A week ago I was asked to prepare a devotion for the pre-ministerial internship program's weekly meeting. After thinking for a while about what I'd like to convey in the short amount of time they gave me, I decided it would be a good idea to start with what I believe to be one of the most foundational principles underlying all of Christianity. This theme, the idea of God's sovereignty being displayed in all of creation and, thus, all creation being designed to glorify Him, is one that I feel many of us take for granted and brush aside as a basic, "duh!" concept. But really, when you start to think about it, understanding that God and all of His creation is primarily about bringing glory to Himself, Christianity starts to break free from legalism and become the intimate and solely grace-based relationship with Christ that we all seek.
The Westminster Confession of Faith states: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
“The created universe is all about glory. The deepest longing of the human heart and the deepest meaning of heaven and earth are summed up in this: the glory of God. The universe is made to show it, and we were made to see it and savor it.”
I got to thinking about these statements the other day and started to consider what happens when we don’t do this. What is the result of our failing to recognize the sovereignty and absolute greatness of God? After thinking about this question for a while I found a passage in Romans that shed some light on an answer.
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man…” Romans 1:21-23
Paul clearly shows us that we fail to glorify God when we instead turn to idols. This act of turning away from God is sin. For the longest time I understood sins as those things we did that broke the Ten Commandments and went against the scriptures. I was so bound up in rules that I failed to recognize the root of my sinfulness. The sin in my life wasn’t merely pride or lying or lust; it was my own turning away from God to make an idol of my own desires.
But my sinfulness doesn’t stop there. I found that even my good works: volunteering in local missions, reading the Bible, even singing worship songs in church, are done out of a desire to feel better about myself and get closer to God for my own sake. I approach God wanting to get something from Him and not, as the confession states, to glorify and enjoy Him. Tim Keller writes in The Reason for God:
“Self-salvation through good works may produce a great deal of moral behavior in your life, but inside you are miserable. You are always comparing yourself to other people, and you are never sure you are being good enough. You cannot therefore, deal with your hideousness and self-absorption through the moral law, by trying to be a good person through an act of the will. You need a complete transformation of the very motives of your heart.”
Fortunately for us all, Christ’s work on the cross and His resurrection brings about this complete transformation that Keller mentions. In John 17:24 Jesus says:
“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me.”
It is in Christ that we can really see and understand the glory of God. His sacrifice, His becoming the lowest of the low, shows us the “it’s not about our being made much of by God, but about God mercifully enabling me to enjoy making much of Him forever.” Realizing God’s glory enables us to do great acts of love in ministry as a means to bring others to know Him and not to make us feel good or to “get right with God”. We are free from the bondage of our sin, both our betrayal of the law and our slavery to it, to experience the joy we were made for: the joy that we find when we grasp the fullness of God’s majesty displayed in the grace of Christ.