God's Glory And Our GlorificationErwin W. Lutzer | May 23, 2010
Selected highlights from this sermon
The glorification of God’s people is certain. As far as God is concerned, it’s a done deal. But how can our glorification glorify God?
If Adam and Eve hadn’t sinned, we could not sing “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” If the fall hadn’t happened, we could not have known about God’s righteousness, His holiness, His mercy, His redemption, His generosity, and His love.
When people see Christ in us, the question isn’t “who’s the redeemed?” The question is “Who is the Redeemer?” That glorifies God. And nothing else matters.
Have you ever asked yourself what God is doing in this world? How is it all going to end and where is history going, and where are you going as a part of this history?
There are many people today who believe that all that we have is individual stories. I have my story; you have your story. There’s this incident over here; there’s that incident over there, but there is no coherence. There is no big story–no meta-narrative as some people say.
To illustrate it, possibly this will work. Let us suppose that you were given a puzzle with a hundred thousand different pieces, but there was no picture on the box, so you didn’t even know where to begin to put it all together and make sense out of the total picture. Can you imagine living your life that way? You have this piece and that piece but you have no coherence–nothing that puts it all together because you don’t know the picture on the box.
Perhaps another illustration will help us. Here’s a person who is asked to make some cloth, and another person is asked to take the cloth and sew some curtains. Somebody else is making bricks. Somebody else is making lamps and furniture, but they don’t know how it’s going to be used so all that they can do is to do what is before them, but there’s no picture on the box. How different it would be if instead of those individual experiences, what if they all knew that they were contributing to a huge and beautiful cathedral? That would give more meaning to what they were doing because they would see the whole. They would find the picture on the box.
In the Bible we have that picture. Of course everything ultimately comes down to the glory of God. This is the last in a series of messages entitled, “Nothing Else Matters: How the Glory of God Gives Meaning to All of Life.” Once you experience the glory of God and you begin to live for His glory, what other people think about you, you will not be in bondage to their opinions. You will discover that your life is simplified, and I hope that for the rest of your life, as I’ve been admonishing you, when you wake up in the morning you will always pray and say, “Oh God, today glorify yourself in my life at my expense.” And if you ever wonder how you could glorify God, I am going to be giving you two scripture references.
I’m pausing now because I want you to take your pen or your pencil and write down these references. Then I want you to type out the verses and put them on your refrigerator or the dashboard of your car or somewhere where you see them so that you never forget how you can glorify God.
The first one is Psalm 50:23: “Whoso offers praise glorifies me.” Do you want to know how to glorify God? You begin to praise Him. And then there’s another one. First Peter 1:7: “The trial of your faith being more precious than gold that perishes, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.”
There are two ways that you can always glorify God. One way is to praise Him. The second way is to trust Him. Both contribute to God’s glory. But now as we move on today I am going to speak to you on the topic of how our own glorification glorifies God, and what a stretch that is going to be, but everything that I present to you today is biblical. I’m going to be quoting a number of verses. This is actually a topical message because there is no one place in the Bible where this is explained. There’s a verse here and a verse there, and we’re going to put some of them together and talk about your personal glorification. If you know Christ as Savior this is going to be a tremendous encouragement. If you don’t know Christ, just know that at the end I’ll take time to explain how you can get in on the unbelievable mind-boggling blessings that await those who have trusted Christ as Savior. Thanks for joining me on this journey.
On two or three occasions I am going to ask you to take your Bibles and turn to a passage. I could quote the passage or read it for you, but the reason I don’t is because unless you see it in the Bible, you might not believe it’s there. It is so overwhelming that you need to have this riveted in your mind.
