Sunday, October 31, 2010

Appealing to God's Glory

Thoughts from my reading in Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin and Mercy by Paul David Tripp. My thoughts in red.

Then you will delight in right sacrifices . . . ; then bulls will be offered on your altar.
Psalm 51:19

You're always in a safe place when you're appealing to God's glory. This is exactly what David does in Psalm 51:18-19: "In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem" (NIV). Why? "Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar" (NIV). David is essentially saying, "God, bless your people, because if you do, they'll live for your glory." This is what all truly biblical prayer will do. We often reduce prayer to a laundry list of self-focused needs in which we ask God to exercise his power for the sake of our comfort or for the purpose of self-glory. You know the requests:

"God, give me wisdom at work (so I can make more money and acquire more power)."

"God, alleviate my financial woes (so I have more money to spend on the pleasure and possessions that will make me happy)."

"God, help my daughter to be more respectful (so that my evenings will be more peaceful so I can get the things done that I want to get done)."

"God, work in the life of my husband (so I can finally experience the marriage of my dreams)."

"God, give me a better relationship with my neighbor (so he will like me enough to make his dog quit trampling my flower beds)."

"God, please heal my body (so that I can do the physical things that I love to do)."

This is a good thing to think about. It’s always good to pray but maybe the motivation isn’t always right. Things can get so mixed up that we may not see the motivation clearly. Is it for me or for the greater purpose of God’s kingdom and glory?

So much of our prayer has nothing to do with the glory of God. Regrettably, in much of our prayer we're actually asking God to endorse our pursuit of a whole catalog of self-focused false glories. For God to be willing to do that would not only mean a denial of who he is, but it would also mean our destruction.

It’s good that God doesn’t always answer prayer the way we want. We may not be self-focused but we may not be seeing the bigger picture. This is where trust comes in. If things aren’t going the way we want, we wait.

But perhaps you're thinking, "Paul, it doesn't seem loving for God to be so focused on his own glory. How does it help me to have God's zeal for his own glory be greater than his zeal for anything else?" This is a very good question and worthy of an answer.

First, don't fall into evaluating the character of God as you'd evaluate the character of a human being. God is not a man and cannot be judged by the standards that he has set for human beings. For a human to be obsessed by his own glory would be a horrendous spirit of pride and self-aggrandizement. But not so with God.

We mess up when we create God in our image. He is not the same as us. We need to remember that He is God and we are not.

So, it is right, good, and beneficial for God to find his greatest pleasure in his own glory simply because he is God. You see, in delighting in his own glory, calling us to live for his glory, and enabling us to do so, God frees us from our self-destructive addiction to self-glory and the endless catalog of false glories that comes with it.

There are a lot of things that fit in that catalog. We are always looking for something that puts us higher than others. It may be education, money, accomplishments, sports, Bible knowledge, game scores, cars, toys, words, etc.

So, God's unshakable commitment to his own glory is the most loving thing he could ever do for us. It's what redeems us from us and breaks our bondage to all the things in life that we wrongly think will give us life but lead only to emptiness and ultimately death.

So when I live for God’s glory I am the most happy, satisfied and content. I experience what I hoped to find in so many other things that proved to be disappointing.

A question from the meditation:

How much of your prayer is dominated by requests that have to do with your vision of glory? What changes in your prayer would take place if your prayer was shaped by an appeal to God's glory?

I am trying to keep this in mind as I go through my prayer list. It’s a subtle but true distinction. I may not even be me that I am praying for. I might be praying for someone else but not see how my prayer should be focused. Am I praying for comfort, promotion or help that simply benefits them or am I looking at the bigger picture? In praying right, I align with God’s will and glory.


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