Loving the glory of God
What is the chief end of man?
I do not know you, but I know some things about you. You are made in the image of God; this I know. You were made to "image" Him. You were made to manifest His likeness throughout the earth. That is your purpose. You were made for greatness. You long for greatness. You were made to be a son or daughter of the most High King, and to engage in deeds of grand valor and courage and compassion and beauty and virtue and bold love.
You love stories like The Lord of the Rings, not only because they are good stories, which they are. You love them because they strike a chord in you that resonates across time and space, in a way rarely heard anymore. But it is in you, and every once in awhile something strikes that chord. And when it does, a longing arises in you to enter a story like that, where good and evil are real and visceral, where decisions made by ordinary people change the face of destiny, where life is writ large and no act is ordinary or without consequence.
You long for greatness, for purpose, and for adventure—for that fleeting, evanescent thing we call glory. You were made for it. You were made by God for it. Nothing less will slake your thirst or strike that chord. Nothing less is worth your life. But here is the thing: what you long for is not your glory, but Someone Else's. Moses discovered this when, after his pulse-racing, destiny-shaping encounter with God where he turned God's anger into favor. Moses realized that he still wanted one thing: "Please show me your glory" (Exodus 33:18).
Let me tell you why, for me, that desire has become deeper and stronger and richer. I pray that you will resonate with a passion for His glory, and allow yourself to enter into the adventure of a lifetime. Because you will realize one thing: it is not about you. It is about Him. It always has been. It always should be. In His glory is your joy, your exaltation, and your inheritance. In His glory is your hope, your freedom, your courage, and your life.
Let me first try to define glory. To me, it is the intrinsic excellency of God on display. It is the public face of His astounding brilliance and holiness. God's intrinsic, essential perfection is His holiness; His externalized projection of that holiness is His glory. His glory is inseparable from all of His perfect attributes; it is the sum of them and their unified effect. Because God is perfect, He is glorious.
A second dimension of glory that flows from the first. It is the response of creation, especially humanity, to His manifested holiness. Praise, honour, awe, love, obedience, gratitude, joy, and loyalty—the sum total of all of these fit responses to God may be summarized in one word: glory. Glory is due Him; glory is His due. It is the appropriate, comprehensive response of all creation to the magnitude of His rightness. Both are inseparable yet distinguishable.
Here are some of the reasons I love the glory of God.
I love Him. I love Him. I groan to love Him more. I deeply, urgently desire to cast off my sinful self and love Him more purely, know Him more deeply, obey Him more joyfully. I love Him because He first loved me. I love God's glory because I find Him, in every way, stunningly, achingly worthy. Who would not want to see such beauty proclaimed and acknowledged and savoured?
I love God because His motives are pure; His loves are holy, His intentions are altogether lovely and right and good. I love God because He deserves to be loved. I love His glory because it displays that worth to all who see.
And we were made to see, and to savour, the worth and glory of God.
I love the glory of God because I was made to love His glory.
You and I are made in the image of God. Many things are implied in this idea, but I want to look at just one of them: we are made in His image, we are uniquely designed to see, to savour, and to sing the glory due his name. Plants and animals reflect His glory. Planets and stars illuminate it. But only man sees His glory for what it is. We are in his image. We have been given spiritual eyes to see that glory, to savour it, and to shout it out. What a privilege! What dignity! What grace!
Imagine being able to see a fine Italian meal, but not smell the garlic-oregano-sage-rosemary-white wine mix wafting from the sauce. Imagine not being able to taste a meal, or feel the warmth of bread fresh out of the oven. The meal is a good to you, because it gives you strength and nutrition, but the joy, the elevation, the satisfaction of the sensory banquet is denied you. The meal is functional, but nothing more. That is something of what I think is the difference between humans in the imago Dei, and the rest of creation. They get the utility, but we can taste God's goodness. That is why the poet exhorts us in Psalm 34: "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!"
Glorying in God I am elevated, my divine dignity is manifest, and I am raised from the mundane and temporal focus of my day. I am reminded of who I am, as Elrond reminded Aragorn in that fateful scene of The Return of the King: "Put aside the ranger. Become who you were born to be."
When I think about it, when I savour it, when I endeavour to proclaim and to defend the glory of God, then the imago Dei is vivified in me. I begin to glimpse more clearly the dignity given to me by God. I resonate with Peter's encouragement to the people of God: "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
Do you see our inherent royal dignity? We are made to love God's glory, to savour it, and to pass it on. That is who we were born to be.
I love God's glory because God loves it above all.
