Beholding the Glory of Christ

This week in my Bible reading plan, I was struck by the repeated references to beholding the glory of God in Christ. I saw unbelievers like Pilate say, “Behold your King!” as he presented Jesus for crucifixion and I saw scenes where Moses beheld God’s glory on burning Mt. Sinai. I saw Zechariah prophesy of Christ’s coming, “Behold your King…how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty!” and I saw David praying, “our eyes look to the Lord our God.” But what stood out the most to me were Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 3:18, where I read, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” All this language of beholding made me take a step back to see what Scripture teaches on this. I discovered 5 steps in the Bible’s argument on this, which may be helpful to you as well…

We were created to behold the glory of God

God says in Isaiah 43:7 that we were created for His glory. But what does it mean to behold God’s glory? It obviously means more than merely seeing it with our eyes. After all, Scripture says we’ll never fully see God’s glory because he is invisible and, “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16b). Jonathan Edwards says to behold God’s glory is to delight in Him above all else. He says this in his Miscellanies: “God is glorified not only by his glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in…[W]hen those that see it delight in it: God is more glorified than if they only see it.” This was the condition Adam and Eve had in the garden. They enjoyed unhindered fellowship with God. Until that dreadful day when they broke fellowship with God and started beholding the glory of lesser things. This brings us to the next step in the argument…

Sin and Satan have blinded us to God’s glory

Jesus says that we are born spiritually blind because of our sin nature (Jn. 9:39-41). Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that Satan compounds this blindness by actively blinding unbelievers from beholding the light of God’s glory in the Gospel. So not only can they not see God’s glory, but Satan is working to ensure they don’t ever see it. Thankfully, this is where the bad news ends and the good news begins…

God by His Spirit gives us eyes to behold His glory on the cross

The only possible way for the blind to see is by the miraculous touch of the Great Physician. They can’t and don’t want to behold God as glorious until then. As a matter of fact, Jesus said, “People loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed” (Jn. 3:19-20). So then, what needs to happen must be nothing short of Divine intervention. God must impart spiritual eyesight. But how does He do this? Through the preaching of the Gospel. This is precisely what Jesus sent the apostles…and us to do. Paul says Jesus sent him, “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:18). But wait, I thought we already saw how Satan blinds them from seeing the Gospel when it is preached. Yes, but God in His grace, overcomes this blindness through the very Gospel that is preached. Paul says that what God does in the new birth is similar to what He did in creation: He says, “Let there be light” and He shines the Gospel into our darkened hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6). So now that we see Christ’s glory and realize He alone is truly valuable, what do we do from here?

We grow more like Christ as we behold His glory in the Gospel

2 Corinthians 3:18, once again says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” Becoming requires beholding. Beholding enables becoming. If we want to be more like Christ, we need to behold Christ more. The reason we sin is because we are beholding something else as glorious and not Christ. Paul David Tripp has pointed out, “If we worship our way into sin, we have to worship our way out.” How do we do this? Bible study, prayer, fellowship, humility, meditating on the Gospel. All the various means of grace are avenues God created for us to better behold His glory in the Gospel. If we seek God’s glory in these we will grow in Christlikeness as we behold Him. So then what is next?

One day, we will eternally behold His glory

John Piper puts it this way in his book, God is the Gospel: “Christ did not die to forgive sinners who go on treasuring anything above seeing and savoring God. And people who would be happy in heaven if Christ were not there, will not be there. The gospel is not a way to get people to heaven; it is a way to get people to God. It’s a way of overcoming every obstacle to everlasting joy in God. If we don’t want God above all things, we have not been converted by the gospel.” God, through the preaching of the Gospel, has broken into your blindness to give you a sight of His glory and He now calls you to to an eternity of beholding Him which begins now. If you now see the crucified and risen Jesus as the most satisfying and glorious One of all, then God has given you this. Keep beholding Him in your daily life and be urged on by the future Day when you will behold Christ fully and finally with new eyes. We’ll end with some words from a Sovereign Grace hymn entitled When We See Your Face. Let these words spur you on as you behold Christ in your daily life:

“We will see, we will know

Like we’ve never known before

We’ll be found, we’ll be home

We’ll be Yours forevermore.”


