17 Souls

By now we have heard the news of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.  It is commonly reported that 17 people died, adults and students, but it is also necessary to remember that those who died were image-bearers of the eternal God, each having a soul.  It was not just 17 people who died, but 17 souls went to see their Maker.  As Solomon wrote, “For man does not know his time.  Like fish that are taken in an evil net, and like birds that are caught in a snare, so the children of man are snared at an evil time,w hen it suddenly falls upon them,” (Ecclesiastes 9:12, ESV).  Ready or not, these souls left this life and entered into the next.  No matter their age, race, language, sex, religion, etc. they departed this world and arrived at a new one.  For some, this may have been an exponential upgrade as they met God as Father.  For others, life literally became hell.

But these are souls.  Seventeen souls.  Within minutes, seventeen souls were here and then gone.  One student with one AR-15 made sure of that.  I mention the weapon simply because it was originally made for and marketed to the military. It is, for all intents and purposes, a military grade semi-automatic rifle.  It is the civilian and law-enforcement (police, FBI, Secret Service, etc.) version of the military’s M-16.  It was created to kill people–that is, souls.

I am a fan of the Second Amendment.  I own a number of guns.  Often I’m carrying one on me.  I know that we are “guaranteed the right to bear arms,” and I utilize that right.  But as a Christian I wonder, “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be dominated by anything,” (1 Corinthians 6:12, ESV).  Even more to the point, “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor,” (1 Corinthians 10:23, ESV).  Having an AR-15 may be a legal right, but is it helpful?  Having the Second Amendment grant us the right is wonderful, but are we being dominated by this right?

As a Christian, I can easily say that just because abortion is legal, it doesn’t make it right.  Any conservative Christian that I know wants Planned Parenthood to go under, along with any other abortion facility.  They kill our children.  Yet, those same Christians (some, not all) are so married to the Second Amendment, that they make the same arguments (with little word variation) that the extreme pro-abortionist makes.  “It’s my body.  It’s my choice.  It’s my right.”  “It’s my gun.  It my choice.  It’s my right.”  Just because it is a right doesn’t make it right.

Many pro-gun advocates are much like the pro-abortion advocates: Guns on demand and no limiting my rights. (For those who still espouse the constitutional right, I again say: just because it is a right, doesn’t make it right…even if it is in the Constitution.).  Every right that we possess also comes with responsibility, but it also is uninhibited.  Free speech is limited.  We all know the old example that one cannot yell “fire” in a crowded building.  Why?  Because souls are at stake.  Panic and trampling, death and carnage.  Freedom of the press is limited.  A journalist cannot write libel.  TV reporters can commit slander. Remember, the reason that reporters and journalists use the word “alleged” now is because libel/slander could be cited in civil/criminal courts if the person was found not guilty (along with the idea of an unprejudiced jury).  Why?  Souls.  The reputation of a man, woman, or child is at stake.  Their very being (soul) is at stake.  Freedom of religion is limited (more and more it seems like these days).  Utah was not allowed to be part of the Union until it outlawed polygamy, accepted by the Mormon Church.  Zoning laws (commercial versus residential) will keep church buildings at bay or welcome them in.

I know there are gun laws.  I’m not disputing that.  Yes, the government needs to do a better job at enforcing what we already have on the books.  But I go back to the very thought that while it is lawful, it is not helpful, nor does it build up.  If the believer should be about loving his neighbor, and Jesus taught that the neighbor is anyone and everyone, then ought we not put neighbor ahead of guns?  Ought we not give up our right to love our neighbor?  That seems to be the case that Paul was making in 1 Corinthians.

Seventeen souls yesterday, hundreds more in recent years.  I know the problem is overwhelming, and that when people get overwhelmed they often shut down.  Yet this is not the time to shut down and pretend that nothing is happening.  I don’t have the solution.  I am only seeking to point out to many who refuse to see there’s a problem that there is indeed a problem.  It is not as simple as saying that the laws on the books need to be enforced (which they do).  It is not as simple as saying that “crazy people” shouldn’t have guns.  It is not as easy as saying it’s a sin problem or a heart problem (which it is).  But it is not just “their” sin and heart problem.  It is ours as well.  I see more love for guns than I do for souls.  Maybe I’m wrong, but I am calling it like I see it.