We begin today with John 17, a very famous passage of Scripture, and Jesus is praying to the Father. He prays for the disciples, and then, beginning in verse 20 He prays for all of us, and now notice what the text says. You won’t believe it unless you see it. John 17:22-24 says, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them.” Jesus, are you saying that? “The glory you have given to me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”
Today I want only to talk about the phrase, “The glory which you have given me I’ve given to them.” The Bible talks about the fact that for believers there will be an eventual glorification. Now imagine that you have gone to heaven, and also imagine that the resurrection of the body has taken place. Those who are in heaven today do not have their permanent bodies. Their soul is taking on the characteristics of the body so that they can communicate and so forth, but they are not totally complete. But let us suppose that you are in heaven and the resurrection of the body has taken place. What will that be like? What will that glorification be like? And at the end of the message I will explain how your glorification glorifies God.
First of all, let’s talk about the glorification of the soul. When I speak of the soul I want you to think of your mind–the glorification of your mind or your soul perfectly glorified. It will be glorified because of what it knows. Our knowledge in heaven is not going to be complete. It’s not as if we are God. It’s nothing like that, but everything that we know in heaven will be accurate. The Bible says that we will know even as we are known. We’ll know a whole lot more than we do today, and everything will be accurate and complete in itself, though undoubtedly we’ll go on learning throughout all of eternity.
Kids, in heaven there will be no homework even if your teacher should happen to be there. We’ll be glorified because of what we know. We’ll also be glorified because of what we experience. Now here I’m talking about the moral purity and glorification of the soul. You know, the Bible says that in Jesus Christ we are made perfect legally. That’s how come we go to heaven when we die. We are welcomed into heaven as if we are Jesus because His righteousness is credited to us, but on heaven that righteousness now becomes ours by experience.
Let me give you a few reminders found in Scripture. For example, at the end of the service, I frequently quote the last verses of Jude: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless (or our translation says blameless) in the presence of the Lord.” Imagine being faultless or blameless. Nobody can lay anything to your account. You cannot be accused. You cannot be censured. You are there and you are completely blameless. Remember in the fifth chapter of Ephesians Paul said that “husbands are to love their wives even as Christ loved the Church,” and then he goes on to say how He loved the church through the washing of water by the Word that He may present the church to Himself. What an interesting phrase–the Church being presented to Jesus. The one who purified the Church and died for the Church is being presented now with the Church, but notice without spot, and without wrinkle, that she may be holy and blameless and without blemish.
Have you had some wrinkles this past week-maybe in your body and maybe also in your mind? Maybe you live with someone who isn’t perfect and your perfection is rubbing up against his or her imperfection, and you are finding it very difficult. It’s a strain on your perfection to be sure. Imagine being holy and blameless in His sight. We could use some positive words too. We could say clean, pure, or transparent. Imagine it.
Joni Eareckson Tada, who as you know is a quadriplegic, who has led many of us into understanding suffering biblically in wonderful ways, says that what she looks forward to in heaven is not just parking her wheelchair at the door (though, thank God, she will be able to do that), and it’s not just the ability of running toward Jesus and falling at His feet (though she looks forward to that too). She says what she looks forward to is such purity of mind that never would any sin ever come between her and the unmediated fellowship and presence of God.
See, today everything that we have in worship is mediated. It’s mediated through Jesus, but in the end, we will be with God without a single hint or tint of sin. Now, in order for us to get a handle on this, let me ask you a question today. It’s just you and me. How would you like it if all of the thoughts of your mind were perfectly and completely known to your spouse, to your friends, to your parents, and to your children? How would you like that? You are laughing; I know. We’ll take you first. (laughter) Or how would you like to have them all on a screen? How would you like that? We’d all be so ashamed. We couldn’t stand the shame. We’d all want to live on a desert island somewhere.
My dear friend, imagine being in the presence of God with our thoughts so pure, so clean, so transparent that God can see all of them and all of our friends can see all of them; never any embarrassment, never any shame, never any regret, never anything inappropriate; just one thought after another that is holy and totally acceptable to God. Imagine it! Say amen, somebody. Isn’t that great? Won’t that be great? Amen.
All right now, think of it. That’s the glorification of the soul. Now let’s talk about the glorification of the body. Your body is important. It is not true scripturally that our body is just a prison of the soul, so that when you get rid of the body the soul can go to God. You are a body that is en-souled, and you are a unit. That’s why God is going to raise you from the dead.
