He is the radiance of the glory of God . . .” Hebrews 1:3a
All that God is — the measureless sum of his eternal and eternally rich attributes — shines forth in Jesus Christ, God’s only begotten Son. Jesus is supremely radiant.
What does this mean? It means that this Bright Morning Star (Rev. 22:16) will be the sun of the new heavens and the new earth. We won’t need this old sun, we will have the Lamb as our Lamp (Rev. 21:23). And it means that even now, the sun of righteousness who has risen with healing in his wings (Mal. 4:2) must be the center of our spiritual solar system or everything else goes out of whack. Indeed, if we were to kick our sun out from the center of our system, we wouldn’t just have chaos, but death. Life would be unsustainable. So it is with Jesus. If he is not the center, we die.
Also like the sun’s beams, the radiating lines of the Son’s glory are too numerous to count. Ever tried counting sunbeams? You can’t do it. It’s like counting airwaves in the wind. Jonathan Edwards says that in Christ we find an “admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies.” These diverse excellencies are the sunbeams of his magnificence, finding their unity in him, as they — though disparate — converge and emanate back out to reflect the imprinting of the nature of God.
He is the Lion and the Lamb. He is the Lamb and the Shepherd. He is the Shepherd and the Warrior. He is the Warrior and the Priest. He is the Priest and the Sacrifice. He is the Sacrifice and the Victor. He is the Victor and the Servant. He is the Servant and the King. He is the King and the Convicted. He is the Convicted and the Judge. He is the Judge and the Advocate. Diverse excellencies, each pair juxtaposed yet complementary, finding their admirable conjunction in him.
And there’s so much more. John says if all the things Jesus did during his earthly ministry were written down all the books on earth could not contain them all (John 21:25). Is it any wonder, then, that we will take all eternity to bask in the radiance of his glory?
So long as this broken world endures, suffering will remain a painfully relevant subject. It’s not far from any of us. As Christians we know we’re supposed to lean on God, but what kind of God is he? In light of all the heartache and sadness that plague our lives, is he really worth our trust?
“One of the biggest mercies of God took place long before my suffering arrived,” recalls Chandler, who was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2009. For a while he had been working to prepare his young congregation for suffering. Little did he know, however, that all along God was preparing him.
Contrary to popular belief, Piper observes, awareness of the bigness and majesty and sovereignty of God practically helps when we’re in the throes of perplexity and pain. Though it may sound comforting at first, the idea that “God didn’t have anything to do with this” is actually horrible news, since it means he’s not in control after all and thus cannot ensure your trials will be used for good (Rom. 8:28).
“We have a loving Father who gives us only what will work together for our good,” Platt remarks. “God uses sorrowful tragedy to set the stage for surprising triumph—whether in this life or the life to come.”
Watch the full nine-minute video to hear about the Platts’ struggle with infertility, when Piper’s mom died, a 10,000-year perspective, and more.
People stumble over the teaching that God exalts his own glory and seeks to be praised by his people because the Bible teaches us not to be like that. For example, the Bible says that love “does not seek its own” (1 Corinthians 13:5, see NASB).
How can God be loving and yet be utterly devoted to “seeking his own” glory and praise and joy? How can God be for us if he is so utterly for himself?
The answer I propose is this: Because God is unique as an all-glorious, totally self-sufficient Being, he must be for himself if he is to be for us. The rules of humility that belong to a creature cannot apply in the same way to its Creator.
If God should turn away from himself as the Source of infinite joy, he would cease to be God. He would deny the infinite worth of his own glory. He would imply that there is something more valuable outside himself. He would commit idolatry.
This would be no gain for us. For where can we go when our God has become unrighteous? Where will we find a Rock of integrity in the universe when the heart of God has ceased to value supremely the supremely valuable? Where shall we turn with our adoration when God himself has forsaken the claims of infinite worth and beauty?
No, we do not turn God’s self-exaltation into love by demanding that God cease to be God. Instead, we must come to see that God is love precisely because he relentlessly pursues the praises of his name in the hearts of his people.
I plan virtually EVERY worship set I lead the same way I would plan to share Christ with a total stranger.
Let me explain (but keep that statement in your back pocket).
David Platt once said “worship is a rhythm of revelation and response”. I would wholeheartedly agree. We see God and we respond. That is why the use of God’s Word in worship is not an option. You will not (cannot) respond to something or Someone you have not seen, and you cannot see the Triune God apart from His Word. The Bible is the revelation of who God is, and worship sets must be saturated with Scripture or they are worthless. The Bible is also the revelation of what God has done. It is the story of God. I is the Gospel.
