Resolved to Glorify Christ
Nick Esch, 12/29/2019 Cornerstone Baptist Church
New Years is upon us, which means the time of New Year’s Resolutions is upon us. My family and I were discussing this in the car the other day, and my oldest son, Jonah, was being a bit of a pessimist, or perhaps I should say a realist… He said, “I don’t get the big deal about New Years… It’s not a real holiday; in fact it’s no different than any other day…” And I get what he was saying, and to an extent I agree. But, there’s something about New Years and the idea of new beginnings and resolutions that is actually very Christian, I think.
Now, as Christians, we don’t need a new year to have a new beginning. After all, God’s Word tells us, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is [His] faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). If we are under God’s grace each day is a new beginning. But, on the other hand, the Christian life takes great intentionality on our part, and if we are not resolved to live it rightly, we wont… So resolutions are a good thing. The 18thCentury theologian, Jonathan Edwards, recognized this, and when he was only 19 years old he penned 70 Resolutions, and lived by them the rest of his life. He wrote things like, “Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good… Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live… Resolved, [to] live for God, [and] if no one else does, I still will…”
Beloved, many of the resolutions we make each year are trivial, or meaningless because we don’t keep them. But resolutions like Edwards’ are good and godly. And Lord willing, what we’ll see in God’s Word today is a resolution that we all should make this year, and every year; and Lord willing, we’ll see, not only how to make a proper resolution, but how to keep it. So with that in mind, look with me at 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12.
After a brief greeting and thanksgiving in verses 1-4, Paul then turns the attention of the Thessalonians, and us by extension, to the coming kingdom of God and the great Day of Jesus Christ in verses 5-10. And in view of that Day and the Kingdom of God, Paul says, “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling.” So our passage begins with Paul praying that the Thessalonians would be worthy… Worthy of what? We’d probably expect him to say of their calling, but he doesn’t. Paul prays for these Christians, and for us as well, to be worthy of God’s calling. And in light of what Paul has been addressing, God’s calling is directly tied to God’s coming Kingdom and the Day of Christ. It’s like what Paul said in 1 Thessalonians 2:12, that he, “charged [them] to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls [them] into his own kingdom and glory.”
The great calling to which every Christian is called, and the great end for which Paul is praying is that we might be fully in the kingdom of God and share and enjoy the glory of God. This is the calling for which Paul is praying that all Christians would be worthy of… But, what does it mean to be worthy here? Well, God’s Word isn’t saying that we need to clean ourselves up, or somehow change ourselves in such a way that we are worthy… Notice Paul prays that God would make us worthy… And really, the making worthy, and the worth itself both come from God.
The idea behind being made worthy is being made suitable, fitting, or appropriate because of the worth of another. It’s kind of like what my wife Rachel did twice this past week… We had our family over for Christmas, and we had a surprise birthday party for her mother yesterday. And for each occasion Rachel spent a lot of time preparing our house and making everything suitable for her family, for her mother… And the point in doing that was not to show off the worth of our house, but the worth of our family. We cleaned, cooked, decorated, and the like to welcome and love on our family. Likewise, in the Christian life we are being made suitable, being made worthy of our calling into God’s kingdom and glory, not in a way that points to our worth, but in a way that points to and flows from God’s worth. This is a work that God does in us and through us beginning with justification, continuing through sanctification, and ending in glorification.
So, Paul is praying that God, because of His worth, would make His church worthy of His calling… And from here, in the rest of verse 11, he says he’s praying this that God, “may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power…” How this is worded is interesting because he’s talking about Christians resolving for good and doing works of faith, but he speaks as if God is doing it… And that’s by intention… It’s similar to what Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13. There he says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Once again, Paul is stressing that this being made suitable, as well as resolutions for good and works of faith all flow from God. He is the fount of every blessing. As Jesus says in John 15:5, without Him we can do nothing…
But, we are most certainly called to do something; we are to work and to will for God’s good pleasure. So, while we don’t have to make New Year’s resolutions, here in our passage we see that we are most certainly called to make resolutions. We are to be resolved for good. We are to use our mind, our heart, our will for intentional good. And Paul defines what that intentional good is in verse 12 when he says that we are to do this, “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified…” You see, God is the only one who is truly good; and what we do is truly good only if it works to magnify the glory of God in Christ. True good is found in God alone, or in what points to the goodness of God in Christ. So, with that in mind any good that we resolve to do should be directly linked to glorifying God. And that should have a massive impact on any and all resolutions we make, be it New Year’s or any other time…
Perhaps you’re planning on making a resolution to lose weight; well, that might be good, depending on why you’re doing it… If it’s merely about being more attractive that’s not really good because it’s about your glory, not God’s… But, if you make a resolution to lose weight to be a better steward of your body, to be healthier and have more energy so that you can better serve God and serve people… then that is a good resolution… In order for what we do to be truly good it must point to, display, and invite people into the glory of God in Christ. It must display His worth and value… That must be the ultimate good reason behind all we resolve to do… But, merely making a resolution for a good reason is not enough… Our text says that we are to, “fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power.”
