Last month we saw that Jude 24 teaches us to give God alone the glory because we are forever preserved by God. A second reason as to why The Glory of God has historically been one of The Riches of the Reformed Faith is because of the fact that we will be FAULTLESSLY PRESENTED.
Jude 24 tells us: “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you (Greek: to cause or make to stand) before His glorious presence (lit: in the presence of His glory) without fault (Greek: amomos; or without blemish) and with great joy.”
Think of the implications of that verse! Just as the animals selected to serve as the Passover Lamb in Old Testament times needed to be lambs without defect, so too as 1 Peter 1:18-19 tell us, Christ our Passover Lamb was without blemish or defect. Jesus was totally and completely sinless and blameless! The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ as set forth in II Corinthians 5:21 declares that, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might becomes the righteousness of God.” When we who are in Christ stand before God’s judgment throne, God will declare us “Not Guilty! Blameless! Perfectly pure and clean!” No sin will be charged to our account! Think of it! Not because we are not sinners, but because we will be wearing the white robes of the righteousness of Christ that were credited to us, imputed to us, by God’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone!
Indeed, that is why Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 60&61 states,
60 Q.How are you right with God?
A. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.
61 Q.Why do you say that by faith alone you are right with God?
A. It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me. Only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me right with God. And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone.
Jude goes on to tell us that the fact that in His grace and mercy God preserves us forever and presents us faultless before His sovereign throne ought to fill us with “great” (or extreme or exceeding) JOY!” Indeed, in Habakkuk 3:17-18 the prophet declares, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
Such joy in the Lord in the midst of sorrow and suffering, pressures and pains proves to be an exceedingly powerful witness to the unsaved of this world around us! That is why, in John 15:11, Jesus said to His disciples, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” In I Peter 1:8-9, the Apostle Peter declares, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”
It is because of the assurance of such a grand and glorious salvation; it is because of the fact that we are forever preserved and faultlessly presented before the face of our God, that Jude declares in his doxology, “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power, and authority through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages (God’s glory majesty, power and authority are eternal!), now and forevermore! Amen.”
Implications for Work
This exhortation to give God the glory has profound implications concerning the way in which we work. For example, in their book The Doctrines of Grace, James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken write:
This cosmic vision of Reformed theology obviously encompasses much more than the Five Points of Calvinism. It thus serves as a helpful reminder that the heart of Reformed theology is a passion for God’s glory, not simply in redemption but in all of creation. The doctrines of grace teach that God is sovereign in the salvation of an individual sinner, but this is only one implication of the all-encompassing truth that God rules over everything.”
The above authors go on to quote Abraham Kuyper who said:
“Wherever man may stand, whatever he may do, to whatever he may apply his hand, in agriculture, in commerce, and in industry, or his mind, in the world of art, and science, he is, in whatsoever it may be, constantly standing before the face of his God, he is employed in the service of his God, he has strictly to obey his God, and above all, he has to aim at the glory of his God.” (The Doctrines of Grace, Boice, James Montgomery and Ryken, Philip Graham, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 2002, pp. 201 and 212).
Implications for Worship
Similarly, just as “giving God the glory now” has profound implications for all of our work, it also has profound implications for the way in which we worship. For example, in Heidelberg Catechism QA 96 we read,
“96Q. What is God’s will for us in the second commandment?
A. That we in no way make any image of God nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded in His Word.”
In Reformed Theology this “not worshipping God in any other way than he has commanded in his Word” has come to be known as the “Regulative Principle” by which we govern what does and does not take place in our worship services. This is a critically important matter!
In Leviticus 10:1-3, the Lord struck dead the sons of Aaron because these two presumptuous priests offered what the sacred Scriptures refer to as “strange or unauthorized fire” before the Lord. This event powerfully portrays the fact that even with the very best of intentions, it appears to be relatively easy for us in worship to “do the right thing in the wrong way”. And so, while we by no means desire to use the so-called “Regulative Principle” to quench the Holy Spirit, to destroy our joy in the Lord, or to use it as a “club” with which to beat down other believers whose worship style may differ somewhat from that of ours, please know that what the Sacred Scriptures make unequivocally clear that our worship must never be centered on MAN but rather it must ever and always be centered exclusively on GOD!!
