“Setting Priorities in 2014!”
01/05/14 PM Sharon OPC
Dr. Jeffrey K. Boer
[WLC #1a] [New Year’s Sunday]
On this first Sunday of the New Year, let’s focus our attention on what our
priorities are going to be for his year. In order to do that, let’s look first at the Westminster Larger Catechism. This creed is basically a summary of all the major truths of the Bible. And the very first truth comes to us in Question and Answer #1 of the WLC:
Q. 1. What is the chief and highest end of man?
[In other words, “What is mankind’s highest purpose?” “What’s man’s highest priority?”]
A. Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him for
Question #1 of the Larger Catechism is more or less a broad summary of all
that the catechism teaches and of all that the Scriptures teach. It answers the question, “What is the highest purpose of man in life and the reason why he was created?” And the answer is, “Mankind exists for God and because of God. Specifically, man exists for God’s glory.”
This truth is clearly stated in our text for today, in I Corinthians 10:31,
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”
So our highest priority in life should be to bring glory to God.
But that leads us to ask another question, “What do we mean by God’s
First of all, we need to get one thing straight: To glorify God is not to
somehow make God more glorious! God doesn’t need man to make
Himself glorious. God always was, always is, and always will be all glorious, period! God’s glory is like the burning light of the sun, except for one thing:
God’s glory is infinitely brighter than the sun! So God doesn’t need man to be made glorious. God didn’t create man in order that man might add to His glory. God is already all glorious in Himself. He’s all wonderful. He’s all
beautiful. He’s flawless in every possible way. God is holy in all things. He’s totally unique and set apart from all creation. He’s absolutely, totally perfect in glory!
Acts 7:2 even calls Him, “the God of glory.” That means that God is the very definition of glory. God is the highest standard of glory. God is the
source of all glory.
But that raises yet another question: “Then how is it that man can glorify
God? If we can’t add anything to God’s glory, then why are we told that man’s highest aim is to glorify God? How can we give glory to God when He already possesses all glory?”
Well, when the Bible tells us to give glory to God, it’s not telling us to add to God’s glory. Rather, it’s telling us to recognize and to appreciate he glory that God already has. To give glory to God means to give God His due weight in all things in our lives.
The Hebrew word for “glorious” in the OT is the word, “kavod,” meaning,
“heavy.” So something that’s glorious or has glory, is something that’s weighty – it carries a lot of weight. The Creator God Who made this universe is not an insignificant lightweight. He’s not to be taken lightly. He’s to be
given the utmost weight of onsideration in everything that we say and do.
King David put it this way as he sang and danced before the ark of the Lord
in I Chronicles 16:28-29. “Ascribe to the LORD, O families of nations,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength, ascribe to the LORD the glory
due his name.”
The phrase, “ascribe to,” simply means to “give recognition to” God’s glory or to “acknowledge” God’s glory. So again, we don’t add to His glory; we recognize His glory. We acknowledge His glory. We proclaim is glory.
So to glorify God is to give Him His due. Give Him His due in worship. Give Him His due in love. Give Him His due in appreciation and praise and thanks.
And give Him His due in obedience. In all of these ways, then, we give glory
We’ll get into some of the specifics as to how we do that in a few minutes, but first let’s ask another question: “Why must we glorify God?”
Let me mention just two reasons at this point: First of all, we must glorify God because God created us. Psalm 100:3 says, “Know that the LORD
is God. It is he who made us, and we are his.” And Romans 11:36 says, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen!”
The first reason, then, that we should glorify God is because He created us and all things for his own glory. The whole creation brings glory to God. So
shouldn’t man, that crown of God’s creation, bring glory to his Maker most
Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”
Isaiah 43:20 says, “The wild animals honor me.”
How much more should man, the image of God and the capstone of God’s creation, bring honor and glory to His Creator?
And yet, Isaiah 1:3 says of OT Israel, “The ox knows his master, the donkey his owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do
We, as members of God’s covenant of grace, as God’s chosen and adopted
children, recreated in His image – we, of all people, have the most reason
to glorify God!
That brings us to a second reason why we must glorify God. We must glorify God because God saved us. God has had mercy on us and has redeemed us from His wrath and judgment through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. We owe Him our eternal salvation!
Isaiah 43:21 calls God’s people, “my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.”
I Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful
We’re God’s special people. We were created and redeemed for the very purpose that we might bring Him praise!
