Their Waste is our Glory

By every human standard of reckoning, the cross was a waste – the waste of a young life, a prophet’s influence, a leader’s potential. We know the secret of its meaning and achievement only from God’s own statements. Similarly, the Christian’s guided life may appear as a waste – as with Paul, spending years in prison because he followed God’s guidance to Jerusalem, whereas he might otherwise have been evangelizing Europe the whole time. Nor does God always tell us the why and wherefore of the frustrations and losses which are part and parcel of the guided life.

J. I. Packer, Knowing God, Ch. 20.

This has major implications for the Christian.  This turns upside down many of our [worldly] ideas of success, achievements, and values.  Even in the church, success is often defined the same way the world defines it.  Jesus’ name just happens to be attached to it.

When performed in humble obedience to God, the most wasteful work in the eyes of man, may very well be the most glorious work in the eyes of God.

God’s Will = Your Glory?

I have observed many Christians who struggle with knowing God’s will for their lives (including myself). What college should I go to?  What should I major?  What career should I pursue?  Who should I marry?  Should I go into ministry?  There are plenty of other questions and I’m sure you have your own.  I certainly have had mine.

Seeking God’s counsel and wisdom to make important decisions that involve what one does with his or her life is commendable and should be encouraged.  Of course.

The problem, I witness, for many is that what is made of one’s life becomes the main thing. Let me say that again.  For many, what is made of one’s life becomes…the main thing.

“But…but…I want to live for God and what he has planned for me!”

Yes, that is a good desire.  But what about God’s will of sanctification in your life?

“I know but that’s the small stuff. I just need to know what God wants me to do with my life.  It’s important.”

But what about God’s will, which leads you to holiness, which deals with your heart, character, and spiritual growth through the practice of repentance and obedience?

“But what about what God wants me to do?”

You get the idea.

Let me say it again: Seeking God’s counsel and wisdom to make important decisions that involve what one does with his or her life is commendable and should be encouraged.  God in fact does make something of our lives for His glory.  Key phrase = “for His glory”.

When one seeks God’s will for his or her life’s future but has little to no interest in a life of humility, obedience, and repentance in the present, that shows a major misunderstanding of God and what He communicates to us through the Scriptures.  That may very well be a red flag which says the main thing has become your life and your glory and not Christ and His glory.  When the Bible talks about God’s will for our lives, it’s almost always about our holiness, sanctification, and obedience for today.

Does knowing God’s will = making much of you?

Let us be wise in asking ourselves time and time again: Have I made it about my life, my success, and my glory?  Is that the main thing?  What pet sins do I so often overlook and ignore?  What areas of my heart have I not surrendered?  What convictions have I let go of because it is hard and demands my life, my pride, my comfort?

Let us look to the Cross once again and may the Gospel lead us to a life and heart of repentance and obedience.  For His glory, may our hearts be refined, and from there, may our good works flow.

God, what’s Your will for me?

One question every Christian has probably asked God at one point of his or her life is “God, what is your will for me?”  I am 24 years old and I struggled with this question for 22 years out of those 24.

We often think the will of God for one’s future is this elusive secret that we need to discover.  We beg and cry through prayer wishing to know the answer that only God possesses.  Some seem to know exactly what they are to do with their life, but for most, it is a mystery which frustrates and discourages.

Spiritual leaders tell us “Pray and He will lead you.”  We nod in agreement but our frustration and confusion still remain.  Not knowing isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since we are called to be people of faith.  Walk by faith and not by sight, right?

I suddenly caught myself thinking tonight about the will of God for our lives and realized a few things.

1. God holds no secrets when it comes to how he wants us to live our lives.  He demands true worship.  I don’t think there’s this special, secret occupation or calling we need to discover in order for us to fulfill what He has planned for us. He looks at our hearts, not our accomplishments.

2. God doesn’t want us to include Him in our plans, He wants us to include ourselves in His plan. I was reminded of this at OIL retreat.  I believe God gives us the freedom to seek and know His heart for the world, to see and recognize the needs of the world, and to evaluate ourselves to make a wise decision of what we are to do for His kingdom.  Once we make a God-fearing and God-honoring decision, we go forward in faith that God will use us, for that is His desire and plan.

3. God simply wants total surrender. The final destination is not X or Y or Z. It’s simply Jesus Christ.  We get too caught up with where does God want me to go and what does God want me to do in my future.  Those questions are important but we must remember God requires constant, total surrendering of our hearts and in doing so, daily faithfulness is produced.  Whatever he asks of us today,  we are to obey.  Whatever the cost, is our answer ‘Yes’?

When we ask God the question and He points to the Word of God, it’s not a trick answer or a cop out.  He’s serious.

Fill ‘er Up

While I was driving back home from Baltimore (I went to Lisa’s place to watch the Skins game with her), I listened to a sermon by Mark Driscoll on the Holy Spirit and God began speaking to my heart so clearly that it hurt me (the good kind of hurt).

The Holy Spirit is not given to us, Christians, by God for us to merely have extraordinary or supernatural experiences of our own, though that can/does occur.  The Holy Spirit is not given to us for us to merely feel special when God touches us, though that can/does occur.

God gives us the Holy Spirit to enable us to live like Jesus.  To empower us to do good and mighty works.  To strengthen us to resist temptation.  To give us joy to rejoice and worship Him.  To be able to live and love as Jesus did because the Holy Spirit always points to Christ and gives Him the glory and honor and praise.

