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Part 4: Joy in Glorifying God

 

 Over the last few chapters we've explored the Scriptures to find answers to the question "Why be holy?" We've found some very satisfying reasons. They have shown us that asking for heart cleansing and submitting our thought life to the Lord result in a rich and more satisfying Christian life. The benefits to us exceed our imagination.

In this chapter we are continuing to probe for more answers to the question, "Why should I enter into a life of total dedication to God? Why should I choose to be holy?" But now we add the question: "How does God benefit from my consecration?"

We Christians are engaged in an endurance event. Our part may be compared to foot racing. Runners wear light-weight shoes especially designed to avoid foot and leg injury, and they wear clothing designed to allow free motion and to keep the body cool. Long-distance runners study how to maximize their body's performance in every way.

In Hebrews 12:1 the author urges us to "lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us." We know that our enemy, Satan, does everything he can to encumber us with weights of appetite and lust, and to keep us tethered to his habits of thought, his attitudes, and his pride. We must separate ourselves completely from him to be able to persevere to the end.

Paul reminds us of an impressive reason for running the Christian race: "In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us" (Eph. 1:7, 8). Riches! Grace! Lavished! Just imagine!

A Discovery: There Are Two Inheritances

When we consider the benefits, the gifts, we say, "Lord, I can never repay you!" No, we can never repay Him, even in part, for the gifts He has lavished upon us, but we can give Him our "everything"--the gift of enthroning Him in our inner sanctuary. That is our response of appreciation-relinquishing all to His control.

We choose consecration to Him in gratitude for the benefits His love provides. "In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance" (Eph. 1:10). What is this inheritance? Conversing with Nicodemus, Jesus said: "The Son of Man [must] be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life" (John 3:14, 15). This is our inheritance. We're very familiar with this marvelous gift for us, but there's something just as wonderful involved for the One who gives us our inheritance.

It's natural, I suppose, for us to focus on the benefits we receive as a result of Christ's sacrifice. We are self-centered, after all. Shouldn't we ask, "Does God receive any benefit?" Yes, writes Paul. He explains: "In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, . . . so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory" (Eph. 1:11, 12). What is he saying? He's saying that Christ's success, which has brought eternal life to us, has also brought glory to Himself. May we imagine that as a person accepts redemption, a chorus of praise to Christ swells in the heavenly courts? So our inheritance is not simply to benefit us. It also benefits Him. It glorifies Him.

Now we have to scurry to keep up with Paul's mind as he continues in chapter 1 of Ephesians. Not only is Christ's glory to be praised because He has provided us with an inheritance, but He considers us His inheritance. "I pray [Paul is in earnest] that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know . . . what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" (v. 18, NASB). Paul is lifting our vision to see the value the Holy Three place on having us with Them. The New Living Translation of this text reads: "I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called--his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance."

The Divine Three have worked long and hard to reach benighted human beings, to teach them, to redeem them, to transform them into Their image and-best of all-to have the redeemed with them at last. As the success of their redemptive efforts becomes apparent to Them and to the watching universe, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit glory in Christ's inheritance. Their sense of fulfillment grows. And right now, as we are becoming "holy and blameless before Him" (vs. 4), They rejoice, because Their plan (hidden until the cross) has been "revealed to his saints [holy ones]" to enable us to experience "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:26, 27). We the saved, we the saints, are Christ's inheritance!

Are We Choosing God's Interests or Ours?

Those who choose to fully dedicate themselves to God realize that they are more valuable to Him if they "buy into" His mission. "No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier's aim is to please the enlisting officer" Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:4). Here again we encounter the Bible's theme of separation and attachment: separation from impurity and attachment to a holy thought-life; disentangling from worldly affairs and entering into full-time devotion to our "enlisting Officer." Such devotion pleases God. It glorifies Him.

Experience teaches us that it is easy for us-even those closest to Christ-to put our own interests ahead of the Lord's. On one occasion Peter thought he knew what was best for his Lord, but Jesus, knowing that it was Satan who prompted him, turned on him and said, "'Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things'" (Matt. 16:23). Paul characterized some Christian teachers in much the same way: "All of them are seeking their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 2:21).

Our Father eagerly wants to restore His character in us. We respond to this remarkable opportunity not only to benefit ourselves but because we want to benefit Him. As we grow in our relationship with Christ, we ask what we can do for Him, not only what He can do for us. Like Jesus and Paul, our ambition is to please our heavenly Father (John 8:29; 2 Cor. 5:9). Our favorite psalm contains a surprise along this line. Thinking of our own distresses and needs, we often turn to these words for comfort: "The Lord is my shepherd." Our emotions are focused on ourselves, so we do not hear David sing: "He leads me in right paths for his name's sake" (Ps. 23:1, 3). For whose sake? For His sake. The Lord guides us in thinking along the right lines and walking along the right paths so that His name might be glorified. Not I, but Christ.

How God Rejoices!

The beauty of holiness is that it keeps us connected to a Person of tender emotions, including both disappointment and joy. The Bible portrays His love, His satisfaction with desires fulfilled, as well as His deep disappointment. The master in Jesus' parable of the talents exhibited strong emotions. When the servant to whom he had entrusted a talent while he was gone, buried it for safekeeping and so had earned nothing more, the master was very upset. His two other servants had handled his funds wisely, and he was greatly pleased. He said to them, "Enter into the joy of your master" (Matt. 25:14-30). In the same incident the master exhibited both distress and joy.

This "well done" commendation of the master gives us a picture of our relationship with God. The master was delighted when his net worth was increased by servants who had his purposes in mind. He did not keep his joy to himself. He shared it with his "holy ones," his servants, who were dedicated to him. His joy became their joy. Just so with God. "He cannot rejoice alone; he needs to share his grief and joy with men and angels." (1)

Here we see significant spiritual transactions between heaven and earth. Our Father teaches us to separate from the attitudes of the world. He wants us to join Him in making the point that love will obliterate hate and that humility will defeat pride. He intends that His sacrifice for us will overwhelm the domain of Satan. When we respond with full dedication, He is greatly pleased because it increases the size of His domain, His inheritance. His net worth has increased because of our decision, and He is glorified. He rejoices and invites us to rejoice with Him!

In Nehemiah's day the people of God had lost their knowledge of His law. When Ezra read the law to them, they grieved because of their sins, but Nehemiah realized how much their spiritual education meant to God. He said to them, "Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength" (Neh. 8:10). That is to say, You may join the Lord in feeling as He feels. He's happy that you have heard His word and understand it. Rejoice with Him.

Who has counted the places in Scripture where joy is associated with holiness? And how could it be otherwise? When we are congruent with our Creator, when our ways are His ways, there can be no rasping uncertainty nor distressing perplexities. "You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore" (Ps. 16:11).

Let's read again what Isaiah prophesied about holiness and joy:

"A highway will be there, a roadway,

And it will be called the Highway of Holiness.

The unclean will not travel on it, . . .

But the redeemed will walk there . . .

With everlasting joy upon their heads.

They will find gladness and joy,

And sorrow and sighing will flee away" (Isa. 35:8-10, NASB).