What is Holiness?

I think the puritans do such a better job of answering this question: What is holiness?  Their answer may surprise you.  We often think of the Puritans as stuffy, no-fun-allowed sort of folk.  That’s unfortunate.  Surely some of them were that way, just like some of us are, but the best Puritans actually made pleasure and joy central to our faith.  How they answer a question like “What is Holiness?” shows us a little of this.

Before I give you Jonathan Edwards and Thomas Goodwin’s answers, I want to ask how many people today would answer it.  What is holiness?  Is it primarily about whether and how much we sin?  Is it about ticking all the “thou shalt not” boxes?  What about God…what does it mean that He is holy?  Does it, primarily, mean that he can’t allow those who haven’t checked all those boxes in His presence?  I’ve said elsewhere that I often hear people say things like, “God is loving, but he’s also holy,” as if those things are opposites or mutually exclusive.  And that’s part of what’s wrong with our understanding of holiness.  So, let’s look at a couple of Puritans.

First, Jonathan Edwards. I’m going to invite Mike Reeves to share this as he’s who I first heart it from.  Go read his whole article at Desiring God, but here he is on Edwards and God’s holiness.

For the reality is that I am the cold, selfish, vicious one, full of darkness and dirtiness. And God is holy — “set apart” from me — precisely in that he is not like that. He is not set apart from us in priggishness, but by the fact that there are no such ugly traits in him as there are in us.

“God is God,” wrote Edwards, “and distinguished from [that is, set apart from] all other beings, and exalted above ’em, chiefly by his divine beauty” (for the connection between holiness and beauty, see verses like Psalm 96:9).2

God’s holiness, according to Edwards is primarily in His beauty, in His spreading and never changing goodness!  He’s not like us in our meanness, in all our ugly thoughts, words, and actions.  All the ways we hurt and hate others.  Isn’t that so much grander than “not sinning?”  Isn’t holiness as beauty just so much more, well, beautiful!!!

Now, Thomas Goodwin answers this question of God’s holiness as well (Vol 7, Book 1, Chapter 3).  Here’s what he says:

Matthew 19.17: “There is none good but God,” so therefore holy.  He is separate and alone in his holiness in the manner that he is alone in his (good) being.  And if he is the only one who is good, then much more is he the only holy one, for holiness is the height and perfection of goodness; it is so for man, and so in God.*

What does that mean?  It means that, at His core (in his being), God is good.  This is seen before creation ever existed as the Father, Son, and Spirit were in loving communion with one another, John 17 says, sharing glory and loving one another.  Before there were laws to give or keep, God was loving and sharing.  He was GOOD!  His holiness, then, can only be what is core to God.  What sets him apart?  His being, his nature, which we’ve just seen is loving, beautiful, and good.  And that is what sets him apart.  As you may know, holy means “set apart.”  His spreading goodness is what sets him apart, what differentiates God from us.

Holiness, then, according to these two puritans is beautiful goodness.  He’s not hot and cold towards us, he is consistently kind and good.  He’s holy.  In any day, I’m likely to despise and want ill for those that I should most love (sorry wifey and dear kiddos!), not to mention the random celebrity or Facebook stranger with whom I disagree.  Not so with God.  He’s holy.  He’s good.  He’s beautiful.

So, then, the invitation to be holy as God is holy becomes something amazing.  It’s now an invitation to share in the very goodness and beauty of God.  “Come, child, let me share my love and glory with you.  Let’s us experience unbroken, perfect love and fellowship.  Come, enjoy all this…that is, be holy like me.”

*I updated the language for clarity.  Italics are mine.

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Church, get ready to blush…

In our previous posts we’ve seen

  1. The Sons of Korah (SoK), men who deserved death but had reserved mercy wrote Psalm 45 a song to the King
  2. Deep affection that was being communicated to the King, in fact, it is a love song, with words that only a lover would use.
  3. That the King in the Psalm is Jesus and he’s described as smelling like an altar, temple, incense, and dead body.
  4. That King Jesus astonishes us with His, beauty, grace, and power.