I wonder if Jesus would not say (if he were in America today), “Love your neighbors as you love your guns.”

These people are not just people.  They are souls, image-bearers of God.

Soli Deo Gloria


The Protestant Reformation can be summarized with five Latin phrases known as the Five Solas: Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura, Soli Deo Gloria (By grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone according to Scripture alone to the glory of God alone). Over the past few months we have studied Sola Scriptura and Solus Christus, and today we are starting Soli Deo Gloria: To the glory of God alone.The most famous of all questions within Protestantism comes from the Westminster Shorter Catechism: What is the chief end of man? In other words, why is mankind on earth? What is our purpose? That’s not just a protestant question, but a universal question that nearly every thinking person wants to know: why am I hear? Why do I exist? What’s the point of my life? The answer: To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Or as John Piper would say: To glorify God byenjoying Him forever. Piper’s most famous saying and the motto of his life is “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”

As we begin this study of glorifying God, I want us to get a grasp of the enormity of what we have been called to. We are going to look at a few texts of Scripture, with Romans 11.36 being our main text. I want us to then see these texts for their truth as doctrine, as theology and see that clearly living with the purpose to glorify God is orthodoxy (right doctrine), but then my hope is to give some orthopraxy (right living) as well. All theology should be practical. To do that, I am wanting to show you the texts around these initial texts because usually in these texts that declare God’s glory, the question of how is generally answered. But before these, I want to explain what it means to glorify God. So, we will start with the explanation of glorify, move on to the expectation to glorify, and finish with the expressions that glorify.

The Explanation of Glorify

When we think about glorifying God, it is easy to think that God is missing something. He is missing glory or He is in need of more glory that we can bestow upon Him. But that is not what we mean or what the Bible means when we talk about glorifying God. God is not deficient in anything. God didn’t create us because He was lonely and needed a relationship. He wasn’t lonely. He had perfect communion with the Son and Spirit. He had the greatest of all relationships with them. God didn’t create us because He needed or desired more glory than He already had. This is what Paul meant when speaking to those at Mars Hill: 

The God who made the world and everything in it—He is Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in shrines made by hands. Neither is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives everyone life and breath and all things, (Acts. 17.24-25, HCSB).

God is all powerful and so He needs nothing. He doesn’t need us to give Him advice: “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has been His counselor,” (Romans 11.34, HCSB)? God isn’t one to be in need and be in our debt. This is often how health and wealth, prosperity preachers present God (though they would probably never say it this way). If you give just such and such amount, God will heal you or God will give you wealth untold. Or sow a seed of only so much money and watch as God has to give you so much abundance in return. “Or who has ever first given to Him, and has to be repaid,” (Romans 11.35, HCSB)?  

So to glorify God doesn’t mean to provide something that He doesn’t have or to provide something that has depleted or to provide Him with that which will need to be repaid as if He is the one indebted to us! This was the opening of Paul’s remarks in Romans 11.36: “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen,” (HCSB). Everything comes from Him. This entire created order with all the planets and stars and moons and asteroids and comets and plants and animals and bodies of water and people all come from Him! He created it all. In fact, beyond that, James wrote, “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning,” (1.17, HCSB). All that is good and right that happens to us is directly affect by God. All things are from Him!

All things are through Him. In other words, He is not only the cause of all things, but He is the instrument in how all things word made and sustained. “In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him heir of all things and made the universe through Him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word,” (Hebrews 1.2-3, HCSB). John also wrote something similar: “All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created,” (John 1.3, HCSB). God has the power to create everything we can see and even the things we cannot see. He also has the power to sustain it all.  

