T he first angel's message of Revelation 14 declares, "Fear God, and give glory to him." This is timely counsel, always appropriate, but especially so in the light of the judgment hour in which we now live. "To fear God" does not mean "to be afraid of Him," but implies a reverent awe, recognizing that He is the Holy God and we the creatures yea, sinful creatures.
This was the experience that came to Isaiah when as a young man standing in the portico of the Temple he saw God "high and lifted up." His response was "Woe is me! For I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King" (Isa. 6:5).
This was also the experience of Peter when after the miraculous draught of fish he cried out, "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man."
With the recognition of the holiness of God and us as His undeserving creatures comes the further call "Give glory to him." Our lives are at all times and in all circumstances to glorify God. They will bear fruit. There will be good works. But only to glorify God. Jesus said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16).
The light we radiate, the works we perform, are to direct all men to the Source of light, the Foundation of all good works. Whenever we as leaders in the church fail in this we become problems rather than solutions, we become barriers to the progress of the gospel rather than useful instruments for its accomplishment.
The human nature is self-centered. It cries out for self-recognition. It is easily offended. It seeks its own good and glory. It sees all things in the light of how his own status will be affected. His motive in service is self-inspired.
Christ had much to say about motive in service. He denounced most severely the self-seeking religious leaders of His day. Seeking their own glory, they were totally unprepared to think in terms of cross bearing. The Messiah they wanted was a king of power in whose temporal kingdom they could occupy seats of authority and prestige.
This danger among church leaders has always existed. Satan being who he is, the danger becomes more persistent as the end draws near. We must be aware of this and be on our guard, lest we take our eyes off the Christ we are committed to serve.
The apostle Paul exclaimed "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." To this dedicated apostle the thought of glorying in self was abhorrent. Considering what Christ had done for him, the chief of sinners, he could not say or do enough for Him. For him, to live was Christ. To the Corinthians he wrote, "For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Cor. 2:2). Later he declared, "If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities" (2 Cor. 11:30). He would glory only in those things that would help to keep him humble.
During Christ's last days with His disciples before His death, His great concern was that true humility characterize their work in their leadership role of the church.
Following Peter's bold acclamation at Caesarea Phillippi, "Thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God," He made the first plain announcement of His coming death, followed with the important appeal, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt. 16:24).
Returning to Galilee, and after the Transfiguration experience a week later, Jesus stood a child up before the disciples with the words "Verily \ say unto you, Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 18:3).
Thereafter, on His final approach to Jerusalem, the proud mother of James and John came to Jesus seeking for them the highest position in His kingdom. Again Jesus reminded them of the nature of his mission and the spirit of self-denial that was to characterize His followers. "Ye know not what ye ask," He declared, adding, "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" (Matt. 20:22).
Then and now
It was after Peter's conversion, following the denial of his Lord, and the change that came to all the disciples save Judas, that the Holy Spirit came upon them and they went forward to turn "the world upside down." Then only with self hidden in Christ, and their holiness, His glory, and the advancement of His kingdom their only aim was it possible for His power to attend in such a marvelous way.
When this experience becomes ours, we will also have the experience called for in the message of the last-day flying angel of Revelation. Then we will indeed "fear God, and give glory to him." Then, also, will the messages of Revelation go with a loud cry and the earth will be enlightened with His glory.
Orley M. Berg wrote this article at the time he was Associate Secretary of the Ministerial Association of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.