Now, the Sons of Korah are about to change the subject…but not really.  This still has everything to do with the goodness of the King, but now we get to see what His goodness is after – what his beauty and grace are seeking to accomplish.

This King that smells like salvation, who loves righteousness and hates evil, and lays his life down…He’s done it all to win a people, more specifically, to win a Bride.  THE KING IS GETTING MARRIED

8 your robes are all fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia.
 From ivory palaces stringed instruments make you glad;
9 daughters of kings are among your ladies of honor; 
 at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.

Who is the bride of King Jesus.  It’s the people of God. It’s the Church…it’s us.  This is consistent throughout the entire Bible. Here are a couple of examples.

JEREMIAH 31.31-32

31 “Behold, the days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.

ISAIAH 54.5

For your Maker is your husband,
 the Lord of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
 the God of the whole earth he is called.

ISAIAH 62.5

5 As a young man marries a young woman,
 so will your Builder marry you;
as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,
 so will your God rejoice over you.

EPHESIANS 5.32

32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

Back here in Psalm 45, in verse 10, speaking to the Queen to be, the Sons of Korah say this:

10 Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear:
 forget your people and your father’s house,

God first called his people to himself in GENESIS 12.1.  He calls Abraham and his descendants, Israel, to be his people.  What’s he say there? Leave your country, your people, and your father’s house.  When he calls a people, he calls them away from who they were and what they were IN ORDER TO be with him.  Now, notice this summons:

HEAR, CONSIDER, INCLINE

Notice the repetition.  Hear, Consider, Incline your ear. The Sons of Korah are trying to get her attention – YOUR attention.

Let me ask you: have you left your life without God in order to do life with God?  Have you given up control of your life so that you might have Jesus as King? Or are you clinging to your control, your pretend gods, your sin?  Hear, Consider, Listen. Leave that life and believe in Jesus. Take him as your own.

Now, look at VERSE 11: FOR ME, THIS IS THE CLIMAX!  Why would you ever want to leave your old life?

11     and the king will desire your beauty.

HE DESIRES YOU…LITERALLY this phrase means he “GREATLY DESIRES/YEARNS FOR/CRAVES YOUR BEAUTY”

WOW!  He desires to be with you.  Not like, for instance Zeus or Allah or Shivah – these gods all need something from you.  It was thought that if all of Greece stopped believing in the gods of Greece, that would cease to exist.  The Greek gods desired their people, in a way, and that is NOT at all how Jesus desires you.

In his book, The Freedom of a Christian, Martin Luther compares salvation, the Christian teaching of justification by grace through faith, to a marriage between a great King and His bride, a woman of ill repute, a harlot.  For the rest of this post, I’m really going to be leaning on Luther as well as Michael Reeves.

The Great King doesn’t need this woman, but his massive heart is turned to her, he has compassion on her, and his chooses her to be with him as his very bride.

Now, if that’s happened, what does she want of him?  He’s been the first man to ever really love her.  The first man that was safe for her.  To see her and love her for her own sake.  He’s rescued her.  He’s provided for her – safety, sustenance, and affection. What do you think she wants from him?  Gold? A Palace? or…Him? That’s exactly right, her response to his unbelievable love is that she adores him.

11     and the king will desire your beauty.
 Since he is your lord, bow to him.

The word for BOW there is actually the word for Worship.  Jesus loves you, desires you, has set his affection on you, and in response, you worship him.  You adore him. This is exactly what happens in the Song of Songs…the bride of the King says:

SONG OF SONGS 5.16

   he is altogether lovely.
This is my beloved, this is my friend,

You see, he moved first…he came to her and set his delight on her…that’s grace.  She couldn’t make herself a queen. Acting more queenly wouldn’t do it. Sipping tea with the pinky out.  That doesn’t make you a queen. She could dress up in a queen’s dress, but she still wouldn’t be one. What’s the only way to become a queen?

