God Glorified in a Transformed Life ~ 20130106 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
01/06 God Glorified in a Life Transformed by the Gospel (John 14-16)
Glory to God in the highest! Glory to God in the highest! God's glory is the highest thing, the greatest thing. God's glory is the focal point of everything. We were created to bring glory to God.
All heavenly beings were created to bring glory to God.
All of creation was designed to bring glory to God.
We are commanded:
Am I Living for God's Glory?
So if bringing glory to God is the purpose of my existence, and if my level of fulfillment and satisfaction is directly linked to doing what I was created to do, then the most important question I could ask myself is
-Am I fulfilling my purpose?
-Am I doing that which I was created to do?
-Am I living a life that brings maximum glory to God?'
-Can I increase the magnitude of the glory I give to God?
-Can I get better at fulfilling my purpose?
-Are there things that detract from God's glory that I need to put aside?
And in order to answer these questions accurately, we need to find out what it means to bring glory to God, what ways God intends to be glorified in my life, what a life lived for the glory of God looks like. We began to answer that question last time, when we saw that God is glorified in the gospel. God is glorified in the good news message that God is for us. That God loves us. That God sent his only Son to fulfill our purpose of living for the glory of God and to pay the penalty for our God-belittling, God-ignoring sins so that we can be rescued from our self-inflicted destruction. God is glorified when we hear the gospel – that Jesus died for our sins, was raised from the dead, and now reigns on high. God is glorified when we believe the gospel, when we entrust ourselves to Jesus, when we depend on him fully. God is glorified when we reflect on, revel in, and enjoy the gospel. God is glorified when we extend the gospel to others. God is glorified as more and more people come to believe in Jesus, have their sins forgiven, and enjoy a reconciled relationship with their Creator, Redeemer, and Friend.
God Glorified in Lives Transformed by the Gospel
Today I want to focus on a natural outflow of the gospel that brings glory to God. God is glorified when we hear, believe, love, and extend the gospel. God is also glorified when we live lives transformed by the gospel.
Listen to what Jesus says:
Jesus says that when we bear fruit, it brings glory to God. So we have to ask two questions: what is the fruit that we are to bear? And how do we bear much fruit?
First, what does Jesus mean when he says we glorify God by bearing much fruit? What kind of fruit is he talking about? Is he talking about oranges or apples or grapes? Is he suggesting we all take up gardening? In the context of this statement in John 15, Jesus describes himself as the true vine, his Father as the vinedresser, and us as branches of the vine. He is using an agricultural metaphor to teach a spiritual truth. Healthy branches, when connected to the vine and properly pruned and cared for, bear fruit. If we look at the broader context of this metaphor, specific characteristics of the fruit become clear.
In the first part of John 14, Jesus mentions knowing him and believing in him and coming to him about 10 times. And then he says to those who believe in him:
So this coming to Jesus, knowing Jesus, believing in Jesus brings glory to God. This ties in with what we have already seen, that God is glorified when we believe the gospel. Our faith in Jesus, coming to God on the basis of Jesus, asking in faith brings glory to God.
Then Jesus points us to love. Jesus mentions love for Jesus six times in John 14. He says that the evidence of this love for him is keeping his commandments, keeping his words, rejoicing at his words. He holds up his own obedience to his Father as evidence of his love for the Father. After the vine metaphor in John 15, Jesus says:
We bring glory to God by bearing much fruit. Jesus makes the connection between bearing much fruit and abiding in his love. Abiding in his love is keeping his commandments. His commandment is that we love one another as he loved us. So the fruit Jesus is talking about is believing in Jesus, loving Jesus, loving one another. This kind of fruit is evidence that we are truly disciples of Jesus.
Jesus tells us that this kind of abiding love will result in his joy being in us and our joy being full. Later in chapter 16, as he talks of leaving the disciples, they are sorrowful, but he tells them that their sorrow will turn into joy (16:20). He says:
This fruit that brings glory to God is characterized by joy, a joy we receive from God, joy that cannot be taken away, joy that is full.
Look back at John 14:27. Jesus says:
And again in John 16:33, Jesus said:
Jesus gives us his peace. The absence of fear; the absence of anxiety. Peace that passes all understanding (Phil.4:7). This kind of peace is fruit that brings glory to God.
Jesus said (Jn.14:1-4) that he was going to prepare a place for his followers, so that we can be with him where he is. This creates hope and anticipation. It also requires patience. Patience is fruit that brings glory to God.
Jesus said that the world would hate and persecute his followers.
Fruit that brings glory to God is perseverance in the face of opposition, or being kept from falling away.
