Pilgrim's Progress

Staying for the Best Things

I can’t shake the scene of that little room where Passion and Patience sit waiting. The boys’ sitter instructed them to stay still, to rest side by side, to hold out for what’s best. What we come to find is a quest for pleasure so intense we’re compelled to take note.

John Bunyan is telling that kind of story in The Pilgrim’s Progress. He brings us along with Christian every step of the way and at this particular point Interpreter is our guide.

Interpreter leads Christian into a small room to observe two kids seated in parallel chairs. Passion is the restless one. He is discontent, perhaps huffing and puffing, frowning and squirming. Beside him is Patience. He’s the one who keeps quiet. Bunyan implies his posture: feet straight in front of him, neatly squared up in the middle of the chair, hands folded in his lap (i.e., not the way my kids sit at the dinner table). The boys were plainly told they had to wait for the best things. The best things were coming to them, but wouldn’t get there until early the next year. Passion can’t stand this. We can tell by how he acts. He just wants it all now. Then someone walks in the room and dumps a bag of treasure at his feet. Aha! Passion jumps down from his chair and happily scoops up the goodies. Grinning, he looks over at Patience, still sitting quietly, and he laughs him to scorn.

But Christian continues to watch. He sees that Passion “quickly lavishe[s] all away” until he “had presently nothing left him but rags.” Interpreter explains:

These two lads are figures: Passion, of the men of this world; and Patience, of the men of that which is to come; for as here thou seest, Passion will have all now this year, that is to say, in this world; so are the men of this world, they must have all their good things now, they cannot stay till next year, that is until the next world, for their portion of good. . . . But as thou sawest that he had quickly lavished all away, and had presently left him nothing but rags; so will it be with all such men at the end of this world.

Christian replies,

Now I see that Patience has the best wisdom, and that upon many accounts. First, because he stays for the best things. Second, and also because he will have the glory of his, when the other has nothing but rags.

How’d He Do That?

Bunyan leaves us to wonder how Patience’s waiting actually looked. Sure, we understand the end. We get that he has the best wisdom. But how exactly did he wait? What did he think about while sitting in that chair? Watching Passion indulge in the treasure? Remembering the sitter’s words? How was Patience, well, patient?

Answer: he was a Christian hedonist.

Now to be sure, it doesn’t sound very hedonistic at first. Denying himself the bag of “treasure” tossed in front of him resembles more the tune of self-denial. But self-denial, for the Christian Hedonist, is not for the sake of self-denial.

Patience saw Passion dive into the mass of goodies, and he denied his impulse to do the same. He held back. And this is biblical, of course. The apostle Paul writes in Titus 2:11–12a, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions.” Paul says there are things in this world we’re supposed to renounce, that is, deny. And the “self” in self-denial is composed of these things. That self is the old self, the one that was crucified with Jesus (Romans 6:6), the one in whom we no longer exist (Galatians 2:20). That is the self Patience denied, the self of ungodliness, worldly passions, and inferior pleasures.

“For the Best Things”

You see, this doesn’t end up as a negative enterprise. Remember how Bunyan says it. Patience sat quietly in his chair “because he stays for the best things.” It appears that Patience realized he sat in that room with pleasures for which that bag of treasure could not satisfy. Denying the treasure didn’t shrivel up his appetite. It was that his appetite was so big it shriveled up the treasure. Patience didn’t bury his head in the sand either. He wasn’t frantically shouting “No!” over and over. He simply kept his eyes on next year. He trusted what he was told. Passion could have done the same had he not been far too easily pleased.

We learn that Patience’s self-denial came from a craving for the superior pleasure. This is the self-denial of the Christian Hedonist. Patience wasn’t merely holding back, he was looking forward. His resistance from that bag of transient treasure was actually his feasting in eternal joy. As Paul continues in Titus 2:12b–13, “training us. . . to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

What Bunyan means is that Patience halted the world’s empty promises because he had something better ahead (namely, our Savior Jesus Christ).

Different and the Same

So we’re different from Patience, and we’re the same. We’re different in that we’re in a much sweeter spot than he was. He sat in that chair with the promise of better things (convincing enough) while we sit here, in the room of this world, with not only a promise, but also God’s very Spirit living inside us. We have the active communication of himself through his word. We have the experience of being “in Christ” now, of being seated with him now in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). Our lives are hidden in him now (Colossians 3:3). We are brought to God now and enjoy his fellowship (1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 1:3).

