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God's Glory Alone sermon

We’re like a little kid coming to God saying “Oooh, salvation, let me have a go!"  And like a Good Father, God says, “No, no, put salvation down.  Glen, I’ve told you a thousand times, PUT SALVATION DOWN.  It’s too big for you.  You'll break it and it'll break you.”  And we say “Aww but I wanna do it, let me, let me, let me.  All the other gods let their people save themselves!!”  And our Father says “Yes, but that just shows they’re not really gods are they?  Now put salvation down!"

His Grace guarantees His Glory...

...Because His Glory is to give.

Audio here

Text below...


David and Goliath:

Christ alone – David – The Spirit filled King – ALONE won victory that day
His own brothers opposed him
He didn’t even wear Saul’s armour – it was all down to David

Grace alone – He won victory for mutinous troops
They didn’t deserve David to fight for them
There was no cheerleading squad behind David.
His own people despised him.

Faith alone – All you need do is LOOK to your Champion
The look changed everything – it turned defeated deserters into conquerors
When they SAW – they shouted and surged forward (emotion and good works)

Scripture alone – The bible is the herald of David and his victory
The bible is NOT about how you can defeat your own giants.
It’s NOT combat techniques so that you can do it LIKE David.
It’s NOT motivational pep talk so that you can do it FOR David.
It’s the announcement of good news – DAVID DID IT FOR YOU

All to God’s Glory alone

Which of the Israelites could boast on that day?  Who had contributed to David’s victory?  Who had helped David?  Who got a thank you in David's victory speech?  Couldn't have done it without my worthless brothers! David conquered only in the Name of the LORD Almighty.

The victory was the LORD’s and the LORD won it through His Spirit-filled King, and through Him alone.   So to God be the glory.

No-one else can boast.  The LORD and His Spirit-filled Christ won the day – no-one else can boast.  To God be the Glory – to God alone be the glory.

And that’s just a fundamental bible truth.  It was the first line we sang this evening: Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb (Revelation 7:10).  Salvation is God’s thing.  The Father Almighty and His Spirit-Filled Christ achieve everything.  Salvation comes from the LORD (Jonah 2:9).  Salvation is God’s thing.  It’s not our thing.  It’s something that He works.  And He just brings us into it as a completed thing.

We’re like a little kid coming to God saying “Oooh, salvation, let me have a go!"  And like a Good Father, God says, “No, no, put salvation down.  Glen, I’ve told you a thousand times, PUT SALVATION DOWN.  It’s too big for you.  You'll break it and it'll break you.”  And we say “Aww but I wanna do it, let me, let me, let me.  All the other gods let their people save themselves!!”  And our Father says “Yes, but that just shows they’re not really gods are they?  Now put salvation down!"

“Fine!” we say.  And hopefully we let God work salvation for us through His Spirit filled King and we just receive it as a gift.  And when we just receive salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone then we understand that it’s all to God’s glory alone.

Martin Luther, who rediscovered these liberating truths back in the 16th century, he had a mentor in his monastery called Staupitz.  And when Luther explained the gospel to Staupitz, Staupitz said:

“It pleases me that the doctrine which you preach ascribes the glory and everything to God alone and nothing to man.”

That’s what we’re on about tonight.  I’ve just got two points tonight.

His Grace guarantees His Glory...

...Because His Glory is to Give

The gospel of grace means all the glory goes to God.

But the gospel reveals to us what this glory means – the Glory OF God IS His amazing grace, to give and give and give to the unworthy.

Hopefully as we go along those points will start to make some sense.

His Grace guarantees His Glory

Since ancient times no-one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.  (Isaiah 64:4)

Among a world full of gods who claim to be gods – there’s only One true God.  And the mark of this true God is that He works and His people wait.

All the other gods, who aren’t really gods, they wait while their people work.  That’s how all human religion works:  humans work, god waits, sitting back on his throne, distant, examining the work, waiting to be impressed.  That’s human religion – humans work, god waits.

But Isaiah says that the real God is the One who works while we wait.  “He acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.”  It’s the total reverse.

Human religion has humans working for a waiting god.
The bible has God working for His waiting people.

Human religion has humanity centre stage doing it all while God idly watches.
The gospel has God shooing us off the stage and making us sit down in the audience to watch Him work salvation for us.

That’s what marks Him out as the true God, and that’s what’s so different about the God of the bible:  He acts on behalf of those who wait for Him.

Why does He do it that way?  Well we all know the phrase “If you want a job done properly, do it yourself!”  That’s what He’s said earlier in Isaiah:

The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no-one, he was appalled that there was no-one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. (Isaiah 57:12-16)

If you want a job done right, do it yourself.

The LORD has to work salvation for us because we are so sinful.  And so, it’s as though God says to Himself, if you want a job done right, do it yourself.

