“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” [Psalm 19:1]
God always glorifies Himself. His glory is not limited to our deliberate and conscious acts of glorifying Him. Even when we do not do anything for His glory, God is still glorified. There’s nothing we can do to diminish God’s intrinsic glory. There’s nothing we can do do increase that glory. This is simply because God is self-existent, perfect and complete in Himself. God’s might and power doesn’t increase when we “lift” Him up or praise Him. neither does His power and might decrease when we fail to praise and worship Him. I will even go to the extent of claiming that God is glorified even in our sin. Remember the famous words of Joseph to his wayward brothers?
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” [Genesis 50:20]
Yes, God is glorified and His eternal purposes come to pass even in our disobedience. God’s glory is constant, just like His being, His power and His presence is constant. However, our experience, apprehension and acknowledgement of God’s glory is not constant. And this makes all the difference in the world.
THE FRUIT IS ALL THAT MATTERS(?)
You’ve probably heard of the saying, “Never criticize what God is blessing.” If you haven’t, it is a common response often directed at people like me, who often find things to criticize within the church. Another statement that is closely associated with this one is “Do not touch the Lord’s anointed”. I remember the first time I heard such a response. It was several years back, and I was admonishing a Kenyan Christian rapper, Astar concerning the music “Take Backs” that him and his ministry had started doing. This is where popular secular songs are taken and remixed; the lyrics are “Christianized” in order to reach out to those who like such music. On this particular instance, I was trying to explain to Astar that I believed such a direction in ministry was a sign of compromise to the Christian witness. But he would hear none of it. His adamant response and conviction sounded something like the statement above. He insisted, “I am seeing fruit from what I am doing, that is proof that God is using ‘take-backs’ to save souls. Therefore, it is proof that I am doing ministry in obedience to God.”
ALL IS WELL THAT ENDS WELL(?)
Can you imagine Joseph’s brother using the same logic? “You know Joseph, we don’t need to repent. As a matter of fact, you should thank us. if we didn’t do what we did to you, you wouldn’t be here, and our people would be dead from the famine. So, as you can see, the fruit speaks for itself.” Sounds ridiculous? While I am aware that what Astar was doing wasn’t an act of deliberate disobedience to God’s law, his justification betrayed his pragmatism. Is the fruit all that matters? Concerning false prophets, Jesus says that “you will recognize them by their fruit” (Matt 7:16) What He was talking about was the fruit of the prophet’s life, not the fruit of the prophet’s ministry. In other words, it is primarily the life of the minister, not the outcome of the ministry, that constitutes fruit. Astar’s justification (in that particular instance) was misplaced because I wasn’t criticizing his life, but his ministry. Was his ministry bearing fruit? Yes. Did the sinful actions of Joseph bear good fruit? Yes.
CRITICIZE, BUT DON’T FORGET TO GLORIFY
But Joseph still criticized his brothers. He criticized their actions, the actions that God had, in His sovereignty, worked through to bless and save Israel. Joseph criticized what God was blessing. Why? Because the means are just as important to God as the ends. To criticize questionable ministry practices does not necessarily mean dismissing any positive fruit from such practices. To criticize Catholicism doesn’t necessarily mean that there are no true converts in the catholic church. To criticize what God is blessing does not necessarily mean criticizing God’s ability to bless. So, we must not shy away from criticizing what God is blessing, as long as we do not dismiss the blessing in the process. Criticize, but don’t forget to glorify.
FOR THE (ACTIVE) GLORY OF GOD
So, if God is glorified whether we obey Him or not, does our obedience matter? A similar question was asked by Paul, if God’s Grace is magnified in our disobedience, “Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?” (Rom 6:1). And his response?
“By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.”
God is love. His grace abounds to the chiefest of sinners. And as long as we are living in these vestigial bodies of sin, our best efforts will continue to be marred by sin. God will still continue to use crooked sticks and broken vessels. This does not mean the he approves of the crookedness. Neither does it mean that we cannot seek to straighten that crooked sticks. In the same way, God glorified Himself through the broken, beaten and dead body of His son, Jesus Christ. But Jesus did not remain broken. He did not remain beaten. He did not remain dead. He rose again and is seated on the right hand of His father. He calls us to walk in His righteousness. To chase after perfection. To admonish, rebuke and correct imperfection. He calls us to ACTIVELY seek to glorify Him, not just passively do so.
God is glorified in heaven as well as in hell. The difference is that those in heaven are consciously, willfully, deliberately and joyfully glorifying Him, while those in hell are unconsciously, unwillingly and woefully doing the same. I know which side I’d rather be in. Do you?