Biblical Foundations 36: The Glory of God 4
Loved ones, I know that posts like the last one are not easy for many, and are downright painful for some. Please know that I realize that first hand—you read it for about 15-20 minutes, but I worked on it for hours the week before—imagine how the LORD humbled ME! As one pastor said years ago (Vance Havner), “If you ever feel shaved by a sermon Sunday morning, just know that it whittled me down all week!”
One of the most dangerous temptations for a pastor is to simply teach the easier to hear parts of the Bible—the parts that are more likely to get people to come back, to fill the seats. The Bible is big, a pastor could never preach through all 66 books even in 50 years, and if I skipped the hard to hear parts many wouldn’t even know. But I cannot do that. That is the Bible’s description of false teachers in the last days (2 Timothy 4). Please know that I am trying, as the Apostle Paul, to teach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts ??). My job is not to fill the seats but to honor the LORD and (humbly but boldly) proclaim His Truth to you in the power of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
But friends, one of the biggest goals of God and His Word is to whittle us down, to lower our self-confidence, to humble us so that we can be reborn through the grace of Jesus, so that our God-confidence increases, so that we can be exalted (lifted up!) by Christ. We often only want Jesus to hug us, but His cure doesn’t come through hugs alone, but also with humbling as well, and deep humbling that often feels like the opposite of hugs.
Think about just some of the True but difficult to hear statements of Jesus:
Matthew 7:11: “If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children…”
Jesus just called me evil! Not imperfect, or prone to mistakes, but evil!
Luke 6:45: “A person speaks out of the evil stored up in their hearts…”
And let’s not forget about Jeremiah 17:9 (combo of NIV and ESV), another indictment of the sinfulness of the hearts of humans, not just the external mistake-ness of our actions:
“The heart is devious, deceitful above all else, above all things; it is perverse, desperately wicked, sick—who can understand it?”
God continually is lowering our self-confidence. A surgeon cannot cure through comfort, but only through cutting. Only those on Death Row appeal to the governor for mercy and pardon and freedom! A person who thinks they AREN’T on Death Row just gets busy decorating their prison cell as nicely as possible and is unconcerned with the bigger issue of their imprisonment—and that is the status of so many non-Christians today: they are making the most of this life and think they just need a little improvement in certain areas of their lives (“nobody’s perfect!”)—many are even willing to go to church for such improvement as long as it doesn’t involve dying to yourself & surrendering to Jesus and repenting and carrying a cross in our daily lives!
Loved ones, our sinfulness doesn’t want to bow to Jesus as Master, to crawl to Him as our needed Savior. We must know that about our hearts—we don’t want Him to be our King. But our sinful hearts will be happy to have Him in other ways—to improve us a bit here, to polish us a bit there. We are content to go to Him for superficial/external reasons, for cosmetic surgery. But He needs to break us even from that and show us our need for a total heart transplant—crack open the sternum, rip out the old dark heart, transplant His heart of light and Truth and love.
- Many people hung around Jesus for a free meal, because He was the flavor of the month, to see a miracle, etc. But there were others who had a laser-like focus on getting to Jesus, not just hanging around Him, who had people cut holes in people’s roofs in order to lower them right into the presence of Jesus. These people sought out Jesus with such determination because they realized how physically sick and broken and desperate they were. They realized their utter NEED of Jesus and couldn’t go on with life without getting to Him, and so they dropped everything in life to get to Him. Oh how we need to be shown the same, not of our physical need for Jesus (though we need Him for that too!), but of our deep spiritual need, the utter urgency of our desperate spiritual need for salvation, forgiveness, new life.
And so the Holy Spirit through the Bible must show ALL of us the reality of our spiritual condition without Jesus, must show us that ALL of us have orange jumpsuits on, that all of us without Christ are destined for eternal Judgment. This isn’t easy to hear but it is the only way that we will cry out to the Governor—JESUS!—for the pardon and mercy and freedom that only He can give. I DESPERATELY want to tell you about the joy of the LORD which is our strength, the joy of God which makes the temporary happiness of this world seem like pain, the joy which surpasses our ability to understand. But the Bible reveals that we have to go through the pain of God’s discipline & humbling us in order to receive the joy He died to freely give us:
Psalm 30:4-5 NIV:
Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.
