Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What Does it Mean to Glorify God?

Good question. It is a phrase that is tossed around like popcorn in Christian circles. “It is our goal to glorify God in everything we do.” That phrase seems a little elusive until one understands what it really means. Initially, it leads us to ask the questions: why does God need to be glorified? Is He arrogant? Is He prideful? Is He missing something that He needs to get from us so that He feels better about Himself?

All of these questions are based on a false premise. They stem primarily from human experience, and in asking them this way we are projecting back on God things that we know are true from human life in a sinful world. The reality is, God is completely perfect and sufficient and is not in need of anything outside of himself. This is not true for us, for we are wholly dependent on outside sources for our very survival. We are dependent on food and water and air to breathe. God has no need for any of those things. He is perfect and deserving of all worship and praise since he is the source of all things (Col. 1:15-23).

So then, to say that we need to glorify God, we are not saying that we need to add something to God that is lacking in His who He is, as if He is empty and needy and is in dire need for others to revere Him so that He can become more complete. Nor is it to say that God has any sinful pride that needs fed. He is holy.

Ok then, what are we saying? What does it mean to glorify God? Simply put, to glorify God is to praise and worship Him for who He is and to enhance is His reputation above anything else in the universe. Thus, the Westminster Confession (a reformed statement of faith adopted by the Church of England in 1646) states clearly that the “chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” This says something about God and it says something about us.

What it says about God is that He alone is the One who is worthy of worship, adoration, and praise. He is the center of the universe and the purpose of all life. But it also says something about us and that is this: we are by nature designed and created for God’s glory, and so all that we do and say ought to be done towards that purpose. We live not for ourselves, but for Him.

Consider these two Scriptures:

“Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth -- everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made."  Isaiah 43:6-7, NIV

“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”  Matthew 5:16, NIV (some versions translate it as, “glorify your Father who is in heaven.”, which is more accurate according to the Greek. Sometimes the NIV lightens things a bit).

So you and I exist for the select purpose of glorifying God, to enhance His reputation. We were made to worship Him, to revere Him, to find our primary sense of fulfillment and purpose in nothing else than in Him alone. That’s why we were made. Simple. In a crude illustration, if we want someone’s reputation be known or enhanced we talk that person up. We tell others about that person. We might make signs and billboards and do things that will get others to notice the person whose reputation we want to accentuate. (Dare I say, it’s like putting a sign in your yard to promote a candidate for office.) This leads me to my second point.

According to Jesus in Matthew 5, every good deed we perform ought to be designed towards enhancing the reputation of God. Every action, no matter how small. In fact Paul went much further. Not only our good deeds ought to do this, but practically everything should be for this purpose. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” That’s pretty comprehensive.

John Piper calls glorifying God a “joyful duty.” Well said. This is not a command made to make us miserable, but in actuality, we are never more satisfied and fulfilled than when we are bent towards glorifying God. Like John the Baptist said, “He must become greater, I must become less.” More of Jesus, less of me. And when that starts to happen, then I will find the real me, the “me” God created me to be.

So how does this affect my everyday life? How does the command to glorify God impact my attitudes, actions, conversations, dreams, goals, and relationships?

I am reminded of the old hymn that we used to sing (and still do), which says “turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.” If a person is striving to glorify God in everything they do, and wants to commit themselves to that end, then as they rely upon the Holy Spirit to help them change, there will be noticeable attitudes and actions that will begin to emerge. The things of this world will hold less appeal in comparison to “seeing and savoring” God.

Our goal is to develop an all-consuming “God-centeredness” to our lives. It is a focus that will gradually lead us towards a mindset that seeks to abandon the focus on the self (self-centeredness, selfishness, and self-sufficiency). In some older theological writings, this is the idea of “self mortification,” or just plain “mortification.” It is dying to one’s self by putting to death the misdeeds of the body (Rom. 8:13), something we can only do with the help and in the power of the Holy Spirit.

So point one is this: in order to glorify God in my life I must be committed to doing away with or putting aside the things in my life that put the focus on or feed the desires of the sinful self. Those things are nothing but roadblocks that prevent others from seeing Christ in me. And how could God’s fame and reputation be enhanced by my life if I am involved in things that prevent others from seeing Christ in me?

So first practical application – commit myself to forsaking any known sin. Examine my heart. Pray for the Holy Spirit to reveal it to me. Confess. Admit. Forsake. Stay away. Maybe even have someone else ask me and hold me accountable to it (a rather mature thing to do). This is essentially, repentance, which in itself glorifies God by putting the spotlight on the cross, where Jesus paid for sin. It is strange to think this, but yes indeed, a place where God was glorified was on the cross. Such a wrathful event also glorified God at the same time. And since Christ paid for my sin, then I in response should be willing to forsake it (see Romans 6).