And what this means is that our worship must never seek to incorporate or accommodate the man-centered means and methods and motives of this world, but rather all elements of our worship must be found faithful to the Holy Spirit inspired Word of the Living God to the praise, glory and honor of His Holy Name! To quote from the book, The Doctrines of Grace, while speaking to such themes as secularism, humanism, relativism, materialism, pragmatism, and mindlessness, the authors write:
These are some of the prevailing trends in American culture at the dawn of the new millennium. If the church has become worldly, then we would expect to find these same attitudes in evangelical churches. And of course that is what we do find. As surprising as it may sound, evangelicalism has become increasingly secular. In an effort to make newcomers feel comfortable, pastors teach as little theology as possible. Worship has become a form of popular entertainment rather than transcendent praise. New church buildings are designed to look more like office parks than houses of worship. All of these trends contribute to the secularization of what once was sacred. (p. 21)
And so, in our work as well as in our worship (to name just two critically important areas of the Christian life), “ … To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”
Now friends, as I began this series of articles so also as I conclude I would like to share with you two practical principles.
Principle #1 concerns the matter of what I will call “our Reformed spirit” toward those brothers and sisters in the faith with whom we may differ or disagree.
People sometimes speak of ‘TRs’, meaning those who are ‘Truly Reformed.’ But what this term brings to mind usually is not very nice (some people have the same instinctive response to the term ‘Calvinist’). The ‘Truly Reformed’ are considered narrow in their thinking, parochial in their outlook, and uncharitable in their attitude toward those who disagree. They have a bad reputation, and sadly, perhaps some of it is deserved. There is a combative streak in Calvinism, and whenever the doctrines of grace are divorced from warm Christian piety, people tend to get ornery. Some Christians who identify themselves as Calvinists seem to be in a perpetual state of discontent with their pastors, often making uninvited suggestions for their personal improvement. Others seem overly concerned with converting people to their ecclesiastical denomination. Still others have memorized TULIP but somehow seem to be missing the heart of the gospel … This ought not to be. In fact, it cannot be, provided that Calvinism is rightly understood. The doctrines of grace help to preserve all that is right and good in the Christian life: humility, holiness, and thankfulness, with a passion for prayer and evangelism. The true Calvinist ought to be the most outstanding Christian — not narrow and unkind, but grounded in God’s grace and therefore generous of spirit. (The Doctrines of Grace, p. 179-180)
I once read that a woman asked the great 18th century preacher George Whitefield a question about the equally popular and powerful preacher John Wesley with whom he had such great doctrinal differences — Whitefield being a staunch preacher and supporter of the Doctrines of Sovereign Grace (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election and the like), with Wesley, basically, being an Arminian. One day this woman asked Whitefield, “Do you suppose that we will one day see Mr. Wesley in heaven?” And to this George Whitefield replied, “I should think not. I would suppose that he will be so close to the throne, and we so far from it, that we shall scarcely be able to catch a glimpse of him!” May that same gracious, humble spirit exhibited by George Whitefield toward Mr. Wesley also increasingly characterize the spirit that we display toward other brothers and sisters in the Lord with whom we may disagree.
In Genesis 25:34 we read, “Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.” Dear friends, while everything that I have said in Principle #1 is true, still in all, as I mentioned in the first article in this series, the ever increasing burden on my heart has been that so many of our Reformed brothers and sisters in the Lord who have been nurtured and enriched with so many blessings of the Reformed faith ever since the day they were born are increasingly forsaking the faith of their fathers. In effect, they despise their birthright for the spiritual equivalent of some lentil stew, when they, of all people, ought to be “contending for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).
Consequently, as you and I seek to live our lives before His face each and every day, by the grace and mercy, Spirit and strength of the Lord our God , may we and our children, and indeed, should our Lord tarry in His return, even our children’s children continue to be found faithfully resting and rejoicing in The Sovereignty of God, The Lordship of Christ, The Covenant of Grace, and The Glory of God ... four of THE RICHES OF THE REFORMED FAITH!
Rev. Richard Kuiken is the Senior Pastor of the Reformed Bible Church [URCNA] in Pompton Plains, New Jersey. Tapes of this series are available at www.pprbc.org or by calling the church office at (973) 835-4784.