Let’s go back to our discussion then of this matter of back to the basics. We started out by saying that obviously for every believer there in an in-built desire to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. From the time that you come to the knowledge of Christ there is in your heart, stronger at sometimes than others, but always in your heart the desire to grow spiritually. You will, however, only grow in those times when you walk in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ.
So we’re talking about the ingredients that create the environment of spiritual growth in the life of a believer. And we suggested to you that Scripture notes many different things that contribute directly to our spiritual growth. We are to be always growing into the fullness of the stature of Christ, according to Ephesians 4, and there are some factors in our lives that lend to that growth. They’re all built around one theme and that theme is glorifying God. When we are in a mode of glorifying God growth takes place. When we are not growth does not take place; we stagnate.
So the question then that we want to ask, just summarizing the last couple of weeks, is how can I glorify God? Or how can I be in that mode of glorifying God which generates spiritual growth and spiritual development? First of all, we said, you will glorify God when you confess Jesus as Lord. That’s where it all begins. Philippians 2:9-11 says that we are to confess Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father. You begin to grow spiritually when you’re born spiritually and that comes when you confess Jesus as Lord. Then the second thing that we noted, and we spent our time on this last Sunday night, is that we glorify the Lord when we aim our life at that purpose. And we used 1 Corinthians 10:31 as a touchstone, which says, “Whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” We talked about the fact that life is to be focused on glorifying God, not on glorifying self, on glorifying God. Doing that which brings Him greatest honor, greatest exaltation, greatest worship, and greatest praise. You aim your life at glorifying God. Christ was our example, John 8:50, who said He came to glorify the Father.
And we said there are several ways that we do that. We aim our life at glorifying God when we prefer Him and His kingdom above all else. Secondly, by being content to do His will at any cost. Thirdly, by suffering when he suffers. And fourthly, by being content to be outdone by others who do what we do better than we do it. And when you look at your own life and you prefer His glory above anything and you are content to do His will no matter what it costs and you feel the pain when He is dishonored and you are content to be outdone by others as long as He is glorified, you are aiming your life at His glory.
And then our third major point was that you glorify God by confessing sin. For that we turned to the Old Testament and we noted in Joshua 7:19 that Joshua instructed Achan to confess his sin and, thus, give glory to God. God is glorified when we acknowledge our sin, when we deal with our sin, when we confess our sin. That brings glory to His name because it exonerates Him from any thought of injustice when He chastens us, and because having confessed our sin we are thus cleansed of our sin and able further to give glory to Him.
Now that brings us to a fourth point in our continuing outline and that is this: We glorify God by trusting Him – by trusting Him. And if we were to ask you as a believer if you trust God, I’m sure you’d give a resounding affirmative to that. We all want to acknowledge that we trust God. But let’s look a little more closely at that. Look in your Bible at Romans chapter 4, this great chapter on the faith of Abraham. And I want to draw from it one or two key verses and then discuss a very important truth here. Abraham, of course, is the model of faith. In verse 3 it says, “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” And that of course quotes Genesis 15:6. Abraham, along with everybody else who has ever been saved, was saved and made righteous by faith not works. “He believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”
Now go down to verse 9. “In this blessing then upon the – Is this blessing then upon the circumcised or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say” – and here comes the same statement – “faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness.” Faith was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness. “How then was it reckoned?” And it goes on to discuss that it was reckoned to him at the point of his belief, prior to his circumcision, so that circumcision was not the issue. Now go down to verse 19. And it describes in a little more detail the faith of Abraham. “And without becoming weak in faith, he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.” Now here’s what makes Abraham’s faith so unique.
Here was Abraham, a man who had enacted his faith when he left the city called Ur of the Chaldees, a pagan city in the Mesopotamian Valley area. And God, by some means of revelation, had told Abraham to get out of Ur of the Chaldees and go to a land that God had promised. In faith Abraham uprooted himself, not knowing where he was going and not knowing what to expect, but simply on the word of God, he acted in faith, left Ur, packed up, and moved to a new place. As you know he faced great difficulty in the process. We see times of his faith and times of his doubt, but nonetheless, he was a man who had already exhibited his faith. Now God promised to Abraham, in the twelfth chapter of Genesis that he would give him a seed that would be as the sands of the sea and the stars of heaven. In other words God was going to multiply the nation that would come out of his loins. The problem was Abraham had no children, not one. Sarah, his wife, could not bear for him any children. And no doubt, socially speaking, the greatest blight on a man’s life would be his inability to bear a child, particularly his inability to bear a son. But compounding the problem socially was the problem theologically, because Abraham had been told by God that he would have seed as the sands of the sea and the stars of heaven and yet had not one child.
