You can learn a lot about someone when you find out what things get them fired up. When you see their heart's desire, it is like seeing right into them.
When you talk to someone it doesn't take very long to see what they are passionate about. When we take a genuine interest in another person, we want to know what there life purpose is, their goal in life, the one thing they are striving for.
Should our relationship with God be any different? Have you ever asked, "What is the one thing that God is most passionate about?" What is the one thing that will always motivate Him it act?
Or in other words, "Why did God create the world? And why does He act in it today?
Why God created the world
Did God create the world becasue He was lonely and needed fellowship? Did God create the world because He was bored and there was nothing better to do? Did God create the world so all men and women could be in a loving relationship with Him? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding "NO!" God did not create the world because He was lonely or bored, He didn't do it because He needs us or wants all people to be a part of His family.
No, God is much more self seeking than that. He created the world for His glory. He created it to make His glory known. Or in other words, He created the world in order to display the infinite worth of His attributes. He wants to show how beautifully perfect He is.
Do you agree that God's purpose in all He does is to glorify Himself?
To begin looking into this, we need to go all the way back to Genesis 1:26-28.
Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created hm; male and female He created them. And God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.
God created man in His image. That means that God created mankind in such a way that they will reflect God's image (His glory). To reflect God's image is to reflect His greatness, His excellence, His beauty. He then commands Adam and Eve to "Be fruitful and multiply." He wants them to fill the earth with His image. So then, the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.
Isaiah 43:7 very bluntly states why Israel was created. It says, "Everyone who is called by my name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom, I have made."
We were created for God's glory. You were created for His glory. I was created for His glory.
What sin is
When we understand why God created, then we can understand what sin is. Romans 3:23 says, "For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God." Sin is failing to reflect the glory of God. It is the pursuit of satisfaction outside of Him, for we glorify the things we take satisfaction in. And we have not glorified God the way we should. Instead of seeking our satisfaction and joy in Christ we have sought it elsewhere, in things like money, friends, sex, etc.
God is worthy and God is love
A few problems might arise in our mind if God created all things for His glory. For instance, why is self exaltation sinful for us, but not for God?
First of all, we aren't worthy, but God is. Secondly, God's glory is of infinite worth. If He values anything of lesser worth above Himself, He is an idolator. For an idolator is one who places anything above that which is supremely valuable (God). If God belittles His glory by valuing something else above it, He would be unrighteous, thus He would no longer be God.
Another problem that may come up is if God does everything for His glory, how can He genuinely love us and act on our behalf?
But I must ask, what could God do for us to show Him most loving? Glorify Himself, make Himself known, for it is God who most satisfies us. If He doesn't exalt Himself we can't enjoy Him. Also, for God to be for us, He must first be for Himself. For what does it mean for God to glorify Himself? It means that He makes the perfection of His attributes known. One of which is love. Because He wants to glorify Himself, He is pleased to manifest His love for His people. He loves us for His sake, not ours, this is why we can be confident of His love. We know that He will never stop being committed to His glory.
What does the scripture have to say? Does God always act for his glory?
The Election of Israel
Have you ever wondered why God chose Israel to be His people? God tells us in 2 Samuel 7:23, "And what one nation on the earth is like Thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people and to make a name for Himself..."
God chose Israel to make a name for Himself. That through His dealings with this nation, His name might be known as His fame spread throughout the world.
If God chose Israel to make a name for Himself, why did He ever let them become slaves? How does that promote His glory?
God caused Israel to be slaves in Egypt precisely so He could make a name for himself by rescuing them. "Who [God] caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths? Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble as the cattle which go down into the valley, the Spirit of the Lord gave them rest. So Thou lead Thy people, to make for Thyself a glorious name" (Isaiah 63:12-14). God saved them "to make for Himself an everlasting name...to make for Thyself a glorious name."
