MESSAGE FOR AUGUST 3, 2003
“Having a Zeal for God’s global glory”
These past few months we have been focusing in on reasons why we are not more impassioned about the local and global mission of the church of Jesus Christ. We have repeatedly seen that God is impassioned about this—He sent his only Son to die for this and he sent his Holy Spirit to the church so that we could accomplish this mission. It would be hard to imagine how God could be invested in a goal more than He is in the mission of the church. We have seen that we his church are not only called to work for the completion of this mission, this mission lies at the very core of who we are as believers. Given that, if we are not impassioned about the global mission of Christ’s church there is something deeply wrong with us and we dare not allow ourselves to live in a state of apathy and indifference to something that God is so impassioned about. Last week, we began to examine by far the most important reason why a believer is not impassioned about the greatest cause. That is, because we do not have as our main motive for the mission of the church, GOD’S main motive for the mission of the church.
We saw from numerous texts that what compels God to be so impassioned for the global mission of the church is his zeal for his own glory to be spread to the nations. We gave text after text showing this is God’s motivation not only for the fulfillment of the Great Commission, but for EVERYTHING he does. We see God’s zeal for his glory motivating him for world missions in Psalm 96:3-4 where the Psalmist says, “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among the peoples! For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.” God wants us to declare to the nations—HIS GLORY and his marvelous works, which demonstrate his glory because they reveal the kind of glorious things He does. The reason he wants us to declare his glory among the nations is [verse 4] “For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods.” One reason God wants his glory declared is simply because He IS great and glorious and he wants his supremacy over all other gods declared. Do you hear God’s zeal for his glory there?
Paul clearly understood God’s zeal for his glory to be God’s motivation for the salvation of sinners through Christ. He says in Romans 15:8-9, “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised [he died for them] to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles and sing to your name.” Notice the reasons Paul gives as to why the gospel was taken to sinners and why they in God’s providence accepted the message. First, “to show God’s truthfulness.” They were brought into the New Covenant through the blood of Christ to show that GOD is truthful. The motivation for bringing in the Gentiles is to show God’s veracity—his integrity. This is a God-centered motivation to bring him glory through the revelation of his truthful character.
The question is—how does God the fact that God saves sinners through the gospel demonstrate his truthfulness? Paul tells us that it is, “in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs.” God promised Abraham more than 2000 years before Christ in Genesis 12:3b “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God made that promise to Abraham but up until Acts chapter 10 when Cornelius is saved, this spiritual blessing, which would come through Abraham, had been enjoyed almost exclusively by one small, near eastern nation—Israel. Paul wants us to know that Jesus saves sinners is because God didn’t forget his promise. He was now at this point in salvation history bringing the Gentiles into the blessings of the New Covenant through Christ in order to show that he keeps his promises.
If you have ever wondered as I have, “I wonder why on earth God ever saved me.” Part of the answer is right here. Because of a promise he made to Abraham 4000 years ago! If there is a bell in heaven that rings every time one of God promises is fulfilled then that bell rings every time a sinner is saved and every time an unreached people group is successfully penetrated by the gospel because he promised that every tongue, tribe and nation would be represented around his throne in heaven. If we are zealous for God’s glory, our goal should be to have that bell ring off the wall!
Finally, in verse nine Paul brings all this together when he gives one more reason why God saves Gentiles through Christ and it is, “in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.” The argument of Romans is that God in saving the Gentiles pulled off an incredible spiritual coup because before the Gentiles begin to come to faith in the New Testament they have NO salvation history, NO priesthood, NO sacred book, no spiritual pedigree linking them to Abraham and most importantly, God saved them when they weren’t even looking for God. In Romans 10:20, Paul quotes Isaiah and says of the Gentiles, “…I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me." There is for the Gentiles no spiritual preparation—zero, none. We need to try to appreciate this. To imperfectly illustrate how astonishing this must have been--this is a bit like a 68 year-old overweight couch potato, getting up from his couch, licking the Bridgeman’s ice cream off his fingers, trudging out his front door in bare feet to the starting line of Grandma’s Marathon on race day and breaking the tape with a time of an hour and 15 minutes. No preparation—no nothing and he wins in a miraculous time. That just doesn’t happen and likewise, were it not for a God who keeps his promises and his glorious plan in redemptive history; the Gentiles simply don’t get saved!