Now when God came back to announce to him that he would indeed have a son, it took great faith to believe that because he was a hundred years old and Sarah was in her 90’s and they had not been able to produce a child yet. And yet in verse 19 it says, “Without becoming weak in faith” – or to put it another way, as the Authorized does, he was strong in faith – “contemplating his own body, now as good as dead, since he was about a hundred years old and the deadness of Sarah’s womb. Yet with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith” – and what’s the last line? – “giving glory to God.” Faith always glorifies God. Faith always honors God because faith takes God at His word. When you say, I trust God and I trust His word, even though from a human viewpoint it looks absolutely impossible, you are in a sense saying, I believe God can be believed. And that exalts God, that honors God. You’re honoring Him in so saying.
Unbelief, on the other hand, questions God’s power, questions God’s promise, questions God’s faithfulness. And you remember that 1 John 5:10 writes, “The one who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself. The one who does not believe God has made him a” – what? – “a liar.” If God says something and you don’t believe that, then what have you said about God? God doesn’t – what? – doesn’t tell the truth. That dishonors God. We greatly dishonor God when we claim to believe in Him, and yet we do not trust His word to us. Now to put it down on the mundane level where we all live, what does it mean to us? If I were to ask you at this particular point if you believed in the Word of God you probably would say, “Yes I do.” If I were to ask you, “Do you believe this statement: My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches by Christ Jesus.” What would you say? Yes. You say, that’s in the Scripture. Philippians 4 says that. “My God shall supply all your needs.”
Now how many of you worry about your needs? How many of you worry about whether God’s going to provide everything you want: physically, emotionally, spiritually, economically, or whatever? You see whenever you do that, in a sense you’re saying, I’m not really sure that you can be trusted, God. You show me a doubting Christian, and I’ll show you a Christian who cannot glorify God through such doubt. Because you’re in effect saying by your doubt, maybe God isn’t really that trustworthy, and that message comes across loud and clear to the watching world and God is dishonored.
When Abraham, a hundred years old, looked at the deadness of his own body and the deadness of the womb of his 96 year old wife and still believed God for a son, he was saying above all other things that when God speaks you can believe it. That’s the bottom line. And frankly, beloved, I feel in my own heart that that is perhaps the most comforting of all biblical truths, that God is faithful to His word. Everything else would be a moot point if you couldn’t trust God. Right? No matter what God said if we couldn’t believe it we’d be in a very difficult situation. If God could not be believed because, in fact, He was not believable because He had proven to be untrustworthy, we would be hard pressed to trust Him for anything at all. So in a very real sense the watershed of attributes in all the plethora of the character of God is His faithfulness, His trustworthiness. And it is because He always speaks the truth and always keeps His word that He can be trusted about all the rest of the things He says. But if we believe not we make Him a liar.
And I’m not talking about some kind of theological unbelief, I’m talking about pragmatic unbelief, which says, God, I know, You say You can be trusted and my theology tells me You can be trusted. I’m just not sure I can trust You with this. You can trust God or you can’t. He either keeps His word or He doesn’t. And when He says, “My God” – through the Holy Spirit writing by Paul – “shall supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus,” He either means it or He doesn’t. When He says, “Seek ye first” – through the words of the Lord Jesus – “the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all that you need will be added,” He either means it or He doesn’t, and He’s either trustworthy or He’s not. And the Bible says, “God is the God who cannot” – what – “lie,” so wrote the apostle Paul. He cannot lie. He speaks truth; God is truth; He is consummate truth. And so we affirm in our theology that God speaks truth, and yet sometimes in our behavior belie that theological confidence.
What about your life? Do you really believe God? Do you trust God? Do you trust God for your time as far as this life goes? Do you trust God for the boundaries of life and death? Can you trust God to care for your children? Can you trust God to fulfill your emotional needs, your physical needs, your spiritual needs? Can you believe God to supply for you the partner for life, the friends, the support, the job that you need to fulfill His will? Your theology tells you you can. What does your heart tell you? Where are you right now in dealing with that? Because if you really glorify God, you’re going to trust Him in those difficult times. For most of us times aren’t that difficult, and it’s not so difficult to trust God as it was for some others. Let’s check in on a few who might have found it somewhat more difficult than we would.
Daniel chapter 3, and in Daniel chapter 3 verse 13, Nebuchadnezzar, you remember, was in a rage and anger. He gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who were the three young Jewish boys that had been Babylonianized, if there is such a term. Their original Jewish names were Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, as Daniel 1:19 tells us. But they had been given Babylonian names and Babylonian culture and been sort of forced to acquiesce to Babylonian lifestyle, and they were even, of course, effected to some degree externally by Babylonian deities. So they had these Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. He gave them orders to be brought, and the men were therefore brought before the king. “Nebuchadnezzar responded and said to them, ‘Is it true Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up?’” And of course it was true. They refused to do that.