When I was working with a campus ministry, I struggled to understand the connection between God's sovereign control over all things, and the requirement to make disciples of all nations. I was afraid that my nascent understanding of reformed theology would dampen my evangelistic zeal. Many of us have walked this path and asked this question.
Then I happened on a book by John Piper, The Pleasures of God. It thrilled me. Piper echoed Jonathan Edwards's assertion that God loves most intensely that which is most worthy of love, which happens to be (think about it) Himself. God, to be God, must love most passionately what is most worthy. In short, God either loves Himself supremely, or He over-loves something lesser than Himself, which is the very definition of idolatry.
So God appropriately loves Himself, and He loves the public display of His excellence with a white-hot, relentless passion that never ends, never diminishes, and never dims. He created us for his glory (Isaiah 43:7). He liberated his disobedient people from Egypt for the sake of His name (Ezekiel 20:8-9). He promised restoration in the coming of Jesus out of concern for His holy name (Ezekiel 36:20-38).
God is passionately committed to making His name great. That passion is undimmed by our disobedience, our lethargy, our anything. How freeing it was to see that God's pursuit of His purposes and my zeal for the salvation of sinners ended in the same deep pool of His ultimate end: the worship and acknowledgment and enjoyment of Him. John Piper says it best for me: "Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn't. ... God's glory necessitates fervent proclamation, and supersedes it" (Let the Nations be Glad, 1993).
This leads to three stunning implications that have transformed my understanding of God and my mission.
1. God's passion for His glory leads to the grace of the gospel in Jesus.
God knew that Israel was not bringing Him the honour due His name. He knew that the atonement-sacrifice system of Judaism, a foreshadowing of Christ, did not do full justice to His holiness and glory.
So He sent Jesus, His beloved glorious Son, to show the worth of His holiness. Jesus showed the world that God's justice is so great, His holiness so sublime, that nothing less than the infinitely perfect life and infinitely undeserved substitutionary death of Jesus could satisfy it. God could not impugn His justice, and He could not dim the glory of His mercy.
So He poured out his justice and wrath in infinite measure upon His Son. And His Son earned for us God's infinite pleasure, because His life was perfect and pleasing. He magnified both justice and mercy in the life and death of Jesus. That is breath-taking! My favourite verse in Scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:21: "For our sake He made (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
Do we doubt God's goodness, His care, or glory? Look to Christ, for in Him the fullness of the glory of God is revealed, as the Apostle Paul writes: "For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).
2. God's passion for His glory fuels and founds my hope
As a North American church planter, I often look at our great and self-dependent nations with great sadness. I see their potential, their beauty, and their brokenness. When will this city, this nation, acknowledge and savour the beauty of our Creator and Redeemer? I fight discouragement because we are so indifferent to God. Then I see my own indifference and struggles, and the lethargy of the church that claims to love Jesus, and my despair deepens. What helps me hope in this dark landscape? That God will, because of His relentless pursuit of his glory, make that glory known. He promised. The gates of hell shall not withstand the building of His church. The gospel will go forth to the ends of the earth and the nations therein. I will be redeemed from the corruption that hinders my body to an incorruptible body, along with a renewed creation. Why? Not because my obedience will trigger it, but because His passion and purposes will stand when all others fall This means that I know, beyond knowing, that everything wrong will one day be made right again. Words fail.
3. God's love of His glory frees me
God's glory is big—really, really big. So big that it cannot be contained easily. One of the significant insights of neocalvinism is the idea that God is glorified when I plant a tree as much as when I go to church, provided my motives are right. His glory is manifest everywhere. It is inescapable. So I am free to be me, to pursue God's glory with my own gifts and abilities and passions and weaknesses, without the bondage of having to live up to anyone else, or anything else.
I am free vocationally: I can pursue the vocation that I am made for, and not worry that is does not glorify God as much as another vocation. It means that I am free missionally: I can pursue the proclamation of the gospel of His glory in the manner that best suits my personality and training and experience and passions.
Perhaps most important to me, I am free existentially. I mean by this that my call is to glorify God and savour Him—enjoy Him—forever. Do you see the hidden freedom in this? I am free from myself. I have another goal that is so much larger, so much grander, so much more satisfying, so much more thrilling. I am able to break the bonds of boring, self-absorbed ME to do something really worthwhile. I am motivationally starved without the glory of God. With it, I am motivationally stuffed. Everything I do has cosmic significance. Everything I do has the capacity to bring joy to my Maker. Everything I think can please Him. Greatness is within my grasp, because it is not my greatness that is offered. Life is the grand stage of God's redemption. I get to play a role on that stage.
I love Him. I love His glory. I love what it is, what it does, and what it does to me. That is why wiser men than I framed these words: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Amen! May you love His glory, forever.