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God's Love for Himself

August 10, 2008 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: God is Love

Passage: Isaiah 48:9–48:11

God's Love for Himself
Isaiah 48:9-11; John 17:24; Ephesians 1:11, 12
August 10th, 2008
Way of Grace Church


I. Is Self-Centeredness Always Wrong?

Listen to this definition, and see if you can identify the word it intends to explain:

"The tendency to speak or write of oneself excessively and boastfully."

Do you think you know what word that phrase defines? It's the word "egotism". Chances are, you've used some form of this word at some point in your life. "You're such an egotist" or "She is so egotistical, it makes me sick."

No one likes an egotist, do they? People who think the world revolves around them, people who seem to be in love with themselves get on our nerves don't they? But why? Is it because their self-centeredness is threatening our self-centeredness? Or is it because they are so blinded to the truth about their own failures? Or is it because their attitude is so dangerous in light of a bigger reality?

I guess a more fundamental question we could ask would be, "Is egotism always wrong?"

This morning we are continuing our study entitled, "God is Love". We all know we need love. We all have love to give. But all of us also know, if we're honest, that we fail to love as we should. Last week we learned from the Apostle John that God is love, and therefore since God is God, and since God is perfect, God himself is the only true reference point we can have when it comes to love.

And to love as God loves, we need to first experience that love through faith in Jesus Christ, but we also need to learn about the love of God. We need to learn not only how God loves, but what He loves.

So let's keep going down this path together by opening up God's word.


II. The Passages: "To the Praise of His Glory"

This morning, I'd like to do this: I'd like to read through three different sets of verses pulled from various places in Scripture.

Before each reading, I'll give you a brief introduction so we know a little bit about the context of these passages. As I read through them, what I'd like you to do think about what ideas connect each of these passages.

You'll find all of these passages printed out for you on the back of one of the inserts in your bulletin this morning. We'll also have these passages up here on the screen.

A. "I Defer My Anger" (Isaiah 48:9-11)

Let's begin with Isaiah 48:9-11.This message from God through the prophet Isaiah, given around 750 BC, is directed at a future generation of Israelites who would find themselves exiled to a far away land because of their faithlessness. Because of their tendency to turn away from the true God and turn to false gods, God had banished them from the land of Promise.

Though their betrayal deserved far worse, God had a more merciful plan. Listen to what he tells us in these verses about the ‘what' and ‘why' of his plan:

9 "For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. 10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.


B. "Because You Loved Me" (John 17:24)

Look now at John chapter 17, verse 24, written sometime in the latter half of the first century AD. Here we find ourselves in the closing verses of a prayer offered up by Jesus himself. He prayed this prayer only hours before his suffering and death on the cross. Listen to how he prays for his disciples in those final hours before his death.

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

C. "The Counsel of His Will" (Ephesians 1:11, 12)

Now, in this final selection from Ephesians 1:11, 12 we find the Apostle Paul writing, in the mid first century AD, to disciples of Jesus in the city of Ephesus, reminding them of just how much they have been given by grace through Jesus Christ. Paul writes:

11 In him [in Christ] we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him [of God] who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.


III. Finding the Threads and Weaving Them Together

So three different sets of verses that come from three different books, from three different times, and written for three different purposes.

But I'm sure you noticed that, in spite of these differences, there are some threads common to all of these passages. And since we believe that all Scripture is breathed out by God, as II Timothy 3 tells us, then our goal should be to find those threads and weave them together in order to see God more clearly.

 

A. Thread #1: Glory

Now the first of these threads is evident from a key word that all three of these passages have in common. It's the word "glory".

In telling the Israelite exiles about why they have not been destroyed, God concludes those verses with this statement, "My glory I will not give to another." What he means by this is clear from the rest of the passage. He makes the same point in several ways: "For my name's sake". "For the sake of my praise". "For my own sake" (repeated twice). And finally, "My glory I will not give to another."