Now you think of the resurrection of Jesus. We shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is. Now I asked you to turn to John 17 because I feared that if you didn’t see that passage you might think that it’s not in the Bible. I’m going to ask you to turn to another verse-Philippians 3:20. It says, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body,” and right now it is lowly, isn’t it? Like a doctor said to one of his patients, “If you were a building, you’d be condemned.” He will transform our lowly body to be like His. (Are you saying that this is true, that God is going to transform our lowly body? Symmorphos is the Greek word.) It says, “He will transform our lowly body like his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject all things to himself.” Imagine that. Your body is going to be transformed like unto His glorious body.
Now let’s clarify something. In heaven you are not going to be a spirit. You are actually going to have a body. Jesus said to His disciples, “Handle me because a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones.” He had flesh and bones and Thomas saw the nail prints in His hands and they were able to touch Him. So we’re not going to be spirits. We’re not going to be angels. We’ll have physical bodies, but those bodies will be raised so that they will be like unto His glorious body. Now we think immediately of the Mount of Transfiguration where Jesus Christ’s glory was veiled, and we wonder if our glory will be to that extent. I’m not sure, but this much I know. The body we are going to have is going to be absolutely glorious. It’ll be a glorious body. Redemption: body, soul and spirit totally redeemed.
The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians that it is sown a perishable body, and it is raised imperishable. He says that it is sown in weakness and it is raised with strength. And that’s why we bury bodies. They are like a seed in the ground. Yes, it is true that they disintegrate, but in the end God sovereignly puts them together, and we shall have a body that is fit for eternity. This body is fit for this life, but we’re getting one that is going to be fit for eternity.
Will we ever have perfect health care? The answer is yes, but not in our lifetime. (laughter) We’re going to have to wait for that. Imagine! Never any pain, never any problem with the body! Eternal! Ten thousand years and you don’t look a bit older! It’s coming, folks.
So we have the glorification of the soul, and the glorification of the body, and why is it such a beautiful body, a glorious body like unto Jesus Christ’s body with all of its power and its ability to go from one part of the land to another, to go through doors, different molecular structure and all the rest? Why? It’s because we’ll be fitted for a different environment. We’re talking now about heaven.
Now here’s a theological concept you need to grasp. Let’s think of Adam and Eve there in the garden. As we contemplate them, what was unique about their situation was that there was complete harmony–harmony between them and nature, harmony between the man and his wife before the fall, harmony within the man’s own heart. There was no civil war going on in him like there is in some of you today. There was nothing but peace–nothing but shalom (peace and happiness). Now as a result, of course, of the fall, you know what happened. Man fell, but the minute man fell, all of creation, the Bible says, was cursed because there could be no such thing as an imperfect, sinful, cursed man living in a beautiful, un-cursed, pure, holy environment. Everything was cursed and so you have earthquakes, and tornadoes and you have all kinds of other things happening in nature.
Now here’s what it says in Romans 8. I won’t ask you to turn to it, but it is there and you need to find it on your own at another time. There what we discover is (I think it’s in verse 31) that the creation fell after man fell. Man falls, creation falls, and now the whole creation, Paul says, is waiting on tiptoe (as one translation puts it), eagerly waiting for redemption of our bodies as sons. We read it in our Scripture reading today. Creation is eagerly waiting for that so that it can be redeemed too. We lead. Whatever happens to us happens to nature. We fall into sin, nature is cursed. We find the redemption of our bodies at the time of the resurrection and what happens is that nature is also redeemed, the Bible says. And then after nature is redeemed and the earth is recreated, do you remember what John said? He said, “I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven.”
Isn’t it interesting that the Bible begins in a garden but it ends in a city? Why? Why don’t we all go back to the garden? Why isn’t heaven just one state of Iowa where you have a lot of people living in different little places? Why the city motif? Well, it’s because we are social beings and while it is true that you can walk independently with God in your own little condo out on the prairie somewhere, the fact is that we are going to worship God together. There is a togetherness of the people of God. That is why we sorrow not as those who have no hope because we shall be together in heaven, and that togetherness is best expressed when we all live together. We’ll all do things together. We’ll worship together, and we will serve together in the city, but what a place it is. It is the place of the presence of God.
