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The Glory of God or the Glory of Man?
By David A. DePra
In this day and age, Christianity is often nothing more than a belief system, a religious movement, "having church," self-help, or a series of emotional experiences. Many have forgotten what Christianity really means. Christianity is CHRIST IN US. (Col. 1:27) Christianity is God making Himself one with man in His Son. Christianity is God redeeming everything about us so that we can re-enter the relationship that was once lost through sin. Christianity is God’s will, unto God’s glory, being brought to pass both IN people, and THROUGH people, through the Holy Spirit. Christianity is the invasion of the kingdom of God through the Person of Jesus Christ.
In case you haven’t noticed, Christianity is about Jesus Christ – and about what He wants to do IN US to God’s glory. That’s probably the most self-evident statement we could make, but one that almost sounds like a new revelation. And yet that simple Truth is so often blurred and distorted, if not completely neglected.
A Subtle Deception
One of the more modern deceptions about Christianity is what we might call, "the gospel of self-esteem." Of course, the main players of this deception are people like Robert Schuller and Joel Osteen. But you can find this false gospel front and center in the Word of Faith movement, in the seeker-friendly church movement, and certainly in the purpose-driven movement. It is able to deceive unsuspecting people because within it is always talk about Christ. But Christ is not the center. YOU are the center – even if those who teach it deny that this is so.
This false teaching basically focuses on what God wants to MAKE YOU. It emphasizes the wonderful person YOU will be if Christ has His way with you. Joel Osteen, for example, has a summary phrase for how he teaches this error – he says, "Discover the Champion in You." We, of course, also have his book, "Your Best Life Now." I have also heard some of these false teachers say, "Jesus Christ was crucified to release your greatness." Many of them concentrate their teaching on, "inner healing," and upon teaching Christians how to be happy. The Word of Faith movement, in many respects, teaches how to get God to bless you with what you want. But in the end, it is all about the same thing: US. The subtlety is found in the fact that they say that it is GOD’S WILL for you to become this wonderful specimen; to discover the champion in you. They teach that, in fact, becoming a Christian will achieve this.
This false teaching suggests that if Christ comes to dwell in you that His presence will give you high self-esteem. That is the bottom line – even though the teaching takes many forms, and is presented in many packages. As a result, along with this teaching comes many other self-help techniques. For once we say that the impact Christ will have upon us is that He will make us feel good about ourselves, and give us high self-esteem, the focus really does become US – because we have made HIS focus our self-esteem.
The question quickly becomes clear: Is the result of Christ in us that we will discover the champion in us? Will CHRIST IN US give us high self-esteem?
You have to understand that Joel Osteen and others do not mean that we are to discover that Jesus is the champion in us. No, that is never taught. For you see, if that is what they mean by their teaching, they would include in that the necessary of us being reduced, and the necessity of us being brought to total defeat as to our own strength. They would openly preach the necessity of the Cross. But they NEVER preach this. Furthermore, they would just say that Jesus is the only champion we have in us – but this is never stated, either directly or indirectly. No. What these teachers mean by these errors is that that Christ in you is going to make YOU a champion. I am being quite charitable. Frankly, I’m not sure that they even mean that. But it doesn’t matter because it is still wrong, and grave error.
Now, of course, the minute I say that Christ in you doesn’t not make YOU a champion, there are many people who won’t understand. Are we not, "more than conquerors?" Sure. But the issue here is THE MEANS by which this is possible, and the RELATIONSHIP with Christ that brings it to pass. To listen to the gospel of self-esteem, you would think that Christ in us is little more than a decoration for US. You would think that Jesus has simply come to put the finishing touches on us so that we can be better people. You would swear that when the Bible says, "We are complete in Him," that the focus is on the WE instead of on the HIM.
Really, it is right here that the Truth departs from these errors. The Truth reveals that the focus IS on the HIM, and not the WE! What in the world do we think that we bring to the table in our relationship with Christ? Some of these false teachers even declare that we are of such value to God that He could hardly keep Jesus from dying on the Cross!
Somewhere along the way, Satan has managed to infiltrate Christianity with a message that satisfies our hunger for self-worth. And Satan gives God credit for it! Satan has managed to make the entire plan of God center around US – and then give God the glory for centering it around US. This easily finds it’s way into our acceptance because pride is fundamental to the human condition. Indeed, most of us have no frame of reference for an alternative – we think that if this isn’t about our self-worth, then Christianity must surely be about our worthlessness!
