January 22, 2017

How can we Most Glorify God with our Lives?

One of the most important questions a Christian can ask is: "How can I most glorify God with my life?" As a Christian, you might even consider this life's most important question. How we answer this question informs how well we understand scripture, how and why we worship God, how we think about life, and how we plan our goals and develop habits. The Bible admonishes us to "test all things" (Thessalonians 5:21) and "apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalm 90:12) -and using critical thinking helps us to answer the questions of how we can most glorify God with our lives. First, it is important to understand that the glory of God is not a net sum that we add to or take away from in this sense:

"Evangelical theologians since the Reformation have consistently taught that God's infinite glory is a personal attribute of God, distinct and independent of the existence of any other beings, and therefore not subject to human feelings for its definition or degree." (Grenz, Stanley J. "Theology for the Community of God" P.21)

Though we cannot technically add to or take away from God's glory, scripture offers that giving God glory is something that is right and fitting, and even suggests that we owe this to God as a duty in a sense:

"Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness." (Psalm 29:2 KJV)

The Hebrew word for "Lord" in Psalms 29:2 is Jehovah, which means "the existing One." This name emphasizes that the Judeo-Christian God is not contingent upon any other being or quality other than His own being and the qualities He possesses. The nature of God is described in many parts of the Bible, and the key aspects of God's nature describe God as holy, good, just and merciful. Because God is infinitely perfect and good, God is worthy of infinite praise and glory. To worship God in the beauty of holiness shows that we should appreciate the good qualities of God as we worship and give glory to God.

Whether we do in fact glorify God or not in our lives, this will not add to or reduce God's infinite value and majesty. We don't glorify God to increase God's glory, but firstly because this is our rightful duty as created beings towards our infinitely good and perfect Creator, as shown in Psalm 29:2. We should glorify God because of the good things God does, but more importantly, our worship is based on who God is.

"Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31 KJV)

We glorify God not just in a declaratory sense but also based on how we live our lives, as shown in 1 Corinthians 10:31. God's glory is something difficult to define, but this should not stop us from seeking to understanding it in the context of the body of scripture, especially considering that glorifying God is considered the end goal and purpose of all that we do.

There are two concepts that help us to dig down to a wise and firm foundation of scriptural truth with regard to how to best glorify God with our lives, 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 as Jesus describes the dynamics of true life in God as a living vine and the need to be submissive to God's discipline and moral pruning.

The Analogy of the Vine Reveals the Nature of God's Glory

“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 we will still require “pruning” as a means of improving and being more fruitful, towards the ultimate goal of glorifying God. The process of glorifying God with our lives does not mean that we are perfect people, it means that we are continually learning to abide in Christ and to live by faith for His glory. This requires a humble and submissive attitude to the absolute authority of Christ over our lives. It is only when we offer our lives as a living sacrifice to God that we can fully know God's perfect will for our lives, as described by Paul in Romans 12:1-2. The Parable of the Talents outlines it is better to take risks for God's kingdom and make mistakes rather than to play it safe and not take any risks for God at all.

There are many kinds of spiritual fruit described in the Bible: the fruit of repentance, the fruit of holiness, the fruit of righteousness, fruit of the spirit, fruit of praise, and the fruit of service, the fruit of giving, and the fruit of soul-winning. The common denominator in all of these is the absolute necessity of personally abiding in Christ so that Christ's power may work through us. On a deeper level, the description of Christ as the "True Vine" has metaphysical implications that Christ represents prime eternal reality and prime eternal life and our connection to God in Christ is profound on many levels.

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.”

A true disciple of Christ should understand that 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 common for teachers to cherry-pick scriptures from the word of God in order to suit some mere human tradition, our egos, our desires, or some formula or agenda, and diminish the glory of God. But it's important to try to follow both God's priorities and not to cherry pick, but to try to learn and follow the whole counsel of God based on the whole word of God.

A major problem today is that people often become so absorbed in reading commentaries, and writing commentaries, that they slowly drift away from a true sense of sound doctrine. An example of this is John Piper, who has written over 50 books with his most famous book, Desiring God, being inspired by other books from other Christians and, sadly, has led many people astray into a humanistic gospel of self-gratification.