“If you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you will not worship you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire and” – this is unbelievable egotism – “what God is there who can deliver you out my hands?” What that tells me about the gods of Babylon were that they weren’t that impressive, because Nebuchadnezzar wasn’t impressed about them at all. In fact he didn’t feel that the gods of his own nation could deal with him, he was so powerful. And he assumed that the God of Israel would be little different than they. And so they are told they’ll be thrown into a furnace. “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘Oh Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this.’”
Now get the picture here. The Babylonian empire had taken the Israelites captive. They had moved in around 602 or 604 or somewhere in there, started the first of three captivities, going all the way down to 586 B.C., dispossessed the Jews from their land, hauled them off the Babylon as slaves. Now it was not easy to work with a people that had been brought in from another nation. That kind of absorption into a culture was very difficult. And in order to control that now new populace of Jews, they chose some of the brightest, sharpest, young men to be trained in Babylonian culture, then to become the pawns of the government to control the Jewish population. These were the young men. Part of their effectiveness, though, depended upon their acquiescence to the king Nebuchadnezzar, or they would be rebels, as such, and couldn’t serve Babylon’s purposes in leading the Jews. So he sets up this – really a sort of an idol worship, which was directed mostly at him, in order to push these leaders of the Jews into conformity to him to get the job done down the road in giving direction to this dispossessed people in their land. And when they wouldn’t cooperate, it was a tremendous threat not only to his ego but to his political ends.
So he tells them to bow down or get thrown into the fiery furnace. “And Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego,” verse 16, “answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this.’” Their response is, we don’t need to answer you. Who do you think you are? Well by Daniel’s standards, Nebuchadnezzar was the greatest king in the history of Gentile empires. Do you remember Daniel’s image? The head was made of – what? – gold. And then the upper torso was made of silver and the loins were made of bronze and then the bottom part was made of steel and bronze mixed. And the idea was the declining strength and glory of Gentile empires. And Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold. He was the king of kings, if you will, from a human viewpoint. And for them to say, we don’t have any reason to answer you; you don’t have any authority over us; we’re not concerned about what you think, and we’re not even concerned about what you do, was a very bold position to take.
Verse 17, they said this, “If it be so” – and here’s the evidence that they trusted God. “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire.” He is able. “And for sure He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.” He may not deliver us out of the fire, but He will for sure deliver us out of your hand. He can take us out of the fire if He wants to. For sure He’ll take us out of your hand if it has to be on the other side of death in His presence. “But even if he doesn’t – even if he does not, let it be known to you O king that we’re not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” Now that is tremendous, tremendous faith. It’s one thing to have faith in Sun Valley, California, where everything is the way you like it. It’s something else to faith standing on the edge of a fiery furnace. It’s one thing to say, I believe God, when you’re not in desperation. It’s quite another to say, I believe God, when you are in desperation. But that’s what glorified God.
You know what these young men were saying? Our God can be trusted. Oh, they gave glory to God by trusting him. He was so furious, just to complete the story, he gave orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. And he commanded some valiant warriors in his army to tie them up, feeling they might fight or resist being thrown in, in order to throw them into the furnace of the blazing fire. And the men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps, and their other clothes and thrown in the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. And you know what happened? The fire didn’t touch them, but it burned up the men who threw them in. And God vindicated their faith. Faith is just a simple thing, beloved. It means to believe God. And when you believe God in the midst of difficult times, you give Him glory just like those young Jewish men did.
Imagine that you were in the situation of Noah. In Hebrews chapter 11 in verse 7 it says, “By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen” – what was that? What was it that Noah had never seen? Rain. He’d never seen rain. Why? Because no one had ever seen rain. Why? Because it had never rained. The earth was basically watered by a midst that was somewhere between the earth’s surface and the canopy that covered the earth, which was broken up in the flood. But Noah was warned by God about things not yet seen. “In reverence, prepared an ark for the salvation of his household.” And the text of Scripture tells us he spent a hundred and twenty years building a ship in the middle of the desert for rain he had never seen. He was the laughing stock of society for a hundred and twenty years. And as I’ve often thought, I could easily understand that he would have ordered the lumber but to still be finishing it up a hundred and twenty years later is mind-boggling. That he could trust God for all of that, through all that ridicule, gives great glory to God. And what Noah says by a hundred and twenty years of building a boat in the desert is, God can be trusted. If He says it, it’s true. He gave glory to God with his faith.
