Do All to the Glory of God

The unifying principle for all of life, including our spirituality, is found in 1 Corinthians 10:31—“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” This is the sun around which every spiritual practice, every decision, every prayer, and everything else—including our efforts at simplifying—should revolve.

Concern for the glory of God in all things was the heartbeat of God’s Son, Jesus. When only one of ten lepers (and he a Samaritan) whom Jesus had cleansed returned to thank Him, Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return to give praise [i.e., glory] to God except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17-18). Jesus wasn’t indignant because He received so little thanks for healing these men. He wasn’t thinking of Himself; rather He was jealous over the lack of glory God received for this wonderful miracle.

According to John 12:27-28, Jesus had realized that the time for His arrest and crucifixion is at hand. Knowing He will soon die under the wrath of God, listen to His primary concern: “Now is My soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour?’ But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name” (emphasis added, here and below).

A short time later, just hours before He was taken into custody, Jesus taught us to ask in His name when we pray. Notice the reason why He promises such prayers will be answered: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son”(John 14:13). The passion that propelled the entire life and ministry of Jesus Christ was His zeal for the glory of God.

From matters as crucial as the death of Jesus, to those as mundane as eating and drinking, the Bible presents the glory of God as the ultimate priority and the definitive criterion by which we should evaluate everything.

So when faced with choices about your spiritual life, ask first, “Which choice(s) will bring the most glory to God?” Choose and live in such a way “that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever” (1 Peter 4:11).


Taken from Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003), pages 45-46.

Salvation Doesn’t Remove Any of our Humanity from Living the Christian Life.

When we’re born again from above by the Spirit of God, the Lord makes us “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). Indeed, “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (v. 18). But in doing so He does not eliminate our minds, our bodies, our emotions, our will or anything that’s a part of what makes us human. God’s grace doesn’t remove any of those aspects of our humanity; instead it dramatically gives new purposes and perspectives to them.

Followers of Jesus are called to live the Christian life with the fully Christ-centered use of their minds and judgment and everything else that is essentially human.

Yet some will tell you that your problem is that you are trying to live the Christian life. They say that just as God never intended for you to save yourself so He does not expect you to live the Christian life.

“Let go and let God,” they say. “Let go and let the Lord Jesus live His life through you.”

They may frame it this way:

Have you ever seen an apple tree struggling and trying to produce apples? No! The branches just let the sap from the trunk produce the fruit. As long as they remain in the trunk the fruit will come. In the same way, as a Christian all you have to do is abide in the vine—abide in Christ—and He will produce spiritual fruit through you. You don’t have to do anything, He does it all.

It is true that the Holy Spirit produces spiritual fruit through us and not we ourselves, but it takes the fruit-bearing analogy too far to say that we don’t do anything.

Here’s another Scriptural analogy that some take too far and in the process teach that part of our humanity is eliminated in living the Christian life. They’ll remind us how Romans 6 teaches that we are identified with Christ in His Cross and Resurrection and that we should consider ourselves dead to sin. Then they will say something like: “Suppose a scantily-clad woman walks past the corpse of a man, will that man notice? Of course not, he’s dead. And that’s the way it’s to be with you if you are identified with Christ, sin will have no real appeal to you.”

But Romans 6:11 doesn’t say we are dead to sin, rather it exhorts us to “consider yourselves dead to sin,” because we are in Christ and Christ has died to sin on the Cross. In other words, sin will still appeal to us because of our flesh, but we are not to let it master us any longer because we are identified with Christ. We’re to consider ourselves dead to it.

Such teaching ignores the fact that in Scripture God commands us to accept the responsibility of obeying Him. For instance, in Col. 3:2, when you are told, “Set your minds on things above, not on things that are on the earth,” who is to do that, you or God?

When God says, “Husbands, love your wives” (Eph. 5:25), that means husband, actively love your wife. Do you think God intends for you to tell your wife, “I’m not going to try to love you any more, I’m just going to let go and let God”?

When the Lord says in 1 Cor. 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality,” what He means is for you to remove yourself from the temptation, not for you to passively wait for Him to transport you to a new location.

Even in Romans 6:11 when it says, “So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin,” who is to do the considering? Should you let go and let God do the considering? No, you are the one God wants to consider yourself dead to sin.

Salvation doesn’t remove any of our humanity in living the Christian life.

The Bible commands us to pursue things that only the Holy Spirit can give. For example, 2 Peter 1:5-7 begins by saying, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, etc.” Only the Holy Spirit can truly develop those things, nevertheless we are told to cultivate them.

