I want to try to persuade you this morning, or at least get you to consider very seriously, the fact that the most God-centered person in the world is God. Or say it another way: that God — and not you or I — is uppermost in his own affections. Or this: God is not an idolater — that is, he does not put, in the energy and the place of his admiration and joy, the creation, where only God should be. God keeps God where God should be: on the throne of his own affections and commitments.
The infinite energy of ultimate reality is the energy of eternal worship in the Godhead: God the Father looks out over the panorama of his own perfections, reflected back to him in the Son with the exact representation of his glory, with love and admiration and infinitely energetic delight; and the Son reciprocates, and that energy stands forth in another person, the Holy Spirit. Infinite energy that begets the universe is the energy of intra-divine worship.
Yesterday morning after the sermon, a student came up and said he’s taking a course from a Muslim on Islam over at the University of Minnesota. And that Friday, he had gotten into a discussion about the oneness of God in Islam, and he had the boldness to stand up and say, “I believe that God is three persons in one,” and that “God the Father has eternally begotten the Son.” And the teacher stopped him and said, “That is absolutely inconceivable.” And he asked me, “What would you have said?” And I said, what I would say is, “That God exists as three in one is not the ultimate mystery of the universe. The ultimate mystery of the universe is that God exists.”
You remember what Moses in dealing with God said: “They’re going to ask me, what your name is, God, if I go down there and tell them the God of their fathers have sent me.” And God said
“I Am Who I Am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14)
The name of God in the Old Testament, Yahweh, is rooted in that declaration. so that all over the Old Testament — like the sixty-some instances in the book of Ezekiel where it says, “That the nations might know that I am Yahweh” — is a hearkening back to the sheer, awesome, raw, inconceivable reality that God is. Just ponder it: He simply, absolutely, always, has been, will be, never became, never had a start, never got to be that way forever and ever and ever. He’s just there; you can’t negotiate it. Nothing you think about it makes the least difference in it. He’s simply absolute reality, which means that there’s nothing before him or outside of him or under him that gives an account for how he got to be the way he is. Which means there is no place outside of him to plant your feet to say, “You can’t be the way you present yourself to be.”
If God is absolute reality — all-defining, all-determining reality — we bow; that’s it. There is no standing anywhere outside God to say, “You can’t be three in one. He can be anything he is because he absolutely is. That is the ultimate reality, the ultimate mystery, the most mind-boggling thing you will ever hit upon at Wheaton College: God is. Period. No beginning, no growing up, no family of origin, no personality development — God is the way he is. And he will tell us what that is, and we will either bow or die, and there is no alternative.
God’s Chief End
So I say again: the infinite energy of ultimate reality is the eternal energy of worship in the Godhead. God worships God, and that is his infinite overflowing energy. So when God undertakes to resolve to create the universe, it’s not out of need, it’s not out of deficiency, it’s not out of loneliness; it is the overflow of worship, aiming to externalize the enjoyment that God has in himself. Creation is God’s resolve to externalize the enjoyment that he has in himself. Which inclined me, ten or so years ago, standing in this pulpit, to say to the temporary chagrin of all my friends, “The chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself forever.”
And you may ask, “Well look, we all know that the real catechetical issue is, to the Westminster divines, ‘What’s the chief end of man?’ We know that’s where you’re going this morning. The chief end of man is to glorify God, and that is not happening among the nations, and therefore, let’s get about it and be the means of God’s fulfilling that purpose. ‘Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31). So why are you spending so much time this morning talking about God’s zeal for the glory of God, rather than our zeal for the glory of God?
And there’s a reason, and it goes like this: when the Westminster divines crafted that first question, ‘What is the chief end of man?’ and answered, ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever,’ they assumed something that almost nobody in the twentieth century assumes — including, I fear, many of you. In the modern world — the last two to three hundred years — man has become the measure of all things, and therefore, you have absorbed a kind of man-centered air in which we live, such that many of you, and many people in the world, are willing to make much of God, precisely because, and to the degree that, he makes much of you; it’s in a thousand books. They are zealous to be God-centered — as long as God is man-centered.
