As children of God and citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20), our primary focus in all of life is to be on Him who created us and redeemed us and is committed to conforming us to His image. God has a unique claim on our allegiance and attention; His Lordship is to permeate, more and more, every corner of our lives. He is the center of our existence, the purpose of our existence, and the goal of our existence. He is both the subject and the object of our worship.
When we speak of His “glory” we are speaking of the sum total of all His perfections, the uniqueness of his being, the totality of what distinguishes Him as Creator from His creation and His creatures. (Thus the concept is very close to that of God’s holiness.) His glory is what in its ultimate sense He “will not give to another” (Isaiah 42:8, 48: 11), though He causes faint glimmers of reflected glory to show forth in His creation and especially in humanity, which bears His image (Gen. 1:26; 1 Corin. 11:7). God’s glory is also described in Scripture in terms of light (Isaiah 60:1,19; 2 Corin. 4:4,6; 1 Tim. 6:16; Revel. 21:23).
While we cannot add to the glory of God, which is perfect, yet the Scriptures maintain that in some mysterious way the created order Psalm 19:1; 72:19), the course of history (Isaiah 66:18), and above all the Church of Jesus Christ (Ephes. 3:21), are all intended to reflect and manifest and display and even enhance His glory. In fact, that ultimately is the sole reason for which the uncaused One caused everything else to come into existence (as John Piper has put it, “The meaning of the universe is God going public for the glory of God”); that is the ultimate goal of every breath we take, everything we are allowed to do – and should, for us as believers, be our ultimate motivation in all of our endeavors (“Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God,” 1 Corin. 10:31). We must keep this goal before us consciously and seek to submit all of our activities (personal, family, vocational, spiritual) to that overarching design; that is what brings these activities value, meaning, and a divine orientation and significance, even with our most mundane involvements.
If this is true through all of life, it is if anything even more important to have this perspective be as we undertake the work of the Church. Human theories, techniques, ideas, systems, tastes, structures all must be submitted to a compelling and overriding passion for the glory of God. How quickly we forget whose work, whose church, whose worship service it is! How quickly we seek to supplement the revelation of Scripture with human ingenuity, demographic studies, and how-to seminars. How anxious we are to find gimmicks which will attract people and keep them coming back! Our single-minded focus, in worship and in all our activities, must be on recognizing, reflecting, declaring, and celebrating the glory of God!
It is highly doubtful that He who authoritatively proclaimed, “I will build my Church” (Matt. 16:18) foresaw the need for church growth principles to guide Him in the task to which He had committed Himself. And it is equally unlikely that He who proclaimed to the crowds that “no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father” (as the result of which many in His days withdrew, John 6:65-66), would see the comfort of the unchurched visitor to be of paramount importance.
Systems of theology, even profoundly biblical ones which were formulated in order to bring to finite minds some grasp of the infinite scope of God in His ways, sometimes become entrenched to the point where the system may be revered almost as much as the One whom it seeks to honor; at the very least, we may find comfort in a system because we desperately (though perhaps not consciously) hope that it might bring a certain predictability and manageability to God, and because our system (invariably the “true” one) helps us feel a little more “in control” – what folly! Having corralled mystery (so we think), we leave little room for God to act and move outside our carefully crafted paradigms.
God in His glory and majesty and holiness and mystery and providential inscrutability supersedes to an infinite degree all attempts to contain or define Him. We could more easily catalog snowflakes or classify grains of sand! God has revealed to us many deep and wonderful truths about Himself in His Word, and in redemption has allowed us to see deep into His heart. But let us never presume to have fathomed the wonder of His person! Let us accept with humility that we are concerning ourselves with holy things which are far beyond us; and let us bow before Him who with incomprehensible condescension has called us to be His own. And let us live life, and do church, and approach worship, with a profound sense of awe and gratitude; may we in our earthbound scurrying never lose sight of the One who looks from the heavens in love – that One Whose glory is over all (Isaiah .
“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for His name alone is exalted;
His glory is above earth and heaven.” (Psalm 148:13)
May His glory be all our hope and all our aim and all our comfort.
To Him be glory in the Church! (Ephes. 3:21)