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.