Why God Makes Much of Us

Westmont College Chapel | Santa Barbara

Thank you, Ben. What a sweet thing it is to have friends like that. Some people have capacities for friendship and others don’t. It’s nice to be befriended by somebody who has deep capacities for the kinds of affections that ought to be awakened when you’re a friend. Well, let me ask God one more time to help me and you, that this would be really profitable for his glory and for your good.

The Love and Glory of God

I have a question that I’m posing for you, and it’s fresh. It’s old for me, but the way I’m thinking about it in the last 48 hours or so is fresh. This message emerged on the airplane flying to Seattle a few days ago. The question I’m posing is, why does God perform all his acts of love for us in a way that reveals that he is loving us for his glory? Why is God so jealous to reveal his love for us that way? Or, let me ask it another way: Why does God make much of us in a way that is designed to make much of him ultimately?

One of the reasons that I ask this question is because there are people — and I love some of them very dearly and know some of them closely — who do not feel loved when they are told that God’s love for them is for his sake. It just ruins it. They think, “You were telling me he loved me, and then you ruined it,” or, “His making much of me isn’t making much of me if it’s a design to make much of him.” This is not hypothetical for me. This is not a small thing. This is a personal thing. This is a church thing and a family thing.

I want you very much to feel loved by God. Clearly the Bible is designed to that end, but the Bible doesn’t do it the way ordinary humans would like to have it done. I think the first thing I should do is walk with you through the Bible in about seven historic acts of love — the greatest acts of love for you that were ever performed — and notice the angle that God puts on this as he reveals his love to us. Let’s take them in a chronological order from eternity to eternity. I’ll give you a Bible verse for each of these acts of love. You can just listen, or you could glance at your Bible with me, depending how quick you are.

1. Predestination

Let’s start with predestination, which would be Ephesians 1:5–6. It goes like this:

He predestined us for adoption . . .

Now that is an extraordinary act of love, to be adopted into God’s divine family. It doesn’t get any better, okay? Here you are a foundling, weltering in your blood like it says in Ezekiel 16:6, and God picks you up, washes you off, and doesn’t just forgive you and send you on your way. He says, “No, I think I’ll keep you and now you’re in my family.” The passage continues:

He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will (and here’s what ruins it), to the praise of his glorious grace . . .

God is predestining us unto adoption so that we will praise the glory of his grace. I just know there are people who when they hear that they don’t like it. No matter how good I try to describe the preciousness of being adopted, it doesn’t cut it because he just ruined it. He did it for the praise of his glory.

2. Creation

Let’s go to Isaiah 43:6–7. It says:

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 . . .

You have been created, which I think is a great act of love. I think to exist is a wonderful thing. God didn’t have to create you and yet he did, and he recreated you if you’re born of God. This text says he created you for his glory. That is, he created you to make himself look really good.

We are to glorify God the way telescopes glorify or magnify, not the way microscopes magnify, right? A microscope magnifies by making a little thing look bigger than it is and a telescope magnifies by making something that’s really big, but looks little, look as big as it really is. God does look little to the world, and our job is to be the telescope for their eyes and say, “No, no. That little dot in your night sky is a galaxy.” That’s what my life is for. I hope your life is for that. I hope that’s okay. I hope when God says, “I made you for that,” you don’t say, “Well, I wish you had made me for me. I don’t like being made for you to make you look good.” I hope you’re not there, and I hope if you are there, you will move with me through these 30 minutes.

3. Incarnation

Luke 2:10–14 said:

And the angel said to them, “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,
     and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

That’s so disappointing. I mean, he’s coming to the world. He’s on a mission for me. He’s coming to save me. I’m a sinner. I’m lost. I’m hell-bound. I need a Savior. No human being that I know of can die in my place. There has to be a God-man to do this for me. And the angels watched it happening and they said, “Yes, glory to God. That’s what this is about.” Did that ruin it for you? Someone might say, “I thought you were after me?”