Now faith is not only directly related to glorifying God but it’s directly related to spiritual success as well. Look at Ephesians 6, and let me just grab one other thought before we move on to another in our list. We will notice that in Ephesians chapter 6, we have the armor of God. And it tells us down in verse 16 that in addition to all the other armor, which we wear as believers, we are to take up the shield of faith – “the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one.” Now the idea here is that Satan is shooting his fiery darts. He’s shooting his missiles, and they are missiles of temptation to try to debilitate you, to try to destroy your spiritual life, to try to pull you into sin. Satan fires away all of the temptations. And what is it that deflects those temptations? It is the shield of faith. Now the Roman soldier had that 4-foot by 2-foot shield that he got behind when the arrows were flying at him from the enemy. And it just literally deflected them or they were sort of soaked into it. And I mean by that, that usually that 4-foot-2 shield was covered with thick leather, which was saturated in oil and when the fiery arrows went into it they stuck and were extinguished by that oil. And so the picture here is of a believer safely behind a shield, protected from the temptations of Satan. And what is it that protects us? It is our faith. It is our faith.
Now what do you mean by that? Just this, that if you believe God then you will not sin. You say, well what do you mean by that? Well look at it this way. The reason you sin and the reason I sin, the reason anybody sins, is because we feel at the moment that that is the most satisfying thing for us to do. True? That you will be more satisfied if you do this. You’ll be happier, more fulfilled, or whatever. Satan does not tempt you to sin, because it’ll make you feel bad. It is the pleasures of sin, right, that attract. And so the temptation to sin is always linked to pleasure, self-indulgence, and the reason you sin or I sin is because we feel we will gain more personal pleasure or satisfaction out of that sin then not doing that sin. So Satan is always playing to our satisfactions. That’s why sin is always connected to the Greek word epithumia – desire, desire. He plays to our desire. And the lie of temptation is that this will satisfy you. This will give you pleasure. This will give you joy. This will fulfill you and – listen carefully – if you believe that you’ll sin. But if you believe God, then you know that all of that stuff is a – what? – it’s a lie. Sin then can be traced back directly to whether or not you believe God or Satan.
Go right back to the garden. Who did Eve believe? Who did she believe? Satan. And that’s what started it all. And it’s the same thing today. Every time you sin, you’ve believed the lie. Every time you sin, you’ve believed the falsehood. Every time you’ve sinned you have come under the illusion that if you do that it’ll be most satisfying. In the other hand, God says, if you want true peace and true happiness and true joy and true satisfaction and true fulfillment, do what is right. And when you sin who have you believed? Satan. It’s that simple. It may not be something you sit back and contemplate. It may also almost be reflexive. I’d almost be a knee jerk kind of thing, but it shows your thinking pattern. The fact of the matter is, let’s start with my own satisfaction, and let’s say that I want to be satisfied and fulfilled and content and joyful and blessed and happy. I can be all of those things if I do what? If I do what God says. Do I believe that? Well you can tell whether I believe that by what I do. And so the affront to God in my sin is that I’ve said, “God I know You usually can be trusted but in this case I think you’re wrong and Satan’s right.” That’s what you’re saying. Is that ludicrous? Of course, but that’s how simple the process is. Who do you believe?
Now to take it down to another practical level, how can you get yourself in such a frame of mind that you will believe God in the midst of temptation, and that in believing Him you’ll give Him glory? I’ll tell you how, have your mind saturated with the truths about God. The more I know about God, the more I believe Him. The more I know about His character, the more I’m prone to believe Him. The more I read Scripture and the more I look at God at work and that I see He is really loving and He is really compassionate and He is really gracious and He is really merciful and He is really generous and He’s really good and He’s really kind and He really wants my best, and the more I know that, because I’ve studied His word and seen Him do it and I’ve seen the chronicle of how He acted with people through history and I have seen it in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, the more I see the character of God and the more I access the work of God, the more likely I am to trust God. On the other side, the more I know about Satan and the way he operates and the more I have seen the path he puts men in, the less likely I am to believe him.
Can I simplify your whole Christian life? Learn to believe God. That is the shield of faith that quenches all the fiery darts of Satan. And in a marvelous way, Paul has taken the whole complexity of spiritual living and reduced it down to one simple thing; believing God. And when you believe God the way Abraham did, you don’t sin against God with doubts. Obviously in Abraham’s case we have to report to you that his faith wavered a bit. In fact it wavered fatally because he decided he needed to help God by going into a hand maiden and committing adultery with her and giving birth Ishmael, who gave birth to the Arabs. And the sons of Abraham and the Sons of Ishmael have been at each other’s throats ever since just because of Abraham’s lapse of trusting God. It has some monumental consequences not to believe God in your life and in the life of everybody your life affects. So glorifying God, which is the key to spiritual growth, involves aiming your life at that purpose. It involves confessing sin and it involves trusting God, trusting God. How simple and how beautiful and how wonderful.
