Sunday, October 31, 2010

God's Glory Alone (Ephesians 3.20-21)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
October 31, 2010
Some Music Used
 Holy Art Thou (Handel)
Lion of Judah (Robin Mark)
Blessed Be Your Name (Matt Redman)

God's Glory Alone
Texts: Ephesians 3:20-21

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

Sometimes the spoken version of the sermon varies from the written version.  This is one such Sunday and I commend the audio/spoken version.  I have included the written version below for all the "glory" references, but hope you will listen to the audio.

An amazing number of verses in the Bible speak of God’s glory. The Old Testament is full of the manifestation of God’s glory: as a cloud, as the Spirit, in visions, and in person.
  • Numbers 14:21 – [the Lord said] ...but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.
  • Deuteronomy 5:24 – “You said, ‘Behold, the Lord our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives.
  • 2 Chronicles 5:14 – …the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God.
  • Psalm 72:19 – And blessed be His glorious name forever; And may the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen, and Amen.
  • Psalm 79:9 – Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; And deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.
  • Isaiah 6:1–3 – In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”
The New Testament frames what God is doing now and forever with this same terminology.
  • Romans 16:27 – …to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen.
  • Ephesians 3:21 – …to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.
  • Philippians 4:20 – Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
  • 1 Timothy 1:17 – Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
  • 2 Timothy 4:18 – The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
  • 1 Peter 4:11 – Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
  • 2 Peter 3:18 – …but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
  • Jude 25 – …to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
  • Revelation 1:6 – …and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
  • Revelation 5:13 – And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”
  • Revelation 7:12 – “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

I’d like to start with you by looking at several passages of scripture that describe why we are here – as a church and as human beings. Then, I’d like to look at how our vision and purpose squares with scripture as a “picture” of who we are and who we want to be. Finally, I’d like to offer an analogy and a challenge for our life together as God’s people.

God’s Glory Alone

Today we pick up one last great theme from the Reformation – “God’s glory alone.” It is the core biblical teaching that all of creation, all of history, and all that is exist for the glory of God. We are not here for ourselves or human accomplishment, achievement, or advancement; rather, we are here for God. Simply pondering the great assertion of “God’s glory alone” has great implications for why we are here today – our purpose – as well as for our vision for tomorrow.

In the past several weeks we have talked about salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. This is the story and salvation attested in Scripture. In Romans 5:1-2 we see the connection and conclusion of all we have talked about, framed in terms of the glory of God:
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. (Romans 5:1-2)
All that God has done, encompassing both our sin and our redemption, finds completion in God’s glory. That is our future and our hope. As significant as grace, faith, the work of Christ, and Scripture are, they are all a footnote to the glory of God.

Revelation paints as vivid a picture as we can handle. The creatures of Heaven gather to worship God in His glory. The representatives of the people of the world lead the way in falling to worship God in His glory. The great multitude of Heaven, from every tribe, tongue, and nation all shout with praise. All that can compare is the crashing sound of the sea and the roar of thunder. And all of Heaven and creation sound together:
Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come… Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God… Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. (Revelation 4:8; 19:1,6)
But the glory of God is not just a future reality. We heard from Ephesians about God’s glory expressed in the life of his people, the Church:
Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
That our purpose and the church’s purpose is the glory of God has great implications for our day to day life as Christians. Whatever we do, whatever we become, all the credit, thanks, and glory belong to God, who sustains us, answers our prayers, empowers us for ministry and life, and who saves us in Jesus Christ.

God’s Vision for Good Shepherd

As you can imagine, such “purpose-statements” as these from scripture should shape who we are, both as individual Christians and as the Church.

In 2002, after reading scripture, praying for wisdom and discernment, and sharing what we saw as the biblical strengths of this church body, the elders verbalized this vision for Good Shepherd. You can find it on the back page of every newsletter:
Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church is a loving family,
JOYFUL in the worship of God,
FAITHFUL to share and follow Christ,
HUMBLE vessels for the Holy Spirit,
STANDING on scripture as the Word of God,
COMMITTING all that we are and all that we have,
To the glory of God, our Father.
All those are biblical principles as well as distinctives of this church – our worship, our discipleship and evangelism, our dependence on the Holy Spirit, our commitment to scripture and to God. And the adjectives… again descriptive of us and faithful to who God wants us to be – joyful, faithful, humble, standing firm, committed. And all of it – all of us – see the ultimate goal to be honoring God and bringing him glory.

