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Mushing to the glory of God

If you think it’s cold outside lately, I’ve got someone to introduce you to. This is renowned dogsled racer DeeDee Jonrowe. She’s a three-time runner up in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race that calls for pushing on for more than a thousand miles, and sixteen times finished in the top ten. She holds the fastest time ever recorded for a woman in the race.

She’s so dedicated to her sport that just three weeks after completing chemotherapy for breast cancer, she ran the race again. She says, “I’ve had back surgery, frozen my shoulder, broken my hand…I think I’ve had every single cold related injury. I haven’t had any amputations, but I have had severe frostbite on my fingers, cheeks and nose. I even frostbit my corneas some years ago.”

She’s a fan favorite, and is now a member of the Musher’s Hall of Fame. DeeDee Jonrowe is also a devout Christian. As she says, “If I’m noted for something, I want it to be that I took good care of my dogs, kept the faith, and my integrity never wavered. There was a time when I got carried away with the sport and didn’t give God or my husband their rightful places. It was about my ego. It was about winning. My reputation was tied up in my dogs.”

DeeDee and her husband are active members of a local church where they live in Alaska, and DeeDee
teaches in the church’s children’s ministry. The congregation supports her racing by cooking and packaging her trail meals, by answering fan mail, and by recording music for her to enjoy while on the trail.

Jonrowe doesn’t carry a Bible with her on the Iditarod because exposure to the sun and snow make it impossible for her eyes to read small print. So church members type Bible verses on cards and put them in the food parcels that are shipped to checkpoints, using a large font so she can read them. When DeeDee leaves a checkpoint, the verses are left behind for others to read.

The Sunday before each race, DeeDee and her husband are called to the front during Sunday’s worship service. The congregation circles around them, and asks God for safety, good judgment, and for God to help her do her best. After the Iditarod, the church celebrates her safe return. They use it as an outreach, inviting the community to hear her speak.

Here’s DeeDee’s take on her work: “I consider myself the caretaker of God’s kennel,” she says. “It’s not about the place I finish in; it’s about the integrity with which I do my job 365 days a year when no one’s watching. Do I still scoop [poop] and water [the dogs]? Do I pay attention to the quality of work I do when no one’s around?”
Grace Fox, “What Makes Dee Dee Run?” Christian Reader (Nov/Dec 2001), pp. 28&29

5 beliefs that are unique to the Christian faith

DeeDee Jonrowe is a great example of this week’s theme, which is doing everything for the glory of God alone. Welcome to our fifth and final week in the series unshakable, on the handful of beliefs that are unique to the Christian faith. These are the things that are unshakable, unchanging, and they are life-changing. Putting the past four weeks together with this one, here they are:

The Bible alone tells us how to be saved by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Jesus alone to the glory of God alone.

These are the handful of core beliefs that have been faithfully passed down to us, which we, in turn, seek to pass on in our families and to those whom God has placed us alongside. These are what we want everyone to hear of. This is why we’re part of a worldwide church-planting movement, the Christian and Missionary Alliance. We want everyone—across the street and around the world—to have a chance to be saved by grace, through faith in Jesus, and then live to the glory of God. That’s our final theme: living to the glory of God rather than a self-centered life.

The most succinct New Testament call to live for the glory of God is found in Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth. Corinth was a royally messed up place—kind of like an ancient version of Vegas. So as Corinthians became Christians, they brought into the church with them their seedy cultural norms. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians because they were fighting, there were engaged in lawsuits against one another, there were church members getting drunk at church while others made a huge deal out of showy spiritual gifts while neglecting the more important ones. And they were turning a blind eye to a particularly gross form of sexual immorality in their midst. It is to Christians in a morally confused and argumentative culture that Paul urges…

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do,
do it all for the glory of God…
For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many,
so that they may be saved.”
1 Corinthians 10:31,33

Why we’re to do everything for God’s glory

The call to Christians in an emotionally volatile and self-centered society is to glorify God, to honor him in all we do, to put the good of all over individual rights and preferences. And we are to do that so that spiritual outsiders will see Christlike consideration in us, and be drawn to trust in Christ themselves.

Have you ever caught that connection? This is why we pivoted to church online for now—for the glory of God, putting the good of all over individual rights and preferences. It’s an act of Christlike self-control and consideration of others. In everything, Paul urges, aim for honoring God. Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Aim to honor God in everything you do. Make that your personal standard, this year and always.