Think about what Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” God’s grace gives you both the desire and ability to work out what He has worked in. But once He does this, He doesn’t want you to just “let go,” rather He calls you to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” We can’t do any of this without God’s grace, but His grace doesn’t eliminate what we have to do by His grace.

Listen to Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” What did Paul say he could do? He could do all things God wanted him to do, but only as Christ strengthened him. Still, Paul had to do what Christ gave him the strength to do in obedience to the Father.

Let go and let God? As spiritual as it sounds, it doesn’t sound like the New Testament any more, does it?

Through His Word, what is Christ calling you to do? Then by His grace do it! Obey Him!


In 1987 I made notes while reading a Banner of Truth booklet, Living the Christian Life. I recently reflected upon those notes, modified them, and expanded upon them for this piece.


Video—Unboxing of “Praying the Bible”

Here’s a brief video from Monday (June 15, 2015), when I unboxed my new book, Praying the Bible, published by Crossway.

I did so at the Southern Seminary booth during the Southern Baptist Convention in Columbus, Ohio.

In this video I display the book and give a short summary of its contents.

Until the end of July, Praying the Bible will be available exclusively at Lifeway stores. Until then, the book may also be pre-ordered from Amazon, but delivery will not occur until the end of July.

No secret key to living the Christian life

Ever read a book or heard a sermon about the key to living the Christian life?

Typically, as the story goes, the author/preacher struggled for years in living for Christ. He or she was an earnest, devoted follower of Jesus, but never seemed to make much progress in Christlikeness.

Then one day, someone gives them a book. Or perhaps they hear a particular sermon at a conference or a message delivered by a guest preacher at their church. And in a moment, everything is different.

Perhaps the “secret” is surrender to the Lordship of Christ, or abiding in Christ, or being filled with the Spirit, or another great biblical truth. Suddenly, the beauty and glory of this truth shines in their soul and from that instant they are changed. This becomes the key that unlocks everything that had prevented their spiritual progress.

After that experience their growth in grace and their Christian influence accelerates dramatically. They manifest more spiritual fruit in the next few months than they’ve heretofore seen in their entire life.

And now, they eagerly offer the secret key for Christian living to you. Follow the steps they took, pursue the same experience, and you, too, can enjoy unparalleled new freedom as a disciple of Jesus.

Without denying that these folks had a powerful experience, the reality is this: no one truth is the secret to living the Christian life.

Think about it–if there were one supreme key to Christian living, don’t you think it would have been put so plainly that we couldn’t miss it? In all his letters, wouldn’t Paul have identified “the secret” as clearly as a full moon on a cloudless night? When he wrote to the Corinthians about all their problems, why didn’t he just say, “Here’s the answer! Just experience this one truth and it will solve everything”? But he didn’t. And that’s because there is no such secret to daily Christian living.

I heard someone say that God has not given us one key, but a key ring. On that key ring are many keys. That key ring is the Bible and the keys are its many verses and principles.

If there is anything like a Master Key it is Master Himself, Jesus Christ. He has told us that, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mt. 4:4, quoting Deut. 8:3.) In other words, to live the Christian life we need every word of God—the whole Bible—not just one key or secret.

The Apostle Paul put it this way: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). God has inspired all Scripture and it has a variety of uses, but no individual truth is the secret or key to everything in the Christian walk.

We need the whole Bible in order to live the Christian life. Without question some passages and some truths are more important than others, but none of them is the key. Of course, we do need to continually submit to the Lordship of Christ, experience what it means to abide in Christ, and always seek to be filled with the Spirit, etc. And although there is much overlap in the experience of these truths, they are not identical in meaning, and none of them is ever held forth as the key to Christian living.

Therefore it should be our aim to master as much of the Bible as we can. We should read it all the way through, study it, memorize it, meditate on it, an apply it to our lives so that we may live the Christian life as God desires and become more like Jesus Himself. That’s what God wants us to be—like Jesus—and there’s no one secret key to doing that.


In 1987 I made notes while reading a Banner of Truth booklet, Living the Christian Life. I recently reflected upon  those notes, modified them, and expanded upon them for this piece.



Sing the Table Blessing

When I was a child my Christian parents assigned to me the mealtime responsibility of thanking the Lord for our food and to ask His blessing upon it. They never required me to vary the few words I prayed, so before long the thrice-daily habit devolved into mechanical repetition.

One time I went through the ritual so mindlessly that instead of starting by saying, “Dear Heavenly Father,” I crossed wires with my phone answering routine and began my prayer with, “Hello?”

