At the center of all of life is The Glory of God. God created the heavens to “declare the glory of God.” (Psalm 19:1) He chose us before the creation through Jesus Christ, “to the praise of his glorious grace.” (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14) The focus of Jesus’ life was captured in one prayer: “Father, glorify your name. (John 12:28). As children of God, we have one mandate: “do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) And, when all of this life is over, God goal will be achieved: the whole earth will “be filled with his glory.” (Psalm 72:19)
I. Praise God! He got it! (1 Peter 2:9-12) (2 Cor. 4:4-6) (“Winner Man”)
This year was a challenging year. Covid had it affects on our programs as it did around the world. But, the Word of God is not bound. Our Lord is not hindered one whit. Though we had to go home because of Covid in 2020, AMSOB went on. The men that I had discipled for seven years stood up and carried the load for the year we were gone. And, the studentsnever lost the unbridled ambition to study the Word.
Last month, because of Covid restrictions, we had to adjust our graduation ceremonies. Instead of meeting inside we had to go outside. Instead of having two ceremonies we had 4. Again, it did not hamper the excitement. They laughedand danced and the atmosphere was electric. It was so much fun seeing how much they appreciated what they had accomplished in two years of study.
We arranged for a student from each class to preach a short sermon and one to give a testimony of the most important thing they had learned in their studies. The sermons almost brought tears to my eyes. They did not scream and prance about which was their go to style. They stayed with the text. They did background. They explained the meaning carefully. The pointed to the beauty of Jesus. All four of them, two men and two women did me proud.
But the high point for me was the testimony of a young man, a fairly new convert. He said that he was introduced to Christianity in churches that taught that the essence of Christianity was obeying the commands and keeping the law. The main motivations for belief are two: fear of hell and the promise of riches on earth. But, he said that the liberating lesson he learned was that God’s plan from eternity was that he would create a people who would glorify him by loving him and enjoying who He is. And when he said that, I said to myself, Praise God! He Got it!
I was born into an awesome home. My Father loved the Lord and his faith in God made him seem bigger than life. My Mom loved Jesus too, and served his church with all of her heart. She worked so hard to give us things which the church’s salary could not. And, she made me feel special.
Our church was a little crazy, but it was my family. They loved me and gave me loving support to start life the right way. Theology was not deep, but love for Jesus and His Word was. From my earliest days I knew Jesus was great and good and placed my faith in him. He gave me a love for Him and a passion for truth that is still with me today. Enjoying Jesus was built into my life.
I constantly heard testimonies of how Jesus changed lives. How life changing he was. So, wanted Jesus to be my friend. He was. He answered my prayers. He spoke and let me know he would lead me and would always guide me into what was best. I would describe my walk with him as INTIMATE. I always felt him close. Loved by Him.
Infinite God. But, gradually I discovered a whole new and enlarged vision of my Lord. He taught me that he is not only Jesus Christ my friend, but he is Holy, Holy, Holy One. He is not only intimate, he is INFINITE! There is no one like Him. He is without beginning. He is eternal. His perfections cannot be numbered. He knows all things. He controls all things. His holiness burns white hot. His mercy flows like a river. His beauty is awesome. His power has no rivals. I began to understand what the Bible means when it says, “Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness.” (Psalm 29:2)
So, I was ushered into the world of fear, wonder, mystery and humility profound wonder. I discovered so many things about Him that left me speechless. He is so much more glorious than I ever learned in Sunday School. When I look at his heavens and at his glory, and then see how he has chosen me for his service, my response is the same as David’s in Psalm 8
When I consider the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. Psalm 8:3-5.
As God became bigger, the world, my enemies, my troubles, my failures, my weaknesses became smaller. My hopes, my dreams, my desires, my expectations, my ministry became bigger and my sense of purpose and joy in Him went through the roof.
I learned two things important things. First, I found out that He has a white hot devotion for the glory of His name. He demands that His name be honored. All that he has done, is doing and will do, is directed toward one goal: the display His glory and receive the praise that is due him. Isaiah 48:6, captures this thought well: “For my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed. I will not yield my glory to another.” He is the One Person in the universe that self-promotion is not a sin. It would be a sin if he didn’t.
And, if that is God’s passion, then it should be his my passion. So, I was not surprised when I read that the Westminster Confession of 1617, posed this question: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ it gave this response: “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”
I expected them to say “glorify God.” That is throughout the Bible in many ways. But, to enjoy God as part of that great response? That was surprising. Even shocking. I was raised where obedience took preference over enjoying. Duty and sacrifice was the real proof of piety. Joy in God was a natural side effect. Not crucial or central to a godly existence.
But there were plenty of clues, of course. Nehemiah 10:8 “The joy of the Lord is your strength,” was one. Psalms are filled with admonitions. Psalm 2:1: “Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.” The New Testament was even clearer: Jesus taught that the faithful servant would hear, “Well done good and faithful servant, share in your Master’s happiness.” (Matthew 25:23) “Rejoice in the Lord. I say it again, Rejoice! (Phil. 4:6) Again, Jesus told us things so that “his joy might be in me, and that my joy may be full.” (John 15:11). Call me slow, but I never connected the dots. I never saw that “God was most glorified in me when I was most satisfied in him.” It never occurred to me that the more I enjoyed him the more he is honored. And, I never pictured the essence of discipleship and Bible study as being looking for more reason to find my joy in Jesus. So, I want to spend the rest of our time trying to get you to join me in this search.