To make that practical, post-pandemic when you invite your Muslim coworker over for barbecue, eating and drinking for the glory of God means you don’t serve pork or offer a beer. That would bring unnecessary offense and push them away from seeing Christlike character in you. The mature Christian in that situation sticks with steaks and Cokes. That’s what Paul is saying. You decide, “I’m going to step back from my preference, for the sake of my friend who needs Jesus. I’m going to glorify God by putting this other family before my preference.”

This week’s game plan
Here’s what I want to do this week, three things:
• I want to define God’s glory and why we want to live for God’s glory.
• I want to show you an example of Jesus living for God’s glory.
• And I want to show you a moment when God’s glory in Jesus was unveiled.

What is God’s glory?

Let’s start with a working definition of what is God’s glory? If we’re to do everything for the glory of God, what does that mean? Here we go. The glory of God is his greatness, his beauty, and his worth on display. God is great, he is beautiful, and he is worthy of our all.

The Hebrew word translated glory throughout the Old Testament is kabod, which conveys importance, weight, heaviness. Kind of like when hippies discussed something very serious, they’d say, “Man, that’s heavy.” It’s important. It’s a big deal. That’s the literal sense of kabod: weighty.

What it’s meant to convey is respect, honor, and majesty. The Greek New Testament equivalent is doxa, as in we sing the doxology. Doxa means judgment, opinion, good reputation, honor.

So put the Old and New Testament words for glory together, and you begin to get a sense of what it means to live for the glory of God.

  • It means we sense God’s importance.
  • It means we daily live with respect for God.
  • It means we seek to honor him in how we do our jobs and how we treat our families.
  • It means we sense God’s majesty and keep in mind his judgment.
  • It means we prioritize God’s opinion and his good reputation.
  • And the main reason we do this is so that others can get a glimpse of God’s glory and be drawn to Christ themselves.

Think of it as what a telescope does. What a telescope does is make something that seems small become visible as grand as it really is. To a lot of people, God seems far off and small, like a distant star. When we as Christians live for the glory of God, we magnify their ability to see how great God actually is.

So there’s a definition and explanation of what we mean by God’s glory, doing everything for his glory. Part two, I want to show you just one example of how Jesus ate and drank and did everything for God’s glory.

How Jesus lived for God’s glory

For Jesus, “whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” meant honoring true holiness, while crossing barriers in order to bring God’s glory to them. Jesus loved to hang out with irreligious friends, ungodly friends, friends who had poor character. And instead of him becoming like them in their flaws, they found themselves attracted to him in his glory.

There was something in Jesus that they had never experienced and seen from their more religious peers. This is what God wants the people you and I know to experience and see from us, from Christians. Something different about us should be the glory of God, how we do everything to honor God so that they find themselves drawn to trust in Jesus themselves.

The more people spent time near Jesus, the more of them wanted to follow him. Consider Zacchaeus the chief tax collector, who grew obscenely rich by ripping off his countrymen: the most hated man in town. Luke chapter 19 tells his story. Jesus invites himself over for dinner and the glory of God in Jesus transforms Zacchaeus. Before dinner is done, Zacchaeus gets up from the table and on the spot announces he’s giving away fully half of his riches to the poor, and pledges that if he has cheated anyone out of anything (and you can be sure he had), he will repay them times four. The glory of God in Jesus drew Zacchaeus to begin living for the glory of God himself.

This is exactly what Paul explained when he said, “I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.” (1 Cor. 10:33). Jesus modeled it. Paul adopted it. Zacchaeus was transformed by it. God has someone in your circle of influence who needs to see the glory of God in how you live, and be drawn to faith in Jesus.

Doing everything for the glory of God means I put others’ salvation ahead of my personal preferences. What a high calling!

The dramatic moment when God’s glory in Jesus was unveiled

Okay. I’ve defined and explained what we mean by God’s glory and why we want to live for God’s glory.
We’ve touched on a powerful example of Jesus living for God’s glory, with the result that this man who was far from God is drawn to saving faith. Let’s tackle part three, the dramatic moment when God’s glory in Jesus was unveiled. This one is going to give your brain a workout.

Turn with me in your Bible or Bible app to Matthew chapter 16. This chapter is a turning point: Peter recognizes Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Mt. 16:16). Jesus immediately begins reframing what it means that he is the Messiah—bad news and good news. The bad news is that he’s going to be killed. The good news is that he will rise again, and one day, he will come in the glory of the Father. There’s that word again, glory. Then Jesus makes a strange claim. Look with me at the last verse in Matthew 16. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Mt. 16:28).

