True Glory vs False Glory
“As they were coming home, when David returned from striking down the Philistine, the women came out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with songs of joy, and with musical instruments. And the women sang to one another as they celebrated, ‘Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands.’ And Saul was very angry, and this saying displeased him. He said, ‘They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed thousands,
and what more can he have but the kingdom?’”
1 Samuel 18:6-8
The account we see here with Saul communicates to us the two paths laid before all of mankind for glory - one is a cursed path and the other is the true path of righteousness. Many people in human history have tried to obtain glory by the cursed path - by trying to force “glory” for themselves, fighting to make themselves glorified in denial of righteousness, which is the very opposite of how to have any real glory. Whereas the true path to glory is found in living righteously “To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.” (Rom 2:7). What we see here with Saul is that he continually has these two paths laid before him, and rather than choosing the path of turning into righteousness and godliness, he chooses the path of merely trying to force his name to be great. He was deceived by the false path, and in choosing this path, he now begins to turn to oppress those who were truly righteous around him - those who had true glory. Saul did not heed the warning in Scripture: “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen 4:7) The warning of God is that if we do well, if we walk in true righteousness, then we will have glory, but if we refuse and choose the cursed path, then sin will deceive us and destroy us.
This is the lesson of glory for all. What God has given us in Jesus Christ is the pathway of true righteousness, and walking in this pathway, a real crown of glory. What we see with Cain and Saul is that rather than choosing to repent, to walk in true righteousness, they chose to try and cheat their way to it, they tried to work a different path than that of holiness.
This is the vanity we are meant to understand of all of mankind, the many ways that we can choose to try and make glory for ourselves outside of righteousness in God. Many trust in ambition, fame, their looks or personality, some spirituality, enlightenment, or philosophy, and many such things as these. And in the center of all this activity God speaks to mankind that it is only the true path of righteousness through Christ that will have any true glory. Only the person who really chooses righteousness who will have a crown. “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (1 Tim 4:8)
The pride in all of our hearts is in how easily we can give ourselves a “crown” for nothing. A man once said that “Pride is a crown to a poor man”, this is the crown that deceives. The sin in our hearts is that we all generally believe that we are better, smarter, more enlightened, more moral, wise, etc than others. And we all have various reasons for believing this. This is the false crown of the flesh, the desires that the pride in us will endlessly pursue, it is the lie which we comfort ourselves with and the lie whereby we take up false confidence in this world. All of mankind wants a crown, but the sinner cheats for it. The sinful heart does not do the honest work for a crown, laboring before Christ in righteousness for it.
The trouble is that this is the sin issue in the hearts of the world, and yet this heart issue often continues in our religious life. We try to use the religion of Christ in order to make up some form of belief about ourselves being special, more enlightened than others, and believing in doctrines that deny the truth that glory is still only had in living righteously through Christ. We try to twist God’s grace to mean we are “glorious” without a real righteousness in our lives, that God’s love is some sort of selection process that marks us as “special”, and that rather than Christ being the means whereby we come into a real approval with God because we live righteously through Him, instead He is a “means” whereby we come into some favoritism with God and are “outside” of His holy judgment of all people. This was the very same deception the Jews fell into, rather than doing the true works of “bearing fruit (of righteousness) in keeping with repentance,” (Mt 3:7-10) the Jews took the great things of God for pride and the lie of favoritism with God.
Alongside all of this, many such people believe they are “called” to be some “great saint”, denying that a person is judged and qualified purely upon whether they walk in righteousness or not (2 Tim 2:21-22). Many such people become like Saul in spirit, fighting with a wicked fist to make themselves “great”, rather than seeking righteousness alone. Such people try to deny all people the same opportunities as themselves to run the great race, and that whoever lives most righteously is the one who deserves greater honor. Rather, they try to cheat in the race, and will even try to hold back whole people groups because they imagine this is a means of obtaining some glory for themselves. They walk in the lie of trying to be “greatest” according to the world’s heart, thinking themselves great by being “head” of the pile (Lk 22:24-27), rather than honestly seeking the true greatness of the Kingdom, which is a righteousness that genuinely walks in true equality with ALL people, looking to all being able to run in the same race of righteousness. The lying heart of sin trusts in cheating others, in trying to “win” by trying to name themselves greater, rather than truly believing in the equality of all people, and knowing that they do not have any honor in the lie of being “greater” according to the flesh than any person or people’s group.
This heart of “greater than” is the very heart of our sin that Jesus warns us of (Lk 22:24-27). So many profess to serve others who serve others from a heart seeking to serve themselves in this pride, rather than being rid of it! Therefore they never truly serve anyone, but serve themselves and those merely in their “group”. This heart is opposed to real love, it is hatred at its very core, and yet such people often think they’re loving and serving others, failing to see how their very hearts and beliefs oppose others and harm them. A person never can truly love and serve their neighbor when they are filled with such poison. A heart like this does violence to one’s neighbor, always trying to “rule over” them, however “secretly”, rather than be a fellow servant among them. For this sort of “greatness” depends upon having others beneath you, where true greatness depends on righteousness alone, and a person stands or falls entirely on their own.
