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Committed to God’s Glory in Christ
By David A. DePra
Here’s a big question for each person in Christ: Are we willing to settle for NOTHING less than God’s will and God’s glory? To put it positively, are we willing to absolutely and unconditionally stand by faith for God getting His full will and full glory – not only in situations, "out here," but in US personally? Can we say to God, "Lord, do whatever is necessary to enlarge Christ in me, and make Him manifest through me?"
God’s will and glory are wrapped up in Christ – Christ in us. So if we are absolutely committed to God’s glory, we need to understand that the enlargement of Christ in us is where God is going to be focused. God is going to want to bring us into a oneness with Christ, and going to want to manifest Christ through us. He is going to want us to be living epistles of what it means for Him to have His way with a person. Any solutions that God has for circumstances, or material blessings He might have for us, are going to come into focus only as they serve this fundamental purpose of God.
If your Christianity and my Christianity does not have as the goal and purpose the glory of God through Jesus Christ IN US – then we are off the mark. This is not maybe. It is a certainty. God’s purpose for each of us is that we might contribute to the measure of Christ by letting God have His way IN CHRIST with each of us. This is what it means for Jesus to be my personal Lord by experience, and it is what it means to have the Truth set me free.
God has a will and He wants to bring His kingdom to this earth IN US. The kingdom of God in us equals Jesus as Lord in us. The question is whether we are willing to allow God to put aside, indeed, even demolish, every one of OUR purposes, ambitions, hopes, dreams, and expectations, if this is what is necessary for Him to have His full way with us? Or can God only work along the line I dictate to Him – because I have desires and wants – because I still have my own kingdom?
Of course, anytime such questions are asked, many Christians think that if God ever got His way with them, it would certainly deprive them. There is something in each one of us that makes us afraid of what might happen if we REALLY let go into God’s hands. We are conscious of the fact that this will put our lives entirely out of our control. Indeed, for some of us, such a thought exposes the fact that we really don’t believe that God is there to take the life we surrender. Or we don’t believe that the result of surrender will be one that will satisfy us.
The tragic irony is that we were never IN control – the deception is that we were. And the greater deception is that if God ever got His way with us that this would be bad. No. It would be good – better than we can imagine. But you see, unbelief and fear – which are based in not knowing God – create a picture of God that is a lie. And once we embrace it, everything else follows suit. I mean, think about it: Is it possible for God to have His way with us, and for us NOT to benefit? Not hardly.
How deceived we are! We think that God is sitting in heaven, pounding His fist on the throne, demanding that we surrender to Him – and if we don’t, well then He is going to punish us! Or we think that God is sitting up there like some kind of, "heavenly bellhop," who is eagerly waiting for us to give Him orders, or our next request. So we give lip service to surrender either because we are afraid to NOT surrender, or because of what we think we are going to get out of it. Well, God is not according to our imagination – and thankfully does not work in our lives on that basis. All of HIS ways are Truth. Consequently, God is already working in your life according to His purpose, and unto His glory -- trying to get you on His page. He has a will and a purpose – for His glory – but for your benefit. So we need to stop trying to get God moving for us, and become unconditionally committed to Him.
God wants to bring us to the place where we can, with a sincere heart, ASK HIM to bring His kingdom to pass through Christ as Lord in us – to the complete disregard of our own kingdom. TO ASK is always to surrender to God in the things I’m asking. Thus, if I am asking, as Jesus directed in the Lord’s prayer, for, "Thy kingdom come," I am actually expressing my surrender to God, and asking Him to do whatever is necessary to bring to pass His will in me.
Whatever It Takes
When we ask God to bring His kingdom, we ARE asking Him to do, "whatever it takes," to bring to pass His will, for HIS glory. That is what it means for the kingdom of God to come to me. But don’t make the mistake of thinking in terms of THINGS when you ask God to bring His kingdom – don’t limit God’s rule and glory happening merely in THINGS, like a job, a relationship, your health, your finances, or your general lot in life. All of those THINGS are to be ultimately included in that which God wants to bring through to His glory. But the Truth is, in asking God to do, "whatever it takes, "to bring to pass His will, we must first open OURSELVES up to Him.