God is crystal clear in these verses that their preservation in exile, their experience of God's refining work, and, if we were to continue reading, their eventual redemption, all of it has taken place because God was first and foremost protecting His glory. His name will not be stained by the corruption of His people. His praise will not be limited by their sinful limitations.

God will work here, not for their sake, but ultimately that He will receive praise from them and from all nations because of His power and mercy.

Even in Ephesians we see that this God "who works all things according to the counsel of His will", that he does it "for the praise of His glory", a phrase Paul uses three times in the opening verses of Ephesians.

Now, we might look at a passage like Isaiah 48:9-11 and say, "I thought the Bible taught that ‘God is love'. How can God tell His people that He is acting for Himself and not ultimately for their sake? That doesn't sound very loving. Where is the love of God in all this?"

O, the love of God is definitely here. But the love we see presented in Isaiah 48 is not primarily God's love for His people. It is God's love for Himself, or we could say, it is His love for his name. It His passion for His glory.

As God puts it in Ezekiel 39:25, "I shall be jealous for my holy name."

Friends, egotism is not ALWAYS wrong; it is right for only one being in this universe: God. God does have "a tendency to speak or write of himself excessively and boastfully." And there's nothing wrong with that.

He can and he should do that because the world does revolve around Him. Everything revolves around Him. There is nothing empty in His boasts of greatness. He is right to desire self-promotion. He should be the center of attention.

Egotism is always wrong in our human experience for the simple fact that it is always and only right for God. No one can promote themselves in that way if God is God. He will not share His glory with another because no one else can rightfully have any claim on it.

But wait. Look again at John 17:24.

B. Thread #2: Jesus

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

Wait a minute. We just read from the prophet Isaiah that God will not give his glory to another. But Jesus claims that God has given him glory. It was, according to John 17:5, glory that Jesus had with God before the world existed. In fact Hebrews 1:3 tells us that, "the Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being".

And this glory was given to Jesus because God loved him, again, before the world ever was.

Now, how are we to make sense of this? Brothers and sisters, in light of God's love for His name, His passion for His glory, ultimately, this only makes sense if Jesus is in fact, God.

He is not the Father, but the Son who has received the Father's love from eternity past. But these are not two gods. They are, along with the Holy Spirit, one God. Three persons sharing glory. One God who loves His own name.

And the reality of the Son's part in God's glory carries right into Ephesians 1. It is in Christ that we have obtained an inheritance. It is we who have hope[d] in Christ who are saved to the praise of his glory.

Of course, if Jesus existed with God, as God, before even the world existed, then He too is speaking to the Israelites through the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 48.

And ultimately what we can deduce from all this is something very important about the phrase, "God is love".

Love requires an object outside oneself to truly be love as we understand it, doesn't it? But how could God, who is unchanging, how could He ‘be love' from eternity past, before creation, if there was no one to love?

Well, John 17 answers that question for us. God the Father did not love Himself from eternity past. He loved and continues to love God the Son. One God in whom love flows between Father and Son. "God was love". "God is love" "God will always be love".

And so we see that there are two very clear ways in which we can biblically say that "God loves himself". He loves the glory of his own name, and that glory is shared because the Father loves the Son.

In fact, we could say that God is most glorified through His Son. Ephesians 1 tells us that he chose us in Christ beforehand, according to His plan, in order to bring great glory to Himself. And so God's love for His glory and His love for His Son are inextricably linked.

But there is still one more thread that finds its way through all of these passages, and we can't overlook it.

C. Thread #3: Humanity

The third and final thread that weaves its way through all these passages is evident from the following three pronouns: "you", "they", and "we".

That's right the third strand in all of this is humanity.

Now it would be easy to listen to all of this and say, "Well, that's nice. I guess God's totally wrapped up in Himself. I guess we're just here to be some kind of tool for his own agenda of self-promotion. If God loves Himself above everything else, aren't we bound to get the short end of the stick at some point?"

