Sermon delivered by Rev. Dr. Larry Maley at Dardenne Presbyterian Church on October 15, 2017

“Sola Deo Gloria: Glory to God Alone”

Fourth of five sermons on the Reformation’s Principles

Scriptures: Exodus 33:12-23 and Romans 11:33-36

            On May 7, 2000, Rev. James Boice entered the pulpit of the famous Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for the final time of his 32-year ministry there. He died of cancer one month later (June 15, 2000). He addressed the matter of how his congregation should pray for him with these words: “Above all, I would say pray for the glory of God.” When a memorial plaque was created for him, it displayed our Scripture text from Romans 11:36: “To God be the glory forever! Amen!”

READ: Romans 11:33-36

            In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul wrote a long discourse on the subject of salvation from chapters 1 -11. He presented the problem of sin for a righteous God (1:1-3:20); the solution of faith in the work of Christ on the Cross (3:20- 8:39); with an appendix about Israel’s place in God’s plan (9:1-11:32). His discussion concludes with a doxology of praise for all God has done with these final words, “To God (him) be the glory forever.” Reflecting on God’s incredible plan for our salvation, Paul was immersed in the glory of God. For the glory of God is what life is all about!

Listen to a few of the many Scriptures which speak about the “glory of God”:

Glory in His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Declare His glory among the nations. 1 Chronicles 16:10,24

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” Isa. 6:1-3

Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

Paul instructed the early Christians: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

The Gospel of John begins with these words: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

            God the Father is glorified through the Son; the Son is glorified by the Father. They cannot be separated and all creation exists for their glory (Romans 8:19-21).

A billboard on the side of the highway read, “God is ___________.” It was an invitation to travelers to fill in the missing word. The reality is that most Americans have little reverence or holy fear of a righteous God. Instead, people want God to stop being God so that they can start! For many people, God is an ethereal Santa Claus or Easter Bunny who passes out blessings when we are good, and leniently looks the other way at our indiscretions.

That conception of God is very different from the God of the Bible who is all holy, all righteous, infinitely beautiful and absolutely sovereign over the universe. One word adequately conveys all God’s qualities and that is “glory.”

 

Someone might ask, “Why should God insist on receiving all glory? Indeed, if God is perfect, why does God need us to glorify Him?” In human relationships, we grow annoyed with people who constantly draw attention to themselves – even if their claims are true. We don’t mind someone declaring another person’s greatness, but if a person boasts about themselves, they are deemed arrogant. Granted, God is the greatest, but must we continually be living in a way that gives God all the glory?

It’s a valid question, deserving an answer. I invite you to consider God’s glory this way. Think of a time when you were swept up in utter happiness: maybe it occurred while beholding the beauty of nature; maybe it happened while listening to music which sent your soul soaring; maybe it was a moment of love between you and your partner, child, grandchild, fellow Christian. The occasion filled your thoughts, emotions and spirit with delight.

Now imagine somebody abruptly smashing your extraordinarily special moment by critiquing the event while you were enjoying it. You don’t want to suddenly stop your ecstasy to debate the merits of that which causes you tremendous joy.

The same is true of one’s experience with God. When you come to a recognition and profound experience of the uniqueness, holiness, wisdom, love, richness, and transforming power of God’s glory, you want to enjoy it forever. We were created to find our deepest meaning and pleasure in glorifying God (Ps. 63:3; Rev. 16:9). It explains why the Westminster Catechism, the historic confession of the Reformed faith, begins with the question, “What is the chief and highest end of man?” The answer: To glorify God and fully enjoy Him forever.”(Question 1-Westminster)

            Glorifying God is a fundamental principle of the Christian faith. Giving glory to God is a roadmap for life. If we asked ourselves one simple question throughout the day, our lives would be less complicated and stay on a steady course. That question is: What glorifies God? 

            Consider these frequently encountered dilemmas:

  1. My spouse is so unreasonable. Why should I be the one who has to give in?

Ask yourself: “What glorifies God?”

  1. Why should I work so hard when my fellow workers slack off?

Ask yourself: “What glorifies God?”

  1. Don’t I have the right to fudge on my taxes like every other American?

Ask yourself: “What glorifies God?”

  1. All the other kids are doing it? Ask yourself: “What glorifies God?”

As Christians, we know the purpose of life is to glorify God. We also know why there is so much division, pain and suffering in life: because everyone has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). But we do not give up. For God is determined to be glorified through us by sending Jesus Christ to overcome our sins and make us into new creatures (2 Cor. 3:18, 5:17-18) who now glorify Him. Glory be to God – Sola Deo Gloria!

Then, God performs something else in our lives to demonstrate His glory. It happens whenever trouble stalks our path. The glory of God shines through in the midst of our sufferings. For during our sufferings God promises to demonstrate His glory in and through us (Rom. 3:18). Glory be to God – Sola Deo Gloria!

As we give glory to God, God pours out His glory on us – shaping us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ. We reflect God’s glory by demonstrating God’s love despite the trials we endure. The glory of God seems hidden from the world for now, but it will be revealed at Christ’s coming. We live with the joy of sharing the glory of our great God with others.

Sola Deo Gloria! To those who do not know God, that is perhaps the most foolish of all statements. But to those of us who are being saved, it is the grandest inspirational confession: to God be the glory forever. Amen.