4. Salvation

Now let’s go right to the center of love, the cross. Call it salvation if you want it to rhyme. Second Corinthians 5:14–15 says:

We have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all (here comes the purpose), that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

You want to maybe step back and say, “Well, for whose sake did you do it? Who did you die for, you or me?” It says, “He died for all so that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him.” I’m sure that does not mean to help him run the universe or to meet some need that he has. When it says “that they might live for him,” it means for his glory, for his name’s sake, and for his fame. In this text, we have Jesus dying for us, for him.

5. Sanctification

Now we’ve been bought, forgiven, justified, and we stand right before God, and he goes about the business of making us practically, experientially holy and righteous. Paul prays for that in Philippians 1:9–11. Here’s the way he prays. Now, you remember, when you’re praying you’re talking to God and therefore, when you ask God to do something for a purpose it’s his purpose. That’s what happens in these verses. Paul says:

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment . . . [so that you may be] filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Paul is saying, “God, I’m asking you to move on the Philippians, work in the Philippians, and add discernment and knowledge to their love, to the end that they would be filled up with the kind of fruits of righteousness that make you look really good. That’s what I’m asking you to do. Sanctify them for your glory, filled with the fruits of righteousness that come through Jesus Christ to the glory and the praise of God. I’m asking you to sanctify them in a way that results in your praise. Sanctify them in a way that results in your gloriousness being seen, loved, pursued, and treasured. Go get them not only in forgiveness, but go get them in holiness to the end that their real lives would make you look great.”

This is like what Jesus says in Matthew 5:16:

Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

If God is at work on you to give you any measure of holiness, Paul says he’s doing it for his name’s sake. I’ll tell you, the work of God in sanctification is a great act of love toward us, and he’s loving us for his glory. And there are folks who, when I say this, just say, “I wish you just wouldn’t talk that way. I wish you wouldn’t preach like that. It makes me not feel a loved. It makes me feel used.”

6. Propagation

The spread of all this in the world is a great act of love. I call it propagation just to fit it in the scheme. Here I have Romans 1:5 in mind. Here’s Paul documenting his apostleship. He never got over this, this act of love toward him. He never got over it. He was killing Christians. He was throwing them in jail. He was blaspheming the name of Jesus Christ by denying his messiahship, and on the Damascus road Jesus not only saved him, but made him his chosen vessel and apostle. He just never got over it. He was the least of all the saints, the least of all the apostles, and untimely born. All the way until the end of his life, he couldn’t fathom being loved like this. And he wrote in Romans 1:5:

We have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations . . .

God made me his vessel for the sake of the spreading of the fame of his name. Paul is saying, “I was taken captive for his fame. I was brought into this for his reputation in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, China, and Northern India. If he’s not known, I’m going. That’s why I exist. His name is to be lifted up. I’m on the planet, I was saved, I was blinded, and I suffer for that.” That didn’t feel like a contradiction of Galatians 2:20 for Paul.

When I was a sophomore in college, I got mono in the hospital and I just remember one moment when Chaplain Evan Welsh from Wheaton came into my room and checked me out. As he was leaving, he turned and he said, “Johnny, you got a life verse?” I didn’t have a life verse, so I gave him the one that I had been most recently thinking about. I said, “Well, what’s special to me is I am crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God who loved me” (Galatians 2:20). Paul wrote that. Paul didn’t just feel kind of a vague, general sense that God loves the world.

Paul said, “I live for the Christ who loves me and gave himself for me.” That wasn’t contradicted when he said, “He made me his apostle for the sake of his name. I’m saved, I’m forgiven, I’m sanctified, and now I’m sent for the sake of his name.” I don’t think emotionally there was any tension for Paul there at all. I want to know why, because I want to help these people not feel this way.

7. Consummation

Lastly, in our little tour through the Bible this is consummation. Here, I’m going to 2 Thessalonians 1:9–11 to read about the Second Coming. I believe the Second Coming will be the consummation of God’s love for us, Christ’s love for us. It will be terror for those who have rejected that love, but for us, it will be spectacularly completing. I frankly would like it to happen very soon. There are so many troubles in my life, in my church, in this world, in Chile, and in Haiti, as well as cancer. Let’s just wrap it up. Just finish it and come Lord Jesus. I hope even though you’re young and have a whole life in front of you, I hope you feel that way. It’s harder for young people to feel that way maybe.