When we worship we are remembering the mighty deeds of God, His faithfulness, and most of all His faithfulness in sending His Son to die for us and be raised for our sins. So when someone stands up to lead the Church in worship, their two PRIMARY roles are teacher and story-teller. Through Scripture, the worship leader is teaching people WHO God is, and telling people WHAT God has done. (see Isaiah 6:1-8 and Col 3:16)
Now… you still have that statement from the beginning in your back pocket? Good, cause here we go!
I never begin my worship sets with “cross songs”. Why? Because that’s not where God started His Story, and that’s not where I would start when sharing Christ with a someone on the street. Imagine this somewhat typical scenario: You see a dude in the mall you want to share Christ with. You’re not sure how to start, so you just throw out a quick “uh….hey man, did you know that Jesus loves you?” You smile, and hope the Holy Spirit falls. Since we’re in America, you just get a slightly awkward look and then a response, “yeah”. Now, you’re wondering what to say. He already knows Jesus loves him, so I guess he’s a Christian? So, you respond with “uh, cool man. um, have a great day!”. So what went wrong in this scenario? Why wasn’t the gospel unbelievably good news (or unbelievably offensive)? Because the story teller started in the middle of the story. This guy didn’t even know he needed Jesus to love him.
You can’t see how amazing grace is until you see how disgusting sin is and how Holy God is. Thus, when I’m sharing the gospel with someone on the street, I always want to make sure I start with GOD…..His character, His nature, His power, His holiness, etc (using the Bible). Then, in light of That, they/you see sin, depravity, and eternal separation as a consequence for all sinners. NOW ENTER THE CROSS….because THAT’S when it’s GLORIOUSLY GOOD NEWS! We can have peace with God again! You see, the guy in the scenario above didn’t know he NEEDED the cross, and as worship leaders it is also crucial for us to ALWAYS ASSUME that people don’t know that they need the cross. Here’s what I’m getting at: Leading worship is sharing the gospel! It’s putting the whole Story on display. Congregations are full of people who have forgotten that they need the cross, so we as worship leaders (who also forget) MUST remind them (and remind ourselves)! So here’s what it looks like practically for me (Isaiah 6 is a great model):
I usually start every worship set with a couple worship songs that just make God look HUGE. Songs that remind us that He is Different from us…that He is Holy, Holy, Holy (i.e. Everlasting God, Revelation Song, Glory To God, Our God, etc.). Then sometimes I’ll do a song of contrition….a song that cries for the mercies of God in light of who He is (Give us clean hands, You Alone Can Rescue, etc.). THEN, and every time, I will bring in the “cross songs”. And at this point in the service, they are SO precious. Infinitely precious, b/c we have seen the infinite distance God has come to save us (Jesus Paid It All, In Christ Alone, etc.)! Then I will hit the resurrection (Stronger, Mighty To Save, etc.), and finally sometimes I will close with some missional songs (Open Hands, etc.).
I am honored to lead in about 6 or 7 worship services a week, and I can truly say, it does NOT get old this way. The Gospel is good news. Always.
Planning worship sets primarily around tempo (fast songs first, slow songs last) or key(s) (playing songs in the same key or related keys), in my opinion, leads to banal and trite singing that doesn’t have Biblical or logical substance. And we know we don’t need more of that. We need The Story. We don’t need more worship jukeboxes who stand on stage and sing out of context excerpts of The Story that sound cool. We need men of prayer, full of the Word, who stand up with the weight of glory on them and sing The Story.
I’d love to hear from you. Worship Leaders: what’s your formula for worship planning? Do you have one? I’d love to learn from you. My goal in this post was not to say that my way of leading worship is the only right way of leading worship, although I do feel quite strongly about it. If you don’t have a formula, I would encourage you to start thinking through this lens.
Justin Taylor posts:
From Kyle Strobel’s Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards (IVP, 2013), 62-64:
While we journey to glory we should learn to trust the path laid before us. Sometimes, no doubt, we find that the path is of our own making. Our natural affections have turned us off course onto other things we find beautiful. But, broadly speaking, grasping the path of glory is really just grasping onto Jesus. By focusing our attention on Jesus and the “Jesus Way,” we come to gain a “taste” for this way over others. Some of the fleshliness that used to taste so good is now bitter. We are walking a path of putting to death our sin by slowly conforming to God’s glory and beauty. In doing so, the sin that still wages war within us begins to die.
