A Magnificent Obsession

Bible Book: 1 Chronicles  16 : 23-29
Subject: Glory; God's Glory

In 1929 Lloyd C. Douglas wrote a book entitled Magnificent Obsession. In this book he tells about a young man who lived a fairly reckless life. As a drunken playboy he was in an automobile accident that resulted in a young woman losing her sight. This tragedy resulted in the playboy mending his ways. He became obsessed with the idea of restoring this woman's sight. He became a respected surgeon and prepared himself to perform the delicate operation that would result in the restoration of this woman's sight. To restore her sight became his passion; his goal, his desire, his obsession.

What is the goal of your life? What is your magnificent obsession? Our Strategic Planning Committee has concluded that there is but one
reason for which we exist. This one reason has inspired a mission statement for our church. Here it is: “As followers of Jesus Christ we exist to glorify God”

The Bible says in I Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore whether you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” In our text the Scripture says, “Give unto the Lord, ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name.”

Some of you may be familiar with the shorter catechism which is used in many churches. The catechism is a question and answer format which has long been used in the history of the church to give religious instruction. Here’s the first question: “What is the chief end of man?”

And here is the answer. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.”

The supreme objective in the life of any man or woman should be to give God glory. This is foundational. This is basic. This should undergird
everything that we are and everything that we do. We want to live and walk and work and witness and worship all to the glory of God.

As we look at this message this morning, the first thing that I want us to do is:

I. Review The Glory

The glory of God is intrinsic to his very nature. In Isaiah 6:3 the Bible records the words of the seraphim: “And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.”

God possesses intrinsic glory by virtue of who he is. This is not given to him. If man had never been created; if the angels had never been created, would God still be a God of glory? Certainly! If no one ever gave him any glory, any honor or any praise, would he still be the glorious God that he is? Of course! That is intrinsic glory – the glory of God’s nature.

The Bible begins and ends with God’s glory. In Genesis we see his glory in creation. It is still true according to Psalm 19 that “the heavens declare the glory of God.” Any study of the universe, not matter how small the approach, will bring a person to glorify God in some way. God has made it that way. Man can study hydrology, astronomy, meteorology, geology or even physiology and still find the amazing creative energy of God. God’s creation is the greatest visible display of his glory. It is a foretaste on earth of what will come later.

We can illustrate that glory through the star called “Betelgeuse.” It is a distant star next to Orion. It happens to be 527 light years away from the earth. Light traveling at a speed of 186,000 miles a second still takes 527 light years to reach the earth. What is amazing about Betelgeuse is its size. It is twice the size of the earth's orbit around the sun. Now, what kind of creative energy created that star? When we realize that nothing created is as great or complex as the One who created it, that gives us a small idea of the glory of God.

I wish there was some way that I could communicate to you something of the glory and the majesty and the omnipotence of God. Someone has said, "God is as incomparable as he is immutable. He is infinitely farther above the tallest archangel than that archangel is above a worm."

You know, I fear that modem day Christianity has managed to concoct an image of God which is all too common and earthy and pedestrian. I fear that the God of this century no more resembles the God of the Holy Scripture than does the dim flickering of a candle resemble the glory of the midday sun. The God who is talked about in the average pulpit,

spoken of in the ordinary Sunday School class, and mentioned in much of the literature of this day, and preached in most of the so called Bible conferences is a figment of human imagination; an invention of religious sentimentality.

I tell you, the God that I know cannot be captured on canvas or in a drawing. He cannot be described in a book. His majesty cannot adequately be expounded from a pulpit. He is too great for any of that. He can only be worshipped.

We have a God to worship who has but to speak worlds into existence, and there they are. He can destroy cities with his breath of fire. He can set a bush on fire, and yet it not be consumed. He can part the waters of the sea. He can send dew on the fleece when the rest of the ground is dry. He can send dew upon the ground and keep the fleece dry. He can make the shadows go back on the face of the sundial, or make the sun stand still. He can put sinews upon bones and flesh upon sinews and breathe into the man the breath of life. And a valley of dry bones can become a mighty army. He can stop the mouth of lions and calm the tempestuous sea.

I want you to know that the object of our worship is a great God! He is sovereign! He is supreme! He is immutable! He is holy! He is omnipotent! He is love! He is long suffering! He is greatly to be praised!