Does it really seem like God is missing anything? Where is there even a possibility that He is deficient in glory? There isn’t one. Here is the issue: All things are to Him. In other words, everything that has been made has been made to the glory of God or another way of saying it is as the NIV would say “for him,” for His glory. What does it mean then to glorify God?

The Hebrew word used in the Old Testament for glory meant weight or heavy. God is weighty; He’s heavy. The idea is God is important: supremely important. The New Testament word that is often used for glory means brilliant or shining as though beautiful and attractive. So, then the idea of glorifying God is to see Him as supremely important and brilliantly attractive. He already is supremely important. Without Him we all cease to exist, not just because He wouldn’t have created us, but because He also sustains us. He already is brilliantly attractive to the point that words are unable to describe Him. Ezekiel, Isaiah, Daniel, and John all tried to describe the brilliance of God as best they could, but had to settle for similes and metaphors. He is like this; He is like that. Yet no word would do justice to His beauty and brilliance. Thus, to glorify God is to see and acknowledge and live as though He is supremely important and brilliantly beautiful. Even now, some of us might be thinking: I’ve never really thought of God in those terms.

The Expectation to Glorify

Having looked now at what it means to glorify Him: supremely important and brilliantly beautiful, we need to move on to the magnanimity of what it is we have been called to. Every moment of our lives are to be spent showing that God is supremely important and brilliantly beautiful. That was why we were created. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” We were created for the purpose of bringing Him glory and that glory is to be given forever. At the end of what we call this doxology comes the word Amen. Amen means “so let it be” or “so it is.” To Him be the glory forever, and so it is. Glory is forever His. Forever and always and therefore in everything at all moments.

Which is why we find that Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory,” (1 Corinthians 10.31, HCSB). Even in moments as small as eating and drinking, we are to reflect that God is supremely important and that He is brilliantly beautiful. We’ll talk about how we can do that in a few minutes.

The idea of glorifying God in everything at all times is daunting. It sounds impossible. And in fact, it is impossible. Yet it is what we were created to do. But none of us do this. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3.23, HCSB). It isn’t that we haven’t been able to attain God’s glory for ourselves, but that we haven’t been able to show that God is supremely important and brilliantly beautiful. Other things get in our way. We begin to desire less important things. We want uglier things. And we put those things on pedestals over and against God. It is not bad to want less important things. It isn’t wrong to want uglier things. It is when we treat those less important and uglier things as if they were supremely important and brilliantly beautiful. It’s when those things take God’s place.  

We have all done this. That doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t even take away the guilt that comes along with it. This is where we go back to C. S. Lewis’ quote: 

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. 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. (The Weight of Glory, p. 26).

This was what Paul meant in Romans 1:

For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles, (vv. 21-23, HCSB).

God requires of us and created us to display the fact that He is supremely important and brilliantly beautiful and yet we don’t, and instead have become darkened in our minds, and rather than seeing God as our top priority in life, we see other creatures, whether human or non-human, animate or inanimate. We see these things as having greater beauty and draw than God Himself. We exchange God’s supreme glory for lesser-glory.

There are those who will live their lives falling deeper and deeper into this darkened state, but there are others who will turn from this depraved thinking and be saved: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 3.23-24, HCSB). Christ died to buy us out of darkness and futile thinking that we may once again live as we were meant: to the glory of God. As Piper wrote,

By requiring of His Son such humiliation and suffering for the sake of God’s glory, He openly demonstrated that he does not sweep sin under the rug. All contempt for His glory is duly punished either on the cross where the wrath of God is propitiated [satisfied] for those who believe, or in hell, where the wrath of God is poured out on those who don’t.[1]

So we who believe have been redeemed so that we can now glorify God as we were created to do, not perfectly, but purposefully. We cannot do this ourselves; it is only through Christ alone that this happens.

The Expressions that Glorify

But then the question always is asked, “How do we glorify God? What am I supposed to do now?” I want to provide you with two principles that you can utilize as you live your life seeking to glorify God: to make God supremely important and brilliantly beautiful.

