“I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, And will glorify Your name forever.”
The meaning and purpose of life is that we glorify God. That is a Christian cliché phrase that means that all that we do in word, deed, and thought ought to be rendered to God as an honorable service. We should strive to draw attention to God through what we say and do, and we should constantly be seeking to ascribe praise, glory, and honor to His name. For example, the Bible commands children to honor their parents. They do this by respecting their authority, obeying their commands, talking to them respectfully, accepting their discipline, and talking respectfully and appreciatively about them to others. The same is true of our relationship with our Father in heaven. We honor Him by respecting His authority, by keeping His commands, by accepting His discipline when we get off course and endanger ourselves and others, by speaking words of praise and thanksgiving to Him, and by speaking of His love and of the gospel to others. Too often we think of God as being a buddy that tags along with us rather than a King to be revered. I think that part of learning to glorify God is learning to view Him as an authority figure that is both loving and just. God will reward each man according to his deeds. His plan and design for the universe ought to be respected. As the King of our lives, His laws and ways should be followed.
The Bible has frightening things to say about those who choose not to live their lives in a way that brings honor and glory to God. Romans 1:21 says, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” A lifestyle committed to glorifying God brings increased joy, usefulness, fulfillment, and wisdom. Denying and rejecting God thereby glorifying ourselves above God brings futility, confusion, chaos, foolishness, and disaster.
There are all kinds of ways in the Scriptures that we can bring God glory, but I will try to summarize them into four primary categories: 1) keeping His commands, 2) answering His call to evangelism and disciple-making, 3) faithfully using our God-given gifts and talents, and 4) enjoying the very presence of God. There are probably more, but this is a more than adequate beginning point.
The first major way in which we can bring God glory is through keeping His commands. By living according to His truth and reflecting His holy character, we honor God. In John 14:15 Jesus says, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Jesus states things very plainly. If we want to bring honor and glory to God we need to conform our lives to what He has revealed as right, good, honorable, and pure. As a Christian, we bear the name of Christ just by association. The world will expect certain behaviors from us. In fact, God has given the world means by which to evaluate whether we are in fact Christians or not. For example, in John 13:34-35, Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” The world has a general idea of what is right and wrong. Most just don’t care and in time defile their consciences so badly that they can’t tell up from down and left from right. But the promise in this verse is that even in a postmodern, pluralistic, secular society like ours we still can be identified by our selfless love. When we love in this way, we identify ourselves as Christians, associating love with Christ, and thereby glorifying His name. This is just one commandment in the Bible and there are many, many others. Fortunately, the commandments are summed up in the two greatest commandments. The first is to love the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. The second is to love our neighbor as ourselves. As we just saw, Christ elevates these expectations in John 13 to loving as Christ loved, selflessly, sacrificially, and unconditionally, neither expecting nor requiring anything in return. If we do these things, we have fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. Of course, only a person with Christ indwelling them can love with Christlike love, and that is why it is our distinguishing mark.
Other ways we could reflect the character of God include showing mercy, behaving justly and fairly, being faithful in our commitments, laboring with passion, serving with excellence, and a whole list of others. When we do anything with Christ’s character as our example, we glorify God. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” God is holy, completely other and totally separate from sin, and we, too, need to pursue personal holiness in our lives. To not do so is to sin and rob God of glory due Him. We are to live right as Colossians 3:17 says, and we are also to think right. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.” If we think on too much junk, we will be prone to start living out junk. Finally, we are to speak right and honorable words. Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.” There is no room for Christians to slander one another, to gossip, to waste words, to lie, to curse, to speak with vulgarity, or to cast insults. The tongue is a powerful force and it needs to be surrendered to Christ. These are just a few examples of commands in the Scriptures that as we follow and conform to them, we glorify God. We must learn the commands and desires of God and keep them.
The second category is answering God’s call to evangelism and disciple-making. In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” And in Acts 1:8, Jesus says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” God’s plan for the Christian is to be His messenger to speak forth the Word of God and spread the gospel. We are His witnesses to Christ being crucified for man’s sins and having risen from the dead. We all need to come to the place where we grow in our walk with Christ such that we are able to train people in the Word of God to be as we are. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” We are to be reproducers of ourselves insomuch as we live as Christ. We need direction, and we need it every step of the way. God will take the journey with us, and He calls us to help others along in their journeys. This is the second way whereby we can bring God glory.
The third way is to faithfully use our God-given gifts and talents. All of us are gifted uniquely and purposefully by Almighty God. We are not to be envious of the gifts of others, for we will not be rewarded relative to them. We are accountable only to Jesus and only on the basis of faithfully using and investing our own gifts and talents. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. And there are varieties of effects, but he same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” We see the theme of individually specialized gifts throughout these verses. There are varieties of gifts, each having a variety of possible ministry applications, and each of these applications serving a different purpose and accomplishing a different effect. All are from God and all are for the benefit and advancement of others, not for our own selfish purposes. This is why we need not be envious of the gifts of others. For one, God gives us what He wants, and He knows best. And second, those with the supposedly superior gifts are gifted to benefit and serve others, not to advance or promote themselves. Everything comes full circle because we labor together for one another and not in competition with one another. The wellbeing and spiritual growth of all of us depends on ever individual using his or her gifts. Each person and gift is important and necessary to the success of the whole. God has carefully given each of us talents to use. Thus, it makes sense as to why using them faithfully is central to bringing Him glory.
Finally, we are to enjoy the very presence of God. Ecclesiastes 2:25 says, “For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him?” Psalm 16:11 says, “You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” We are created for relationship with God. Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the Garden of Eden. God called the Jews to be His people and they experienced His presence and ways. Jesus came to earth to further reveal God to man. Now we have the complete revelation of God in the Bible until we see Jesus face to face in heaven. God has taken great measures for us to have relationship and fellowship with Him, even to the point of sending His own Son to die at man’s hands. As we mature as Christians and get more and more involved in our churches and in ministry, sometimes we can lose sight of the joy we had in God Himself. Our focus becomes too much on serving God rather than enjoying God, though the two ought not and need not be mutually exclusive. We must remember that God Himself is what our hearts most need and long for. He does not exist for us or to fulfill our desires, but we exist for Him and to fulfill His desires. As we delight in Him, we find that He gives us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). But we must not be confused about who exists for Whom.
As Christians we are not left to figure out the meaning of life, the question even the brightest philosophers and college professors cannot answer. The answer is in the Word of God. Meaning can only come from God. It is pointless and a waste of time to try to create meaning. It is also senseless to unnecessarily chase after meaning which will constantly elude us if what we are chasing is not God. This is our purpose: to glorify God. There is no higher or greater calling. May we orient and prioritize our lives around the center point of glorifying God. If anything does not glorify God, it must be thrown out. If we are not doing enough of using our talents to glorify God, we need to find a way as we seek His will and wisdom. God is a jealous God, desiring all attention and respect and glory. Let us be sure we are honoring Him in all we do. As Romans 12:1-2 says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Our purpose is to not live for ourselves but to live for God. It is not to discover who we are but to find our worth in discovering who He is and being made like Him in the process.
Let’s let Solomon, the wisest man ever to live, sum up the purpose of life: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).