In Christ, our sight, hearing and taste are now sensitized to a different world, and therefore they help us trust in the way of the Lord. Many people saw Jesus but did not follow him. What did they not see that the disciples did? Why were the disciples affected by Christ and not so many others?
To explain this, Edwards turns to taste. The Spirit of God works within one’s heart to give them a divine taste—a taste of the ways of God. It is in this vein that the psalmist would say, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Ps 119:103). Without it, people cannot recognize God and his way as beautiful, “no more than a man without the sense of tasting can conceive of the sweet taste of honey, or a man without the sense of hearing can conceive of the melody of a tune, or a man born blind can have a notion of the beauty of the rainbow.” The disciples were given a divine taste, and so they sought to satisfy their longing by following Christ.
Edwards offers an illustration of two men, one of whom is born without the sense of taste. The man with the sense of taste loves honey, and he greatly delights in it because of its taste. The other man also loves honey, but, not having the sense of taste, he loves it because of its color and texture. The excellency and sweetness of honey is in its taste, Edwards argues, therefore the man who loves the honey because of its taste builds upon the foundation of honey’s true beauty. If you don’t “know” the taste of honey, you don’t truly “know” honey. Likewise, to know Jesus is to develop a taste for who he is and what he is about. If we return to our hiking analogy, we can say that a “taste” for the destination drives your journey. You hunger for it (Mt 5:6). Others may travel with you who only share your actions, and not your taste for the destination. They have the form but not the power of godliness (2 Tim 3:5). A taste of God is prioritizing God above all else.
For true religious affections, the object, God, is primary, and I am secondary. With false affections, the focus reverts to me. The one who seeks Christ alone will know the delight that only he can give.
One who goes looking for self-fulfillment will never find it. In other words, having a taste of divine things is what allows the heavenly destination to captivate your heart. Without that taste it is impossible to will God, and therefore it is impossible to actually walk the path to glory. This taste is the taste of heaven and is the taste that calibrates our souls to glory and beauty. This taste creates a hunger for divine things. This taste is not given in its perfection, but is a seed of grace in the soul. Cultivating this taste should lead to a deeper and deeper hunger for God and his glory. The ways of God, the calling of the church, the Word of God and the ordinances of God should all be tasty aspects of life. Ultimately, our taste should be oriented by God and his life of love, and therefore the hunger of our flesh should begin to be killed off. In this sense, our taste is similar to the compass whose needle seeks north. We can say that the needle has a taste for north. Around that taste all our other affections should fall into place—the west, east and south of our soul should be oriented by the true north of heaven—God and his life of love.
David, in Psalm 34, proclaimed, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps 34:8). In a sense, Edwards’s description of religious affection is a call to taste and see that the Lord is good (and continue to do so)! The light of God’s beauty and glory is given so that believers can actually see that the Lord is good. But sight alone does not comprehend the depths of the Christian experience. For that, Edwards turns to taste. Tasting and seeing that the Lord is good entails having the whole of one’s heart made alive to God in Christ by the Holy Spirit—it is communion with the three-personed God.
Tasting and seeing are the kinds of things that beget more tasting and seeing. Tasting and seeing beget desire. It is this desire that turns the Christian more and more fully to her Lord who is beautiful and glorious. It is a journey we will continue for eternity.
A study of key terms concerning the glory of God reveals many common threads which help us define the concept more precisely.
- First, the glory of God is similar to the power of a king. It marks His superiority, authority and legitimacy. Because of His glory, God enjoys a certain reputation, an unequaled importance, and honor and fame are due to Him. As king He is the possessor of everything good and lovely, which is manifested in His beautiful and exalted array. As the God-King, His glory denotes a power beyond understanding and measurement, yet available to His servants who live humbly before Him.
- Second, God’s glory is also associated with brilliance and light, which display His purity, otherness and independency. God is the source of radiance, and the manifestation of His presence is too great to be fathomed. He is awe-inspiring, wonderful, beautiful, elevated and worthy of praise. Its pursuit is the most honorable cause, and in it is found joy, fulfillment, and unequaled bliss.