5 For his anger lasts only a moment, [His wrath, discipline!]
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night, [mourning over our sin, weeping at God’s discipline!]
but rejoicing comes in the morning.
[we often want to take a sleeping pill to get through the weeping & get to the rejoicing, but it doesn’t work that way!]
I was born in 1980 and so I know first-hand the constant force-feeding of self-confidence by the culture. It truly is one of the main cornerstones of the religion (yes, religion!)—the deeply held beliefs—of the non-Christian culture. Believe in yourself, you can do it, follow your heart, if you want it bad enough you can achieve it, you are amazing just as you are, you can do whatever you put your mind to, you need to accept yourself, etc. Who is the subject—the most important part!—of all those phrases? You! ME! MYSELF! I!
- Oh loved ones, do you see where all of these statements are the opposite of what is taught in the Bible? These statements are not a few degrees apart from the Bible—they are 180 degrees different, totally opposite, in direct opposition to God’s Truth! This is the original sin in the Garden of Eden—the devil tempted Eve saying, “YOU can be like God! Don’t worry about what God said, reach YOUR full potential, fulfill YOUR destiny, by eating the fruit that is so pleasing to your eyes—do what you want/feel and become who you want to be!”
And since we all have been fed this—and allow ourselves to be fed this!—so much each day, it is often a long & painful process of the Holy Spirit to strip us of all these layers of self-centeredness.
- Like we’ve been talking about redoing the parking lot outside: you don’t lay new asphalt on the old, but the old must be stripped down to the dirt, a messy and painful process, before the new parking lot can be built; if you were to come to the parking lot in the middle of the stripping process it would seem like things are getting worse, you might even say (as the Israelites did in the desert after Egypt) that you want the OLD parking lot back—it’s better than this stripped down mess! Many of us want Jesus to fill in a few of the potholes in our old asphalt, but we need Him to rip & scrape out the old one to install His new one…
And that is what many do when the LORD starts to deeply humble & strip us of our pride & self-confidence: we run away so we can avoid the process and we stay where we are, either as baby Christians or not even as Christians at all—so that we aren’t remade to have ZERO self-confidence and higher and higher God-confidence. Pride and self—even self-centeredness that expresses itself in good deeds but not for the glory of God—are the original sin! This is the root of all the world’s troubles, the reason we are conceived separated from God in the first place! And so the Holy Spirit through the Bible HAS to break us down, the old layers of sinful asphalt, and this humbling process is difficult, uncomfortable—we want to run from it and hide and close the Bible and find a new church and just watch some football, etc.
- 2 Corinthians 1:8-11 NIV: 8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.
Sometimes our trials in life are the result of others’ sin against us,
sometimes our trials are the result of God disciplining us for our own sins,
sometimes our trials are simply God growing & maturing us.
But all three are lovingly used by God to strip us of relying on ourselves/self-confidence and to transform us to rely completely on Him/God-confidence.
This is why so few people truly read the Bible—it reads us back, it sometimes condemns us, it should often point out our terrible sin and thus our need for a terrific Savior!
2 Timothy 3:14-16 NIV: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
[how does the Bible make us wise for salvation? By pointing out our sinfulness which causes us to run to Jesus for salvation by faith! The Bible shows us we are spiritually naked without Jesus—not just with an uncool spiritual wardrobe but NAKED!—so we can then call on Him in repentance for His robes of righteousness! Yes the Bible can make us more efficient in our earthly tasks, but the main goal of Scripture is make us wise for SALVATION!]
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness…”
The Bible rebukes us—without Jesus we are hopeless, that without Jesus we aren’t awesome, we are awful, that we don’t rock…Jesus is the Rock, Jesus’ Word is the Rock on which we are to build our lives. Everything else is counterfeit, is sinking sand, is self-confidence, is pride…The Bible teaches us to let go of the world’s happiness that we chase & clutch (self-confidence—you can do it!) so we can receive as a free gift the joy of Jesus’ salvation & forgiveness (God-confidence—He has done it!). Oh my friends, the Bible teaches that we are LOVED by God, but our sinfulness is not LOVABLE to God…we need His help to believe both…
1 Peter 4:17-19 NIV: For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And,
“If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” [Proverbs 11:31 Septuagint]
19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.