Point two is this: in order to glorify God in my life, I must discover what God’s will for my life is and pursue it. This obviously includes point one above, but more than that, it is a commitment to understanding the positive character shaping power of the Holy Spirit as well as to commit myself to certain actions/activities that are designed by nature to exalt and glorify God.

For example:

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.”I Thessalonians 5:16-18

I was in campus ministry for many years, and whenever a college student came up to me and told me they were struggling to know God’s will for their life this is where I would point them. For how could one be in a position to know the unknown and future will of God (regarding specifics) for their life when they have not first committed themselves to living the already revealed will of God for their lives? Wisdom comes from discernment, and discernment comes from being spiritually disciplined in what God has already said is clearly His will for your life.

So living and pursuing God’s will for one’s life is a means of glorifying God. Study and memorize Scripture, pray heartfelt prayers often, fellowship with other believers, serve others, be joyful and thankful, use your giftedness to encourage and build up the church. Live sacrificial lives, giving generously. As you do these things, you will find that the Holy Spirit will empower you for them and in the process will develop your character to become more like Jesus, which is the end goal of the Christian life – Christlikeness. And Christlikeness in a person’s life is glorifying to God.

This all may seem simple. Well, guess what? It is. It’s supposed to be. The Christian life is simplicity – simple satisfaction in Christ and less attachment to the world. Fixing minds on things above and not on earthly things. Dying to self and living for God, commiting oneself to obedience, walking in faith, trusting in God for all things. Living a life of love. Serving. If a person tries to make the Christian life more complicated than that, then stay away from that person – they may have an unhealthy interest in man-made rules and traditions that make one look more spiritual than they really are. You just stick to the basics, and let God get the credit for everything.

But still, isn’t there more application than this?  Listen, if you are walking with the Lord and are testing everything, forsaking known sin, reading the Word and letting it shape you, praying regularly, serving others out of love and joy, then guess who it is who is shaping the desires of your heart? God is. And God’s will for your life is being realized naturally. Simple? Yes, simple.

Note the Scripture below:

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  Philippians 2:12b-13

If you are working “out” your salvation as described above, then you need to understand that God is working at the same time, and he is the One who is (dare I say, “causing”) you to have certain desires and to perform certain actions that are in keeping with His will and that in the end will bring glory to God.

Ask yourself the following in the following areas:

1) Attitudes – does my attitude about something reflect God’s priorities in life or my sinful ones? Is my attitude shaped more by circumstances or by the internal relationship and trust that I have placed in Christ who reigns over me? Is my attitude similar to the selfless attitude that Christ had (see Philippians 2)?

2) Actions – is what I’m doing more inclined to enhance my reputation or God’s? This kind of gets to motives, which will always reveal itself eventually in actions. Are my actions then in keeping with the behavior and good works that exalt the name of Christ – because really, He has prepared some things for me to do that are specifically designed for that purpose (Eph 2:10).

3) Conversations­ – does this conversation build up others? Will it help someone else be inspired towards pursuing the things of God? Now wait here, aren’t some conversation neutral? Like isn’t it great that the Cubs are in first place? Well, yes, we can talk about that – and that conversation may not inspire someone to pursue the things of God, but indirectly it is building commonality, friendship, enjoyment of life, communication, and all those things are good – gifts of God I say.

Perhaps more specifically here we can just watch to make sure that no

“…unwholesome talk comes out of our mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”  - Ephesians 4:29

That seems to be a good rule of thumb for knowing if I am glorifying God in this area of my life.

4) Dreams and goals – pursuing what you know God has designed you and gifted you to do is a major aspect of glorifying God. For example, I know a person whose gift is singing, and the more she pursues and uses it the more her gift gives testimony to God’s glory since He is the one who gave her the gift in the first place. So in doing what we are good at and doing it in such a way that it has a positive impact on others is all a way to glorify God with your life. Just remember, when we use our gifts we are “faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms” (1 Peter 4:10).

5) Relationships­ – committing yourself to purity, considering others as better than yourself, serving someone else with a sacrificial love that seeks to cause them to grow (Ephesians 5:25ff). All this is glorifying to God. Taking an interest in the spiritual growth of others is a priority that is often missed among many Christians today. But it is one of the main reasons why we exist – especially as a church.

All this is what it means to glorify God – to point everything to Christ and to encourage others in such a way that they do the same. Even being good stewards of creation is a way to glorify God because we are valuing what God has made, which places value on God himself as its author.