II. In Pursuit of God’s Glory and My Joy -Three Views
A. View from Darkness.
a. We are blinded.
In 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul describes our hopeless condition when the god of this age deluded us with his lies. He wrote, “The God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” We were blind. Our eyes could not see the beauty of Jesus. We were dead in our sins. We as dead as Lazarus three days dead in the tomb. We were like Bartimaeus. We were blind from birth.
Then, God did a miracle, The same God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness made his light to shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glorious God in the face of Christ.” Before Jesus meant nothing to us. Why should he, we could not see his glorious beauty. But, God, the one who first created light out of darkness, spoke again to us, created light, and opened our eyes so we could see the glory of God in the face of Christ. Like Bartimaeus, for the first time we really could see! It was a life changing miracle. Nothing would ever be the same again. We saw the glory of Jesus and He was for us.
b. He is the Light Giver. 2 Corinthians 3:18
Earlier missionaries to Malawi left because they thought they had evangelized the nation. But, what we have discovered is that they may have evangelized but they did not disciple. In the 8 years I have served in Malawi, I have seen immorality in the clergy; of the grossest kind, not even found in pagans. They have stolen food from orphans. We had to remove one who was one of my closest partners in ministry. Deep disappointment and questions.
Recently I heard reports of some of the most basic commands ignored by some of our newest converts, some that we have rejoiced in. So, before I left I did my best in one sermon to lay out the principle that at the root of Christianity, indeed the purpose of Jesus coming and the whole point of Biblical study and preaching is CHANGE! Radical Change!
When Christ comes within, the old is gone. The new has come. The believer is a totally new creature. I miracle of God’s Spirit transformation. A raised hand or a signed card or even a water baptism may mean nothing. Before dead. Now alive. Before blind. Now see. Before enemy. Now son. Before a sinner. Now saint. Before loser. Now winner. It is nothing less than miracle of God’s grace. I wanted them to know that God had made them winners, at a great cost to himself. So, what was missing? My conclusion: They have not yet seen the life changing glory of Jesus Christ, or at least, their eyes are still blurred. It can happen to us.
B. From the Theater. (1 Peter 2:9-10)
a. We are the Actors.
It is my hope that this study will clarify for you a most important truth. I now switch to use the image of a theater. God created the universe for purpose of displaying the glory of God. God made this world to be a grand theater where His glory is put on display in such a way that that He is praised and prized. We see it stated clearly in Psalm 19:1. The heavens declare the glory of God. By his works, and through his works, we see the beauty and power of God whose fingers who has set the moon in place.
It does not end there. God created mankind for the same purpose. We see it in one clear passage in 1 Peter 2:9-10.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
From this I determined that we the are the actors in God’s theater but Jesus is the Star! We are pointing to the excellencies of a God who by his grace calls those who are not a people but he makes them into God’s people. God chose sinners and rebels who were destined for destruction and whose lives were without purpose and put them on his stage to display the wonders of his mercy.
b. HE IS THE DIRECTOR.
I am not just trying to be cute. I want you to see this is God’s plan, his plot. God’s providence moves according to his plan. God is not spontaneous and does not move according to his feelings any particular day. His plan goes back to before the creation of the world. He never at a loss as to what he will do next, never caught off guard and never has to change the script. That includes his plan for the universe, his plan for the church, and his plan for you and me.
He is active, hands on, meticulous carrying our every detail according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11). His name is at stake as well as our wellbeing. The spotlight is on his grace. One more reference should seal that point. Ephesians 1:4-6. “praise be to God…For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons, through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will- to the praise of his glorious grace!”
There it is. God is the director of his own God glorifying, sinner saving plot. He wrote and directed the plot before he created the theater. He made the stage, the universe. He wrote the script. He chose the Actor. He chose the actors. He made us holy unto him. He adopted as his sons. He redeemed us through his blood. And, he will bring all of the acts of the actors to a grand and dramatic and glorious final scene.
And, why did he do all this? Three times he tells us. Verse 8: to the praise of his glory. Verse 11, to the praise of his glory. Verse 14, to the praise of his glory. You cannot miss it. God chose you, sent his Son, Jesus Christ to die for you. All because of His grace and mercy so that the whole world, the angles of heaven, the demons of the air, all creatures who have eyes to see, will glorify God for his indescribable gift to us.
And, it does not end there. We are saved from the world and brought into his plot so that we can continue to declarethe praises of the One who called us (1 Peter 2:9). We are to let our light shine so that all can see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 14-16). And, in whatever we do, whether it is speaking the very words of God, or working in the strength God provides, we do it so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever. (1 Peter 4:11).
C. From the Foxhole. (1 Peter 5:8-11)
a. We are the Warriors.
