To God Be the Glory!

23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

25 Brothers, pray for us.

26 Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.

27 I put you under oath before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers.

28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28 ESV

As Paul wraps up his letter, he provides a brief summary of its content. He has covered a lot of territory, but when all is said and done, what Paul has been trying to emphasize is their sanctification. This has been the primary point of his letter. Remember, back in chapter four Paul stated: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3 ESV). According to Paul, the divine will is that the life of each and every believer reflect their status as having been set apart by God for His use. It’s an obligation and not an option they can choose to ignore. 

The apostle Peter made this non-optional aspect of God’s will quite clear when he wrote: “…but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16 ESV). The Greek word for “holy” is hagios and the Greek word for “sanctification” is hagiasmos. Followers of Jesus Christ have been set apart or consecrated by God, and their lives are to reflect their status as His possession. They are no longer free to do and think as they please. Which is why Paul told the Corinthian believers:

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 NLT

And Paul told the Thessalonians something very similar and linked it to their status as having been sanctified by God.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor. – 1 Thessalonians 4:3 ESV

With this simple, yet profound sentence, Paul eliminates any thought the Thessalonians may have had about maintaining a semblance of their old lifestyles. Paul is emphatic when he states, “run from sexual sin!” He leaves no room for debate when he demands, “abstain from sexual immorality!”

Paul warned Timothy, “Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace” (2 Timothy 2:22 NLT). In another letter, Paul reminded Timothy that he belonged to God and he was to love like it.

But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you, which you have confessed so well before many witnesses. – 1 Timothy 6:11-12 NLT

From Paul’s perspective, the sanctified life that God willed for His children was non-optional and required constant attention and effort. But the goal of all this effort and energy is so that we will be useful to God. Which is exactly what Paul told Timothy.

So if anyone cleanses himself of what is unfit, he will be a vessel for honor: sanctified, useful to the Master, and prepared for every good work. – 2 Timothy 2:21 BSB

But when it comes to the topic of sanctification, there is a very important part we tend to leave out, and Paul brings it up as he closes out his letter. He knows that God’s call to live set apart lives is a daunting one. He also knows it will prove impossible if attempted without God’s help. The life of holiness is not something we can pull off on our own. Which is why Paul offered this short prayer on behalf of his brothers and sisters in Thessalonica: “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV). Their sanctification was not only God’s will, but it was His responsibility. God didn’t provide for their salvation and then leave their sanctification up to them. God doesn’t didn’t adopt them into His family and then leave them to fend for themselves. Paul wanted all those under his leadership and care to live with the assurance “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6 ESV).

And Paul continues his prayer on behalf of the Thessalonians, stating, “may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 NLT). Notice that phrase, “be kept blameless.” Paul uses the Greek word, tēreō, which means “to keep or preserve.” It could be used metaphorically to refer to “keeping one in the state in which he is.” Paul is assuring them that God is the one who will maintain their set-apart status. But he isn’t suggesting that God is going to keep them just like they were when He saved them. Notice that Paul addresses the whole nature of man: spirit, soul, and body. And he asks that God preserve every aspect of the believer’s life as faultless. He isn’t speaking of sinless perfection, but of a life where sin no longer enslaves and controls one’s actions.

A blameless man was an individual whose life was no longer dominated by sinful habits. He lived under the control of the Spirit of God, and his life reflected the fruit of the Spirit. That is why Paul demanded that all elder candidates be blameless men – men who were above reproach. No one could point a finger at them and cast dispersions on their character. Their reputations, while not perfect, were expected to be free from sinful habit or questionable behaviors.

And, according to Paul, it is God alone who makes that kind of life possible. That is what he means when he says, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24 ESV). But again, that doesn’t leave the believer with no role to play or any responsibility to pursue Christlikeness. Paul’s point is that if sanctification is God’s will for us, it should be our will as well. We should desire what God does. If He has sanctified us – set us apart – we should pursue a life that reflects that reality. But here is an often overlooked aspect of the sanctified life. IT ISN’T ABOUT US.

In other words, if we are not careful, we will pursue holiness for our own glory. We will attempt to live godly lives so that God will be pleased with us and others will think more highly of us. But that kind of approach to sanctification is missing the point altogether. Paul would have us remember that we exist to bring God glory. And when we live set-apart lives, in the power of the Spirit, we bring Him glory. And our sanctification is to influence every area of our lives. Which is why Paul said, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV). Even in the mundane, everyday things of life, our goal should be God’s glory, not our own. And according to Peter, when using the gifts given to us by God, our focus should never be receiving glory but giving glory to God.

