We live for the glory of God by being gospel-centered and gospel-spreading

The language of purpose is more common than you might think.  Though we (as a culture) tend to use it in lighter and more flippant ways, there is still great significance in what is communicated.  Think of someone saying “I live for my family” or “I live for rock-climbing”, or even “I live for the weekend!”  While we recognize that a person is usually not trying to be philosophical with this type of phrase, the fact is that it does still say something.  The person who lives for his family is telling you that he has affection for and focus on his wife and children.  The person who lives for rock-climbing is telling you that his waking moments are spent thinking of, and trying to get to this favorite hobby.  The person talking about living for the weekend is likely telling you that his efforts at work during the week end up serving a greater goal… to party.  Now, though these are separate and varied examples, they end up creating a composite of what I mean when I ask “What do you live for?”  Where is your affection?  What do you focus on and pursue with your life?  What do you spend your time on?  What can’t you wait to do more of?  Who can you not wait to be with?  What do you think about in the morning… or when you’re day dreaming?  What keeps you going through the week as you slog through yet another stack of paperwork?  Pile these answers up, and you’re getting closer to what you live for.

Though most Bible-reading Christians would say that they seek to glorify God with their lives, it seems to me that this can be a rather abstract concept.  What does it mean to “glorify” or “give glory to” God?  Is He lacking glory?  Can my little life really add to what God is?  Surely not!  So what are we saying?  What does it mean to glorify God?

First, we must get straight that God is glorious.  God’s glory, first and foremost is the essence of His being.  A person’s glory (even in human contexts, see ) is contained in their inherent quality, character or power.  In this sense, there is nothing that you and I are adding to God.  He simply is glorious.  But God created a world.  And this world was (and is) intended to be a display of God’s glory.  First, in creation.  Did you know that throughout the Bible, creation is viewed as a display of God’s glory (see )?  Why?  Because it is a demonstration of His inherent power and creativity.  When we see the grandeur and intricacy of creation, we are getting to know some of the glory of God.

But we must go further on.  God is glorious.  But He also seeks to reveal His glory.  This is ultimately the reason for creation and humanity.  People are, after all, part of the creation.  The pinnacle of creation, to be sure.  But creation nonetheless.  So, with all of creation, mankind serves to put on display the glorious majesty of God.  But mankind has a unique role in all of this.  You see, human beings are created “in His image.”  The only part of creation to bear this tag, mankind was the one part of the created order that was made with a capacity to know, enjoy and be like God.  But how can we be like Him?  I mean, we’re not powerful, all-knowing, or eternal.  What can this possibly mean?  It means that we are to be like Him in His moral character.  We are to reflect the glory of God’s moral perfections.  Your life has great meaning and potential in that you can be a God-reflector.  In this sense you are glorifying Him.  Like a diamond that shines and refracts the rays of the sun… so humanity is intended to receive and reflect the glorious light of God’s being.  They are to know Him and make Him known.  Listen to the prophet Isaiah…

 I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.

In fact, man’s very failure to respond to God in this way is explained in a familiar verse in Paul’s letter to the Romans…

 …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Humanity is not here indicted because they fell short of having the same glory as God (that’s not possible).  They are held to account for the fact that they did not reflect the glory of God.  Why not?  Simple, they lived for other things.  They lived for pleasure and prestige.  They lived for power and prominence.  They lived for sex and stuff.  The bottom line is that in our living for anything other than God and the display of His glory, we’ve sinned.

But now, through the gospel, there is a recovery operation at work.  For those of us who are in Christ, we’ve been forgiven of our treason and are being remade.  Though our diamond was tarnished so that it could not reflect the rays of the sun… it is being cleaned so that it might once again multiply the sight of the source.  Listen to what Paul says in

 …as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

So let me go back to where I began… What do you live for?  Where is your affection?  What do you focus on and pursue with your life?  What do you spend your time on?  What can’t you wait to do more of?  Who can you not wait to be with?  What do you think about in the morning… or when you’re day dreaming?  What keeps you going through the week as you slog through yet another stack of paperwork?  Pile these up, and you’re getting closer to what you live for.  And if God is at the center of all of your answers, then you’re beginning to live a life that glorifies Him.

   “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!

The closer we are to this refrain at every moment of our lives, the more we’re living for the glory of God.

13 You must tell my father of all my honor in Egypt, and of all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” (ESV)

19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun,
which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy.
Its rising is from the end of the heavens,
and its circuit to the end of them,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?
Declare me innocent from hidden faults.
13 Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins;
let them not have dominion over me!
Then I shall be blameless,
and innocent of great transgression.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (ESV)

I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.” (ESV)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (ESV)

4:1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says,

“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”

(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

17 Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (ESV)

21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (ESV)

13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (ESV)