The Holy Spirit
John 14:12 is a verse that staggers the imagination. I vividly remember the very first time I read it in my bible. I remember where I was and who I was with and what I was doing. I remember being humbled and amazed and overwhelmed. I remember grabbing my friend and showing him this verse and being worshipfully amazed together. This is a verse that is unbelievable, but Jesus said it, he said it is true, and I believe it to be true.
Whoever believes in Jesus (that's me!) will do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do!? Jesus caused the deaf to hear and opened the eyes of the blind, he made the crippled whole, he made the lame leap for joy, he even raised the dead. Whoever believes in Jesus will do greater works than these? What can possibly be greater than this? How can this be? The only thing greater than overcoming physical blindness and deafness is overcoming satanic spiritual blindness and hardness of heart to the gospel. The only thing greater than raising the physically dead back to life (who will someday die physically again) is seeing those who are dead in their trespasses and sins raised to newness of eternal life. The only thing greater than seeing the crippled made whole and the lame leaping for joy is to see mangled and twisted sin-sick souls healed and made whole and transformed by the gospel. Friends, you and I, 'whoever believes in me' Jesus said, will do greater works than Jesus, to the glory of God, because Jesus went to the Father.
How can we possibly bear this kind of fruit to the glory of God? Because we have another Helper, who is with us forever. The Holy Spirit of God dwells in me.
In preparing his disciples for his death, Jesus even told these grief-stricken followers that his physical absence is better for them than his presence.
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit living in believers is better than the Son of God in the flesh living with believers. It is to your advantage that I go away. It is to the advantage of fulling your purpose, living life for the glory of God.
The Holy Spirit works for the glory of the Father and the glory of the Son. God is glorified when we bear much fruit. So I think it is safe to say that the Holy Spirit is at work to bring glory to God by producing this kind of fruit in us; supernatural spiritual fruit like faith and love and joy and peace and patience and perseverance and hope. Does this sound familiar?
The Fruit of the Spirit
Paul gives us the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in contrast to the works that the flesh produces
The works of the flesh are things that detract from the glory of God. If I am involved in things like these, they have to go.
Crucifixion is painful. It is where we get the word 'excruciating'. Putting to death the flesh with its passions and desires is not easy. But it is essential for those who belong to Christ Jesus. We must live for the glory of God, and everything else must go. But please understand, this is not an oppressive list of do's and don'ts. The works of the flesh are bondage and they lead to death. The fruit of the spirit is true freedom, freedom to be who you were designed to be, free to live a life liberated from the gnarled twisted malignant lethal virus of sin.
Jesus has set you free to live life to the glory of God, a life of love for God and love for one another, the life you were meant for. If you are a believer in Jesus, God the Holy Spirit is at work in you producing love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith (or faithfulness), gentleness, self-control.
These God-glorifying character traits do not come as the result of good old fashioned grit, determination and self-discipline. That is a work of the flesh, not a fruit of the Spirit. Notice that it says 'the fruit of the Spirit is (singular). It does not say 'the fruits of the Spirit are (plural). I cannot say that I've got a great crop of patience, gentleness and kindness growing over here, but my joy is rather wilted and my self-control hasn't sprouted yet. That would be evidence that those traits I feel strongest in are not supernatural fruit of the Spirit, but rather natural personality traits or the results of upbringing and self-discipline. I think we can gauge our Christian maturity most accurately by our weakest trait. A chain is as strong as its weakest link. I am as mature as my weakest character trait. Paul says 'if I ...have not love, I am nothing' (1Cor.13:2). That might be discouraging, but it is often necessary to clear away the weeds that resemble healthy plants to allow room for the Spirit to do his transforming work.
How to Grow
So how do I grow in godly character to the glory of God? How do I bear much fruit to the glory of God?
It is critical to understand that I cannot produce fruit. Jesus said 'apart from me you can do nothing' (Jn.15:5).
Jesus is the source of life. Apart from him we can do nothing. If we are connected to him, abiding in him, his life is in us and we will bear fruit. Spiritual growth comes through believing dependence on Jesus. Jesus gives very practical instruction for abiding in him. He says:
Jesus connects abiding in him with having his words abide in you. God's word is a powerful tool for transformation in the hand of the Holy Spirit. So fill you heart and your head and your home with scripture. Read and re-read and write and meditate and memorize. Saturate your heart and your head in the bible. Let God's word shape your thinking, your feeling, and your acting.
Allow the painful process of pruning. Jesus said:
Yield to the pruning process for maximum fruitfulness to the glory of God.
And Jesus repeatedly invites and encourages us to ask (Jn.14:13, 14; 15:7, 16; 16:23, 24, 26). Asking is critical, because asking admits that we need something we don't have and can't get on our own. Asking looks away from ourselves and to God who is the source of every good thing. Asking keeps us coming to Jesus, plugged in to Jesus, abiding in Jesus, dependent on Jesus, in relationship with Jesus.