The Real Truth
For the last several centuries, much preaching has been focused on putting down people. The gospel was preached almost as a threat of punishment, rather than an offer of life. But today, the opposite extreme has taken center stage. Gone from the gospel is the necessity of repentance and coming to the Cross. Rather, we are told to simply accept Jesus, and begin to discover the champion in ourselves.
So what is the Truth about self-esteem and Christianity? Most people would probably say that the Truth is a balance between high self-esteem and low self-esteem. But this is NOT the case. In reality, the Truth is something completely OUTSIDE of either extreme.
It may come as a shock to most people but to gravitate between high self-esteem and low-self esteem is bondage. To be struggling to find yourself, or to find ANY balance of self-esteem is bondage. For you see, both high self-esteem and low self-esteem have one common word: SELF.
And as long as you are fussing with SELF you are not free. The Truth reveals that God wants us completely delivered from SELF. In fact, both high self-esteem and low self-esteem are essentially the SAME thing. High self-esteem is a fulfilled sense of self. Low self-esteem is a frustrated attempt to have high self-esteem, which is an unfulfilled sense of self. Both are focused and centered in SELF.
As shocking as it may seem, our continual obsession with ourselves – including what might seem a healthy desire of self-esteem – is exactly what is wrong with us. It is part of what we are WITHOUT GOD. It is precisely because, through natural birth, we do not have Christ in us, that we do what comes natural otherwise – we try to fix ourselves and make ourselves feel good about ourselves in other ways. This is the natural mind, and the flesh. And Satan has succeeded in bringing it into Christian teaching and has gotten many to accept it as the very goal of God in Christ – to make us feel good about ourselves.
If I can come to know Jesus Christ in the way the Bible describes, I am not going to be trying to achieve self-esteem. It is not going to be a question as to whether I have high or low self-esteem. I am not even going to care about it, or be fussing with it. For the result of knowing Christ is never high self-esteem or low self-esteem. It is deliverance from the whole need for self-esteem! Because I know Him – have CHRIST-esteem -- I will be able to live in a relationship with Christ that is entirely OUTSIDE of the whole self-esteem bondage.
So we see that the Truth here is not that I find a balance between high and low self-esteem. It is that I be delivered from it altogether, and become so dominated by Christ that it just doesn’t matter. The issue is settled, and I’m in love with HIM.
Treasure in Earthen Vessels
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. (2 Cor. 4:7)
If you want to know what you are without Christ, Paul tells us:
Know you not your own selves, how that except Jesus Christ is in you, you are reprobates? (2 Cor. 13:5)
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing. (Rom 7:18)
Does it sound like Christ died to release OUR greatness? Or even to MAKE us great? Does it sound like we have a champion in us through natural birth? Or that Christ died to make us a champion?
The Truth is, Christ died to release HIS greatness to us. He died to make Himself a champion for us. We are merely recipients. Have we forgotten the Truth of grace?
But you see, this grates on people. They still think that if Christ is all, and we are nothing, that this is a sad, morbid, depressing condition. But it is not. It is true freedom. For Christ does not put us down to exalt Himself. Rather, He gives us Himself.
Paul says that, "we have this treasure in earthen vessels." But notice the result: "That the power may be OF GOD, and not OF US." What we see is that we are nothing except who we are IN CHRIST. But this doesn’t mean we are made great by Christ. It means we RECEIVE all that He is – and He alone is great.
I’m not sure many Christians get the distinction between the error which states that Christ makes us great, and the Truth which states that we experience HIS greatness. Paul is trying to tell us that when he tells us that we are earthen vessels, and He is the treasure. Paul doesn’t ever say that the earthen vessel is made great by the treasure. No. The earthen vessel is never great – but it contains the treasure who IS great, and therefore is a recipient of all that Christ is. That doesn’t make us great. It makes us free.
Another way to look at this is to see the meaning of God’s love for us. God doesn’t love us because we are great, or because we are loveable. No. Neither does God’s love MAKE us great or loveable. No. God’s love makes us LOVED. It is all FROM GOD TO US. To RECEIVE what God is, and what God has, doesn’t make anyone great, or turn them into a champion. What it does it make God great – and makes us a vessel through whom He can glorify Himself.