It is necessary to aim to live out both God's comprehensive will and top priorities 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 experiencing 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 God's master plan, God's greatest commandments, and 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  here, and here.

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. Genesis 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.

There is no doubt that our fulfillment of God's will gives glory to God. For this reason, the most reliable summary of glorifying God in terms of unquestionable doctrine would reflect this: 

The chief end of man is to glorify God by conforming to all that God's will entails in a true relationship according to the whole of scripture.

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 all the others, and above the person of God. Christ Himself is, "the way, the truth and the life." (John 14.6). The true gospel neither 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 one means of doing this. The Old Testament hints at this:

"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise." (Prov. 11:30 KJV).

A healthy and biblical view of worship

Many false teachings today offer that we should worship God mainly in order to seek our own pleasure. The approach displays a misunderstanding of what worship entails in its very essence. Read carefully the description by the Apostle Paul of true and authentic worship:

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God--this is your true and proper worship." (Romans 12:1 NIV)

First, notice that Paul urging us with passionate language to view true and authentic worship as very important. Second, our worship is based mainly on thanksgiving for what we have already received, not a seeking for some self-gratifying end. Third, the means of our worship is mainly a full and unconditional surrender to God's will and authority, even as an animal in the Old Testament was lain on an altar and sacrificed as an offering to God. Fourth, the main end goal of true worship is to please God for God's sake.

According to the Apostle Paul, true worship is not simply singing songs or going to a church gathering, true worship is summarized in the giving all of our lives to God with thanksgiving for what God has done for us all for his pleasure.

Paul's description of true worship as a living sacrifice was exemplified by Christ. Read carefully what the following scripture says about Jesus as soon as Judas left the room to betray him so that Christ would be crucified:

"As soon as Judas left the room, Jesus said, "The time has come for the Son of Man to enter into his glory, and God will be glorified because of him." (John 13:31 NLT)

When Jesus said, "God will be glorified because of him" this signified that it was Jesus' surrender to the benevolent, others-centered and merciful will of the Father, who desired to save sinners. This is the glory of the cross. The cross is what epitomized the glory of Christ on earth. Notice that there was not a lot of hoopla when they sang worship songs together:

"When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." (Matthew 26:30 NIV)

There was not a sense that the singing of worship songs was a prime means of seeking pleasure or pleasing God. Rather, the singing of a hymn was a mere footnote of the greater act of worship when Jesus submitted himself to the cross in order to please the Father. As an actual act of worship, Jesus giving his life on the cross itself did not bring pleasure but brought pain, suffering, and shame. Although he did look forward to the joy and greater good that this would bring. In another article, the paradox of happiness that Christ demonstrated is further explained.

I would not want to be one of the many heretical teachers today that misrepresent God and what his glory entails. God is very particular about his glory. The following is a summary of how to sincerely glorify God with our lives:

How to live a life that truly gives glory to God

A life glorifying to God is based on abiding in God with God's word, walking with God in God's way, and worshipping God for God's sake. 


To summarize: The Bible shows that God's glory in our lives is conditional and that it is biblical to test doctrinal ideas through applying wisdom and basic critical thinking. Using helpful concepts of necessity and sufficiency we can discern the biblical and true basis of glorifying God maximally with our lives. Abiding in Christ is an absolute necessity towards glorifying God. And submitting to God's discipline as we abide is a key aspect of this as we seek to fulfill God's perfect will for our lives.

I welcome respectful discussion at my blog. If anyone believes that any statement or idea I've presented here is false, inaccurate, or misleading, you are welcome to post a comment or a rebuttal article, and I would be interested in discussing this subject with you. How would you personally define and summarize what it means to most glorify God?

Rick Warden, revised  10-23-17

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? How to glorify God, How can we be sure that we are glorifying God?


Shocker: Paul Preached the Power of the Gospel as the Main Message

Core Essentials of The Christian Faith

No comments:

Post a Comment

You are welcome to post on-topic comments but, please, no uncivilized blog abuse or spamming. Thank you!