If you take the advice of John the Baptist, “He [that being Christ]must increase, and I must decrease,” then you are on the right path to what it means to glorify God. It is the greatest life in the world. Fulfilling, and ultimately rewarding – if not in this life, then surely the life to come.

*This post is a revision of a two part previous post from 2008 but in the fuller form.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Quick Biblical Theology of Angels


A Brief Look at Angels in the Bible – an Overview Summary


Angels are created, spiritual beings with moral judgement and high intelligence, but without physical bodies.  (Wayne Grudem)

1. They are created beings – Read Colossians 1:16, Nehemiah 9:6

2. They exercise moral judgement – some sinned and fell from their positions (2 Pet. 2:4)

3. They have high intelligence – they are able to speak to people and sing praise to God.

4. Angels are spirits and do not ordinarily have physical bodies – (Hebrews 1:14, Luke 24:39).  In their ordinary activities of protecting and ministering and worshiping God they are invisible.

However, from time to time angels took on bodily form to appear to various people in Scripture, (Matthew 28:2-5; Hebrews 13:2), this should be regarded as exceptions.
Other names for angels: holy ones, heavenly host, watchers, sons of God, thrones, dominions, principalities, authorities, powers.

How many?  They are innumerable, myriads of myriads, thousands upon thousands.

Do they have names?  Apparently so, but there are only two angels named in Scripture.

            Gabriel – spoke to Daniel, and Mary; Michael – Daniel 10:12-14
                                                                                          Jude 9, Rev. 12:7-8

Do they have ranks?   Apparently, Michael is called an archangel, and chief prince.

The archangel will sound the trumpet at the Parousia, and fights the Dragon and his angels in Revelation. (See also Colossians 1:16)

Are there different kinds of Angels?

            Three other types mentioned:

A) Cherubim -- guard the entrance to Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:24);  cherubim figures were on top of the ark of the covenant (Ex. 25:22).

B) Seraphim – angels that continually worship God (Isa. 6:2-7)

C) The Living Creatures – Heavenly beings around God’s throne (Ezek. 1:5-14; Revelation (4:8) Their appearance is said to be like a lion, an ox, a man, and an eagle.

Do we have Guardian Angels?

There is an idea of general protection (Psalm 91:11-12) and ministering to all God’s people (Hebrews 1:14). There is no overwhelming support for the idea of individual guardian angels. Any assertions about that are extra-biblical speculation.

Angels Do Not Marry

Jesus taught that in heaven, we will be like the angels in heaven, who “neither marry nor are given in marriage.”  (Matt. 22:30; Luke 20:34-36)

Angel Power

Called mighty ones, who have greater might and power than rebellious human beings (2 Peter 2:11), we are temporarily made lower than the heavenly beings (Heb 2:7), the angels do battle against Satan and his demons in Revelation, but when we receive our glorified bodies we will be in a position higher than the angels, for we will judge them (1 Cor. 6:3)


In the OT, there is someone who is at times called “the angel of the LORD,” not “an angel of the LORD.”  Several passages suggest that this angel is God himself taking on temporary form to appear briefly to human beings.

            The LORD appears to Hagar (Genesis 16:10-13)

            The LORD appears to Jacob in a dream (Gen. 31:11-13)

            The LORD appears to Moses in the burning bush as the angel. (Ex. 3:2,6)

“These are instances of the angel of the LORD or the angel of God appearing as God himself, perhaps more specifically as God the Son taking on a human body for a short time in order to appear to human beings.”  (Grudem, 401)

At other times the angel of the Lord seems to be distinguished from God (2 Sam. 24:16; Psalm 34:7; Zech. 1:11-13) and passages that mention “an angel from God” usually indicate an angel sent by God. Context is the key to interpretation.


Angels are heavenly beings created by God to help fulfill his purposes in redemption, they are ministering spirits sent to help us in all our ways, they are powerful warriors against evil, they worship and glorify forever their Creator in holiness. They are glorious in appearance when allowed by God to be seen.

We are commanded not to worship them (Colossians 2:18; Revelation 19:10), we should not pray to them (1 Tim. 2:5 – only one mediator), the Bible does not command us to seek after them, but rather we should “seek the Lord.” They are more active than we realize, they live forever, and apparently have a unique interest in the salvation plan of God for humankind (1 Peter 1:12).

Friday, May 10, 2013

Reasons to Fear Monkeys


Eric J. Bargerhuff, Ph.D. & Scott Swain, Ph.D.

The following list comes after much reflection and despair over the nature of those things we call monkeys. As children growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, we had many reasons to fear these beasts. And even today, as this list will show, there is still warrant for such fear.

