Seek His glory

IV Pascha Wednesday, Mid-Pentecost  РJohn 7: 14-30

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Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught.   And the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?  Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.

Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me?  The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?  Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel.

Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill?  But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ?

Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.  Then cried Jesus in the temple as he taught, saying, Ye both know me, and ye know whence I am: and I am not come of myself, but he that sent me is true, whom ye know not.  But I know him: for I am from him, and he hath sent me.  Then they sought to take him: but no man laid hands on him, because his hour was not yet come.

 The phrase “of himself” in verse 18 means “from” himself; that is, this person the Lord refers to, who seeks his own glory and not the glory of God, is one who teaches his own false and corrupt teachings, not the true teachings from God which Our Lord perfectly reveals in the Gospel, for, being one with the Father, the Lord Jesus speaks only of that which is from the Father.   There are many such false teachers, of course – the shelves of our libraries groan with the weight of their books, and the airwaves are polluted by their foolish pratings day and night on radio, television, and the Internet.  Moreover, here the Lord is not only painting a picture of all such false teachers, but He is also warning us about one such person, the worst of all, who will be the Antichrist.    The Blessed Augustine elaborates on this in his commentary:  

“He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory (v. 18a).” This will be he who is called Antichrist, “exalting himself,” as the apostle says, “above all that is called God, and that is worshipped (II Thessalonians 2:4).” The Lord, declaring that this same it is that will seek his own glory, not the glory of the Father, says to the Jews: “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye have not received me; another will come in his own name, him ye will receive (John 5:45).”   He intimated that they would receive the Antichrist, who will seek the glory of his own name, puffed up, not solid; and therefore not stable, but assuredly ruinous.  But our Lord Jesus Christ has shown us a great example of humility: for doubtless He is equal with the Father, for “…in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;” yea, doubtless, He Himself said, and most truly said, “Am I so long time with you, and ye have not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father (John 14: 9).”  Yea, doubtless, Himself said, and most truly said, “I and the Father are one (John 10: 30.).”  If, therefore, He is one with the Father, equal to the Father, God from God, God with God, co-eternal, immortal, alike unchangeable, alike without time, alike Creator and disposer of times; and yet because he came in time, and took the form of a servant, and in condition was found as a man (Philippians 2:7), He seeks the glory of the Father, not His own; what oughtest thou to do, O man, who, when thou doest anything good, seekest thine own glory; but when thou doest anything ill, dost meditate calumny against God?   Consider thyself: thou art a creature, acknowledge thy Creator.  Thou art a servant: despise not thy Lord.  Thou art adopted, not for thy own merits: seek His glory from whom thou hast this grace, that thou art a man adopted; His, whose glory He sought who is from Him, the Only-Begotten. 

“But He who seeketh His glory that sent Him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him (vs. 18b).”   In Antichrist, however, there is unrighteousness, and he is not true; because he will seek his own glory, not His by whom he was sent (though, indeed, he was not sent, but only permitted to come).   Let us all, therefore, that belong to the body of Christ, seek not our own glory, that we be not led into the snares of Antichrist.   But if Christ sought His glory that sent Him, how much more ought we to seek the glory of Him Who made us?”  

“Consider thyself: thou art a creature, acknowledge thy Creator.”  Here St. Augustine gets to the root of our problem:   Our minds have inherited the delusion that entered the hearts of our first parents when they believed the lie of the serpent, that they were the source of their own existence, whereas in truth only God is self-existent, and our existence is completely contingent upon His will.    

“Thou art a servant: despise not thy Lord.”  Self-will, arising from the delusion of self-existence, causes us to despise the Lord’s commands, obedience to which alone can free a man from that slavery to the passions which fallen man calls freedom.  

“Thou art adopted, not for thy own merits:  seek His glory, from whom thou hast this grace…”    The delusions of self-existence and self-will are always accompanied by self-righteousness, for the more a man is enslaved to his delusions and passions, the more righteous he deems himself. 

The saint couples this moral exhortation to eschew pride, self-will, and self-justification with his teaching on the Antichrist precisely in order to arm us against the spirit of Antichrist.   If by God’s grace we abide in the profound and constant appreciation of our status as creatures – that God is God and we are not God;  if by God’s grace we constrain our wills continually to obey God’s commands, understanding that we find our true freedom only as absolute slaves to His will; if by God’s grace we continually grow in the appreciation of our absolute dependence on the Blood of Christ for our salvation, understanding that we have zero righteousness of our own, seeing sinfulness in ourselves ever more clearly and losing all interest in the sins of others – then we have a firm hope of attaining the discernment needed to descry the spirit of Antichrist when it makes its appearance in all areas of life, whether ecclesiastical, social, or domestic.  Then, if the actual Antichrist would come in our lifetimes, we would be in practice – discerning what he is will not be an insurmountable challenge. 

In order to create an atmosphere in which we can grow in this salutary self-distrust, however, we must abjure the media culture that we are drowning in.  It constitutes a nightmare universe of endless self-promotion and self-opinion, endless self-justification and the condemnation of others, endless pre-occupation with endlessly multifarious ideas about a billion unrelated fragments of information that may or may not be real.   One does not have to be a notorious talking head on a political podcast to be part of the problem. The most plebeian of Internet junkies, constantly posting pictures of himself on Facebook, for example, and informing the universe about himself – his opinions, his activities, his likes and dislikes – someone engaged in this endless self-promotion, is engaged in an endless hunt for celebrity, which is inherently opposed to leading a genuinely human life, much less spiritual life.   He acquires the mind of one who “speaketh of himself,” who “seeketh his own glory,” and not the glory of God.     

We have to understand this monstrous way of life – or, rather, non-life – for what it is, and flee this labyrinth before the Minotaur of the soul that lives in there finally captures us completely and devours us forever.  

Through the prayers of the Blessed Augustine and all the saints who sought the glory of God and not their own, in blessed imitation of their Master, may we just forget ourselves and live for the Lord.  Amen. 

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