Like many Protestant churches, we are currently going through a series on the ideas of the Reformation. Recently I preached on the idea of “To God be the Glory Alone”. You can hear the sermon on the church website. In the question time, I was asked about what happens if you don’t feel like glorifying God? I don’t think I answered the question well, so here is my second chance.
So let’s get the question right. Romans 1 reminds us that the wrath of God is coming because we don’t glorify God:
“For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.” (Rom 1:18–23 HCSB)
The point here is that we are deserving of God’s justice because we don’t glorify God and we glorify other things instead. We could say a similar thing about joy. Philippians 4:4 could be read as a command:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Phil 4:4 HCSB)
So what happens if we don’t glorify God or rejoice in him? What if we don’t feel it?
Sure, one solution could be to fake it until you make it. But I want to offer another solution, one based on the gospel.
Back to Romans, Paul is making the point that we need to be saved by grace because we have failed to live God’s way. We need to be saved by his grace alone. Hence the climax of his argument appears in chapter 3:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 3:23–24 HCSB)
We have all sinned and we cannot bring anything to contribute to our salvation or justification. God has done it all. Elsewhere Paul reminds us of this:
“For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— not from works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8–9 HCSB)
So if we are not saved by works but by grace what can do or not do to change that?
So if we are not in the mood to rejoice or glorify God, does that make a difference to our status before God? No. Does it matter if we don’t? No. Because our status before him is all based on grace.
Here is the great twist in the gospel. Instead of fear, we have the freedom to be honest with God. We can tell him when we are angry or frustrated. This is the very thing that the Psalmists are lamenting when they write Psalms like 137.
When we are honest with God, this makes him even more glorious because it shows that we stand in the grace that he has given us. In the verses previous to the ones mentioned in Ephesians above, Paul explains God’s motivations in this:
“Together with Christ Jesus He also raised us up and seated us in the heavens, so that in the coming ages He might display the immeasurable riches of His grace through His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph 2:6–7 HCSB)
Hence being honest with God shows his glory even more as it shows we stand in the grace that he has given us.
This means of course, that when we do feel like it, we have even more reason to be joyful and more reasons to glorify God.
2 thoughts on feeling joy:
Firstly is part of the problem that we don’t preach the Gospel to ourselves as much as we should? Not that preaching the Gospel to ourselves becomes a new version of ‘works’, but isn’t there a place for saying we need to put ourselves in paths of grace?
Secondly, do you think we often miss out on joy because of unrealistic expectations of what joy is? 1 Peter 1:6 describes our lives as a paradox of both joy and grief. It’s not a joy without grief, but one that comforts us in the midst of our grief?
To your first point. Amen, amen and amen. This is so true and I have said it before.
To your second point: there is more to joy than I have expressed here ad that is also a good point.