TOP TEN and then some

1.      The Wizard of Oz – those flying monkeys that make weird sounds and carry you off to nether land.

2.      Viet Cong Guerilla Warfare – What a frightening phrase. We heard this on the news when we were little, and for all we knew they did nothing but kill us in the middle of the night.

3.      King Kong – he grabs people and can even climb tall buildings to get you.

4.      The Planet of the Apes ­– here is the ultimate fear! They are monkeys that ride horses, can talk in English, rule the world, and hunt down and shoot human beings.

5.      Donkey Kong – even in our video games as kids we were afraid of the monkeys who sought to destroy a poor innocent Italian guy named Mario.

6.      Abominable Snowman – no one knows what this thing is, but surely he has to be a monkey. Like that guy on the Rudolph the Rednose reindeer claymation show; We don’t care if he had a tooth problem that the dentist fixed, or that he was able to put a star on the top of the tree. He’s terrifying.

7.      Grape Ape – a large bass-voice animal with swinging arms. A cartoon from the early 80’s.

8.      “Monkey see, Monkey do” – many of us were reminded as kids that this is how our sin nature works.

9.      Monkeys at Zoos – they are hyper, they scream loud at you, and if you get too close they bite (and throw poo at you).

10.  “Monkeying Around” ­– again, a phrase that our parents used to describe our sin nature. Similar to #8.

11.  Monkey Pox – the disease speaks for itself.


The Only Positive Monkey on Record

Curious George

He is our hope that the whole mess of them are not spawns of the devil.
This list comes a result of much late night reflection among friends while doing a doctoral degree.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Praying According to God's Nature

“But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.”  Psalm 69:13, ESV

I have recently been struck by the way in which King David describes the nature of his relationship with his God, which of course is the One true God of the Universe. It is not a relationship that is experienced at a distance, or a relationship that is shallow, or even a relationship whereby God is unknowable. It is a very personal, intimate, unique fellowship between Creator and created one, between Heavenly Father and child of God, between the Redeemer and the redeemed.

David speaks of the nature of this relationship throughout the Psalms, and the reader is drawn into it as he/she oversees the soul cries of this great King who knew God in more than an intellectual sense but also in an experiential sense. He speaks in the above verse about the steadfast love (hesed) of God and the saving faithfulness of God who has proven himself in the past, and this is the basis of his confidence that God will hear and act on his prayer in the present. But yet he also knows that God’s timing is perfect, and so he concedes that there is a future “acceptable time” in which God will answer according to his sovereign timing and purposes.

This is what it means to pray in faith. It means to pray according to God’s will and timing, to pray in the context of an active relationship with the Lord, and to pray according to the very nature of God himself who has proven himself loving and faithful in the deliverance of his people.

I don’t think there is anything wrong in asking God to answer our prayers. David did. And based on the kind of God David described, he knew full well that God would be faithful in doing so.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Most Misused Verses in the Bible: Surprising Ways God's Word is Misunderstood

So excited to be able to announce my latest publication, The Most Misused Verses in the Bible that was published May 1 through Bethany House Publishers (a division of Baker Books). The book covers some of the most popularly misused verses that are taken out of context and frequently misunderstood and misapplied. At present I have been doing some radio interviews on the national syndicate (i.e. Moody radio) discussing the book and today appeared on Chris Fabry Live!

Verses like "where two or three are gathered" (Matthew 18:20), "judge not lest you be judged" (Matthew 7:1), "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13) are but a few of the verses that are covered in the book. I think we can all admit that there have been times when we unknowingly took a verse out of context and used it because it seemed to "fit" a particular situation. But this book at aims at enlightening our minds about our favorite verses while also teaching us interpretive principles that are necessary in order to understand God's Word properly. I hope you will pick up a copy, available on most major bookstore chain websites.



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How Do You Know that the Bible is True?

Have you ever had anyone ask you: how do you know that the Bible is true? I mean what makes this book so special – what makes it stand out from all the rest? In an age where there are all of these competing religions that claim to have their own versions of what they call the scriptures, what makes the Christian Bible so different? What sets it apart?

Well if you’ve ever been asked that question I can’t help but wonder if you’ve ever gotten that sinking feeling in your stomach – maybe your face has turned a little red, because you’re not quite sure how to answer that one – but you feel like you should be able to.

After all, The Apostle Peter told the church that every Christian must be prepared to give a reason for the hope they have within them, right? So we must always be prepared to explain and defend why we believe what we believe.

And in a society today that increasingly believes that “all roads and all religions” lead to the same God, it seems even more important for us to be equipped and ready to explain why we believe that Christianity is the only religion of truth – why Christ alone is the way, the truth, and the life – and why the Bible is the only inspired Scripture on the face of the earth.