Paul wants to underscore that this is nothing but the mercy of God and we must praise the Lord for His mercy first for the undeserved love of God in Christ that he gives to ALL believers, Jew and Gentile and then for the fact that he saved us with no spiritual preparation. He just [BOOM] started saving Gentiles through the gospel, grafting us into the tree of life and the main reason he does this is to put on display His great mercy in salvation and we must praise Him for this.
His motivation once again for saving us is to shine the light on his mercy—for HIS glory. This is what drove the first missionaries in the New Testament church. We read in 3 John that John had sent out itinerant teachers and in 3 John 1:7 he says, “For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles.” These texts, coupled with last week’s multiple texts that show that at each point in an individual believer’s salvation process God is motivated for his glory, undeniably make the case that the primary motivation for God saving sinners and God sending out missionaries and God’s call to us to proclaim the gospel in word and deed to our families, co-workers and neighbors of all types is out of a zeal for his own glory. Last week, we saw why this was not egotistical on God’s part but simply the most logical way for Him, as the supreme Treasure of the universe to conduct Himself.
If we are troubled by the incredible spiritual sickness in our hearts that is revealed by our lack of passion for evangelism and missions—if we are disturbed by our apathy toward reaching the unreached for Christ, then we must know that one sure-fire cure for that miserable spiritual condition, which should deeply grieve us is in having a heart that burns with zeal for God’s glory. If our hearts burn for the glory of God we will without exception burn with passion for the global mission of Christ especially to the unreached people groups because God will be glorified as He creates worshippers through the gospel. The question at that point becomes, “how do I become more zealous for God’s glory here and to the nations?”
Now, I want to pause a minute to help us see just how large a question that is. The Westminster divines in composing their catechisms posed the question, “What is the chief end of man?” As many of you know the biblically correct response they gave to that question is, “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” The Westminster scholars rightly asserted that the purpose of our creation—the reason we exist is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. So that means when we ask the question, “How do I become more zealous for God’s glory here and for the nations” we are asking a question that penetrates to the very heart of our reason for being. It would be difficult to imagine a more central and heart-searching question for the follower of Christ than, “how do I become more zealous to do that for which I was created?” That is, to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever. We’ll see in weeks to come, Lord willing how those two purposes of glorifying God and enjoying him are tied to one another.
For today, we want to look at the first three ways we can become more zealous for the glory of God. The first way we can become more zealous for God’s glory is also the most obvious—we can ask him to give us a great zeal for his glory. If we want ANY spiritual blessing from God the first thing to do is simply to ask for it for him. We must never overlook this patently obvious answer. God is our Father and if there is anything he has that we want, we should always begin by showing our dependence upon him by asking for it. Jesus’ words in John 14:12-14, which though often misapplied and misunderstood, do however powerfully apply to this area. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Notice God’s motivation for giving to us whatever we ask in Jesus’ name is that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
That means, first of all, that God Jesus qualifies “anything that we will ask in the Father’s name” as being that which will glorify the Father in the Son. That means that whatever we ask should by implication be asked for with the motive being the glory of God and it tells us that God will give us anything we ask for, so long as it glorifies the Father in the Son. If we ask for things, as James says in 4:3, “because we ask with wrong motives, that we may spend what we get on our pleasures,” God is under no obligation to honor that request simply because its asked with a “in Jesus’ name” after it. But when you apply this promise of answered prayer to a request made by a child of God for his Father to give him/her a greater zeal for God’s glory, then this promise is 100% claimable. The whole purpose of answered prayer in Jesus’ name is for the glory of God. Therefore, we can know with utter certainty that if we ask for an ever-expanding zeal for the God’s glory, God will absolutely honor our request.