- Third, seen in His manifestations, God’s glory is ultimately the reflection of His character and essence. It is who He is, and it cannot be taken from Him. In this regard, His glory is exclusive. Only the prideful and the arrogant dare to challenge God’s exalted status by refusing to attribute the honor due to His name, which results in their judgment and fall. As the reflection of God’s inner being, this glory is also personal. To enjoy it is to enjoy God, and to know Him personally. As seen in the Trinity, this glory is communal, relational, and self-giving.
- Fourth, God’s glory is God’s self-revelation. It is revealed in God’s appearances, through His works, His Word, and His felt-presence. When God displays His glory, it makes Himself known. In this sense, it is cognitive, purposeful and relational. While the popular usage of the term Shekinah has emphasized the revelation of God through His felt-presence, it is important to note that God’s glory is also associated with signs and with His revealed Word.
- Fifth, God’s glory demands a response. As the created realm enjoys the world made by God, which displays His glory through its beauty, order and continual upholding and providence, a rightful expectation of praise and righteous living is awaited from mankind.
- Sixth, God’s glory became greater at the revelation of Jesus Christ, who displayed uniquely the essence of God, performing the works of God and speaking the Word of God.
- Seventh, God’s glory begs for participation. God’s purpose in showing His glory was always to connect with mankind, to dwell with them and be known by them. God’s glory is to be enjoyed and reflected. Through unity in Christ, believers can grow in their participation in His glory as they increase in their likeness to Christ and are filled with His Holy Spirit to obey His Word and work deeds worthy of Him. Participation in God’s glory begins with salvation.
- Finally, God’s glory is eschatological. Although it is revealed to some degree in this world, it is veiled to some degree because of sin. The hope of believers stands in the knowledge that they will one day be able to perceive and reflect this glory more fully, after the return of Christ and the judgment of this world. . . .
Thus we conclude: God’s glory is
- the ever-increasing revelation of His essence and purposes,
- displayed through His Word, His works and His felt-presence,
- which calls for the receiver’s unity and reflection,
- and tells of His incomparable goodness, beauty, and praise-worthiness
- as perfect King, Savior, Judge and Creator,
- and of the unequaled reputation attached to His name.
The thesis is available for free as a PDF on the author’s website.
10 things God has done (or will do) that He specifically says He did for His own glory:
1. God created us for His glory.
a. Isaiah 43:6-7: God 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, whom I formed and made.”
b. Isaiah 43:21: God describes His people as: “the people whom I formed for myself, that they might declare my praise.”
2. God forgives sins for His glory .
a. Isaiah 43:25: God says, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.”
b. Psalm 25:11: “For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great.”
3. God hardened Pharaoh’s heart for His glory.
a. Exodus 14:4, 14:17-18: God says, “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD…And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
b. Romans 9:17: “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’”
4. God will not abandon His people for His glory.
a. 1 Samuel 12:22: “For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself.”
5. God rescued His people from Egypt for His glory.
a. 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.”
6. Jesus came for the glory of God.
a. John 12:27-28: Jesus said, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
b. John 17:1, 4-5: “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you…I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”
c. Romans 15:8-9: Paul says, “For I tell you that 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. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.”
7. God chose us, adopted us, saved us, and sealed us for His glory.
a. Ephesians 1:3-14: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
8. Jesus answers prayers for His glory.
a. John 14:13: Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
9. God gave the Holy Spirit to us for His glory.
a. John 16:13-14: Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
10. Jesus is coming again for His glory.
a. 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10: “They 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.”
b. Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus Christ is the Creator of the universe. Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. Jesus Christ, the Person, never had a beginning. He is absolute Reality. He has the unparalleled honor and unique glory of being there first and always. He never came into being. He was eternally begotten. The Father has eternally enjoyed ‘the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature’ (Hebrews 1:3) in the Person of his Son.
Seeing and savoring this glory is the goal of our salvation. ‘Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me’ (John 17:24). To feast on this forever is the aim of our being created and our being redeemed.
— John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2001), 31
(HT: Of First Importance)
The constant contemplation of the glory of Christ will give rest, satisfaction, and complacency unto the souls of them who are exercised therein. Our minds are apt to be filled with a multitude of perplexed thoughts; – fears, cares, dangers, distresses, passions, and lusts, do make various impressions on the minds of men, filling them with disorder, darkness, and confusion.
But where the soul is fixed in its thoughts and contemplations on this glorious object, it will be brought into and kept in a holy, serene, spiritual frame. For “to be spiritually-minded is life and peace.” And this it does by taking off our hearts from all undue regard unto all things below, in comparison of the great worth, beauty, and glory of what we are conversant withal. See Phil. 3.7-11. A defect herein makes many of us strangers unto a heavenly life, and to live beneath the spiritual refreshments and satisfactions that the Gospel does tender unto us.