But I want you to notice also what it says in verse 25. The last part of the verse says “he also is to be feared above all gods.” This morning I am concerned. There is a lot of flippancy regarding entering into the presence of God in our society. God has become so casual in our thinking. God has become so human; so buddy-buddy that we don’t understand the whole perspective of God’s utter holiness -- that he is a consuming fire -- that he is of purer eyes than to look upon sin.

If you will go through the Old Testament, you will find out that when the people of God encountered the Almighty, there was a terrifying reaction. They were afraid; they felt intimidated. They felt their lives were in danger because they knew that they were sinners in the presence of a holy God.

You will remember in Genesis 18 that Abraham confessed that he was nothing but dust and ashes. When he came before a holy God, he immediately repented just as an instant reaction to the presence of God.

And Job who thought he knew God; who probably thought he worshipped God the way that God wanted to be worshipped, when he had gone through that amazing pilgrimage and came to the end of it and really saw God as the sovereign holy Lord of the universe, he said, "Now I see thee with mine eyes, and I repent in dust and ashes.'"'*

Again, overwhelmed with sinfulness, Manoah, the father of Samson, in the thirteenth chapter of Judges cries out, "We shall surely die."

Then there was Habakkuk who, when he saw the holiness of God, began to shake so that his knees smashed together against each other.

Then there was the restored remnant who, when they heard the holy word of God spoken by Haggai, they were terrified in their hearts.

And of course, in Luke chapter 5 when Simon Peter saw the miracle of the fish, the Bible says that "he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying. Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord."

And in Revelation 1:17 when the Apostle John saw the risen Christ he said, “And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.”

You think about it. How are we to relate to this God of glory? How are we to relate to this God of majesty. As I was preparing this message I was thinking about an experience I had as a young teenager. When I was growing up our church owned a big house at Ridgecrest Baptist Assembly. And I would go to Ridgecrest during the summer and hear some of the great men of God preach. One of the men that I remember hearing as a teenager was Baker James Cauthen who was the president of our Foreign Mission Board for twenty-five years. He had such a heart for missions, and he preached with such passion and pathos. And even when I was 13-14-15 years old, God was dealing with me about the ministry.

And then one year I was selected along with several other Royal Ambassadors -- that's a missionary organization for boys -- to become a page at the Baptist State Convention in North Carolina. Being a page at the State Baptist Convention meant that I was available to deliver messages and run errands.

Well, when I got to this convention in Raleigh, North Carolina, I discovered that Dr. Baker James Cauthen was going to be there for the convention. And another page and myself were asked to serve him and attend to his needs. Now, Dr. Cauthen was my hero and it was a tremendous moment in my life when I got that assignment. I remember the morning that I reported to Dr. Cauthen. I was wearing a suit

and I was as washed and starched as I could be. And I had a glut of badges on my lapel as a Royal Ambassador. And I presented myself to Dr. Cauthen. I was put on one side of the platform and my colleague was put on the other side of the platform to attend to the needs of the speakers and Dr. Cauthen in particular. I stood there like a ramrod. I didn’t blink or flinch. I stood there about an hour and I though, “Well, isn’t he going to give me something to do?” And then I noticed that he motioned for my colleague on the other side of the platform to come to his side. The other page was given an envelope, and like a scalded cat he ran away across the auditorium. He came back and nodded and provided the answer that was needed and stood at attention on the other side of the platform.

I stood there and wondered, “Is he going to give me something to do?” Eventually he nodded to me and I went so his side. He asked me to get something for him, and I flew. I knew that the quicker I could deliver the message and bring back the answer, the greater I could impress my hero, Dr. Baker James Cauthen. I came back, I nodded, I gave the answer. He said, “Thank you,” and touched me on the shoulder. And I can feel it now.

You know, as I stood there, I wanted to do something because he meant so much to me as a boyhood hero. How much more should we want to please and honor the god of this universe who is worthy of the very best that we have to give him.

But the first challenge for us as we think of our magnificent obsession is to review the glory. The second challenge is to:

II. Reflect The Glory

Please listen to what the Apostle Paul says in II Corinthians 3:18. He says, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Some translations have substituted the word “reflecting” for the word “beholding.” Do you remember when Moses went up to Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments? It was there that he encountered the Lord God. And he beheld the glory of God , but in beholding the glory of God, he unconsciously reflected the glory of God. He reflected God's light. He reflected God's radiance. He reflected God's brilliance. There are three things that I want to say as we think about the glory we receive as we gaze upon Christ.