Now let me give you another one, a fifth in our little list. And maybe I’ll even have time for a sixth tonight. Number five way in which we glorify God – I want you to turn to John 15, one of the great chapters in John’s gospel on the vine and the branches. And it too tells us how we can glorify God, living to His praise. And it says in verse 8, “By this” – and this is so obvious that anyone can see – “by this is my Father glorified” – now if the Bible says whatever you do, whether you eat or drink, do all to the glory of God, and if the Bible says we are to give glory to God at all times then here is how. “By this is My Father glorified” – how? – “that you bear much” – what? – “fruit and so prove to be My disciples.” You can always tell a true Christian, because they bear – what? – fruit. It dishonors God, however, when a believer has little fruit – little fruit.
In Philippians 1:11 Paul prays for the Philippians that they may be filled with the fruit of righteousness. Now let me give you a simple little understanding of this. All right? God’s character is at stake in your fruitfulness. Did you get that? God’s character is at stake in your fruitfulness. For example, we have just watched certain televangelists fall into terrible, terrible moral wickedness. What does that do for the reputation of the God they represent? Somehow God’s character or the God and the Christ that they preach gets tied up in their wickedness. God’s reputation is severely devastated. First Corinthians 6 says that when you join yourself to a harlot, you join Christ to a harlot. See by naming the name of Christ and saying you’re a spokesman for Christ and going to a prostitute you hook Christ in the eyes of the watching world to the prostitute. For a true believer then the honor of Christ is at stake in his life. The character of God is at stake in his life.
One of the most frightening denunciations in all of Scripture came upon Israel as recorded in Romans 2:24, where Paul, drawing on Isaiah 52, says, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” What a statement. The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you. Ask yourself a question. How well is the reputation of God kept in your case? How good are you at maintaining the pure reputation of Christ? In Matthew 5:16 – do you remember this? – “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and” – what? – “glorify your Fathers in heaven.” You see, your fruitfulness is linked to glorifying God. You look at a person who names the name of Christ and has a filthy, vile, wicked lifestyle, and the God they name and the Christ they say they belong to is dishonored. You look at a person who claims to live for Christ and their life is filled with righteousness and goodness, and they bring honor to the One whose name they claim. It’s that simple. It’s absolutely that simple. When your life is filled with the fruits of righteousness that indicates that God, who is righteous, is at work in you.
Listen to 2 Thessalonians 1:11, “To this end also we pray for you always, that our God may count you worthy of your calling and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power, in order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you.” There it is again, the same thought, that God’s name and Christ’s name is either glorified in me or dishonored in me by the way I live. The apostle Paul in that monumental ninth chapter of Corinthians wants us to understand this. He says that he is absolutely committed to being all that God wants him to be. To buffeting his body and making it his slave, lest in preaching to others he would be disqualified. And the unsaid statement is, thus bringing dishonor on his Lord. First Corinthians 9:7, that same chapter, Paul asked this question – rhetorical, “Who plants a vineyard and doesn’t eat the fruit of it?” That’s a good question. Can you imagine anybody planting a vineyard that didn’t eat the fruit of it, didn’t desire that? That’s what God desired. He planted it in you and new life and desires to see the fruit.
So the character of God is at stake. We glorify God by our fruitfulness. And notice, again, John 15:8, “The Father is glorified that you bear much fruit.” Now let me say something very basic. Every Christian has some fruit. Okay? Every Christian has some fruit. Some Christians have more than others, but God’s desire is that we have much fruit – much fruit. Now the question comes immediately what is fruit? And I’ve answered this through the years but this is back to the basics and you need to understand it. What are you saying, John? What is fruit? What do you mean fruit in my life? Well what I mean by that is the evidence of the power of God, the evidence of the life of God. And what is the evidence of the life of God? You look at a tree and the fruit comes out and that’s the evidence of the life of the tree. That’s the power of the tree. It’s producing and you see that life in that producing. And so in our lives what we want to see is that which manifests the producing power of God. And so that’s why in Philippians 1:11 it is said to be the fruit of righteousness, because it is the righteous character of God that produces righteousness in us. We can therefore conclude that fruit is righteousness – fruit is righteousness. What is that? Doing right – doing right. Fruit is doing right, obeying God, obeying His word. Very simple.
It’s divided in two kinds of fruit: action fruit and attitude fruit. Let me just hit these quickly. Action fruit, what is that? Well that’s right action. In Romans 1:13 Paul says, “I want to obtain some fruit among you, even as among the rest of the Gentiles.” What that meant was some people coming to Christ. He wanted to preach and see the fruit of his preaching, salvation. So righteous fruit could be leading someone to Christ. In Philippians 4:17 it says, “Not that I seek the gift but I seek fruit, which increases to your account.” And what he meant was, if you give me money and support my ministry, that’s righteous fruit that’ll abound to your account. So a righteous deed could be leading someone to Christ, it could be giving money to support the work of Christ’s ministry.