But if you discovered that God is God-centered, and not you-centered, I wonder if you’d love him. I wonder. That’s the reason for starting the way I start. We need to take a bath from the twentieth century, in the acid water of the word of God. I want to do that with you, and I want you to test yourself this morning, as to how you respond in your heart to the radical God-centeredness of God.
What Drives God?
So, let’s take predestination, creation, salvation or the death of Christ, sanctification, and consummation, and ask, What’s driving all that? What’s moving God in all of that?
He chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace. (Ephesians 1:4–6)
I remember Scott Hoffman, in 1977 or ’76, was sitting in a class at Bethel College, and I was teaching a class on the book of Ephesians. And we were making our way slowly through this 14- verse, long sentence in chapter one phrase by phrase, trying to figure out the logical development here. And as a class, without any difficulty we saw that in verse 6, verse 12, and verse 14, the capstone of the argument is given: unto the praise of the glory of his grace. All of election, all of redemption, all of sealing, all of predestination are unto the praise of the glory of his grace.
Which means, God has from all eternity planned out the history of redemption, that we might praise his grace. He is jealous for your praise and calls his church, in James 4:4, adulteresses, when they become friends of the world and not of himself, because he is their husband and means to be praised by them.
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. (Isaiah 43:6–7)
I remember sitting in classes here in 1967 or ’68, in which we wrestled with the imago dei and wherein does it consist? Is it volition, or is it rationality, or is it relationality? The main thing is simpler than that: the point of being an image is to image. You are all created in the image of God, which means there’s no big deep argument about why you exist. You exist to image God.
That’s what it means: you build images to image, and therefore, God is radically God-centered in your creation. He means for you to image God, he made you like himself, so that you would image him. He gets the glory for your being. Images are to image God. God is the point of your life. If you don’t get it, you will pay. Don’t pay; get it and live it.
Christ became a servant to the circumcised [that is, he became a Jew] to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. (Romans 15:8–9)
Many times I’ll get into conversations with faculty at various seminars who require papers of their students that they do integrating motifs and statements about ultimate biblical point: Why is the Bible written? What hangs it all together? And they will argue with me that it’s the love of God or it’s covenant or it’s kingdom. It’s very easy, if you are submitted to the grammar of the New Testament, to go to all the places where those so-called “ultimate realities” are, and show that they are all penultimate — and the glory of God is ultimate. And here, Christ became a Jew in order that the nations might glorify God for his mercy. Mercy was shown to the nations in order that glory might come to God.
God put [Christ] forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
When Nathan said to David, after he committed adultery and killed Uriah, “You’re the man.” And he said, “I’m sorry.” And Nathan said, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die,” that was a moral outrage for God to do that (2 Samuel 12:7–14).
In order for God to vindicate himself against his own outrageous behavior, he killed his Son.
It is my prayer that your love may abound more and more . . . filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:9–11)
Is there any righteousness at Wheaton college? Is are any fruitfulness of the Spirit in your life? Why? This is the answer: it is unto the praise and the glory of God.
And finally, Why is Jesus coming back? Those who do not obey the gospel
will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. (2 Thessalonians 1:9–10)
He’s coming to be marveled at. His second coming is radically christocentric and theocentric.
Now missions is the radical commitment of the church of Christ to join God in the global enterprise of his self-glorification. And unless you get it, and unless you’re willing to join it — that is, unless you see into the Godhead that infinite, universe-creating energy is the energy of worship going public, and unless you are willing to join God in his own passion of self-glorification — you won’t ever do missions the way it ought to be done.
Tomorrow morning, the question will be addressed here, God willing, Should you want to join up? Is this love? Is this good news? Or is this a megalomaniac on an ego trip doing his own thing, and the last thing I want to do is join up in his cause? Now, how you answer that question — “I’ll join” or “I won’t join — probably depends on your answer to this question: What’s the love of God — that is, God’s love toward you? Is God’s love toward you his merciful, making much of you? Or is God’s love toward you his mercifully enabling you to enjoy making much of him forever?