First of all, I want to say that it is a borrowed light. The light that shown upon the face of Moses came from God. And when Moses was not able to go in and speak with God and commune with God, the light faded and the glory departed. It's the same way with us. We have no light or texture of glory in our own character. It is all borrowed from the glory of Christ.

What was the effect of the shekinah glory upon Moses? A little bit of God's afterglow rubbed off on him and his face beamed with the glory of God. His face was literally charged with the glory of God. In fact, his face shown so much that Aaron and the others feared to approach him. Imagine the glory of God reflected on the face of a man.

When I was a boy our family went to the Luray Caverns of Virginia. They had a store there that sold all kinds of items which glowed in the dark. I thought it was the greatest thing I had ever seen. I picked out a figurine and took it home. I kept it in my suitcase until we got home. When we returned to our home late one night, I took the little figurine out

of the suitcase and put it on my dresser. Nothing happened. It did not glow. I was really upset. My dad said, "Do you know why it doesn't glow?"

I said, "No. Why?"

He said, "You have to hold it up to some light because it doesn't have any light of its own."

My dad held it up to the light bulb for a while, and then I took it back to my darkened room. It really worked this time. It glowed, even in the dark.

Do you see the similarity between that little figure and Moses? He had no light of his own either. After standing near the most brilliant light in the universe, he glowed. His face was changed with the glory of God.

Now, do you know what happened to that little figure I had sitting on top of my dresser? After an hour or so, it did not glow any more. It became dark because the light was not its own. This is what Moses experienced. He had to keep going back to the presence of God to keep his glow.

And we need to remember that as the moon is a reflection of the light of the sun, we are a reflection of the light of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that it is a borrowed light. We have no light of our own.

But not only is this glory which the Christian reflects a borrowed light, it is an unconscious light. Do you know what the Bible says about Moses? It says "He knew not that the skin of his face shown." That means he didn't realize it. Nobody would have been more surprised than Moses.

Have you ever known a Christian who was startled, almost embarrassed, when people began to say, "Doesn't she look radiant. Doesn't he look radiant."

It's a good thing to reflect the glory of God and to do it unconsciously. Unfortunately, too many people today are interested in self-aggrandizement. They're interested in self-promotion. They're interested in adding one more accomplishment to their biographical sketch.

What are we living for? Tony Campolo tells about his pastor up in Pennsylvania. He has a black pastor. This black pastor is obviously a great man of God and a great preacher. And this pastor was addressing the high school graduates in his church. And these high school graduates were the creme de la creme; they were the cream of the crop. A good majority of these black students were going to great schools. One was going to Harvard to study law, and another African American was going to Yale to study English, and another was going to study engineering at MIT. And the parents and the grandparents and the other members of the congregation were sitting there and saying, "My, my, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm." Tony Compelo says when, you get about fifteen hundred people saying "my, my, my" and "Mmm, Mmm, Mmm" and "thank you, Jesus," it's quite a thing to behold.

And then he says his pastor, this great man of God, I gets up and he looks at these bright, brilliant young; students headed for college and he says, "Children, children, you're going to die." (That's a good thing to tell kids.) You see, they don't think they're going to die. But this preacher says, “you’re going to die. And they’re going to drop you in a hole. They’re going to throw dirt in your face and they’re going to go back to the church and eat potato salad.”

He said, “When you were born, you were the only one that cried. Everybody else was happy. But that’s not the important thing. The important thing is this. When you die will you be the only one that’s happy, and everybody else will cry.”

“It depends,” he said. “It depends on what you live for. Did you live for those titles or those testimonies? There was Moses and there was pharaoh. Pharaoh had a title. He was the ruler of Egypt. That is a good title – ruler of Egypt. But when it was all over, that’s all pharaoh had – was a title. He had the title, but Moses had testimonies.

“And then there was Nebuchadnezzar and there was Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar had a good title. He was the king of Babylon. Which on of you young people would like to be king of Babylon? But when it was all over, Nebuchadnezzar may have had a title, but Daniel had the testimonies.

“And then there was Jezebel and Elijah the prophet of God. Jezebel was the queen. Which one of you girls would like to be queen? Jezebel had a good title – the queen. But when it was all over, all she had was the title. But Elijah had the testimonies.