Does an earthen vessel ever become great or of value because it holds a treasure? No. Never. But what does happen is the earthen vessel experiences the greatness of the treasure. The earthen vessel experiences the value of the treasure. That is freedom. That is grace. That is worship. That is the Truth.
And yet most of us have no concept of the freedom of being nothing. We still can’t get that – we are continually blinded by our need to think of ourselves as something. We don’t realize that if we would ever come to see the Truth about this that it would be the most freeing and revolutionizing thing imaginable. To be NOTHING is not a miserable state. It is the condition that will enable me to experience ALL OF HIM.
Get that: If I decrease in my own eyes, He increases to me. If I become nothing, I can hold all of Him. I can experience all of Him. Does that sound miserable? No. It sounds like everything we could ever want. The deception is that we don’t believe it.
You cannot have a contradiction or a conflict between the glory of God and the glory of man. God doesn’t glorify Himself BY glorifying US! That is utter nonsense. God glorifies Himself by doing exactly that – glorifying HIMSELF through us. Who gets the glory? God. Who is great? God. Sure. But where are we? We are recipients of God’s glory and benefactors of Him. We are earthen vessels who receive HIM. Again, this is all FROM GOD TO US. That doesn’t make US great. It glorifies HIM!
Now, of course, it is absolutely impossible that you and I will ever come to glorify God unless our pride and self-esteem and our hunger for glory is being crucified. This is a fact even if we desire the Truth. The flesh must be dealt with. As stated, there can be no conflict between the glory of God an the desire of man for self-glory.
But you will rarely hear it taught by some of these self-esteem teachers that you must come under the power of the Cross. To most of them, the Cross is something Jesus died upon FOR US. To many of them, the Cross is what enables Christ to make us great. Few of them realize that the Cross is what will crucify our lust for greatness.
In order to understand what is going on here, we must briefly go back to the beginning – to Adam’s sin. When we examine the damage done to the human race because of Adam’s sin, we discover what is wrong with us, and we discover the only solution – the Cross and resurrection.
In order to cut to the quick on this matter, let’s examine two verses from Genesis describing the condition of Adam BEFORE his sin against God, and then AFTER his sin:
Adam and Eve BEFORE the sin:
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed. (Gen. 2:25)
Adam and Eve AFTER the sin:
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons…. And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. (Gen. 3:7-10)
You will note that Adam and Eve were naked both BEFORE and AFTER the sin. That did not change because of the sin. But what did change was whether they were, "ashamed." Before the sin they were NOT ashamed of their nakedness. After the sin they WERE ashamed of their nakedness. This was changed by the sin.
What does it mean, in the context of Genesis, to be, "naked?" Well, you will note that God created Adam, "naked and unashamed." To be naked was therefore a GOOD thing. Genesis 2:25, where Adam is said to be, "naked and not ashamed," is therefore the NORMAL condition of man before the fall. It is, in fact, a description of Adam in the relationship with God that God Himself intended for man.
Nakedness means to have nothing IN YOURSELF as a resource for life and Truth. You are VOID of those possibilities IN YOURSELF. And as mentioned, this was GOOD. In fact, before the sin, Adam was NOT ashamed of his nakedness – of his total lack. Why? Because he was completed by God. He was ONE with God. Thus because God was his life, and God was his Truth, he was totally comfortable being naked – indeed, he didn’t even know he was naked or lacking. Being naked and unashamed is a description of a human being completely at one with God and completely dependent upon God for all.
After the sin, however, Adam is STILL naked – he is still a creature with nothing in himself. But now he is ashamed and afraid. Why? Because Adam lost God. God is no longer one with Adam, completing Him, and filling him to the full. The only possible result is spiritual death, and a condition wherein Adam is conscious of his complete LACK.
You only know you are naked if God is not filling what you lack in yourself with Himself. This is why Adam now KNEW he was naked. Indeed, it is why he was utterly tormented by it. Note that the first thing Adam did was try to FIX his nakedness, and compensate for it. But he did not do this by turning to God. Rather, he tried to do with in his own strength. He used fig leaves.
