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The Glory of Love

If we want to glorify God, we'll have to work for it.

Ministry for Mission: Ministry Outcomes (6)

“I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.” John 17.4

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22.37-40

“Therefore the first commandment teaches every kind of godliness. For to love God with the whole heart is the cause of every good. The second commandment includes the righteous acts we do toward other people. The first commandment prepares the way for the second and in turn is established by the second. For the person who is grounded in the love of God clearly also loves his neighbor in all things himself.”

  - Cyril of Alexandria, Fragment 251

For the glory of God
We have been saying that the goal of all ministry, that which all true shepherds seek to accomplish by their work, is that God may be glorified in the lives of those entrusted to our care.

God’s people must first know God in His glory if they would consistently show His glory to the world. By prayer, personal example, and the ministry of the Word, pastors and shepherds are set in the churches to equip God’s people with the understanding of this calling, the longing to fulfill it, and the high priority of such a calling in their lives. They must be taught, led, and shown what their lives will look like as the glory of God comes to light in all their words and works.

For our goal is nothing other than that in whatever God’s people do (1 Cor. 10.31), some glimpse of the glory of God, of the reality of Jesus and His love, might be on display to the watching world.

Of course, we expect this goal of ministry to be realized among the members of the household of faith. When they are assembled for worship, as they study and pray and work together, we want the people in our church both to know Christ in His glory and to show that glory to one another. 

In one sense, it is easy to glorify God when we’re in church. We’re all on our best behavior. Everything is scripted or ordered for us. And the time is limited in which we must be together. Most of us can put on our best Christian front for the couple of hours a week we’re engaged in church activity; and as we do, God may truly be glorified in our midst.

But whatever we do extends far beyond the time we’re together in church activities, and even beyond the people who, like us, are mostly agreeable to seeking God’s glory. The Son of God glorified the Father from all eternity past by sharing in His fellowship, loving and enjoying Him, and delighting to serve with Him in the creation of all things.

But the Son of God Himself testified that He only fully glorified the Father by coming to earth as Jesus of Nazareth and fulfilling the work He was sent to do (Jn. 17.4). If God’s people are truly and fully to glorify Him, they must be sent into the world, as Jesus was sent (Jn. 20.21), equipped to glorify God in whatever they do. Believers thus constitute a wedge for glory to crack open the doors of hard hearts and infiltrate the darkness of culture and society, as they go out into the world as Jesus did, to do their appointed work.

And the leading edge of that wedge of glory is love.

The work we’ve been given to do
Christians have been redeemed for good works (Eph. 2.8-10). God has given us His Word to equip us for every good work (2 Tim. 3.15-17). Believers are to be ready and zealous for good works, and they must be careful to maintain good works in all they do (Tit. 3.8; 2.14; 3.14). The good works God has before ordained that believers should do are those outlined in His holy and righteous and good Law (Rom. 7.12). That is, they are the works – exertions of spiritual and physical energy – which we do to fulfill the Law in love for God and our neighbors.

As Jesus glorified the Father by fulfilling the work He was given to do, so believers, sent like Jesus, will glorify God when they fulfill their appointed work. The work we’ve been given to do is greater than the job at which we work, and encompasses more of life than what we know together in our church activities. We are called, like light, to penetrate the dark world and illuminate the way of truth and love; like salt, to preserve whatever is good in our surroundings and times; and like leaven, to work for transformation, that everything in our lives might be made wholesome and glorifying to the Father (Matt. 5.13-16).

The work we’ve been given to do is carried out in all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities, as we bring the truth of God in love to bear on everything and everyone around us. We must work at our job and at our church activities, of course. But we must work at all our relationships, at using and making culture, at being citizens and co-workers and neighbors and friends, and in everything we do to show the love we have for God and the love God gives us for our neighbors. Only as we grow in love for God and neighbors will we fulfill the Law and the Prophets, and prove ourselves to be true citizens in the Kingdom not of this world (Matt. 5.17-19).

And this means that in our work of ministry, pastors and shepherds must nurture a vision of the outcomes we seek that extend into the personal life spheres of every member of the congregation.

Just like Paul
Paul explained that God had assigned him a particular sphere in life, where he was to do the work of an apostle in bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles (2 Cor. 10.13-18). He also insisted that we should imitate him, because he was, after all, only imitating Christ (1 Cor. 11.1).

Thus, like Paul and Jesus, every believer has a life sphere to which he or she is daily sent for the purpose of glorifying God through the work of love. Wherever we go during the day, whomever we see or engage, in whatever arena or context we find ourselves, believers are called to glorify God by loving Him and their neighbors according to the Law and the Prophets.

And we must be equipped for such a high and holy calling. It is too easy, and we are naturally inclined, to pursue our Christian lives in the safe confines of church and Christian friends. But Jesus came to the dark world, battled demons and adversaries of all kinds, did good works, spoke true words, suffered and triumphed over suffering, and, by all such works, fulfilled His ministry and glorified the Father.

So also must we. And it falls to pastors and shepherds to equip the people entrusted to them to glorify God in works of love in every area of their lives, every day, every moment, and in every situation, regardless of adversity, conflict, or other distraction or disturbance.

The outcomes we seek from the work of ministry are works of ministry on the part of all God’s people – loving God and their neighbors according to the needs and opportunities of the moment. For this is how God intends to build His Church and show the love of Jesus to the watching world (Eph. 4.11-16).

Nevertheless, after the apostle had said in such instruction and advice: “Now such persons we charge and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ that they work quietly and eat their own bread,” he was mindful of such needs of the holy persons who, although they would obey his commands to work quietly and eat their own bread, would, for many reasons, lack some provision of such necessary commodities. Hence, with foresight he added immediately: “But you, brothers, do not grow tired of well-doing,” so that those who had the means of furnishing sustenance to the servants of God would not grow careless in this respect.

- Augustine, The Work of Monks

Resource for Shepherds

Visit our new website and the Resources for Shepherds page especially prepared to provide shepherds with a variety of resources and opportunities for improving their skills. You can even add your own items by clicking the submission form and posting a resource of your own.

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Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, quotes from Church fathers are from The Ancient Christian Commentary Series (InterVarsity Press).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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