Here we have a Bible that claims to be the Word of God – divine revelation – a book inspired by the Holy Spirit of God who used over 30 human authors over a period of 1,500 years, containing well over 30,000 verses. And there are many different reasons why we can trust and believe that this and this book alone is the only one that is fully true in everything it affirms.

So without going into a big dissertation, let me give you just a few quick reasons to consider.

1) This Bible has proven itself to be a life changing book in the lives of millions of people who have believed its message throughout the centuries. One sure sign of being authenticate is its ability to transform lives – to change minds, to change hearts.

People have been converted, hearts have been convicted and changed, people have experienced healing, hate has turned to love, and so this book has power. And for believers, the Holy Spirit has a way of affirming this in the very depths of their hearts and its power is revealed by our lives.

2) Secondly, there is an amazing sense of unity to this book. Like I said, there are over 30 different authors who have written over a period of 1500 years, and not a once is there a contradiction. Its message in each book is consistent and is uniquely tied together – that man is a sinner and that God alone has the answer.

Several languages are used and hundreds of topics are discussed, and yet there is this amazing unity to it all – and from Genesis to Revelation the idea that man needs a Savior runs through all its pages.

3) Thirdly, the Bible has had an amazing track record of proving that it’s historically true, and much of this has been affirmed in significant ways through modern archaeology. It has proved itself to be factually accurate, in both the Old and the New Testaments.

The ancient city of Jericho has been dug up in recent times, and the Bible story claimed that the walls fell in and the city was burned by Joshua and the Israelites when they took over the land. And sure enough, archaeologists have dug down and discovered collapsed walls and a 3-foot thick layer of ash at the site of this ancient city.

And ironically, there is no other ancient account of this happening other than what is found in the Bible, and so the Bible proves itself to be historically true over and over again.

4) Fourth, the Bible is truly unique from all other books in that it alone thoroughly contains a rather long list of predicted prophecies that have been literally fulfilled. The prophets predicted the existence of certain kings, kingdoms, famines, and wars, all of which have been verified to be true.

* Yet having said all of this, in the end, it is God alone who ultimately convinces us of the truth of God’s Word as the Holy Spirit convicts and confirms the inspired nature of Scripture in our hearts as we read it. In order for this to happen, one must be spiritually reborn by the Holy Spirit who illuminates the Word and leads and guides us into truth. God’s power inherently reveals itself as you thumb through this book, and many of us know exactly what that means as we’ve seen this book change our lives over time. Thanks be to God for this indescribable gift!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Powerful, Expectant Prayer - A Lost Art

Prayer is talking to God. Prayer is also listening to God.

It is often the most neglected of privileges that a Christian has in his or her arsenal. But, when used properly, it is a mighty weapon. The God who listens is a God that can move mountains, a God who can change hearts, a God that can rearrange circumstances and overthrow tremendous obstacles. He is the God of the impossible, and many times our vision of who God is and what He can do is often way too small, and this is reflected in the amount of time we may spend in prayer.

It is true that God is sometimes less concerned with changing our circumstances and is more concerned with changing the heart and mind and perspective of the person praying. As someone has said, “Prayer doesn’t change God, prayer changes me.”

And if that is true then it is also true that the person who is most resistant to change and is satisfied in being self-sufficient and self made is probably a person who isn’t praying at all. When we become content with who we are, then prayer will seem irrelevant.

So when we bow our heads to pray then, we acknowledge several things. First we acknowledge our willingness to change. We also acknowledge a proper assessment of ourselves and our need for God.

But perhaps more importantly, when we bow to pray we acknowledge the Supremacy and Sovereignty of the Almighty God who grants us every breath and who holds our life utterly and completely in the palm of His hands. Prayer is a statement that says that God’s glory and His plans are far more important and necessary to know that anything else. And prayer is often the way we come to know those things.

When you pray, be bold. Be specific. Don’t be afraid or intimidated by silence, and let the Holy Spirit bring to mind the things that need to be lifted up. Pray according to the truths that are revealed in Scripture. Pray with your heart and with your mind. Be willing to put your opinions before God so that He might change them or perhaps refine them. Pray with expectancy and pray with faith.

If you pray this way, then it is more likely that you will learn to pray more in keeping with God’s will. As someone has said, no one out on a boat in the water throws a rope onto a dock and expects the dock to be pulled out to him. Instead, the goal is to pull the boat to the dock. And in the same way, when we pray to God, we shouldn’t expect that God would be pulled more towards our will, but rather that our will is pulled over toward God’s.

So pray with joy, knowing that God is good, and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.