You cannot serve others unless you truly aim to bring them into the exact same things of God as yourself. How did Christ love us? He came down and opened Himself up entirely that we might share in His life. This sinful heart of “greatness” is the pride of man, and it is entirely opposed to the true Spirit of Jesus.
The lesson Jesus teaches in Luke 22:24-27 is not to be a little more serving in your attempt at “greatness”, but the very heart of uprooting such sins in us! “And they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Mt 23:6-12) The warning of God is that the person who keeps working for this sinful “greatness” will be cast down into utter shame, and why? Because they did not choose righteousness but cheating and sin. This sin is no less vile and wicked when it’s done in our religion, it’s moreso! For true religion in the heart should come against such sin in us, not become some “foundation” for it. Again, this was the heart of the sin of the Jews, they took the things of God for this false glory, rather than for righteousness (Rom 2). This is the heart of the whole world, trying to “cheat” at glory, rather than work for true glory, and we can absolutely take hold of religion as a means for this. True religion is only that which leads us IN this path of righteousness, therefore if our religion becomes a means of seeking some false greatness, of believing ourselves more special than others, then what does our religious activity do but walk in sin? Such people are those who have tried to take godliness as a “means of gain” (1 Tim 6:5), rather than taking godliness for its true purpose - righteousness through Jesus Christ.
The heart in Saul and Cain became filled with violence, they sought to force and oppress others, sought out murder, for the purpose of this false crown. And though many would not physically pursue others with the same violence, the exact same hatred and violence is in their hearts.
Those people who keep choosing this sin of “greatness” are like Cains in their congregations and pulpits, working to oppress others to support whatever they think establishes their “greatness”. They will fight endlessly for these things they perceive to be “truths”, failing to see that they do so because it serves their sinful desires of “special, favoritism, greatness”. Thinking God supports them, they fail to see how they delight in “God’s Word” because they believe it gives them some support for their sinful desires. There are many ways people do this, but two that are very common today are, firstly, with people who deny that the Gospel is entirely rooted in righteousness, believing that God’s grace is favoritism rather than a means of righteous living. Such people deny the very real judgment of God to be on ALL people, and believe God’s grace is some exemption from His judgment. Secondly, how so many men try to hold women back from the exact same pursuit of Christ as themselves, doing so because they think to make themselves important, special, and “great" by them being a man, and depend upon women being inferior to them to support this notion. The sin of Saul is that he fought with a wicked fist against David, rather than pursuing his own walk with God and doing his best in this, he spent his effort in trying to squash David in order to feel he had control for his own name. And this is the very same sin so many men have walked in towards women, endlessly working to try and elevate themselves over women rather than truly being willing to share humanity with them in equality and share the whole of Christianity with them.
The sinful heart in mankind is in trying to cheat our way to glory, this is the heart issue that fueled such things like slavery in America and segregation, it was the darkness in Cain’s heart as he murdered Able, and it was the blind bitterness in Saul as he hunted David, it has been the cause of the deepest oppression and violence. What is tragic is how so many miss how deep this bitter poison is in the hearts of themselves and/or those around them. So many praise others as good or loving who are filled with this murdering selfishness in their hearts. It’s behind the eyes of so many smiles and kind words. This self glory may not always be so outright and violent, for it has many different ways, but it is the root of all hatred and selfishness. How vain that there is so much talk today about correcting selfishness, where so few really identity the true evil, and even fewer are truly willing to give up their cursed crowns of “greatness”, and truly willing to seek the true crowns of righteousness in Christ.
This is what God sets before all of us, the same two pathways He set before Cain and Saul, and all of mankind before us: the cursed path and the blessed path. What God has given us in Christ is the true means of glory, that is what this race is all about, that is what the crown means. We are to run in Christ, meant to come into true righteousness through Him, and by this REAL righteousness, to overcome the world. To overcome this evil heart of covetousness and pride, this evil heart seeking to be “great” by elevating ourselves over others, this wicked selfishness and lovelessness and harm to others, and to come into a righteousness that is real fruits of goodness. A heart of true equality, no longer keeping secret lies of being “more enlightened” or “better” than others, but a heart that delights in real righteousness and therefore rejoices in all who walk in righteousness. A heart seeking to bring others into the true equality of Christ which is the equal opportunity for all to walk in holiness and godliness. A heart that no longer tries to steal, kill, and destroy our neighbor for our cursed crowns, but one that seeks the true crown of righteousness alongside all who also seek the true crown (2 Tim 2:22). It is the pathway of those who truly give up every part of their cursed crowns, in order to seek the true crown found through Jesus Christ. This is what the religion of God is supposed to work in us. It is the pathway to a true approval with God and sharing in the glory of Christ.
September 22, 2023