Give yourself completely over to God. Because of arbitrary chapter divisions in our Bibles we often shut off our brains when we finish a chapter as if the next chapter has nothing to do with what we just read. But often times they do!

 Romans 11 ends with “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” But chapter 12 starts with a therefore. And as they hammered in Bible College, “when you see a therefore, find out what the therefore is there for.” “Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12.1, HCSB). Since God has created you to bring Him glory, give yourselves fully over to God. Sacrifice yourself.  

Does that not make sense? If we were created for God’s glory, then ought we not forego our plans and give ourselves to Him to do as He wills with us? Growing up, my dad would always instruct me to use the right tool for the job. I’m sure it was aggravating to him when I used a rubber mallet to hammer a nail or when I used channel locks to hammer a nail or used needle nose pliers to. . .well, hammer a nail. I would get frustrated using the wrong tool for the job, but be too lazy to find and use the correct one. He would be frustrated because I’m using his tools for something they were never meant to be used for, and end up breaking them or damaging them.

If we were made for God’s glory, and we seek to live outside what we were made for, we end up frustrated with ourselves and we end up frustrating God because we will inevitably break ourselves. And sometimes we become so broken that we cannot be fully fixed this side of heaven. We are using our bodies, the tool God has given to us to bring Him glory wrongly if we do not live for His glory. We use His tool for something it wasn’t meant to be used for.

That’s one of the reasons we were redeemed: to use God’s tool God’s way. That’s why Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God,” (Romans 12.2, HCSB). I was trying to conform my dad’s mallet, channel locks, needle-nose pliers, and a bunch of other tools into a hammer. It took many years of me being told, “use the right tool for the job” before my mind wrapped itself around the idea that different tools do different jobs differently. My mind had to be renewed. It had gotten into the idea that I can hammer anything with anything and it will all work out in the end. My mind had to be transformed and when that happened hammering a nail became a lot easier, and when there was something beyond hammering that needed to be done, I didn’t have a broken tool with which to fix it.

There are many Christians seeking to live for themselves and for their desires rather than offering themselves to God as a living sacrifice. Every morning, and throughout the day, we ought to be saying, “Don’t you know that your body is the sanctuary of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body,” (1 Corinthians 6.19-20, HCSB). I’m Yours, Lord. Mold me and make me after Your will. The first thing is to give yourself completely over to God.

Having given yourself to God, give yourself to others. If you are serious about glorifying God, then you must do it by giving yourself to others. You are God’s tool. Tools don’t work for themselves. They work on behalf of those in need. Hence we see right after Paul wrote that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that we can know God’s will, he immediately starts telling the Roman church to live for each other. “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one, (Romans 12.3, HCSB). So he explains that we are members of a body working together and for each other.

If we go back to 1 Corinthians 10.31 we see something similar: “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for God’s glory,” (HCSB). But look at the context. The context is about eating meat from the market. If you don’t know anything has been sacrificed, eat without asking questions. Be thankful to have food. However, if there is a brother in Christ with you and he tells you it has been sacrificed to idols, don’t eat it. Why? Not for any other reason than it could cause our brother to stumble. Your action, or in this case inaction, is not for self, but for your brother in Christ. We don’t glorify God by dismissing the feelings of our brothers or sisters. We don’t glorify God by saying, “I am free in Christ to do such and such, and I don’t care what you think or how you feel about it.” Hence, if we eat we take care that eat to God’s glory by being sure that we are not doing so in defiance or without the consideration of those around us. The same when we drink. If our brother is a “teetotaler” and we are not, and we go out to dinner only to find out that he would be highly offended by our ordering a glass of wine, then we are to refrain from the wine or order good ol’ fashion Welch’s Grape Juice. The same when we do anything. That’s the second principle: give yourself to others.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest command, He responded: 

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands,” (Matt 22.38-40, HCSB).

What does it meant to glorify God? It means to give yourself fully to Him and to others. Another way to say it is to love Him and love others.


