Living Life to the Glory of God Alone
By Chips Ross
Bonk frequently happens in our house, as might be expected with young children. Bonk is the sound a young head makes as it hits something hard like the floor, a chair, another sibling, or a wall. Bonk is typically followed by tears and cries, and then by an ice pack from the freezer. Most of the time, the ice pack isn’t really necessary, and rarely do my children faithfully hold the ice pack to the point of pain as they should.
I often find myself, as a pastor, trying not to give an “ice pack” answer. That is, I want to help people in real pain by giving them a helping and healing solution. But in the Christian life, answers often can be simplified to spending time with God in prayer and reading His Word.
When we talk about the glory of God, we are speaking of the most profound and significant thing we can ever know. Nothing is of more weight than God’s glory and glorifying Him. So saying that the key is reading the Bible and praying can seem like an ice pack. That answer gives someone something to do, but it doesn’t necessarily meet that person’s deep struggles.
Before we get into this, however, we need to deal with an underlying problem. How can God’s great glory be around sinful people like us? Solomon himself asked such a question on the day he dedicated the temple he had built: should the God of Heaven inhabit such a place as this (2 Chron. 6:18)? Shouldn’t God’s glory be separated from us rather than connected with us? Wouldn’t it make more sense for God’s glory to be something we glimpse after years of diligent Christian work?
Consider for a moment where God has revealed His glory, as recorded in the Bible. For example, His glory shone out of a desert bush (Exod. 3:2, 5–6) and inhabited a roughly made tent (Exod. 40:34). Consider also that the people around God’s glory were not perfect. Israel had moments of great sinfulness while God’s glory filled both the tabernacle and the temple. Much like Jesus spent time with sinful people, God’s glory has spent time with sinful people.
God’s glory does not necessarily need a sin-free environment to be revealed. While God’s glory will have a sanctifying influence on us, we don’t necessarily need to reach a standard of holiness before we can understand God’s glory or glorify Him. The more we connect God’s grace with His glory, the more we can see how this glory can be a part of our daily lives, even during struggles with sin.
So how does this glory happen in your life and mine? Jesus lays out the plan for us to follow in John 15. The first 11 verses show how Christ intertwines the themes of God’s glory, abiding in Him, and prayer. We may not always think of daily devotions as glorifying God, but that is what Jesus brings to our attention with detail.
Lesson 1: We Glorify God When We Abide in Jesus
Abide is the key word in the first six verses of John 15. A missionary to Germany once painted a great picture of abide: Imagine going for a pleasant drive along the California coast. You come alongside a beach and park your car. You get out and put your feet into the soft sand, find a comfortable chair, pull out your umbrella for some shade, and enjoy the scene with a cold glass of your favorite soda. Abiding is that sense of remaining long, of staying put, of enjoying the moment.
Jesus says that as Christians, we are to abide in Him. We are to remain, to stay put in Him. Jesus, if you will, is the beach we arrive at. But even more, Jesus also abides in us. He stays put and remains in us. The connection is so intense and vital that Jesus compares it to a vine and branches. The only way we can bear fruit is by remaining in that connection to Jesus. Just as a vine provides all the necessary nourishment for the branches, so also Jesus provides all the spiritual nourishment we need. When we abide in Jesus and He abides in us, God’s glory will be revealed in us.
Lesson 2: We Glorify God When Jesus’ Words Abide in Us
But there’s more. Not only must Jesus abide in us, but His words should too (v. 7). This truth helps me understand how I can abide in Jesus and He in me. I need to pay attention to His Word. I must not only read it, but also think on it, apply it, and speak it. What Jesus says must be of higher importance to me than the words I hear or read from the world.
Lesson 3: We Glorify God When We Bear Fruit
One more thought helps with this idea of Jesus abiding in believers and we in Him. At the end of verse 8, Jesus mentions Christians being proved as His disciples. A disciple is a student who learns from a master teacher. But unlike our school system today, a disciple did not learn from the master from, say, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. In Jesus’ day, a disciple would often live with the master teacher. Wherever the teacher was, whatever he was doing, a disciple was there, watching, listening, observing, beginning to imitate. When we bear much fruit, we prove that we are imitating Jesus. And as Jesus bore fruit to the glory of God, so also our bearing fruit is to the glory of God.
Once we begin to abide in Jesus, we will evidence specific fruit. Jesus presents four types of fruit, each of which is to the glory of God. When we see these fruit in our lives, we know we are glorifying God.
Answered prayer. The first fruit is in verse 7. What a magnificent promise answered prayer is, yet it’s so very tricky. This promise has discouraged many as prayers have gone unanswered. The key for understanding this promise is in the first part of the verse. We need to abide in Jesus and have His words abide in us. When this relationship is flourishing, it impacts how we pray. And as we pray more in line with walking with Jesus, we will pray requests that God will answer and accomplish. Jesus doesn’t mean that we can ask willy-nilly for whatever we want. Instead, He’s talking about how His presence and His Word will change our prayer life.
Assured salvation. Verse 8 mentions the second fruit, assured salvation. We are proven to be Jesus’ disciples, belonging to Him. Someone at my church once remarked that it would be nice if we each had a halo above us, a visible signal of when we were walking rightly with God. When we know that we belong to God, that assurance of salvation is evidenced on our faces and in our behavior. We may not notice it, but others will.
Abiding love. We see this third fruit in verses 9 and 10. How wonderful it is to know that God loves us in the same way He loved His Son! So stay put in that love. Being around kids at my daughter’s elementary school, I can see the difference in a child from a loving home and one from a not-so-loving home. Being loved has a profound effect on us. When children know they are loved, they flourish. How much more will we flourish when we know we are loved by God!
Sin gets in the way of this fruit. One of the lies we often accept is that God loves us less when we sin more. We can then accept another lie: that we must make it up to God, somehow earning His love back. While we do need to walk in holiness, as Jesus points out in verse 10, God’s love for His children is faithful—regardless of our sin.
Abundant joy. The fruit that verse 11 names is abundant joy. I love how Jesus finishes the verse, saying that our joy will be full. Not a little bit or halfway or mostly, but completely full! Like an assurance of salvation or abiding love, having this joy impacts how a believer lives. Can you imagine trying to hide having a fullness of joy? Joy is the type of quality that just pours out. We don’t have to turn it on, like a faucet; it’s just there.
All this fruit comes out of an abiding relationship with Jesus. So as we spend time with Jesus in those daily devotions, He and the Holy Spirit will naturally produce this fruit in us, and we will be glorifying God. Sometimes we may not be fully aware of all that He is doing in our lives. To our mind, we might be having a ho-hum day, but our faces might show the boldness of answered prayer, the peace of assured salvation, the confidence of abiding love, or the fullness of abundant joy. In some form or another, all this fruit will come about in our lives. When it does, it glorifies God.
Take It with You
An ongoing relationship with Jesus—spending time daily with Him in His Word and prayer—is at the core of what it means to glorify God. Because of this, it can be easy to make the pursuit of glorifying God a private thing, something done between Jesus and you alone. But in application of these truths, share pieces of your walk with others. Find someone you can trust, and speak regularly about how you are abiding in Jesus. In part, this will be a blessing to that person. At other times, your walk with Jesus will be difficult, even lonely, and you will need support, love, and encouragement from fellow believers. While glorifying God is founded on your personal time with Jesus, it flourishes as you open up to others.
Chips Ross is pastor of Westwood Baptist Church, Fresno, Calif.