The opposite of “glorify God”=”lighten up”

It’s the stereotypical “deep” philosophical question. You’ve probably heard characters on TV shows ask it with the assumption that it cannot be answered. It’s the question, “What is the meaning of life?”

By God’s grace, the Reformed believer is not stumped by this question, for God’s Word has given us an answer for why we are here, and this answer is the first thing a child learns when receiving a Reformed education. So, to answer the question, “What is the meaning of life?” or, “Why are we here?” the response immediately comes: “To glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31), and to enjoy Him for ever (Psalm 73:25-26).”

This answer is not confined to a specific culture, for the second Scripture proof in the statement above (Psalm 73:25-26) was penned by Asaph, a chief musician for David, an Israelite king who reigned from about 1011-971 B.C.; the human author of the first Scripture proof (1 Corinthians 10:31) was the Apostle Paul, a Greek-educated Jew who wrote from Ephesus in Asia Minor some time in between A.D. 54-57. These texts can be wedded together in harmony without confusion, reflecting timeless Truth, for their ultimate Author is God Himself.

We know that our purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever because we have been created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26) to rule as His stewards over the earth. As divine image-bearers, our purpose in God’s universe is to be a reflection of His purpose in the universe. And what is that purpose? … God’s purpose in His universe is to magnify His glory and enjoy Himself forever. As Pastor John Piper noted at the New Attitude Conference last May: God is working to magnify His glory in Creation (Isaiah 43:6-7), Incarnation (Romans 15:8-9), Propitiation (Romans 3:23-26), Sanctification (Philippians 1:9-11; 1 Peter 4:11), and Consummation (2 Thessalonians 1:9-10).

When we say that our purpose or meaning in life is to “glorify God and to enjoy Him forever,” most people have a fairly good grasp on the meaning of the word “enjoy.” People naturally enjoy many things, so the only question is whether one’s enjoyment ultimately flows from and is directed toward enjoyment of God.

The word “glorify,” however, is almost entirely unheard of outside of church contexts, and so most people do not have much awareness as to its meaning. Even for Christians, this word can just be an empty sound if we fail to reflect on what it is intended to communicate.

“Glorify” is the verb form of the noun “glory,” which translates the Hebrew word kabod, meaning “weight” or “heaviness.” This word speaks to heaviness in terms of dignity, and indicates a radically humbling emotional impact on any who encounter true glory; as seen, for example, in the experience of the Prophet Isaiah, who, when encountering the glory of God, began to call down curses upon himself for his sin (Isaiah 6).

This word also speaks to the power of God throughout His creation. In the passage cited above, the seraphim declare that the whole earth is full of God’s glory. This declaration is in keeping with the Psalmist’s testimony that nature is constantly proclaiming God’s handiwork (Psalm 19:1-6). Whereas the atheist tries to assert that there is no proof of God and whereas we might fail to discern His invisible presence, the kabod- the glory, “weight,” or power of God is ever impacting the world around us, holding all things together and directing all events according to His purpose. We glorify God by recognizing His presence, dignity and power, and by loving Him with all our heart, soul, and might (Deuteronomy 6:5). In this way we see that glorifying God and enjoying Him are intimately connected. For the simple recognition of or even subservience to the fact of God’s glory does not glorify Him if we resent His dignity and power. It is only as we love or enjoy His glory that mere acknowledgement is transformed into “glorifying.”

From the above discussion, it should be obvious that to glorify God requires all of our heart’s affection as well as all of our mind’s attention. God is glorious- He is a supremely weighty matter- and to discern His ways requires careful, focused reflection.

This is the exact opposite of the prevalent theology today, which would stress that we should just lighten up and simply love Jesus and our fellow human beings.

So when Christians question whether Mormonism is compatable with Christianity, we are told to lighten up and accept that Mitt Romney is a Christian based on the fact that he claims to hold many Scriptural beliefs. When Protestants question whether Roman Catholic doctrine is in line with the biblical Gospel, we are told to lighten up and accept that John Paul II was a Christian based on the fact that he was a kind man and supported conservative causes. When evangelicals assert that people’s greatest need is faith in Christ, we are told to lighten up and focus on social issues. When Reformed believers question the message and methods of today’s evangelism, we are told to lighten up and conduct “40 Days of Purpose” at our churches, because it works to draw people in. When Baptists point out that baptism is part of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20), we are told to lighten up and become more ecumenical.

