God's Passion for His Glory (with Portuguese Interpretation)

FIEL Conference for Pastors and Leaders | São Paulo, Brazil

You all come from very different situations. You come from a lot of problems. Some come from family situations that are full of pain, others from church situations where there is a lot of stress. And I ask the question: Can what I say meet all those needs? There are so many different needs. But I have confidence that the greatness of God meets needs.

The Greatness of God Meets Our Needs

Let me give you a little illustration of that from my own life. About ten years ago, I was preaching from Malachi. Now, in my church, we have two Sunday morning services — one at 9:00 a.m. and one at 10:30 a.m. One of the men of our church died of a heart attack between the services. It was very hard for me to preach the second service. I saw his wife leave in the ambulance to go with him to the hospital. But I knew that he was dead. I began to preach, and his wife returned and came into the room. I was preaching not about death and comfort, but about the glory of God and the holiness of God.

And when I saw her walk in, I asked myself, “Is this sermon going to meet her need?” But I kept on preaching. After the service, she came to me. She had just lost her husband. And she took me and said, “Thank you for the message. It gave me something to hold onto.” So my prayer tonight is that the glory of God will give you something to hold onto.

Let me try to tell you where we are going in our four evening sessions together. The theme of the evenings is glorifying God and enjoying him forever. But the point I want to make is that we glorify God by enjoying him forever. Another way to say it is, God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him. So my prayer is that you will get a heart that is satisfied in God and gives glory to God.

Now let me outline the four evenings. Tonight, we’re going to talk about the chief end of God. I’ll come back to that in a moment. Tomorrow night, we’re going to ask this question: “If God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him, then what should my goal or vocation in life be?” And the answer is going to be: “My purpose and my vocation should be to pursue satisfaction in God.”

Many people think it’s wrong to pursue your own happiness, but I’m going to argue tomorrow night that it is not only permissible, it is right to pursue your own happiness if you pursue it in God.

Wednesday night, we will ask the question: “Is this a contradiction of loving other people?” People say, “If you’re seeking your own happiness, how can you be a loving person?” And I’m going to argue if you don’t seek your own happiness, you can’t be a loving person. And then on the final night together, I will deal with the practical question: How do you cultivate and maintain a heart like that for God?

The Chief End of God

Okay. Now back to tonight’s topic. I want to try to persuade you tonight that the chief end of God is to glorify God and enjoy himself forever. I told that to a congregation one time, and their faces told me they thought I had made a mistake. I was supposed to say the chief end of man is to glorify God, but I do mean to say the chief end of God is to glorify God.

Now, one of the reasons that sounds strange to us is that we think more about our duties than God’s purposes. Our duty is to glorify God. We know that. We know that we exist to glorify God. But do we ever ask why God exists? What are God’s purposes? Our ultimate satisfaction is in him. What is his ultimate satisfaction in? This is tremendously important for Christians.

Let me illustrate with my family. I have four sons. If you ask my sons, “What is your father’s main purpose?” And they said, “I don’t know,” I would be very disappointed. If you ask them, “What is your father’s greatest passion in life?” And they said, “I don’t care,” I would be crushed. It matters to a father that his children know what his purposes are, and so it is with God.

We need to ask: What is God’s purpose? Why does he do what he does? What’s his passion? Whom does he worship? Or shall we deny to God the pleasure of worship? Whom should God worship so as not to become an idolater? You can see where I am leading. God exists to glorify God. His passion in life is to magnify his name.

A Tour Through Biblical History

Now, let me try to show you this from Scripture. I don’t want you to believe it because I think it. I’m going to show you so many texts, there will not be time for you to look them up. You can write down the text, but I’m just going to read them to you.

Now, what I’m looking for is the purpose of God in everything he does. I’m going to take you on a tour through biblical history, and we’ll look at the high points of biblical history. And we’ll ask: Why did God do that? What was his motive? What was he aiming at?

God’s Purpose in Creation

Okay, let’s start at the beginning with creation. In Isaiah 43:6, God answers the question why he created people. He says, “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” (Isaiah 43:6–7).

Now, is that plain? God created us for his glory. I think that’s what it means in Genesis 1 where it says we are created in his image. The point of an image is to reflect the reality. Imagine you are in the image of God so that when people look at you, they think about God. You are to get attention for God. That’s why you exist. So, creation is for God’s glory.

