Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
And let us exalt his name together!
(Psalm 34:3, ESV).
“Magnifying Christ is to make him bigger in our eyes, to know him better, and to show him more brilliantly to others who need to see him.”
When I was a child, magnifying glasses fascinated me. With the naked eye, you could see an ant crawling across our deck and think, “Yes, that’s an ant.” But when you take the magnifying glass and put it up near that ant, you noticed that what you thought was a little bug without much to it suddenly turned into a magnificent creature with very detailed features. You see the antennae, the eyes, the head, the thorax, the abdomen, the legs—you become amazed at what this little bug is truly like. And I remember running and telling my mom to come look! I had to show her what I had seen.
Before anything of consequence may happen in a local church or in the life of the Christian for that matter must flow from a Christian’s magnification of Christ alone. Before a church can look inward, outward, or move forward, she must look upward. Notice how the beginning of Scripture begins: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Before we address the nuts and bolts of creation and history and all the warts and wrinkles therein, Scripture directs us upward first. This understanding is critical to everything that our lives entail.
In a culture from the academic elite to the water cooler who hold to the notion that our lives are random with no design, direction, nor purpose behind it all, Scripture begins with the very first verse by saying in essence, “Everything you see? God made it, designed it, purposed it, is directing it. From the molecular to the galactic level, the chance element is absent. And the world craves for this reality, whether they realize it or not.
Our view of God affects everything that we do, everything we say, everything we think. Richard Lints tells us the importance of our theological vision in regards to life and church:
A theological vision allows [people] to see their culture in a way different that they had ever been able to see it before . . . Those who are empowered by the theological vision do not simply stand against the mainstream impulses of the culture but take the initiative both to understand and speak to that culture from the framework of the Scriptures . . . The modern theological vision must seek to bring the entire counsel of God into the world of its time in order that its time might be transformed.
When it comes to our worship times, I think of two verses out of the Psalms. The first is this from Psalm 122:1, “I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go into the house of the Lord.’” This deals with our attitude! For the Christian, an enthusiasm exists in coming before the Lord and before His people. And when we come into this kingdom outpost to worship, much of what we get out of it depends on what we put into it! It is here that we exalt Christ, we encourage others in Christ to exalt Christ in their lives. Here, we learn about the Word of God by the Spirit of God. Everything that takes place in the live of the church does so to make much of the crucified and risen Son! We have His word, His Spirit, His called leaders in the church, His people—and an empty cross and tomb to anchor it all!
Another verse out of the Psalms is that of Psalm 133:1: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” Unity in what? Some say it’s simply unity in fellowship—in other words, you simply like being around this group of people, and this is the extent of unity. Yet, there is nothing distinctive about this. You can find that type of fellowship at a bar. You can find that at a ball game, where 80,000 people are cheering for a Broncos win! You can find that at a rally of a common cause. But there is more to it: we are unified in the truth! Unified in Christ and what He has revealed in His Word.
Yet, just because we come to a church function or even to our worship gathering here, does not mean we are worshiping! You can be here, but not be here all at the same time. Our body may be occupying space in one of the benches, but our minds and hearts can in a galaxy far, far away.
Psalm 34:3 says:
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
And let us exalt his name together!
Literally, the Psalmist is saying, “Let’s make the Lord’s name grow and expand in our midst and in the world.” God desired for this attitude and expectation to pervade His people, but His desires did not always manifest themselves—in fact, most of the time they were absent!
The fundamental activity and attitude of the believer and, also, churches is to magnify Christ. Magnifying Christ is to make him bigger in our eyes, to know him better, and to show him more brilliantly to others who need to see him.
Consider Ezekiel 36 and how the people of Israel would speak of the name of the Lord among the nations:
16 The word of the Lord came to me: 17 “Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity. 18 So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. 19 I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them.20 But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ 21 But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came (Ezekiel 36:16-21).
And yet, God would send His Spirit to them, cleanse them, give them a new heart and a new spirit—even writing His law, not on tablets, but on their hearts. Why? “Thus say the LORD GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name” (Ezekiel 36:22-23a).
So when we magnify His name, we magnify all that He is. We understand this with such emblems as logos or flags or banners or even ‘brand names.’ Wave a Confederate flag, and this will stir all sorts of feelings: some about heritage, others view it as hateful. But that banner, as the US flag does, brings forth all that it represents. Players in the NFL have been taught over and over to ‘protect the shield’—the shield being the NFL logo. But did the NFL representatives simply want them to die for a piece of artwork in that logo? No—that logo represented all that the NFL is, reputation and all.
When we magnify His name, we magnify all that He is! We want, as we now understand the word ‘magnify,’ to make God big in a world that makes Him small and of little influence or consequence. The more we magnify our Lord Jesus, the more we begin to see the culture in which we occupy more as He does. And the more we see the culture as He does, the more we wish to magnify Him. Why? Because Christ is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [Him]” (John 14:6). The world is a dead-end, deceptive, and destructive—and if ever a Person needed magnifying and whose fame needed ‘made big,’ it is Christ’s. Christ is big, the world’s issues are big before our eyes, and their eternity is big in our hearts.
But when God, as J.B. Phillips once titled a book, is too small, so too will be the issues of the world and the inevitability of eternity. Therefore, there will be little need in our hearts to magnify Him in our hearts nor in the world in which we occupy.
Richard Lints, The Fabric of Theology: A Prolegomenon to Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 316-17. Quoted in Timothy Keller, Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 18.