Glorifying God by Being Compelled by God’s Love
Campus Outreach Staff Conference
Today our focus is on God’s love for us, and on our experience of that love as a way of glorifying God. In other words, how is God shown to be glorious by the way you experience God’s love for you? Or to be more specific, how does your going about your ministry—planning events, talking to students, writing notes for a talk, fund-raising—how does going about your ministry hour by hour, carried along by a sense of being greatly loved by God, make much of the glory of God? How is God glorified by your being compelled and carried by your deep sense of being loved by him?
Clarifying What Love Is
One of the reasons this question is so relevant to our time and our culture is that almost all of us have absorbed from our culture — the air we breathe — an instinctive sense that being loved is focused finally on us. My experience of preaching for many years about God’s passion for the glory of God is that for many people, this does not land on their hearts as an experience of being greatly loved by God. I think, if you said to the average American student that “being loved” is not an experience that terminates on you, they would look at you with perplexity and wonder: Where else would it terminate? I’m the one being loved. How could it not finally be about me? That’s why it feels so good — someone finally took notice of me. Cared for me. Valued me.
And that sense is so strong and so natural and so obvious to most people that the thought that there might be a better way to be loved, a more satisfying way to be loved, a stronger way, is simply inconceivable. And my guess is that many of you are in that category yourselves. God has opened the eyes of your hearts to see the glory of Christ in the gospel. You have turned from sin and the world. They are no longer your master and treasure. Christ is your Lord, your Savior, your treasure. But there remain some teachings of the Bible and some aspects of God-centeredness that are not yet native to your way of feeling and thinking. You are still working things through.
So what I hope happens in this message is that you see some things in a new way that frees you to feel profoundly loved by God in such a way that the focus (yes, the focus of your sense of being loved) is finally on him and that he gets the glory.
Why God Reveals This About His Love
This is very closely connected to the question: When God is loving us, is he only making much of himself, or is he also making much of us? Can a Reformed, Christ-exalting, God-centered, Bible-saturated Christian Hedonist exult in being made much of by God? Or would that be the very cultural captivity I was talking about?
So here’s the question I am going to ask: Why does God perform all his acts of love toward us in a way that reveals he is loving us for his own glory? Why does God relentlessly reveal his love for us by telling us in the Bible that he is loving us for his own name’s sake? This is where so many people stumble, and say, “It just isn’t love if God’s aim is to magnify his own glory.” Or: “You say he is making much of me, but in fact he isn’t making much of me if his design is that he be made much of in making much of me.”
I tremble just to say those words. It isn’t so. I want to show you — I want to help you see and feel—that you are more loved by God when he loves this way. He makes much more of you when he makes much of you this way. Please don’t turn this off. Ask God to help you see what we are about to see in the Bible.
Just a few examples of what I mean by God performing all his acts of love toward us in a way that reveals he is loving us for his own glory:
1. God shows his love for us by predestining us for adoption into his family.
In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace. (Ephesians 1:5–6)
God loved us in eternity before we were created, and he planned to make us his children by adoption. And the aim of this love was “the praise of the glory of his grace.” He loved us this way that we might praise his grace. The ultimate aim of our adoption is the glorifying of adopting grace. A regenerate person loves to praise God’s grace in our adoption. A nominal Christian simply loves the natural benefits of adoption.
2. God shows his love for us by creating us.
Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory. (Isaiah 43:6–7)
If God did not create you, he could not love you. So creation is part of God’s loving you. He brought you into being that you might enjoy forever all the good he plans for you. And he did it, he says, for his glory.
3. God shows his love for us by sending us a Savior.
“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest.” (Luke 2:10–14)
We get the Savior; he gets the glory. We get the “good news of great joy”; God gets the praise. That is God’s design in sending his Son.
4. God shows his love for us when Christ died for us.
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14–15)
The love of Christ controls us, constrains us, animates us, moves us, impels us. And how was it shown? He died for us; and our old unbelieving, rebellious self died in him. And now our new believing selves live. And then in verse 15 comes the aim of all this love of Christ: that we might live for him! What does that mean? He doesn’t need our help. Living for him doesn’t mean living to make up for his deficiencies. He has none. It means living to display his greatness. That’s what he was after in loving us — our living for his glory. This is the way the saints have prayed for centuries:
Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake! (Psalm 79:9)
Born-again people pray like this. They see their salvation primarily as a gift of the ability to see and savor and show the glory of God.
5. God shows his love for us by making us spiritually alive.
God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4–7)
When he says, “by grace you have been saved” (v. 5) remember this is the grace which according to Ephesians 1:6 he predestined us to praise — “unto the praise of the glory of his grace.”
Now what is that grace doing here? Paul describes it as God’s “great love” making us alive when we were dead. Verses 4–5: “Because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive.” Paul says that the reason any of you were made alive from the deadness of your unbelief and rebellion is that God had a “great love” for you. This is the only place that term occurs in the New Testament, “great love.” A particular love. A special love. Not the general love that he has for everyone, since not everyone is made alive. But a particular love that moved him to choose you for his own and make you alive.