And as the pastor of this local church, I need God’s help to love you enough to walk with you through those Bible passages that will whittle you down, those verses that will show you how hopeless you are without Christ Jesus as your life, not just as a part of your life, those verses that show you the difference between crying out to Jesus to cover your nakedness with His robe of perfectness versus adding Jesus as an accessory to your wardrobe, like earrings or a watch. Jesus must BE our wardrobe for us to be saved, for us to have joy, not just be a part of our wardrobe.
So please know my heart in this, please pray for me to love the LORD first and to risk my job to teach you all of His Word (even what you might not want to hear!), and please pray for me to love you second, to love you enough to risk my job each Sunday by teaching you all of His Word and to risk making you feel/bad or upset in the short-run so that you can cry out to Jesus and be made new & set free & grow & mature & bear fruit in the long-run. I want you to be saved, not just improved; I want you to be forgiven & adopted by God the Father for eternity, not entertained for a few minutes. And I want you to grow & mature & bear fruit for the glory of the LORD, not just stay the way you are. This isn’t just a matter of life and death, but of ETERNAL life and death.
As we close our series on the glory of God, I want you to know the LORD, the LORD of GLORY, and sometimes I wonder if Jesus physically appeared in this local church with His glory, I think many of us would run up to Him and give Him a high-five. But that isn’t the response that the soldiers had in the Garden of Gethsemene…they fell to the ground in awe and fear when He said, “I am He”! Why do we think that God in our midst would be like seeing a buddy at a sporting event, somebody we trade a few laughs with but then that we forget about and get back to our lives, our goals, our plans, our dreams?
Why do we treat Jesus like the mascot of Christianity Who is here to entertain and amuse us in between innings of our lives as we pursue our dreams?
The glory of God when the people wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff and He just walked right through them…GLORY! “Just TRY to kill Me before the Father’s time, in a different way than the Father’s will—JUST TRY! I DARE YOU! Here I am!” And He walked right through the mob…GLORY! BOLDNESS! POWER! I want you to know HIM!
Have you met THIS Jesus? How have you responded to Him?
Jesus asks YOU: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)
Has the Holy Spirit ever cut your heart to the quick, shown you your terrible sinfulness and your utter need for Jesus to save and forgive and make you new?
He did this to the people in Acts 2—cut them to the heart with the Truth that their sinfulness crucified Jesus—they responded: “What must we do?” Not, “What must we do to try to make up for our mistake or to get better?” Not, “Hey, I’m a work in progress, nobody’s perfect, leave us alone!” They knew there was nothing they could do but cry out for the mercy and grace and love of Jesus, to throw themselves at His feet w/a full confession!
Peter replied, “Repent! Be baptized in the name of Jesus and you will receive the Holy Spirit.”
How do you respond to the Holy Spirit convicting you of your sinfulness? Denial? Defensiveness? Plea bargain? Plead the 5th? Walk out? Go to another set of beliefs that make you feel good all the time? Or fall to your knees in agreement, crying out to Jesus to forgive and save and adopt and set you free?
Have you ever repented? Have you ever grieved over your sinfulness? Peter did after he denied Jesus 3x—“He wept bitterly.”
Oh has the Holy Spirit ever blessed you like these mighty men of God? Not has this happened to your parents or grandparents or friends—has this happened to YOU!? This is the GLORY of God!!!!
Oh loved ones, so many love to talk about the Holy Spirit today, love to talk about signs and wonders and miracles…but many leave out one of the main roles of the Holy Spirit—that He convicts us of our sinfulness! He points out our sin and brings us low so that we will repent, confess, be forgiven and be cleaned of our filthiness! This isn’t often fun or easy but it is so good, it honors and glorifies God because it reminds us of our constant need for Him every moment of every day!
“Encounters with God result in limps, not struts” (Matt Smethurst).
Has the LORD ever caused you to limp at the foundation of your self-reliance so you can finally & forever rely on Him as the new foundation of your life? Has God shattered your stained-glass self-confidence so the window of your soul can be replaced with the panes of Christ-confidence? The GLORY of God!!!
Interesting order in Psalm 40:3:
“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, it is the glory of God to put us in our place on earth (humbling us—what we deserve)
so the glory of God can put us in our place in heaven (exalting us—what we don’t deserve).
Let God bring you lower than you thought
So He can bring you higher than you imagined.
Let the Holy Spirit humble you through His Word, through His glory, FOR His glory…