Our Shining and God’s Glory

The theme of the Convention for this year is a very timely and important one. I like especially the last subdivision of that theme, namely “Our Shining and God’s Glory” because I am glad to see our young people concerned with the all-important idea of God’s glory. The glory of God is ultimate, that is, it is the highest good and the goal of all things in heaven and earth.

Today men have lost sight of the fact that the glory of God is ultimate. That is true not only of the world in general, but more particularly of the church of our day. Man, not God stands on the fore. Man-his well-being, his salvation, his glory— receives the emphasis. That is not good, because that leads us into all sorts of problems with respect to the direction of our lives as God’s people. It is only when we see God as the glorious God that we can walk as shining lights.

God is in and of Himself glorious. The very idea of the word “glory” is brightness or dazzling brilliance. God’s Word tells us that God is light. God is spiritual light in His dazzling holiness. We know something of the light of God, for we see it reflected in the sun. We know how bright and powerful the sun is. If we continue to look into the brilliance of the sun we are blinded by the light. God’s glory is infinitely greater than the glory of the sun, for the sun is only a creaturely reflection of the glory of God. God’s glory shines in His purity, holiness, goodness, love, mercy, and grace.

That glory God reveals to us as His people. Through His Word God reveals Himself to us. In the face of His Son, Jesus Christ, we behold that God is indeed a glorious God. God is Truth and the glory of His truth shines out of every page of His Word. All of God’s works arc a revelation of His glory. John exalts “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created. (Rev. 4:11). You see, all things are created exactly to one end, and that is that God may be glorified. The psalmist tells us that “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork.” (Ps. 19:1). Not only in God’s work of creation is His glory seen but also in the work of recreation. God saved us to glorify Himself. In Ephesians 1:5 and 6 we read, “Having predestinated us unto the adop­tion of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”

When we stand in the light of the glory of God, then we see our calling to shine. Only then can we be properly motivated to let our light shine. We were darkness but God made us light. Now, to the praise of the glory of His grace, we must walk in a way that is pleasing to Him. When God’s glory shines upon us in Jesus Christ then we are motivated to serve Him with thankfulness. To see God as the God of all glory is the only possibility of letting our light shine properly. Then we see God as God and we see ourselves as unworthy sinners. As unworthy sinners God has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light and as lights He calls us to shine. That is the end then of sloppy sentimentalism, shallow spiritualism, sham holiness and work righteousness, for we stand in awe before God and cry out with the apostle Paul “For of him, and through him, and to him are all things; to whom be glory for ever, Amen. (Rom. 11:36).

By God’s grace we are light and light is made to shine. How does our light shine? By walking in good works. That is the idea of our text. God is glorified when we walk in good works before men. The question that then comes to our mind is “what are good works?” The Heidelberg Catechism in question and answer 91 gives us a very nice definition of good works. “Only those which proceed from a true faith, are performed according to the law of God, and to his glory; and not such as are founded on our imaginations, or the institutions of men.” Notice the three positive elements of this definition of good works. First, they must proceed from a true faith. Secondly, they are performed according to the law of God and finally, they are to His glory.

Our text tells us that we are the light of the world and that we must let our light shine before men that they may see our good works. That presupposes that we have new hearts. Hearts that love God and desire to please Him. In those new hearts resides the gift of true faith. By God’s grace we have been saved through the faith that God gives us. We have been made light. Further, good works are those that are performed according to the law of God. That means that in the attempt to be pleasing to God we must walk in the way of the law of God. We must be clear on that point! We cannot glorify God walking contrary to His will. We cannot sin so that God may be glorified. God forbid! This means then that we must not only be concerned with an inner holiness, but also with an outer holiness, that is, walking according to the law of God. Sometimes I fear that we lay so much emphasis on the inner holiness of the new heart that we lose sight of our calling to manifest that new heart by walking according to the law of God. If we ever take the position that how we walk before men is not so important, but that the important thing is what is in our hearts, then we stand on dangerous ground. If we say that we must not expect to perform good works in this life because of all the evil influences of our sinful nature then we are dead wrong. We could reason that we have light in our hearts by the operation of God’s grace, but that light cannot come to manifesta­tion in this life because it is enclosed by the old man of sin. That is ridiculous! That is like saying that God gave us light and at the same time He gave us a bushel to cover our light so that it cannot be seen by man. Light is meant to shine! Our text makes that clear. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel.” That would be ridiculous, would it not? We must let our light shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven. That is God’s will for us. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10).

Do not misunderstand me. I am not saying that the good desires of our regenerated hearts can come to manifes­tation without being corrupted and per­verted by our evil nature. We have only a small beginning of the new obedience and we are only holy now in principle. But that principle beginning of holiness must be seen by men in our good works. Good works proceed from a true faith and it is through the good fight of faith that they come to manifestation in our lives.

We have a calling of God to let our light shine before men, but that is not so easy to perform. We have many forces to overcome in order to perform good works. We have a desire of the heart to be acceptable before God, but we also have a desire of flesh to be acceptable before men. If we see a group standing around exchanging off-color stories we know that God requires that we flee such activity, but if one of the group invites us to join in then we want to be accepted by our peers. We want to be sensitive to spiritual things and yet we want to appear so worldly-wise with respect to the ways of sin. That is our pride. Do we want to know what good works God requires of us? “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).

When we let our light shine before men the result is that God is glorified. God calls us to shine so that men may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven. Our text refers to men without distinguishing between the godly and the ungodly. That may bring before our mind the question how that is possible. Perhaps we can see how the saints will rejoice in our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. We can even see how that one of God’s people who is walking in the way of sin and sees our good work can be smitten in his conscience and turn from his sin and glorify God. But how can it ever be that the ungodly, seeing our good works, will glorify God? Are we not told in the Word of God that we must expect reproach and persecution on account of our good works? Will not evil men hate us when we do good? The answer to these questions is, of course, “yes,” but that takes nothing away from our calling to walk in good works before men. In I Peter 2:12 Peter writes, “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.” Here also we have the assurance that through our good works even wicked men will glorify our heavenly Father. Even though that be in the day in which God will visit the earth in judgment. In that day all men will stand before God without any excuse and acknowledge Him as the glorious One. God takes care of all that. Our calling is to be careful about our walk, to be sensitive to holiness. We who are children of light and have stood in the light of God’s incomparable glory have a high calling to walk in thankfulness before Him May God give us grace so to walk.