So we’re supposed to glorify God, first of all, because it’s the duty of all God’s creatures to bring Him praise and glory. But second, we’re to glorify God because of all that God has done for us and all that God has given us as His
special, redeemed people. To put it very simply, we’re to glorify God because He deserves it. He’s worthy of all the praise we can offer to Him, and more. Our very purpose for existence, the purpose for which we were
created, is to glorify God!
Now, I know that most of you probably agree with that. But now let me ask
you a couple hard questions:
Do you think about that at all during the day as you go through your daily routines, and as you do your labors?
Do you give any serious thought whatsoever to the fact that the purpose of your very existence is to bring glory to God?
If you don’t give such an idea any thought at all in your day-to-day life, then I would venture a guess that you may not be a true believer in Jesus Christ
But assuming that you do desire to glorify God in your life, then the question remains, “How, and in what ways, specifically, must we glorify God?”
Well, the answer to that is, “Many, many ways.”
Let’s look as some examples:
First, and foremost, we’re to glorify God in our worship, adoration, and praise.
Psalm 29:2 says, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.”
I’ve said this many times before, but I’m going to say it again: There’s nothing more important in your entire life than worshipping God.
There’s nothing more important to God than the time that you spend
right here in God’s special presence, on the Lord’s Day, worshipping
Him. The primary, number one way we glorify God is when we gather
together here and sincerely worship and adore Him for Who He is and
for what He has done.
And please remember that every part of our worship service is to bring glory to God, not just the sermon. To give proper worship and honor and glory to God is to give Him His proper weight in all of worship. Weight is all about
Let’s talk for a minute about the priority of worship attendance. When we’re absent from the worship of the Lord, whether morning or evening, for less than very weighty reasons, we’re saying that the worship of God is less
important, less weighty, than whatever else we’re doing at the time. We’re saying that something else takes a higher priority for us.
OK, perhaps we’re sick and we don’t want to contaminate others and we need to stay in bed so that we’ll recover quickly. That’s certainly a legitimate reason to stay home and to miss a worship service. I know that some people
have jobs that prohibit them, at times, from attendance at worship. They may not have a choice. I know that some people live at relatively great distances from the church, and I also know that there’s not a whole lot of time between AM Worship and PM Worship to go home, change, cook dinner, eat it, maybe take a nap, and then get everybody all packed up to return to church in the
But there are also times when people miss worship services simply because they don’t make God’s worship the number one priority in their lives.
Some years ago, we had missionary Tony Curto speak to us about worship in Uganda. He described how many of the people there would walk for miles and miles, just for the privilege of being able to worship in a Christian church on the Lord’s Day. How easy it is for us Christians in the U.S. to take for granted that the Lord has provided us with a nice, comfortable, air conditioned church where we can hear the Gospel preached within relatively easy access by car.
But then, perhaps the worship of God is of higher priority for the Ugandan Christians than it is for us? Could that be possible?
When we’re almost always late in arriving at this time of our meeting with God, we’re also revealing to God something of the importance we place on His worship. When you book an airline flight, do you regularly show up late at the gate, a few minutes after departure? If you had to be at the dock at 8:00 a.m. in order that you wouldn’t miss your cruise ship to the Bahamas, do you think you’d be late for that? How high on your priorities list is God’s
You know, I’ve found that most people can generally be on time for the things that they consider to be very important. In fact, they can even be
early! I’ve seen people who are normally late for everything else show up at
football games an hour or two before the game starts just to get a good
seat. If people can’t afford to be late for a meeting, they’ll generally set their
alarm clocks early enough so that they can be sure to be on time, with a little extra cushion for good measure. They might even set a second alarm clock as a back up, just in case! How high on your priorities list is God’s worship?
I know that some have small children to get ready. I come from a family of
nine, and believe me, I know what chaos can occur in households with
children on Sunday mornings! I know all about the yelling and screaming and the fighting over one, small bathroom, and the “I can’t find my shoes!” and the “I don’t want to wear that shirt!”
But in our family, we not only had to get up, get two adults and seven kids cleaned, dressed, and fed before we left for church, we had to milk 30 cows and feed 300 hogs before church as well! And our church started at 9:00 a.m.!
Now I’ll admit that the Boer family was very seldom early enough at church
to get the best seats, but I want you to know that we very seldom arrived after the worship started either. And if we were late, it was usually because the cows got out, or the car battery was dead, or some other emergency.
So if you find yourself regularly showing up late for church, here’s a little secret that can help you make it on time: Get out of bed earlier! Plan to arrive 15 minutes early rather than exactly at the appointed time.