How was God glorified in Pharaoh's disobedience? The result of Pharaoh's disobedience was the death of all the first-born of Egypt, how does that glorify God? Let's look in Exodus 4: 22-23, "Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the Lord, "Israel is My son, My first-born. So I said to you 'Let My son go, that he may serve Me'; but you have refused to let him go. Behold I will kill your son, your first-born.'"
Why did Pharaoh refuse to let God's people go? The answer is in verse 21, "And the Lord said to Moses, 'When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go.'"
Why would God harden Pharaoh's heart in such a way that Pharaoh would be unable to obey God? He did it to multiply His signs and wonders, "But I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt....But, indeed, for this cause I have allowed you [Pharaoh] to remain, in order to show you My power, and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth" (Exodus 7:3; 9:16). God caused Pharaoh to come to power and then He hardened his heart so that He might make His name great though all the earth. When Paul is talking about God's sovereign freedom in Romans 9 he quotes this last verse and then follows it with, "So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires" (Romans 9:18). Why? To make His name known!
God's faithfulness to Israel
There were many other times in the history of Israel when they were disobedient and God would punish them, often by using other nations to take Israel captive. Had God forsaken them? May it never by! Why not? Because of His love, not for them, but His love for His name!
Isaiah 48:9-11 speaks of God acting for His name's sake. It says, "For the sake of My name I delay my wrath, and for My praise I restrain it for you, in order not to cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another."
God delays His wrath, not for their sake, but for the sake of His name. He does it for His praise. He will not let His name be profaned, for His glory is of infinite value.
In Ezekial a similar situation is found. Israel had been disobedient and God had scattered them throughout the land. But God promises to bless them again and bring them back to Israel. "When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said of them, 'These are the people of the Lord; yet they have come out of His land.' But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went. Therefore, say to the house of Isreal, 'Htus says the Lord God, "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord," declares the Lord God, "when I prove Myself holy amony you in their sight."
It says in verse 20 that God's name was profaned. In what way? These were the Lord's people. The other nation's knew that. So as they watched Israel get dispersed throughout the land, they began question whether Jehovah could keep His people. They are Jehovah's people, yet they aren't even staying in His land with Him. Israel had belittled the name of God.
But God does not sit idly by. For He never lets His name be profaned for long. No, He vindicates His name and shows Himself holy. He doesn't do it for Israel's sake. Why? Because they didn't deserve it. But God will act for His name. He will vindicate His greatness by restoring Israel and making them clean (v. 25), giving them a new heart (v. 26), and putting His Spirit in them to cause them to be obedient (v. 27).
Notice verse 32 though, "I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Lord God, let it be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel!" God wants to make it abundantly clear that He is not acting for their sake, because they don't deserve it. I ask then, "Are we any more deserving today? Or ought we also be ashamed and confounded for our ways?
The prayers of the Old Testament saints
If these things were taught in the Old Testament, did it have any effects on the saints of old, particularly in their prayers? We can get a glimpse of this in Numbers 14:15-16, when Moses was praying on behalf of the Israelites. They had been disobedient and God was going to slaughter them in the wilderness. Moses comes before God and says, "Now if Thou dost slay this people as one man, then the nations who have heard of Thy fame will say, "Because the Lord could not bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath, therefore He slaughtered them in the wilderness.'"
Do you see how slaughtering the Israelites would give God a bad name? It would make the other nations thing that God was unfaithful and wasn't powerful enough to get them to the promised land.
Moses knew that the Israelites we're disobedient and deserved to be slaughtered. But he also knew God's great concern for His name. So He pleaded for mercy on the basis of God's love for His name. He wanted God to save Israel, not for their sake, but for His!
In Daniel 9:17-19, we see how this truth impacted the prayers of Daniel. "So now, our God, listen to the prayer of They servant and to his supplications, and for Thy sake, O Lord, let Thy face shine on They desolate sanctuary. O my God, incline Thine ear and hear! Open Thine eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Thy name; for we are not presenting our supplications before Thee on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Thy great compassion. O lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For Thine own sake, O my God do not delay, because Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name."
"O Lord, hear!" Why? For His name's sake!