This is the sole foundation of all our meditations in this:
The glory that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the real actual possession of in heaven can be no otherwise seen or apprehended in this world, but in the light of faith fixing itself on divine revelation.
To behold this glory of Christ is not an act of fancy or imagination. It does not consist in framing to ourselves the shape of a glorious person in heaven. But the steady exercise of faith on the revelation and description made of this glory of Christ in the Scripture, is the ground, rule, and measure, of all divine meditations upon that.
— John Owen, The Glory of Christ, p. 129
(HT: Erik Raymond)
The glory of God is the most important thing in the universe. But what about the most magnificent aspect of his glory?
John Piper explains in this three-minute video:
”Why history? So God’s grace, best shown at Calvary, would be glorified eternally in the Christ-exalting joys of the redeemed.” John Piper
From Desiring God.
Jonathan Edwards, reflecting on seeing Christ in the next life, while preaching on 2 Corinthians 5:8 at the funeral of David Brainerd:
The nature of this glory of Christ that they shall see, will be such as will draw and encourage them, for they will not only see infinite majesty and greatness; but infinite grace, condescension and mildness, and gentleness and sweetness, equal to his majesty . . . so that the sight of Christ’s great kingly majesty will be no terror to them; but will only serve the more to heighten their pleasure and surprise. . . .
The souls of departed saints with Christ in heaven, shall have Christ as it were unbosomed unto them, manifesting those infinite riches of love towards them, that have been there from eternity. . . . They shall eat and drink abundantly, and swim in the ocean of love, and be eternally swallowed up in the infinitely bright, and infinitely mild and sweet beams of divine love.
–Jonathan Edwards, ‘True Saints Are Present with the Lord,’ in The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 25: Sermons and Discourses, 1743-1758 (Yale University Press, 2006), 233
(HT: Dane Ortlund)
It is hard to overstate the importance of functional awe of God to your ministry. Awe of God is one thing that will keep a church from running off its rails and being diverted by the many agendas that can sidetrack any congregation.
Awe of God puts theology in its place. Theology is vitally important, but our awe of theology is dangerous if it doesn’t produce practical awe of God. Awe of God puts the ministry strategies of the church in their proper place. We don’t put our trust in strategies, but in the God of awesome glory who is the head of the church. Awe of God puts ministry gifts and experience in their proper place. I cannot grow arrogant and smug about my gifts, because unless those gifts are empowered by the glorious grace of the God I serve, they have no power to rescue or change anyone. Awe of God puts our music and liturgy in its proper place. Yes, we should want to lead people in worship that is both biblical and engaging, but we have no power to really engage the heart without the awesome presence of the Holy Spirit who propels and applies all we seek to do. Awe of God puts our buildings and property in their proper place. How a building is constructed, maintained, and used is very important, but buildings have never called or justified anyone—only a God of awesome sovereign grace can do so. Awe of God puts our history and traditions in their proper place. Yes, we should be thankful for the ways God has worked in our past, and we should seek to retain the things that are a proper expression of what he says is important. But we don’t rest in our history—only in the God of glory who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Our generation must be committed to commend God’s works to the next generation so that they may be rescued by and motivated by a glory bigger than the typical catalog of glories they would choose for themselves.
Read the rest here.
Carl Trueman posts:
From JIP’s Collected Shorter Writings 4, pp. 84 and 87:
“In some way there was in the Doctor’s preaching thunder and lightning that no tape or transcription ever did or could capture — power, I mean, to mediate a realisation of God’s presence…. Nearly forty years on, it still seems to me that all I have ever known about preaching was given me in the winter of 1948-49, when I worshipped at Westminster Chapel with some regularity. Through the thunder and lightning, I felt and saw as never before the glory of Christ and of his gospel as modern man’s only lifeline and learned by experience why historic Protestantism looks on preaching as the supreme means of grace and of communion with God. Preaching, thus viewed and valued, was the centre of the Doctor’s life: into it he poured himself unstintingly; for it he pleaded untiringly…. Pulpit dramatics and rhetorical rhapsodies the Doctor despised and never indulged in; his concern was always with the flow of thought, and the emotion he expressed as he talked was simply the outward sign of passionate thinking…. He embodied and expressed ‘the glory’ — the glory of the God, of Christ, of grace, of the gospel, of the Christian ministry, of humanness according to the new creation — more richly than any man I have ever known. No man can give another a greater gift than a vision of such glory as this. I am forever in his debt.”