That’s my goal; that’s the goal of our elders; and I believe that’s your goal as members of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church… to bring glory to God. That is the biblical example for the body of Christ in Ephesians; that is the biblical picture of heaven itself in Revelation. We are to be people completely heart-set on loving and bringing glory to God, our Creator and Father.

And so, not only all that we are and all that we have, but also all that we do and all that we want to be… may it be to the glory of God!

An Analogy for Our Life Together

I still remember the significant discussion we had about one particular line in our vision statement. It’s the one I just quoted – “committing all that we are and all that we have.” Isn’t that a little extreme? Isn’t that excessive and unrealistic? It does sound idealistic, but I would suggest that “to the glory of God” deserves nothing less from us.

Let me offer an analogy for our life together. And this isn’t one I made up – the Apostle Paul thought of this one. (Actually, God used it first with Israel in the Old Testament!) Our life together as God’s people related to God through Christ is like a marriage relationship. Remember those verses about wives submitting to their husbands and all? Those are not primarily about marriage – rather, Paul is talking about the Church and her relationship to Christ!

Think about the vows people take when they marry – to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer. Many of the older wedding vows included phrases like “with all that I am and all that I have I pledge myself to you.” A marriage is an all-out commitment between two people.

So, our relationship to Jesus Christ through his bride, the Church, is also an all-out commitment. Just as I didn’t just vow to be financially involved with Heather when we married, so church membership isn’t just about a yearly pledge. And just as a healthy marriage isn’t just about getting meals on the table, mowing the grass, and sharing a checkbook, so our relationship with Jesus Christ through the Church is more than attendance, committee work, and cookies before church.

All those things are parts of life together, but at the heart of it is an all-out commitment of one person to the other. And just as those “high moments” in marriage inspire us to be and give our best, a relationship with Jesus Christ in his Church can inspire us to be and give our best. That’s why the Bible talks about giving “first fruits” to God. As the one who loves us most, God’s desire is not for our leftovers, but our hearts, our love, and our best.

The Bible also gives us specific examples of what this all-out love of God with heart, soul, mind, and strength, looks like in different areas of our life. Let me name just a few:

Stewardship

When the Bible talks about tithing, it is giving a specific application – an example – of what it means to love God with all we are – heart, soul, mind, and strength – in the area of personal finances or “treasure.” These instructions are not unlike what I might suggest to a particularly hard-headed husband who doesn’t quite get all the stuff about communication, active listening, and expressing feelings. But it does help him to be reminded to get his wife a card and present each year for Christmas, her birthday, and for their anniversary – it’s just a GOOD IDEA! The tithe is like that – 10% of our income, given to God. It’s not the be-all and end-all of what it means to be a Christian, but it is part of a loving and committed relationship to God.

Music, arts, crafts, worship, and prayer are described in the Bible as practical examples of loving God with all we are – heart, soul, mind, and strength – in the area of our gifts and talents. By “offering” these to God, we are giving our minds, hearts, spirits, and attentions exclusively to God.

Discipleship

The call to discipleship – to follow Christ – is an example of what it means to love God with all we are – heart, soul, mind, and strength – in the area of priorities and choices. This day I will make choices and set priorities. They will either involve choosing my own agenda, my own course, my own ambitions, or they will involve choosing to follow Jesus Christ.

Sabbath Rest and Worship

The biblical pattern of observing the Sabbath – one day in seven – is a practical example of what it means to love God with all we are – heart, soul, mind, and strength – in the area of our time. One of the Ten Commandments is to honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy. That is a “first fruits” gift, setting aside the first day of each week for worship and service to God and for rest. And all of the Commandments require an ordering of our life in joyful submission to God.

Our Utmost for His Highest

No guilt – don’t be bullied into giving yourself to God. Be wooed and won by the height, breadth, width, and depth of His love for you.

One aspect of a marriage relationship that allows us to respond with generosity and enthusiasm to one another is trust. If we trust a spouse with our hearts, we are willing to give our hearts and more. The entire story of the Bible revolves around the faithfulness of God. He is worth trusting! God is worth ENtrusting yourselves to! God is the One to whom it is worth entrusting your time, treasure, love, goals, families, and adoration!

That is the Good News of the Bible: that God is utterly trustworthy and loves you with an unswerving, mighty, and tender love.

As we contemplate our purpose as Christians and as a church family, may we be found faithful in all we say and do to honor and bring glory to God, who gives us life and hope. God’s desire is for us to be a family bound together by a common love for Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. God’s desire is that we be filled with His Holy Spirit – filled with thankful and responsive hearts that are so moved by God’s goodness to us that we respond with our very utmost for God’s highest. Amen!

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