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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  1. I find myself enjoying this topic…please continue….


  2. I agree especially about the bumper stickers and stuff; that’s not glorifying to God; that’s making a statement. To my thinking, the fish on my car keeps me accountable and doesn’t serve as a statement. It reminds me how to act on the road, in the parkinglot, etc.

    Very well written.


  3. I can’t remember a single occasion in any of my stories where a character says grace over a meal … does that mean they’re backslidden, or am I? 🙂 Good thoughts as always, Becky!


  4. Very good and very thought provoking.


  5. Nikole – I agree. I know an intellectual at my church who calls it “bumper sticker ideology”. He’s made a video on it, and put it on his WordPress. Another woman in my small group at a new class I attend said she doesn’t do that in case she cuts someone off(a.k.a. she doesn’t want to give a bad impression of us).

    I think we have become “sissy lala” Christians to the point where we just want to get the message out, and not focus on being the fishers of men.

    I’d also like to throw something out here for discussion: I’ve met a few people who don’t regularly attend church. When I’ve brought up the issue with them, they’ve dismissed it by saying that the relationship with Yahshua is more important, or that they attend their Christian Club. I can agree that our relationship with Yahshua is the most important in the Christian walk, but does that dismiss gathering with our brethryn?

    Thank you, and God Bless,


  6. Cool subject, Becky! I would add that the best word on how God is glorified came from God Himself in Ex 33:18,19 when Moses asked him to “Show me Thy glory!”

    And God said, “I Myself will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious; I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy.”

    So we conclude that God is glorified when He can manifest toward us His grace and mercy. It’s all about what He does, not so much what we do. Any true or divine good we produce must be done in the power of His Spirit and in accordance with His Word, both of which are only available to us through His grace and mercy. That’s why all those passages you quoted had His creatures praising Him and not their fellow creatures.


  7. Such interesting thoughts. Thank you for an intriguing post!


  8. Thanks so much for the feedback. I know I’m learning a lot from this word study.

    Karen, I love the Exodus passage you quoted. Yes, God is the one who deserves the spotlight for our good works. Apart from Him, our righteousness can do little more than serve as self-elevation.



  9. […] Other posts in this series include “Glorifying God Means What Exactly?”, “More Thoughts About Glorifying God,” and “Glorifying God Isn’t What We Think.” […]


  10. I believe we can glorify God and bear fruit(John 15;8) by doing good works that we have felt the Holy Spirit leading us to do or because we are part of a church pastoral team. In writing “Mei Ling discovers Jack Miner”, I happened to mention that the new Chinese immigrants went to a local Baptist Church and a reviewer, who liked my book, commented on this point negatively! The Miner family who run the Bird Sanctuary never open on Sunday as Jack Miner felt there were enough days to see the geese and ducks. I never put that in but now I almost wish I had!
    In a new book I’m writing (or rather editing) now, I hint at Resurrection. Maybe I’ll have a comment on that too! One way to glorify God is to witness to one’s faith and I shall keep doing that somehow.


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