“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Soli Deo Gloria Part 1 - Introduction

This series of posts will be my final ones on the solas. This post will look at 'soli deo gloria', or ‘for the glory of God alone’. So far I have posted about:

1. - sola fide – ‘by faith alone’
2. - sola gratia – ‘by grace alone’
3. - solus Christus – 'by Christ alone'
4. - sola scriptura - 'scripture alone'


The reason for these posts is that, sadly, we again find these solas under attack in the modern so-called evangelical church! We regularly find well-known preachers denying these solas – preaching a semi-pelagian message that resonates so well with man in his fallen nature. These 'preachers' will state or intimate that Adam's sin is not imputed to us, nor is Christ's righteousness. Adam is merely a bad example, not the representative in whom we stand guilty. Similarly, Christ is simply a good example, not the representative in whom we stand righteous.

How much of modern preaching focuses on the moralistic message of 'WWJD' as opposed to the God-glorifying message of 'What Did Jesus DO!?' The primary message coming out of many churches today is this human-centered, works-based one. Fallen man LOVES the law – it makes us feel that we can affect our own salvation at some level – therefore, we pump up the most legalistic of the televangelists and pour money into their coffers, as they tell us that we MUST do this and that to be accepted by God! It is amazing that people will follow a leader who is constantly preaching all law and no gospel, yet we see it everyday!

We must always keep before us that our salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, by Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. Without keeping this perspective, which is the perspective of the Bible, then God’s Word becomes all Law – what to do and what not to do – and we therefore must make ourselves ‘right’ by following all the rules. What the solas do is remove all reason for boasting; all thought that somehow we affected any part of our own salvation.

Therefore, this is not a popular message amongst many modern 'evangelicals'; man wants to feel like he/she has a part in their salvation, and if we can get someone to provide us with a measuring rod to allow us to compare and contrast ourselves with God’s Word, and others, then we will feel better about the whole thing.

As Paul said to a prideful, puffed up Corinthian church – 1st Corinthians 4:7 -- For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

There is arrogance in today’s church that is very off-putting, and affects outreach efforts, growth of disciples, and maturity within the body – and that arrogance is directly an outgrowth of failing to remember that we are saved by God’s grace alone, through a faith imparted by Him alone, in Christ, His perfect provision alone, to His glory alone!

TO GOD ALONE THE GLORY!

The very first question in the Westminster shorter catechism is:

Q1. What is the chief end of man?

A1. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

The reformers taught the sovereignty of God over ALL aspects of the believer's life. ALL of our life is to be lived to the glory of God.

In the Medieval Church, glory assigned to many things – from icons and saints, to Mary, to the Pope. Each of these and more, had glory inappropriately assigned to them. This was what the Reformers attacked in their statement of Soli Deo Gloria – that there is no one and nothing on Earth that is deserving of the glory that is meant for God alone. The elevation of the church offices by Rome led to the mindset that only people in full-time ministry could truly glorify God, and everyone else was beholden to them! And here is where the Reformers tore down the idolatry that had grown up around the church officers – be it the local parish priest or the pope himself.

We still have people who attempt to wrest glory from God. Do not be fooled by their pious sounding nonsense; watch their actions, and see who they give glory to. These are the modern popes, who want the glory that is God's alone!

In 1st Corinthians 10:31, Pauls says - So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Paul says that in ALL things we are to do it to the glory of God – there is no ‘special’ vocation that brings glory to God, rather it is the entirety of our lives that are to bring glory to God!

This sola is a most difficult one for us – isn’t it? For, as much as we want to deny it, we love glory – we relish someone idolizing us, assigning glory to us. As a pastor I can tell you that there is something incredibly dangerous about being put on a pedestal – it can cause the best of men to believe their own press clippings; soon they are the one to whom the adoration and glory, which belong to God alone, is funneled. And it is not just the pastor, but each and every one of us who is susceptible to wanting glory.

Not only do we love glory, but, as Calvin said in his institutes, our hearts are idol factories. Not only do we attempt to usurp the glory that belongs to God, but we focus our affections on other things BEFORE God!

This was clearly illustrated this election year, when many put more faith in their candidate than in Christ, in their party than in God – we showered glory and respect on mere men, and in doing so, we often dishonored God in our actions, words, or thoughts! We are called to live our lives in such a manner that we glorify our God and Father – the one whose plan of salvation made it possible for us to become His children!

Here are a few questions

1. - Is the purpose of the evangelical community to honor God, or please men?

2. - Is our joy found in God, or someone, or something else?

Here is a quick test of priorities: do you know the starting line-up of your favorite sports team, but do not know anything about God’s Word? Do you spend hours watching TV, but cannot find a minute to pray with your kids? Are you more interested in being entertained by upbeat and “I” centered worship songs than you are in worshiping God in Spirit and Truth? Are you living so that God is glorified in your life, or are you living your best, and self-centered, life now?

I fear that the church has forgotten, or worse, discarded, this sola! We have become overwhelmed and infatuated by the world and its ways – we can simply witness the recent financial storm that hit Wall Street – I have spent more time talking about this with Christians than we have discussed God and His glory; it would seem that when it comes to our own convenience, comfort or safety, we place God in the queue and get to Him when time permits.

However, if we but look at a few examples found in Scripture, I believe that we will discover that to truly live a life of soli deo Gloria, our comfort and safety is not taken into consideration. What of Stephen in Acts 6, 7? Stephen preached the gospel, giving glory to God for what He had done, and this led to his stoning. Yet, even at this juncture he did not waiver – as they stoned him, he looked up and saw Jesus waiting to receive him into heaven. Stephen’s very death brought glory to God!

And then of course, there is Paul – 2nd Corinthians 11:24 – 31 -- Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.

This Paul would also say – Philippians 4:12 - 20 -- I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Let us not forget about the men and women who lived, and died to the glory of God in the past two millennia of Christian work. In my next post, I will finish off the solas by posting about one of these men. For now, may we all refocus our lives and live to the Glory of God alone!

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