April 24, 2013

Getting to the Heart of Glorifying God

by Joey Newton

hands raised 2What does it mean to glorify God with your life? How do you do that? Really, take at least 60 seconds to think about your answer…

Ok, what did you come up with? Maybe your response was something like: “I glorify God by praising Him with my words, both in conversation and sincerely singing at church (especially last Sunday).” Or, “I glorify God because I believe in, speak, and defend sound doctrine.” Or even, “I glorify God by the actions of my life, so by serving others and serving in my church.”

All of these are good things and things that anyone who is glorifying God must be doing, but there’s a problem: all of these things–as essential as they are–can be done by an unregenerate professing believer (Lk. 18:11, 18-27; Ps. 106:12-13), a true believer with a wrong heart (1 Cor. 3:13-15; 4:6), or a true believer with a right heart. Notice a theme? Its a matter of the heart.  

Yes, God is concerned about works (James 2:14), but he is first concerned about the heart from which the works flow. Remember his gentle reminder to Samuel: “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Or, the scathing rebuke of Jesus: “This people honors Me with their lips, but their hearts are far away from Me” (Matt. 15:8). It is impossible to glorify God if the heart isn’t right (we could apply Heb. 11:6 here). In other words, God is concerned with motivation: the why before the what.

So, what does it look to glorify God? Before answering, there are still a couple of preliminary matters that must be addressed. First, a right heart isn’t something we can conjure up on our own. A right heart can only be had by one who is born again, or born from above. In other words, we must first have undergone spiritual heart transplant surgery.

images-1Nicodemus had many right actions on the outside, and so did another young man from the same religious ilk (John 3:1; Luke 18:18-21), but what they did not have was new heart. Their religion, their knowledge, their attainments, and their righteousness were not enough (Matt 5:20; Lk. 18:22-23). God needed to do a miracle; He needed to give them life (John 3:3-8). Until that happened their good deeds were like filthy (menstrual) rags (Is. 64:6). So, first, to glorify God means we must have the life of God in us, and the life of God comes from the Spirit. If you don’t have Him, you need to ask for Him (Lk. 11:13) and be willing to yield all to Christ (Matt. 16:24-25).

Second preliminary matter: You manifest the life of God and glorify Him when you truly desire fellowship with the Father and the Son more than anything else. When you are willing to give up anything and everything to gain Him and hate the sin inside you that keeps you from the glorious Savior. The apostle John wrote an entire epistle, “So that you may have fellowship with us and indeed our fellowship is with the Father” (1 John 1:3). Fellowship with the Trinity and being conformed to the image of the Son is the goal of salvation, of sanctification, of glorification, and the heart from which we can glorify God: a heart in genuine fellowship with the Father and the Son through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (1 John 3:24; 4:13).

It was from His deep, intimate, even eternal fellowship with the Father that the incarnate Son could approach His betrayal and death with this singular desire: “Father, glorify Your Name” (John 12:28). He did not pray: “Just help Me to get through this quickly,” or, “Why do I have to endure this for those who are going to reject Me,” or anything like that. No, He was concerned only that the Father would be glorified through His sacrifice, because He loved the Father (John 14:31) and knew the Father loved Him (John 5:20) and was with Him (John 16:32). He knew He was going back to the Father (John 13:1) and He would again share the glory and love of the Father in the way He did before His humiliation and cross work (John 17:5, 24; Phil. 2:6-12). In other words, His singular desire to glorify God and motivation to yield in the ultimate act of obedience came from His deep love for and fellowship with the Father.

For us, the glory of our salvation is that we who deserve hell, wrath, death, and eternal separation because of our sin, have been granted fellowship this same fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, by grace. His suffering, our salvation; His grace, our glory.

Therefore, the first steps in glorifying God are having a new heart in which the life of God flows and through which we are in fellowship with the Father through the Son. It is to share the life of the Father and Son through the ministry of the Spirit. It is to live in real, conscious, vibrant fellowship with the Godhead so that, “From [your] innermost being will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). The life of God, through the Spirit, manifest in the believer will produce a life that glorifies God and He will be evident in them, in you.Unknown copy

The key to glorifying God is to be living in fellowship with Him. So, when you think of whether you are glorifying God with your life, think first in terms of whether you have His life in you, and whether you are living in fellowship with Him who loved you and gave Himself up for you (Gal. 2:20). If so, then you are being conformed to the image of the One who created you (Col. 3:10), or in the language of Jesus you are “abiding” in Him and bearing fruit to the glory of God – and “proving to be [His] disciples” (John 15:8). Press on to the glory of God, pursue deep fellowship with Him, and so exude the fragrance of Christ (2 Cor. 2:15) wherever you are – to His glory.

Joey Newton

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Joey is the pastor-teacher of Newtown Bible Church in Newtown, Connecticut.