Only by His word, only when he looks at her and makes his vows.  “I take you as my bride.”

And in THAT MOMENT, she is queen.  And when she speaks un-queenly, that won’t change the fact that she is the queen.  When she stumbles over her new queenly robes, that doesn’t change the fact that she is queen.  By His Word, because of His great love, she has BEEN MADE queen. But that’s not all…

He also clothes her, or said another way, He makes her beautiful!

13 All glorious is the princess in her chamber, with robes interwoven with gold.
14 In many-colored robes she is led to the king,



“All glorious,” it could also be translated Completely Majestic.  He clothes her with beauty. Specifically, with his very own goodness, his very own righteousness.

We call this the Great Exchange.  When he says, “All that I am is yours and all that I have I give to you.”  All my love, my blessing, my righteousness. They are yours.

And she says to him, “All that I am is yours and all that I have I give you.”  All my brokenness, shame, sin, regrets, and debt.

And he took all of that from her and paid it in full on the Cross, dying the death she should have died so that he might be with her forever.  And he clothes her with his righteousness.

ISAIAH 61.10

I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
    and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Now, you may not feel beautiful, and adorned.  I get that.  So please be sure to come back for the next, and final, post in this series on Psalm 45!

Marvelous Grace & Beautiful Wrath

In our previous posts we’ve seen

  1. The Sons of Korah (SoK), men who deserved death but had reserved mercy wrote Psalm 45 a song to the King
  2. Deep affection that was being communicated to the King, in fact, it is a love song, with words that only a lover would use.
  3. That the King in the Psalm is Jesus and he’s described as smelling like an altar, temple, incense, and dead body.

Now we want to look more deeply at WHY the Sons of Korah are so crazy about Jesus.  Let’s start back in Verse 2.

2 You are the most handsome of the sons of men;
 grace is poured upon your lips;
 therefore God has blessed you forever.

That first line is striking.  Dudes don’t describe other dudes that way any more.  Is that manhood?  YES, this is absolutely the MOST MASCULINE inclination you could ever have.  This is no mere mancrush! The SoK aren’t just praising him for a great fastball, big biceps, or an impressive intellect.

Friends, this is serious.  Right now, how do you feel about Jesus.  When Bible translators throughout the centuries have tried to capture this in English language, they’ve really struggled!  Our language can’t capture the height of beauty that is being communicated.

  • KJV – Thou art fairer than the children of men
  • Chaldee – Thy beauty, O King Messiah, is above that of the sons of men
  • Mudge – Thou art wonderfully fair beyond the sons of men
  • Alexander – Beautiful, beautiful art thou above the sons of men
  • ESV – You are the most handsome of the sons of men
  • NASB – You are fairer than the sons of men

Those last two, newer translations really seem to fall flat, don’t that.  Now, when William Plummer, 19th century scholar, tried to capture the point of this passage, listen to what he said:

In true religion, everything turns on our views of Christ, v.2.  What do we think of him?  Is he in our opinion and thinking incomparable?  Do we regard him as “fairer than the children of men?”  Is he, or is he not the chiefest among ten thousand and altogether lovely?  If you don’t love him, if you don’t admire him, if you wouldn’t, in a fair trial, die for him, you are not his. Luke xiv. 26, 27, 33.

So again: How do you feel about Jesus?  Don’t tell me you’re just not an emotional person.  I use to say that…I invented that. Let’s not fool ourselves.  How we feel about Jesus is a striking indicator of the reality and quality of our faith.

So, what was it about Jesus that the SoK wanted to highlight?

GRACE

Grace was on his lips!  Grace! He came to us with grace.  We are so broken, but he has healing.  We are vicious to each other, but he’s tender.  We get angry, defensive, and mean at the drop of a hat, but he is patient.  Notice what the Gospels say:

And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.  LUKE 4.22

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth, for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. JOHN 1.14, 17

He wasn’t just being nice…he was bringing the very goodness of God, the word and presence of God to us.  He was the very embodiment of the grace of God.  The kindness and tender compassion of God.