But there is still more to come. Like Patience, what’s better remains out in front. Learning again from Paul, we’ve not yet obtained the fullness of our portion. We’re not yet perfect (Philippians 3:12). We are waiting, too. We are waiting for the consummation of God’s great work, the revealing of our Lord Jesus and the final redemption of our bodies (1 Corinthians 1:7; Romans 8:23). So as wondrous at it is now, the “far better” is yet next year (Philippians 1:23).

And waiting like this is staying for the best things.

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What Will You Say to Jesus?

One day we will stand before Jesus.

If we could see through the clutter of our lives now, if we could envision that day when everything is said and done, it’s clear that the enduring mission in and under and beyond every detail of our lives should be about pleasing him. What does he think?

What will he say?

We don’t know the exact words Jesus will speak to us on that Day, though the Bible gives us some ideas (Matthew 25:23). Whatever it is, we can be sure it will be glorious and full of grace. We will hear his voice. It will be amazing.

But what if we turned the question around? Instead of just wondering what Jesus might say to us, what will we say to Jesus? Imagine with me for a moment that you are there with him and he asks you how you made it to heaven.

“How were you saved?” he asks.

Easy, you think. “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in you, Jesus, and so I believed in you in order to be justified by faith” (Galatians 2:16).

“Yes,” he says.

But then imagine he asks a follow-up question. He wants to press deeper. He wants you to see more of his glory. Imagine, as John Piper ponders in chapter four of Five Points: Toward a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace, that Jesus asks you, “Why did you believe on me, when you heard the gospel, but your friends didn’t, when they heard?”

You know that is the case. We all have friends, family, people we know, who have heard the gospel but do not believe. And some, sadly, will refuse Jesus all their lives. And there you are, on that Day, and Jesus is asking you why, why you were one of the ones who believed.

“Why did you trust me but these others didn’t?”

You hear his words. You bow your head. And you do not say it’s because you’re smarter. You don’t begin to explain your faith as the result of your wisdom. “Well, Lord, you see, I was just more spiritual than they were.” “I read more books than they did.” “I always had a way of making good decisions.”

No. You won’t say that.

In that moment — picture it — in that moment you and I and every blood-bought saint will put our hands over our mouths, pointing to him, not us. Grace will stand forth with more vividness than we could have ever dreamed. There will be new dimensions of colors then — depths and wonders that we can’t see through the dim mirror of now.

And then, in that glorious moment, we will say, “You, Jesus. It was all you. We believed in your name, only by your sovereign grace. Jesus, it was all you.”

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Walter Schultz Explains Jonathan Edwards’s Dissertation on the End for Which God Created the World

Edwards potrait

There is no such thing as a deeper truth than this.

Walter Schultz, in the March issue of JETS, Volume 56, No. 1, page 122:

God’s original ultimate end in creating and sustaining the world is the pleasure he takes in his self-knowledge, holiness, and happiness eternally-increasing in a society of beings who are upheld in existence moment-by-moment ex nihilo. Before creating anything, God appraised this goal as being inherently valuable and esteemed and desired it as such. He then began to pursue this and continues to act toward it. God is moved to pursue this end solely by virtue of his eternally-occurrent supreme regard for himself as Trinity and for his capacity-attributes.

Unsplash-valley

The God-Centered Cross of Love Inexhaustible

The hands-down, most horrific nightmare possible is that of a God who is angry without due cause. Could we imagine anything worse?

It would be the most terrible thing if the only person who has the power to destroy you forever were ferociously angry with you for no reason. That God would hate you just because. That he would throw his fury around on a whim. What if he were arbitrarily annoyed with everything about you? What if he were to burn with indignation toward you only because he can?

There is no idea worse, and no idea more untrue.

Now to be clear, God is angry. He “feels indignation every day,” as Psalm 7:11 says. But here’s the crucial point to remember: his anger is always a righteous response to sin.

Because God Is Holy

God is love, not wrath. The reason he wields wrath is because of sin. And the reason sin deserves wrath is because he is holy. He is absolute purity. His triune essence is blinding perfection. Sin belittles this holiness. Sin speaks into existence a lie about the way things really are. Sin slanders God’s handiwork and refuses to recognize his worth. Sin on the loose — sin unpunished — injects the air with a false witness about who God is. It puts the world in the dark.