Notice what I am getting at here: I’m talking about my personal relationship with God. I’m talking about my spiritual condition in Christ. I’m talking about my inner constitution. I must open myself up to God so that He can do IN ME, and TO ME, whatever is necessary to bring my relationship to Him to where HE wants it, through to His glory.
Consequently, if I have faith problems, I can open to God and say, "Lord, do whatever it takes to deal with these hindrances to my faith, and bring me into the relationship with You that will please You and glorify You." If I lack a knowledge of the Truth, or sense that I am prideful, or fearful, or am not walking in a way that pleases God – yes, if possible, I do need to obey Him; I must make no provision for the flesh – but there are going to be issues that I will not seem to be able to overcome. Regarding these, I can open myself up to God and ask Him to bring HIS KINGDOM on these matters – which equals asking Him to do whatever is necessary to set me free to be enlarged in Christ.
Now, those are more specific issues. Yet they are all governed by one purpose: Christ in us. Thus, what we are really asking God is this: "Lord, do whatever is necessary to bring me to where Christ can be seen in and through me." THAT is a prayer God will always answer, for it is to God’s glory, and our redemption.
This IS Christianity. It is what Christianity is all about – it is what God wants than anything. God wants Christ in us, and the freedom to do whatever it takes to manifest Christ both through individuals and His Body:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. (Rom. 12:1-3)
God wants to author us as living epistles of what it means for Him to glorify Himself through a person. This is equal to making us living witnesses of Christ. If we open ourselves to God for this, God gets the glory. We get set free because we know Christ.
What is a Christian?
It is here that we must realize the meaning of a Christian. If we don’t know what the goal is – which is to bring out through us everything that a Christian is – then we won’t know what we are asking God when we ask for His will and glory. So what IS a Christian?
A Christian is a person in whom Christ dwells through the Holy Spirit. Christianity is CHRIST IN US. But the way in which Christ comes to dwell in a person is important here, too, because it also tells us what it means to be a Christian. Christ comes to dwell in a person if that person repents of his personal sin against God – the sin of running his own life – and comes to the Cross. That person, in effect, relinquishes himself to Jesus. At that point, we are planted into the death of Christ – and the power of the old creation is broken by death in Christ. But then we are likewise planted into the resurrection of Christ and raised a new creation. You will note that PLANTED denotes becoming JOINED or ONE with Christ. When we say Christ is IN US we are really saying that our spirit is ONE with Christ through the Holy Spirit. Thus, since Christ IS LIFE, and we are made one with Him in His resurrection, we are ALIVE – because of His life in us.
So we see in this that Christ is our life (Col. 3:4). We see that Christianity is not merely a religious belief system with teachings ABOUT Christ – but Christianity is CHRIST IN US – and the beliefs, and the obedience, and even the faith, arise as the OUTCOME of Christ in us. A Christian is a person who is IN CHRIST, and in whom Christ is IN, and this oneness with Christ through death and resurrection is the basis and foundation for everything else that Christianity means.
Without an understanding of the basic meaning of Christianity, it is quite difficult, if not impossible, to get a grasp of what God wants to do with Christians, and why. But once we realize that Christianity is CHRIST IN US, then things begin to fall into place. We are than able to see that what God is doing is a work that will make it possible for the Christ who is IN US, to be made operative Lord OF US, and to be manifest THROUGH us.
Get that. If you are saved, you are saved because Christ is IN YOU. But this only begins the purpose of God. Now God wants to do a work IN YOU through the Holy Spirit where Jesus becomes actual Lord of you. He wants to do a work in you where God is not only given freedom to do whatever He pleases in you, but a work wherein God actually DOES whatever He pleases. And what will be the result of, "whatever pleases God?" Well, Christ will come to be seen THROUGH you. You will become a living witness unto Christ; a living epistle.
Have we realized that a Christian is supposed to be someone with whom, and in whom, God can do as He pleases? This is the meaning of a SAINT – "a holy one." Thus, we ought to at least be seeking this, and walking in this relationship with God. It is what God WANTS in us, and is fundamental to His kingdom in us.