"O Lord, forgive!" Why? For His name's sake!
"O Lord, listen and take action!" Why? For His name's sake!
Daniel's only hope was God's love for His name.
The Cross of Christ
What about the cross of Christ? Why did Jesus die? Was His ultimate purpose to save sinners? No, it was to glorify the Father.
John 17:4 says, "I glorified Thee on earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given Me to do."
The life of Christ brought great glory to God because He lived a perfect love of obedience through love to God.
And it is Christ's love for the Father that led Him to the cross. When Jesus contemplated His upcoming death, He was filled with great sorrow. John 12:27-28 says, "Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, 'Father, save Me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Thy name." There came therefore a voice out of heaven: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again."
In His time of sorrow, Jesus' one request was that God would glorify His name. And when He prepared Himself to go to the cross, it wasn't His love for people that helped Him overcome, it was His love for God manifested in the joy of knowing God is glorified. "...for the joy set before Him [He] endured the cross..." (He 12:2). Jesus knew that His death would bring great glory to God because through His death, the righteousness of God is fully manifested.
"...Christ Jesus,; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:25-26).
The tension between God's love for His glory and God's love for sinners who have profaned His glory are reconciled at the cross of Christ. God's justice and God's mercy come together. Before the cross someone could look at the wicked prospering and ask whether God is just. For how can a just God possibly let all of this sin go unpunished? In the cross we see God's justice beautifully displayed and at the same time, His love shines forth. Therefore, the righteousness of God is clearly demonstrated in the death of Christ.
God's acts of salvation are motivated by His love for His glory. In Isaiah 48 and Ezekial 36, have shown that God save His people, Israel, not for their sake, but for His. And Christ also died to save His people because of His love for the glory of God. What about the salvation of individuals? Why does God forgive us? For our sake of for His?
"Although our iniquities testify against us, O Lord, act for Thy name's sake!" (Je 14:7).
"Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Thy name, and deliver us, and forgive our sins, for Thy name's sake" (Psalm 79:9).
And David said in Psalm 25:11, "For Thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, for it is great."
Just as David was full of sin, we too, are full of sin. We cannot save ourselves and our sin deserves an eternity of conscious torment in hell. Our only hope is to throw ourselves at the foot of the cross, crying out for mercy. We must cry out with David, "For Thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, for it is great." It is not for our sake that God forgives, but for His name's sake!
"I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake" (1 Jn 2:12).
How does the truth "God's love for His fame is the foundation of His mercy to desperate sinners" affect missions?
Why does God send people to the uttermost parts of the world? "And I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan to the distant coast lands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations" (Is 66:19).
If God is motivated by His love for His name, shouldn't we? "...we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles, for His name's sake." The glory of God and the praise of His name should be our motive for missions. If we support missions for any other reason, we fall short of the mark. We must delight in the glory of God so that our greatest desire is to see God's glory proclaimed among all the peoples of the earth.
This purpose is clear in 3 John 5-8, "Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; and they bear witness to your love before the church; and you will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such men, that we may be fellow workers with the truth." This should be the condition by which the church decides to support missionaries.
Behind every act of God is His desire to make His name known. This is the foundation of our hope in missions and all that we do.
"All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord; and they shall glorify Thy name" (Ps 86:9).
"For from the rising of the sun, even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations; says the Lord of hosts" (Malachi 1:11).
"All the earth will worship Thee and will sing praises to Thee; they will sing praises to Thy name" (Ps 66:4).
"For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Habakkuk 2:14).
"Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is aboe every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).
"God is pursuing with omnipotent delight a world wide purpose of gathering a people for his name from every tribe and language and nation."
This truth should affect every area of our lives. We ought to pray with Moses and Daniel that God would glorify His name. We ought to labor with Paul among unbelievers for the sake of God's name. "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father" (Colossians 3:17).
"Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, c 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971,1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, by The Lockman Foundation.
1. John Piper, The Pleasures of God, (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Press, 1991), p. 102.
2. Piper, p. 117.