Soli Deo Gloria: to the glory of God alone.
It rings through our minds and our hearts as Christians. It answers the ancient question, “What is the meaning of life?” It transforms our entire beings.
And yet, how hard it is to understand the full significance of the glory of God.
What is God’s glory? Why should we seek it? How can we bring glory to our infinitely glorious God?
The glory of God is the Christian’s primary aim. That’s why we need to understand what it means to live for the glory of God.
The Meaning of Glory
God’s glory is his character and nature on display.
John Piper points to Isaiah 6, where the angels cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; the whole earth is filled with his glory.” Though you would expect the angels to say the earth is filled with his holiness, they instead point to glory. Holiness is an attribute of God, and glory likewise belongs to God but “fills” the earth. It’s reasonable to conclude that glory is actually the manifestation of God’s holy nature. We cannot see God’s holiness, but we can see, observe, or witness his glory.
In this way, it makes sense that while we cannot truly add to the glory of God, glory is something that is perceived, and thus we can shape our own perceptions and the perceptions others may have of God. God is infinitely glorious, and yet, we do not always recognize, appreciate, and communicate his glory as deeply as we could and should.
As servants of the Holy God, we should be zealous to understand his great nature more and more and to help others to do the same.
To the Praise of His Glory
So then, how can we do all to the glory of God? What does that look like in our lives?
It starts with an understanding of who he is, soaking in his glory till we are saturated with his perfectly holy nature. We do this through his word. Scripture is God’s perfect revelation of himself to man. It is through careful study and meditation on the words and works of God that we can know him truly and see a full glimpse into the many facets of his glory.
The Soli Deo Gloria Life looks like this: we witness his glory, we delighting in his glory, and we display that glory to the world.
Ultimately, everything that we do can and should be to the glory of God.
Glorifying him essentially means making every moment an act of praise.
There is no specific career, education, or activity that is automatically more glorifying to God than another, assuming they are within the boundaries laid out in his word.
Every act, excluding those explicitly banned in Scripture, can be done with praise.
Many people think that specific choices automatically make you a better Christian. For example, we often assume that doing foreign missions is the best way to bring glory to God. Or perhaps, using our money for charity is the issue. If we want to glorify God in all that we do, will we not set aside all the free time, money, and energy we have to do godly things? Isn’t that what it means to glorify God with our lives, to “make the best use of our time” as Ephesians calls us to do?
But there’s a problem with the theory that simply choosing a specific career, spending money for a specific cause, or living our lives in a certain way will automatically bring more glory to God. In fact, you can do all kinds of mission work, never spending a dime on frivolous expenses, and yet fail to praise God in your life.
We should be wise about how we use the limited resources we have on earth, and if we have the right mindset based on the gospel, keeping our priorities straight, we won’t spend ourselves on possessions or experiences we don’t need.
But there is value and potential for praise in the insignificant, seemingly less holy moments of life, like sitting downtown outside an ice cream shop, savoring an ice cream cone in the warm summer air as the sun rests low over the city skyline.
Even in those “frivolous”, “unnecessary”, “pointless” moments, we can take the opportunity to bask in God’s goodness and to reset our focus. We can set our minds on him and be grateful for what he has done.
As we take the time to slow down, we see things we didn’t notice before. We gain a richer understanding of the world we’re called to minister to in that moment as we watch the people walk down the street, see the cars go by, hear bits of conversation and see the expressions on the faces of the people–our neighbors. Yes, even at the ice cream shop we can be on mission, praying for our city, gaining a heart for the people in it, maybe even sparking gospel conversations as we experience these parts of life within our community.
And God is wonderfully glorified in that.
Where is our heart?
Perhaps this is the real question to grapple with.
Are we obsessed with material possessions, treats to fill our stomachs, and entertainment for our minds? Have they become idols to us? Do they distract us from God and his mission? Or can we enjoy them in a healthy manner, understanding these things as gifts from God, and keeping a mindset of ministry even as we rest from our normal work?
Sometime we’re burnt out. Sometimes we truly need that break. Sometimes we ought to take a minute to stop, rest, and refocus.
Nothing we ever do ought to be without purpose, though, and every choice we make ought to aid us in our goal of glorifying God. But work isn’t the only part of a Christ/centered life, as Martha learned. Sometimes we ought to slow down and simply sit at the feet of Jesus, delighting in his goodness and praising him for his grace.
That’s what I think a meaningful life looks like—doing everything wholeheartedly, whether work or rest, service or Sabbath, ministry or personal devotions, to bring ourselves and others to a fuller understanding and appreciation of our great God.
God’s glory is not stifled into the mold of one lifestyle, nor is it seen only in certain aspects of our lives. His glory stretches far and wide, from the mud huts of Africa and the slums of Brazil to the metropolitan skyscrapers of America.
He will be known, loved, and worshipped across the earth as his glory is made known by the testimony of his people and all of nature itself. He calls us to minister and to evangelize, and to be still and know. In every moment, he is reigning on his throne, clothed in majesty.
May we, his people, approach every moment of our lives with an attitude of adoration and a purpose of praise. When we brush our teeth in the morning till we watch the sun set in the evening, may we live for the glory of God alone.