In Colossians 1:10 it says that we are to be fruitful in every good work. Hebrews 13:15 says the fruit of our lips, which is praise to God. So any good work, praise, leading someone to Christ, giving a gift to someone, or to the work of the Lord, that’s action fruit. But behind action fruit is attitude fruit – attitude fruit. What is the fruit of the Spirit? Love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control; that’s attitude fruit. Now listen carefully. What God wants to see in your life is action fruit connected to attitude fruit. And the spirit of God, Galatians 5 says, produces in you love, joy, peace, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control. That’s the fruit of the spirit. That’s what it’s called – Galatians 5:22 and 23. That attitude fruit – listen carefully then – will produce the action fruits. Now listen to this thought. Action fruit without attitude fruit is legalism. You’re just cranking it up, going good deeds on the outside while the heart is filled with evil motives. What God wants is, by His Spirit, to produce the attitude fruit that results in the action fruit, and in the fruitfulness God is glorified, because you’re bearing much fruit. You are therefore speaking well of the source of that fruit, the source of that life that is so productive.
I mean you look at a person who says, I love Jesus Christ. I serve Jesus Christ. I represent Jesus Christ. And you see in that person’s life goodness and meekness, love, joy, spirit of forgiveness, tenderness, kindness, compassion, gentleness, truth, justice, unselfishness and you give glory to the one who produces that. On the other hand, you look at a person who says, I represent Christ. Christ lives in my life, and you see wickedness and evil and vice, and that brings dishonor to the One they claim is alive in them. That’s basic. You glorify God by your fruitfulness and in a situation of fruitfulness spiritual growth is generated.
Let me give you one more. We glorify God when we trust Him, believe Him, even though it may seem against all human reason to do so. We glorify God by our fruitfulness, which He by His spirit produces first in our attitude and then our action. And then lastly for tonight, we glorify God by praising Him – by praising Him. And this is such a wonderful truth and so simple. In Psalm 50 there’s a little verse I discovered years ago just kind of tucked away. I don’t know about you, but I read the Psalms very frequently over and over again. Every once in a while I come across a verse that looks like something I’ve never seen. But in Psalm 50:23 – and I particularly prefer the Authorized translation – it says, “Who so offereth praise glorifies me.” The New American says, “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me.” What it’s saying is if you want to glorify God then praise him – then praise him. That is really the essence of true worship. There’re so many places in the Psalms where similar statements are made. Psalm 86 verse 9, “All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord, and they shall glorify Thy name.” In other words, it says, when the nations come to worship, what are they going to do? They’re going to glorify Your name. Glorifying God’s name is worship. And then in verse 12 of the same Psalm, Psalm 86, “I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart and will glorify Thy name forever.” Now let’s track that: thanksgiving, worship, and glorifying God all the same thing. I’ll offer Thanksgiving, which is a form of worship, which glorifies God. That’s true worship.
In Psalm 92 the first couple of verses give us the highest priority. “It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Thy name, O Most High; to declare Thy loving kindness in the morning and Thy faithfulness by night.” And what the psalmist is saying is, from the rising of the sun to the setting of the same, Your name is to be praised, as he says in another place. From the morning when it is good to give thanks to the Lord till the evening when it is good to celebrate His faithfulness, we are to be occupied with praise – ccupied with praise. Psalm 95 verse 6, “Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God.” Let us worship, let us bow down, let us kneel. Praise is fitting to God.
In 1 Chronicles – I need to take you there. It parallels the Psalms but I want just to share with you from 1 Chronicles 16 and pick up a couple of verses. Verse 23, “Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and joy are in His place. Ascribe to the LORD O families of the peoples, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name. Bring an offering, come before Him. Worship the LORD in holy array” – or in the beauty of holiness. And so again, the Psalm calls us to worship. We are called to praise God.
Now let me just give you three things, okay, that make up glorifying God through praise. Very, very simple things. Number one, you glorify God in praise when you recite God’s wonderful works – when you recite God’s wonderful works. That is praise. That is worship. That is glorifying Him through the means of praise. And I’d like to go back and remember the story of Habakkuk. Habakkuk was really in a very serious dilemma. it was sort of an historical dilemma. He was looking at his people of Judah. He was concerned because they were in rebellion against God. And in chapter 1 of Habakkuk’s little prophecy, he cries out to God and he just says, “Violence,” and you don’t do anything about it God. Look, how long will I call for help and you’re not going to listen? Why do I have to keep looking on iniquity and wickedness and destruction and violence and strife and contention, and Your Law is ignored, and justice is never upheld, and the wicked surround the righteous, and justice comes out perverted? This is a typical cry of a prophet. I can identify with this. I sometimes feel like that. I look at the nation we live in, I look at the church and I say, Lord, how long are you going to tolerate this kind of stuff? How long you’re going to tolerate all this spiritual defection, all this mockery of Your name? How long you’re going to tolerate Your Law being violated? How long you’re going to tolerate justice being perverted? I understand exactly how he felt.
