Rethinking Glory

Jesus walking on the beach

Glory is a commonly used word, peppering worship songs, hymns, prayers, and colloquial Christian speech, but what does it mean to bring glory to God?

Take a moment if you will before reading on: what does the word glory mean to you? What does it make you think of? When have you given God glory? In what circumstances might you say the phrase ‘glory to God?’

In the church, Glory is often understood as credit – I take no glory for myself, it all goes to God – but sadly that is thin gruel, failing to convey even the basic meaning of Biblical glory.

Glory as credit is the world’s idea. If a person tries to take credit for the achievements of others, they are known as a ‘glory-hound’. Military victories are seen as glorious – an achievement to take credit for, that draws attention to itself rather than to any greater power or force. Seeking credit for credit’s sake is a sure sign of a fearful, insecure person, and God is not that. He does not crave credit, even when it is merited.

So what is glory?

Glory is not credit; glory is light. Heb 1: 3,

‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.’

God’s glory (divine light) radiates through Jesus, who is the ‘exact representation of his being’. To put it simply – when God is seen for who he is, he is glorified. Jesus showed us God – fully, precisely, completely – allowing divine light to shine unimpeded. As for you and I, the more people see God in us, understanding his loving nature, the more God is glorified (seen for who he is).

God is glorified when we remove the blocks that shut divine light out of our lives. As hinderances are removed, people see God for who he is; they see his light in us. They see his work and nature. We glorify God when he is free to act in our lives.

Biblical statements about when God is glorified.

The Bible offers a plethora of wonderful scriptures that demonstrate how God is glorified in us. God is glorified when:

- We ask and receive. John 14:13,

‘And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’

Why does asking and receiving glorify God? Because it demonstrates his love. He is seen for the wonderful Father he is.

- When we minister in the power of the Spirit. 1 Peter 4:11.

‘If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.’

Why does this glorify God? Because his supernatural power is on display through us. He is seen as he is – an all-powerful, compassionate, supernatural being, who is fundamentally at work in and through us.

When we give and receive generously. In 2 Cor 9:8-13, Paul writes of the financial blessing of God, and us taking our part in its flow:

‘And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work…You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.’

God is glorified when we rise about the mundane limits of the world’s financial reality and move in the generosity of the Lord’s provision and blessing – not for ourselves, but to meet the needs of many. The liberal movement of money to meet the needs of humanity shows the generosity and abundance of God. People can see that he provides, and is generous.

- When we take discipleship seriously. 2 Thes 1:1, and 12.

‘With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.’

God is glorified when people see the outworking of the goodness of God in our lives, transforming us and inspiring us to faith-filled deeds and sincere good works, flowing from love. Such people are beautified by the glory of God, who is seen for who he is – compassionate, involved, teaching and leading us.

- When we walk in righteousness by the power of the spirit. Philippians 1:9-11,

'And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.'

As our love abounds in knowledge and insight, as our discernment grows, as we respond evermore to the call of love, God is seen for who he is – the source of all nurturing and love.

- When we bear fruit. John 15:8.

‘This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.’

God doesn’t want us to lead fruitless lives, with no real impact on the world around us. He wants us to abound, to multiply, to make disciples – not for the sake of it or as a matter of performance, but because he is always reaching out to those yet to know his love. When we yield to this aspect of his nature, lending ourselves to him freely, he is seen for who he is – the good shepherd who goes after the lost sheep.

- In miracles. Matthew 15:31,

‘So the multitude marveled when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.’

In miracles, God is seen for who he is – a living, powerful, supernatural, loving, compassionate being. I firmly believe we have lost our grasp on this important aspect of following Christ, casting it aside as somehow irrelevant when it was the heart and soul of Jesus’ ministry. Some churches react against extremes and fakery by shutting down the real deal, but this does not honor or glorify God. The Christian Church should be a place of regular outpourings of power, and if it is not, we must fall to our knees in repentance for trivializing this crucial expression of his compassion, and commit to seeking a breakthrough, however long it takes.

- When we are unified. Romans 15:5-6,

‘May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

When we speak with ‘one voice’ – a voice of genuine, hard-won, ego-busting unity, God is seen as the one who binds us together despite our differences, rather than divides us. In a world riven by political and religious strife, we glorify God when we build community, togetherness, and friendship on the foundation of his love. Are you one who tears down or builds up?

