Monday, June 28, 2010

Eating and Drinking to God's Glory

[This entry follows a sermon preached at Gray Road Baptist Church, titled "A Glimpse of Jesus' Glory." Click on the title to listen to the audio.]

In Mark 9, we read of Jesus' transfiguration before Peter, James, and John. In this moment of revelation, three disciples get to see the kingly splendor...the majesty...the glory of Jesus. This is unlike the glory that one might associate with an earthly king, for it is the glory that Jesus shared with the father since before the world existed (John 17:5). This was not an internal revelation, but it was was visible. Jesus' clothes were radiant and brighter than anyone on earth could bleach them. His countenance changed, and his face shone like the sun.

In the Old Testament, God's glory often took the physical form of light. Even the word 'cloud,' often associated with God's glory, does not infer that it was dark where God's glory rested. Consider the following passages about the glory of God:

Ezekiel 10:4 - "And the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub to the threshold of the house, and the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the Lord." (i.e.- the cloud was bright)
Exodus 14:19-20 - "Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night." (Notice that to the enemies of God, the cloud was dark, but also, 'it lit up the night')
Other passages - Exodus 40:34-38 (the glory of God in a could resting on the tabernacle and guiding the children of Israel); 1 Kings 8:10-11 (the glory of God in a cloud filling the temple); Ezekiel 1:27-28 (the glory of God is bright like a rainbow in the clouds)

So, the glory of God is often displayed visibly in the Scripture. Let me remind you of John Piper's helpful definition of glory: "God's glory is the beauty of his manifold perfections. It can refer to the bright and awesome radiance that sometimes breaks forth in visible manifestations. Or it can refer to the infinite moral excellence of his character. In either case it signifies a reality of infinite greatness and worth" (Desiring God, p. 43). This last sentence is helpful, as we think of God's glory as the "reality of [His] infinite greatness and worth."

If this is true, then how does one do things to the glory of God? We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:31 - "So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." How does one eat and drink in a way that honors and rejoices in the "infinite greatness and worth" of God? Answering that question will help set a pattern for "whatever [we] do." I think that Piper is helpful again in answering this question, so I want to summarize his thoughts in a chapter from Pierced by the Word called "How to Drink Orange Juice to the Glory of God."

1) Use eating and drinking as an occasion for sincere thanksgiving to God. 1 Timothy 4:4-5 reads, "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer." The Word of God makes the receiving of food and drink a holy event because it reminds us that all that we have has been received by God (1 Corinthians 4:7). In response to that truth, we offer prayer from the heart, expressing our thanks to the God who has provided what we receive.

2) Eat and drink lovingly. This can be done in the attitude with which we approach our eating and drinking. If we push our way to the front of a serving line or take the largest portion of food for ourselves, then we are being sinfully selfish in our approach to eating or drinking. Even if we are very hungry, we are letting our physical craving push aside the spiritual act of considering others as more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3). However, if our interest is to serve others and make sure they have what they need, then we display God's glorious transformation of a selfish heart into one that desires to serve others. Piper points out Paul's words 1 Corinthians 10:33-11:1, which read "...just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." Then, Piper writes, "Everything we do - even drinking orange juice - can be done with the intention and hope that it will be to the advantage of many that they may be saved" (p. 29-30).

I think I would add a third thing to this list. 3) Eat and drink as good stewards. By this, I mean that in addition to food and drink being gifts, the very life and bodies which are sustained by the food and drink are gifts. So, as we intake food and drink, we should be thoughtful stewards of the bodies God has given us. I write this for my own benefit as much as for anyone else, but it seems that care for the body is something many overlook, as if it's not a spiritual pursuit. Now, I am not suggesting that we should pursue the world's image of identical, seemingly-anorexic bodies. However, I do believe that we should be exerting self-control and discipline in our eating and drinking. We want to serve the Lord to the best of our abilities for as many days as He grants us, and while many factors related to health are out of our control, this one is not. Being good stewards in this regard is a way in which we might "glorify God in [our bodies]" (1 Corinthians 6:20).

May we all take stock of how we walk through our daily lives. The glory of God is not something that is only to be considered when planning a Bible study, approaching an unsaved family member, or praying for missionaries. It is something for which all believers must be concerned on a daily basis. Are we concerned to eat and drink and do everything to the glory of God? If not, we must repent and ask the Lord for the strength to obey this lofty command. If we will make this our pursuit, then God's initinie greatness and worth will be visible in our lives, and we will "shine as lights in the world" (Phil. 2:15b).