If anyone speaks, he should speak as one conveying the words of God. If anyone serves, he should serve with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power forever and ever. – 1 Peter 4:11 BSB

Peter also reminds us that our pursuit of holy conduct and character should be less about us and more about the lost around us.

Conduct yourselves with such honor among the Gentiles that, though they slander you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us.
 – 1 Peter 2:12 BSB

God wills our sanctification. He makes possible our sanctification. And He will one day complete our sanctification. All for our good and His glory. And with that assurance in mind, we should make it our highest priority to desire the good that God has willed for us. Not so we will look good in front of our believing friends. But so that God will be glorified before a lost and dying world. To God be the glory, great things He has done.

To God be the glory, great things he has done!
So loved he the world that he gave us his Son,
who yielded his life an atonement for sin,
and opened the life-gate that we may go in.

O perfect redemption, the purchase of blood!
To ev’ry believer the promise of God;
the vilest offender who truly believes,
that moment from Jesus forgiveness receives. [Refrain]

Great things he has taught us, great things he has done,
and great our rejoicing through Jesus the Son;
but purer and higher and greater will be
our wonder, our transport, when Jesus we see

Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
let the earth hear his voice!
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord,
let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father thro’ Jesus the Son,
and give him the glory, great things he has done!

lona– Fanny Crosby (1875)

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

1 Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity (2d ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993) 64. All abbreviations of ancient literature in this essay are those used in the Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3d ed. (OCD).

Advertisements

Mission Accomplished.

I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. – John 17:4-5 ESV

John 17:1-26

Jesus had done what He had come to do. Interestingly enough, this prayer was prayed before His death, burial and resurrection, yet from Jesus’ perspective, even that part of His mission was as good as done. He was committed to complete the full assignment given to Him by God the Father. Jesus had come to earth and taken on human flesh. He had lived a sinless life. He had spread the news of the coming Kingdom of God and preached a message of repentance, calling people to return to God. He had performed miracles, healed the sick, ministered to the poor and spiritually needy. He had exposed the hypocrisy of the religious elite and trained the men who would carry forward the message of the gospel when He was gone. And all that Jesus had done brought glory to His Father in heaven. Why? Because He had been obedient to all that He had been asked to do. The apostle Paul encourages us, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV). Jesus lived His entire life on earth in order to glorify God the Father. Jesus was humble and not in it for His own glory. He suffered rejection, ridicule, false accusations, betrayal, torture, and eventually death – all in order to glorify God. His miracles were meant to glorify God. His words, whether encouraging the downtrodden or admonishing the arrogant, were said in such a way that they always brought glory to God. Paul challenges us to live the same way: “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV). Peter echoes those same sentiments. “Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen” (1 Peter 4:11 NLT). Jesus lived fully obedient to and dependent upon His Father in heaven. He did nothing out of selfishness or with a hint of self-preservation. He knew His destiny included death, but was willing to go through with it because of His love for the Father. He trusted in His heavenly Father and was fully assured that His death would be acceptable to God as payment for the sins of mankind. He was also confident that God would glorify Him by raising Him back to life and returning Him to His rightful place. Paul tells us, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11 ESV).

Jesus’ entire life brought God glory, from the moment of His miraculous conception by the Spirit of God in the womb of Mary to His death on the cross. He lived to bring glory to God. He died so that men might be restored to a right relationship with God. For Jesus, the glory of the Father was more important than anything else. It was His life’s mission. When sinful men and women place their faith in Jesus as their sin substitute, it brings glory to God, because salvation was God’s idea. He sent His Son to die for the sins of man. He provided a way in which men might be reconciled or made right by Him. And the only way it could be accomplished was through the incarnation and crucifixion of His own Son. “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation” (Romans 5:8-9 NLT). Paul goes on to remind us, “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (Romans 5:11 NLT). All to the glory of God. Jesus came, but God is the one who sent Him. Jesus obeyed, but God is the one whose plan He obeyed. Jesus died, but God is the one who raised Him back to life. So God gets the glory.

Do I live my life to the glory of God? Is my primary focus in life to bring Him glory through my willful obedience and humble submission to His will for my life? Like Jesus, my entire life should be lived to the glory of God. When I listen to His Spirit’s prompting and obey, it brings Him glory. When I humbly submit to His will, even when I don’t understand or like it, I bring Him glory. When I point people to Him and share His love with them, I bring Him glory. When I admit my weakness and allow Him to display His power through me, I bring Him glory. When I trust in the promise that He will some day glorify me and live with a sense of peace and joy, I bring Him glory. To God be the glory, great things He has done.

Daniel 5-6, Revelation 19

An Instrument For God’s Glory.

