I didn’t accept God’s gift of eternal life until I was 35 years old. The Holy Spirit brought me to faith in Jesus as I read the truth about him from the pages of his Word.
From time to time I’d return to the Christian bookstore where I’d gotten my first Bible… just to browse around. On one occasion, when only the owner and I were in the small shop, a man suddenly burst through the door and aggressively marched straight toward the owner.
As I watched to see what the intruder was so fired up about, he raised his voice and desperately asked, “What’s the meaning of life?” I moved a couple steps closer, thinking, “Boy, I’d really like to hear this!”
And I still thank God for the words I heard the owner speak. He paused for just a moment… and looked the man straight in the eyes… and very calmly said: “The reason we exist is to glorify God.”
At the time, I hadn’t thought about it quite that way, but I’d grown enough in my faith to know it sounded right. I thought to myself: “Well, yeah, after all that God has done for me… he’s given me this physical life… he’s given me eternal life. So, what other purpose should I have than to seek his glory with my whole heart, soul, mind, and strength?”
As I continued to read my Bible I found evidence that we can indeed glorify God with our lives. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he tells us that our good deeds may inspire others to give glory to God (Matthew 5:14a, 16). And the Apostle Peter affirms Jesus’ teaching in one of his letters (1 Peter 2:12).
And I’ll admit, for the longest time that was the extent to which I thought about glorifying God. It was me who tried to do the glorifying—hoping that somehow God’s glory might be magnified as a result of my actions. But I can’t help but feel inadequate when it comes to pursuing God’s glory through my thoughts and actions, because I know my efforts can’t come close to what God truly deserves.
Then I read the beginning of Jesus’ prayer to the Father in John 17:1-5. There he talks about glorifying God the Father, and being glorified himself. The kind of glory Jesus desired for himself and for the Father was an entirely different type of glory than what I can bring him.
One definition of glorify is “to honor with praise and worship.” This is the kind of glory humans attempt to give God.
But another aspect of the word glorify is “to clothe in splendor.” I really like that image. But I just don’t think any human is capable of clothing God in the kind of splendor that rightly displays his majesty. This glory is something that only the persons of the Trinity can bestow upon each other… or if they so choose, they can reveal it to us.
When Stephen was being stoned to death, he looked up to heaven and saw “the glory of God” (Acts 7:55). When John was shown the new heaven and the new earth, he described the holy city of Jerusalem coming down out of heaven as having “the glory of God,” with God being its temple and its source of light (Revelation 21:11, 23). While shepherds watched their flocks on the hills outside Bethlehem, an angel of the Lord appeared to them and “the glory of the Lord” shone around them (Luke 2:9). And of course, we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
These are “clothed in splendor” examples of God’s glory. They speak of the holy, perfect, almighty nature of the one true God. And that’s the glory Jesus was talking about in his prayer. He began and ended this section of his prayer with a request that the Father would glorify him. And Jesus made it pretty clear what he was expecting when he asked to be glorified. Jesus wanted to be restored to his position of highest authority and honor, as Creator of the universe with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.
And since Jesus and the Father are one in their divine nature, Jesus wanted the Father to be glorified as well. Jesus said in John 17:2 that he was going to glorify the Father because the Father had granted him authority to give eternal life to everyone the Father had given him. That is, Jesus was given the authority to grant eternal life to those the Father foresaw would receive Jesus’ act of redemption for their salvation.
Jesus defined eternal life as knowing the Father as the only true God… and knowing Jesus himself as being sent by God (see John 17:3). Knowing God and knowing Jesus—this goes beyond head knowledge to an acknowledgement of the truth about who they are and what they’ve done. And when a person receives the work Jesus accomplished by offering his life as the only sacrifice perfect enough and powerful enough to atone for the sins of humankind, then God forgives their transgressions.
So, Jesus glorified God the Father by earning your salvation. Jesus indicates in John 17:1-5 that our salvation is God’s glory. Jesus “clothed the Father in splendor” through the victory over sin and death that he won on the cross.
Yes, God tells us to be kind to one another and show love to the world even when the world doesn’t love us. And he says that such behavior can be glorifying to him by giving people a glimpse of the selfless love he has for mankind.
But it is my firm belief that the greatest way we can glorify God the Father is by telling others about how Jesus glorified him. Jesus invites us to partner with him in glorifying the Father by being his witnesses to all people. In fact, he commands us to make disciples as we go out into the world because there are eternal consequences at stake.
John wrote of the day when God’s wrath will be poured out upon all those who still haven’t received Jesus as their Savior. He said their response will be to curse God, while refusing to repent and give him glory (Revelation 16:8-9).
Sadly, many people will harden their sinful hearts against God. They will just refuse to acknowledge their sin, and their need for a Savior. They will not glorify him by receiving the forgiveness he offers through faith in Jesus Christ.
But this grievous truth shouldn’t stop us from being Jesus’ witnesses. Indeed, it should compel us to engage as many people as we can with this Father-glorifying message. That’s the mission we get to participate in.
If you believe, as I do, that our purpose in life is to glorify God, what better way is there for us to do so than to help others to know the Father and his Son Jesus Christ… that they may receive eternal life in his name?
Rev. George Schweitzer is Pastor at Resurrection Church in Buda, Texas.