And if you’re one of those who find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning, I have another little secret for you: Go to bed earlier on Saturday
And while we’re on the subject of priorities and worship, let me say a word
about the various parts of worship as well. Some people seem to have the impression that the “preliminaries” and the final hymn and the benediction aren’t all that important in worship, as long as we’re there during the sermon. Let me encourage you, people of God, if you wish to truly glorify God in worship, do your level best to be there when it starts and to cherish each part of the worship of God until you’re dismissed with the final
And during the worship service, don’t just sit there letting everyone else do the responsive readings and read along in their Bibles and sing the hymns. Everyone who can read, young and old, should participate in each part of worship to the best of their ability.
If you can’t read very fast, don’t worry about it. Just do your best. If you
can’t carry a tune in bucket and you don’t want to embarrass yourself or your family by your actually singing out loud, I understand. Don’t despair.
But let me make a suggestion to you: If you’re afraid to sing out loud, just softly whisper or mouth the words so that at least you’re participating. And no matter whether you’re singing or speaking or whispering, whatever you do, be sure to think about the words of the hymns and mean them from your heart! That’s what matters most to God. You’re there to give God praise, sincerely, from your heart. Don’t just mindlessly mouth the words. That’s not
worship. Think about what you’re saying and mean it! Glorify God in your
And during the prayers, the adults, along with the older children at least,
should sit with their eyes closed and pay attention to the prayer. Nobody
should be looking out the windows or making google eyes at the baby in the pew in front of them, or texting on their phone during prayer.
The congregational prayer isn’t just a prayer from the pastor to God. The prayer in worship is a congregational prayer. We should all raise our
hearts and pray together with one heart to God along with the pastor as he
During the sermon, if you sometimes find it difficult to stay awake or to keep your thoughts focused without daydreaming, don’t feel bad. I’ve had the same problem myself many times. Not when I’m preaching, fortunately, but when I’m listening to someone else preaching. Usually it’s because I didn’t get enough sleep the night before, but sometimes it’s because the previous meal is putting me to sleep. When this happens, may I recommend that you try taking a few notes? Taking notes helps you to follow the train of thought in the sermon and also helps to keep you awake and more alert. You may even want to keep a sermon notebook so that you can go back once in awhile and review things you wanted to remember. But even if you don’t keep your notes, just the process of writing down certain key points may help you to remember them later. Of course, a cup of strong coffee before worship might help as well!
Younger children may not be able to take notes, but even they can sometimes
draw a picture of something related to the sermon, to help them remember
something. Parents can even give them ideas and suggestions as to what to draw. For example, for this sermon on priorities and the importance of
worship, they could draw a picture of a church or of people worshipping in the pews, or they could draw a picture of a preacher preaching. Parents can ask to see the pictures later and then remind the children of whatever the point was that related to the picture, to reinforce it in the child’s mind. Children can often pick up a lot more than you might think. Try asking them
a few questions about the sermon on your way home to see what they absorbed, and to help to encourage them to listen even more carefully next
All of us need to give God our best in worship, because that brings Him glory. Here, in worship, twice on Sunday, we have opportunity to give our highest expressions of glory to God in worship, adoration, and praise. God saved us, first and foremost, in order that He might make us into worshipers.
Nothing in life means more to Him than our worship!
So what are some other specific ways in which we may glorify God? Well, we glorify God when we thank Him and when we show our appreciation to Him by serving and obeying Him.
Psalm 50:2 says, “He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me.”
When we give of our tithes and offerings to God and when we give of our time and efforts to show love to our neighbor, we’re sacrificing thank offerings to God.
On the other hand, when we fail to give the Lord even one tenth of our increase through our tithes, Malachi tells us, we’re robbing God. Surely God isn’t glorified by such thankless theft! Don’t expect God to bless you with good things if you’re stealing from Him!
Psalm 86:12-13 says, “I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my
heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of the grave.”
To glorify God is to have God-admiring thoughts, to be overflowing with
thanksgiving and gratitude, not filled with complaining and bitterness and whining.
And that brings us to another specific way that we can bring glory to God. We glorify God when we’re content with our lot in life. In Philippians
4:12, Paul says, “I have learned the secret of being content in
any and every situation.”
Psalm 16:2 says, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing...” And v. 5 continues, “LORD, you have assigned me my portion and my cup.”
