Biblical Foundations 34: The Glory of God 2
We are in week 35 of digging into the Bible to understand the foundation of this local church—why does God have us attending here? What is He doing in us and through us, in this building and outside of it?
Last post we began to learn from the Bible about the glory of God—what does this mean? What does it mean to glorify the LORD? We began looking at God’s glory—what is it about God that makes Him glorious? His love, His faithfulness—yes! Also His righteousness and His justice—yes!
We also began looking at the Truth that glorifying God is our main purpose on earth: shining the spotlight of our lives on Him—the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Even as we serve non-Christians and meet their earthly needs with sacrificial actions of love, they are still our second priority: our first priority/goal is spreading the fame of our heavenly Father, of introducing people to the Lord Jesus in the hopes that they will surrender to Him and by faith through grace receive Him as their Savior & King.
This post we will continue to dig into the Bible to look at this:
Psalm 23:3 NIV: “He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”
“He leads me in paths of righteousness for the sake of His name.”
“Paths of righteousness”—that’s where many stop; right actions, good deeds! (We often leave out right beliefs—that is an important part of the righteousness that Jesus gives us by grace through faith, but we will talk about that later in September).
But why does He lead us on that path of righteousness? Not primarily for our benefit or the benefit of others…For the sake of His Name! For God’s GLORY, for the spread of His fame…THAT is the purpose of having beliefs and actions of righteousness! As people see us believing and acting more and more like the Lord Jesus, some will be offended (as were most who physically met Jesus!) and others will praise God that He can turn lumps of coal like us into diamonds! Even our good deeds toward others are all about God first and foremost!!! Friends this is BEAUTIFUL and LIBERATING! We are truly set free by the Truth of Christ as He teaches us to put Him first in everything, even our good deeds!
And this Truth & focus on the glory of God helps us to CONTINUE to do good deeds to people when they wrong us, when they truly don’t deserve it, because our good deeds toward them aren’t even primarily about them, the good deeds are first for and about the LORD and His glory!!!
Please also notice that the glory of the Father was the reason that Jesus did His good deeds!
John 17:1-5 NIV:
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.
2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might…
[focus mainly on their earthly needs. No! What is the purpose of the Lord Jesus’ authority!? To…]
give eternal life to all those you have given him.
3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.
[The Lord Jesus glorified His Father by obeying Him, by constantly pointing to the Father & doing everything for Him and in obedience to Him. The same’s true for us!!! Obedience to God matters, even for us who are under grace!!!]
5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
Romans 15:8-9a NIV:
8 For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed 9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
In obedience to God the Father’s Truth—His Word!—Jesus became a servant of the Jews and died on the cross for this primary purpose: so that Gentiles might hear about the Gospel and glorify God that He has made a way for them to be forgiven, given new life, and adopted into God’s family! The most amazing thing about God isn’t that He made the universe in six days…it’s that He would hang on a cross for 6 hours for wretched sinners like you & me. GLORY!
So what’s the big deal? Why should we ask God to help us remember and focus on glorifying Him FIRST as we serve and love non-Christians?
Because it is possible, as we serve others, to completely forget about glorifying God and to do good deeds in a way that DOESN’T honor/glorify Him…
Let’s look at a few examples of this in the Bible:
Isaiah 64:1-7 NIV:
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
that the mountains would tremble before you!
2 As when fire sets twigs ablaze
and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
and cause the nations to quake before you!
3 For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
4 Since ancient times no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
5 You come to the help of those who gladly do right,
who remember your ways.
But when we continued to sin against them,
you were angry.
How then can we be saved?
6 All of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
7 No one calls on your name
or strives to lay hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us
and have given us over to[b] our sins.
“Filthy rags.” Oh loved ones, we need the Word of God and the Holy Spirit of God to help us know this, but sometimes without realizing we do our good deeds to try to earn forgiveness, we try to impress God and show Him that while serial killers on Death Row clearly need Jesus, we haven’t sinned like them and thus we are in a different class; we are more polished, more refined, we are mistakers, while they are sinners. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book: it is a different form of rebellion, but it is still rebellion against God.
We must ask for the LORD’s wisdom as we serve others—is it our attempt to cut corners on the humbling work of repentance and surrender to Jesus, our attempt to try get salvation at a discount? Are our good deeds our attempts to soothe our conscience and prove that we are basically good people at heart with a few scuff marks that need to be polished up?
- Isaiah calls such attempts “filthy rags,” just like Adam & Eve tried to cover up their nakedness and shame after their sin with some little fig leaves. Even when we do it without realizing it, doing good deeds to show God our goodness and prove our worthiness is a sin; such good deeds do not and cannot glorify the LORD because they, like the Tower of Babel in Genesis, are our attempts to show ourselves worthy apart from God. So that is one danger in our good deeds of not glorifying the LORD.