Children ran to him, prostitutes found him to be the safest place they’ve ever known, people wanted to be with him.  They all found in him the answers to their deepest longings: how can I be right with God?  How can I know peace?  How can I have God as my very own?

But, it gets better There’s more good news.  He brings grace, but he also came with a Sword…wait, what?!

3 Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, 
in your splendor and majesty! 4 In your majesty ride out victoriously
 for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
 let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!
 5 Your arrows are sharp
 in the heart of the king’s enemies;
 the peoples fall under you.

So, they also praise the King because he comes with a sword.  Does that seem shocking to you? I think part of the reason we find that shocking is because we continue to say things like: “God is loving, but he’s also just.”  As if those things are opposed to each other. Or “God is merciful, but he’s also holy.” Statements like that show how far from the Bible we’ve strayed.

God’s love is not opposed to his holiness, justice, or wrath.  No, God IS LOVE. This is 1 John 4.16. This is what he is like at his core.  In fact, John says if you don’t love, it’s certain that you don’t even know God because to know Him changes you and makes you loving.  God is love, at his core, and so EVERYTHING he does flows out of that, even wrath

God’s wrath isn’t opposed to his love.  No, Michael Reeves says it this way: wrath is what happens when a loving God encounters evil.  Wrath is the loving response to evil.  And we actually know this instinctively…

Imagine going outside in a few minutes and as you step out the door you see a man abusing a little child.   How would you respond?  How OUGHT you respond. What would loving behavior look like?  If you see it and turn a blind eye to it – you are not loving.  If you see it and say, “well, we all have our struggles” then you are not loving. Love would do everything it could to bring an end to evil.  It will judge it. And it will bring holy consequences against it. The King has a sword…hallelujah.

Let’s look a little more closely at this loving war that the King is waging:

4 In your majesty ride out victoriously
 for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
 let your right hand teach you awesome deeds!



What would you ride in the Ancient Near East?  A motorcycle? A segway? No, a chariot, and this king rides to victory on a chariot of truth, meekness, and righteousness.  He goes to war against evil by means of truth, meekness, and righteousness.  This is a different sort of King altogether.  He’s not a dictator simply hellbent on maintaining control.  He’s not Allah simply looking to make the world submit.

This King is the truth.

He is meek.

He is our righteousness.

What does he smell like? He smells like salvation for sinners!

The Psalm is about to change gears.  We’re about to find out something exciting:  The King is getting married!

What does Jesus think/feel about you?

That’s a $1 Billion Dollar Question (actually, an eternal question!).  What does Jesus (and therefore the Father!) think/feel about you?  Lots of ways to answer this, but I’m going to totally steal an answer from 2 other people.  The answer will come from Thomas Goodwin, who I’ll introduce below.  But it will come through Mike Reeves who introduced me to Goodwin, borrowing many of his words and more of his ideas below.  So, if anything sounds great, it’s Reeves.  If not, it’s me.

So, Thomas Goodwin. What do you need to know about Goodwin? Well, he was born in the year 1600, three years before the death of Queen Elizabeth. He grew up in a home of committed believers, he spent some of his younger years “making merry” as they use to say and literally seeking to become a celebrity preacher, and then something scary happened. He became REALLY religious.

He later said that, at this time, his preaching was a ministry of battering consciences. He’d use the Word of God to mercilessly beat up the congregation. And internally, he was experiencing the same thing. He began to fear that he wasn’t truly born again, and for 7 years, he was looking inside for some sign of grace on his life. Seven years!!!

SO, in Goodwin, we have someone with some experience in doubting the goodness of God.  Finally, he had an old pastor pull him aside and said, “Don’t trust anything in yourself, whether performance or feelings. Look out and rest on Christ alone.” And that was the turning point. Seeing Christ clearly and rightly made all the difference.

