Christian Living

Glorifying God: A Piperian Perspective

“God pictures himself as a mountain spring of clean, cool, life-giving water.  The way to glorify a fountain like this is to enjoy the water, and praise the water, and keep coming back to the water, and point other people to the water, and get strength for love from the water, and never, never, never prefer any other drink in the world over this water.  That makes the spring look valuable.  That is how we glorify God, the fountain of living water” (John Piper, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy [Wheaton: Crossway, 2004], 33-34).

Often, the question arises: how do I (practically) glorify God? In the above quotation, Piper lays out six facets of this:

1) Enjoy the water. You either enjoy something or you don’t, to varying degrees of course. You can’t fake it (well you can, but who are you really fooling?). But to glorify God means to actually enjoy God. Imagine spending time with someone and not enjoying the time and wishing you could be elsewhere doing something else. What does that say about your opinion of the other person? Or consider the opposite: spending time with someone and absolutely loving the time and wanting more of it (“when can we hang out again???”). What does that say about how you feel about the other person?

2) Praise the water. This is simply a verbal realization of #1 above. “Wow, this is good water!” We are by nature people of expression. We express our emotions and thoughts and feelings (to varying degrees obviously). To glorify God means we express our enjoyment of him (verbal and otherwise) and express our realization of how great he is.

3) Keep coming back to the water. I had lunch with a friend at a burger joint called “The Works” in downtown Oakville not too long ago, and he ordered a burger with peanut butter, bacon, and other really healthy stuff. After he finished it, he said, “I don’t think I will ever eat a burger without peanut butter on it!” It was that good, he claimed! (I haven’t tried it myself yet, so I can’t agree from personal experience, though I agree: peanut butter is awesome). Once you realize how great God is, you keep coming back to him over and over again, and you won’t want anything else ever again.

4) Point other people to the water. This is what Christians typically call evangelism, but it’s more than just handing out a few tracts or trying to convince someone of the truths of Scripture. This is an outward manifestation of the subjective experience of enjoying God. When’s the last time you experienced something great, and then went out to tell all your friends they had to try it? When’s the last time you saw a great movie, and then tweeted/facebooked everyone to let them know they should try it? It’s not obligatory when you feel strongly for it, right! Of course, these examples are non-moral and have very little implications for life, but I think there is a worthwhile parallel to consider.

5) Get strength for love from the water. Realizing God is the source of strength for you glorifies him. To be self-sufficient is not. “God, I need you.” Simple as that. And it’s not just a verbal exercise but actually thinking it to be true! Self-sufficiency is the root of all pride; humility on the other hand is being dependent on God.

6) Never… prefer any other drink in the world over this water. This is the essence of idolatry: preferring something above God. Why do we commit idolatry? Because we think something else is actually better than God. If I had Fountain A and Fountain B as two options, and you constantly saw me going to Fountain B and only reluctantly going to Fountain A at times out of obligation, you would be convinced that I loved Fountain B more and that I considered Fountain B to be the more superior fountain. It’s not about obligation; it’s about what you love the most. If it’s God, you’re going to choose God all the time.

We tend to equate glorifying God to outward things, like lifting hands, saying “I give glory to God” when we give acceptance speeches at awards ceremonies, saying a little prayer before engaging in an activity, or whatever else. These things can lead to glorifying God. But glorifying God seems to be more of an inward state (cf. 1 Cor 10:31). In other words, giving glory to God entails having a joy and enjoyment of God that naturally results in outward expression. We often try to apply behavior modification as Christians: don’t ___, do _____, etc. But the above six items isn’t a “to-do list”; it’s more of a litmus test to see how much you glorify God in your life. How do you fare in this?

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