Last year was the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, which heralded The five solaes (sola, meaning “alone” in Latin), as the core foundation for the Christian Faith. It is vital to understand these five truths because they separate Christianity from every other world religion. “Soli Deo Gloria” is Latin term meaning glory to God alone – a premise upon which and for which many Christians died.
Christians and the local church exist for one purpose: bringing glory to God alone. Not for you, not for your name, but through His bride, the local church. Mark Dever said, “We believe the local church is the focal point of God’s plan for displaying His glory to the nations. Our vision is simple; churches that reflect the character of God.”
This is an absolutely counter-cultural statement to make, “All the glory belongs to Him alone!” In a culture where people live to simply drink, eat, be merry (Ecc. 8:10), as the day is short like a vapor in the air (Jam. 4:14), Christians exist for this one driving singular purpose - to glorify our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Here are three lessons I’ve learned about the glory of God in the past 10 years of being in ministry.
1. God is Jealous for His Glory
The Westminster Catechism begins with the opening statement, “The chief end of men is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”
The chief end of men is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever
Why? Because the Bible is for us, but it is not about us. It is about God’s pursuit of His glory. As Jonathan Edwards said, “What makes Christ glorious is an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies.”
As you read Scripture with this in mind, it is impossible to ignore God’s pursuit of His glory:
To God, who is full of wisdom and knowledge, be all glory, honor, and praise (Rom. 11:3-5). To the Righteous Ruler and the Holy King be all exaltation and adoration (Isa. 6:3). All creation joins with the resounding of heaven and earth for this one single purpose – to glorify in the beauty and majesty of the Triune God who deserves all worship (Psa. 115:1)
Ask for God to help you as you seek to bring Him glory above all else in your life. We cannot do this with our strength alone. I often prayed as I thought of the church where I pastor, “God, I desire to pursue Your glory in my life and my church, would you help me to do so?” I prayed this earnestly as a young seminarian, and I still want this to be a reality in my life.
2. Humans are Rebellious Glory Thieves
The temptation for humans to steal glory from something or someone is not a new thing. We long to be known, to be championed and glorified - even above those we love. Simply put, we battle to be thieves of everyone’s glory, including Gods. We want the recognition. We want the honor. We want the praise.
How often do we strategize to increase followers, and to be known for what we do? Just one more like/thumbs up, one more re-tweet, one more follower, view online, shares on blog…. etc.
If we are living in this way with this mindset, we are glory thieves. We must ask ourselves: for whose glory do we do what we do?
Herein lies the core of many problems not only in society but within the Christian church. People want to live for their own glory, namesake, and persona. “I, me, myself” to be seated on the throne, high and lifted up to be adorned and worshiped (Matthew 23:7).
3. Our God is Infinitely Glorious
The Greek word translated as glory (δόξα) literally means that something has inherent, intrinsic worth as an idea of weight. When we experience even a fraction of the weight of who God is, the only response is utter surrender.
When one experiences the greatness of God and one’s conscience is quickened by the realization of the grandeur of our desperate need for Him, soon the conscience is awakened to the realization of Christ alone being the only source one has ever needed or longed for.
About three years ago I went through a season of burnout. I ached as I asked, “Am I really doing anything that is making an impact for the kingdom? Am I always just going to be a mediocre pastor in ministry?”
I felt the Lord press upon my heart, "Jonathan, am I not enough?" Indeed, what would ever be “enough” in my life? Nothing apart from Christ will ever be enough to fill this vile, rebellious heart of mine (Jer. 17:9).
I realized I did the same old thing the Israelites did. I created a golden calf entitled “success” on the hill where I exalted myself to be glorified (Exo. 32:5).
The calf in Exodus is my story. The calf in Exodus is all of our stories.
The fundamental question that our 21st-century evangelical churches must ask is this: If we could have everything in this world, yet Christ is not there, can we be satisfied?
Glory, the presence of God (his face) ought to be our only obsession. The cry of our hearts ought to be, “Lord Jesus, I’m not going anywhere except for you and your presence.” If we don’t live in this reality, we lose the very point of living.
May the words of John Piper echo in our minds as we go forward with our days, “Only one life, 'twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.”