Of course, we are called to glorify God in everything we think and say and do. But the Bible also says that God will glorify us, his children. So, what in the world does that mean? It’s a question that comes into us from a listener named Nicholas.
“Pastor John, I am very grateful for your love for the Lord and your ministry. In John 5:44, Jesus challenges the Pharisees in where they seek their glory: ‘How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?’ It seems that Jesus is indirectly telling us to seek glory from God. How do we balance this with desiring to glorify him? What is the difference (and the link) between me glorifying God and God glorifying me?”
The difference between glorifying God and seeking glory from God is the difference between our making God look like what he really is and God making us into what we are definitely not; namely, beautiful and glorious in his image. We are created to glorify God, that is, by treasuring him and valuing him above all else to show him to be infinitely valuable above all else in our lives and in the world. But we are also created to be glorious or to be glorified, since we are not yet glorious — glorified not in the sense of being shown to be supremely valuable like God, but in the sense of being conformed to the image of Christ.
“There is no conflict in pursuing the glory of Christ and pursuing being glorified by Christ.”
The key passage is Romans 8:29–30, “Those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” And glorified refers back to that conforming “to the image of his Son.” God does not intend for his Son to have an ugly bride.
Jonathan Edwards makes a very big deal out of the point of the universe being the creation and preparation of a bride for his Son. Ephesians 5:27 says, “ . . . so that he might present the church to himself in splendor” — present the church. Christ died for the church “so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
Now, the way this fits together with our glorifying Christ is, first, that we are his workmanship. We don’t make ourselves beautiful. We aren’t intrinsically beautiful. We are intrinsically abhorrent in our rebellion against God. He makes us beautiful and, therefore, our beauty reflects his primary power and grace and beauty as the Creator of our beauty.
The second way our glorification relates to the glory of Christ is that his glory is the template from which our glory is designed, shaped, and brought about. Therefore, if anyone looks upon us and thinks we are glorious, it will be because they have already looked at Christ, found him to be glorious, and then looked at us and said, “Oh, you are like that. And I love that.” So, there is no conflict in pursuing the glory of Christ and pursuing being glorified by Christ, which means that we shouldn’t be shocked to read Romans 2:6. And I think a lot of Christians are shocked to read it when Paul says,
He [God] will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:6–11).
There is a deep flaw in our thinking and our souls if we are not seeking this glory and honor. No one can love God and not want to be conformed to the image of God. But we will always want our glory to be derivative. We will always want our glory to be reflective, not original: reflective of the original. And we will always love the way the two are put together in 2 Thessalonians 1:11–12, “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him” — an amazing, beautiful bringing together — “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
So, when Jesus says — and this is the text that Nicholas asked about — when Jesus says in John 5:44, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” I think he means, if you find the praise of other people and the honor of other people and the greatness of other people more satisfying than the greatness of God and the praise of God and the honor that comes from God and the beautification that comes from God, you will be so man-centered that you will not be able to believe on Jesus.