Enjoying God and glorifying God — are those different things, or the same thing? It’s a question for you today, Pastor John, joining us remotely over Skype. Here’s the question as it comes in to us from a listener named Roland: “Hello, Pastor John! I have a question about enjoying Jesus versus glorifying Jesus. It seems like enjoying Jesus Christ would look like fellowship and communion with him — a relatively private matter between Jesus and me. But glorifying Jesus Christ sounds more like observable works and words that show the watching world his worth. These two things seem to feed one another rather than being the same thing. But I’ve listened to APJ long enough to suspect you’d reach a different conclusion. But I can’t seem to piece this all together. Can you help me understand their relationship?”
Well, I won’t reach an entirely different conclusion. Let’s start with a quick clarification about everything else that follows, just to preempt a misunderstanding. When I speak of enjoying Jesus or glorifying Jesus, I mean, in both cases, enjoying him for who he really is and glorifying him for who he really is. I don’t have in mind an enjoyment or a glorification of some popular notion of Jesus that is not who he really is. So there, that’s the beginning clarification.
“The heart satisfied in God will produce a public brightness.”
Now, with that clarification behind us, let’s begin with a hearty affirmation of Roland’s thoughtfulness here. Roland is right that glorifying Jesus and enjoying Jesus are not identical. He’s also right that enjoying Jesus is, in its essence, a private experience of the heart, and glorifying Jesus, in its essence, is the offering of evidence to others that Jesus is glorious.
Glory from the Heart
Given those two definitions, there is, nevertheless, at least one situation in which enjoying Jesus and glorifying Jesus become one thing — namely, in the situation where my heart can be seen by someone else, even though my body is totally inactive.
For example, I might be a paraplegic with no muscles working at all, not even my facial muscles. If someone could see my heart in that situation and see my heart experiencing joy in Jesus, that joy, at that moment, would be an instance of glorifying Jesus. Because my definition of glorifying Jesus was this: offering evidence to others that Jesus is glorious. And they’d be seeing that, and it would be evidence to them: “My goodness, there’s joy in there, and he can’t move a muscle. How great must Jesus be?” And there are at least three other persons who can always see my heart — namely, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
So, if my heart is enjoying Jesus, at least three other persons see evidence that Jesus is glorious and glorious to me, because enjoying Jesus for who he really is, especially in times of suffering, is real evidence that Jesus is glorious — if someone can see it. And someone can always see it; at least three persons can see it.
Evidence of God’s Power
There’s another reason why enjoying Jesus and glorifying Jesus need to be distinguished — that is, not treated as identical. And it’s because there are ways that God is glorified or Jesus is glorified by a person’s existence, even when the heart of that person is not enjoying him.
For example, Pharaoh was raised up by God to glorify God’s power, which he did — but not by enjoying that power, but by simply being the object of God’s powerful and righteous wrath. In Exodus 9:16, God says, “For this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth.” Pharaoh glorified God’s power and name, not because he enjoyed either of them, but because his destruction became the evidence of God’s glorious power.
So, when I say, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,” I’m not saying that God is glorified by a person’s existence only when that person is satisfied in him. God was glorified by Pharaoh’s existence: his life was an evidence to others that God is powerful. But Pharaoh was not satisfied in God or his power.
The words in us are very important when I say, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” And I realize (every time somebody asks me a question, I get more clarity about this) that with the words in us I have created a confusion, at least for Roland — namely, that glorifying God might be something totally private in us, without giving any evidence to anyone outside of us that God is glorious. And I’m trying to clarify that that’s not the case; that’s not what I mean. I want to say that glorifying God or glorifying Jesus always involves giving some evidence to other persons that God is glorious, beautiful, valuable, great, satisfying.
Seed of Satisfaction
Now, let me make one more clarification, or take our clarification one step further. I said earlier that enjoying God and glorifying God are not identical, yet the whole burden of my theology, Christian Hedonism, is that any attempt to glorify God that is godly, or Spirit-guided, or gracious, or faith-rooted, or pleasing to God — any attempt to glorify God — must come from a heart that is at least in possession of a mustard seed of being genuinely satisfied in God. If our hearts are totally devoid of enjoying God, our hearts cannot attempt to glorify God in a way that pleases him and makes him look beautiful. And the more fully our hearts are satisfied in God, the more fully God will be glorified in our outward behavior.
“If our hearts are totally devoid of enjoying God, our hearts cannot attempt to glorify God.”
When I say that, I’m thinking of Matthew 5:16 by way of illustration. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” That fits perfectly with Roland’s comment that glorifying God sounds more like observable works and words than a private, inner experience. And that’s what Jesus is saying here: people will see your good works and glorify God. Your good works will give visible evidence that God is glorious.
Now, what Christian Hedonism points out — relentlessly points out — is that good works done from a heart with no satisfaction in Jesus are not God-glorifying good works. They are not putting God’s glory and God’s worth on display because the heart that is doing them feels no glory, feels no worth, in God. Thousands of unbelievers do those kinds of good works — the kind that Paul described in 1 Corinthians 13:3: “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” Jesus did not admire these kinds of good works:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate [that means you do lots of good things that look really good, squeaky clean, good things, and the plate is clean on the outside], but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. (Matthew 23:25)
So, this outside veneer of good works is not coming from the enjoyment of God, but from greed for money, for human praise. And right here in Matthew 5, there is evidence that the good works that glorify God in verse 16 come from a heart satisfied in God. Remember Jesus had just said five verses earlier, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). And then he says this absolutely crazy and glorious thing: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:12).
Your heart can rejoice in hardship, in persecution, because of the promise of heaven: you will be with God, and you will be overwhelmingly rewarded and satisfied. And then he says, “You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13–14). Which I think means that the world desperately needs the flavor and the brightness of people so satisfied in God that they can rejoice in suffering. That’s a weird and glorious, beautiful kind of human being. And then he says, “Let that salt be tasted; let that light shine in your good deeds” — that is, let the taste and the brightness of your God-satisfied heart be seen in your works, and then your good deeds will have the flavor that really makes God look valuable.
So, “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in him” means both that the heart itself, when satisfied in God, is good evidence to God, who sees the heart, that he is glorious in your eyes. And it means that the heart satisfied in God will produce a public brightness and a taste in the way it responds to suffering and in the way it does good deeds.