And then he says, “by grace you have been saved” (v. 5). And all this work of grace is that you might live “for the praise of the glory of the grace of God.” He loved you with “great love” and loves you for the glory of his grace.
6. God shows his love for us in the way Jesus prays for us.
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. (John 17:24)
Jesus is not praying for the world he says in John 17:9. He is praying for his sheep. He is loving us to the end (John 13:1). And what he asks is that we might be “with him.” “Father, I desire that they be with me.” Why? Because he needs us? No. But that they may see my glory. He’s loving us by asking the Father to let us see his glory. Our Savior, not our self, will be the bottom of our joy.
The point of those six texts is to show that throughout the Bible, God performs all his acts of love toward us in a way that reveals he is loving us for his own glory.
Does God Make Much of Us?
Why does he do it this way? Is that a diminishment of his love? Do you feel that as a lessening or a heightening of his love? I want you to feel it as a heightening of his love. I want you to feel that you are more loved, because he does it this way.
But before I try to show this, let’s add that other piece I mentioned. The question of being loved is very closely connected with the question of being made much of. Does the love of God for us include his making much of us? And if he does, is part of our sense of being loved the pleasure of being made much of? My answer is yes to both those questions: He does make much of us in ways that are so over-the-top that we are scarcely able to believe how much he makes of us. And he would not do it if he did not mean for us to experience it with joy. If we had time we could show that everyone of these instances of God making much of us, as with the other instances of his love for us, are all done for the glory of his name (see the parenthesis at the end of each of these seven examples).
A few examples of what I mean about God’s making much of us:
1. God makes much of us by being pleased with us and commending our lives.
In one of his greatest sermons, “The Weight of Glory,” C.S. Lewis said that there is a “weight of glory” so great we can scarcely believe it is ours in Christ. What is it? To hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
To please God . . . to be a real ingredient in the divine happiness . . . to be loved by God, not merely pitied, but delighted in as an artist delights in his work or a father in a son—it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.
(See Isaiah 60:21 and Hebrews 13:21 to see that God’s being pleased with us is because of his work in us for his glory.)
2. God makes much of us by making us fellow heirs with his Son, who owns everything.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
The promise to Abraham and his offspring [is] that he would be heir of the world. (Romans 4:13)
Let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. (1 Corinthians 3:21–23)
(See Ephesians 1:4-6 to see that our adoption was predestined for the glory of God’s grace.)
3. God makes much of us by having us sit at table when he returns and serving us as though he were the slave and we the masters.
Truly, I say to you, he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them. (Luke 12:37)
(See 1 Peter 4:11 to see how our being served by God is designed for his glory.)
4. God makes much of us by appointing us to carry out the judgment of angels.
Do you not know that we are to judge angels? (1 Corinthians 6:3)
(The wisdom we will have for the judgment of angels will be a wisdom from heaven, James 3:17, so that God gets the glory)
5. God makes much of us by ascribing value to us and rejoicing over us as his treasured possession.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. . . . Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29–31)
The Lord your God . . . will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. (Zephaniah 3:17)
(See Hebrews 13:21 where our being pleasing to God is through Christ and for his glory.)
6. God makes much of us by giving us a glorious body like Jesus’s resurrection body.
He will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:21)
The righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. (Matthew 13:43; cf. Romans 8:30)
(See 1 John 3:1–2 for how our glorious transformation will be owing to seeing Christ and reflecting his glory.)
7. Most amazingly God makes much of us by granting us to sit with Christ on his throne.
The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (Revelation 3:21)
The church . . . is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22–23)
We are destined to share in the governing of the universe with divine-like authority.
(Jesus will appear more glorious as one who shares a unified human rule by millions than if he wielded all that power with no extensions of himself.)
Could he make it more clear to you, God makes much of his Son’s bride, the church. He makes much of you. God loves the church — he loves his individual elect members of the church — with a kind of love that will make more of us than we can ever imagine. All this is yours, if you belong to Christ (Romans 8:9).
Why God Reminds Us That He Loves Us for His Glory
The final decisive question is: Why does God, who loves us so much, and who makes much of us so extremely, remind us again and again that he does all this for his own glory? Why does God remind us over and over that he makes much of us in a way that is designed ultimately to make much of him?
The answer is this: Loving us this way is a greater love. God’s love for us, that makes much of us for his glory, is a greater love than if he ended by making us our greatest treasure, rather than himself. Making himself our end is a greater love than making us his end. The reason this is greater love is that self, no matter how glorified by God (Romans 8:30), will never satisfy a heart that is made for God. God loves you infinitely. He sent his Son to die that he might have you, and that you might have him (1 Peter 3:18). He will not let you settle for wonderful and happy thoughts of self. Not even a saved, glorified self. He will not let your glory, which he himself creates and delights in, replace his glory as your supreme treasure. That would not be love.
So Campus Outreach, glory in this. Take heart from this. Rejoice in this. Be strengthened by this. Be compelled in your ministry by this. You are loved by God. You are precious to God, and the greatest gift he has for you is not to let your preciousness become your god. God will be your God. God alone forever. And this is infinite love.
When you are compelled by this love in everything, God is greatly glorified.