Sacrifice and Glory. “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” (John 12:27-28 28 ) “Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise!” (Romans 1:21-23, 25) God alone is worthy of glory (supreme value, importance, praise and worship) even the sacrifice of our lives, especially death to the flesh (self-life) and certainly the sacrifice of our time, talents, treasures, etc. But if we exchange the glory of God for created things (idols) then we will sacrifice for the idol. We will give the idol glory, value, importance- meaning we think the idol is worth the sacrifice of our time, energy, health, family and friends, etc., whatever it takes to have the drug, the possession, the approval of people, sex, pleasures, etc. We will assume that this idol will give us joy, pleasure, peace, intimacy -things that only God can give us. And yet it never will. In fact it will take these good things away from us. Not only is God worthy of our sacrifices for His glory, in the end glorifying God is worth it to us. Glorifying Him gives us joy, pleasure, peace, intimacy, even eternal rewards. So we must “bet the farm” on God (versus some idol) because we believe (often by faith alone) it is the wisest thing to do both for this life but especially for eternity.
My friend Ken Boa and I were discussing this recently and he shared a poignant truth regarding why we are tempted to give glory to an idol (something that is more important to us than God). “The pain of the moment overrides the permanence of the action. Wisdom always takes the long range point of view. Glory in what is permanent!” Later I recalled some lines from a song by Kris Kristofferson that illustrate the power of the lies of an idol to bring relief or pleasure in the “pain of the moment” but that ultimately leads to more pain and misery in the long run.
“I don’t care what’s right or wrong
I won’t try to understand
Let the devil take tomorrow
Cause tonight I need a friend”
Jesus said, “The thief (or the devil and all those who listen to his lies and speak his lies) comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10) We may not realize it but every time we choose our idol over God, the devil and his demons laugh and laugh because they know it’s going to bring us misery and pain in the long run and they love to make people miserable and even kill them. Jesus called Satan a liar and murderer. (John 8:44)
If pleasing and glorifying God is our greatest desire and greatest pleasure then the other side of that coin is the fear of God or the fear of the loss of His approbation, of hearing His “well done.” And “hearing” His “well done” applies to this life as well as the Day we will see Him face to Face. Paul said he delighted in obeying and pleasing the Lord and that it was his ambition to do so. (Romans 7:22; 2 Corinthians 5:9) When we choose to please and honor God by resisting the lies and temptation of an idol we need to learn to “hear” His well done and “see” the smile on His Face. Then we will experience true joy and pleasure and intimacy, all the things we long for that no idol can ever give us. Jesus lived every day of His life for this as seen in John 12 above and in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46) and throughout the Gospels. (See John 4:34; also Hebrews 12:2)
“The most basic question which God poses to each human heart: “has something or someone besides Jesus the Christ taken title to your heart’s functional trust, preoccupation, loyalty, service, fear and delight? Questions bring some of people’s idol systems to the surface. To who or what do you look for life-sustaining stability, security and acceptance? What do you really want and expect [out of life]? What would [really] make you happy? What would make you an acceptable person? Where do you look for power and success?’ These questions or similar ones tease out whether we serve God or idols, whether we look for salvation (and spiritual growth) from Christ or from false saviors. This bears on the immediate motivation of my behavior, thoughts and feelings. In the Bible’s conceptualization, the motivation question is the lordship question: who or what “rules my behavior, the Lord or an idol?” (David Powlison, “Idols of the Heart and Vanity Fair) Powlison’s chart below shows four common “idols” that we all struggle with and the price we will pay (“the sacrifice for glory”) to have it.
|What we seek/want||Price we will pay||Greatest nightmare||Others often feel||Problem emotion|
Privacy, lack of stress, freedom
Affirmation, love, relationships
Self-discipline, certainty, standards
lack of spontaneity
Success, winning, influence
“Lord, make me to know my end and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am. Behold, You have made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Your sight; Surely every man at his best is a mere breath. Selah. Surely every man walks about as a phantom; Surely they make an uproar for nothing; He amasses riches and does not know who will gather them.” (Psalm 39:4-6) “Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) This life is mainly about soul transformation (salvation and sanctification) not about happy times. Yes there are moments of joy and pleasure and God’s blessings in this temporal life but every person dies eventually and even those who have good memories of that person soon die. So even the very best and happiest lives are brief and trumped by death. So our brief life on this side of heaven is primarily about our soul’s preparation for eternity. And compared to eternity our life is like an hour and compared to the glory of heaven our suffering is “light and momentary.” Thus it would be wise for us to pray and work toward God-honoring obedience in our trials knowing that doing so is working for our eternal joy as we trust and obey the Lord.
“Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” (John 12:27-28) We might paraphrase this passage by saying, “O Lord, I am so discouraged. Please deliver me from this trial. But as I read Scripture I realize that You often allow trials to purify and refine my faith for Your glory and my spiritual and eternal good. So my best and wisest response is to glorify You in the trial even as our Lord Jesus did all the way to the cross.” Don’t let the pain of the moment override the permanence of the action. Wisdom always takes the long range point of view. Glory in what is permanent! Wisdom calls us to invest our lives in that which has lasting and ultimate value in the eyes of God: 1) the honor, glory and pleasure of God; 2) the spiritual good of others; 3) Christ-like character.
“Therefore we do not become discouraged [spiritless, disappointed, or afraid]. Though our outer self is [progressively] wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day by day. For our momentary, light distress [this passing trouble] is producing for us an eternal weight of glory [a fullness] beyond all measure [surpassing all comparisons, a transcendent splendor and an endless blessedness]! So we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen; for the things which are visible are temporal [just brief and fleeting], but the things which are invisible are everlasting and imperishable.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 AMP.)
“Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.” (C. S. Lewis – Mere Christianity)
Until He comes again,
Len and Kristen