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We did it all for the glory of love – part six

Part one - God does all things for the sake of love

Part two - Glory according to John Piper

Part three - God's glory is His love

Part four - Isaiah 42 and Ezekiel 36

Part five - Ephesians 1

Let me conclude with a few points of application.

My basic contention has been this - God's glory is His grace.  The Trinity's overflowing life of other-centred love is the glory that shines out of all He is and does.  It therefore makes no sense to think of His glory in self-centred terms.

But having said that, let me affirm something vitally important from Scripture.  Once we're clear that God's glory is His grace, we should also say that there's a significant sense in which God acts for the sake of this glory and not for our sake.

Huh?

Didn't I just say that God's glory is His other-centredness?  Indeed.

And therefore if God acts gloriously won't that mean acting other-centredly?  That's right.

Then how can I say that the triune God acts for this glory and not for our own sake?  Well think of John 10:17-18.  Jesus says "I lay down my life."  And then He says "No-one takes it from me."  It's really important to hold onto both.  It is His eternal glory to lay down His life (v17 is amazing!).  And yet all this happens at His initiative.  He really and truly becomes a Victim - the Victim.  But no-one makes Him a Victim but He Himself.  This is truly an offering not a wage.  Truly a gift and not a pay-off.  It's the Saviour's push not the sinner's pull that's driving things.

And that's so important because one of the things John Piper is so keen to fight is our natural self-centredness.  And it's absolutely right that we resist human narcicism.  We'd love to think that Christ's an old softy who can't help himself when he sees a damsel in distress like us.  We'd love heaven to confirm our own assessment of worth and be as besotted with us as we are.  But the God of Scripture reminds us that His lavish other-centredness is not because we've twisted His arm (see my post on Ezekiel 36:16-32).

Let me put it in these two sentences - the first resists Piper's definition of glory, the second upholds his desire to fight narcisism:

The triune God acts for the sake of His gracious glory - not the glory of His self-centred, self-regard.

BUT ALSO

The triune God acts for the sake of His gracious glory - not for the sake of our self-centred, self-regard.

Essentially I'm saying it's right to oppose our human narcicism.  But we don't do that by positing heavenly narcisism.  Instead we proclaim the heavenly other-centredness of God which is not a confirmation of our self-obsession but liberation from it.

As an illustration I can't do better than Craig's story of modern day chivalry (thanks Craig).  He was once walking down a corridor and as he neared the door he noticed a woman behind him.  So - being the benevolent, other-centred guy he is - he opened the door and let her through.  Apparently she scowled and said "I hope you're not opening the door for me because I'm a lady."  Craig replied "No, I'm opening the door because I'm a gentleman."

That's what I'm talking about.

This act of grace was not motivated first and foremost by what was in the recipient.  It was motivated by what was in the giver.  The giver desired to be this kind of giver, in many ways regardless of the recipient. But he still determined to be giver.

In the same way the triune God acts in creation and redemption first and foremost "because he's a gentleman" not "because we're a damsel in distress."  And so, at bottom, the Father loves us not because of anything in us but because He is Father.

So we see that all of this glory talk is just another way of upholding sola gratia (grace alone).  But that's only natural because God's grace is His glory.

I am finding more and more ways of applying this kind of thinking pastorally.

Think of the parent faced with a manipulative child.  On the one hand they might go soft and cave into the child.  On the other they might harden themselves to the childs demands.  But motivated by the glory of grace another way is opened for them.  There is a way of loving the child in an even more costly way that counters their self-absorption.

Think of the nagging wife of Proverbs.  A dead-eyed husband might say "Yes dear" and confirm her in her manipulative ways.  On the other hand he might cut her down to size and fail to be her lover.  Or, motivated by the glory of grace, he can seek ways of leading in love that resist her manipulation but that actually call on more love from him, not less.

Think of the "pull" someone exerts in a pastoral counselling situation (see here for Larry Crabb's thoughts on "pull").  How do we resist manipulative demands people put on us (which won't ultimately help them) without retreating from them?  How do we love without loving being 'caving'?

I don't have all the answers but I do believe that as we meditate more on the LORD Christ's fierce determination to be Lover we will be able to pass on such love.

So in conclusion, Piper is right to oppose human self-centredness.  But we mustn't do that by proclaiming a divine self-centredness.  We will be truly released from self in the glorious other-centred love of our God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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0 thoughts on “We did it all for the glory of love – part six

  1. Heather

    So in conclusion, Piper is right to oppose human self-centredness. But we mustn’t do that by proclaiming a divine self-centredness.

    Glen,

    I read somewhere that Augustine would sometimes employ the tactic of disproving a faulty conclusion by adopting a polar opposite view and then arguing for that.

    Not sure if it's true, and I suppose sometimes it is appropriate, but in this instance, I would tend to agree with you that it would be forwarding an incomplete picture to argue against human-centeredness by simply presenting God as self-centered.

    It is interesting you should bring out Ezekiel 36 in your examination. The same passage came to mind as I've been contemplating "Blessed are the merciful".

    If you have a few spare minutes, I'd appreciate additional insight or correction.
    http://onmysoapbox2.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/gospel-of-matthew-sermon-on-the-mount-21-beatitudes/

    .....and thanks for posting the Genesis sermon links. :)

  2. The Orange Mailman

    Hey Glenn-

    What would you say if I said that God's glory is really His holiness? And that the only thing that makes His grace glorious is the fact that it is a holy grace?

    Just wondering a "what if".

