We Find Joy in Receiving God’s Glory
In a conversation I had with Jonathan Parnell (a pastor in Minneapolis and writer for Desiring God) on true happiness and significance, he said,
“If God’s glory is the display of who he is, the display of his holiness, then that display is meant to be received by his creatures. It’s meant to be delighted in. So, God displays his glory so that we, his creatures, might delight in his glory. Because there’s such an intermingling and partnership between the shining forth of God’s glory and our own happiness and our own joy, then it means we can say in a very real way that God is most committed to the very thing that will give us most joy – that is, his glory.”
An Ancient Story Brings Present Joy
I then asked Jonathan to explain how the gospel fits into this joy. As Christians, we understand the gospel to be central to our lives. So, how does this central story give us the hope and reality of true joy and significance?
This is what he said:
The gospel is the amazing, astounding, and bewildering news that although we, as God’s creatures being made in his image and likeness, have rejected him and sought for our significance and happiness in everything but him, he has come to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
All of our sins, all of our shame, and all of our guilt that we deserve to be punished for, Jesus took upon himself. On the cross, he suffered the wrath that we deserved. He was crucified, killed, buried and then on the third day he was raised from the dead victoriously over sin and over death. He ascended to the Father’s right hand and sat on the throne as King over all the nations. And he is the King who is coming again, and he will judge the world in righteousness.
How that connects, then, to our joy and significance, is that although we were made to enjoy God and to find our meaning and significance in God, we failed. And every way we failed, Jesus came to prevail and succeed. Where we were faithless, he was faithful. Where we were disobedient, he was obedient. We turned to look for ultimate joy in other things, yet Jesus was completely satisfied and happy with the Father and the Father’s sufficiency.
Jesus didn’t just die for us but lived for us and was righteous and perfect for us. He lays for us a new humanity. Not like Adam, who failed, but a new humanity defined by who he is. What we have on the cross is this great exchange; our sin and our failure Jesus takes, and then his righteousness and perfection, this new humanity that he has blazed the trail for, we get invited into. We share his righteousness and we share in his life. Just like we share his death and resurrection.
We know that because of Jesus, because of the life that he lived and the death that he died, we can experience this joy that God created us to experience. Jesus’ work on the cross was both redemptive and revelatory. Not only is he saving us, but he’s showing us something about who God is. He showed us that God is just (he does judge sin) and that God is merciful. He’s merciful in that Jesus was judged in our place.
In that, we’re just blown away by the grace of God which was so definitively shown to us at the cross and resurrection of Jesus. That is the way to joy. That is the way to meaning. That is the way to get back to what God intends for us as humans.
For the entire conversation and transcription, check out Episode 084: Never Settle for Normal with Jonathan Parnell.