Posted by Pastoral Musings on 27th December 2011
The Will of God And Questionable Issues Pt.3
The Essential Issue (The Glory of God)
As we look back on our study concerning questionable issues, it is obvious that there are things which deeply divide God’s people. Many of these things are things which are issues of Christian liberty. Often these things are very distracting and cause much confusion. Many times people who are good people with good intentions sin and separate from their faithful brethren over these sorts of issues. It is the contention of this writer that we must remember that, while we have issues which are important to us, there is one issue that is essential to the Christian life. That issue is the glory of God.
The scriptures tell us that God made man for His glory. “I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.” (Isa. 43:7) “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36) Many other passages of scripture could be given to illustrate this point. It is the point of this article to simply remind us what is most important thing on which we should focus our ministries and our energies in this life. That most important thing is the glory of God. God must be manifest in our lives. We are told to let our lights shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify God (see Mt.5:13-16). We are also instructed that we should live our lives in such a manner that, when men inspect our lives and behold our good works, they would give God glory in the day He visits them (see 1Pet. 2:11,12) God intends for us to give Him glory in our lives.
Not only did God create us for His glory and command that we live for His glory, but the glory of God is the motive of God’s work in our salvation. We are told that we are saved and accepted in Christ “to the praise of the glory of His grace.” (Eph. 1:6) We are also told that Jesus came to bring “many sons to glory.” (Heb. 2:10) The scriptures are filled with instances where God tells us that He saves us that He might receive glory for being merciful and gracious to us.
As we think upon our duty to glorify God, it is imperative that we also understand that God is very jealous of His glory. God is due glory: “Give unto the LORD, O ye mighty, give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” (Ps. 29:1,2) When we consider that the things which are important to us signify where our hearts are (see Mt. 6:21), and that covetousness is idolatry, (see Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5) we know that it is very easy for anything to become idolatrous. Why? Simply because it is easy for us to allow things to become more desirable and important to us than Christ. Not only can statues be idols, but material things can be idols, too. Ideas and principles can become idols if we are not careful. We can emphasize principles and ideals as well as our means of practicing (or not practicing) questionable issues to the point that we neglect to honor Christ. While we do not intend to do so, it is really very easy to lose sight of the most important thing in the world; the glory of God. God is very jealous of His glory. “The LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Ex. 34:14) “For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God.” (Deut. 4:24) “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” (Isa. 42:8) This writer asks all his Christian brethren to beware of the idolatrous practice of placing principles concerning these questionable issues above the person of Christ. God’s glory in our lives is more important than insuring that everyone utters our particular “Shibboleth.”
This important truth is well stated in Romans chapter fourteen. Consider the following verses: “He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom. 14:6-12) “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Rom. 14:17) The inspired apostle contended that, while exercising their liberties in the way they approached these questionable issues, each was seeking to give glory to God. The man who regarded a special day did so because he desired to honor God. Another man considered every day as a special day in which he was to live for God. Each man sought to live for the glory of God. Thus Paul instructed them to not allow these issues to divide them, as they were all seeking to honor God. We also see that some ate meat and gave God thanks for the meat. In so doing they gave God the glory. Another did not eat meat, and gave God thanks for the food he did eat. In doing so, he gave glory to God as well as the other man. While approaching issues of Christian liberty in two very different ways, these brethren are both found to be giving God glory. The way the brethren practiced the questionable issue didn’t matter as much as the spirit in which they practiced it. How well we would do to understand this critical point!
We can do good things in the wrong way and not give God glory. We can have opinions concerning how to conduct ourselves in relation to the matters of Christian liberty and yet fail to give God glory. What we must do is seek to please God and manifest His character in all that we do. Attitude does make a difference. Our worship can actually become empty and useless if we emphasize the doing over the glory of God. We can make our opinions concerning questionable issues of Christian liberty into doctrines that divide. We can give lip service and outward worship with our hearts far from God, if we are not careful. (See Mt. 15:7-9) How sad it is to the heart of this writer to see people he loves divided over issues that are largely matters of opinion and interpretation and not matters of fundamental importance. May God help us to give Him the glory by loving our brethren even when we disagree about issues of Christian liberty.
Finally, we find that the judgment is about the glory of God. That is why Paul tells us we are not to judge one another. Judgment is the divine prerogative; it is not ours to employ against our brethren. “For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall
bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom. 14:11,12) Judgment is about God being acknowledged as all glorious and worthy of all our praise. How sorely do we mis-step when we condemn and criticize our brethren who exercise their Christian liberty in ways that differ from our opinions of how things should be done. Judgment belongs to God alone. We obscure the manifestation of the glory of God when we so judge our brethren. We also steal from God the glory that is His alone when we judge our brethren. The question is asked: “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.” (Rom. 14:4) When we judge our brethren we usurp the authority of God, and thus attempt to take His glory for our own selfish ends. Judgment is about the glory of God and is part of His glorious character. “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” (Rom. 14:13) Our Christian duty is to love our brethren and to seek
to edify them. “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but
the profit of many, that they may be saved.” (1Cor. 10:31-33) May God help us to remember that our purpose in life is to give God glory by manifesting His character above all other things. While each person is free to have opinions and convictions concerning issues of Christian liberty, we all have a sacred obligation to seek to glorify God and respect those who differ with us in the way they seek to glorify God in their exercise of Christian liberty.