What then should a pastor do to promote a passion among his people to see God glorified by the in-gathering of his sheep from the thousands of unreached people groups around the world?
My answer: above everything else, be the kind of person and the kind of preacher whose theme and passion is the majesty of God. . . .
The most important thing I think pastors can do to arouse and sustain a passion for world evangelization is week in and week out to help their people see the crags and peaks and icy cliffs and snowcapped heights of God’s majestic character. And let me sharpen the point in two ways:
1. We should labor in our preaching to clear the mists and fog away from the sharp contours of the character of God. We should let him be seen in his majesty and sovereignty.
I know of one denominational official who, when asked how to preach on texts that seem strong on predestination or election or the sovereignty of grace, said something like, “O, I think you can preach on those texts without letting people know what you think. It’s possible to be sufficiently imprecise so that you don’t upset people.”
That attitude toward doctrine and preaching is the source of widespread weakness and shallowness in our churches. It is a tragedy when we believe that we are serving the cause of God by surrounding the peaks of his glory with a fog of ambiguity. If our people are ever going to have a global faith and a global vision we are going to have to stop hiding from them the biblical proportions of the majesty of God.
2. The majestic character of God needs to be seen week in and week out not in the context of casualness and triviality and Sunday morning slapstick, but in the context of exaltation and awe and solemnity and earnestness and intensity.
How will our people ever come to feel in their bones the awful magnitude of what is at stake in the eternal destiny of the unevangelized, if our homiletical maxim is to start with a joke and keep the people entertained with anecdotes along the way. How will the people ever come to know and feel the crags and peaks and snowcapped heights of God’s glory if our preaching and worship services are more like picnics in the valley than thunder on the ice face of Mt. Everest?
That’s the most important thing as I see it for arousing and sustaining a passion for the glory of God in world evangelization — week in and week out to help them see the majesty of the glory of God.
Excerpted from “A Pastor’s Role in World Missions” (1984).
“The transformation the church needs is the kind that results from beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18-4:6). The glory of God is a saving and judging glory-an aroma of life to those being saved and death to those perishing (2 Cor. 2:15-16), and this saving and judging glory is at the centre of biblical theology. If there is to be a renewal, it will be a renewal that grows out of the blazing center that is the glory of God in the face of Christ. This saving and judging glory, I contend, is the center of biblical theology.”
Jim M. Hamilton Jr., God’s Glory In Salvation Through Judgement
(HT: The Puritan Woodshop)
The supreme goal of God in history from beginning to end is the manifestation of his great glory. Accordingly our duty is to bring our thoughts, affections, and actions into line with this goal. It should become our own goal. To join God in this goal is called glorifying God. The way we glorify God is first to delight in his glory more than in anything else and be grateful for it. Then as a natural result of this joy in God we experience freedom from selfishness and are moved to seek the good of others. Thus love becomes the chief means by which we join God in the open display of his glory, and accomplish his goal in history.
Read the entire article here.
Trevin Wax interviews David Platt and discusses God-centered preaching:
Trevin Wax: How does God-centered preaching lead to passion for evangelism?
David Platt: The gospel begins and ends with God. He is the holy, just, and gracious Creator of the universe who has sent His Son, God in the flesh, to bear His wrath against sin on the cross and to show His power over sin in the resurrection so that everyone who believes in Christ will be reconciled to God forever. And this is the gospel that we proclaim in evangelism.
So how do we best lead and shepherd God’s people to evangelize? By giving them a grand understanding of God. In preaching, we unfold the character of God: His holiness, His justice, His grace, and all of His other breath-taking attributes. As we magnify His Word, people behold His glory. And they believe, deep within their minds and their hearts, that God is great and greatly to be praised. In the process, this becomes the ultimate motivation for evangelism. The more the people I pastor see God’s worth, the more they want to make His worth known in the world.
So week after week after week, as I stand before them with God’s Word, I want to show them God’s worth. As they hear His Word and they see His worth, they will lay down their lives to make the good news of God’s grace and glory known to the people around them and people groups around the world. God-centered, gospel-saturated preaching is great fuel for Christ-honoring, world-embracing evangelism.
(HT: Darryl Dash)