Seeing God’s Glory, Praising God’s Love

Psalm 63:2-3 says, “I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding Your power and glory. Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.”

These verses in Psalm 63 have always stuck out to me because of the transition David makes within it. In 63:2 David says that He has seen God in His sanctuary and beheld Him in His glory and power. In 63:3 David then says in response “because Your love is better than life my lips will praise you.” A question rises up upon seeing this. Why would David not say “because Your glory is better than life?” Didn’t he see His glory? How does God’s love come into the mix here?

I think the answer is quite revealing about the manner in which God loves mankind as well as revealing about the manner in which man receives the love of God. Here’s what I think is happening in these two verses.

David saw the glory and power of God and he rejoiced in that glory by praising God. Particularly, in praising the love of God. What then is the connection between seeing God’s glory and power and praising God’s love? I think it’s this. After seeing God’s glory and rejoicing in that glory by praising God, David expressed his joy in God’s love because allowing us to behold His glory is the primary way God loves us.

This would mean that God’s love does not make much of us (man-centered view), but God Himself (God-centered view). God is beheld in His glory, God is then praised in response, man’s soul is filled with joy, and God is glorified and made much of. This displays that God is love precisely because He graciously gives the elect the greatest possession they could ever have – Himself!

Do You Know John 15:11??

I know I have written a lot recently about the German Philosopher Immanuel Kant and his categorical Imperative, but I saw something this morning that stunned me from John 15:11 and I must tell you about it.

For those of you just coming into this discussion, Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative is this: an action can only be moral and virtuous, if the person doing the action gains nothing from it. So, to the degree that you gain anything, from doing any action, to that degree, it is an immoral action. If Kant had his way, he would have us all be disinterested in the things we do. This is not Biblical, but I am writing about this again because I think so many of you believe this! Now to John 15:11.

John 15:11 says, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” This statement gives the purpose for the previous 10 verses. That means 15:1-10 were spoken by Jesus for our joy. Think about how the purpose statement in 15:11 applies to 15:9-10. Jesus says, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” Jesus clearly teaches that keeping His commandments is the way to remain in His love; this is describing obedience.

TOO OFTEN, Christians think of obedience to God in a KANTian manner. We say, we think, we believe, and act upon this thought: “If I am to obey God, I must put pleasure and delight aside. If I am to have pleasure and delight, I cannot obey God.” Does Jesus believe this? NO! John 15:11 teaches us that this idea about putting pleasure aside to obey God is a lie. Rather, Jesus told us that obedience to His commandments (15:9-10) for the purpose of making our joy full (15:11). What does that mean? Jesus told us to obey Him so that we could have the fullness of joy! This means that obedience to Jesus is the fullness of joy, not the absence of it. Kant’s imperative is again….wrong. Pursue your joy in Jesus with all the might you can muster, by obeying His commandments.

How Philippians 3:7-8 Blasted Kant Out of My Soul

Yesterday I told you that Kant’s categorical imperative (his rule that an act can only be moral if you gain nothing from it) is not useful for anyone, especially Christians.

Recently in my morning devotions, I pondered over two verses that blasted Kant out of my soul once again! The two verses were Philippians 3:7-8, which state, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”

Before I tell you why this was so refreshing to my soul this morning, let me first say that most people already think in Kantian terms with regards to their faith. Too many of us think that religion is only about doing our duty to God. We think that in order to do our duty to God we must put pleasure aside because obedience to God is always unpleasant. We think sin is always pleasurable and obedience to God is always unpleasurable. To put it another way, we think this: “If it’s enjoyable, it’s wrong!” Therefore an implication which comes from this is that we have embraced the idea that going to church is not about having fun, going to church is about putting fun aside to do our duty! We must put fun and pleasure aside in order to serve and worship God! O’ how wrong this is! Let us wake up from our Kantian coma’s!

Phil. 3:7-8 blasts Kant out of my soul because those two verses say everything which is gain to us (health, money, cars, computers, houses, wives, husbands, families, children, books, status, riches extraordanaire, etc) should be counted as loss. If we stop here we may prove Kant more than disproving him, but thankfully the verse keeps going. We’re to count those things that are gain as loss for the sake of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. Why? Because His worth and His value far surpasses all other things! So, if we pursue those things only, we do not pursue our joy rightly! We only pursue our joy rightly by leaving what is less pleasing and going after that which gives us the most pleasure, JESUS!