How does God do this work? – how does He get us to where Christ can be seen through us? To where He can do as He pleases through Christ? Actually, there is only one way: By crucifying US out of the way. The work of the Cross in our flesh is what makes it possible for the Christ who is in us to shine through.
But notice something here – notice something that may clash with much that you have been taught about Christian growth. God does not ADD to us helpings of Christ. No. Christ is already IN US through the new birth. ALL of Christ is in us. We are COMPLETE in Him. (Col. 2:10) What God does do is crucify whatever it is about us that is hindering and covering up Christ – and keeping Him from being seen. Then He will begin to be made manifest.
So we have this contrast: Christianity is not about ME becoming a better person, or about self-help, or about personality development. And here’s an important one: Christianity is NOT about me, "developing character," or, "character qualities." No. What a terrible legalistic bondage it is for those who come under these teachings that suggest otherwise! What do you think you have to work with for developing character qualities? Sure, you might be able to alter your conduct, and act differently. But that which is born of flesh IS flesh. All you are doing is talking your flesh and molding it into a different shape – perhaps a shape that looks religious and spiritual. But it is STILL FLESH. This is not of the Holy Spirit, and consequently, not of Christ.
God does not expect us to BUILD CHARACTER – He does not expect us to build the character of His Son in ourselves. Rather, the Holy Spirit wants to build Christ Himself in us. Then, through the work of the Cross, He wants to get us out of the way so that Christ can be seen through us. There is NO OTHER concept of Christianity in the Bible.
Now, someone might ask, "But aren’t we supposed to obey God? And through that obedience, don’t we change, and build character?" No. Obedience alone changes your conduct. But it doesn’t change YOU. If obedience alone were the key, then legalism would be the gospel. But it isn’t. Indeed, all obedience for a Christian is supposed to be the OUTCOME of faith, and the OUTCOME of Christ in us. It is NOT the means thereunto. Or, to put it another way, you cannot build Christ in yourself through obedience. But if Christ is being built up in you, then you WILL OBEY. Again – obedience is the OUTCOME, not the means thereunto.
So with regards to, "Christian character," we see this Truth: We possess no character of ourselves – that is – Christianity is not a matter of the Holy Spirit taking what belongs to the natural human and making it Christ-like. No. Instead, Christianity is a matter of the Holy Spirit setting us aside completely through the Cross, and Jesus Christ – HIS CHARACTER – being seen through us, in our works, our faith, and our lives.
It is here that we see the error in saying that we are supposed to, "be like Jesus." No. God is not making Christians into clones of Christ. Rather, because we have CHRIST IN US, God wants Jesus to be seen THROUGH us. Thus, rather than have a bunch of individual Christians who are each being made to look like Jesus, God has ONE Body of people through whom ONE CHRIST is being made manifest.
This might seem like a petty distinction, but it is not. There is a huge difference between being, "made like Jesus," by ADDING things to me, and Jesus shining through me because my flesh is being subtracted by the Cross. A big difference.
There is simply no way for the Christ who is in me to be seen through me without the work of the Cross. I must, if you will, continually pass through death and resurrection in Christ – not unto salvation all over again – but unto being changed for glory to glory in Christ.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Cor. 3:18)
So a big key here is to see that Christianity is not US being made LIKE Jesus – but Christianity means the Christ who is IN US being made manifest through us. And it is exactly this Truth that opens to us so much else about the real nature of Christianity.
For example, once we realize that Christian character is Christ seen through us, and not our own character, it shows us that a Christian is not a, "spiritual giant." A Christian is not someone who God intends to turn into a spiritual superman. This is vital to see in this day and age of heresy. People like Joel Osteen will tell you that God wants you to, "Discover the champion in yourself." People like Mark Chironna will say, and this is a direct quote, "Jesus Christ was crucified to release our greatness." And heretics like Robert Schuller have been teaching for years that your self-esteem is the most important thing to God. All of these false teachings are the result of NOT seeing the necessity of the Cross, mostly due to a completely blindness to both the true human lost condition, and frankly, to the Savior Himself.