Well, eventually he wrote a little book called The Heart of Christ in Heaven Unto Sinners on Earth, and he wrote this, he said, because he found so many Christians who, like himself, struggled to know who God was and trust his goodness towards them.

So, he hoped the book would, “take our hands, and lay them upon Christ’s breast, and let us feel how his heart beats and his bowels yearn towards us, even now he is in glory.” That he might “hearten and encourage believers to come more boldly unto the throne of grace, unto such a Saviour and High Priest, when they shall know how sweetly and tenderly his heart is inclined towards them.”

We’re going to have Goodwin guide us through 3 scenes that will unpack Christ’s heart for us.

First, in the upper room (John 13-17).

John 13.1-5 – Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

FIRST, notice that he knew he was going away and that all things had been given to him by the Father, and yet his thoughts were on his disciples. Instead of (or perhaps BECAUSE of) thinking of the glory he’s headed back to, He washes their feet…he does this to show them how he is and will be towards them, even when he’s gone.

SECOND, notice also that he already knew they would betray him. He already knew…yet, he washed their feet and loved them to the end.

Really, this whole section of John from chapter 13-17, he is preparing them for his departure. He’s taking pains to make sure they know his heart. That they know he’s arranged everything so that they will be cared for.

At one point, he says, “I will not leave you as orphans,” And a major part of that is that he promises to send the Holy Spirit to them…Look at John 16.7, “it is to your advantage that I go away.” It’s good for you. Why, because the Spirit will be a better helper for you in the days ahead.

Goodwin riffs on this whole section from chapter 14-16 to unpack in a beautiful way, what Jesus says the Spirit will do in His place…

All the comfort he shall speak to you all that while will be but from the expression of my heart towards you…he will tell you nothing but stories of my love. He will tell you that there is as true a dearness of affection in me towards you, as is between my Father and me and that it is as impossible to take off my heart from you, as to take my Father’s from me, or mine from my Father.

Second, after the resurrection

The first people to encountering the risen Christ weren’t his disciples. Some women go to the tomb, and Mary encounters Jesus, and he gives her a message for his disciples…

Now, what would you say to those no good, spineless, traitors? Those men who deserted you in your hour of need. Who, at the very least need to show some major gratitude for what you’ve just done for them?

What does Jesus call them in John 20.17 ? – “go, to my BROTHERS”  (reminds us of Hebrews 2.11) and what message does he send them? In 20.17 – “I ascend to My Father and YOUR Father…to my God and YOUR God!”  They are still his brothers and the Father still belongs to them!  Despite what they’ve done.

And 2 verses later, he appears to them, and what does he say? Does he rebuke them? Chide them? Rip into ‘em really good? No, in John 20.19 he says “Peace be with you!” And he breathes on them and says, “receive the Holy Spirit.”

And in all this time, he never brings up the past. He never scolds them or reprimands them for their behavior before the Cross.

Goodwin notes that during this time: NO SIN OF THEIRS TROUBLED HIM BUT THEIR UNBELIEF.  Isn’t that amazing.

Well, after 40 days with them, he is leaving, ascending into Heaven. What’s the last thing he does as he is leaving…even as he is ascending into the sky: Luke 24.50-51 says 50 And he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. 51 While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

Third, seated at the right hand of the Father

-So, once in glory, He pours out the Spirit

-Then, he begins a ministry of interceding for his people, and this is where we want to turn our attention to the book of Hebrews. Hebrews 7.25 says, “He always lives to make intercession for us.”

I know people that live for college football. Or who say “I live for Doctor Who. I know the actors, I follow their lives, I watch the shows, I have the action figures. I LIIIIIIIIIVE for Doctor Who.”

Friends, Jesus lives for you. He EVER lives to intercede for you.

