"He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything."
Colossians 1:18

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Glory, the Gatekeeper of True Belief

How does one seek the glory of God?  The seraphim agelessly declare that this world is filled with it (Is. 6:2-3); the psalmist tells how the heavens declare it (Ps. 19:1).  It surrounds us, then, and it all points back to the Lord of glory, as it should, but of course there is a prolific and powerful satanic endeavor afoot which precludes the possibilities of the unbelieving grasping it in its vast implications (2 Cor. 4:3-4).  God's sovereign and effectual salvation is the event whereby this spiritual blindness is lifted, and we begin both to see God's glory and to reflect it (2 Cor. 4:6, Matt. 5:16).  But how do we go about seeking it?  How do we prefer it in our lives above the glory that we give to, or receive from, others? 

The case can easily be made that we seek God's glory by those classic and basic disciplines of the Christian faith:  prayer and Bible study.  Scripture instructs us as to what sort of God we serve and the promises He has made; there is unending glory, then, in its pages.  Prayer is a means of humbling ourselves before God, and indeed our supplications invite the Sovereign to visit the manifestations of His glory upon our humbled hearts as He moves to answer.  These two disciplines constitute both directions in the blessed communication between us and our Lord, and there is stunning glory in each.

We can and should make the case, however, that God's glory also must be sought in obedience to His commands.  Paul makes an example of Romans 2:7b of "those who in perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality."  Christ Himself instructed His listeners in the Sermon on the Mount, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 5:16) Our good works, as directed by God in His Word, stir up His glory!  They do not create or augment God's glory, but they render it more visible to the eye of the vigilant soul.

Some will say, "There is glory enough in prayer and study, without adding obedience on top, thank you very much."  The fear in such as these is that an intent focus on obeying God will send Christians by the legion down into the murky pit of legalism, untroubled by thoughts of love.  Aside from this, who knows but it will impugn the graciousness of God's gift:  by requiring obedience of Christians, we make a thinly-veiled assertion that Christians must buy their salvation with deeds.

These are the protests, but they do not get very far.  We cannot cherish prayer or study with one hand while pushing obedience away with the other.  If you do not seek to obey Him, what use are your prayers?  Is there glory in seeking your own comfort, in not offering praise or contrition?  And again, what will it avail me if I study the Word of the Lord, but suffer it to have no bearing in my life, because I do not care to obey?  Will this accomplish a vision of His glory?

Christ raises the stakes to perilous proportions with His statement in John 5:44:  "How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?"  In other words, if we seek a substitute for God's glory, we quite simply cannot believe.  Paul intertwines the issue of obedience in his statement about "God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation." (Rom. 2:5b-8) The people who endure in righteous deeds are the ones who are seeking His glory, and so are the ones to whom eternal life will be given, in blunt contrast to those who act selfishly.  Although it is a separate discussion that must be had (right here, actually), such people are not earning their salvation, but merely proving it.

The overarching implications are stark and simple - those who believe are those who hunger for God's glory, in whom the desire for that glory sparks obedience.  There is no such thing as a Christian who is unmoved to righteous acts because of an indifference to the glory of God.  Two questions spring to the fore -

1.  Christian, was your conversion attended with repentance?  Did you (and indeed, do you) loathe your own sinfulness in the light of God's perfect holiness?  Did you begin to desire to please Christ?  This is what it is to turn from your sins and seek God's glory - if this is alien to your soul, by what measure can you pronounce yourself a Christian?  I beg you would count this a word of compassion and warning, my friend - consider your salvation closely.

2.  Again, Christian, are you settling for less of God's glory because your obedience is apathetic at best?  We have each of us been there before; I can say with confidence that these are not unfamiliar shores to my eyes.  But behind obedience lies the dazzling vista of God's glory!  You and I will not be disappointed in the slightest if we dare to obey with greater zeal and endurance!  The mere mention of the fact that God's glory lies on the other side of obedience should spur us to the swiftest action!  May our feet not hesitate; may our hearts not quail.  Obey and wonder!

Herein lies yet another blessed moment in which I am obliged to conclude quite simply that the glory of the Lord is incredible beyond the paltry frame of human thought. 


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