When Jesus is the one and only joy of your heart, the author and sustainer of your very life, you are no longer the same person you were before. The beauty of allowing Christ to take over your life is the transformation of that life. Everything you do becomes purposeful, with meaning and importance, but the overarching goal of a life transformed is a life that now brings glory to God in everything that happens in it. And when you are submitted, this becomes the everlasting joy and peace we experience in our everyday life. We can experience this over and over again through the scriptures. As the scriptures purpose is to bring glory to God, so is ours and through reading and obeying what it says, both are doing what God intended them to do. 1 Peter 2 says “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation” and Matthew 5:16 says “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven.” According to these two verses, how is it that we bring glory to God in our lives? Good deeds. And that is what I want to focus on today.
“Good works” has more depth than you are currently reading. This is not merely talking about the changing of your outward morals, that is the “appearance” of a changed life to others. This is not simply trying to do things morally better. Jesus knew and taught that the tree is known by its fruit. “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil” (Matt. 12:33-35). Many hear this, neglecting the heart, pursuing a life of outward appearances that may reflect a heart they wish was in the same place. But “woe to you…hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence…First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean” (Matt. 23:25-26). The bible is not aiming to make hypocrites- “white-washed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanliness” (Matt. 23:27). The Bible aims to create authentic people who are so satisfied in God, that the natural outward appearance glorifies God, shows that God is their ultimate treasure. And neither does outward morality bring glory to God in any way. “Outward morality that only avoid notorious sins is not impressive to the world. Seldom do unbelievers-or believers for that matter-respond with praises to God that I as Christian have not killed anyone or embezzled or committed adultery.” So then what are these “good works” that bring so much glory to the Lord? They begin with a transformation of heart. When God becomes our hearts desire, our supreme satisfaction, our most valued treasure, then like fruit from a tree, our outward behaviors begin cause people to see the worth and beauty of God, (aka His glory).
Let’s begin with another passage found in Matthew 5 that reads:
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for they so persecute the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Right before Jesus informs his disciples that they are the sale and the light of the world, he instructs them to rejoice and be glad when they are persecuted and endure all kinds of evils put against them. And the reason for this rejoicing is that “your reward is great in heaven.” The focus is on God, and what He has promised, not on the ridicule or the suffering that you are enduring. They know that “to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21) because they will be “with Christ” (Phil. 1:23). And they know that in God’s presence there will be “fullness of joy” and “pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). “On the basis of this indestructible joy in God, Jesus commands them to do what is utterly against all ordinary human experience. If they could do this, it would be inexplicable to ordinary people. It would be stunning and amazing and wonderful” (John Piper). And this will cause all who look upon you, to see the Glory of God. “The utterly counterintuitive thing is ‘rejoice and be glad’ when people ‘persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.’ Be happy when people do their worst to you. That is what I think Jesus means by ‘salt’ and ‘light’. Immediately after telling us to do the humanly impossible and utterly counterintuitive thing-rejoicing in our persecution- he says ‘You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.’ What he means is that the good deeds you do, in this utterly inexplicable spirit of indestructible joy in God, will have a flavor about them that causes people to look for the explanation for your joy” (John Piper). And when they look for this explanation, they will find that this joy is not something self-produced, but something supernatural, something not your own. And all glory will go to the One who deserves it above all else. “Your savoring of God over all things will prove to be the secret of how your good deeds give God glory.” The same answer is found in 1 Peter 3 which says:
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
Verse 15 says to always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” and this must mean that our behavior in some way is making others assume our hope is in something different than theirs. If you act like the rest of the world, no one will ask. “Evidently we are to be acting in a way that shows our treasure is not on earth but in heaven. Our hope for security is not in [Earthly possession or the things society will tell us we need] or anything else in this world.” And what makes this so? “Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed” or “Rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed” (1 Peter 4:13). You will be blessed when you suffer. You will rejoice and be glad when you are persecuted because when you do, the glory of God shines so brightly through you that the passerby must stop and inquire as to how you are able to do so. Glory be to God forever and ever, Amen.
“This revolution of our hearts affections is so deep and so pervasive that it leads to the kinds of choices and sacrificial risks that may cause people to wonder, ‘What are you really hoping in? What reward are you living for?’ In that way, we pray that ‘they may see your good deeds and glorify God’ (1 Peter 2:12). So, the secret to the kind of good deeds that get glory for God is a deep underlying satisfaction in God’s promise of blessing that frees us to take risks in the cause of love that the world finds inexplicable. In other words, savoring God over all leads to radical transformation.” And welcome to a life centered around Christ my dear friends. As I write, I am filled with an overwhelming joy that this is the life we get to live. We do not have to suffer as the world does for we have a reward in heaven that makes anything on this earth worth it. We have a loving Father who brings us a purpose to the pain or suffering we may have to go through and, as my life can be a living testament to this end, it is the most stunning miracle we can experience on this Earth. Praise be to our Lord.