Sin makes a world of closed eyes and plugged ears — a world that leaves God alone to uphold the value of his name. Only God is left to perceive and love what is most lovable, which is God himself. He alone maintains the righteous orbit of the moral universe. And the way he does this is by wrath against the wrong.

As John Murray writes, “Because he loves himself supremely he cannot suffer what belongs to the integrity of his character and glory to be compromised or curtailed.”1 Sin in God’s economy will always ultimately be punished sin — either one day in the hell of a burning fire, or that one Friday in the hell of a Roman cross.

This is why there was a cross. God’s holiness and our sin explain why at the heart of the Christian message is the death of Jesus in our place — a death that fundamentally was propitiation. In fact, D. A. Carson says that propitiation is what “holds together all the other biblical ways of talking about the cross.”2 So it’s important that we understand what it means.

What Is Propitiation?

First, let me say what it isn’t. Christian propitiation is not the works of sinful man to crudely appease an angry deity. That’s the pagan idea. Rather, Christian propitiation is the work of God to absorb his divine anger toward sinful man. The first is capricious and whimsical. The latter is the calculated selfless act of a loving God — indeed, of a God who is love.

In his classic The Cross of Christ, John Stott parses out Christian propitiation with three crucial points.

First, God’s wrath is the reason why propitiation was necessary. Remember, the nightmare of unsubstantiated indignation is untrue. “The wrath of God is his steady, unrelenting, unremitting, uncompromising antagonism to evil in all its forms and manifestations” (173). God has wrath because wrath against sin is the fitting expression of a holy God.

Second, God is the one who makes propitiation. This wasn’t man’s idea, but God’s. It is all due to his mercy and grace. Stott is all over this. He writes, “God does not love us because Christ died for us; Christ died for us because God loved us. If it is God’s wrath which needed to be propitiated, it is God’s love which did the propitiating” (174).

Third, God was the propitiatory sacrifice. What hung on the cross wasn’t a thing. It wasn’t a basket of fruit or a headless chicken. Stott notes that God giving his Son was God giving God. The blood that soaked into Golgotha’s soil was not the blood of a man partly divine, but of God himself who had become a man.

One fact rings loud in all three of Stott’s points. It is the fact that every right way to parse propitiation is profoundly about God.

It is God himself who in holy wrath needs to be propitiated, God himself who in holy love undertook to do the propitiating, and God himself who in the person of his Son died for the propitiation of our sins. Thus God took his own loving initiative to appease his own righteous anger by bearing it his own self in his own Son when we took our place and died for us. There is no crudity here to evoke our ridicule, only the profundity of holy love to evoke our worship. (175)

Do you see it? A God-centered God created a God-centered cosmos that he saves by a God-centered cross. Far from a nightmare, this is better than our greatest dream. God’s God-centeredness doesn’t make him a reckless tyrant who flies off the handle at the drop of hat. It makes him a sovereign God who is great enough to stoop this low to rescue us. It gives him a mighty arm able stretch to the uttermost with love for those who deserve his anger.

Who can fathom this wonder? Man would not make this up. Man could not. Do you see it? Do you see what he has done? What do we do but bow speechless? We put our hands over our mouths in awe. Do you see what he has done?

He has loved us with a love inexhaustible.


1 John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955), 32.

2 D. A. Carson, Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), Locations 954-955.

Fuel for Mission: Remembering the Person Behind the Message

Speaking of mission[1], what we are commending or giving to these Cities and the nations is not ultimately a message, but the person Jesus Christ, and it’s not Jesus as a mere person, but Jesus as the King who reigns over all — Jesus in all of his supremacy and power and glory.

Let’s hear Jesus’ own words, Matthew 28:18–20, Matthew tells us that Jesus came and said to his eleven disciples, and to us:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Be going therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

A Message, But Not Ultimately

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a message. It is news. It is the announcement that Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 15:3–4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…”

This is a message and it’s a powerful message. It flips the wisdom of the world upside down that the word of the cross, an announcement, speaking about a historical event, voicing a reality — this is the way God has chosen to overcome the world. We say things and people’s lives are changed forever. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. That’s the way it happened for us, we heard something, we heard a word and the Spirit gave us eyes and made us new creations.

