Have you ever been in a conversation where everyone seemed to understand a certain phrase except you? You try to figure it out using context clues, but you can’t. You want to ask, but you’re too afraid it’s an elementary question you should know, so you just play along and act like you understand.
Christians often talk about “glorifying God,” but what does it really mean? We know passages like Psalm 29:2, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name…” and 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” How do I eat and drink to the glory of God?
We’ll begin with a brief definition of the glory of God, then look at what it means for us to glorify him.
The Glory of God
Defining the glory of God can be difficult. Perhaps the simplest explanation of God’s glory is the way he manifests his character, his beauty, and his perfections. The glory of God is the visible expression of his unseen attributes. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” When we look at creation, we get a glimpse of the power and beauty of God. We can’t see God’s power per se, but we can look upon the mountains and hear the thunder and get a glimpse of it.
In 2 Chronicles 7:1, the glory of God fills the temple as fire falls from heaven. There will be no need for a sun in the new creation because his glory will provide the light (Rev. 21:23). We learn in Hebrews 1:3 that Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God. Since he is the “exact imprint of his nature,” he is the perfect revelation of God to us. The cross displays the glory of God by showing his holiness, justice, grace, and love.
From creation to God’s acts in history, we see the perfect character of God revealed as he displays his glory.
What Does It Mean For Us To Glorify God?
So if the glory of God is the display of his brilliance, then what does it mean for us to glorify God?
John Piper provides a helpful definition, “‘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.” I can’t make God beautiful, but I can point out his beauty, and doing so is glorifying him. I glorify God by making much of his greatness; I give him all the credit. I point out to those around me the majesty of God.
As we read in 1 Corinthians 10:31, we are to do everything for God’s glory, even eat and drink. I can praise God and give him credit even as I sit down to a meal by myself. I make much of his creative power when I enjoy a juicy steak as a gift from his hand. I can honor him for his provision in my life by providing sustaining food.
Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Our desire in doing good works should not be to lift ourselves up but to make much of the greatness of God. If my motive is for God’s glory, then when I give food to a person in need, I’m displaying the love of God; when I am patient with a problematic co-worker, I’m displaying the patience of the Lord. My goal should be making God’s goodness visible. However, we can also do good works for our own glory.
The Danger of Pride
God is passionate about his glory. In Isaiah 42:8 he says, “I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other…” Taking glory for ourselves instead of glorifying God is a serious sin.
In Acts 12, Herod gave a speech that caused the people to praise him. He should have corrected them and pointed them to the only true God who’s worthy of such praise, but he didn’t. He took the glory for himself and v. 23 tells us the resulting fate: “Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.”
It’s only by his grace that we’ve not all been struck down; we’ve all been guilty of self- glorification.
In John 3:30, John the baptist says, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Or, perhaps you’ve heard it this way: “No man can glorify Christ and himself at the same time.” Why? Because when I point to something else, I am pointing away from myself. If the passion of my life is to make much of God every moment, then I can’t make much of myself.
Humility is a by-product of savoring the glory of God. C.S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” The more we see the glory of God, the less we take glory for ourselves because we realize none can compare with him. There’s no reason to look at me when such a great God exists! If I own a moped and a Corvette, I’m not going to spend much time showing off the moped to visitors. As we bask in the glory of God, we will realize how far we fall short and direct all the glory to him.
May we be a people so enthralled with the glory of God that we desire to make much of him every waking moment. May glorifying God be the motivation for our every thought, word, and deed!
May we cry out with Moses: “Show me your Glory!” (Exodus 33:18)
May we cry out with the Psalmist: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory!” (115:1).
May we cry out with the great multitude in heaven: “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God…” (Rev. 19:1).
To him be glory forever. Amen.