He wasn’t concerned about the glory of God; Jonah did the OPPOSITE of what God commanded him to do: Jonah WOULDN’T bring the LORD’s message to the people of Ninevah at first—he wasn’t thinking about God’s glory but his own desires…
And many of us church-attenders today, since we aren’t often concerned first and foremost with the glory of God, we often do the opposite of the mission that Jesus has for us: instead of going and making disciples and teaching people to obey all He commanded (Matthew 28), instead of going and being Christ’s witnesses locally, nationally and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1), we settle for something less, something different, something UN-glorifying to God (un-glorifying is a nice way of saying dishonoring God, or sinful!), so that we can still chase our own dreams and follow our own hearts but do so with a Christian uniform on! Christianity becomes a hobby not a mission…
This is why we have to read the Bible and give the Holy Spirit a chance to show us how these different events in the Bible speak to us and our sins, to convict us of the ways we go astray…but when we don’t read Scripture deeply we never get convicted and we assume that means that God thinks we are doing fine, as if not going to the doctor (and thus never hearing a bad diagnosis) convinces us we are healthy. When we read the Bible it reads us back! That I believe is the reason so many don’t read it—we aren’t too busy; we are too scared…just as students try not to make eye-contact with the teacher when he/she is looking to call on someone…
Hebrews 4:12-13 NIV:
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Even when Jonah finally did do what God commanded, Jonah didn’t want God to be glorified, Jonah didn’t want the people of Ninevah to repent receive the grace & forgiveness of the LORD! Jonah did the right action with the wrong motive! So whether we run from God’s commands or even when we do them, we need the Holy Spirit’s help to focus first on glorifying the LORD.
Ezekiel 13:10 NIV: 10 “‘Because they lead my people astray, saying, “Peace,” when there is no peace,
Even though God told His people that He was going to bring in an intense judgment upon His people Israel, and even though the prophets’ job was to bring that difficult to hear message to the people, calling them to repentance, to prepare for God’s difficult discipline, the false prophets told the people that everything was going to be ok, that everything would work out fine, that God would never deeply discipline His people like that—I’m sure they said that God is love! The prophets, in serving the people, weren’t concerned about the Truth, about glorifying God (which is exactly what happens when people DO repent to the Lord and cry out for mercy after He convicts them of sin); the false prophets were concerned more with comforting the people immediately, telling them what they wanted to hear. In the short-run it made the false prophets very popular, but in the long run it had DEVASTATING effects on the people of God…
- A friend of mine in college spent much time serving people in deep poverty, people who are so poor that they are actually oppressed by the poverty—poor nutrition, lack of access to healthcare, lack of access to education, no job options, basically no opportunity to break the cycle of poverty even when they want to.
- His heart broke for their suffering, and over time he came to believe that their terrible suffering on earth is the reason they would go to heaven. He didn’t tell them about receiving Jesus as their Savior, didn’t tell them about the cross and the offer of God’s free grace for their terrible sinfulness, because he didn’t think God would ever send to hell people who have suffered so many physical trials on earth.
- What he did in serving the earthly needs of others was beautiful! He learned what Job stated in Job 30:25: Have I not wept for those in trouble? Has not my soul grieved for the poor? We all need to learn this!
- But he went too far…he made the second greatest commandment the first. His love crossed the boundaries of God’s Word, his love went farther than God’s! His love caused him to change his belief in what the Bible clearly teaches, it caused him to focus so much on earthly suffering that he never told them about Jesus who can save them from eternal suffering! He gave them the impression that they were safe from God’s judgment because their lives on earth are so difficult; he gave them a false assurance of eternity and, I say this with humility and gentleness, he has done more harm than good…
If he had served these people FIRST for the glory of God, FIRST to honor the LORD and spread His fame with the bigger goal of introduce people to the Lord Jesus, he would have avoided this terrible shift in his beliefs…we must all be careful of divorcing our good deeds from the glory of God…
In the next post we will look at two more examples from Scripture of the danger of serving others, not for the glory of God, but for others reasons.
But the above examples are what happens to us when we separate glorifying God—spreading His fame—from serving the practical needs of non-Christians. The above examples are what happens when we only meet earthly needs in earthly ways and never seek to humbly but boldly address the eternal needs of people by telling them about Jesus and the Gospel and His cross and empty tomb with our words…the way to glorify God the most, and love people the BEST!, is point people to the Cross, the ultimate display of love, grace & Truth…
Interesting order in Psalm 40:3 NIV:
“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.”
- “Many will see” [the LORD],
- then “fear the LORD” [be amazed at Him/His glory] &
- then “put their trust in him.” We skip 2 & go to 3.
My friends, may we seek the LORD and ask Him to help us be in awe of Him…
May we ask the LORD to help us do everything for His glory, for the spread of His fame, from errands to elevating others,
from laundry to loving non-Christians,
from homework to helping others…
May we ask the LORD to help our service to others be first our worship for Him;
may loving others still first and foremost be about Him.
May we ask the LORD to help us always have the bigger eternal goal of
introducing others to the Lord Jesus thru our words & actions…
May we ask the LORD to help us not only do WHAT God wants us to do
but WHY God wants us to do it and
HOW God wants us to do it,
that even our service to others would be not what WE think is best
but what God has revealed in His Word…