Mark Driscoll said something like “The Holy Spirit loves to come upon those who are on a mission.”

And it hit me hard.

So often in church, we pray and sing and cry out ‘Come Holy Spirit Come’ or ‘We invite you Holy Spirit’ or ‘Fill us with your Spirit.’  The question we need to ask ourselves is “WHAT FOR?”

WHAT FOR?

I think back upon a lot of my ‘spiritual’ experiences at church retreats, events, and services and I sorrowfully have to confess that most of those times were focused on me.

God, will you touch me?
God, will you bless me?
God, will you fill me?

Those requests were not bad but nothing came after!  It was about me and then it was the end.  That was the problem.  There was no outward focus.  No missions.  No glory to God.  Only glory to me.

Of course!  It’s about God and our mission to live for Him.  I realized why the most spirit-filled experience I have ever had was when I was in the Philippines for missions!  I was on a mission!  And we wonder why things become dry and dull and powerless when we come back home.  We forget that even at home we are still on a mission.  We forget there are people at my school, work, and neighborhood who do not know Jesus.  We forget that even at home we are commissioned to preach the gospel and make disciples.  If we are not on a mission, why do we need the Holy Spirit?  WHAT FOR?

We need to take our eyes off of ourselves when it comes to dealing with and yearning for the Holy Spirit.  When we get in a habit of wanting to experience the Holy Spirit simply for selfish gain, there arrives a danger of the Holy Spirit being absent and in replacement, a cheap emotionalism.  We don’t want that.  We desire the authentic move and power of the Holy Spirit so we may be enabled to go and change the world for the glory of Christ our King.

So I sit here and I have to ask myself, What is my mission today?  What is my mission this week, this month?  What is the mission for my life?  Who do I need to talk to and get to know?  Who do I need to give to or help?  What do I have to accomplish to help advance the Gospel?  What do I need to do in my life so that I can be more intimate with God?

Jesus Christ came onto this Earth as a missionary.  His mission was to carry out the Father’s will.  He was fully man and fully divine but it was not His divinity that allowed Him to live such an incredible life.  He chose to experience our humanity, with all its pain and suffering and weaknesses, not just to relate to us but also to demonstrate a holy life only possible by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.  We too are on a mission to live a holy life and to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  We can only do that by the power of the Holy Spirit as He fills us up.

For the sake of my name

In Ezekiel 20. God speaks of Israel’s rebellion and states three times, throughout the chapter, a variation of “Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them in the wilderness, to make a full end of them. But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out.”

In church, we often hear the message of God’s love for His people.  John 3:16 [For God so loved the world . . .] was probably the first memory verse I learned in Sunday school when I was young.  Even when we discover and discuss our own identity in Christ, we talk much about us becoming great in Christ Jesus.  God died for me because He loved me and thought of me as worthy to save by sacrificing His Son.  Why else would he have died for us, right?

But when we encounter the phrase in bold, up top in Ezekiel 20, there seems to be a cause of some friction in our minds and hearts.  Did God save us for us or did God save us for Himself? And what a question that is.  The Word of God in Ezekiel clearly states, “But I acted for the sake of my name.”  Not for the sake of my people, but “for the sake of my name.”

Initially, that statement and idea may hurt us deep down.  I will be the first to confess that it feels good and warm inside to believe that God died for me because I am so special to Him.  I think we love the idea that God’s ultimate desire is to love us and to bless us.  The message of His great love for us may even romance us.  Therefore, it is not surprising nor unreasonable when our egos are bruised a bit and the feeling of being special is lessened when confronted with a message that is a little different than what we are used to or want.

So if God did not save us for our sake but His namesake, does He even love us then?  Yes.  Yes, without a doubt.

God saving His people for the sake of His own name does not contradict the truth of Him loving us greatly.  The Bible often speaks of love as putting others before yourself or to seek not your own, so the idea of God putting Himself before others seems wrong, contradicting what He commands His people.

We must understand that God is Creator God and we are His created creatures.  Creator and creature are not and will not be on the same level ever.  John Piper says, “The rules of humility that belong to a creature cannot apply in the same way to its Creator.”  The reason is this.  If God is the most glorious one and is of infinite worth and value, as communicated by the Word of God, then He is being consistent with the Truth by pursuing ultimate glory in Himself.  If God were to gain ultimate joy, pleasure, and glory in Man, that would go against the Word of God and He would no longer be God.  Therefore, because God is a God of love, power, mercy, grace, and all the awesome things we know and describe Him as, it is a GREAT thing that God seeks to glorify His own name.  [Read John Piper’s Desiring God]

Man’s salvation, sanctification, and glorification are not the ultimate goals of God.  We are not the end.  The glorification of God Himself is the ultimate goal of God.  But the people of God should not get depressed and feel less special because of this fact.  We, as children of God, are indeed incredibly cherished by God.  He loves us immensely!  The beauty and mystery of God’s truth, in this case, is the idea that God ultimately desiring to glorify Himself does not detract from His love for us at all!  It doesn’t lessen our value, it increases His!  He loves us as much as we think and a lot more.  As we gain deeper understanding of God and His will, we somehow begin to realize that we aren’t as important as we thought in the big scheme of things.  But that’s okay because as long as we are a part of God’s glorious plan, we are far more blessed than we would ever deserve.  Thank the Lord.

May we come to the revelation, by the Spirit of truth, of how greater and more glorious and awesome our God truly is.  We are nothing apart from You.  Not to us, but to Your name be the Glory.