God will never make you into a, "spiritual giant." You can forget that – and really, this ought to be good news. What God wants are, "little children." Indeed, a Christian is a person who has been made utter weak in himself, so that Christ might be his strength. A Christian is a person who, rather than be focused upon his own character, is focused upon the Person of Christ. A Christian is a person who LEAVES HIMSELF ALONE in the hands of God. The result of all of this will BE the character of Christ. It will be obedience. It will be everything the Bible teaches a Christian ought to be.
Jesus said if we abide in Him, we will bear fruit. He did NOT SAY that if we try real hard to bear fruit – which IS Christian character – that we would. No. Neither did He tell us to hang artificial fruit on ourselves as branches to make us look good. Neither did He say that we had any capacity to bear fruit that was not the product of HIMSELF as the Vine. No. He simply told us that if we leave all of that alone, and abide in Him, and come under the, "pruning," of the Cross, that we would bear fruit. And abiding in Him begins by opening to God for whatever He wants to do in us.
A Christian is someone who is DEFINED by their relationship with Jesus Christ. And that relationship is characterized by DEPENDENCE upon Christ, and DEVOTION to Him. This again come out – not of strength we find in ourselves – but it comes out of having our strength crucified to where we are made weak and spiritually bankrupt. Then we are strong in Him.
What is it so hard for us to see that if we are to be dependent upon Christ that God must do a work in us to MAKE us weak so that we will BE dependent? Why is it so hard to see that if Jesus is to be Lord of us, that we must be knocked off the throne – which means we will no longer have the option of determining our own lives? Why is it so hard to see that if the kingdom of God is to be made manifest in us that OUR kingdom must progressively FALL? What is it so hard to see that if God is to have freedom to do whatever it takes to bring ALL OF THIS to pass in us, that this, by definition, will mean that we no longer belong to ourselves?
God wants to do whatever He pleases with us, and in us. This may sound scary to some of us. But God is a redemptive God. He always brings LIFE and SALVATION to everything He touches. The bottom line is this: If you give yourself to God, what you get IS GOD. And with God will come all that you need. THAT is what pleases God and what He wants to do.
Perhaps one of the best passages that describe what it means to be a Christian – and consequently, what God wants to do in us, is found in Philippians:
If any other man thinks that he has whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 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. (Phil 3:4-8)
Note in the above passage what Paul defines as those things in which he might take confidence. Indeed, he says that they are OF THE FLESH – they are those things that might give him cause to have confidence IN THE FLESH. Note that there is not one SIN mentioned among those things Paul mentions. In fact, every one of those things are RELIGIOUS in nature. They are those things that Paul, before his conversion, thought were pleasing to God, from a religious, spiritual standpoint.
Have we recognized that so much of Christianity today is polluted, yes, by sin, but even more so by religious flesh? Have we realized that what often passes for the spiritual is really religious flesh? And not just in church by others. Have we seen the possibilities IN OURSELVES of religious flesh?
Certainly central to the definition of religious flesh is the use of religious things about myself to establish myself before God. Can we see that this is exactly what Paul is talking about in this passage? He is saying, "I had all of this in my life. I believed all of these teachings, and did all of these works. And I used all of this to establish my own righteousness before God. Yet in the end, I had to lose it all as garbage. It was not of Christ."
What is religious flesh? Well, it is anything about myself that is religious – as opposed to Christ in me and through me. Note the contrast: Of ME, as opposed to OF CHRIST.
It ought to be obvious that the aforementioned teachings of Joel Osteen and others exalt religious flesh – exalt ME as a Christian, instead of Christ IN ME. Of course, such false teachers are completely blind to the difference. And they are usually past appeal.
Paul was a very religious person, so much so that he excelled above all of his peers. But none of it was spiritual, because none of it was OF CHRIST in him or through him. It was HIM adopting a religion about God, and it was HIM doing works, and it was HIM believing beliefs. This was Paul, as a natural man – a natural religious man – doing his best to be righteous before God.
Paul said he had to lose all of that. But again – this was not simply a matter of Paul losing his religion, or about him changing his religion. This was about Paul suffering the loss of everything about himself that he could otherwise use to commend himself to God, and make himself righteous.
