Soli Deo Gloria, Glory To God Alone

He was a man who couldn’t keep a job.   He was a church organist and composer and while he was a great organist the pieces that he composed himself were often considered too showy to be played in church, and so eventually the church would grumble and he would move on.  So glad churches today don’t grumble about music.

And he was no doubt forgotten by the churches he had worked for but certainly not forgotten by history.

His name was Johann Sebastian Bach, maybe you recognize it.  Once when the pastor of one church was relaying the concerns of the congregation Bach responded by saying:

“The main purpose of my music is to glorify God. Some people do this with music that is simple. I haven’t chosen to use a simple style, but my music comes from my heart as a humble offering to God. This honours God no matter what musical style I use.”

The main purpose of my music is to glorify God.  Can we say that about what we do?

Here is a sample of one of Bach’s compositions, and notice down here at the you’ll see Soli Deo Gloria – For the Glory of God Alone.

We are told when Bach began to write a new song that he wrote the initials JJ at the top of the page, which stood for “Jesu Juva” Latin for “Jesus Help Me” and when he finished the work he wrote For the Glory of God Alone.  

And he wasn’t alone, both Handel and Graupner signed their work with Soli Deo Gloria to signify that their music was produced for the sake of glorifying God.

This is our fifth and final week of our Old Foundation series and through the month of January we’ve been looking at the “Five Solas” of the Protestant Reformation.

Now for those who are thinking, “I wonder what a protestant reformation is?” Don’t feel bad, you probably are in the majority of folks.  Often people think that there has always been a broad range of Christians denominations, but not so.

For the first thousand years that the church existed there was really just “The Church”.  And that ended in 1054 with what was known as the “Great Schism”  and the church separated into the Catholic Church to the west and the Orthodox Church to the east.   And then for the next five hundred years there were two main Christian groups.

That two-church model ended 500 years ago.

In 1517 a Catholic priest and theologian by the name of Martin Luther challenged the leadership of the Catholic church on a number of issues where he felt the church had drifted into error.

He didn’t get up one morning and think “By golly today is the day that I completely reshape what Christianity looks like.”

He was simply seeking to bring the Catholic church in line with the scriptures.  Instead he was ultimately excommunicated by the church and the Lutheran church was born, and since then there have been more Protestant churches started then you can shake the proverbial stick at.

But what Luther shared with the reformers who would come after him, men like Calivn and Zwingli was a common foundation, what are often referred to as the Five Solas.  And that is where we’ve been parked for the past five weeks.

Although these individual phrases have been used for centuries, it is not clear when they were first put together.   And they sound fancy but Sola is simply a Latin term which means one or only.

And so, in week one we looked at Solas Fide, or By Faith Alone, and this was the belief that it is faith that is the main component of our salvation.  That while faith will never ask more than that you believe, that it will never ask less.  And we have to believe that God can save us, through his grace.

Then we looked at Solas Scriptura, or in the Scripture Alone.  And that was the belief that the final authority for our Christian life is the Bible.  The reformers didn’t feel that the bible was the only authority for the believer but they believed that it was the only infallible authority and it would be by scripture that those other traditions and teachings would be measured.

In week three we took some time with Solus Christus, through Christ Alone and looked at the power that is available only through the name of Christ.  And that power that was there for the church in the book of Acts is the same power that was there for the reformers 500 years ago and the same power that is there for us today.

And that took us to Sola Gratia, by grace alone last week.  And that is belief that our salvation comes completely by the grace of God, that it is not dependent on anything we do, other than believe in and accepting that Grace.  Grace is simply the unmerited favour of God.  Or getting what we don’t deserve.

Which is why we are told in Ephesians 2:8-9  God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.

And that brings us to the final Sola and that is Soli Deo Gloria, Glory To God Alone.

And in this teaching the reformers would remind us that every aspect of our Christian life is to bring glory to God alone.  It’s not about us, or about me, it’s about God.  
It really summarizes the other four Soli by pointing us toward God and what he has done for us.  The Grace of his Son, that we accept through faith.

There was also a reaction here on the part of the reformers to what they perceived as the unwarranted glorification of the church, the pope and other clergy.

So in the scripture that was read for us earlier we see these words Romans 11:36  For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

But what does that mean that everything is intended for his Glory?

And how do we give God the Glory, we can’t all be a Bach or a Handel giving God the glory with the music that we create.

Let’s go back to our scripture Romans 11:36  For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

We Glorify God When we Acknowledge that All Things are From Him.  God is firstly the creator.

The bible tells us in Genesis 1:1  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
And maybe you are sitting there thinking, “You don’t really believe that do you preacher?”  Yep, sure do.

Sometimes I’ll be in a conversation with someone and the topic of creation comes up and they will say something to the effect of how much faith it requires to believe in creation.  And then they will begin to educate me on how the world was really created.  

And then they let me know that they believe in the Big Bang Theory. There’s that word: “Theory”.   Do you know what the definition of a theory is?  Colins English Dictionary defines it this way.
1. a system of rules, procedures, and assumptions used to produce a result
2.  abstract knowledge or reasoning
3. a speculative or conjectural view or idea
4. an ideal or hypothetical situation (esp in the phrase in theory)

And the Big Bang theory is either number 3 or number 4.  And in case you are wondering it will give you 12 in Scrabble.

And then they begin to school me on how they believe that 4.5 billion years ago, out of nothing things just appeared, and from those things that appeared out of nothing our world was created and eventually we evolved from a single cell protoplasm to what we are today.

You understand that when people tell you they know how they world began and how life began they are not talking about facts they are talking about theories?