One other viewpoint before we wrap this up. The Bible is very clear. God’s plan to glorify himself through our God honoring life will be met with strong resistance. You will not drift into the realms of God’s glory. The currents are against you. Your old nature still wants to make you the center of the universe. The world system will think it strange that you do not join them in their selfish God belittling arrogance. They will try to conform you to their way. If that does not work they will confine you by mocking you. They might even persecute you. And, there is the devil, the one who hates God and hates God’s glory so he hates you.
That is why Peter reminds us: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers throughout the world are in the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:9. What is the devil want to devour? Your faith. Because your faith secures and anchors your joy in Jesus. He hates it when you display a love for Jesus which displays his worth is greater than your worth. That his worth is greater than money, sex and power. That his worth is greater than comfort, security and painless living. He hates it when we trust Him even when things look all wrong, when we suffer with joy. His two weapons? Pleasure to get you to think Jesus is not worth it. Pain to get you to doubt his goodness.
So, we must prepare for battle. We have to fight. We have to pray and pound on the Word. We have to remove every sin and temptation that keeps us from running all out for God. And the beauty of it all is that we are not alone. As Paul promised, “We work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12-13) Why. Because what we have been given, what we have in Jesus, is so valuable and precious. But, we do not do it alone. He is in us, given us the desire and the will to hearts to keep fighting when it seems so hard and long and painful. He also there to give us the energy to do it so that we can fulfill His good purpose for our lives.
b. He is the Commander
We must not forget, we are warriors but He is the active Commander. He goes out with the troops. He called us and saved us and sent us into the battle, but He also has promised to be with us. He allows the pain and the persecution into our lives so that His grace, working in us, will make his glory shine all the brighter in the darkness of our struggle.
That is the testimony of Paul in 2 Corinthians 12. There was given to Paul, by the hand of God I assume, a thorn in his flesh, a messenger of Satan. Three times he prayed that the Lord would remove this thorn. But, God said no three times. “There is something happening in this pain that is far greater in my plans than just the release from trouble. I want you to see that my grace is sufficient for you even when you are tortured and troubled, even by the Satan. Why. Because my grace is made perfect in your weakness.” He works all things for the good of those he called and those who love him.
What is Paul’s response? Complaint? Depression? Self-pity? Ahyi! “I will boast about my weakness so that Christ’s power may rest on me. My life is on the God’s stage. God’s is honoring His name through Christ working in me. He will not let me fail.”
Well what will be the end of this? We turn back to Peter. Here it is: (10) “And the God of all grace, who called you, to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself, will himself, will himself, restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power forever and ever.”
When God calls you he does not desert you. He completes what He has started. He who began the good work will bring it to completion. You name is now bound with his name. Your victory and your faith and your joy and his glory are bound to His plan. If God is for us who can be against us? If he gave his own precious Son for you, won’t he give you everything else you will need? (Romans 8:32) Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing! Not trouble, not hardship, not persecution, not famine, not danger or sword. No, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us, who called us, who set us apart, who gave us the privilege of glorifying him by enjoying him forever.
No, you are not loser man or loser woman. You are winner men in Christ Jesus. Everywhere I go I am a winner!
III. What is needed to make this glory ours?
A. The divine insight of Peter. “To whom shall we go?” (John 6:68)
Like the psalmist, we need help in seeing and delighting in the God-honoring things He has revealed in Scripture. (Psalm 119:18) We need his help in understanding and enjoying his words as our source of eternal life. Like Peter, God does open our eyes to see the glory of God in the life and words of Jesus. (Matthew 16:17; John 6:68-69) So, we pray for the spirit of wisdom and revelation. (Ephesians 1:17-18)
B. The passion of Moses. “Now, show me your glory?” (Ex. 33:18)
Like Moses, our passion is to see God in all of His glory. It is what we were made for. It is the passion of our hearts. He will reveal that which we need to see to bring us joy and him praise, but the fullness of His glory awaits for the moment we see him face to face.
C. The discipline of Paul. “This one thing I do.” (Phil. 3:13)
We will not drift into the realms of glory. Although we are saved by grace we grow by disciplined, persistent and focuses effort. Why not. Something so precious, so worthy, so tasty to the soul, demands my life my all. The enemy will do his best to steal our faith and rob us of our joy in Jesus. So, we must be self-controlled and alert. (1 Peter 5:8) We are soldiers. We are in a fight. We will swim against a torrent of lies that will seek to wash away the life-giving Truth we have found in Jesus.
D. The prayer of Jesus. “Father, show them my glory.” (John 17:23)
Would it be encouraging for you to know that Jesus wants us to see his glory. He prayed for it. “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory, the glory you have given me before the creation of the world.” (John 17:24) He came and died that we might see it and enjoy it. He not only prayed for it, die for it, but is now working in us to enable us to see him, savor him, sing him and share him.
E. The hope of the Church. “He will fill me with joy.” (Psalm 16:11) David reveals to us the great reward that await us when all our struggles are over. “You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” What an awesome life! What an awesome future! Be encouraged struggling saint, the God who began the good work in you will bring it to a glo