The traditional Christian practice of thanking God for food dates to biblical times. Jesus “gave thanks” to the Father for the loaves and fishes before He miraculously multiplied the food to feed thousands (Matthew 15:36). It was after “He had given thanks” that He distributed the bread at the last supper with His disciples (1 Corinthians 11:24). The book of Acts (27:35) records that the apostle Paul “took bread and gave thanks to God,” and in 1 Timothy 4:3-5 he taught us to do likewise.

No one wants to bore or be bored when giving thanks to God in prayer. But when we thank Him for the same thing (our food) every few hours more than a thousand times a year, year after year, it’s easy to find ourselves praying on autopilot (a practice Jesus condemns as “vain repetitions” in Matthew 6:7). Singing the table blessing can refresh the routine.

Where to begin? In one brief search I found several Internet pages devoted to this subject. (For example, here and here.) Each posted lyrics and suggested familiar tunes. With very little effort you could bring one to the table with you on occasion.

But you may prefer to create your own, perhaps adapting one or more verses of Scripture. A child taking music lessons might enjoy composing a short tune for musical thanks that’s unique to your family. Or during a mealtime or two you could develop a table blessing as a family project.

Like any other method, a table blessing that’s sung can also become a mindless routine if it’s repeated without variety. Used wisely, however, singing your thanks to the Lord at mealtime can adorn the commonplace with a touch of simple beauty.


Related post: “No, I Won’t Bless the Food.”

Taken from Simplify Your Spiritual Life (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003), pages 180-81.

“No, I Won’t Bless the Food.”

In my travels, at the start of a meal with Christian brothers and sisters, I’m often asked, “Will you bless the food?”


My hosts sit there in stunned silence for a moment. Then, with everyone staring at me with awkward, “What do we do now?” looks, I’ll add, “But I’ll be happy to ask the Lord to bless the food.”

Maybe it reflects the limits of my own experience, but it’s been my observation that nowadays fewer followers of Jesus pause like this at the beginning of a meal to give thanks for what they are about to eat.

This seems to be true for individuals and for families, at home and in public.

Why the decline? As with all Christian practices and disciplines, unless each successive generation is taught the reason for something, it soon devolves into mere a routine, then an empty tradition, and then disuse.

Biblical origins of mealtime prayers

Have you ever been taught the biblical reasons for the Christian tradition of praying before a meal?

• Before miraculously multiplying the loaves and fishes and providing a meal for His followers, Jesus asked the Father’s blessing upon the food:

“And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people” (Mark 6:41).

• As He instituted the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gave thanks before distributing the cup to His disciples and also before giving them the bread:

“And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, ‘Take this, and divide it among yourselves. For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.’ And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me’” (Luke 22:17-19).

• After His resurrection, Jesus blessed the bread at the beginning of the meal at the home of the couple from Emmaus:

“When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them” (Luke 24:30).

• The Apostle Paul, publicly and in the presence of many presumed unbelievers, thanked God for his food before eating.

“He took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat” (Acts 27:35).

• Paul taught that believers should receive their food with thanksgiving when he spoke of:

“. . . foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:3).

For such reasons Christians have historically paused before (and sometimes after) meals to acknowledge in prayer (or a song, like the Doxology) that our God, in His goodness and providence, is the ultimate source of the food before us.

Empty ritual?

Can a mealtime prayer become a meaningless ritual? Of course it can, especially since it’s something we experience two or three times per day, seven days per week. In addition to its frequency, the table blessing—or any other prayer—is even more likely to diminish in meaning if we carelessly mouth the same words each time.

No Christian practice or spiritual discipline remains significant to the soul if one experiences it mindlessly and mechanically. Even activities as precious as personal daily prayer, singing praises to God with His people, or taking the Lord’s Supper can become hollow if we engage in them thoughtlessly. All prayer, including the brief prayer of thanks before a meal, requires the engagement of both mind and heart.


A mealtime prayer also acknowledges that “every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17). In a culture of plenty, it’s easy to forget that our food is in answer to Jesus’s command to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

Besides the benefits it has for ourselves, openly testifying in prayer that the meal before us is God’s provision also speaks to our children of our devotion to Christ and teaches them that what we eat is ultimately from the Lord, not the grocery store or our paycheck.

All of life should be lived with an awareness of the presence and blessing of God. Even in something as mundane and repetitive as eating, Scripture exhorts us, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Taking a moment to pray before a meal can help us to do that mindfully.


This post is available as a bulletin insert here.


(See the article/bulletin insert “Sing the Table Blessing” from the book Simplify Your Spiritual Life, 180-81.)

The fields ARE white for harvest, even when you see few conversions

When you see few, if any, conversions in your place of ministry, it can be hard to believe that what Jesus said in John 4:35 is true.