I can’t even get my head around the numbers they throw around.  And someone will say they have evidence that says the Dinosaurs went extinct 50 million years ago.   And that the world is almost 5 billion years old.

Seriously?  If this is 2016.  (Hold fingers apart 1 inch) then the distance from here to the back door is about 500 years.   If you look close you can see Martin Luther.

The birth of Christ happened somewhere in the upper parking lot.  1 million years would be 500 times greater than that, it would put you somewhere around the airport.

And 50 million years would be 50 times greater than that, which remember, this is 2016 and 50,000, 000 of these would put you in Montreal.  And now let’s multiply that my 90.  So if you kept going from Montreal around the world to Halifax that would be 1.5 billion years, so twice more around the world and you have in theory when the big bang happened.

Wow! And I’m left thinking “And people say it takes so much faith to believe that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
I think I’ll stick with Genesis 1:1, even Voltaire the Atheist said “The world embarrasses me, and I cannot dream that this watch exists and has no watchmaker.”  And the watchmaker is God,

You are giving glory to God when you stand in awe of creation and realize that it came from the hand of God.  That creation is a part of intelligent design, that it didn’t just happen, it happened at the word of God.  In the New Testament we read John 1:1-3  In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He existed in the beginning with God.  God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.   And if you continue to read you discover that the word was Jesus.

And we Give God the Glory when we celebrate the words of 1 Corinthians 8:6  But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life.

It was Sir Isaac Newton, the Scientist, remember the apple and gravity and the whole story, who said “This most beautiful system [The Universe] could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”

Let’s go back to our scripture:  Romans 11:36  For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

We Glorify God When We Acknowledge that All Things are By Him

God didn’t just create the world and turn his back on it.  We are reminded over and over again about how fragile our world is.

And it’s true, we are told that if the world was much further from the sun it would be too cold to support life, much closer and it would be too hot to support life.  Tilt it even a degree on its axis and life on earth would be disrupted.

And yet it continues to be where it’s supposed to be and turn as it’s supposed to turn.  And when things go awry as they sometimes do we need to remind ourselves that God is there and God cares.

Jesus reminded those who followed him of that truth two thousand years ago when he said,  Matthew 10:29-31 Jesus asked “ What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it.  And the very hairs on your head are all numbered.  So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

And sometimes people will try to take away God’s glory by pointing to the pain and problems of a broken world and saying “If God is so great then how come. . . ?”  And you can fill in the blank.  How come there are hungry children, or how come there is cancer, or how come marriage vows are betrayed?

And that has less to do with God and more to do with mankind and the choices that mankind makes.

The world can produce enough food to feel every man woman and child, we don’t have a supply problem we have a distribution problem.

And don’t you think if we didn’t have to spend billions and billions of dollars on defense that the money and genius behind finding and building better ways to kill people could ultimately be used to find and build better ways to heal people?     That cancer could be prevented or cured?  

And God’s plan wasn’t that marriages would fail, his plan was that marriages would thrive, and when they don’t it’s because of sinful behavior.

As much as God wants the best for the world he created He won’t take away our free will.

But what would the world look like without the goodness of God and his people in it?

Romans 11:36  For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.

We Glorify God When We Acknowledge that All Things are For Him   Over and over again in the New Testament the writers return to the theme that Christ Followers are new creations, that the old is gone and a new has come.

And with that new life comes the responsibility of new behavior.   And when our lives reflect Christ and his teachings it brings glory to God.  And on the other side, when someone who professes to follow Christ lives a life that is at odds with what Christ taught it takes glory away from God.

We all seen and heard the words “And they call themselves a Christian.”

In Romans we are told that everything is intended for his glory, that is expanded on in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians when he writes,  1 Corinthians 10:31  So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.  Bach wrote his music for the glory of God, but what does that mean for us?  Most of us will never compose like Bach or Handel or write like Luther but does that mean that we can’t do what we do to the Glory of God?

Peter wrote in  1 Peter 4:10-11  God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.  Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

What you have, God gave you and he asks that you do what you do with all the strength and energy that he provides.

So if you teach, or sell, or protect or heal or repair or parent do it in such a way that at the end of the day you will have no problem signing your day SDG, To God alone the Glory.

And by the way that isn’t reflected in false humility.  Have you ever heard someone complimented for a sermon or a song and they’ve shrugged it off by saying, “Oh it was just God speaking or singing through me”? That doesn’t bring glory to God.  Doing your best and then simply smiling and saying thank you is a much better response.  

I have to admit there have been times when I’ve heard someone say “it was just God” that I’ve wanted to reply, “Oh really, I’ve heard him do better.”  But I don’t’.  Regardless of what some might think there are times that I have a filter.

And so, tomorrow when you go to work can you go with the goal of not just earning a living but to bring glory to your God?

If you are a Christ Follower, then God expects that when people talk about your life and your livelihood that it will bring glory to Him.  And that is a choice.  A choice only you can make.

If you are a Christ Follower, then God expects that when people speak of your attitude and your words that your attitudes and words will bring glory to Him.  And that is also a choice, a choice that only you can make.

If you are a Christ Follower, then God expects that when people see how you trust Him in the face of whatever circumstances life may put in your way that your trust will bring glory to Him.  And that is a choice, a choice only you can make.

And each of those decisions will be rooted not in your own ability but only in the foundation that you have laid with the other solas.

That by Christ Alone you will live that life, that through Grace alone you will be able to live that life that you will accept that Grace by Faith alone and that ultimately you will not be guided by culture or the opinion of others but by scripture alone.

That like Paul at the end of the day and the end of our days we will be able to say.  Romans 11:36  For everything comes from him and exists by his power and is intended for his glory. All glory to him forever! Amen.