According to Kant I cannot pursue my joy in Jesus, because that would not be a moral action for me to do. BUT according to the Bible, I am called to pursue my joy in Jesus with all my might! That is why I read my Bible, that is why I pray, and that is why I go to church, to be satisfied in Jesus above all things! Is that why you do those things?

Kant’s Categorical Imperative: Biblical? Useful?

Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative is his moral compass which says the morality of an act decreases to the degree that we enjoy it or gain any benefit from it. Actions are only good if the actor is disinterested in the act. Therefore to the degree that we are disinterested in our actions, we are virtuous people doing our duty. If we seek any type of reward, joy, or gain, (in any way) from the act itself, we are not moral. Ayn Rand stated it like this, “An action is moral, said Kant, only if one has no desire to perform it, but performs it out of a sense of duty and derives no benefit from it of any sort, neither material or spiritual. A benefit destroys the moral value of an action.” It should be stated that this mindset has become the mindset of Christianity to a large extent, so much so that Christians today see this ‘disinterested’ mindset as Biblical to the core. The question of its usefulness comes down to this; is it Biblical? If it is, let’s use it! If it’s not, let’s stay away from it! Well, which is it?

I think it is unbiblical and therefore useless in acting as our moral compass. Jonathan Edwards thought the same, he said in Resolution 22, “Resolved, to endeavor to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigor, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of.” C.S. Lewis agreed and said, “It is a Christian duty, as you know, for everyone to be as happy as he can.” What caused these two prominent writers think this way? Two massive reasons, at least.

First, all throughout the Bible God is portrayed as having one motive behind every action; His own glory. If we follow Kant’s reasoning God would not be doing His proper duty by pursuing His glory in His works. But, it would be evil of God to not express His glory to us. If God withheld the expression of His glory and beauty to us, the foundation of our joy would be lost! For when His glory goes public, His people are filled with infinite delight! This was David’s desire in Psalm 27:4 when he yearned to see the beauty of the LORD. God commands that we be happy in Him in Deuteronomy 28:47-48. This was the very reason Jesus became human in Romans 15:8-9, so that God would be glorified for His mercy. If Kant is right, God is wrong to seek His own gain in all His works. If God is right, we get delight and God gets the glory He seeks! The application of this truth is that God is not glorified where He is not treasured and enjoyed! Thus, when we seek God for our satisfaction in Him, He is more glorified than if we we’re merely disinterested in coming to Him.

Second, many passages tell us to seek our own gain. Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” If we come to God not seeking a reward from Him, we do not come to God rightly! 1 John 1:4, “These things we write, so that our joy may be complete.” John wrote his letters so that his own joy would be made complete. God loves cheerful givers (2 Cor. 9:7), not disinterested givers. Okay, but didn’t Jesus tell us to deny ourselves? Yes He did, in Mark 8:34-35. But do you see that in this charge to deny ourselves there is an appeal to do it for our own good, even for our own happiness? If I want to save my life, I must lose it!

Is Kant’s categorical imperative useful? If it is, I lose my happiness in God, therefore it is not. If we are to obey Scripture, and feast on the God who is a river of delight (Psalm 36:8), which is the most moral act we can ever do, we must drop Kant’s categorical compass and take up God at His Word, coming to Him for own gain and benefit.

Why God Made Everything

Sally Lloyd-Jones has done a marvelous job of describing why God created the world and all of us in it in her recent children’s book Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing (Zonderkidz, 2012), pages 52–53:


God tells us to glorify him. “Glorify” means “to make a big deal of.” When someone makes a big deal of you, it fills up your heart with joy.

But why does God need us to make a big deal of him? Why does he need us to get joy?

He doesn’t. In the beginning God the Father and Jesus, his Son, together with the Holy Spirit, were already there — a loving family, glorifying each other in this wonderful Dance of Joy.

No. God didn’t create us so he could get joy — he already had it.

He created us so he could share it.

He knows it’s the thing your heart most needs to be happy. When God says, “Glorify me!”, he’s really saying, “Be filled with Joy!”

He’s inviting us into his Forever Happiness.