God’s Purpose in Choosing Israel

Now, let’s move forward to the choosing of Israel. Why did God choose Abraham? Why did he want a people for himself? Jeremiah 13:11: “I made the whole house of Israel . . . cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory.” So what is the answer? He chose Israel so that Israel would be a glory to him in the earth.

God’s Purpose in the Exodus

Let’s move forward now to the Exodus when God delivered his people out of Egypt. Why did he do this? Why did he divide the Red Sea? Why did he save his people? The answer is given in Psalm 106:7–8:

Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
     did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love,
     but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
Yet he saved them for his name’s sake,
     that he might make known his mighty power.

Why did he deliver the people? That he might show off his mighty power. He saved them for his sake. It was good news to them, and it was glory to him.

God’s Purpose in the Wilderness

Let’s walk with the people now into the wilderness. Why did God spare these rebellious people again and again? The answer is given in Ezekiel 20:14: “I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out.” So God was concerned for his name. He didn’t want the nations to think he was weak. He saved them in the wilderness for his name’s sake.

God’s Purpose in Providing a King

Now, let’s move forward a few hundred years. You remember the time when the people wanted a king? They wanted to be like all the other nations. It was wrong to want a king. But Samuel said, “All right,” because God had told him, “They’re rebelling against me, not you.” So God agreed to give them a king like the other nations, and Samuel told them, “You have sinned greatly.” Now, why at that point did God not reject his people?

The answer is given in 1 Samuel 12:20–22: “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord.” And then skipping down a few words. “the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake.” There it is. He saved them and preserved them in spite of their sin for his great name’s sake.

Let me point out something in that first line there. It says, “Fear not you have done all this evil.” I would have expected him to say, “Fear, you have done all this evil.” But he says, “Fear not you have done all this evil.” So, the reason that he saved them is for his name’s sake.

God’s Purpose in Exile and Restoration

Now, let’s go forward a few more hundred years. The sin became so terrible in Israel that God sent them into exile. Now why did he not let them perish in exile? Why did he bring them back? Why did he give them a fresh start? Why did he show so much mercy? The answer is given in Isaiah 48:9–11: “For my name’s sake I defer my anger; for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you.” And then skipping down a little bit. “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”

So the reason that God brought his people back mercifully is because he didn’t want his name to be profaned. God is doing everything he does to exalt his name, to maintain his glory. Everything he does is motivated by the desire to exalt himself in the world.

God’s Purpose in Sending Jesus

Now, let’s go to the New Testament and let’s ask the question: Why did Jesus come into the world? Why did God send his Son?

You probably think of John 3:16, and it is true that he wanted to save those who are perishing. but that is not the basic reason why Jesus came. There is something deeper. It is described in Romans 15:8: “Christ became a servant to the circumcised 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).

So what’s the answer in that verse? There are two reasons given for why Jesus came and was incarnated as a Jew. Number one: To prove that God is faithful. He keeps his promises. He can be counted on. The second reason is so that the nations would glorify him for his mercy. So the ultimate reason why Jesus came is to get glory for his Father.

We see this again in John 17:1. Jesus is in the garden of Gethsemane and he says this, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” So at the very center of the redeeming work of Jesus, the most important thing in Jesus’s heart was that his Father would get glory. We were saved — we get the joy, but God gets the glory. And that’s the burden of Jesus Christ. He saves us for God’s sake.

The Christian Life for God’s Glory

Now, let’s just consider a few verses about the Christian life in the New Testament. Many of you know 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” So when you eat breakfast tomorrow morning, you do it for God’s glory. When you go to bed tonight, you do it for God’s glory. Whatever you do, you do it for God’s glory. That’s why Jesus came. To make that possible.

Consider 1 Peter 4:11. This is one of the most important verses to me in my philosophy of ministry. Why do we minister in the power of God? It says, “Whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified.” The giver of power gets the glory. So we minister in God’s power so that God gets the glory. We preach for his glory. We visit people for his glory. We pray for people for God’s glory. All of ministry is for God’s glory, and he gets glory when we rely on his power.

Ephesians 1:12 is a great summary statement. We have been destined and appointed to live for “the praise of his glory.” Your whole life is for the glory of God. All of salvation from beginning to end is for God’s glory.