Since it is Mother’s Day, I want to end by giving moms some practical ways to be moms that glorify God. I am going to take these two principles: giving self to God and giving self to others and apply them to motherhood.

Love God more than you love your children (or husband) and so first give yourself to Him. Let me give you two ideas on how to do this:

Give your bodies to God every morning before getting out of bed (for mothers of young children whose feet have hit the floor before actually waking up, do it the night before). Let your prayer be something like: God my mind is yours. Let me think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable. My eyes are yours. Let me see your workmanship in my children and in my husband and in my own life. Let me see You as supremely important and brilliantly beautiful. My ears are yours. Let me hear your voice in the midst of my chaotic day. My tongue is yours. Let me give life with the power of my tongue, and may I not bring death. My hands are yours. Work through them to touch with grace and discipline in love. My feet are yours. May I always be ready to share your Word, your gospel, your peace. May I always be ready to go, wherever you may send me.

Renew your mind. Be careful what you put into your mind. Garbage in, garbage out. Fill your mind first with God’s Word. Meditate on it and pray it. Again, for moms with young kids, you may not have a lot of time to read a lot of God’s Word. Let quality be your goal, not quantity. If you only get one or two verses read in the morning, let those verses sink in. Think about them and pray them. Read your verses, having prayed for God to show you the wonderful things from His Word. When a verse hits you, take a picture of it. Set a reminder in your phone for three or four times throughout your day to look at the picture of those verses and think about them. Pray over them quickly if need be. Quality, not quantity.

Other things you can do, if you have the time: read Christian books. For every secular book you may read, read 2 good books by good biblical authors. They don’t have to be parenting books or books on being a good wife. If that’s what you want to read, great, but they don’t have to be. Just grab a book and read. If you don’t have time to read, put on an audio book and listen while your work.

Listen to Christian radio or podcasts. I love talk radio. I listen to podcasts constantly. I listen to Bott radio if I’m not listening to my podcasts. It is good to get Christian music into your mind, but don’t forget to get good sermons in your head.

Give yourself to your family. Only after you have given yourself to God through giving of your body and putting some quality verses in your head, can you be prepared to give yourself to the never-ending needs of your family. But let me show you ways in which you can give yourself to your family so that God is glorified in you as a mom.[2]

Love your husband first. God created woman from the man because it was not good for man to be alone. He created her to be a help fit for the man. Thus He created woman first to be what man is not and cannot be. Jerry Maguirewas not lying when he said, “You complete me.” That is what a wife ought to do: complete her husband.

Model godliness. That means living intentionally. Let your children (and husband) see you reading God’s Word. Let them see you praying. Pray with them. Let them see you wrestle over decisions and ask them to pray for you and with you over them.

Teach them. Not every parent was made to homeschool. But every parent was made to teach. It can be done passively by children watching more of what you do than what you say, or it can be done actively (thus giving to your children) with words and actions that reinforce those words. “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up,” (Deuteronomy 6.6-7, HCSB).

Discipline your children. God disciplines us as His children because He loves us. Discipline is different than punishment. Discipline comes from the same word as disciple, one who learns. When you discipline you are seeking to teach your child hard truths. You are not seeking simply to punish them in anger, but to teach them even if it means pain that they were wrong and that there is a right way that they must choose next time.

Encourage your family. Moms, you know your children better than anyone, second only to God. Encourage your children and also encourage your husband. Encourage them to do what is godly for sure. But also encourage them in a way that builds them up in life. Pick words carefully so that you can encourage and not discourage. “A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand,” (Proverbs 27.15-16, HSCB). Remember that life and death are in the power of the tongue. I’m not telling you to lie or stretch the truth, only to find ways that you can encourage rather than exacerbate.

Let your family go. Remember that they are God’s. You are only a steward. You have given yourself to God, you’ve given yourself to them, now let them go. Give them to God daily. Remind yourself that they are God’s. You cannot change their heart, but you can speak to it. You cannot determine their future, but you can prepare them for it. In the end, it is God who changes the heart and determines their steps. Trust God and let them go.