By His Power
A good resolution is not merely an empty promise made to our self, it’s a resolution made for God’s glory and fulfilled by God’s power. In fact, if we are truly going to do something for God’s glory we have to do it in God’s power… But that takes faith… We access God’s power by faith. By faith we look to who God is and what He’s done and promises that He will do in Christ, and that faith—that trust in God unites us to Christ. And God’s Word tells us in Ephesians 1:13 that when we, “believed in him, [we] were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.” The moment we first exercise true faith we are united to Christ and the Spirit of Christ takes up residence in our life, indwelling us, enabling us, and empowering us to live for God’s glory… And that’s the start of the Christian life; but we continue to tap into that power as we live by faith… Faith that continues to look to who God is, what He’s done, is doing, and promises to do in Christ. You see, true faith is not just a believing in God, a trusting in God, but a desperate dependence on God, and a being satisfied in all that God is for us in Christ. And when we are satisfied in Christ, when we truly delight in and treasure Jesus then we’re freed up to truly do good, to truly glorify God.
For His Glory
That’s what’s Paul is getting at here. That’s why he says in verse 12 that all of this works together, “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified.” The name of Jesus is the entirety of His person… it’s His reputation, all that He is, and all that He does… So, we look to God by faith, desperately depending on Him in prayer and seeking to be led by His Word, and we make a good resolution for God’s glory, and then we pray again, asking God for His help, and by faith we trust God for the power to fulfill our resolution, and by that power, through that faith what was a resolution becomes a work of faith, a work done for God’s glory, for the fame of the name of Christ. And part of the way God answers that prayer for power is by giving us faith, or strengthening our faith, because we can only truly fulfill our resolutions and do true works of faith if we have true faith, because true faith is satisfied with Christ, which enables us to deny self and to live for God. True faith taps into God’s power because true faith treasures Christ, and treasuring Him frees us from the power of sin, Satan, and the world…
As I said, true faith is not just a believing in God, a trusting in God, but a desperate dependence on God, and a being satisfied in all that God is for us in Christ. True faith really believes Jesus, believes in Jesus, believes on Jesus, and believes in all that God’s Word says that He is, has done, is doing, and will do. Which means that we believe Him when He tells us that it is the bread of life, He is the truth, He is true righteousness, He is the great treasure worth giving up everything for, He is the great God and King of the universe, and the only Lord and Savior, and true satisfaction and joy are found in Him alone. And seeing that, knowing that, truly having faith in that reality frees us from living for lesser things, and empowers us to live for the one true King.
His Glory, Our Glorification
So, with all of that said, everything we resolve to do should glorify Christ, and when we resolve, live, and work in God’s power by faith we willglorify Christ, because we’ll be pointing to and displaying His worth, His sufficiency, and the all satisfying joy that is found in Him alone. This is how the Christian life works. But, in God’s kindness the Christian life not only works for the glory of Christ, but it also glorifies us in Christ… Notice, verse 12 says that this is working, “so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him. Now, that doesn’t mean that God makes much of us like we make much of Jesus; but it does mean that God makes us like Jesus… As we walk through this life by faith, growing in our love and affection for Jesus, falling out of love with sin and the world, and more and more in love with Jesus, we grow in holiness, we grow in Christlikeness, we are sanctified… And all of that is leading to that great day when we see Jesus face to face and are made like Him… when we’ll be glorified… As that old hymn says, it’s that day when we’ll be saved to sin no more…
And this brings us back to where our passage started, being made worthy of God’s calling… Paul is praying that we might be fully in the kingdom of God and share and enjoy the glory of God, and that means truly glorifying Christ and being glorified in Christ. Our great end, our great calling is glorification… That’s our ultimate good… That’s what Paul was getting at in that great promise in Romans 8:28-30. There he said, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (now notice how he defines good). For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son (that’s what good is, becoming Christlike), in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (that’s what being totally conformed to the image of Jesus is).” So, the Christian life is a life resolved for true good, for the glory of God; and in God’s kindness it also works for our good, our eventual glorification in Christ…
According to Grace