So His own Arm works salvation for Him.  Many theologians have spoken about the Trinity as God with His two hands – The Father has His Son and His Spirit.  Often the bible speaks in those terms – the LORD saves with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.  And so theologians have taken up that language and said, Yes, the Son in the power of the Spirit works salvation for God.

Jesus is the Mighty Arm of the LORD, empowered by the Hand of the Spirit to work salvation for us and to draw us to God.

If you want a job done right, do it yourself.  And that’s what God has done.

Jesus has come in the power of the Spirit and lived the life we should live and then died the death that we should die and He does it standing in our place, on our behalf, as our substitute.  And after bearing the penalty and curse for all our sins He rises up again and says to us “I’ve done it all – I’ve lived your life perfectly, I’ve died your death completely, now just come to me and receive my new life beyond sin and death and curse and judgement.  I’ve saved you, come claim it, call on me now, trust me and you can have it all as a free gift – best of all you can have ME as a free gift.

And if we’ve got an ounce of sense to us we say “Yes please.”  And we simply receive Jesus who has completed our whole salvation Himself – to God be the Glory!

That was the message of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Turn to Romans 11 verse 33.  This letter is all about these gospel truths – we’re saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.  And here’s the conclusion to that main body of teaching in the letter.

33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 "Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?" 35 "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?" 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory for ever! Amen.

I just love v35, it’s such a slap down to anyone who thinks they can earn God’s salvation.  "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"

There are those ridiculous advertisements that ask “What do you give the man who has everything?”  And the answer is usually something ridiculous like Old Spice.  Or a razor.  Seems a bit paltry to be honest.  But what if someone literally did have everything, what could you give them?  First you’d have to steal it from them, you couldn’t buy it off them, where would you get the money from – it’s all theirs.  Then you’d have to wrap it with their own wrapping paper, put it in their own envelope and ask them for the postage to send it.

It doesn’t work.  35 "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"

You cannot give anything to God looking for repayment.  And if you ind yourself demanding repayment from God, you’re barking up the wrong tree.  You must have the wrong god.  Any god who owes you isn’t God!!  Think about it – any god who owes you has somehow gotten in debt to you.   How did that happen?

No the living God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the LORD who actually owns the universe doesn’t owe you.  He refuses to relate to you on a basis of earning and merit.  He doesn’t owe you, He’s not in debt to you and you cannot give Him anything that’s not already His.

Now does that mean we can never offer God anything at all?  Well it depends on how it’s done.  A child can give a finger painting to their Dad even though the paints, the paper and the child all belong to the Dad and the Dad will love to receive it.  But that’s not a transaction, the child is not looking for repayment.  The child doesn’t then think – ok Dad, now you owe me.  No that’s just a free expression of love and it thrills the heart of the Father.

Children can express love to their Father and the Father will receive it with joy.  But if you step out of that mentality and start treating God as a Paymaster who you work for and impress so that He will repay you because now He’s in your debt, you’ve got another thing coming.

35 "Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?"  36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory for ever! Amen.

It’s all His.  And we have everything on loan.  God gives and He gives and He gives.  And He’s never in our debt, we are always in His.

Every god who acts like a Paymaster, doling out repayments for good behaviour, is a false god.  The true God has it all and never repays anyone.  He just gives and gives and gives – that’s His nature as the true and living God.  His grace means Glory.  We know that He is truly the glorious God because He is always the gracious Giver.

When I was a teenager I went to church, I went to youth groups, I went to camps, I knew all the right answers to the questions, I thought of myself as a Christian.  But you know my picture of God?  I thought God was the One who waited for me to work.  Arms folded sitting back waiting for me to impress Him.

The Garden of Gethsemane haunted me....  Night before Jesus died, praying before the Father, saying “Your will be done!”

And I thought – that’s what I need to do.  I need to go and do it like Jesus.  Or at least do it for Jesus.  Because that’s what true devotion to God looks like, right?  I need to pray to God like I’ve never prayed before, lay down my life for God like I’ve never laid it down before, say “Your will be done” God and REALLY, REALLY mean it.

You know what I was doing don’t you?  I was effectively saying, “Jesus, step aside, and watch me save myself.”

So I did, I must have prayed a prayer of life-long commitment to God a thousand times in my teenage years. “God save me.  God take my life.  God use me.  God, Your will be done.  I’m yours.  Fill me.  Have me.  Do with me what You want.”  And I finished praying, and you know what I felt?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

So I prayed harder.  And I thought – well Jesus prayed outdoors in the garden late at night.  So do it like Jesus! So I started sneaking out of the house at night and finding scary places in which to pray these prayers.  And nothing seemed to happen.  So I got down on my knees and that didn’t seem to work.  So I got down on my face, and pressed my face into the dirt and prayed – “O God save me.  God take my life.  God use me.  God, Your will be done.  I will work for You.  I will be obedient for You.  I will serve You come what may.”

