The Joyful Duty of Man
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Two weeks ago we began a series of messages to explain the biblical basis of the new pamphlet called "Quest for Joy." The reason we have put this pamphlet together is that the Christian gospel is wonderfully good news. It is wonderful to know it and believe it! It is meant for everybody. Everybody needs it, whether they know it or not. And if you care about people, you will want to tell them this good news.
Spontaneity Growing out of Deep Understanding
Our hope is that the pamphlet and the sermons will give you a firmer grasp of biblical truth, and give you a possible way of making it clear to others. This is by no means the only way to share the gospel. The truth of God must be made plain to people in a thousand acts of love and in words that suit hundreds of different occasions. But many of us have learned that confident spontaneity with unbelievers grows out of firm, deep roots of understanding.
The most creative portrait artist is the one who has labored to master how you draw a chin and a nose and an ear. When the basics are second nature, then real creativity begins. So it is in evangelism. So please don't think we want you to parrot what's here. We want you to grasp it very deeply. We want it to become second nature in your own way of seeing life. And then we want you to speak the good news in love—and if it helps to use the pamphlet, use it.
When you open the pamphlet all the way, you see six biblical truths stated in bold type. Each has a Bible verse quoted beneath it, and then a short paragraph of explanation. The six truths are in a very definite order so that each one needs the ones before it to make sense.
Two weeks ago we focused on Truth #1, "God created us for his glory," based on Isaiah 43:7. In other words if we are going to make the gospel plain, people need to know something of God's power (he is Creator), something of God's greatness (he is glorious—stupendous, awesome, perfect in every way), and something of God's purpose (He aims to make his glory known and admired). So we begin by saying, "God created us for his glory."
Why It Is Important to Begin with God's Glory
Let me summarize why beginning here is so important.
1. The Centrality of God
God is the central reality in the universe. The Bible says that "All things are from him and through him and to him, to him be glory for ever" (Romans 11:36). It says that "all things exist for him and by him" (Hebrews 2:10). Man is not the center of all things. God is. If truth isn't at least on the table for consideration, the rest of the gospel message will be warped to fit our natural self-centeredness.
2. Romans 3:23
When we come next week to the third point in the gospel, Romans 3:23 will make no sense unless we have begun here with God's purpose to be glorified. Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Now what would fall short of glory mean, and why would it be a problem unless you had shown that God made us to glorify him, and that we have failed in the very destiny for which we were made? In other words the essence of sin cannot be understood unless you begin with God and his glory. That's why people don't experience contrition like they used to. Sin is seen as what makes me miserable not what offends the glory of God. Our view of sin today is basically psychological not theological. (More on that next week.) To know what sin is we must begin with God and his great purposes.
3. The Rightness of God's God-Centeredness
It is crucial that we show it is right for God to be God-centered and not man-centered. Many people are happy to let God exist if God will make man the highest value in the universe. But it is crucial to say that God is the most valuable being in the universe. We are quite secondary. And since God is the ultimate value in the universe, it is only right and fitting that he be honest about that; that he tell us so and that for our own good he seek our love and admiration.
Sometimes people ask, why is it right for God to seek his glory, but wrong for us to seek our glory? Why would we be vain and God be righteous? The answer is that God's righteousness and our righteousness are exactly the same—God is righteous to esteem most highly what is most valuable in the universe, namely, God. And we are righteous to esteem most highly what is most valuable in the universe, namely, God. There is no inconsistency here.
Righteousness means having a right response to what is infinitely glorious and perfect. And that is God. For us to be righteous, we must love God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength. For God to be righteous, he too must love HIMSELF with all his heart and soul and mind and strength. Otherwise he would be an idolater. He would be giving supreme devotion to something that does not have supreme value.
What we will see next week is that the root problem of our human nature is that we do not want God to be God. We want to be God. And one clear piece of evidence for that is how rare the biblical God-centered vision of God is, and how widespread the unbiblical man-centered vision of God is. So I repeat, it is crucial that we lay the truth on the table that God created us for HIS glory and that this is reasonable and right for God to do.
4. Our Purpose for Existing
It is helpful to begin with God's purpose in creation because that tells us why we are here on the earth, and common sense says that if you know what something was made for, you can get more out of it. That's true for your life. If you know that a lawn mower is made for cutting grass and not for a window fan, your life will be happier. And if you know that you are made for God's glory, you will make better use of it and be happier.
That leads us to Truth #2.
Every Human Should Live for God's Glory
Of course Truth #1 and Truth #2 are very closely connected. But they are not the same. Truth #1 starts with God and describes his ultimate design in creating us. Truth #2 shifts from God's design to our duty. Let's read the text and the paragraph of explanation.
Appealing to Scripture and Reason
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
If God made us for his glory, it is clear that we should live for his glory. Our duty comes from his design. What does it mean to glorify God? It means that we love him (Matthew 22:37), trust him (Romans 4:20), are thankful to him (Psalm 50:23), and obey him (Matthew 5:16).
Now at this point you might appeal to Scripture (the verses are listed) or to reason (or common sense), depending on how much common ground you have with someone.
What If Someone Rejects Truth #1?
Let me encourage you not to get bogged down on any one of these truths if someone rejects the truth. Don't think that the only way a person can be persuaded of the truth of Christianity is by moving logically from premise to premise. That is not the way most people function.
Suppose a person says, after you share Truth #1, "I can't buy it. I don't even think there is a God. And the theory of evolution makes all that talk of divine design and divine purpose meaningless." What should you do? Should you give up because you can't even get them to agree to the first foundational truth?