If we’re not content with our lot in life, knowing that God gave up His only
begotten Son for us and continues to work all things together for the good of His church, then we’re nothing more than thankless wretches. A true Christian always has plenty of things for which to be thankful.
We need to learn, with the apostle Paul, to be thankful and content, even when we’re called by God to suffer at times in this life. In II Corinthians
12:10, Paul could even say, “for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am
weak, then I am strong.”
When Paul was most desperate for help, that was when he most clearly
recognized his dependence on God. God is glorified when His children
lean upon Him and call on him and rejoice in Him and in His sovereign
goodness to them.
Psalm 100:2 says, “Serve the LORD with gladness.” Remember, you don’t glorify God by your service if you only give it because it’s forced upon you or if you give it grudgingly, with complaining or whining. One who truly seeks to glorify God will be inwardly content and cheerful, even when he’s mistreated, or even when he’s sick or tired or under pressure or going through a trial of some kind. As Christians we’re commanded to rejoice in the Lord always! We have Jesus Christ as our Savior, so we have an eternal inheritance guaranteed for us when we die! We have the unchanging, faithful love of God with us every day! We have God’s promise that He
sovereignly controls every detail in our lives for our good! What more could anyone possibly want?!
Another specific way that we can glorify God is through our humble and honest confession of our own sin to God. Some Christians think that they should hide their sins and not bring them up.
Let me simply remind you of those two thieves on the cross next to Jesus! One tried to justify himself, giving Christ a put-down. The other put himself down, and glorified Christ.
In Luke 23:39-43 we read, “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: ‘Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!’ But the other criminal rebuked him. ‘Don’t you fear God,’ he said, ‘since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.’”
You see, it brings great glory to God when we say, “I am a sinner, deserving Your wrath. And You would be entirely just to condemn me to Hell. But I plead for Your mercy because of what Jesus Christ did for me.” That gives glory to Jesus Christ and not to ourselves.
After all, no pain or suffering or trials we’ll ever have to endure in this life will even come close to what we actually deserve in punishment for our sins. To
confess our sins, is to justify God and to clear His Name. To complain against God for whatever happens to us in life is to make God out to be unfair or unjust or too harsh or not loving enough.
In Nehemiah 9:33, Nehemiah prays, “32 Now therefore, O our God, the great, mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes – the hardship that has come upon us, upon our kings and leaders, upon our priests and
prophets, upon our fathers and all your people, from the days of the
kings of Assyria until today. In all that has happened to us, you have
been just, you have acted faithfully while we did wrong.”
That should be the attitude of every true believer, no matter how difficult are
the trials that God allows us to suffer. We should say, with Nehemiah, “In all that has happened to us, you have been just, you have acted faithfully while we did wrong.”
God is perfect. He never does anything in our lives that deserves our
The prodigal son brought glory to his father when he returned home and bowing down said, in Luke 15:21, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your
We mustn’t be like Adam who blamed God and other people for his own
problems in Genesis 3:12. He said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.”
Rather, we must be like David, in Psalm 51:4 when he confessed his sin involving Bathsheba, “Against you, you only have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.”
Well, there are many, many more specific ways that we can glorify God. We glorify Him by obeying Him, by putting others first, by not seeking our own glory, by believing all that He reveals in His Word, by contending for the truth, and by seeking to draw the praises of others around us to God as well. Our text in I Corinthians 10:31 sums it up for us this way: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of
We should also keep in mind that God created man, not only to glorify Him, but also that man might enjoy Him. How do we enjoy God? We’ll have to deal with that some other time.
For now, let’s focus our thoughts on how we may live to glorify God. As you go through the coming week and the coming year, and as you worship and adore God in your public and private worship, give God your best. Don’t give Him half-hearted worship. Be thankful as you contemplate God’s rich blessings toward you, His covenant child. And offer yourself as a sacrifice of
thanksgiving to Him. Be content, not with yourself and your own stage of righteousness, but be content with whatever God has determined to give you in life for your good. Your status may change tomorrow, by God’s providence, but for now, be content with what God has given you today. Be content with your income. Be content with your job, or lack thereof. Be content with your marriage status. Be content with your children and your parents. Be content with the brothers or sisters God may have given you. Be content with your health. And be thankful in all these things, knowing that God has given you only His best for you for right now. You can rest in that.
And be quick to confess your sins and to let God know that you know you’ve received much better than you deserve.
To put it simply, exalt God. Thank God. Praise God. Worship God. Adore God. And love God. In this way, you’ll be bringing glory to God and fulfilling the highest purpose for which He created you!