And this time, you know what happened?  Nothing.

This was very disheartening for me.  I expected a light to appear or a funny feeling in my stomach or a voice to speak or something.  I got nothing, so I banged on the door louder and louder.  Eventually I gave up and concluded that God clearly didn’t want me.  So I decided I didn’t want Him and drifted away for a good few years.

But you know what I’ve come to realize?  I was banging on entirely the wrong door.  I was praying to entirely the wrong god.

I was approaching God on the basis of MY great devotion, MY heroic submission, MY pledges of obedience.

I was acting like I was in any old human religion: I was going to be the One who worked, and God was going to be the one who waited.  I might have called myself a Christian, I was being thoroughly pagan.  I might as well have been a Muslim.  I might as well have called out to Allah.  My approach to God was far more faithful to Islam than it was to Christianity.

Whenever we thrust ourselves forwards as the faithful ones, the obedient ones, the ones who work while he waits – we fall into pagan religion and the living God REFUSES to be engaged that way.

The Heavenly Father longs to receive children into His family with heart-melting tenderness and compassion.  He holds out His Son to us and says receive Jesus.  Don’t do it like Jesus.  Don’t do it for Jesus.  Jesus did it for you.  He has His arms wide open for you, receive Jesus and in Him receive His Spirit, receive salvation, receive righteousness and forgiveness and eternal life. But if we’re treating Jesus like He’s the example showing the way, then we’re seeing ourselves as the workers and God as the One who waits to be impressed and we’re banging on entirely the wrong door.

No the true God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, will not be made into a paymaster.  The living God is Giver.  And it’s this very grace that is His glory.

But what does that word mean really?  Glory.  It’s a big bible word.

What is God’s glory?

This brings us onto our second point...

His Grace guarantees His Glory... because His glory is...

I wonder how you’d finish that sentence.  God’s glory is, what?  Come up with a mental picture of God’s glory?  What do you imagine?

Well literally the word glory in the bible is a word for weightiness, heaviness, substance, mass, gravity.  God is the most weighty being in the universe.

Everything else is insubstantial by comparison to God.  It is chaff, grass, dust, vapour.  But God is heavy, He has weightiness.  He is substantial.  If you weigh the whole world, the whole universe on a scale with creation on one side and the living God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, on the other – creation is, by comparison, light as a feather.  On the other hand the living God has infinite weight and substance and gravity and reality.  Glory is the substantiality of God – Glory is the Godness of God.  Glory is what makes God God.  So what is that?  How do you finish that sentence “God’s glory is... what?”  What is it that makes God God??

Turn to John 1

John begins by telling us that all things were made by God through His Word, Jesus Christ.  And then in v14

John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Glory is something that Jesus has.  And it’s something that Jesus brings to us from the Father.  2 Corinthians chapter 4 verse 6 says that we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.  So whatever glory is, we see it when we look at Jesus.  And this verse finishes by telling us that Jesus is full of grace and truth.  That will be a key part of what glory is.

Flick on to John 2:11 – Jesus has just turned water into blood-red wine and verse 11 is the summary:

John 2:11 This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.

So glory is a display of who Jesus is and it elicits faith.  When you see glory in Jesus, you trust Him.

Flick on to John 8:54:

John 8:54 Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.

That’s interesting.  Jesus says He will not glorify Himself.  Whatever glory that Jesus reveals – and remember He’s the One who reveals to us the glory of God – it’s NOT about self-promotion.  Sometimes people talk about God’s glory as though God were constantly self-obsessed.  Rubbish.  God is the very opposite of self-obsessed.  The Father has eyes only for the Son.  The Son has eyes only for the Father.  There are no mirrors in heaven.  Jesus absolutely refuses to glorify Himself.  He is not self-obsessed, self-promoting or self-exalting.  The glory of God is a thoroughly OTHER-centred, outward going, selfless glory.

But where do we really see this glory?  Flick on to John 12:23

John 12:23 Jesus replied, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.

We’ve been waiting for this all throughout John’s gospel.  Jesus keeps talking about His hour and He keeps talking about being glorified.  And we think, when is the hour, and what will it look like for Jesus to be glorified?  Well have a look, v24

24 I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.

Jesus is talking about His death.  He’s talking about dying like a seed that goes into the ground and then rises up with new life.  Jesus’ glory will be His death.

And this is one of the deep ironies of John’s gospel.  Christ’s glory is His cross.  Look on down to verse 32:

32 But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."

That sounds very lofty language doesn’t it?  Jesus is going to be lifted up?

We sing about this stuff in church don’t we “We want to see, we want to see, we want to see Jesus lifted high…”

“Open the eyes of my heart Lord, open the eyes of my heart, I want to see you, to see you high and lifted up.”