And this great preacher preached all the way through the Bible and he came to the New Testament. And he said, “Now, Pilate had the title, but my Jesus had the – testimonies.” Then he looked at the students and he said, “Now, kids one of these days they will drop you in a hole and they’r going to put a tombstone at the end. Now, what do you want to have? A tombstone with your title – here lies Charlie Jones, Ph.D., president of the Kiwanis Club, served on this cabinet, served on this committee – do you want it all there? Do you want those titles or do you want people standing around your grave giving testimonies about how you reflected the glory of God?”

And you didn’t draw attention to yourself. And you didn’t seek acclaim. And you didn’t seek the accolades of men. And you didn’t seek the applause of men. But you reflected the light of God’s glory, and it was an unconscious light. You were not even aware of the radiance that was reflected in your life and in your countenance. But it was there.

It is a borrowed light. It’s an unconscious light. And then, it’s an irresistible light. It’s a light that so reflects the nature of God; it’s a light that so reflects the nature of God; it’s a light that so reflects the personality of Christ that it’s a compelling light. It’s an irresistible light.

I heard about this young woman out in California who every year goes to the great Nordstrom’s Department Store in Beverly Hills where the richest of the rich shop. Because in every department at the Christmas season they have a musical group, either a string quartet or a singing group -- professionals doing magnificent Christmas music - and the place is decorated beautifully. She just loves to wander from department to department listening to the music in this most beautiful of all beautiful environments.

She said she was on the third floor of Nordstrom's. The elevator door opened and out stepped a filthy, dirty bag lady, just cruddy. Her hair matted down and dirt literally caked on her skin, filthy dress, holding a gym bag with dirty underwear hanging out of it dragging on the floor.

Now, she had seen bag ladies, but this was despicable. She fully expected the security guards to come and hustle her out of the store. But instead this attractive saleslady came up and said to this despicable woman, "May I help you?" The lady, observing all of this, was awed. But the bag lady said, "Yeah. I want a dress."

The saleslady said, "What kind of dress?"

"A party dress."

"Come with me," she said.

And they walked over to the dress section where they had the party dresses. And for several minutes they talked about which color would go best with her eyes and which dress would look best on her. And they tried to figure out her size. And the saleslady measured her. And they came up with three dresses which they thought might look good on her. And they took the dirty, filthy woman into the dressing room.

And the woman, observing the whole scene, slipped into the dressing room right next to it. She wanted to hear what was going on. And they talked about how this dress would look at the party, and they tried on these dresses. That went on for half an hour. And at the end of that time, the woman said, "I don't think I'm going to buy a dress today."

And the saleswoman said, "Well, that's okay. But when you do decide to buy a dress, do you promise to come back here and see me and let me try to help you?"

And the woman said, "Okay," and she left.

The lady who was observing the whole scene waited until the saleslady came out of the dressing room carrying these party dresses to put them back on the rack. And she said, "Excuse me, are you a Christian?"

And the woman smiled and said, "Yes. Why do you ask?"

And the observer said, “Because today I have seen the glory of Christ reflected in your life. It’s absolutely irresistible, and I believe that God will use it to change the heart of the woman you’ve just served.”

O, beloved when we behold His glory; when we begin to reflect His glory, I mean really reflect His glory, we’re going to shed forth a borrowed light; and unconscious light, but also an irresistible light. O, let this be our obsession!

Do you remember in Exodus 34 when Aaron and all Israel saw the glory on the face of Moses. They were afraid to come near him. The explanation lies in the meaning of the Hebrew word “shove.” The word doesn’t imply a gentle pool of light, the kind that filters from a lantern and lights a little pool around it. The Hebrew word here means that there are rays of light stabbing out the darkness. It’s the kind of irresistible light that was upon the countenance of Stephen when they described him as having the face of an angel.

Now, let me tell you something church. When we behold the glory of God and when we reflect the glory of God and when we reflect the glory of God and manifest the glory of God, and then we gather together like we’re gathered here this morning, this house if full of glory. And when people come, they sense the very rarefied atmosphere of heaven. But when we’re not interested in the glory of God; when we substitute money, love, marriage, sex, freedom, security, status, pleasure, peace, happiness above the glory of God, the glory begins to depart.

