This past Sunday night, we concluded our class on Heroes of the Faith: Jonathan Edwards. I can say that, for me, it was not only a learning experience, but a spiritual one, as well. I reveled not just in history, but also in the life of one who modeled loving and knowing God and seeking after Him daily in all of life.
We concluded that the one thing we could take away from the life of Jonathan Edwards is that he saw all of life as living for the glory of God in Christ. If we are to imitate one such as Edwards, then our joy – our supreme joy – is to be found in the glory of God in Christ.
Ok. I agree. But, what does that really mean?
A few days ago, I was given a copy of a sermon. A well-known sermon. It had been delivered quite some time ago to those in attendance at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford – on June 8, 1942. The copy I received was placed on my tall stack of things to eventually read…and, I was sure I’d get to it some day.
The sermon is titled The Weight of Glory. It was written and given by C.S. Lewis in 1942, and, in 2013, it unwrapped for me exactly what living for the glory of God means.
Lewis begins the sermon by telling us that our desires for God are “not too strong, but too weak.” We are too easily entertained and our attention and desires too easily captured by things that pale in comparison to God. Lewis states,
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Imagine that. Everything that defines beauty, or pleasure, or that gives us joy is are “mud pies in a slum” compared to the joy of the glory of God. Certainly, the things that give us joy or pleasure can be evidences of greater things, and can hint at the glory of God, but these things so often become the end instead of the means. We are satisfied with “mud pies” when, instead, we could have a “holiday by the sea.” As a result, what is substituted for God becomes a god – an idol. Lewis states,
These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.
Our hearts and minds, or as Edwards puts it – our affections – should be totally given to and find joy in the glory of God. Lewis turns his attention to this in his sermon when he says,
Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity. As for the first, since to be famous means to be better known than other people, the desire for fame appears to me as a competitive passion and therefore of hell rather than heaven. As for the second, who wishes to become a kind of living electric light bulb?
The word glory does, indeed, mean fame. But, like Lewis says, the idea of fame, or popularity, does seem to run counter to God’s glory. What would fame have to do with God? Is it that God is known above all, or better than others? Because, surely, it cannot mean that the glory of God is found in our own fame.
But, it is.
Our joy, like a child, should result from the fame we have with our heavenly Father. Ultimate pleasure, complete satisfaction, and pure, unbridled joy results when God knows us. Lewis states,
When I began to look into this matter I was shocked to find such different Christians as Milton, Johnson and Thomas Aquinas taking heavenly glory quite frankly in the sense of fame or good report. But not fame conferred by our fellow creatures—fame with God, approval or (I might say) “appreciation’ by God. And then, when I had thought it over, I saw that this view was scriptural; nothing can eliminate from the parable the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Edwards (and John Piper) would agree that God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in him. Lewis, too. When we live for the glory of God, we live to hear the words “Well done…”. It is then that we are famous…and our joy is as it should be…in God alone!
[A special thanks to Jim Rose, who sent me a copy of Lewis’ sermon. You were used by God to open my eyes to what Jonathan Edwards meant by living for the glory of God in Christ.]