- In showing mercy. Romans 15:8-9,

‘For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.’

God’s mercy is fundamental to his nature in a way anger is not. As the psalmist wrote: ‘The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy.’ The Lord has chosen to show his greatness not through wrath, not through judgement, but through his mercy. When we show mercy, we are aligned with the nature of God.

- When we give thanks. Psalm 69: 30,

‘I will praise God’s name in song

and glorify him with thanksgiving.’

- When God helps us in our sufferings. Romans 5:3-5, 

‘Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’

Let’s be clear, God is not the author of suffering. It is not his ally or our friend. In the Evangelical movement, there is a lamentable tradition of wallowing in suffering as believers, seeking obscure lessons from pain God longs to free us from, if only we would let him. This is a perversion of the truth and it warps our understanding of the nature of God. That said, the Bible offers us the chance to gain from circumstances that would otherwise be nothing but destructive. If in the midst of suffering we lift our eyes to the Lord, and if we learn and grow in the face of the challenges we face, and as we overcome those challenges and find our way to freedom, God is glorified. He is seen and understood as our rescuer from pain.

- When we rely on the promises of God. Romans 4:18-21, 

‘Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations…he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.’

When we are ‘fully persuaded’ that God can and will do what he promises, and when God fulfils those promises, he is seen for who he is – faithful and true to his word.

- One of the most repeated declarations of glory being given to God in the Gospels is in miraculous healings. The general pattern is that when a person was healed by Jesus, they went away praising and glorifying God, and all who witnessed the healing did the same. Luke 18:42-23,

‘Then Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he received his sight, and followed Him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God.’

Healing reveals the compassionate nature of God. What is the Gospel all about if not liberating us from suffering? Please join me in praying for a fresh release of healing power in the Church.

- When we know the love of God. Eph 3: 14-21,

‘For this reason I kneel before the Father…that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever!’

Above all else, it is the love of Christ that characterizes the believer – love towards God and each other. Knowing the love of Christ personally, experiencing him in our private devotions and adoring him in our hearts is not something we can hide. His love shines from our upturned faces, and he is seen and the source and essence of all love.

- When we are blessed and restored. Isaiah 61 is the passage Jesus quoted to announce his ministry. It contains within it promises of the great exchange – our sorrow for God’s joy, our poverty for his abundance, our captivity for his freedom. After reading from the scroll in the temple, Jesus told those present that this prophecy was being fulfilled right before their eyes – fulfilled in him. This promise of healing and wholeness, of perfect shalom, is the very heart of the Gospel. Why would God do all this for us? The answer lies at the end of verse 3:

‘That they may be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.’

Our lives bring glory to God when we are transformed by his love. In healing, blessing, and restoring us, the Lord places his hallmark upon us. We become the planting of the Lord, that he may be seen for who he is – the God of true salvation, spirit, soul, and body.

I think we’ve got this whole glory thing wrong. When we say ‘glory to God’, no glory is imparted. These are not magic words, and besides, all the glory is already God’s – divine light only emanates from the divine. When we duck our heads in false humility and give God credit, as if he were a glory-hound out to magnify himself above all else, no glory is imparted. No light is shone. God is not glorified by wallowing in misery, unanswered prayer, plodding on, navel-gazing, or false humility.

There is a singular way to bring glory to God, and that is to remove the blocks that stop him working in our lives. When we seek and receive his love, when his goodness is evident in our lives, when people can see him transforming us, when our connection is close and powerful, when prayers are answered, when he is free to intervene, provide, and miraculously act in our lives, when we bear fruit, when our faces are lit with authentic, organic joy – this is when God is seen for who he is. In his goodness, and in the evidence of his goodness in our lives, the glory of God shines all around.

If you want to delve more deeply into this topic, I delivered a talk in two parts during lockdown. Here’s part 2.

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12/15/2022 7:06:12 PM
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  • Duncan Pile
    About Duncan Pile
    Duncan Pile is a writer, author and speaker, living in Derbyshire, England with his wife and stepson. His mystical approach to faith straddles the Evangelical/Progressive divide, and flowing from lived experience, he is passionate about the deconstruction and reconstruction of the Christian faith.