But now, after laying all of that out, notice how our passage ends: the last part of verse 12 says that all of this is, “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is all of grace… Everything in the Christian life starts with and builds on grace… Which is what this passage has been telling us all along… After all, it’s God who makes us worthy, it’s God’s power that enables us to fulfill God’s calling on our lives, and it’s God who will bring about our glorification. So, do you see what’s being said here? Being made worthy, resolutions, living out our calling by faith… none of it is about us doing better, being great Christians, or being amazing for Jesus… It’s about us being amazed by Jesus and being gripped and transformed by who He is, not by us trying harder and being better. This all flows from God’s grace, God’s power, and God’s glory (His worth); so this is gospel-transformation, not behavior-modification…
God’s grace and God’s glory are seen most clearly in the gospel… And as Romans 1:16 says the gospel is the very power of God for salvation… And this all makes sense, because in the gospel we see most clearly who God is and what He’s done and promises that He will do… In the gospel we see that God is infinitely holy, infinitely good, and infinitely glorious. But we also see that we are sinners who have offended this great God, and thus we are in desperate need of grace—we need a Savior. And God gives that grace in a person, the Lord Jesus Christ…
Jesus is the Savior we all need… Jesus, God the Son, came to earth, took on flesh, lived a sinless life in our place, and then died a wrath absorbing death in our place. And in His allowing Himself to be condemned and suffer in our place the glory and the grace of God shined out brighter than ever before or since… God’s glory is the display of who He is and what He’s like… And on the cross we see that in high definition. We see that God truly is abounding in steadfast love, mercy, and compassion, but that He’s also holy and just and will not allow sin to go unpunished. But we also see that He took that punishment upon Himself.
The infinitely glorious Son of God took on the infinite guilt of man and then suffered and satisfied the infinite wrath of God for all of God’s people… And then after finishing His task, He died… But on the third day He rose from the grave in victory, showing that He was the perfect sacrifice, and that all who would turn from their sin and trust in Him by faith would be saved from sin, death, and wrath. And in saving His people from these things Jesus was doing something even more kind, even more gracious than merely saving us from something… He was also saving us into something. He was saving us into God’s family… He was reconciling us to God and bringing us to Himself. He was giving us true eternal life, which as Jesus says in John 17:3 is knowing the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He sent. And by that He meant knowing and enjoying forever…
So, grace and glory go hand in hand, because the grace of God is always the grace of Jesus… Again, our passage says this is all according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ… The grace of our God is indeed found in the person and work of Jesus Christ: in who He is, what He has done, is doing, and will do… in His gospel… He is the grace of God incarnate… And that makes sense given that grace and glory go hand in hand, and He is the glory of God incarnate. As Hebrews 1:3 says, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…” And with all of that said, do you see how all of this ties back to being made worthy of God’s calling? Remember, the idea behind being made worthy is being made suitable, fitting, or appropriate because of the worth of another. So, in the Christian life we are being made suitable, we are being made worthy of our calling into God’s kingdom and glory, not in a way that points to our worth, but in a way that points to and flows from God’s worth. In a way that points to and flows from God’s glory and grace in Christ.
Our passage today is a prayer that God, in His grace, by His power, would make us worthy of His calling: the calling He has placed on our lives to His kingdom for His glory. And though this will only finally be accomplish on the Day of Christ, when we see Jesus face to face and are made like Him, glorified… here and now we are to be resolved to do good and to do works of faith day by day, until we make it to that great day. And what God’s Word is telling us here is that we can only do that, we can only tap into God’s power by faith, if we look to the glory and the grace of God that are found in the person and work of Jesus. We must behold the glory and the grace of God in Christ, and from Him and by Him be motivated to truly live out God’s calling on our lives. We must behold glory, be amazed by grace, and then be resolved to live for God’s glory and the spread of His grace…
You see, God’s Word is commanding us to make resolutions: to be resolved for good, and to fulfill every resolution and every work of faith by God’s power. And as we saw, being resolved for good means being resolved to glorify Christ. But, that will only happen if we are moved by, motivated by, and transformed by the glory and grace of God in Christ… Which is what faith is all about. So beloved, whatever your resolutions may be this year, make sure they work for the magnification of the glory of Christ. And remember, when we seek to live for that ultimate good, God works it all together for our ultimate good. So may we all be resolved to glorify Christ.