In that verse He said to His disciples, “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

It’s important to realize that He said this in Samaria—a place where Jews (like Jesus and His disciples) weren’t welcome and where Jesus had seen only one convert, and that one just a few minutes earlier

In other words, the twelve apostles did not consider Samaria a place where there had been, or likely ever would be, many conversions.

And yet Jesus said it was—and by extension the places where we serve Him now are—fields white for harvest.

But most of us know too well the grim reality that you can labor faithfully for a long time and see few, if any conversions. Hosea prophesied God’s Word for seventy years. Isaiah preached faithfully for fifty. But both of them had reason to pray the prayer of Isaiah, “Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1).

J.I. Packer, in his great book, A Quest for Godliness, writes of one early Puritan preacher who knew what it was like to preach God’s Word for years and see little evident fruit.

Richard Greenham was [pastor] at Dry Drayton, seven miles from Cambridge, from 1570 to 1590. He worked extremely hard. He rose daily at four and each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday preached a sermon at daybreak, to catch his flock before they dispersed into the fields; then on Sunday he preached twice, and in addition catechized the children of the parish each Sunday evening and Thursday morning. Mornings he studied, afternoons he visited the sick or walked out into the fields “to confer with his Neighbors as they were at Plough”. In his preaching, Henry Holland, his biographer tells us, “he was so earnest, and took such extraordinary pains, that his shirt would usually be as wet with sweating, as if it had been drenched with water, so that he was forced, as soon as he came out of the Pulpit to [change clothes].” . . . He was a pastoral counselor of uncommon skill. . . . His friends hoped he would write a book on the art of counseling, but he never did. . . . In a letter to his bishop he described his ministry as ‘preaching Christ crucified unto my selfe and Country people”. . . . Yet for all his godliness, insight, evangelical message and hard work, his ministry was virtually fruitless. Others outside his parish were blessed through him, but not his own people. “Greenham had pastures green, but flocks full lean” was a little rhyme that went round among the godly. “I perceive no good wrought by my ministry on any but one family” was what, . . . he said to his successor. In rural England in Greenham’s day, there was much fallow ground to be broken up; it was a time for sowing, but the reaping time was still in the future.[1]

Of course, he never saw the results during his lifetime, but it’s hard to say that Greenham’s ministry was unfruitful when we’re still talking about it more than 425 years later.

Nevertheless, occasionally, if not often, most ministers feel about their ministries as Greenham did about his—virtually fruitless.

Another who ministered quite a bit later in Cambridge was Charles Simeon. He faced something of what Greenham experienced. For twelve years he was so opposed that those who rented the pews (which was the custom of the day for providing financial support for the church) would not only stay away from worship, they kept their empty pews locked so no one else could sit in them. Those who wanted to hear Simeon had to stand in the back of the church or in the aisles for the entire worship service, and this went on for twelve years. Despite such opposition, he persevered as pastor and eventually enjoyed a fruitful ministry for half-a-century.

Speaking on this same statement of Jesus in John 4:35, Simeon said regarding those who don’t see a harvest, “The Lord of the harvest will not suffer any one of his labourers to work for nought. In the very work itself he shall find a rich reward.”[2]

The Apostle Paul was inspired of God to put it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” [emphasis added].

One of the reasons Richard Greenham kept preaching and ministering so faithfully, even though there was absolutely no response was because he believed that the fields are white for harvest. Even when like Greenham we see few conversions, and when like him we are in a ground-breaking, foundation-laying, reformational ministry, we must see with spiritual eyes that the fields are white for harvest.

And yet, while it is true that faithful men can labor long without conversions, one of those familiar with Greenham’s life, Charles Spurgeon, said,

If I never won souls, I would sigh till I did. I would break my heart over them if I could not break their hearts. Though I can understand the possibility of an earnest sower never reaping, I cannot understand the possibility of an earnest sower being content not to reap. I cannot comprehend any one of you Christian people trying to win souls and not having results, and being satisfied without results.[3]

Let us “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” even when we see few conversions. But may we never be “content not to reap.”

Preach the Word. Remain faithful. Share the Gospel. Pray for the Spirit’s blessing. For “the fields are white for harvest.” And “in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”


[1] J.I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1990) 43.

[2] Charles Simeon, Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible: Luke 17-24, John 1-12, vol. 13, Outline 1621, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1956), 311.

[3] C. H. Spurgeon, “Tearful Sowing and Joyful Reaping,” in Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit (London: Passmore and Alabaster, 1869; reprint, Pasadena, TX: Pilgrim Publications, 1970), 237.