And the Lord answers him. The Lord says, I’m not going to tolerate it anymore. And Habakkuk was praying for revival. God says, I’m going to bring the Chaldeans to destroy Judah. And now Habakkuk has a worst problem. Problem number one, he didn’t understand why God didn’t bring revival. Problem number two, how could He use a worse nation to judge Judah? Be the Chaldeans were worse than they were. Now he doesn’t understand that either. So he still doesn’t understand why God doesn’t bring revival, and now he’s got another problem too. He doesn’t understand how God can use the Chaldeans to punish His own covenant people. How’s he going to turn this around? How’s he going to set this thing right? Well one thing he does, he begins to recite the history of God’s work. And in chapter 3 – and I won’t read it to you – he goes through a whole long recitation of God’s work. You did this. You did this. You did this. You did this. You did this. You did – and what he is really saying is, God, you can do anything you want. And the idea of it is you can overrule any nation. You can use a nation to do what you want them to do and then overrule it. You can do anything you want. He still doesn’t understand the answer, but he begins to understand the work of his God.
And so at the end of chapter 3 he says, “I’ll exalt in the Lord. I’ll rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength and he has made my feet like hinds’ feet and makes me walk on my high places.” I’m back standing up on a hard place like a mountain goat. I can walk on the precipice of not understanding history. I can walk on the edges of these difficulties, because I believe that I have seen my God work, and He’ll work through this just as He worked through all of the things which he talked about in chapter 3. It’s an incredible list of how God worked and moved and shaped history and nature to accomplish His purposes.
Beloved, when you praise God, you glorify Him, because praise begins to build your trust. And when you recite all that God has done it makes you strong. And that’s why he says, “I exalt in the Lord. I rejoice in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength,” even though he doesn’t understand his circumstances. Well what a lesson. You want to get out of a difficult problem? Don’t fall down on your knees and moan and groan, weep and cry. You want to get out of a difficult problem, you want to see your way clear in a very hard place? Not only do you want to petition the Lord, but beyond that you want to praise the God who has moved in history to overrule all negative circumstances to accomplish His holy purposes. And as you recite that in your own mind, you’ll begin to strengthen your heart and all of a sudden you will rejoice in your God even though your circumstance has not changed.
And there’s a second thing Habakkuk does back in chapter 1. He not only recites God’s wonderful works, but he recites God’s attributes, because it’s important to him to reaffirm to himself who God is and what He’s like. You see he doesn’t understand how God can do this. How can you possibly allow the bitter and hasty Chaldeans to come in here and wipe out your people? How can you allow that? Doesn’t understand it. They’re godless. They’re pagans. They’re murderess. They’re child killers. The historians tell us they used to bury live babies in the walls of their houses as an offering to the deities. They were the worst. How’s he going to handle it?
I look at history today. I say, Lord how can you allow the wicked to prosper? How can you allow society to do what it does? How can you allow pagan, godless cultures to do what they do? I don’t understand it. I don’t understand history. I confess to you I do not understand history, but I do understand the God of history. And that’s where Habakkuk came. One, he understood the works of God and that God could do anything and overrule anything. Two, he understood the nature of God, and therefore was content that whatever was going on fit God’s character. And he says this in chapter 1 verse 12, “Are you not from everlasting, O LORD, my God, my Holy One?” What does he mean by that? You were here before this problem you’re going to be here from this problem on. This problem is a small little thing in your eternal existence. Are you not from everlasting God? You’re way bigger than this issue. And then he says, “O Lord, my God, my Holy One,” which is to say, You won’t make a mistake. You’re perfectly holy. Whatever you’re doing is right and just. And then he says, “We will not die.” Why? Because he has just used the covenant name of God, Yahweh. You are a covenant keeping God and whatever you use the Chaldeans to do it will not destroy your promise to your people. So he’s reciting God’s attributes: He is eternal; He is holy; He is faithful. And then says, “And Thou, O Rock.” He’s immovable, immutable, unchangeable. He hasn’t changed his mind, he hasn’t changed his plan. “Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, and you cannot look on wickedness.” He’s reciting what he knows about God, because that’s the only thing he has to stand on.
