In Christian circles today, we talk often about glory. Specifically, the glory of God. It tends to be a religious term to which we give little consideration, but we do understand and apply it to victory in situations like the Olympics. When we consider an athlete or team, we think of the praise given in the wake of a monumental victory, the prestige rewarded when one is presented a gold medal, and the honor bestowed when one sets a new record that all other athletes in the field will seek to break.
The Hebrew term for glory most literally translates as weightiness. While we can stretch our minds to allow a secular definition of glory to encompass “weightiness”, it is a difficult leap. In the world, one must earn his glory by performance. He must discipline himself, he must be tested, and he must prove himself to be the best. But God, by His nature, simply is the greatest. We can seek to test Him in our worldly perspectives, we can examine Him against any standard we want, but His value, worth and honor all will be the greatest apart from our affirmation or denial. And that is heavy. Heavy in the sense that this value and authority is infinitely outside of our consideration. Heavy in the sense that there is nothing greater, and there is nothing that can ever challenge Him. Heavy in the sense that our eternity actually rests in His discretion and judgment.
The authority of affirmation and valuation lies squarely in His hands, not in ours. He is intrinsically valuable, He is by nature the judge and authority, and not only can we not add to or reward Him glory, He determines our ultimate and eternal reward.
And yet, even in the midst of this eternal and most great of realities, our culture has increasingly grown less interested in the afterlife. Our focus on pleasure, comfort and security has ironically left us negligent of the most important reality for our lives and for our existence: God. David Wells wrote a book entitled, “God in the Wasteland”, in which he made this observation:
“It is one of the defining marks of Our Time that God is now weightless. I do not mean by this that he is ethereal but rather that he has become unimportant. He rests upon the world so inconsequentially as not to be noticeable. He has lost his saliency for human life. Those who assure the pollsters of their belief in God’s existence may nonetheless consider him less interesting than television, his commands less authoritative than their appetites for affluence and influence, his judgments no more awe-inspiring than the evening news, and his truth less compelling than the advertiser’s sweet fog of flattery and lies. That is weightlessness. It is a condition we have assigned him after having nudged him out to the periphery of our secularized life. His truth is no longer welcome in our public discourse. The engine of modernity rumbles on, and he is but a speck in its path.”
– David Wells, God in the Wasteland (p. 88)
Is God a speck in your path? Is God “weightless”, as it were? Or does He still hold His weight in and over your life? Do you consider Him Lord and the ultimate authority over your daily decisions? Over your lifestyle? Over your generosity and convictions? Scripture encourages us to live with such an eternal perspective that we would not only consider ourselves to be, but that others would look at us and think that we are aliens. That we do not belong here. That we are quite literally strangers here who have another home. And our other-worldliness should be understandable and definable as godliness:
“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”
– 1 Peter 2.11-12
Often times when we think of generosity, selflessness, humility and the other attributes that God commands, we also consider the praise and recognition that we will receive by our participation in them. Jesus taught us to be servants of all, so we selfishly want people to honor our “sacrifice” of cleaning floors, setting up tables, or giving money to the poor. But Peter teaches us clearly that our goal and our motive in serving God and maintaining excellent behavior in the world is God’s praise and admiration. Do your actions bring recognition and honor to you? Or do people see your actions and immediately turn the praise back to God?
Notice, also, that Peter says we are abstaining from fleshly lusts which are waging war against our souls. We are programmed to seek pleasure and comfort. What we must train ourselves to recognize is the fact that God is and will be the greatest pleasure and comfort both in this life and in eternity. We are so short sighted that we think momentary pleasure is enough, but those fleshly lusts are ones that will ultimately deceive us – take us away from God – and lead us into a Christ-less eternity. We must wage war in our souls against our natural desires and keep our behavior excellent among non believers (and believers), so that God gets the glory. God gets the praise. God gets the recognition.
We can test our actions and our hearts by our goal. If you have made it down the path of life to the point of keeping your behavior excellent in obedience to God, are you doing it for your own recognition or for God’s praise? Do you, by cleaning or painting the church, by giving money or food to someone who needs it, by not indulging in a big house, fancy car and nice toys, seek to make yourself look more pious and earn favor in the Church? Or are you doing those things in worship to and for the reputation of God? Do you want the praise, or are you funneling it back to God?