Well what are we singing about?  When Jesus talks about being high and lifted up, what does He mean??  Verse 33:

33 He said this to show the kind of death He was going to die.

Jesus is high and exalted and lifted up on the cross.  And that’s His glory.  His death is His glory.  His cross is His throne.  His execution is His exaltation.

What does the glory of God look like?  Some imposing throne-room and no-one can get close because it’s so shiny?  Is that the glory of God?

No according to John, the glory of God is Jesus, arms out-stretched, bleeding and dying for we the unworthy.  Glory!

That’s the Godness of God!  That’s the weightiness, the gravity, the substance of the eternal God!  Jesus bleeding and dying to save the very ones who cause His death. That’s astonishing glory!

I don’t know what picture of glory you came up with in your head when I asked you.  We tend to think of imposing, shiny, self-exalting kinds of glory.  God’s glory is the cross.

Don’t believe me, flick on to one more verse in John 17:5.  Jesus is minutes away from being arrested, He’ll be dead within the next 24 hours and so He prays:

5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began….

Jesus is about to pour Himself out completely in obedience and love.  Obedience to His Father who sent Him to save and love for us who He’s about to die for.  And He says this is the GLORY I’ve shared with my Father from before the world began.

Wind the clock back all the way through time, before creation, back and back and back into the depths of eternity and you will find Jesus with His Father loving and serving each other in the power of the Spirit.  That’s what the trinity have ALWAYS been up to.  That IS the eternal life of God.  So on the cross, when we see Jesus giving Himself up to the Father we see the eternal glory of God.  At the cross when we see the Father GIVING His Son to the world we see the eternal glory of God.

The cross IS God’s glory.  And it’s the glory of infinite SELF-GIVING love.  God’s glory is His grace.  It is His very Godness to give Himself away to us and for us.

He IS love (1 John 4:8).  He IS love.  He IS overflowing generosity and kindness.  He IS that.  The cross proves it.

What picture of God do you carry with you?

We all have such distorted pictures of God?

What kind of monster do we think sits on the throne!?  What kind of tetchy headmaster?  What kind of angry sergeant-major?

The Scriptures on page after page tell us to look to Jesus and in particular Jesus on the cross and the Scriptures say "THERE, THERE is the glory of God.  THERE is the Godness of God.  THAT'S what your God is like, arms wide open, praying for you, groaning for you, bleeding for you, dying for you."  Uproot and destroy those other versions of 'God' that float around your mind.  HERE is God.  HERE at the cross - here is the eternal glory of God.  You can't go deeper.  The Lamb is at the CENTRE of the throne - push through to the depths of Godness and you have the bleeding sacrifice.  And He's bleeding for YOU.  THAT'S God.  That's your God.  Annihilate those other visions of God.  Consign them to the deepest pit of hell from whence they came.  They are not God.  The true glory of God is Christ and Him crucified.

I never told you the end of my story.

One day someone explained the garden of Gethsemane to me in a way that rocked my world.  He showed me what’s completely obvious when you think about it.  He told me that Gethsemane was not Jesus showing me how to give to God.

Gethsemane was Jesus giving Himself to God FOR ME.  It was Jesus stepping onto centre stage and saying “Glen, shoo!  Get off, get off the stage and into the audience. W$atch me work salvation for you.  I will obey for YOU.  I will serve for YOU.  I will suffer for YOU.  I will bleed for YOU, I will die for YOU.”

I wasn’t supposed to put myself in Jesus’ shoes and do it like Jesus.  Or even to do it for Jesus.  If I’m in anyone’s shoes in that story, I’m in the shoes of the disciples.  And what are the disciples doing as Jesus prays?  They are asleep.  But that’s me.  I’m not the obedient one, I’m not the faithful one, I don’t work, while He waits.  He comes and works salvation FOR ME.  And I’m helpless, hopeless, unworthy and sinful.  But it is HIS Glory to save wretches like me.

To God be the glory great things He has done
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son
Who yielded HIS life an atonement for sin
And opened the lifegates that all may go in.

Praise the LORD.


8 thoughts on “God's Glory Alone sermon

  1. Pingback: God's Glory Alone sermon « Christ the Truth |

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  4. Michael Corral

    This was very helpful to me, I was stuck on the five solas, and that we have to include for God’s Glory when saying by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. However, I will continue add it personally, but will no longer chide Christians when they don’t add for God’s Glory alone.

  5. Glen

    Hi Michael - welcome to the blog. Yes if "Glory alone" is explicitly an outworking of grace alone, etc - then wonderful! But if we detach "glory" from Christ, grace and faith then we fall for "a theology of glory" which Luther identified as the fiercest *enemy* of the reformation!

    Every blessing in Jesus!

  6. Pingback: Good verses for the 5 solas? « Christ the Truth


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  8. Sabina

    This was so helpful. I'm very pleased to have found this site. You make such great points, relevant to life, that brings it all back to God.

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