And a major theme through Hebrews is this: Jesus became the perfect high priest for us THROUGH suffering for us. A high priest comes to God on behalf of the people. And if you’re going to represent broken, suffering, hurting people…well, you have to be broken, to suffer, to hurt.

And Goodwin wants to draw out attention to, “two things, in particular, that stir Jesus’ compassion for us as our High Priest: our afflictions and – astonishingly – our sins.”

Hebrews 4.15 says He can sympathize with our weakness, that is, our suffering and all that is hard in this life.  All things that show how WEAK we are.

What about you?  Is your suffering terrible?  Have you had more than you can bear?   We’ve struggled with sin, hurt, heartache and loss.  And maybe you’re wondering, “Did he really suffer everything as I have? Did he experience betrayal? Excruciating Pain? Did he ever weep over the grave of a dear friend? Injustice? Loss of family?  The answer to all of those is YES!  What about Sin…did he suffer under sin?  Not his own…but yours and mine.  He was CRUSHED under it.

But, it’s not only our suffering and affliction that moves him…it’s also our sin. Look at Hebrews 5.2 – He can deal gently with the ignorant and the wayward (literally…those out of the way), that is, those in sin!  See what Goodwin says…

“your very sins move him to pity more than to anger… yea, his pity is increased the more towards you, even as the heart of a father is to a child that hath some loathsome disease… his hatred shall all fall, and that only upon the sin, to free you of it by its ruin and destruction, but his bowels shall be the more drawn out to you; and this as much when you lie under sin as under any other affliction. Therefore fear not, ‘What shall separate us from Christ’s love?’” TG

Mike Reeves comments on this passage by saying:

Jesus’ first reaction when you sin is pity. Where you would run from Him in guilt, He would run to you in grace. It makes all the difference when your heart feels cold. Right then in your very coldness, you can know it is your joylessness that stirs His compassion. In our guilt we’d never want to face up to some cold, pitiless God. But the tender kindness of Christ woos us.

Isn’t that amazing. Isn’t Christ good to us? And remember…the heart of Christ is the expressed image of the heart of his Father. This is our Father’s love being shown through our Savior Christ.

This is what transformed Goodwin’s life, and one of the best places to see this is to read his final words. Listen to this, these are the words of a man who for 7 years wrestled over whether he could be SURE of his salvation, SURE of God’s love for him.

I am going to the three Persons, with whom I have had communion…I shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye, all my lusts and corruptions I shall be rid of, which I could not be here; I could not have imagined I should ever have had such a measure of faith in this hour; no, I could never have imagined it. My bow abides in strength. Is Christ divided? No, I have the whole of his righteousness. Jesus Christ, who loved me and gave himself for me. Christ cannot love me better than he does; I think I cannot love Christ better than I do. I’m swallowed up in God.

Isn’t that amazing? The assurance we have in His love! This is our God! So that brings us back to the beginning: how does knowing all this transform prayer? Well, where to start?!?!?! In our final post, we’ll compare our God, the Triune, true and living God, to the god of the Koran that we looked at a few posts back.

2 Writers/Speakers Who Are Influencing Me

OK, I felt compelled to write this entry for two reasons. First, to point you to a few wonderful folks that have had a lot of influence on me of late, whether authors, bloggers, speakers, etc. Second, I almost feel like I need to do this as a sort of disclaimer! Some of these folks have so shaped my thinking that I can hardly look at any issue without their influence being apparent (at least to me), even when I’m talking about issues that I haven’t heard them address specifically. So, this serves sort of as a blanket footnote or acknowledgment. I do try to cite them when I quote directly or when I’m sharing something that has come straight from them in one way or another, but I may miss one here or there. And, honestly, again, I see their influence in almost every post, even when I’m not quoting them, so much of the good in my writing and none of the bad can be attributed to them.

So, read them, listen to them, enjoy them…better yet, enjoy the Jesus they have helped me learn to enjoy!