Maybe you think, “I’d like to get married first.” Fight that one through and say, “If you come, it’d be okay. It’d be okay.” It’d be better, way better. Here’s the text. This is 2 Thessalonians 1:9:

They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction (he’s talking about unbelievers), away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.

Why is He coming? This text says two things:

  1. To be glorified in his saints, and
  2. to be marveled at among all who have believed.

The consummating act of the love of Christ for us is for him to come to be marveled at — that when he comes, you marvel because he’s right there. That is the consummation of his love for you. Do you remember what Jesus said in his prayer for you in John 17? It’s an absolutely counterintuitive prayer. The first five verses are just off the charts with Christ-exalting prayer by Christ. Christ is exalting himself and God, the Father. Then he gets to the consummation of his prayer in John 17:24 and he says:

Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory . . .

Someone might say, “I thought you were praying for me, and now you’re praying about how glorious you are and how you are going to present yourself to be marveled at and glorified at your showing up.” I just hope so much you don’t think that way. I talk like this because I know people who think that way.

Beloved for the Glory of God

There are the seven great acts of love, all of them revealed in such a way that we now know God loves us for the glory of God. We are not the ultimate goal; God is. We are drawn into that instead of sent to hell for our rebellion and made members of his family.

Let me pose the question the second way. The first way I posed the question was, why does the Bible reveal the love of God for us this way? My second question was, why does he make much of us in such a way that it winds up ultimately making much of him?

I was speaking to a woman in my church two weeks ago, or so, who cautioned me about a question I was asking a lot in my speaking. Here is the question. I said, “Do you feel more loved by God because he makes much of you or because he frees you to enjoy making much of him forever?” I think that’s a very important question to ask, but she said to me, “John, when you ask that question, it sounds like you’re minimizing the preciousness and the importance of being made much of by God, like you may not even believe in it.”

Making Much of Us

At this point in my message, I am going to now declare loud and clear, I believe in it. I not only believe in it, I love it, and here’s what I mean by it. God makes much of you, believer. For example, C.S. Lewis’s greatest sermon, according to Alan Jacobs — and I think he’s probably right — was The Weight of Glory. There’s a little book called The Weight of Glory, and the first sermon in the book is called The Weight of Glory. Do you know what the weight of glory is for Lewis? The weight of glory is hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Lewis said that moment will be so spectacularly weighty because the God of the universe will look upon a hell-deserving, saved sinner and commend his work. It will be such a weight of glory we will hardly be able to bear it. It will be so wonderful. God makes much of us. He adopts us into his family. He calls us fellow heirs with Christ, which means you inherit what? Everything.

Do you remember these silly saints in Corinth who were saying, “I’m of Paul. I’m of Apollos. I’m of Cephas.” And in 1 Corinthians 3:21, Paul says, “Don’t you know all thing are yours? Whether Paul or Cephas or Apollos or life or death or the world — all things are yours. Why are you strutting around saying, ‘I’ve got Paul.’ You’ve got everything. Don’t you know who you are?” That’s a pretty good argument against pride. Isn’t that crazy? I mean, he’s arguing against, “I’m of Paul. I’m a Paul groupie,” and he says, “What? You’re going to get the world.” In another place he says, “You’re going to judge angels. Are you ready for that?” You’re going to sit at a bench and angels will be brought before you and you judge them. You will judge them.

Here’s a mind-boggling one. In Revelation 3:21, Jesus is speaking to the church in Laodicea and says:

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.

That’s almost blasphemy. It’s like deification, as if you’re going to become God. I don’t think that’s what it is. It just feels pretty close. I think it probably means you’re going to rule the world with him. He is saying, “I’m not ruling this world without you.”

