Glorifying God Isn’t What We Think


I’m tenacious, you might think, or bull-headed, known to flog dead horses from time to time. 😉

For many Christians the topic of glorifying God is moot: We’re supposed to glorify Him in everything — move on, already!

Except I decided to take a look at what Scripture says about glorifying God, and I don’t see this “in everything concept.”

As friend Mike Duran commented in my first post on this subject, when the Bible talks of people who are righteous or godly, the idea seems to be that their entire lives were to be pleasing to God.

Yea, verily, to quote the King James Version of Scripture!

But my study of the word “glorify” leads me to believe that this particular response to God is distinct from pleasing Him and even from praising Him or thanking Him.

The main word translated “glorify” and its various forms appears sixty-three times in the New Testament. Those uses include the shepherds glorifying and praising God after they saw Jesus, as the angels told them they would; the crowd glorifying God after Jesus healed a lame man; the mourners glorifying God when Jesus raised the widow’s son from the dead. In fact, the majority of the uses of the word are this type.

John expands the use somewhat. He refers to Jesus not having been glorified yet (7:39) and then later, His having been glorified (12:16). He also talked about the Father glorifying His name and then glorifying the Son.

In reference to us, John says that whatever we ask in Jesus’s name, “that will [Jesus] do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (14:13).

Besides this idea which we associate with prayer, John says in the next chapter: “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (15:8). This verse seems in harmony with what Jesus said recorded in Matthew 15:6 about letting our light shine so men could see our good works and glorify our Father.

Peter also echoes this idea: “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (I Peter 2:12).

Clearly, good deeds or works or fruit ignite the act of glorifying God and, according to John 15:8, themselves glorify God as a sign of our discipleship of Christ. With that exception and one other, the actual act of glorifying God itself seems to be a response, an intentional, verbal, and spontaneous honoring of God.

The other exception is Paul’s admonition to the Corinthians “to glorify God in your body (I Cor. 6:20). The context here is quite specific though — that of keeping away from sexual immorality.

I come away from this quick study thinking that praise and glory are linked closely but are not synonymous; that good works offer others an opportunity to glorify God and as they signify my discipleship to Christ, glorify God directly; that living a sexually pure life glorifies God.

While some choices I make, such as my eating habits, what I watch on TV, how I manage my money, or how I spend my Sunday might please God, I don’t think I give Him glory by them or cause others to glorify Him because of them. Non-Christians can eat well, choose wholesome entertainment, and stay out of debt, too. In so doing, they do not bring God glory — not the kind Scripture records in the New Testament.

I can grieve the Holy Spirit by poor life choices or I can please God by good ones. But glorify Him? I think that’s a different something.

Maybe I’m hair-splitting, but I can’t help but think that fuzzy thinking on this subject has led some writers to believe they can show their character saying grace before a meal and feel as if they have glorified God in their story.

Does someone glorify God by putting a “Jesus saves” bumper sticker on their car? Or holding up a “John 3:16” sign at a football game? I don’t think those things stack up with the good works Jesus or the Holy Spirit did that caused people to glorify God in the first century. I don’t think they come close to the glory that living a sexually pure life gives God.

So is it possible for a writer to glorify God in his fiction? That question is still on the table, isn’t it. 😉

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Other posts in this series include “Glorifying God Means What Exactly?” and “More Thoughts About Glorifying God.”

Published in: on August 5, 2011 at 7:15 pm  Comments (10)  
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