That’s what happened in the Old Testament. Ezekiel saw this in a vision. He entered the temple, and what he saw just shattered his heart. He knew that the glory of God resided within the holy of holies. But outside he saw idolatry. He saw compromise. He saw wickedness. He saw selfishness. God wasn't being worshipped and glorified. God began to withdraw his glory. The glory rose up from the sculptured cherubim and stood over the doorway. Next, the glory departed from the doorway and went up from the middle of Jerusalem and stood upon the

mountain to the east. And finally the manifestation of glory was no longer visible, for it returned to heaven. The Lord had to write the word "ichabod" over the temple, which means "the glory has departed."

Now, I have challenged you to review the glory and reflect the glory. But before I conclude this message, let me challenge you to:

III. Return The Glory

Now listen, beloved. Our text says that we are to give unto the Lord the glory that is due unto his name. When soul-stirring music is sung, when good sermons are preached, when prayers are answered, when souls are saved, when hearts are revived, when spirits are lifted, I want us to pass all the praise on to Calvary.

If we try to receive the credit; if we try to receive glory for ourselves, pretty soon it will be like the manna that the children of Israel gathered in abundance. It will begin to stink. And when people come to this church they will not smell the sweet aroma of God’s fragrance and God’s glory.

And do you know something else? I don’t want us to fake it. I don’t want us just to pretend to give God the glory.

Church Swindoll in his book The Bride tells this story of a middle-aged Baltimore man who passed through people’s lives with astonishing aplomb and expertise in assuming roles and gratifying expectations. The novel opens with Morgan watching a puppet show on a church lawn on Sunday afternoon. A few minutes into the show a young man comes from behind the puppet stage and asks, "Is there a doctor here?" After thirty or forty seconds of silence from the audience, Morgan stands up slowly and deliberately approaches the young man and asks, "What is the trouble?" The puppeteer's pregnant wife is in labor. A birth seems imminent. Morgan puts the young couple in the back of his station wagon and sets off for Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Halfway there the husband cries, "The baby is coming!" Morgan, calm and self-assured, pulls to the curb, sends the about-to-be father to the corner to buy a Sunday paper as a substitute for towels and bed sheets and delivers the baby. He then drives to the emergency room of the hospital, puts the mother and baby safely on a stretcher and disappears.

After the excitement dies down, the couple asks for Dr. Morgan. They want to thank him. No one has ever heard of a Dr. Morgan. They are puzzled – and frustrated that they can't express their gratitude.

Several months later they are pushing their baby in a stroller and see Morgan walking on the other side of the street. They run over and greet him, showing him the healthy baby that he brought into the world. They tell him how hard they had looked for him and of the hospital’s bureaucratic incompetence in tracking him down. In an unaccustomed gush of honesty, he admits to them that he is not really a doctor. In fact, he runs a hardware store. But they needed a doctor, and being a doctor in those circumstances was not all that difficult.

“It’s an image thing,” he tells them. You discern what people expect and fit into it. You can get by with it in all the honored professions. Morgan has been doing this all of his life, impersonating doctors, lawyers, pastors and counselors as occasions present themselves. Then he confides, “You know, I would never pretend to be a plumber or impersonate a butcher -- they would find me out in twenty seconds."

Now, believe me, if Morgan can deliver a baby, you can fake giving God the glory. I plead with you. Don't do it. It will come back to haunt you.

But I want to assure you, you can glorify God. You must glorify God. That is our purpose for existing. That must become our magnificent obsession.

And as we return the glory to God, he sheds forth his glory upon the church. I can almost see it. Down from the heights of heaven, across Kennesaw Mountain, moving across the city, hovering over the church and then flooding the worship center with brightness, with light, with power, with glory, yes, with his mighty presence.


Henry Martyn, that godly missionary to India, watched people bowing down before their idols. ''Seeing these people prostrate before Hindu gods excited more horror in me than I can express...I could not endure existence if Jesus was not glorified. It would be hell to me."

I must confess that God has rebuked me time and again because I don't always feel that way. It just isn't "hell to me" to see somebody who does not glorify Jesus Christ. But I pray God will give me and all of us such a love for the glory of the Lord that it will drive a stake through our hearts every time someone rejects him; every time someone doesn't

give him the glory he deserves.

The hymnist was right when he wrote

Let ev'ry kindred, ev'ry tribe,

On this terrestrial ball,

To Him all majesty (glory) ascribe,

And crown Him Lord of all. Amen