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
I don’t know how I missed it all these years. It is clearly there, but I never saw.
Everything God has ever done, from the creation of the world: his covenant with Abraham, his calling of Israel, the Exodus, Moses, Joshua, the prophets, Saul, David and the other kings, Jesus’ birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection, the early church, and on until today has been for one purpose. All of it has one common thread. And if you have ears to hear, it just might rock your theology to the core.
The church today has become perilously “me-centric”. Jesus died for my sins. He is my savior. He hears me when I pray. He provides for me, protects me, gives me comfort and purpose. My identity is in Christ. Listen today to the most popular songs either on Christian radio, or perhaps sung where you worship. Count the number of times you year “I” or “me” and compare it to how often you hear “you”. It’s enough to give the impression that we are the ones to be worshiped.
Well, here’s the thing. All those phrases above are true. And yet, they are dangerously incomplete. Yes, God has done all those things, and we, as undeserving sinners, are the astonished beneficiaries. But here is the completion of the truth. He did all those things so that he would be glorified.
Let me say it again. God’s underlying purpose from Genesis to Revelation is that he (himself) is glorified. Let that sink in for a moment, and reflect on what you know.
Why did he create the world? For his glory. Why did he make man in his image, or as a reflector of himself? For his glory. Why did he make a unilateral covenant with an insignificant, childless Chaldean named Abram to bless him and make him into a great nation? For his glory. Why did he take a deceitful, scheming man like Jacob and change his name to Israel and make him the father of twelve tribes? For his glory. Why did he take an adolescent shepherd out of the pasture in into the battlefield to slay a giant? For his glory.
Why did Jesus abandon the bliss of eternity to take on human form, live a live of self-denial and obedience, suffer an agonizing (physical) death, bearing the brunt of all God’s pent up wrath for sin? Why did he rise from the dead, appear to many witnesses, and ascend to heaven? For his glory.
Why does God invite you and me to receive the free gift of salvation through the atoning death of Jesus, to be reconciled to him, and to walk in newness of life? Why does he indwell us with his very own Spirit, empowering us to live as more than conquerors over sin and death? So that we can feel good, and be fulfilled? No, a thousand times no! It is for his glory.
To be sure, we are (and have been, since the fall) depraved sinners in desperate need of a savior. And in the cross, we find an unbelievable gift, beyond what any of us could hope for. Walking with God, through redemption in Jesus and in the fellowship of the Spirit is beyond fulfilling. Jesus said that we could have life, and that more abundantly. Mission accomplished.
But when you understand that, like all of creation and all of history before you, everything is for God’s glory, when you willingly enter in and take your place in the grand pageant, and say like Mary, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word,” when you realize that the chief end of man is the glorify God, then your perspective changes eternally.
No longer are challenges, difficulties, unpleasantness and pain affronts to my will, to my plan to live a comfortable life and enjoy the good things of this earth. Rather, they are opportunities for us to see God at work for his glory. If he chooses to deliver us, then all glory to God. If not, then we endure in faith for the glory of God.
Johann Sebastian Bach is widely known to have signed most of his pieces “S.D.G.”, for Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone). Despite his immense talent and success, the composer adopted a position of humility and deference to his creator and savior. Who am I to do less?