But that's where our ideas about egotism get us in trouble. You see, we can't imagine someone who is self-absorbed being radically concerned about others. An "attention-getter" does not pay attention to the needs of others. It's a contradiction to us.

But not to God.

Listen, what we see here, in all of these passages, is that God's radical concern for His own glory results in a radical concern for our good. God gains glory, God is radiantly revealed as God, by doing good to His people. And God has proven this by selflessly sending His Son, who selflessly gave his life for us on that painful cross; and all of it was to exalt Himself.

This doesn't always make sense to us, but when a perfect God loves His own name above all, then we are loved perfectly, to the glory of God.

The 18th century American preacher Jonathan Edwards put it this way: God in seeking his glory seeks the good of his creatures, because the emanation of his glory . . . implies the . . . happiness of his creatures. And in communicating his fullness for them, he does it for himself, because their good, which he seeks, is so much in union and communion with himself. God is their good....God's respect to the creature's good, and his respect to himself, is not a divided respect; but both are united in one, as the happiness of the creature aimed at is happiness in union with himself.

It's like a king who discovers he has a son he never knew, and who never knew him. When he discovers that this boy, now a young man, is living in abject poverty, living in filth and eating food not even fit for animals, he goes to him in His royal procession, overflowing with good things, with a passion for the greatness of his position and his kingdom, not in order to flaunt his power, but so that the lost son might see and desire the goodness of the King's glory.

Any illustration will be inadequate because of the unique nature of God, but what I'm saying is that God doesn't simply and coldly pay attention to us so that we will pay attention to Him. He loves us because he knows that we were made to be fully satisfied when He is honored as He should be honored. When God is glorified, all is right with the universe...all is right with us.

Jesus wants His followers to see His glory because He wants what is best for them.


IV. Loving What He Loves

Look, I know all of this runs the risk of seeming so big that it's beyond us. You might be thinking to yourself even now, "Wow! I just came here this morning to learn something practical, something I can apply to my everyday life. This is a little out there."

If you're tempted to think something like that, let me remind you that perspective precedes practice. You can't fully live life if you don't first understand the reason for your life.

Every practical question you might have: "How can I be happy?" "How can I love my spouse?" "How can I raise my children better?" "How can I forgive?" "How can I get through this day?" "How can I make a difference?" "How can stop the pain?" "How can break free from this cycle of sin?"

The answer to all of those questions, the answer to every question like that can ultimately be traced back to a right understanding of the love of God, because...because...

In understanding the love of God we understand what God loves. And when we understand that God loves His own glory above all else, then WE will love His glory above else. And when we love His glory above all else, we will do, and think, and desire those things that glorify him.

We won't be following the crowd and glorifying the world's wisdom. We won't be trying to escape life with drugs, and alcohol, and other diversions that glorify a lie. We won't be living to look good for others and glorify human approval. We won't be living in order to be praised and attempt to glorify ourselves.

No, when we love what God loves, we will live for His glory. We will begin our prayers by saying things like:

"Our Father in Heaven, may YOUR name be revered, may YOUR kingdom come, may YOUR will be done on earth, as it's done in heaven."

And if we love God's glory and the praise of His name, then we will understand that God is most glorified when we give glory to His Son. Jesus tells us that God has acted so "that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him." (John 5:23)

We love what God loves above all when we love Jesus Christ. God is glorified when we are satisfied with Jesus.

The Apostle Peter puts it this way: In this [in your heavenly reward] you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (I Peter 1:6-9)

Brothers and sisters, friends, we cannot love anyone as we should if our love is not informed by the love of God. And if our love is informed by His love, then we will love to bring Him glory, we love to reveal His radiance, His greatness, through our love for Jesus Christ.

Are you ready to love as you should? Then you have to be ready to live passionately for the glory of God through a passionate faith in Jesus Christ.

 

 

More in God is Love

August 24, 2008

God's Love for His People

August 17, 2008

God's Love for the World

August 3, 2008

The Key to Understanding Love