Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Gospel of the Glory: What Makes the Good News Good News

Last time we delved into God's prescription for the blindness in which the world finds itself. We observed that in 2Cor 4:4 and 4:6 that three levels of God's redemptive work are outlined. And as we progress through each level, we come to greater depth and greater ultimacy in God's work of salvation. We already looked at levels one and two. Now we come to the third.

Notice again the way the Apostle Paul speaks of spiritual life. Above he spoke of spiritual death as blindness to glory. Here he speaks of spiritual life and faith in the Gospel as seeing glory. And that is level three: God has shone in our hearts to give the Light (that’s level 1) of the knowledge, or of the gospel (that’s level 2), of the glory of God in the face of Christ (that’s level 3). This is the deepest level of the redemptive work of God. This is what salvation is about!

In A God-Entranced Vision of All Things, John Piper writes, “The way anybody gets converted…is that God sovereignly causes the darkened soul to see the beauty of Christ in the gospel. Just as He once said, ‘Let there be light’ and there was light, so now he says, ‘Let the glory of Christ shine as an irresistible beauty,’ and it does” (263).

The nature of our spiritual death was that were blind to Christ’s glory. But in the miracle of regeneration, you were spiritually awakened so that you could finally see. And because you finally see Him, He is so sweet to you. You love Him! You can’t resist Him! And you forsake the rotting garbage of sin and you embrace Him with the glad, open arms of faith, and you are saved.

Do you see it? Paul calls the Gospel “the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” What the Good News consists in—what the Gospel is about—is the glory of God in Christ. Seeing and enjoying the glory of God in the face of Christ is what makes the Good News good news!

This is the way the whole of Scripture speaks of salvation. Consider these passages
  • Hebrews 2:10 describes Jesus’ ministry of salvation as “bringing many sons to glory.”
  • 1 Peter 3:18 says that Christ suffered once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, so that He might bring us to God. To God! Not to a hall of mirrors where we can admire how valuable we are, but to an eternal worship service, where we can admire how valuable He is!
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 is just wonderful. The way Paul speaks about salvation here is amazing. He says, starting in the middle of verse 13: “God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Do you see this? The Gospel is the means by which you will gain the glory of Christ! It is the gospel of the glory! So when we preach the Gospel, we must do it in such a way that acknowledges that what makes the Good News good news is that we can finally see and enjoy the glory of God revealed in the face of Christ.

And I’ve gotta tell you, so many people stop at level two! So many Christians preach the Gospel as if we were the ultimate goal in salvation. But we’re not! Ultimately, the ultimate reason for why God saves any sinner is to manifest His own glory! Listen to what Scripture says about God’s motivation, His goal, in saving sinners:

  • Isaiah 43:25 says it as plain as day (God is speaking): “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake.
  • Ezekiel 36:22 says the same thing more emphatically, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went.
  • In the New Testament, Paul tells us in Titus 2:14 that Christ “gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession.
  • And in the opening section in Ephesians 1, Paul says three times that salvation is designed for the praise of God’s glory (Eph 1:6, 12, 14).
This is why the Gospel is not “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life”! So many people preach the Gospel by telling people that Jesus died for them, and then they stop there. As if the Good News is that God just loved [wuvved?] us so much that He couldn’t live without us and so He died to be with us. But for crying out loud, do you hear how me-centered that is? Do you hear how much of us that makes? But that is not what God’s love does. God’s love does not give us a reason to look at the Cross and see our worth!

See, a lot of people are happy to confess that we should be God-centered, but that may be because they secretly think that God is man-centered. Then their God-centeredness is really man-centeredness. They say their joy is in God, but really their joy is in themselves. They're happy to worship God, just as long as God worships them.

But listen: if what you want out of the Gospel, or out of Christianity, is a god who makes you feel good about yourself, you need to repent of your idolatry and come to the God of the Bible through Christ. And if what you offer people in the name of Christ’s Gospel and in the name of Christianity, is a god who will make them feel good about themselves, and will work for their self-esteem, you’re not preaching the Gospel.

The love of God displayed in the Gospel is not that He makes much of us! The love of God displayed in the Gospel is He shines Light that cures our blindness to glory, and thus frees us from our love affair with sin so that—rather than only being able to be satisfied by being made much of—we can be entirely satisfied in the depths of our souls by making much of Him forever!

Yes, God so loved the world that He gave His only Son. But finish the sentence! He did that for a purpose! So that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life! And what is eternal life? John 17:3: Jesus says, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, Father, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” God’s goal in sending Christ was not to show humanity how valuable we were; His goal was to give us the eyes to see how valuable He is! He shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

But because so many people have imbibed our culture’s distorted definition of love as being made much of, many people—maybe some of you reading this—have a hard time feeling loved when they hear that God loves them for His own sake. But loving someone is not making them feel good about themselves—especially, like in our case, when there’s so little to feel good about! Loving someone is doing what is best for them. And what is best for me, and best for you—what will most satisfy our souls and give us true and abiding joy—is to see the glory of God for which we were made.

And there is a wealth of satisfaction in feeling loved that way. I feel so safe, so protected, so loved by the fact that I am not uppermost in God’s affections, but that He is. In fact, we will never understand the sweet fullness of what it means to be loved by God—we will never know the breadth and length and height and depth of this love that surpasses knowledge (Eph 3:18-19)—until we understand that God’s love to us is not first to us, but to Himself.

And so John Piper writes, “God loves His glory more than He loves us and...this is the foundation of His love for us” (Brothers, We Are Not Professionals, 7). Because it is in loving Himself, in magnifying Himself, in displaying Himself, that you and I are able to see and enjoy the only thing that can truly satisfy our heart: the glory of God in the face of Christ.

In summary, then, the Good News is not merely that Jesus died for us! The Good News is that Jesus died for us in order to bring us to God (1Pet 3:18)! The Good News is not merely that God gave His Son for us. The Good News is that God gave His Son for us to bring us to an eternity of seeing and knowing and loving and worshiping Him. The loving, atoning work of Christ in the Gospel is a means to a greater end: that the people God has created would finally glorify Him by enjoying and being satisfied by His glory, for which they were created (Isa 43:7).

As we proclaim this Gospel, let us never forget that it is the gospel of Christ’s glory.

Series Outline
  1. Principles for Faithfulness in Gospel Ministry: Introduction
  2. We Are Not to Amuse the Goats but to Call the Sheep
  3. The World's Problem is that They Are Blind to Glory
  4. We Do Not Preach Ourselves
  5. God's Remedy: The Shining of the Light of Life
  6. The Gospel of the Glory: What Makes the Good News Good News
  7. Postscript

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