NO! What you should say is something like this: "OK I understand that you don't agree with this first truth. But would you hear me out and let me try to give you the big picture so you can make your judgment based on how it all might fit together?" Then you go on to truths #2 and #3 and so on.
The reason for this is that most of us do not embrace an idea or a cause because we have sorted out all its premises and tested them logically one by one from the most basic on up. Most of us embrace an idea or a cause (or a person!) because the whole thing or some crucial part of it causes lights to go on for us. It gives a flash of insight. It clicks with things we know already. It makes sense out of things that had been confusing or troubling.
In other words if you can get the whole picture—all six truths—into a person's mind, it may be that something in the other five will hit home with such force that they would reconsider their rejection of the first one. Or it may be that later—sometimes much later—a devastating experience will open them to reconsider the truth of these things. If you have given them the whole picture, the Holy Spirit can then apply any part of it to their need. And if they have a copy to keep, all the better. Never think you have spoken God's truth in vain. It does not go out in vain.
So you go on to explain Truth #2. Here's one way to go about it.
God's Command to Glorify Him and God's Love
Truth #1 said that God made us to reflect or display or manifest his glory. We are supposed to be like well-polished mirrors of God's truth to the world. Or like prisms that take the beams of God's greatness and break them up into lots of varied colors for the world to see in our actions and words (Ephesians 3:10; Matthew 5:16).
So that is what every man and woman and child should devote his or her life to. That is why we live. That is our duty. Or you could say, that is God's law.
But for some people—most people—the words "duty" and "law" are not happy words. They tend to sound oppressive and burdensome. So it doesn't sound, then, that God is very loving. That he doesn't have our best interest at heart. Maybe he is so interested in his glory that we don't really count except as slaves to work for him.
That kind of objection has to be met. And it is not hard to meet. You meet it by asking this question: If God is perfect, complete, all-sufficient, infinitely great and glorious, and didn't create us to meet his needs, because he doesn't have any needs, then how do you glorify a God like that?
Not by working for him like a slave. That would give the impression that he is weak or deficient. Not by cowering in uncertainty beneath his power. That would give the impression that he is unstable or capricious or cruel.
How Do You Glorify an All-Glorious God?
How do you bring glory to an all-sufficient, perfect, infinitely beautiful, infinitely wise, infinitely powerful, overflowing God? Here you can use the texts in the pamphlet or you can use illustrations from ordinary life.
For example, if you want to glorify a beautiful painting, you don't feel a burden to work to improve it. You simply enjoy it. You love it. You talk about it excitedly to your friends. Or if someone makes a wonderful meal and serves it up before you, how do you glorify the excellence of the meal? Not by putting on your apron and going out to the kitchen to make a few more dishes or add a few spices. No. You glorify a perfect meal by eating a lot and by feeling contented and saying, ahhh. In other words if it is your duty to glorify something infinitely beautiful and wonderful, that is no burden. It is a pleasure. In fact when you take from it pleasure, you show it's a treasure.
Or suppose it's your duty to glorify the strength of a new metal alloy that holds up a bridge. How do you glorify the strength of the metal? Not by working hard to provide some extra supports, but by getting in your car with all your family and trusting the bridge with your life as you peacefully drive across without any anxiety. You glorify strength by trusting it not by working to supplement it. So the duty to glorify power is not a burden. It's a restful pleasure.
Or suppose your duty was to glorify someone's generosity. Suppose someone was so rich and so generous that they just spilled over in love and generosity and grace and kindness to you. How would you glorify that quality in them? Not by trying to pay them back. That would turn their kindness into a business deal. It would treat their free gift like a trade. Tit for tat. That would not glorify the wealth of their generosity. No the way to glorify their generosity and their kindness is to be lavish and genuine in your gratitude and thanksgiving. And that is no burden. If you get a billion dollar gift, you do not groan under the duty to feel thankful. It is a pleasure not a hardship.
Finally, suppose it is your duty to glorify someone's great wisdom? Say the wisdom of your coach (if you're on some team) or your counselor (if you are in some kind of therapy)? The answer is that you don't glorify their wisdom by trying strenuously to help them figure out the answer to some problem. You glorify their wisdom by doing what they say. If you want to show that your coach is really wise, you run and do his drills without doubting or grumbling. If you want to glorify your counselor's wisdom, you do his assignments without doubt or grumbling. In other words, glad-hearted obedience glorifies great wisdom. And this is not a burden (1 John 5:3).
God Is Most Glorified in Us When We Are Most Satisfied in Him
Now do you see what all this means? It means that God is love. It means that when he created us for his glory, he also created us for our joy. How so? Because the way he seeks to be glorified in us is by making us satisfied in him. The good news of Christianity is that God is the kind of God who is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.
In sharing the truth of Christianity, Truth #1 is that God created us for HIS glory. Truth #2 is that this is, therefore, the duty of every man and woman and child—to live for the glory of God. And the wonderful thing is that this duty is not a burden. It is freedom and joy. You glorify God's beauty and excellence by loving it and delighting in it. You glorify God's power by trusting him with all the hard and threatening things in your life. You glorify God's bounty and generosity and kindness and grace by overflowing with gratitude. And you glorify God's wisdom by obeying his counsel. And everybody knows that this is no burden. This is no heavy law. This is love.
God is a God of infinite love because he wills to share all that he is with us for our enjoyment and his glory.
This was the wonderful beginning of Christian truth. And then something happened. We will turn to Truths #3 and #4 next week: "Joy Exchanged" and "Joy Forfeited."