A really crucial question comes in from podcast listener Amy, who asks, “Dear Pastor John, please don’t read this as accusatory; I’m just wanting to understand. Throughout the Bible, the theme seems to be that God can use bad people for his good. So my question is: How can God be most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him when he uses people like Judas Iscariot? He even uses Satan for his purposes. If God is most glorified in us only when we do good, that seems to simplify his majesty. How would you explain this?”
Well, first of all, no offense taken at all. It is a great question. I have had to clarify this, in fact, several times, because my motto does seem, to some people anyway, to rule out God being glorified in his works of justice and his works of wrath. I mean I say, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” And that seems to indicate to some people, “Whoa — so God can’t get glory when he does hard and just and wrathful things toward unbelievers?”
For example, Exodus 14:4: “‘And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.’ And they did so.” And people hear that and they say, “Whoa, Piper’s motto doesn’t seem to make any room for that.”
Or Exodus 14:17: “And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they shall go in after them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
So when I say “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him,” I don’t mean that God can’t be glorified in people who are not satisfied in him — like Pharaoh and his soldiers. And I don’t mean that God settles for a display of less glory in the universe when he glorifies his justice in the judgment of unbelievers than he would have if he had gotten everybody saved and they were all fully satisfied in him. My motto doesn’t go there. It doesn’t mean that.
God knows exactly how to put all his attributes on the greatest display with mercy and grace and wisdom and power and patience and righteousness and wrath all taking their perfect place on the canvas of history that God is painting. So when the question comes out of that conviction, yes and amen.
How Do I Most Glorify God?
What I mean by my motto — “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him” — is that this is true about us believers. I am trying to answer the question: How do I, John Piper, as a believer, glorify God most?
- Do I glorify him most by being partially satisfied in him?
- Do I show he is gloriously all-satisfying best by not being fully satisfied in him?
- Do I glorify him by pursuing merely external obedience to Christian rules, as if my heart and its joy in him doesn’t really matter?
- Do I glorify him by ignoring the command to “Serve the Lord with gladness” (Psalm 100:2), as if serving him were all that matters and “with gladness” can just be struck out of that command?
- Do I glorify him most by not pursuing Psalm 16:11 with all my heart? “In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
My answer is: no, I, John Piper, the believer who wants to live for the glory of God most, glorify God most, when I am most satisfied in him.
Glory in My Satisfaction
If I treat God as minimally satisfying, I, John Piper, the sinner, in that act, am not glorifying him as I ought. Now if God takes my sins and my failures to treasure him and someday makes all of those failures serve his glory, that will not have been my doing. I am talking about my doing. He will not have been glorified in me, in my conscious intention to glorify him. He will not have been glorified in me. In me, he will have been dishonored by sin, and I don’t want that to be true for me.
So I am asking the question: How can I most glorify him? And so I say with great longing in my heart not to do that: God is glorified in me most when I am most satisfied in him.