Certainly, we can place too much weight on relatively peripheral theological issues and become needlessly divisive over mere opinions (Romans 14:1). But concerning matters that are central to the definition and message of the church, we must be very careful. The church is the one institution that Christ specifically said He would build (Matthew 16:18), and His purpose in building the church is the glory of God (John 17:9-10; John 17:22).

When it comes to Gospel issues, we cannot afford to “lighten up.” We must glorify God, recognizing His dignity and power, giving His self-revelation in the person and work of His Son the weight He deserves.

Explore posts in the same categories: Doctrinal Issues, General

6 Comments on “The opposite of “glorify God”=”lighten up””

  1. Barry Says:

    As it has been all too painfully demonstrated by our “leaders” of today, CEO’s, politicians, presidents, oil companies executives and religious leaders, it may very well be appropriate for the average American who now sees that there exists moral bankrupcy at almost every turn that they might use the phrase “lighten-up”. One might also add the phrase “back-off”. All of which serves to bring to the surface the fact that our leaders are not walking the talk. So, why should they be listened to, or followed?

    Billy Sunday said something very important that we can all learn from which siezes on Matthew 11:28-30. [Jesus said: “Come to me”, not to the Church; to me, not to a creed; to me, not to a preacher; to me, not to an evangelist; to me, not to a priest; to me, not to a pope; “come to me and I will give you rest.” Faith in Jesus Christ saves you, not faith in the Church.

    To use the phrase “lighten-up” in relationship to where religious men have taken people in the name of God, Allah and Jesus may be quite appropriate.


  2. Barry,

    While I’m trying to be sensitive to the issue you raise, I don’t believe that the leaders who are respected by the contributers to SBF would be within the category of those who do not ‘walk the talk.’ I’m also confused as to why you’d use the phrase, “God, Allah, and Jesus.”

    -Andrew

  3. Barry Says:

    Andrew,

    My intention was to comment on your post of equating “lighten-up” to being the opposite of glorifying God as it refers to our country’s leaders. That you have gleaned from my comment a suggestion that it might be pointed at the contributors of SBF is a mistake. I have too much regard to think that. I have faith that you five men walk the talk. I do not have faith that many who are in a position of leadership do walk the talk. I think this is shared by a growing number of Americans today.

    The comment about God, Allah, and Jesus is also pretty straight forward. In there names, how many people have suffered?

    I suppose that the most important aspect, for me, of this thread is that leaders who do fail the American people do not deserve respect.


  4. Barry,

    In the context of the post, I was particularly concerned with those who tell Christians to “lighten up” when it comes to doctrinal matters. My intended point was that when the matters in question involve central Chruch issues- the message we are to proclaim or who we are to allow into membership, etc.- to “lighten up” or fail to assign these matters their proper importance does fail to glorify God.

    So, if you are making a tangential point about how some of our country’s leaders may need to “lighten up,” we are not necessarily in disagreement.

    We’re also in agreement that “Faith in Jesus Christ saves you, not faith in the Church.” However, we do not need to “lighten up” when it comes to the question of who Jesus is and what He has done. For example, “Jesus” conceived by many sects is nothing more than a blasphemous idea- a created being, simply a good teacher, or at most something less than God. The Jesus who saves is the person who is God incarnate; who was virgin-born, lived a sinless life, died on the Cross as a payment for sinners, was buried and raised the third day, and is now at the Father’s right hand, offering eternal life to all who believe in Him. To fail in giving these Gospel truths their proper weight, we would fail to bring Him the glory He deserves.

    -Andrew

  5. Barry Says:

    I take your point. And, I think it was as well made as any I’ve ever read.

    If I were to attempt to wax-on to a by-stander revealing the joys and rewards of being in the religious community that I’m in and found myself proseltyzing to them, consciously or subconsciouly, and in response they politely smiled and turned away or were more brazen and told me to go “fly a kite”. I think I would have no choice but to accept it. This has happened to me before and it was not a comfortable feeling but I had to examine myself and ask many questions. I have to respect other people’s viewpoints. That is one of the reasons why I like to see a link between people in their view among movements. Some comments that I’ve read (most recently the current Pope) do not help.

  6. Andrew Says:

    Barry,

    You said, ‘I have to respect other people‚Äôs viewpoints.’
    I certainly agree with you in this regard; however, my concern expressed in this post is that too many followers of Jesus Christ have taken the idea of respecting others’ viewpoints (or, at least, their right to hold other viewpoints) and have come to the conclusion that it is acceptable to compromise the biblical viewpoint, primarily by refusing the discipline of thinking carefully about what the Bible has to say about what we think or how we live our lives.

    -Andrew


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