A long time ago, at a missions conference far away, I heard a man named Cliffe Knechtle give a message. He started this message by quoting God's words from the book of Isaiah:
"I will not give my glory to another" – Isaiah 48:11
That has stuck with me through the years. God's glory is his own, and he is jealous and zealous for it. And we are told over and over in Scripture to glorify God alone. We have these repeated commands because, unfortunately, our natural, fallen tendency is to grab up as much glory as we can, for ourselves. What's worse, this tendency really thrives in the spiritual lives and spiritual service of some of us. Have you ever been around a Christian who keeps marring your sight of God because they are constantly leaping in front of him? Have you ever been that person? I'm afraid I have.
There is a second tendency that we humans have that is even more widespread than self-glorification; it is our (completely unhinged and scary) tendency to worship, immediately, almost everything and everyone that strikes our fancy.
So, in reading along in Acts 14 I'm reminded once again of why Paul and Barnabas so completely rock.
Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!” Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways. Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Even with these words they scarcely restrained the people from offering sacrifice to them. [emphasis mine]
– Acts 14:8-18 (ESV)
I love that. Paul and Barnabas suddenly found themselves to be celebrities in Lystra, engulfed in their fifteen minutes of (unwanted) fame and worshipped as gods. But they understood two things: First, they knew that they were not gods, and – indeed – but for the grace of God they were still dead in their sins and, secondly, they knew that allowing these people to worship them would not only break God's command and steal his glory, it would also cause the people of Lystra to miss the best news of all.
". . . we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them."
Turn to the living God! He is a God who will not give his glory to another, because his glory is only true, only worthy of awe, and only beneficial to the people he loves so much, when it is ascribed to him, because he is the only one who deserves it.
[This is cross posted over at the Houston Northwest GAP Singles blog]