Our chief end is to glorify God with our lives. Our chief temptation, from Genesis 3 onward, is to “exchange the glory of the immortal God” for lesser glory — especially glorification of man (cf. Rom. 1:23). I agree with this whole-heartedly. But how exactly is God most glorified by his human image-bearers?
I believe John Piper again offers some solid help in getting us started but then downplays or even distorts the other side of the coin. (Note: I am using Piper as a representative of a much larger contingency of Reformed thinkers who stand largely in the shadow Jonathan Edwards and his theological kin.) Piper rightly emphasizes that “God is most glorified by us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Our satisfaction in God entails making God our heart’s greatest treasure and Christ our supreme Lord. So far, so good.
Yet, when it comes to the particulars of how one glorifies God — how one demonstrates that Christ is Lord, shows God to be our supreme treasure — we start to slip into unhelpful either-or rhetoric again. My conviction is that God is most glorified in us when we, God’s image-bearers in the world, are living most in tune with God’s purposes for our lives, utilizing our God-given gifts and passions, flourishing in our God-directed pursuits, and accomplishing great things in the name of God and for the expansion of the Kingdom of God. In other words, human beings glorify God not by curling up in a helpless, hopelessly depraved blob that is relieved that God is great enough for the both of us.
No, the Creator is magnified when his creatures are fully functioning as He originally intended them to. The computer programmer is most pleased when the program works, the coach is most thrilled when the team plays well and wins, the teacher is most honored when the students learn and God is most glorified when human beings flourish in their God-given potential in a proper relationship with Him.
My point is that human attempts at greatness is not in opposition to glorifying God. In fact, the two are thoroughly intertwined. Here’s an example of this misguided thinking in practice, chosen quite randomly and with no personal bone to pick with the individual involved. Morris Chapman, the President of Southern Baptist Convention, recently made the following challenge to the SBC regarding the future mission of the church:
“Going beyond the work of God’s Spirit in salvation, I believe the time has come to stop talking of “what made the SBC great” or “what will make the SBC great again.” All these questions are in direct competition with the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our chief aim, or first and greatest concern, our most passionate commitment must be to ask this question “What will give HIM the glory?”
Chapman no doubt wants the sole focus and driving motivation for the direction the SBC to be on glorifying God. Yet, he seems to view the desires of current leadership to be “great” as dangerous and, shockingly, “in direct competition with the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Really? Is he suggesting “all” talk of being a great church, making great efforts to accomplish great things, to have great kingdom-advancing impact and greater witness in the world for the future “are in direct competition” with the task of glorifying Christ?
I may be misunderstanding Chapman here, but his choice of words here seems to suggest a line of reasoning that would place the question “What will give HIM the glory?” in direct competition with questions about how the SBC can be great. I believe they are two sides of the same coin. What will give God most glory? My answer: Be a great church! That is, strive with all our might, cooperating with the power of the Spirit and in alignment with God’s will, to be a GREAT church with an even GREATER witness than in the past.
Human greatness is only truly great when done in cooperation with God for the glory of God. But human mediocrity done in the name of God and for the glory of God is still only mediocre — even if God redeems it, multiplies it and uses it for his greater purposes.
But God is most glorified by us when we are striving for Kingdom greatness in Him, through Him and for Him.
I will summarize my thoughts next time in the final post.