So That Others Glorify God
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.(Matthew 5:16)
The aim of our good works is that God may be glorified. You remember how our Lord said to the Father: “I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.” (John 17:4) We read more than once of His miracles, that the people glorified God. It was because what He had wrought was manifestly by a Divine power. It is when our good works thus too are something more than ordinary virtues of refined men, and bear the impress of God upon them, that men will glorify God. They must be the good works of which the Sermon on the Mount is the embodiment- a life of God’s children doing more than others, seeking to be perfect as their Father in heaven is perfect. This glorifying of God by men may not mean conversation, but it is a preparation for it when an impression favorable to God has been made. The works prepare the way for the words, and are an evidence to the reality of the Divine truth that is taught while without them the world is powerless.
The whole world was made for the glory of God. Christ came to redeem us from sin and bring us back to serve and glorify Him. Believers are placed in the world with this one object, that they may let their light shine in good works, so as to win men to God. As truly as the light of the sun is meant to lighten the world, the good works of God’s children are meant to be the light of those who know and love not God. What need that we form a right conception of what good works are, as bearing the mark of something heavenly and divine, and having a power to compel the admission that God is in them.
I think it’s fair to say that a lot of good things are done in the world by both believers and unbelievers. In the corporate world, the concept of “paying forward” has grown exponentially in the last several years. College applicants are asked about their community service as part of their admission requirements. There are a large number of groups and entities that give themselves for the purpose of serving others or meeting some need. When we think about doing good deeds, we ought to remember that doing so is in the heart of every unselfish person, Christian or not.
The people gathered around Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount were no doubt engaged in doing good deeds and yet Jesus called them to a deeper work.
One of the first things we should ask is about our motive for doing good works. Paul in Ephesians tells us that there were those who wished to use their good deeds as the means of being saved so he says, “not of works, lest any man should boast.” The idea behind doing good works then must be only to glorify God and never to elevate us as though we have in ourselves done a great thing. We conclude then that great works that glorify God are accompanied by a spirit of humility. Those who do good works see them as small in comparison to all that God has and is doing in and for them. These works are seen to be privileges to serve and opportunities to glorify God.
The Bible seems to indicate that when Jesus spoke of doing “good works,” He was speaking of those things that are beyond human capacity to do on their own. As we read of His life that supports His statement in the prayer of John 17, we find that His works were more than good human deeds. They were works that went beyond any human goodness and tapped into the power of the Divine.
Even His conversation and teaching went beyond the norm of the day.
Then the guards went [back] to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not bring Him [here with you]?” The guards replied, “Never [at any time] has a man talked the way this Man talks!”
Once the disciples asked Jesus what was required that they might also do the works of God. This, my friend is our question as well. It is important that we first define what the work of God is and what is at the heart of its reason.
11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe [Me] because of the [very] works themselves [which you have witnessed]. 12 I assure you and most solemnly say to you, anyone who believes in Me [as Savior] will also do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these [in extent and outreach], because I am going to the Father.
Then they asked Him, “What are we to do, so that we may habitually be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered, “This is the work of God: that you believe [adhere to, trust in, rely on, and have faith] in the One whom He has sent.”
We find two things in these scriptures. We find that works accompany words and verify that the words which are spoken are true. Jesus recognized that people didn’t always believe what He taught was true. Actually the religious leaders were always challenging the validity of His words. He responds by saying that the works which He did witnessed to the fact that He was the Savior and those who believed in Him would do even greater works. We conclude then that our works verify our witness of faith and or belief in Christ.
The other thing we find in these scriptures is the answer to the question of how we might also do works that glorify God. Jesus simply says that when we believe in Him, He gives us power to do good works- works beyond normal human ability- which bring glory to God and turn the light on so that those who sit in darkness may see the beauty of God and desire Him.
When we read through the book of Acts we see a vivid picture of how mere humans shined their light through good works and God was glorified and people were brought to relationship with God. We dare not forget in all our efforts of good works that our single purpose is that “all who sit in darkness see a great light” and as they see their hearts are convicted of sin and they see the need of the Savior and so they call on His name. We have not been called to do good works for the sake of doing them alone, but our calling to good works is to glorify and make known God to every creature.
As Peter and John go up to the temple to pray, they find a man in need. Though this man sees his need as getting a few coins in his cup, Peter, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, meets his greater need of restoration, both physical and spiritual, and through that good work, a multitude gathers. In answer to their questions they hear the gospel preached and five thousand become believers. The good work caught their attention, moved them to ask questions, provided Peter and John an opportunity to glorify God and present Christ and as a result five thousand souls were born again into the kingdom of God.
As we continue to read Acts, we find a man by the name of Stephen, whose very life models that of one who lets their light shine. He lived in such a way and did good works in such a way that he caught the attention of the community. Not everyone was pleased with this, so he is tried as a blasphemer and is sentenced to death by stoning.
Now Stephen, full of grace (divine blessing, favor) and power, was doing great wonders and signs (attesting miracles) among the people. However, some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (freed Jewish slaves), both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and [the province of] Asia, rose up and questioned and argued with Stephen. But they were not able to successfully withstand and cope with the wisdom and the intelligence [and the power and inspiration] of the Spirit by whom he was speaking. They presented false witnesses who said, “This man never stops speaking against this holy place and the Law [of Moses]; for we have heard him say that this Jesus the Nazarene will tear down this place and will change the traditions and customs which Moses handed down to us.” Then all those who were sitting in the Council, stared [intently] at him, and they saw that Stephen’s face was like the face of an angel.
At his trial, he gave a powerful historical sermon to those gathered and he presented Christ to all the hearers. We read that they rejected his words and carried him out to stone him.
Then they drove him out of the city and began stoning him; and the witnesses placed their outer robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They continued stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive and accept and welcome my spirit!” Then falling on his knees [in worship], he cried out loudly, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them [do not charge them]!” When he had said this, he fell asleep [in death].
Though that day, Stephen never saw the fruit of his work, we read that a young man named Saul was in the group. You will know him as the Apostle Paul. As we read Acts, we find that even though for a season, Paul resisted the preaching of Stephen and his presentation of Christ, we find him on the road to Damascus surrendering to Christ. I think it’s fair to say that through the good works and the words of Stephen, the church was given this great apostle.
Our conclusion then is that our works then have the sole purpose of glorifying God- and if that is so- then it is paramount upon us to connect them with the gospel presented. Good deeds for Christians cannot be stand-alone. They must be intentionally connected with the message of the gospel.
So I encourage us to seek ways to work the work of God, to expect supernatural enablement by the Holy Spirit, and to see an experience of the life-changing encounter with God by those whom are the recipients and observers of our good works.
We may never be used to bring healing to a lame man or we may never raise the dead, though both are possible, according to Jesus, when we place ourselves at the disposal of God so that He might work His works through us and we choose to live our lives to glorify God as Christ proclaimed He did in John 17; I believe we will have the privilege and opportunity to glorify God and present Christ in ways we could never dream. So go ahead, make the choice, shine your light, work the works of God, sow the seed, and reap the harvest. The opportunities are there, the field is ready for harvest, hearts are seeking, souls are searching so turn your light on, shine it on Christ and let all you do in word and deed be purposeful in the glorifying of God.
Dr. John Thompson