Our continual quest for self-esteem is nothing more than our attempt to cover our nakedness with fig leaves. Some people do a good job, or so they think, trying to hide their nakedness, and they are the ones with high self-esteem. Others don’t do a good job, and have low self-esteem – their nakedness is more exposed. But both are in error. The solution is not to cover our nakedness. The solution is to CONFESS IT – and enter back into the relationship Adam lost. If we do, we will be COMPLETE IN CHRIST.
Now, the gospel of self-esteem doesn’t teach this. The gospel of self-esteem doesn’t teach that we are naked and can be made complete only by Christ. Rather, it teaches that Christ came, not to expose you as naked, but to cover you with fig leaves. It teaches, not that we are made complete IN CHRIST – but it teaches that we are made complete BY CHRIST. In other words, the gospel of self-esteem doesn’t say you are what you are only because of Christ in you. Rather, it says that you are what you are because Christ has turned you into that. YOU have been made wonderful.
Christianity is NOT about God making us into wonderful specimens, or about God making us into little imitations of Jesus Christ. We are not to BE LIKE Jesus! You never find this taught in the Bible. Rather, Christianity is about the CHRIST IN US coming to live and be manifested THROUGH US. It is not US being made LIKE Him. It is about HIM being seen through US.
This is not a petty distinction. It strikes at the heart and core of what Christianity IS. God never says that the earthen vessel will be turned into a treasure. No. The earthen vessel receives the treasure, and if broken by the Cross, will manifest the treasure. We have CHRIST IN US – we are not Christ. We have CHRIST IN US – we are not turned into imitations of Him separate from Him.
Much of the gospel of self-esteem suggests that God wants to take who we are IN ADAM and make him beautiful. In other words, the suggestion is that God wants to take that broken creature, who was naked and ashamed, and dress him up and bring out the best in him. Almost like all God has to do is plug Adam into Christ and Adam’s full potential will be seen.
No. There is only one fate for Adam. Adam must DIE. And he did in Christ. Now, God is making a new man in Jesus Christ. But you will note that every single place in the Bible where Christianity is described, it is always described as IS being IN CHRIST – or Christ in us. Always. There is never a thought of US being anything independent of CHRIST IN US. In other words, unless we are IN CHRIST – we are nothing. He is the treasure, and we are the earthen vessel.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death works in us, but life in you. (2 Cor. 4:7-12)
Now, of course, as Christ is seen through us, He will be using us – our wills, personality, and bodies. But this is HIS LIFE through us. It is not God making us into an imitation of Christ. No. It is God crucifying our flesh, which can never please God, so that Christ might be seen THROUGH us.
Seeing the meaning of, "the flesh," helps here. "The flesh," includes more than just immorality. "The flesh," is really the SELF principle – it is a term that describes what Adam became when he lost God – naked and ashamed. What he became was a creature who had only himself to look to for life, and yet one who was tormented by his nakedness, by his lack of life. So he continues to try to fix himself, and dress himself up. "The flesh," is all of this. It is the governing principle wherein man attempts to live by his self-sufficiency, with self as the center of the universe.
Christians can walk according to the flesh. This means that despite being saved – despite not being IN the flesh – we can still walk according to it, that is, be governed by it. The gospel of self-esteem is actually geared to legitimizing this, and giving God credit. It makes walking according to the flesh God’s will – howbeit it religiously, and, "to God’s glory."
Again – God isn’t going to make our flesh look good. He isn’t going to cover our nakedness. Rather, He is going to expose our flesh for the bad it is, and He is going to expose us. And then He will point us to the Cross – the flesh must be dealt with there. And THEN, the Christ who is IN US can shine THROUGH us. But it won’t be our flesh made pretty. It will be our flesh crucified, and Christ glorified.
If you really look at this Truth, you will see what I stated before, that the glory of God and the glory of man are opposed. At the end of the day, "the flesh," is all about the glory of man, even if it is about a supposedly good, religious man. Thus, any message that preaches that God wants to make us great, bring out the champion in us, or release our greatness – these are not simply teachings that are a bit off center. They are directly opposed to the Truth. That is why I said this is the gospel of Satan – the exaltation of man by God, rather than the exaltation of God by man.
