May 8, 2010

To Live is Christ — giving Him the glory

This has been a busy week. I will be taking a week’s vacation soon and want everything done ahead so nothing is piled up when I get back. Because I’m leaving the middle of the week, three Bible study sessions must be prepared for Sunday’s ladies’ class; one for tomorrow, one for next week so my replacement has material to teach, and one for the week after so I don’t have to squeeze it in after I get home.

Yesterday, I prayed for God’s help as I worked on the first two. He astonished me. They went together so easily that I was filled with wonder and even wept. I’ve been preparing Bible studies for years; this was abnormal and incredibly joyful. Only God could have made that happen.

As I read these verses this morning, I thought of yesterday, but also of all the times that things went well but regrettably, I took the credit for it.

But “he who glories, let him glory in the Lord.” For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends. (2 Corinthians 10:17–18)
Commending myself for what God has done is exceedingly arrogant. My devotional reading rightly says that when I boast, I need God the most. He is with the humble and contrite. I know that a proud person cannot expect God’s help. 
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 9:23–24)
This does not deny wisdom, might, nor riches. It just puts things in priority. Knowing and experiencing the Lord is far greater than being smart, or strong, or wealthy. Having Him in my life is worth far more than any other thing. This should be my greatest glory.

The verses in Corinthians clearly say that praising myself does not put God’s stamp of approval on me. Instead, He decides my worth and the worth of what I do. As I read, I wonder about “whom the Lord commends” and how does that happen? Is it that inner sense that God is pleased? Does He shout with a booming voice from the sky like He did when Jesus was baptized ("This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.")?

One way is through the praise of others. Proverbs 27:2 says, “Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” yet even in that there is the danger of flattery. Human praise can be a disguise for manipulation and not always about God’s approval.

The verses from Jeremiah actually say what God approves. It is what He does, and clearly He approves when others do the same. That is, He approves of lovingkindness shown to others. He is pleased when I exercise godly judgment and am a righteous person. If I let the Holy Spirit fill me and direct me into that which is characteristic of Jesus Christ, God approves.

However, this goes sour if I am continually examining myself and looking for glory. For one thing, what do I know? I’ve taught classes I thought were good and no one said a word. I’ve taught others that seemed a disaster to me, yet people thanked God for what He gave them from that class. I have to conclude that the wisest thing is obedience. Then leave the results and the approval with Him. 

For I know of nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God. (1 Corinthians 4:4–5)
In the meantime, I praise Him for being my source and resource, for helping me when I call on Him. He continually does exceedingly above all I can ask or imagine – to Him be the glory!

Art credit (also a great post about praise!)

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