At first blush it sounds like Jesus said he would return while the apostles were alive. What did he mean? The answer is found by reading the very next paragraph. There is no break in the original. Chapter divisions were added in the 13th century and verse numbers were added in the 16th century, to make it easier to study the Bible. Take the chapter division and verse numbers back out, and his prediction makes sense—because six days later, Peter, James, and John were given a glimpse of Jesus’ glory. Look at it with me, Matthew chapter 17, verses 1-9, and then let’s unpack what this momentous occasion reveals about the glory of God in Jesus.

Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.

Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.

As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Matthew 17:1-9

What does the transfiguration of Jesus tell us about the glory of God in him?

Two key things.

1. Jesus’ glory that was hidden during his earthly days reaches back into eternity.

When Jesus’ glory was revealed, the greatest two heroes in the Jewish Scriptures appeared with him—Moses and Elijah. Why those two?

Because Moses and Elijah each had their own mountaintop experiences of witnessing God’s glory.

Moses had asked God to show him his glory (Ex. 33:18), and 1,500 years later his prayer was still being answered, as on that mountaintop, Moses gazed on the One whom Hebrews 1:3 calls “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”

The apostle John was almost certainly thinking of this mountaintop experience when he says of Jesus in John 1:14…

“We have seen his glory,
the glory of the one and only Son,
who came from the Father,
full of grace and truth.”

John begins his gospel by saying, we saw God’s glory in this man! This is not merely a man!

So the transfiguration, this experience of God’s glory in Jesus wasn’t just a preview of the future; it was also a glimpse into the glory Jesus shared with God the Father and the Holy Spirit for all eternity past.

John realized that when he recalled what Jesus prayed while he was with his disciples at the Last Supper. John 17:4-5, Jesus prayed, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”

This is who Jesus is: forever in eternity past, he shared the glory of God. His glory that was hidden during his earthly ministry, that was veiled until this moment, in fact, reaches back into eternity.

The second thing the transfiguration of Jesus tells us about the glory of God in him is that…

2. When Jesus returns, all will see the fullness of his glory.

The last thing Jesus says immediately following this unveiling of his glory is, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

“Son of Man” is a huge hint at who Jesus actually is, and the glory that will be fully unveiled at his return.
Son of Man is the title Jesus used more than any other referring to himself. That title is an open hint at his glory. It comes from the Old Testament prophetic book of Daniel, chapter 7, and it is a mind-blower. Here’s what it says, the vision given to Daniel:

“As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire…A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened…In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

Does a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven ring a bell? Listen to this from Mark 13:26. Jesus, speaking of his return, says, “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.” There it is again: glory.

Daniel’s vision is one of God’s glory, his weight, his importance, and his reign. In the vision a son of man approaches God’s throne, and is given “authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”
So Jesus on that mountaintop identifying himself as the Son of Man, with his face shining like the sun, and his clothes as white as light, is unveiling that he is that Son of Man in Daniel’s vision. The transfiguration was a glimpse at who Jesus really is, his glory.

It was also a foretaste of what everyone will see on the day of Christ’s return, when he comes on the clouds with great glory.

Moses was courageous. Elijah was powerful. But Jesus is glorious. And the glory he had for all eternity past, the glory that he voluntarily hid as he came to us like a servant but momentarily unveiled on that mountaintop, that glory that will be revealed to all when he returns.

What is our charge until then? “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Honor him with your whole life. Put the good of all over individual rights and preferences—so that spiritual outsiders will experience a touch of the glory of God through you, and be drawn to saving faith Jesus themselves. This is what it means to live for the glory of God alone.

Jonathan Edwards, widely considered the most brilliant Christian thinker in our nation’s history, put it in terms of two new year’s resolutions. Here they are:

Resolved: that all men should live for the glory of God.
Resolved second: That whether others do or not, I will.

At the start of this year, let’s recommit ourselves to living for the glory of God. Whatever anyone else does, we can commit to this, to faithfully following our glorious Savior and Lord.

Receive this prayer, would you?

This is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

Lord Jesus, we ask you to empower us this year to love much and love well. Empower us to live a life that you would be proud of. And through us doing everything to the glory of God, we pray, draw those who know us to faith in you. Hear our prayer, Lord, and be glorified in your people. Amen!