Let me tell you how important praise is practically in your life. If you learn to praise God, you can handle anything – anything. All you have to do is remember to recite His attributes and His wonderful works. When you’re in a midst of a distress, and it can be a small thing, just a little thing. I always think about that with reference to students. You know, you say to the Lord, “Lord God I know who You are. You’re Almighty, sovereign, omnipotent. You’re the God who one day created the universe and all that is in it. You’re the God who parted the Red Sea so Your people could go safely into the other side, and You drowned the armies of Egypt. You’re the God of miracles who raised Jesus from the dead. O God, You’re the God who can shake the earth some day and recreate it by fire. God, You are the glorious God who controls nature and has shown power through all the history of human kind. Now God, I had this quiz tomorrow and I’m just wondering if You could help me?” It seems such a trivial thing. It may be a bigger problem or you might approach it from the character of God. “I don’t know Lord, I’m so confused about this problem here.” And then you remember that God is sovereign, and God has perfect knowledge and perfect understanding and perfect wisdom and perfect equity and perfect justice and perfect holiness and perfect righteousness and perfect everything else. And all of a sudden you realize that He in His sovereignty perfectly controls everything. That changes how you view life. So you glorify God when you recite His wonderful works and when you recite His attributes. And may I suggest to you as a footnote, that that, I believe, folds into two things, the reason to learn the Old Testament, because it gives us the character of God and the history of how He operates. And when you understand that you have a solid footing on which to stand. And the only thing that remains then in praising God is to say thanks for both. Thank Him for who He is and thank Him for what He’s done.
And I illustrate that to you as we close in one of the most beautiful stories, and yet one of the saddest in the New Testament, that I spoke on some years ago at a Thanksgiving service, Luke 17. In Luke 17:11, “It came to pass that” – Jesus at this time is on His way to Jerusalem, moving between Samaria and Galilee. “He entered a certain village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance” – because they always stood at a distance. That was social demand because of their disease. “They raised their voices, saying, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’” Verse 14 of Luke 17 says, “When He saw them He said to them, ‘Go and show yourselves to the priests.’” That was part of the procedure. If they were cured, they had to show themselves to the priests so that it was verified before they could get back out of their quarantine state into society.
“It came about that as they were going, they were cleansed.” Look at this. “One of them” – how many were there to start with? Ten. “One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice.” How did he glorify God? “He fell on his face at His feet” – that’s prostrate worship – “and he gave” – what? – “thanks.” You know how you glorify God? By reciting His attributes, reciting His works, and saying thanks, having a thankful heart. “He fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And” – amazingly – “he was a Samaritan. Jesus answered and said, ‘Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who turned back to give glory to God, except this foreigner?’ And He said to him, ‘Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.’” And I believe that refers not to leprosy but to salvation. The verb is sōzō, same word used of saving. So glorifying God is remembering God’s attributes, remembering God’s works, and saying thanks for both.
You know, beloved, it’s not a hard thing in one sense to understand how to glorify God and then how to grow spiritually in that mode. It’s as simple as learning to praise God. It’s as simple as spending some of your time, instead of say listening to the radio or watching television or reading, to just recite the attributes of God, to recite the works of God. It just builds your foundation strong. And then just continually saying thanks for both builds into your life confidence in God, which give Him glory. A thankful heart.
If you desire to grow spiritually, and if you’re a believer you do, the means is not difficult to understand. It is difficult to fulfill if we are not in the Spirit. The issue first of all is to understand how we grow and then to make the commitment to what we understand. And so in this series we’re trying to take ourselves back to the bottom line again. And I confess to you, this is so helpful even for me. And my desire for you is that you would learn how to confess your sin, trust God, because those things give Him glory, and that you would bear much fruit and that you would offer Him praise. In those simple ways and yet profound, we give God glory. And when it is all said and done and we have done all that we ought to do, we can say with the apostle Paul, “I labored even more than all of them. Yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” That’s the mystery isn’t it? It takes all of us, and yet when it’s done it’s all of Him.
It’s like Joab. You remember when Joab fought against Rabah? He sent for King David, in order that David might carry away the crown of victory that Joab had won. There was a sense in which the Christian, when he wins any battle, sends for Christ on whose head he places the victor’s crown. It’s like the silkworm. When the silkworm weaves her work, hides herself under the silk and she’s never seen, and that’s the way it is in our case as well. If we really live to the glory of God, self-glory is absent – absent. Let’s bow together in prayer.
Father it’s so helpful to just go back and, even as Peter said, to be put in remembrance of things, so that in the event of our absence they may not be forgotten. We do forget, so easily we forget. Lord help us to remember. Help us to remember all the simple basic things of our faith; those things that lay the foundation of spiritual life; that make us to be found in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; that enable us, though we have not seen Him, to love Him; and though we do not see Him now, to believe in Him and greatly rejoice until we receive the joy inexpressible, full of glory, and the ultimate salvation of our souls. Help us Lord to live according to Your perfect plan, to make the most of spiritual opportunity, to grow toward Christ-likeness that we might always be to the praise and the honor of the One who loved us and gave Himself for us, that he might have, as Paul said in Ephesians, glory by the church.
Our hearts are broken and grieved Lord because Your name has been so dishonored, so stained with the sin of those who name You. And though the sin never penetrates, it touches Your reputation, and even as it was true of Israel, Your name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of some who claim to know You and speak for You. Oh God, may we live to the praise of the glory of Christ. And may it be that all who see us honor the One alive in us. We pray in His wonderful name. Amen.
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