Image result for michael reevesMichael Reeves is the principal of Union, a ministry based in Oxford, England that is doing fantastic work. Seriously, you need to check them out. Mike has, first and foremost, helped me think about God. If I am ever trying to clarify who God is in order to help us understand anything else rightly, it’s primarily due to Mike’s influence. If I’m writing about the Trinity, God’s Glory, the Reformation (and Reformed Theology), Church History, or the Difference Jesus makes, he’s had a huge role in that. I know Mike slightly, mostly through his works, but looking forward to getting to know him more in the days/years ahead. Check out his resources at http://www.uniontheology.org and books at Amazon.

Image result for glen scrivenerGlen Scrivener is an evangelist based in Eastbourne, England. He leads a ministry called Speak Life. I love how they are working to help the church be more winsome and more Biblical in their evangelism. Glen, like Mike, has had a great impact on me in learning to clarify who God is and who He is not, and enjoying Him. He’s also been a major encouragement in my grasping how much the Old Testament is all about Jesus, and the Word exists to help us encounter Jesus! I love his Youtube journey through the Bible called Reading Between the Lines. Finally, he’s helped me continue to clarify my understanding of mission and what it is God is doing in the world. He blogs at christthetruth.net.

So, if I’m talking about those issues…even if I’m not quoting these 2 men, you can bet that they have significantly influenced what you’re hearing. Which means that you should be really be reading what they are writing and listening to what they are teaching instead of me. But if you want to keep hanging out around here, you are very welcome!

What is God’s Glory and Why does it Matter?

Last year, I read Michael Reeves’ wonderful little book Delighting in the Trinity. In it, he spends just a few pages showing how the Trinity, particularly the love between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, shapes our doctrine of God, including the attributes of God like Holiness, Wrath, and Glory.  I want to focus some thoughts, reflections on the last one: GLORY.  Very briefly, he declares that God’s glory is His outgoing love. THAT is what God’s glory IS.

This was new to me. To my shame, I must admit that I’ve never taken on God’s glory as an object of study.  Nor was it covered in any particularly way during my time in seminary.  Like many younger reformed evangelicals, I’ve always looked to John Piper for an explanation of God’s glory and why it matters, but what Reeves was saying was a departure, at least in part, from Piper’s approach.  I wanted to know more.  But, where to turn?

I’ve listened to many of Reeves’ sermons since then.  I have found several where he introduces this idea again, but in most of them, he doesn’t cover much more ground on this issue.  There is one workshop called Matters of the Heart: How to Enjoy God where Reeves unpacks it further, with the assistance of Jonathan Edwards.  It may be a good place to get a first look at what I’m talking about.

That brings me to the real point of this post.  Glen Scrivener has taken up the idea (I don’t know if he got it from Reeves or vice versa or some other way) and helpfully interacted with it quite a bit.  So, the rest of this post will be a bit of an annotated Bibliography of Scrivener’s Doctrine of God’s Glory.

GOD’S GLORY ALONE

The first place to start is his post entitled “God’s Glory Alone Sermon.” This is a sermon from a series on the 5 Solas of the Reformation. The first half of the sermon reviews the first 4 Solas and introduces the 5th through the story of David and Goliath. About 2/3 through the sermon, Scrivener says:

“The living God is Giver.  And it’s this very grace that is His glory. But what does that word mean really?  Glory.  It’s a big bible word. What is God’s glory?”

The rest of the sermon answers that question, primarily through John’s Gospel (click here for more John’s Gospel and God’s glory). In short, Scrivener answers the question thusly:

Wind the clock back all the way through time, before creation, back and back and back into the depths of eternity and you will find Jesus with His Father loving and serving each other in the power of the Spirit.  That’s what the trinity has ALWAYS been up to.  That IS the eternal life of God.  So on the cross, when we see Jesus giving Himself up to the Father we see the eternal glory of God.  At the cross when we see the Father GIVING His Son to the world, we see the eternal glory of God.