So the gospel is a message, but it’s not ultimately a message. It is not flat content. It is the declaration of a person, a real person who has done a real work in real space-time history to reconcile real people to a real God. It is not a cerebral exercise. It is a word that takes us off the page, a message that goes deeper than just hearing.

Peter tells us that “Jesus suffered, the righteousness for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). Jesus suffered, Jesus the righteous one, the only Son of God, the eternal Word behind everything that exists, he suffered for the unrighteous. That is us. We who have rebelled against God and replaced him with other things, hoisting up the worship of ourselves and created stuff. We have rebelled against our creatureliness and scoffed at the one who made us. And Jesus suffered for us, which means all the wrath that we deserve for our sins, all the punishment we were headed towards, Jesus took all of it. Jesus took our sins upon himself as if they were his sins and he suffered for them in our place, absorbing the fury of God that was against us, so that we would be brought to God, that our relationship with our Creator would be reconciled. God our Father, Christ our Brother, the Spirit our DNA who testifies of this new relationship.

The Person, Jesus Christ

So do you see how this works? I have said words but you all know that it’s not really just words. Embedded in the good news of Jesus is the person Jesus who offers himself to you. So our telling others the gospel is really our introducing others to the Person, Jesus Christ.

And this is why Jesus said to “go make disciples,” not “go make consumers.” If we are just relaying information or just making noise then the neighbors we encounter have the right to click away or turn it off. Or maybe a more positive result, they sign up or download the app, either way this is a cultural distortion that smudges the truth of what we’re doing. Because when we speak the gospel, we are showing people Jesus — we are introducing them to the person, Jesus — and what you do with that, what you do with your encounter with Jesus, is life or death. If you deny the gospel, you reject a person.

And when you believe the gospel, you embrace a person. Christianity is not an email list, it’s not Liking a blog post through Facebook or checking off on some data. When you believe the message of the gospel you are bowing your life to the Lord Jesus Christ who is seated and reigning at the right hand of the Father and who will come again to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will never end.

Jesus — Last Adam and Son of Man

Here’s the counter-intuitive danger that I want to speak into: in our efforts to be practical and live out what we believe, we are actually running the risk of abstracting the very thing that we are exporting. Because we are on the ground running, and moving, and if we are not careful, then the person of Jesus who is behind all of this can be diminished in our minds as just a product we’re trying to spread.

But it’s not about a product, or a mere message, it’s about the person, Jesus. And here’s where we take the final step to say, it’s not even about Jesus as a mere person, but Jesus as the sovereign King over all. See the progression: it is a message, but not ultimately a message. It’s the person, Jesus. And yet it’s not Jesus as a mere person. It’s Jesus for who he truly is (and this is what the message is getting at).

And Jesus actually makes this clear in how he commissions us. Look back at Matthew 28. This first phrase in v. 18 is huge: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

This is rooted back in the Old Testament and it’s a thread that runs throughout all of Scripture. We can call it “the drama of the Son.” It starts really with Adam being created in God’s image. In his genealogy in the gospel of Luke, Luke calls Adam the son of God (3:38). So there’s this idea that Adam is a son. And then after the fall, what is the promise that God makes to Adam and Eve? Genesis 3:15, the seed of a woman. A son. And so here the drama begins, we are looking for this son. Well Cain and Abel don’t work out. Then later comes along Noah, a righteous man, but doesn’t work out. So he has some sons. And then Shem has some sons. And then later Abraham, the one God chooses and blesses. And we’re not sure if he’s ever to going to have a son. Then later in Egypt, when the people of Israel were too great, what was Pharaoh’s strategy? It’s about the son. So this is developed and it runs through the entire Bible. You get to David and what was the promise to King David: it’s that he would have a son who would be king. Throughout the storyline of Scripture our vision for this son gets sharper so that you see this phrase in Psalm 8 and Ezekiel and Daniel, “son of man.”  And this phrase, the “son of man” is what epitomizes our hope in a son, going back to Adam and the original promise. And the profile of this son of man is filled out amazingly in Daniel 7.

Dan 7:13  “I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

So this is the son of man we are looking for. The son of man who owns everything. And Jesus steps on the scene in the Gospels and what does he call himself more than anything else? The son of man. And if that’s not clear enough, in Matthew 28 he gets crystal clear and when he commissions his disciples and his church he prefaces the commission with who he is. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. You see it’s not merely a message, it about a person. But not only a person, it is the person who has all authority in heaven and on earth.

