Christians talk a lot about glory. We hear it in sermons, read about it in books, and teach our children how they should do all things for the glory of God. This word is beautifully splattered across the pages of Scripture. Glory is a big deal.
Despite my familiarity with the word, I’m realizing that I have much more to learn about it. When I think of glory, I primarily think of it as a noun, as the greatness and beauty of Christ. But I’m discovering that “glory” is not just a noun; it’s also a verb. Glory is something we do. To glory means to take great pride or pleasure in someone or something or to boast in it. When I boast in Christ, I glory in Him.
Boasting in Christ does not come naturally to me. My default is to depend on and boast in myself. But I can’t glory in Christ when I’m glorying in myself.
Our culture values self-sufficiency and denounces dependency. If I’m not careful, I end up adopting those values instead of those presented in the Bible. There is great tension in being in the world and not of it. We must fight for our ethics to be shaped by the gospel more than our culture. John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). There is no competition for glory when we live by the Word of God.
We all have reasons to want to trust in our achievements for our good and gain—that battle for our glory. I don’t want to be the woman who embraces rival glories, and I suspect you don’t either. Let’s evaluate how we’re doing glory.
Consider Your Reasons
We don’t have to pretend like we don’t have reasons for putting confidence in our flesh. Paul introduces the conversation for us: “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more” (Phil. 3:4). Reasons exist. Paul’s reasons included his lineage, intelligence, passion, and behavior (vv. 5–6). I base my confidence on my productivity. I get a lot of things done for a lot of people, and I have a great temptation to trust in my works for my status. I daily fight the fleshly desire to boast in my capabilities. This is a rival glory.
To identify your own reasons, consider those things you’d like God to linger on as He looks at you. Would you like Him to notice your successful spouse or your exceptional children? Do you find your worth in your professional or academic accomplishments? Is your identity anchored in your online following? Do you trust in your physical appearance or in your bank account?
Scripture gives us a right perspective of our gifts and abilities:
By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Cor. 15:10).
We’re united with Christ in His life, death, and resurrection—and we will also share in His glory. Therefore, all rival glories must be counted as loss, because this union with Christ is incompatible with them.
Count Your Losses
These rival glories compete for our trust. The status that we easily boast in becomes our stumbling block to fully relying on Christ as our only hope and only good. Our clinging, no matter how slight, to our own merits and righteousness, renders us incapable of fully knowing and enjoying Christ’s righteousness. We can’t have both our righteousness and Christ’s. We must abandon our claims to the confidence we put in our flesh. We must set our eyes and our hope fully on our Christ alone.
Our righteous deeds are not something to glory in. The prophet Isaiah describes them as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). Paul says we should count our merits as loss.
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:8).
We foolishly cling to what we think is our gain when Scripture says we should be flinging it far from us. This is challenging for me because I often like the recognition that comes from my works. But whatever I’m tempted to trust in for my good standing before God is a rival glory, and, by His grace, it must be renounced.But we can do so happily and with hope, because losing our confidence in these idols leads to great gain.
Know Your Gain
As a believer in Christ, what I once thought of as an advantage now is considered useless, offensive even. Boasting in myself and my accomplishments is an assault on God’s grace. The gospel frees me from depending on what I’ve done for God. I can rest in what He’s done for me. Respect, opportunity, rewards, and fame—anything I “gained” from my own merit, now stands as a rival to the gospel. Many of our former gains are good things, but they become competing things when we let them determine our status.
Hope in ourselves is misplaced. Mercifully, God offers us gospel hope through our union with His Son. His righteousness is ours by faith, and rejecting our own righteousness is the only way to gain His. We are to renounce our sinful reliance on ourselves because of the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:8).
Then He initiates our greatest gain, a relationship with Him.
Glory in Christ
Our tendency is to work for, earn, or feel entitled to the benefits of the gospel that come through faith. We all have reasons to put confidence in the flesh. But by God’s grace, we count those reasons as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. He alone is our boast and our reward.
When we do glory well, we won’t put confidence in our flesh. Instead, we boast in our weaknesses so that the power of Christ is magnified in us (2 Cor. 12:9). With confidence, we echo Paul’s words, “In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God” (Rom. 15:17). For Him and for His glory becomes our theme. When we work in such a way that people talk about and are drawn to Christ, we are glorying in Him.
I don’t want to minimize loss. Giving up our confidence in something we formerly counted on can be painful. But each time I glory in Christ, He reveals more of His glory to me and increases my affections for Him. This inspires me to work so that others might see His glory. My vision for Him gives me the courage to wake up tomorrow and reject my glory and seek His again.
In God’s economy, loss leads to gain. Jim Elliot, Christian missionary and martyr, said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” May we lose our rival glories to gain our righteousness through faith in the risen Christ.