The cross IS God’s glory.  And it’s the glory of infinite SELF-GIVING love.  God’s glory is His grace.  It is His very “Godness” to give Himself away to us and for us.

You really should read/listen to the whole thing though. OK, so that brings us to a definition, but I wanted to interact more with this understanding of God’s glory, and there’s (thankfully) no shortage of this on Scrivener’s blog, including his posts and quite a bit of good interaction in the comments. So, the rest of this post is an attempt to give you an idea of how to explore this treasure.

SERIES: WE DID IT ALL FOR THE GLORY OF LOVE

Well, Scrivener put together a little series of posts to wrestle through “what is God’s glory?”  Not only is this little series named after a great song from the greatest decade of music, it’s also a great next step in the journey of discovering what God’s glory is all about.

In Part 1, you are invited to look at a selection of verses/passages that will help frame the conversation.  Part 1

In Part 2, he begins to interact with John Piper’s classic understanding of God’s Glory and why it may not be the best way to think about/talk about it.  Part 2

Part 3 takes digs deeper into the differences between what Scrivener is proposing and Piper’s approach.  Part 3

Part 4 digs into more scripture so that we aren’t just looking at it from the Gospel of John, and then Part 5 digs into Ephesians 1 as a final study.  Part 4  //  Part 5

MORE INTERACTION WITH JOHN PIPER

Now, I want to be sure to highlight how much Scrivener spends genuinely praising John Piper for his life, his ministry, his influence, and theology. He even shares an embarrassing moment when he tells Piper that he’s his biggest fan and then realizes he’s just behaved like a fanboy (in first link below)! Even in the comments sections, it seems that any time Scrivener interacts with a commenter (and the topic involved Piper’s theology of God’s glory) who is new to the site, he makes sure to reiterate his appreciation for Piper. Not only that, but his comments on Piper are always respectful, so don’t get the sense from me that he’s just a Piper-hater. Those folks exist. Scrivener isn’t one of them. So, here are some links to explore:

Why I am a Trinitarian Hedonist

Theo-centric? (or “What does God-Centered mean?”)

Piper’s Theology of Glory (this is a shorter version of the next one)

God is not a Narcissist (He gets the Trinity involved here in a very helpful way, as you’ve probably seen already…and more to come below)

One of the questions that arises in this discussion is the nature of God’s love for us. Piper would say that God’s love for us is primarily seen in making it possible for us to love Him (therefore glorying Him). So there is a boomerang effect where the intention is that we would make much of God. Many have posited squirmy reactions to this, but it’s PIPER, so they don’t speak out for too long. But, I think this Reeves/Scrivener approach (“God’s glory is His grace” in the word of Jonathan Edwards) actually does greater service both to God’s fame and to his affection for his people. Scrivener interacts with this question in his God Loves God more than God Love Us? post. And just for fun, here’s a short, wonderful quote on Why God Love Us.

TRINITY SHAPES EVERYTHING

In his post called Beginning with the Creator? Scrivener is super-helpful to show why the TRINITY must be the starting point for understanding God’s glory.  And why starting anywhere else is detrimental/dangerous. Read it! You’ll thank me! For more on this topic, see his Oneness and Threeness post and his You and Me, We’re Not so Different Really post.

So, how do I wrap up this tour through Scrivener’s writings on the glory of the Triune God? Well, I guess by saying that you should spend more time over at Christ the Truth. I may eventually do a similar post looking at his writings on Mission. But, I’ll also say that this understanding of Glory; namely that it is the outgoing love of God, that it is His grace, His cross…that it is the Gospel, which Paul calls the “knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus,” changes things.  Look at the overflowing love of God!  Oh what a God we have! Oh, what a beautiful Father! Oh, what a glorious Son! Oh, what a majestic Spirit of overflowing love! Glory isn’t an abstract, glowing blob of awesomeness…it’s the love of God on the move! That changes everything!