I don’t know if many of us really grasp the depth of that. This speaks of being brought to a spiritual bankruptcy that will expose us as having absolutely nothing to present to God. In other words, I will not feel good about MYSELF any more to the point where I will mistake it for God feeling good about me – I will not trust in anything about myself such that I can use it as the source of my confidence before God. We are talking here about the death in us of so much that makes us tick as religious human beings. We are talking about having every religious crutch and every sense of righteousness brought down to nothing. But – and this is the point – we are talking about something that Paul said resulted in WINNING 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 3:8-11)
Read the above carefully. Can we see that it was the loss of all things about himself that could otherwise be used as a credential before God – that is was the loss of all these things that led to Paul, "winning Christ," and, "being found in Him?" Absolutely. And in what shape was Paul, "found in Christ?" Well, "not having a righteousness of his own…but that which is through the faith of Christ." Sure. It is only if you LOSE your own righteousness – I mean, REALLY lose it – that you win Christ as your righteousness. And it is only then that you are truly FOUND IN HIM – you begin to discover who YOU are, because you now see who HE IS.
Now, it is so easy to read these words about losing our own righteousness, and to agree with them, and even to rejoice in them! It is so easy to say, "Yes, I know these doctrines. Aren’t they wonderful?" Sure, they are. But there is a big difference between believing you ought to suffer the loss of your own righteousness, and ACTUALLY suffering it. There is a huge difference between affirming that your righteous is Christ – between believing that essential doctrine – and actually coming to the place where you are actually experiencing Christ Himself AS your righteousness.
Paul said we have to LOSE ourselves to WIN Christ. Jesus said we must LOSE our lives to WIN them. This applies to salvation itself, but it also applies to the outworking of salvation. The question is not just whether we believe this is true – but whether we are asking God to make it true in our experience.
If we open ourselves to God for, "whatever it takes," for Him to get glory in our lives, we are going to be brought into the experience of Paul, as rehearsed in Phil. 3. It is in that experience that we are going to discover what it means to be a Christian. It does not mean to discover the champion in you, or that Jesus died to release your greatness. It does mean that you are going to LOSE all of that – and you are going to eventually WANT to lose all of that. You will lose every sense of your own righteousness, so that you might win Christ AS your righteousness, and be FOUND in Him.
Here we see, again, what God will do if He gets to do what He pleases in us. He will utter and completely strip us of our own righteousness. He will crucify our flesh – our religious flesh. He will cause us to LOSE all of that. But the result will be Christ. And we will become, not spiritual giants, but little children. This is God’s goal and purpose.
The Glory of God
If there is one thing that God wants to do, it is GLORIFY Himself. Indeed, He wants US to glorify Him. This is His continual goal for this age.
That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thes. 1:12)
For all the promises of God in him are yes, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us. (2 Cor. 1:20)
Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)
For all things are for your sakes that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. (2 Cor. 4:15)
And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:11)
But what is, "the glory of God?" – what does it mean for God to BE GLORIFIED?
Obviously, God is not on an, "ego trip." He is not begging for attention. He is not selfish. In fact, God is the opposite of all of those things. And yet God does want to glorify Himself. So what does that mean?
"The glory of God," is God Himself expressed. The term, "the glory of God," embodies everything OF the Personhood of God – all that comes from Him, and therefore truthfully represents Him. Thus, when we read that God wants to glorify Himself, it means that He wants to reveal Himself to us, and He wants to have His full will in and through us.
God is glorified when He is SEEN, or made MANIFEST. But I’m not simply talking here about a miracle happening. Rather, I’m talking about when the nature and character of God is made manifest in and through people. In short, God’s glory is CHRIST – and more specifically, God is glorified in me when Christ is seen through me.
So the call upon us is that we might turn to God and ask, "Lord, do whatever is necessary for Christ to be seen in and through me." THAT is commitment to God, for His glory. And yes, we will greatly benefit.
God is absolutely committed to His glory. God is going to have His way. The fact that He has purposed to allow angels and people to reject Him doesn’t change that fact. But the question remains: Are we absolutely committed to God’s glory? Can we truly say that we will not settle for anything less than God’s highest will, and God’s glory?
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