Support the church with gospel advancing resources.

×

A generation ago, John Piper wrote Desiring God and introduced many of us to the first question and answer from the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

“What is the chief end of man?

“To glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

Piper’s primary thesis in that book—and his ministry—is that glorifying and enjoying God are not two distinct ends but one. More specifically, humanity is created to glorify God by enjoying him. This discovery came in part through C. S. Lewis’s Reflections on the Psalms, which observes that humans praise what we most enjoy. When it comes to our favorite ice cream, football team, or Netflix series, none of us fumbles for words of adulation.

The biblical command to honor and praise God, therefore, is not onerous. It’s an invitation to find our greatest happiness, pleasure, and fulfillment in God. When we are most satisfied in him, he is most glorified in us. To put it another way, God’s pursuit of his praise is not a zero-sum game. When God wins, we don’t lose. He gets glory as we get joy.

Joy of God Delighting in Us

This concept links to another idea from Lewis: that the Christian religion is not a selfless endeavor. Instead, God motivates us to self-denial through our desires. Lewis memorably takes up this idea in The Weight of Glory, noting how God inspires our sacrifices with the promise of gain.

When God wins, we don’t lose. He gets glory as we get joy.

Piper also picks up this theme in Desiring God, though he doesn’t develop it in exactly the same way. For Lewis, the surprising satisfaction he stumbles upon isn’t merely joy; it’s that what’s on offer is glory. Lewis calls this “fame with God,” approval, appreciation, and accolade (36). In other words, the surpassing happiness he envisions is the pleasure of having our heavenly Father delight in us, his children. It’s the joy of having God praise and give glory to us!

For Lewis, such glory means “good report with God, acceptance by God, response, acknowledgment, and welcome into the heart of things” (41). This is what humans were made for, not only directing praise to God but reflecting his splendor and receiving his satisfaction.

The promise of glory is the promise, almost incredible and only possible by the work of Christ, that some of us, that any of us who really chooses, shall actually survive that examination, shall find approval, shall please God. To please God . . . to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. (38–39)

Piper, like Lewis before him, believes glory is connected to delight. In Desiring God, it’s the delight of the creature that brings glory to the Creator. But in The Weight of Glory, Lewis spotlights a seemingly contradictory truth: it’s the delight of God that brings glory to humans!

Weight(s) of Glory

As Lewis makes his case for the weightiness of this glory, he briefly lists five primary sources of the Christian’s future hope as he understands them.

It is promised (1) that we shall be with Christ; (2) that we shall be like Him; (3) with an enormous wealth of imagery, that we shall have “glory”; (4) that we shall, in some sense, be fed or feasted or entertained; and (5) that we shall have some sort of official position in the universe—ruling cities, judging angels, being pillars of God’s temple. (34)

As he ponders these promises, Lewis asks an initial question: “Why any one of them except the first? Can anything be added to the conception of being with Christ?” After all, it’s odd to speak of any gift in addition to the gift of God himself. Yet as I consider Lewis’s surprise, I am struck by another astonishing reality. Each promise he outlines relates to and expands upon the specific hope of glory.

For example, since we are to be with God, that means incredible glory for us; honor belongs to those closely associated with the King (Job 36:7; 1 Sam. 2:8). Since we are to be like God when we see him (1 John 3:2), then we’ll share in his glory when we accurately show his image (Rom. 8:18–19; cf. 1 Cor. 11:7) and reflect God’s radiance and beauty (Ps. 34:5; Dan. 12:3). Since we are to have glory, that implies possessing honor.

But the specific privilege Lewis explores is that we’ll receive recognition and commendation from God (Rom. 2:7; 1 Cor. 4:5). Since we are to feast, that includes the specific honor of being guests welcomed by the King to his banquet (Isa. 25:6–7; Matt. 8:5–13; Luke 14:7–11). Since we are to rule, that conveys exalted status. Exercising authority in the kingdom and dominion over creation—even judging angels—shows the extent to which humanity’s glory is restored (Ps. 8:5; 1 Cor. 6:3).

To Christians in the first century, each facet of these promises would have sparkled with a unique brilliance. In the ancient world, if you weren’t born into prestige, you could possibly receive it through close association with one of high standing. But in the gospel, we’re given much more. We’re adopted into the King’s family, made co-heirs of Christ’s kingdom, invited to his royal table, and elevated as vice regents over his realm.

Shared Glory Is Heaven’s Joy

In The Weight of Glory, Lewis doesn’t fully tease this out. He’s struck by the mere marvel that we will have glory; that’s enough to capture his gaze. And in typical Lewis fashion, he illuminates how such glory is “highly relevant to our deep desire” (41).

To Christians in the first century, each facet of these promises would have sparkled with a unique brilliance.

As each of us knows from experience, approval and affirmation are sources of significant joy. The earthly approval of a boss that lightens our load; the affirmation of a teacher that brightens our day; the recognition of a proud father and the praise of a delighted spouse: these are all shafts of light directing our eye to the fullness of glory that awaits in heaven—when we receive honor from God.

Such a privilege should be tangible, relatable, and desirable. Often when Christians talk of glory—or hear it taught in the church—the concept sounds impersonal, unattainable, and irrelevant. To many, the joys of heaven are ethereal and the glory of God esoteric. As a result, the Bible’s many promises feel disconnected from our greatest desires. But listen to Lewis’s logic. Our innermost longing for affirmation points to a world where that desire can be fulfilled. Our hunger for praise from others is a hunger satiated by God himself.

As Christians, we look forward to a day when our proven faith will result in praise and glory and honor with God (Rom. 2:6–10; 2 Thess. 1:9–12). Until then, even though we face various trials, we can rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory (1 Pet. 1:7–8). Such joy and glory, I believe, are not two independent experiences but one intertwined end. It’s the great end to which we were created and for which we now wait, the overflow of God’s glory seen by and shared with his creatures, filling us with joy and ultimately returning to his praise.

Editors’ note: 

Read more from Elliot Clark in his book, Mission Affirmed: Recovering the Missionary Motivation of Paul (Crossway/TGC, 2022).

LOAD MORE
Loading