We should allow this promise of Jesus to be the high octane jet fuel that ignites our faith to believe that God will with utter certainty give us what we ask for when we ask for an increasing zeal for God’s glory. Given the biblical priority of the glory of God—given the fact that we were created for this purpose—we should every day have at the top of our prayer list, “God, increase my zeal for your glory—make it uppermost in my life—do whatever you need to do in me in order to give me a consuming passion for your glory here and to the nations.” Now there is a glorious warning I feel compelled to give if you pray this way and that is—if you pray this way, you may well find yourself having a strong desire you never had before to go to Zaire or China or Saudi Arabia and minister for Christ and you will do it for the joy it will bring to your heart. The first way we become more impassioned for the glory of God is simply to ask him to increase our zeal.
A second way to strengthen our passion for God’s glory is to warm our lukewarm hearts around the furnace of God’s glory—His word. Each one of the texts we have seen this week and last and the hundreds of others that call attention to the centrality of God’s supremacy and glory in scripture is, for the person who desires to be more filled with a passion for God’s glory, a burning hot coal God uses to warm up our cold, self-centered hearts. As we spend time thinking and praying over and meditating and memorizing texts like Isaiah 48:11, “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” As we think about the truth about being forgiven of our sins in the God-centered context of Isaiah 43:26 where God says, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” As we think about God’s work in us before the foundation of the world and what motivated it as seen in Ephesians 1:5-6 where Paul says of God, “he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” As we meditate on God’s motive for apostolic preaching as found when in Romans 1:5 where Paul says that Christ, “through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,” In those hopefully frequent moments when our thoughts turn to heaven and we ponder what that will be like, we should cast our vision of heaven through the glory-radiating lens of Revelation 21:23 where John says of heaven, “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” The glory of God is the radiating light of heaven and it permeates EVERYTHING there—like the sun that shines in the day and the full moon that lights the night.
If we find ourselves growing cold to the glory of God, part of the reason why is because we in some way distanced ourselves from the word of God, which is the blast furnace of God’s glory. It’s as we pour over and pray over these texts that the hot coals of God’s word become embedded deep in our hearts and bring them into unity with God’s passion for his glory. Finally, and related to this is a third way (we’ll see more next week, Lord willing) to become more impassioned for the glory of God being spread here and to the nations. The nuclear fireball of God’s glory contained in his word is the gospel of Jesus Christ and ground zero of the gospel is the cross of Christ. Its as we think about and study and internalize the gospel that the critical mass necessary for a nuclear zeal for God’s glory will collect in our hearts. In Second Corinthians 4:4 Paul calls this gospel “the gospel of the glory of Christ.” In the gospel and culminating in the cross of Christ the glory of God is manifest most clearly—it burns whitest hot there for several reasons.
First, because nailed to the cross was Jesus Christ who is according to Hebrews 1:3, “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and when he had done his most glorious work, he returned to the place of the highest glory where he was before the world began with his Father. Second, the cross is the place where God’s glorious attributes collect and coalesce most perfectly. In the cross we see that the holy justice of a God will not let the guilty go unpunished—we see a God whose holy, sin-hating wrath is unleashed with infinite fury upon sin. We should tremble at God’s intense rage against sin manifest in the cross of Christ. In the cross we see not only God’s wrath against the sin he so violently hates in his holiness, but we also see God’s immense, indescribable, unsearchable love for his children because he did not leave us in that place of wrath. He spared them by offering us a substitute sacrifice—His own Son--to pay our justly deserved penalty. “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God [1 Peter 3:18]. These glorious and seemingly contradictory attributes of God breath-takingly merge in the cross of Christ. God’s justice and God’s mercy, his majesty and humility are united in the cross of Christ and the result is an explosion of the glory of God that will for all eternity redound to the heavens. In the cross we see the fulfillment of God’s glorious redemptive plan, which was created in eternity past and which is the central theme of sacred scripture.
This morning as we participate in the Lord’s Supper, ask God to reveal to you the glory of Christ displayed in the cross. As he does, you will come to the unavoidable conclusion that this glory that we have seen and received of in the cross is a glory far too great to keep to ourselves. We MUST—allow others to see this! We MUST bring this glorious message of the cross to the nations who have never heard about it. We MUST not keep this message from our friends and family and neighbors here and to the nations. We MUST do whatever we can to allow the glory of God as seen in the radiance of His crucified and risen Son to be put on display for the sake of His Name. May God give us grace to have this God-like zeal for his glory here and to the nations.
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