Daniel 5-6, Revelation 19

He delivers and rescues, he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions. Daniel 6:27 ESV

Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God… – Revelation 19:1 ESV

The story recorded in chapter six of Daniel is a familiar one. It tells us of the time when Daniel was cast into the den of lions for having worshiped God rather than bow down and worship King Darius. The temptation, when reading this story, is to make much of Daniel and his faith. But the point of the story is not the faith of Daniel, but the God whom Daniel worshiped and in whom he had placed his faith. Daniel worshiped God. Darius wanted everyone to worship himself. In chapter five we read of the story of Belshazzar, the young son of the king who, while serving during one of his father’s long absences from Babylon, threw a party where he and his guests drank out of the sacred vessels that had been pillaged from the temple in Jerusalem years earlier by Nebuchadnezzar. These vessels, which had sanctified and set apart for the worship of God, were used by Belshazzar and his drunken guests to worship the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. Both Belshazzar and Darius were guilty of having worshiped something other than the Most High God. And in both of these stories, Daniel was simply an instrument through whom God displayed His greatness and glory. While Daniel was recognized for his “understanding and excellent wisdom” (Daniel 5:14 ESV), and we are told “an excellent spirit was in him” (Daniel 6:3 ESV), he is not the focus of this story. Daniel existed for God’s glory. He was used by God to deliver a powerful word of judgment against Belshazzar, condemning him of his pride, arrogance and for having lifted himself against the Lord of heaven. He accused Belshazzar of not honoring “the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways” (Daniel 5:23 ESV). And Daniel would be used by God to reveal His power and prominence over the king, his governmental representatives and even a pack of lions. Daniel had a reputation, but his life was intended to point others to God, not himself. While Daniel had received praise and a promotion, he remained dedicated and totally submitted to his God.    

What does this passage reveal about God?

Daniel knew that His God was great. He was fully aware that God was in control of the affairs of men, including the various kings who sat on the throne of Babylon, whether it was Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar or Darius. When chapter five opens us, Daniel would have been in his 80s, having served as part of the court in Babylon for well over 60 years. He had seen the rise and fall of Nebuchadnezzar. He would watch as Belshazzar was killed for his pride and profaning of God. He would live to see Darius come to power and watch as he followed in the footsteps of his predecessors, forsaking the greatness of God and demanding the worship of man instead. Yet Daniel knew that God alone was to be worshiped. He warned Belshazzar, “And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored” (Daniel 5:23 ESV). When he was made aware of King Darius’ decree that all men should bow down and worship him, forsaking the worship of any other gods, Daniel “went to his house where he had windows in his upper chamber open toward Jerusalem. He got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God as he had done previously” (Daniel 6:10 ESV). God is mentioned sixteen times in these two chapters. It was His hand that wrote on the wall, throwing a wet blanket on Belshazzar’s party. It was His hand that protected Daniel from the lions in the den. It was to Him that Daniel bowed and prayed, not to King Darius. It was God in whom Daniel trusted and placed His faith. And it was God of whom Darius would decree, “that all in my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel” (Daniel 6:26 ESV). Because Daniel was willing to be an instrument in the hands of God, this pagan king would end up exclaiming, “he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end. He delivers and rescues; he works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, he who has saved Daniel from the power of the lions” (Daniel 6:26-27 ESV).  

What does this passage reveal about man?

We exist for God’s glory, not our own. Daniel was simply an instrument through whom God revealed His greatness, glory, and power, and proved His prominence over kings, nature, and the wisdom of men. As children of God, we are to be His instruments. We are to recognize that we exist for His glory. As we rightfully worship Him in the midst of a culture that worships anything and everything but Him, we provide Him with opportunities to prove His power and presence. We become vessels through whom He reveals His glory. Paul writes about this very thing in one of his letters to Timothy. “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:20-21 ESV). Like those vessels that Darius used from the temple, we have been set apart as holy, useful to the Master. We are to be used for His glory and to bring Him honor. Daniel, in spite of his apparent success, had not lost sight of the fact that he existed for God and was intended to bring Him glory, being ready for every good work. He was even willing to die, as long as God was honored in the process. He knew that even his martyrdom would honor God because he would have remained faithful to the end. But should God spare him, God would receive honor as well. Living for God must include a willingness to die for Him, if necessary. Honoring Him is best achieved when I recognize my role as a vessel for His glory. My life exists for His glory, not my own. John the Baptist understood this. He revealed it in his simply statement regarding Jesus, in which he said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less” (John 3:30 NLT).

