glory: “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” (John 15.8 NIV).

In this context, the immeasurable glory of God is made visible for all to see as “fruit” in lived lives. This word fruit is ""karpoj" in the original Greek and is used figuratively here to describe helping to prepare people for eternal life, coming to know Christ and growing in relationship with God.  Revelation 4:11 tells us plainly that all things were created ultimately for God's glory and pleasure, and that, again, the immeasurable glory of God is made visible in the beauty of creation: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Knowing the full biblical context of any given subject is very important for a full understanding. Acts 20.27 highlights that is best to study and know the whole “counsel” and word of God. Acts 17.11 shows that one of the reasons for this is to test everything that is taught to ensure that it is valid. It is possible to pick and choose scriptures from the word of God that may suit some mere human tradition, our ego, or agenda, and diminish the glory of God, so it's also important to include this truth:

“It is necessary to aim to live out the whole will of God in order to most fully glorify God.”

When we look at John 15.9, we read: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” But if you aren't aware, you may not understand that there are four different words for “love” used in the original Greek text, and this particular use refers to “agape” love, which has significant meaning. Agape love is used in scripture to describe the highest form of spiritual love, that C.S. Lewis described as a love that is others-centered: “Love in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people.”

Another aspect of living a life that is glorifying to God is the sense of pleasure that is found: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15.11 NIV). It is apparent that a sense of joy and satisfaction in God is necessary in order to help complete the full picture of God's glory. But is expereincing this one aspect of pleasure sufficient in order to glorify God? No. And if we somehow believe that our personal pleasure and joy are the main motives for seeking God, worshipping God and loving God, then we are out of step with the definition of agape love, as a love that is not self-seeking. But, even worse, we are disobeying two primary commandments that Christ outlined: ...He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10.27 NIV). If we pursue our own pleasure, wealth, or fame with all our might, then, by definition, we are disobeying these straightforward commands.
Scripture emphasizes that Christ and the Holy Spirit dwell in Christians and that the agape love that is to flow out of our lives is not a needy love or a greedy love, but is supernaturally deep and sufficient as one of the "fruits of the Spirit" available and prodigious as we abide in relationship with God: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness," (Galatians 5.22).

Both Christian hedonism and asceticism are not biblically sound and focus inordinately on the self and subjective feelings, while diminishing the greater purpose of God's redemptive plan on earth. If we are mainly hedonistic, then we will tend to diminish the value of the big picture and the value of others. The Apostle Paul displayed the self-less deep love of Christ in this statement: "I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me."(Philippians 1.21-23 NIV).

Paul does not place overt focus on his own joy or the mere joy of others, but he places his emphasis on the value of spiritual "progress and joy" and "boasting in Christ." Our part in God's main purpose on earth is described in Ephesians : "...he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ." (Ephesians 1:9 NIV). And the ultimate purpose is the glory of Christ: "...in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory." (Ephesians 1.12 NIV).

Though fasting alone in a cave or monastery as an ascetic may be beneficial for a little while, as an ideal or standard of life this will probably not help to advance God's greater purpose and glory. And focusing primarily on our own personal subjective pleasure now or in heaven as an ideal or standard is a myopic and unbiblical path towards God's purpose and glory. This subject of love in John Chapter 15 is concluded with an emphasis on the outward-focused and self-less nature of agape love: “This is my command: Love each other.” (John 15.17). Unfortunately, there are popular Bible teachers today that promote a selfish and hedonistic theology that is more inspired by human ideas than by Spirit-inspired scripture, as shown at this link.

Living by faith is another aspect of living a life glorifying to God. The website "Got Questions" addresses the question of,  "What does it mean to glorify God?" and the faith of Stephen is exemplified, who suffered physically in being stoned just before seeing the glory of God. When you look at Hebrews 11, heroes of faith are listed that glorified God with their lives, and the phrase "by faith" occurs 22 times in the chapter. Our faith is necessary for pleasing God: "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." If you are not careful, though, you can become deceived into believing that God wants us to focus mainly on God's gifts as rewards for faith, such as riches, perfect health, or pleasure. We are commanded to love, worship and pursue the person of God above all things as our reward, treasure and motive. Genesus 15.1 states: "Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward." (NIV). A Psalm of David is titled, "My Soul Waits for God Alone" (Psalm 62). The Apostle Paul stated: "Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." (Philippians 3.8 NIV).
While God's glory is manifested in the magnificent beauty of creation (Revelation 4.11), it is also displayed in the account when Moses personally experienced the power of God's glory (Exodus 33-34), when his faced glowed, reflecting God's glory with a perma-shine. In this account, God proclaimed His nature and agape-type, others-centered love, even as He physically demonstrated His glory to Moses:
"Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin." (Exodus 34:5-7 NIV).

The New Testament emphasizes that the veil of the Hebrew Temple was ripped in two when Christ was crucified, underscoring that there is now in this age no longer a barrier between the Christian believer and the magnificent presence of God and the glory of God. (Mark 15.38). In this age, the priceless and immeasurable treasure of God's presence and glory actually dwells inside of every true believer: "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." (2 Corinthians 4.7 NIV). And this brings up another important aspect of living a life glorifying to God. Galatians 5.25 states: "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." (NIV).

To write a summary that would not deny any of these many points and highlight primary ones, as impossible as the task seems, can be helpful. I believe that this one may be close:
God is most glorified in us when we most fully reflect the whole will of God with the deep love of God in the living Spirit of God.
The above statement could be simplified even further and still offer both necessary and sufficient aspects:

God is most glorified in us when we most fully reflect the whole will of God.

Both the Psalmist and the Savior encourage us to live a life that is conscientiously aimed at pleasing God: “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14 NIV). And Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commands." We don't need to earn our salvation through our obedience, but obedience to God is pleasing to God and glorifies God. Also, it's good to desire that God's beauty and glory be manifested in us and through us: “And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us: and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.” (Psalm 90:17 KJV). All of the manifold blessings of God, and the gift of joy in the presence of God, come when we pursue God, but we are never advised in scripture to seek or idolize any gift of God over and above the person of God. Christ Himself is, "the way, the truth and the life." (John 14.6). The true gospel nether adds nor subtracts from the sufficiency of our relationship in Christ that is gained only through grace and by faith. Ultimately, the purpose of existence can be summed up in four words: "To give God glory"(Revelation 4.11), and sharing the gospel is a means of doing this.
I welcome discussion at my blog, as long as it is civilized. If anyone believes that any statement or idea I've presented here is false, inaccurate or misleading, you are welcome to post a comment. How would you personally define and summarize what it means to most glorify God?

Rick Warden, revised  01-24-17

Tags: Life's most important question, How do we best glorify God with our lives, How is God glorified in us? What is the basis of God's glory? What are signs of God's glory? to obey God's commands


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