As God has said, “I will dwell in them and walk with them and they shall be my people, and I shall be their God.” We will walk with God in complete openness and purity and transparency, without any mediation–God and us! “My God and I, we’ll walk the fields together,” as the Psalm says.
We’ll experience the presence of God. We’ll experience the comfort of God. Twice in the Bible it says God himself shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. And what it really means is, according to the Greek text, he will wipe the tears out of their eyes. It’s almost as if God is going to say, “I want to get to the very source of your regret. I want to get to the very source of your pain. I want to get to the very source of what caused you tears,” and notice who does the wiping of the tears. God doesn’t delegate it for one believer to wipe the tears of another, but God Himself shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more sorrow, nor crying, nor death, for the former things have passed away. Wow!
We will experience there the presence of God and the comfort of God. The Bible says no more shall the heat beat down upon us. The imagery there is of being in a desert with nothing to drink and the sun is just pounding down on you. The Bible says no more of that, but God Himself leads us to refreshing waters. God does it. God and God alone, to borrow the words of a song.
Now, we’ll experience His presence and His comfort, but also His reign. The Bible says we are glorified and we are going to sit on the throne of the universe. You’ve heard me quote it many times but some of you, God bless you, still don’t know it by memory, do you? Jesus said, “He who overcomes, to him I shall grant to sit with me on my throne even as I overcame and sat with my Father on his throne.” You are glorified; the Son is glorified. Together we shall rule in the heavenlies and redemption shall have been complete. At last we have seen the picture on the box, and the puzzle of life makes sense now because of what God put us through here to prepare us for what lies ahead.
You say, “Well, where does this leave us?” I’d like to make some transforming comments if I may.
First of all, please know that the glorification of God’s people is certain. You don’t need to turn to it but I will read verses of Scripture that you may be acquainted with from Romans 8. This is what it says: “And we know that all things work together for good.” The letter that you received in the mail this week, the forces that are against you eventually work together for good. You can be having a terrible day, and yet really from God’s standpoint, having a great day. “All things work together for good to them who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. For those he foreknew (that is, knew ahead of time and it really means fore-chose) he predestined to be conformed to the image of his son in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Whom he predestined he called. Those whom he called, he justified. (Are you ready?) And those whom he justified he glorified.” Hey! (applause) Be glorified? I don’t look very glorified this morning. Even some of you who are beautiful aren’t yet glorified. God says if you believe in Christ it’s done. There’s an unbreakable link. You are foreknown; you are predestined; you are justified. God calls those things which are not as if they are, and says, “You are glorified.” It’s a done deal. (applause)
And some people already know it on earth. I called my mother yesterday as I always do on Saturday. She’s 101. I didn’t ask her yesterday, but I have in the past, “Mom, are you sure that you’re going to heaven?” and you’ve heard me give her reply many times. “I’m as sure as if I’m already there.” (applause) If you are here today and you are not sure, probably you are not going, because believers have that assurance because they’ve trusted Christ. They’ve not trusted their own good works. They have trusted the finished work of Christ with such confidence. They have trusted Christ alone so that if God should demand anything else they’d have to be turned away and be lost and damned forever. Why? It’s because they have so put their trust in Christ. We use the expression, “All of their eggs are in that basket,” but they believe that Jesus is able to take us all the way into God’s presence, because we get in on His behalf. And so, for Christians, it’s already a done deal.
Now, if you are here today or you are listening in any other way–maybe by radio or by Internet–and you have never trusted Christ as Savior, I invite you to do that. Admit your sinfulness. Come and trust Him. Get over your infatuation with your own righteousness, because it falls short, and come to a Savior who actually saves.
