All of the Sunday school classes in our church are going through The Gospel Project. Last week we reflected on the statement, “In all God does, His first aim is to glorify himself”. I asked the students whether they agreed with that or not.
Some of them dutifully nodded their heads. A few expressed consternation. Something didn’t seem quite right about that statement. So in an attempt to get everyone a little uncomfortable with this truth I shared with them a bogus reason for preaching the gospel. (Part of the illustration I tweaked from this Piper sermon)
I told them that my hopes in preaching that morning was that whenever I was finished everybody would give me a standing ovation and bask in my awesomeness. I told them that every point that I made I expect worship for my artistry. Whenever I make a point that is helpful to them it is my hope that they will continue to realize that I am a storehouse of helpfulness and that they will continue to come back to me for all their information. My goal that morning in preaching is simply for their praise.
They were, rightly, appalled.
Then I shared with them a little from Ephesians 1. I had them note that according to this text the fundamental reason why God does what He does in our redemption is “to the praise of his glorious grace”. That means that God saves us and does us good ultimately so that we might give him a standing ovation when he is finished.
Is that appalling?
It seems that way at first doesn’t it? Because when humans do things like that it seems off putting. But it’s off-putting simply because we are not the most wonderful and precious being in the universe. God is. And to make anything else our hearts treasure and joy is fundamentally ripping ourselves off. So, God is deeply loving to be God-centered and to transform our hearts in such a way that we are too.
The Loveliness of the God-centeredness of God Illustrated
I feared they were a little confused still, so I tried sharing an illustration.
Imagine that you and your family were going on a trip. You pick the destination. Pick something beautiful. Something that would be breathtaking. You can go to see the Grand Canyon. Or a beautiful national park. Or travelling in space. Or seeing Niagra Falls. Or the Rocky Mountains. Or travelling overseas to see all of the awesome history, architecture, and things that you cannot see here in America. Now imagine—which ever of these amazing places that you want to vacation--that your parents have one stipulation…
The entire time you have to stare at a mirror. Everyone else in the family enjoys the beautiful sunset. The glaciers. The caves. The mountain peaks. But for the entire trip, except for driving through Kansas, you have to look at this mirror.
You know that is a rip off because even though you are “the crown of creation” and uniquely made in the image of God it’s not your physical being that’s so awesome. It’s that you are part of something bigger. You weren’t made to spend your life looking in a mirror. You were made to worship. You were made to see these great and grand things, to marvel, and to see the beauty of the Creator. It’s loving to let you enjoy the Grand Canyon and to be swept up by it’s magnificence.
How much more, then, the Lord of glory who created the Grand Canyon?