Ephesians 1:23 says that the church is “the fullness of him who fills all in all.” These are breathtaking descriptions of who you are and what God is doing in making much of you. Jesus says, “You are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31). And Zephaniah 3:17 speaks of God rejoicing over us with gladness. My response to that observation is, “No, no, no, no. I do not minimize and I do not deny the magnificent reality that God makes much of us. I just say he makes much of us in a way that is designed to make much of him.” For some people, that just wrecks it. They think, “Now, here you were making much of me, and now I realize that what you were doing all along is making much of you.”

Rescued from Idolatry

My question is, why does God reveal it this way? Here’s my answer. There are two answers: Number one: In revealing his love for you this way and his making much of you this way, he rescues you from the God-belittling idolatry of putting your joy finally in being made much of — finally.

In other words, ask yourself, “What’s the bottom?” It’s another image, you can just change the spatial imagery here from finally to bottom. What’s the bottom, the deepest place where I’m standing to be happy? What makes me happy at the bottom? Trace it all back — this makes me happy because this makes me happy because this makes me happy, etc. At the end, what is it? Is it you or God? That’s the issue. Is it that you are being made much of? Is that the bottom? Is that the place you stand? Is that where your emotions rest, or do you go one step deeper and say, “God is doing it for God, and I’m so glad he is. I’m glad he is. I don’t just tolerate that he does.”

I believe God is rescuing you. I’m here to rescue you with this Bible talk from that idolatry. Are you making much of him finally because he makes much of you? That’s idolatry, I believe, of the worst kind. Are we glad to have God as our treasure precisely because he has us as his treasure, so that really what I treasure most is me and God is useful to affirm and confirm my highest value — me. There are many religious people that use God that way. I would like to deliver you from that. That’s idolatry. It’s destructive.

Out of Self, Into God

Now, let me say it positively. I said there are two answers. That’s my first answer of why the Bible reveals God’s love for you this way, and God’s making much of you this way. Now, here’s the more positive way of putting it: By revealing his love for us this way, God brings our joy out of self and into the infinite greatness of God, and therefore brings us to full and lasting pleasure. He brings us out of ourselves as the place where our joy is reposing into the greatness of himself where our joy now reposes, because in his presence there is fullness of joy and at his right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11). He loves you enough to pull you out of self-admiration into God-admiration, where it can be full and lasting.

Now, to confirm that and help you feel it, let me point something out. Suppose the doctrine of glorification happens to you, as Romans 8:30 says:

Those whom he justified he also glorified.

What does that mean? It means that there’s coming a day at the Second Coming, in the moment in the twinkling of an eye, when this mortality will put on immortality and this flesh will put on a new spiritual body, it will all be shining like the sun in the kingdom of our Father (Matthew 13:43).

Can you look at the sun? You cannot look at the sun. Therefore, we won’t even be able to look at each other unless we’re given new eyes, and we will be given new eyes. That’s why we have a new spiritual body, because the glory that each of us will have and radiate will be so magnificent we won’t be able to look at each other unless the other person has a transformed body that’s equipped to handle the glory of the new age.

Made for Worship, Not Self-Admiration

What a sad place it would be if everyone had to have their backs to each other. We’re going to be shining like the sun in the kingdom of our Father. We’re going to be given new eyes, and we will be looking at each other in stunned awe at what God has made of us in the age to come. That’s the doctrine of glorification.

Now, suppose God puts a mirror in front of you, which he might do, though I’m inclined to think all mirrors are going to be done away with in the age to come, but let’s just suppose that he does. There it is. It’s a very big mirror. It’s made out of some special kryptonite to keep it from shattering at your glory. You behold yourself. I promise you, you’ll like what you see. You will, because you’ll be impressive. Now, what I’m simply pointing out here is that no matter how glorious he makes you, what you see in that mirror won’t satisfy your heart. You were made for God. You were made with a capacity for admiration bigger than that. I’m arguing that the Bible reveals it all this way to help you get to the place of fullest enjoyment, not second-rate, magnificent enjoyment.

Conclusion: The love of God that makes much of us for his glory is a greater love than a love that would only make much of us. It’s a greater love. Or to put it one other way, you are precious to him and the greatest gift he has for you is not to let your preciousness to him become your God, but rather have him as your God. Let’s pray.