Phil’s sermon this week* reminded me of our series of talks on Evangelism at FIT Camp 2012 (FIT is our yearly camp for high-schoolers). We learned there that one of the key reasons we engage in evangelism is because God is glorified when he is made known. Whenever someone comes to recognise God as God, he is glorified. Whenever we listen to God’s word in the Bible and humbly obey it, we are demonstrating that we believe God is God and he is glorified.
Two passages where we see this are Romans 1:18-25 and Psalm 96.
In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul describes how our sinfulness blinds us to the truth about God that should be plain to us from looking at what he has made. Instead of recognising God as the creator, we look at the creation and worship it instead of God.
18The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles... 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served something created instead of the Creator... [Rom 1:18-25]
Notice how Paul explains what we are doing when we fail to recognise God as God?
Essentially, he says that we are robbing God of his glory. We take the recognition of God’s glory that is due to him as the creator and give it to someone (or something) else. Not only that, but we serve the created [v25]. We take our guiding wisdom from it and submit ourselves in obedience to it, so that it becomes our king in place of God.
Psalm 96 picks up on a similar theme as we are urged to recognise God as God through his creative and redemptive acts. For the Psalmist, declaring God’s praises before him and before those who don’t yet recognise God as God go hand in hand. When we recognise God as God and worship him, and help others to see him as God and worship him, God is glorified:
1Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. 2Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. 3Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. 4For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. 5For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. 6Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary 7Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. 8Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. 9Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth. 10Say among the nations, “The LORD reigns.” The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity. 11Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; 12let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; 13they will sing before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.
In both of these passages a second clear motive for evangelism emerges, and the idea of God’s glory is again at the centre: Failing to recognise God as God and failing to glorify him as he deserves results in judgment and wrath. So we evanglise to save others from the consequences of their failure to recognise God as God and glorify him.
Perhaps this week we should take up Psalm 96 as a challenge - a call to see God glorified as he is made known and his praises are declared through us. Join me in praying that the words of this psalm would be true of us as God’s people.
* Phil’s sermon was at Carlton and Bexley, other congregations will have to wait a couple of weeks.