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

The goal of my life should be that God and His Son be lifted up through me. My life should reveal the power of God. My life should reflect that transforming presence of Christ. I must continually see myself as an instrument in God’s hand. I am a vessel into which He has placed His glory and through that glory must be revealed to a lost and dying world. In the end, my life should be living proof of the reality that “Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just” (Revelation 19:1-2 ESV). As people look at my life, they should be able to see God’s power in me. My actions should point them to Christ as I live in dependence upon Him and place my faith in Him. Over in the book of Revelation, we are reminded that our great God is one day going to bring His plan of redemption to a close. He is going to send His Son one last time to the earth. The Word of God will appear one last time, and He will come in power, bringing judgment against all those who have chosen to worship someone or something other than God Most High. And He will bring with Him, “the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure” (Revelation 19:14 ESV). Once again, God will use His people as His instruments, through whom He will accomplish His will and bring Himself glory. But the battle will be His. The victory will be His. It will be He alone who wears the title, “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16 ESV). When all is said and done, the point of it all will revealed: “Worship God!” (Revelation 19:10 ESV). That is why we were created. It is why we exist. And it will be what we do for eternity. Because He has been, is, and always will be the point of it all.

Father, we exist for Your glory. We have one purpose and one purpose – to worship You and bring You glory as we allow You to work in and through our lives. May Your power be revealed in our lives. May Your presence be seen in our lives. May Your will be done in our lives. For Your glory and Your glory alone. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

2 Corinthians 9

You Give – God Gets the Glory.

2 Corinthians 9

As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of of Christ. – 2 Corinthians 9:13 NLT

For many in the church today, the word, giving conjures up all kinds of negative images. Some who once made going to church a regular part of their life, quit going long ago because they felt like all the church wanted was their money. And in the case of some churches, it would appear that building campaigns and fund-raising efforts have taken the place of the Gospel. Yes, there are times when churches need to grow and must depend on their congregation for the resources to make those efforts possible. But giving, while essential, was never intended to be the primary message of the church. It has always been an integral part of the believer’s experience, even during the early days of the church. But it would seem that the purpose behind giving was more practical and aimed at ministering to the needs of the growing body of Christ around the world.

Paul had no problem asking the various churches to whom he had ministered to give money toward the needs of the believers in Jerusalem. He asked boldly and he expected them to give generously. He wanted them to give willingly and not grudgingly. In fact, Paul told them “You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. For God loves a person who gives cheerfully” (2 Corinthians 9:7 NLT). Giving was to be a decision between the individual believer and God. It was to be an expression of faith and a tangible picture of their love for God and for others. Giving is not a selfish or self-centered act, but something done in cooperation with God. “For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you” (2 Corinthians 9:10 NLT). This is not a promise of prosperity and riches if you give. Paul is not saying that God is obligated to bless you with a financial windfall if you give. He is simply reminding his audience that it is God who gives us all that we have. Just as a farmer must depend on God to provide the seed and, ultimately, the bread, so we are dependent on God to provide us with our jobs and even the capacity to work so that we might earn a wage. God enriches us so that we might enrich others. He is generous with us so that we might be generous with others. And when we give, not only are others blessed, He gets glory. “And when we take you gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving – the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God” (2 Corinthians 9:12 NLT).

Our generosity to others will cause them to glorify God. They may never know that we were the ones who contributed to their need, but they will know that God was behind it all. And when we give willingly and generously to the needs of others, it is practical proof of the reality of the Gospel in our lives. Generosity is not a natural outflow of the human heart. Because of sin, we are prone to selfishness. We tend to want to horde and are suspicious of those who might take what we see as rightfully ours. One of the first words every child learns to say is, “MIne!” Possessing comes naturally to all of us. Giving does not. Sharing is not a normal or natural trait for most children. It must be taught to and, in some cases, forced upon most children. And most of us still struggle with it as adults. But the presence of the Spirit of God in our lives should begin to change all that. The more we grow to understand the grace and mercy we have been given by God, the more we should learn to share what we have with others. Paul describes it “the overflowing grace God has given.” He has been overwhelmingly generous with us, providing us with the priceless gift of His Son. So He fully expects us to be generous with one another. All that we have, He has provided. He blesses us so that we might be a blessing to others. He gives to us so that we might give to one another. He meets our needs in order that we might learn to meet the needs of those around us. Which is why Paul tells us, “Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NLT). Give because you can. Give because you want to. Give because God has given to you. Give because it brings glory to Him. Give because it strengthens the body and grows the Kingdom. Give because you can’t out-give God. Giving is a ministry, not an obligation. It is a privilege, not a burden. It is a gift, and we should thank God for it.

Father, I want giving to become increasingly more a part of my life. I want it to be a joy to give. I want to see it as a privilege, not a burden. I want to give in faith, knowing that it is You who meets all my needs – not me. I want to learn to trust You for all my needs as I willingly, joyfully help meet the needs of others. I want to increasingly know from experience that I can’t ever out-give You. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org