Failure to see and experience the Truth about this is going to result, at best, in us walking with Christ for our own glory – although we will be deceived into thinking it is for HIS glory. We won’t know the difference. But there is an even more sinister result: Saying that God’s goal is to exalt man is the very message of the antichrist. Why do we think that the number of the antichrist is 666? This is man in his completion, independent of God. It does not matter if it packaged as God’s will! Isn’t this what the Devil always does? Sure. It is still the same error.
Jesus put the issue to rest in one passage, if we would only understand it. He said:
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matt. 16:24-26)
Jesus is not talking about physical martyrdom. This is seen by reading what He says about taking up your cross daily, something not possible if you are died physically. No. Jesus is talking about LOSING YOUR SELF. Get that: Losing YOUR SELF. He is talking about you completely surrendering everything about yourself to Him – including your self-esteem. He is saying, "If you will lose all of that, you will find ME – you will find true life in Me."
The fact is, there is no life in Christ except through death to self. But again, this will sound morbid and depressing to many. It will sound like the Christian life is a continual focus on how BAD we are. It is not. This isn’t what Jesus is talking about. If you continually focus upon, and are governed by how BAD you are, you are as in much of a bondage as you are if you focus on how GOOD you are. It is still about YOU. No. Jesus said, "Lose that. Lose the whole thing, by putting your faith in Me, and your self in My hands." The result will be FREEDOM FROM SELF, and true life in Christ.
Opening Our Eyes
Jesus Christ came to redeem us. We are here talking about GOD vs. man. Who do you think ought to be glorified? Let’s look at a couple more scriptures that ought to settle this thing once and for all;
But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, has God chosen, yes, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are -- that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That, according as it is written, He that glories, let him glory in the Lord. (1 Cor. 1:27-31)
Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. (Gal 5:26)
But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. (Gal 6:14)
But by the grace of God I am what I am. (1 Cor. 15:10)
To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. (Eph 1:6)
Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:2-3)
For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (Col. 2:9-10)
Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9-11)
But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Phil 3:7-11)
We have only room enough to quote these few scriptures. Again and again we see that we are what we are because we are IN HIM. That is, God doesn’t make us into something like Christ, or make us into something of value, or make us into something of beauty. No. What He does is GIVE US CHRIST – and we reflect Him. There is no life, no value, no beauty, no light, or anything else that we can be, or will ever be, except that He is IN US – and HE IS those things.
Man was created to be a vessel for God – created to be ONE with God. He was created to be a living expression of God’s glory. This means we get ALL OF GOD, and are able to experience Him. Does that sound like we will be miserable? Does it sound like we will be deprived because we don’t get any glory? Does it sound like we will spend eternity mired in a depressed state of low self-esteem? No. It sounds to me like Christ in us really IS the hope of glory.
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Rom 3:23)
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor 10:31)
According to these verses, the goal of all we do ought to be the glory of God, and not our own glory. In fact, the verse from Romans says that you can define sin as falling short of God’s glory. Can we see that there is no place in the will of God for man to be glorified? That to do so is actually SIN?
There is one place in scripture which might be misunderstood to promise that God is going to glorify us in the same way He is to be glorified.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Rom 8:29-30)
First of all, this verse bears out what I have been saying about God wanting to manifest Christ in and through us, rather than make us independent entities who are LIKE Christ. The Greek meaning of the phrase, "to be conformed to the image of His Son," is actually, "formed together with His Son." In other words, we are formed in accordance with Christ because He is IN US and LORD of us. We are not formed to be like Him separate from Him, but are formed together IN HIM. There is a union here that makes it all possible. Christ is the reason we are able to bear His image and we manifest HIM. But Paul does later say that God glorifies Christians, does he not?
Well, what he says is what it says in many other places – that we are glorified IN HIM, or by virtue of the fact that He is in us and HE IS GLORIFIED. Again, we possess NOTHING apart from Christ. All is wrapped up in Him, and we experience those things because He is in us, and we are experiencing HIM.
When he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe (because our testimony among you was believed) in that day. (2 Th 1:10)
That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Th 1:12)
Wherefore receive you one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. (Rom 15:7)
The bottom line is, God gets all the glory, and we get all of God. And of course, this is made possible only if God gets all of us. Christianity is about God’s glory and kingdom IN US through Christ.
May God awaken people to see the subtle deception that is all around us. The apostasy is not coming, it is here. And it is going to be about YOU and your glory, rather than the glory of God.
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