Is God’s God-centeredness precious to you? This question is one of those continental divides of all theological systems. How you answer it determines how your entire theology develops. I pick up the conversation in Pastor John’s trip this year to Northern Ireland. What makes it interesting here is the biographical context that gets pulled into the topic, something I had not heard about before. Here’s Pastor John.
I think, in biblical terms, the holiness of God — not the holiness of temple utensils or people — is generally his intrinsic beauty and greatness and worth. When that goes on display, the Bible calls it his glory. They’re not radically different realities. God is who he is, right? He’s great, he’s beautiful, he’s infinitely valuable in himself without any creation in existence.
But when the heavens were created, they were telling the glory of the Lord (Psalm 19:1). When the Son of God came, we saw his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father (John 1:14). The glory of God is the intrinsic worth, the intrinsic beauty, the intrinsic greatness gone public for you to admire and worship and enjoy.
“He’s great, he’s beautiful, he’s infinitely valuable in himself without any creation in existence.”
Hebrews 1:3 speaks of a radiance of the glory of God, and Psalm 19 speaks of the heavens telling the glory of God, as you see what God has put out there to communicate what cannot be seen. You’re supposed to see the planets and the stars and the blue sky and the cloud formations and the entire natural world, and know: This is a great God. This is a glorious God. This is a beautiful God. This is a true, valuable, infinitely glorious, beautiful being.
Greatness, Beauty, Value
Why do I choose these three words: greatness, beauty, and value? I’m not just throwing those words out there. Are those the three words that I should use?
By greatness, I am referring to his scope, his extent, his grandeur. There’s no geography, no dimensions in God, but we use language, and the Bible uses language, of greatness. That’s what greatness is: scope, extent, grandeur.
Beauty is the perfection of all his attributes and the infinite harmony of their interrelationships. If you were to list all the attributes of God that are revealed in the Bible, they would all be beautiful, but the totality of the beauty means the glory would be not only each one’s individual beauty, but the harmony of them all as they get shown in history and in salvation and judgment.
And third, I use the term worth because the Bible reveals him as a treasure: more precious, more valuable, more to be desired than anything or anyone in the universe. That may be the one that you need to hear most. I certainly need to hear it most. Because your heart is going after treasures every day. Every day, your heart is latching onto something satisfying, something precious, something you want. And the Bible’s message is he’s the most wantable reality in the world. If you don’t feel it, you’re wrong; you’re broken. So those three things — greatness, beauty, and worth — this is the glory of God on display.
Hallowed Be His Name
I’m 73 years old, and I’ve been talking about my love for the glory of God for about 50 years. My experience is that the greatness and beauty and worth of God, the glory of God, they don’t become dominant in a heart or in a mind — they didn’t in my life — until I saw how dominant the glory of God was to God himself.
My dad probably mentioned the term glory of God in almost every prayer he prayed in my presence, and that was every night that he was home from his evangelistic work. He pronounced it glo-ry. He divided the syllables after the o: glo-ry, not glor-y. I love it, because it just stuck there. “Do everything for the glo-ry of God.” And my mother would sign off on letters to me in college and graduate school, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything to the glory of God.”
“One of the biggest evidences that your world is being turned upside down by the centrality of God is your prayers.”
But to my knowledge (and the memories of kids are distorted), I don’t remember them ever saying, “God lives for the glory of God! God exists for the glory of God! God does everything he does for his glory!” When that began to come home to me — and I had to wrestle with whether I liked a God like that — my life shifted.
I was newly married. We were just in seminary. I remember saying, “Noël, one of the biggest evidences that your world is being turned upside down by the centrality of God and the mind of God is your prayers.” I mean, why is the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9)?
That’s not for him. That’s for us. We’ve got to get in sync with that, because Jesus said, “That’s number one.” Kingdom is next and will is next. “Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done” (Matthew 6:9–10). The first three petitions in the Lord’s Prayer are God, God, God — do it for yourself!