One last text. Why is Jesus coming back to this earth? The answer is given in 2 Thessalonians 1:9–10:

[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.

Why is he coming back? He is coming back to be glorified. He’s coming back to be marveled at by us who have believed. Now, I hope you can see that, from creation to consummation, God’s purposes in all that he has done is his glory. At the center of God’s heart is God. God is a very self-exalting being.

Objection: Is God Loving?

Now, I have taught this around my country, and I know that it comes to people often with a shock because we are a very self-centered land. In fact, human beings are self-centered by nature, and therefore, when we hear that God does not have us at the center, we don’t like it. God has God at the center of his purposes, and my point this week is that we join God in that purpose by enjoying him. If we resist his purposes, we will be the losers.

Now, here’s the biggest objection to what I have said. It does not sound loving. If God is always seeking his own glory, does he love us? First Corinthians 13:5, it says, “Love seeks not its own.” But we’ve just seen a dozen texts where God does seek his own. So is he not a God of love? That’s the biggest objection and I hope I can answer it for you. Let me try. If God is loving to us, what must he give us? My answer to that would be he must give us the very best thing. If he loves me, he will give me what is best for me. He will give me what is most beautiful. He will give me what is most glorious. He will give me the greatest treasure. And what is that? God. Therefore, if he’s to love me, he must give me himself.

Immediately, you can see how self-exalting that is. You don’t love people like that. You should not copy God in this. You don’t love someone by giving them you — you love people by giving them God. And God loves people by giving them God. For you, it is humble. For God, it is self-exalting. He is God — we are not. We can’t copy him in being God.

Let me take my argument a step further. When someone gives you a wonderful gift that is beautiful and glorious, what do you do? You praise it. You say, “This is beautiful. This is wonderful. This is glorious.” If somebody shows you their little baby, you say, “Oh, it’s so cute.” We say that about our lovers. We say it about sunsets and mountains. When we are given glorious things, we praise them.

Now, C.S. Lewis, I don’t know whether you know C.S. Lewis — a British teacher and writer and Christian. He wrote a book about the Psalms, and he taught me some important things about praise. Let me just paraphrase for you something that he said. He said, “The world rings with praise. Readers praising their favorite poets. We praise our favorite games. We praise the weather. We praise children and flowers.” And he taught me that the reason we praise is that praise completes the joy we have in the object. Praise is not just added on to joy — it’s the consummation, the completion of joy. If you don’t praise what you enjoy, your enjoyment is not complete.

Let me illustrate with the World Cup. Congratulations on the World Cup. Okay, suppose that you gathered with ten thousand other people in São Paulo in front of a big screen in order to watch the final game of the World Cup, and as you came into the streets, the police were handing out pieces of paper. And on the piece of paper was written, “Tonight, you may enjoy yourself to the full, but no sounds may come out of your mouth. You may not lift your hands. You may not jump up and down. But you may have a good time.”

You would not have a good time. You would be very frustrated because when your team wins, the joy is completed by the praise. Therefore, praise is not just added on, it is joy in completion.

For Us, For Himself

Now, where is all of this taking us? What’s the point of this? What I’m trying to show is that a God who exalts himself is, in fact, a loving God.

Let me try to tie the pieces together. If he loves me, he will give me what is best for me. He will give me himself in order that I might enjoy him. But he knows that my joy is not complete until I praise him. Just like your joy would not be complete in the World Cup until you cheered. And therefore, God seeks my praise. He wants to be praised by me. And now I hope you can see on the one hand, that is self-exalting of God, but it is also the way he seeks my joy.

God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him. God is the one being in all the universe for whom self-exaltation is the highest virtue. Is God for us or is God for himself? The answer is: He is for us. But in order to be for us, he must be for himself. He must lift up himself so that we have something to enjoy. And he must seek our praise for himself so that our joy comes to completion. And so I hope the objection has been answered. It is not unloving of God to be God-centered.

Now, let me say a word about where we are going tomorrow night. I’ve already finished the main point I wanted to give tonight. God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him. We glorify God by enjoying him forever. Now, here’s the question that arises. If God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him, what should my passion in life be? My passion in life should be my satisfaction, and that sounds very dangerous to many Christians. It sounds very selfish. But I’m going to argue that it is radically God-exalting.