There’s a second revolutionary idea, and you need to get this. Our glorification contributes to God’s own glory. Maybe you’ve been a little uneasy during this message because you say, “Pastor Lutzer, you are talking about our glorification, and doesn’t that detract just a little bit from the glory of God, the fact that we also going to be glorified with bodies like unto Christ, with minds that are absolutely pure?” The answer is No. It doesn’t detract from his glory. It adds to his glory. Let’s think it through. Let us suppose that Adam and Eve had not sinned. Most of us wish they hadn’t. Whether or not that would have been best is a huge, huge discussion that thankfully, because I’m speaking I can conveniently sidestep today.
But let us suppose they hadn’t sinned. What would they know of God? Well, they’d know that He was the Creator. They could certainly sing the song of creation, but they could not sing the song of redemption. They could have never sung, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain.” They could never have done that, and as I like to explain to people, the death of Jesus Christ on the cross is God at his best. It is there where God’s holiness and God’s love were in tension, and the tension between them was resolved. Love wanted to redeem. Justice said, “No, you can’t.” Justice now has paid and so justice says to love, “Now you are free to redeem humanity.” And there, like a kaleidoscope, the righteousness of God and the holiness of God (none of which could have been known without the Fall), and the mercy of God, and the redemption of God, and the generosity of God could never have been known. And that’s why our glorification contributes to the glory of God, when forever we will sing praises that these undeserving people could be so exalted. It won’t have anything to do with us. We’ll just stand in amazement.
It was Mozart who said in one line, “Help me to remember that I was the cause of your long journey,” and in heaven we will never forget that we were the cause of God’s long journey in Jesus.
I love to tell that story about Paul Gibson. When he was being honored at Cambridge University a picture was painted in his honor. He had been principal of Cambridge, and when it was unveiled, he paid tribute to the artist, and said, “In years to come, no one will ask, ‘Who is that man,’ but they will ask ‘Who painted the picture?’” And my friend, throughout all of eternity nobody is going to ask who the redeemed are, but throughout eternity the question is going to be, “Who is their redeemer?” (applause) Who is the one who would take people from the pit and tell them that they can now walk in a palace? Who is the one who can do that? Who is the one who can take us from the mud and make us walk on marble? Who is it that can dig us out of our addictions and our sins, and our selfishness, and dig us out like that, and then make us to rule with Christ? The question is not, “Who are the redeemed?” The question is, “Who is the redeemer?” That’s the question. (applause)
When I was in England a few years ago I wanted to go to the grave of Charles Haddon Spurgeon. He was a great preacher in England. I love to go to the graves of people. I like it when they have gravestones with something actually on them. Sometimes you can’t have that today, but in the good old days they actually put something on the tombstone. One of Spurgeon’s favorite hymns was written by William Cowper entitled “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” and some of the stanzas from that hymn are on Spurgeon’s tombstone. I love this one:
E’re since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy power to save.
At the end of the day, that’s the picture on the box. You and I going through trials, heartache, disappointments, family troubles, bills that can’t be paid, situations that can’t be remedied, injustices that do not fit. We take heart because we know that the suffering of this present time is not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us, because someday we’ll stand in the presence of God redeemed, and think of this, forever.
If you love Christ would you bow your head now in prayer, and if you don’t know Him, would you bow your head also in prayer?
Father, who are we to have spoken about such things? Who are we to imagine heaven and the glory that awaits the humblest child of God? We thank you, and we ask only that you’ll make us better worshippers, better trusters (if we can use that word), better at our praise, and may we always remember that it doesn’t matter if we get our way. It doesn’t matter whether we are famous or popular or rich. Nothing else matters except Your glory. Simplify our lives by showing us that it’s not about us. It’s all about You, but Lord, there are pockets of resistance in our hearts. Some people are resisting right now because they have this corner that they don’t want to give to You. Father, overcome and show them that it is best to embrace everything that You have and submit to You. For those, Father, who have never trusted Christ as Savior, I don’t know who they are, but they are listening. Would you, Father, break into their lives and show them the glory of the gospel, and the wonder of what Jesus did for us? Do that, oh God, we pray. Pursue them until they say, “Here am I; I give up the weapons of a rebel and submit to Christ, receiving Him all for your glory.” In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.