The name of this blog, of this website, whatever you wish to call it, is Affectionately Dependent. If you like, you can read more about that in the about page or really in any post written here. Essentially, though, It’s the way I see the Christian life and how I think it works. A number of weeks ago I started thinking more about the title and began pondering what a proper subtitle might be. With some effort and thought and a few scribbles on bits of paper, I came up with the following:
Affectionate Dependence: For His glory, For our joy, For they are one
I think that’s really bold to say––that we are living for God’s glory and for our joy, and that those two things fall on top of one-another, that they are the same––but I think it’s true. And if I could set a passage before you in attempt to prove it I’d choose Romans 8. I’d do so because I really believe it’s there and I think that’s one of the reasons why we love that passage so much. I’d love to show you in the following paragraphs.
Just at a first I’d specifically pull two things out to highlight this. Even though the word ‘joy’ doesn’t come up explicitly in the text I believe it is so fully there because of what Paul is writing about. Romans 8:28, a familiar verse, says, “…We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”.
I’d ask myself two questions about that. First, what does it mean that all things are working for our good, what is the good end to which all things are working? And second, “What is the purpose of God we are called unto?” Well, I think if we look at the text the first piece quite clearly means being conformed to the image of Jesus. Indeed, the following verse says, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son”. Surely, that’s good news of great joy. Being conformed to Jesus shouldn’t sound drab or legalistic but manifest explosive joy and affectionate dependence. Isaiah 55’s ‘Come everyone who thirsts, come to the waters’, David’s, “You give them drinks from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life…” (Psalm 36), and Jesus’, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall never hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” should remind us of who our soul was created to be satisfied by, namely, God himself.
Certainly, to be conformed to the image of the loveliest, infinitely happy and holy being in the universe is for our joy. Indeed, it’s for the very satisfaction of our longing hearts. I think that should produce immense joy in our hearts. I think it did in Paul’s. That’s a piece.
But what about that second part, what is Paul getting at there? What is the purpose of God stated there? I’d argue it’s the same purpose we read of in Numbers 14:21, namely, that as much as God lives (and he cannot die), the earth will be filled with his glory. That’s strong language. That’s a rock solid promise that the earth will be filled with the glory of God, end of story. We see this all across the pages of the Old Testament passages not the least being Ezekiel 36. It’s a beautiful hope-inducing new covenant passage that shows us with outright clarity why God acts. “…It is not for your sake O Israel that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name…” He’s acting for his Glory!
Even with this single verse we can see God’s glory and our joy woven together. He’s working all things together for our good, indeed our joy, but simultaneously for his glory––the purpose for which the world exists. I want to continue in Romans 8 and show this to you in other verses too, it’s wonderful, I can’t help but go on. Romans 8:32-39 reads as follows:
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I want to first reason through the idea of being given all things. Because, I know I’ve often stumbled there with some perplexity–– wondering what exactly that means.
Here’s what I’d say. Don’t think being given all things means being given things you can store up in your house, in your bank account, or in your list of good experiences in life. That’s wrong thinking, that’s not what Paul is saying––not at all. Rather, think the gospel. Think of what Christ has done on the cross and how that is absolutely everything. Because Christ is the propitiation for our sin, nothing can separate us from the love of God. In all things we have conquered through him who loved us––that’s being given all things!
Also, I think seeing Paul’s language in verse 37 is helpful. He explains that we are more than conquerors in hardship and trial and persecution and death, i.e. in all things. Being a conqueror over persecution, or hardship would mean we aren’t separated from the love of God by those things. Indeed, that’s what he goes on to say so beautifully. Yet, what does it mean to be more than a conqueror in trial and hardship? Is that just cliché language? No, I don’t think it is, I think it means something, and I think it is really beneficial to see. If all the things that once separated us from the love of God can no longer do so, we’d be conquerers over those things. But, being more than conquerors would mean those things are actually now working for us. The trials are working for our good. That’s congruent with 8:28.
Yet, I don’t know that seeing this necessarily unhinges a door to behold something deeper if we don’t see where Paul is headed with all this. Being conquers––nothing can separate us from the love of God––is incredible. And oh, we aren’t only conquerors but more than that––the trials are working for our good! That’s true, and that’s absolutely titanic. That’s fruit-bearing theology right there. No trial can touch you. And no trial is not working for your good! What freedom Christ has bought for us.
But, we need to see that being conquerors in all things in itself isn’t the point. The point is what we get because we, in Christ, are conquerors in all things. Focusing only and chiefly on being ‘conquerors’ in all things is a bit like being gifted millions of dollars and never doing anything with them because well, after all, you are a millionaire. What else could anyone want? You just totally miss the point and appeal of being a millionaire if you think like that. It’s not the fact that you happen to be one but what you gain because you are one.
We get God! That’s why it’s for our joy! For Christ also suffered once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, in whose presence is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore (1 Peter 3:18, Psalm 16:11). Nothing can separate us from God, indeed all things are working to push us further to God in Jesus––that’s manifesting of monumental joy.
Yet, It’s so obviously for God’s glory ––the end to which all things are running. Look, if you are suffering for something or someone and your persecutor continually says to you, “If you deny your master, this allegiance you are being persecuted for, I will set you free”. But you stare at this persecutor cold in the eyes and endure suffering with the herald of, “He’s worth it! He’s better! I’d rather have him than the whole world. This suffering isn’t worth comparing to the riches I have in Jesus” in your mouth, you glorify God––immeasurably. When our affections rest in Jesus, and they are shown to remain there even in affliction, God is glorified all the more.
I suppose there’s a reason Paul quotes Psalm 44:22 here. “For your sake”, for God’s name, for his glory, “We are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” When we declare the riches we’ve found in Christ amidst suffering, amidst the loss of earthy riches, we show what truly rules our hearts. And when that is Jesus, as it is here, God gets great glory for himself. For he is rightfully declared to be of infinite worth and proclaimed as our greatest treasure.
It’s incredibly helpful to see this. My prayer is that we might see it and know it deeply, and love God all the more for it. Oh that we might be people of great joy because of what Jesus has done and give glory to whom glory is due. May we declare, “For His glory, For our joy, For they are one.”