    Have fun and stay busy - Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  3. John B

    This is an excellent summary and seems to be a very fair and reasonable assessment of Piper's position.

    I can't be so definitive as to say that "God's glory is His grace", or "God's glory is His love." For me, I'd say that God's grace and love are glorious, and they assure us of the fullness of God's glory to be revealed when Christ returns. Ezekiel 1 tells us of the infinite height from which Christ descended in his downward journey of humility, the longest and deepest descent in history. Isaiah 48 tells us that God is refining a people for His glory.

    Philippians 2 tells us of the glorious other-centered love of Christ, which God has exalted so that the name of Jesus is above every name, "to the glory of God the Father". He graciously invites us now to bow the knee in awe before His Son's eternal and perfect holiness.

    Amen and Amen to your concluding sentence! "We will be truly released from self in the glorious other-centred love of our God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit."

    God promises this to us as we "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5).

  4. Paul Blackham

    Thanks so much for this Glen. Very deep and very helpful.

    As you have said, we always need to think about what glory really is - the weight or substance of the Living God.

    It is not arbitrary to say that God's glory is His grace - because the apostle John makes it so very clear that God's eternal glory is manifested at the Cross. The specific words of Jesus concerning His own glory have to be our starting point here. My most common conversation partners in theology these days are various Islamic theologians [especially those amazing guys from the 8th/9th centuries] - and their understanding of the transcendant glory of Allah is really serious. If you really want an exaltation of divine glory that is utterly, utterly opposed to human autonomy/glory then those are the guys you really want to be reading. However, is that what the Living God Himself said about glory when He walked among us? Where did He say that His glory was to be seen? Is the glory of Allah substantially different than the glory of the Trinity?

    I love so much of John Piper. Sometimes when I'm out walking and I have him on my Ipod, I can't help laughing/shouting with agreement. His attack on the utter selfishness of 'retirement' is still one of my favourite bits in a modern sermon. However, if he is trying to reach for a transcendant glory that stands in total opposition to human power/pride/self-absorption, then he is a slightly diet/lite compared to the early giants of Islamic thought/philosophy.

  5. Glen

    Hi Heather,
    Yes opposing one extreme with another is very common but rarely useful. And you often find that both extremes turn out to be far too *united* because they both agree to a false premise underlying them both.

    Hi Orange,

    I think 'holy' can be another word like 'glory' that gets loaded with many meanings - some of which come from outside the Scriptures. Often 'holy' is made to do the philosophical work of words like 'transcendent' or 'infinite' or 'immense' and the person who makes 'holy' fit neatly into those categories is the person who bemoans that the bible doesn't already have words for transcendence etc.

    Paul Blackham - who's just commented (coincidence?) has preached a great sermon on holiness here:

    http://www.allsouls.org/ascm/allsouls/static/sermons/showsermon.flow?id=10497

    You'll have to make your own account to listen but it's all free. I think holiness is more fruitfully thought of as the triune God's fierce devotedness - first the devotedness of Father for Son. but also holiness is not meant to cut God off from us but to spread out to the whole world. See Pete Jackson's excellent recent post here:

    http://peteincyberspace.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/the-gospel-of-gods-holiness/

    God's holiness is good news for sinners because it spreads through Christ and the Spirit. And one day the whole world will be "holy to the LORD" (Zech 14:20ff)

    John B,

    I got the phrase "God's grace is His glory" from Edwards :) He uses it quite a bit. That certainly doesn't settle the question - but it's interesting, given Piper's dependence on Edwards!

    Hi Paul,

    So the Muslims were big into absolute transcendence *before* Aristotle was rediscovered? I guess I shouldn't be surprised - the Quran's very clear on it!

    How are you approaching discussions with Muslims at the moment?

  6. John B

    Hi Glen,

    I haven't been able to find this phrase, “God’s grace is His glory”, succinctly stated in Edwards. In his "Religious Affections" I see where he uses the phrase "their grace is the dawn of glory". I haven't read much in Edwards and so make no judgment as to how closely Piper (who I haven't read much either) follows him. I do note with interest that Edwards goes along with many others in reading John 1:14 as a reference to the Transfiguration of Jesus.

    Hi Paul,

    I'm very eager to hear your sermon on holiness that Glen has linked to here.

    You wrote:

    "Where did He[the Living God] say that His glory was to be seen?"

    Did He not actually reveal God's unveiled glory on the Mount of Transfiguration in what Aquinas called "the greatest miracle"?

    "...we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."

  7. Dev

    i've finally read all these...
    good stuff..

    Jesus always gives glory to the Father, because the Father loves Him - similarly the Father always glorifies the Son because the Son knows His love for Him, and therefore trusts Him

    so why suddenly should the glory attributed by the church to God (as in the NT) be this appreciation of some splendorous object (my caricature of it is - oh look, isn't that Ming vase really pretty - but don't touch!)

    - as opposed to a marveling and a coming-into of His personal, and lavish love to be transformed by it.

    really liking the pastoral application - when you figure out how the 'grace' response is in all those situations let me know =)

  8. Glen

    Dev, yes glory as "a marveling and a coming-into of His personal, and lavish love to be transformed by it" is a great definition.

    The more I think of pastoral applications the more I think of turning the other cheek. It's not caving into the manipulation of the other - either striking back or running away. It's the glory of standing your ground in self-giving love. So I think all that stuff I did about turning the other cheek a while back probably provides some flesh and bones for the pastoral applications.

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