Adam was given the original commission to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with image-bearers who reflect God’s glory. But that son failed. And here we have the true son of man, the better and last Adam, Jesus Christ, who takes the original commission to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and he says to his church “make disciples of all nations.” This is a commission that will not fail. The earth will be filled with the glory of God and the way Jesus completes this mission and advances his new-creational reign is by his Spirit filling his people who are sent forth to speak the message of the gospel, that’s not only a message, but is about him, the person, Jesus Christ, our Savior and our Lord, the hope of the world and King over all.

So the point is that we remember him. That we see him and all of his excellency and wonder and majesty. That we know that Jesus is the Who this is all about.

And then we wonder, who could not want to be on mission for a King like that?


For related reading, see Greg Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology.

[1] This devotional was originally delivered at the 2012 SpringOut Retreat of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

On God’s Utter Independence

Reading theology proper has a way of exposing our deficiencies in personal holiness.

I’ve been working my way through Scott Oliphint’s God With UsIt’s my favorite kind of book: all about God and thoroughly Christological (perfect for Advent reading). I love the doctrine of God’s aseity. I love how it blows our mental capacities, how we realize that we’re just standing on the seashore, that the ocean of the knowledge of God is only wetting our feet. God is greater than that which we can imagine. And then bigger than what we can’t imagine him to be.

It is so precious to feel his bigness, to be swallowed up by it, to close your eyes and weave together some special effects in your mind of what it looks like to be engulfed by the mystery of his fellowship, to be drawn into his communion, to consider the miracle of how we can know anything true about him.

And being immersed in this vastness affects how we think about personal holiness — namely, we realize the disparity between God and ourselves. We are more enthralled by this God to Whom (and by Whom) we have been reconciled. Little thoughts that may have gone unchecked are now rotten. There is an increasing impatience that the finished work of Jesus be more prevalent in the moments of our day. We want our union with Jesus to make more of a difference.

It’s an Isaiah 6 sort of thing. Not that we’re trying to merit a relationship. A God like that won’t be impressed with our unclean lips. We see him more clearly, we see ourselves in his light, and we’re stunned by the death and resurrection of Jesus all over again.

The Most Important Question We Could Ever Ask

In 1976 John Piper wrote an article asking a two-part question:

  • What is God’s goal in the history of mankind from its beginning at creation to its climax in the new heavens and new earth?
  • And how should we respond to this goal?

This is ultimate. We are in deep water. And yet the reasoning behind such a question is quite simple: in Jesus we are God’s children and children want to know their Father. Pastor John explains,

[Y]ou don’t really know a person until you know what moves him most deeply. It makes no sense to say that we know God when we are not acquainted with his strongest desire and with the goal that guides all his actions. But if we don’t know him, then we can’t worship him and we can’t imitate him. In other words, if we are to be faithful children of our heavenly Father who worship him and imitate him as we ought, then we must answer [this question].

The entire article, “The Glory of God as the Goal of History,”  has been recently transcribed and made available at Desiring God. It’s one of Pastor John’s earliest writings where the foundational pieces of Desiring God began to coalesce. It’s particularly interesting how the command to love our enemies (Piper’s Th. D. dissertation) is connected to the ultimate end of God’s glory.

(Check out the original post.)

Gospel, Glory, and the Preeminence of Christ

I recently spent a whole day tucked away at a local library. It was a golden spot. Quiet. Secluded. I sat beneath a shower of grace: an open Bible, a hungry soul, a copy of Owen’s “The Glory of Christ.” I spent good hours there reading and praying and preparing for a sermon about Jesus and his glory.

I left that spot and within an hour found myself in the clutter of a defiant three year old and her younger sister who really needed a diaper change. I would have longed for the tiny cell back in the library, except it dawned on me that this is where I really live. In fact, this is where most everyone lives, and if the glory of Christ doesn’t land on us here then we’ll spend our real lives oblivious to its wonder.

Talk About Jesus, A Lot

Our lives are not polished and shiny and set up on a mantle. They are messy and complicated and we get tired. The preeminence of Jesus can’t be an “out there” sort of thing. We’ve got to bring this home. One of the simplest ways to do that is to talk about Jesus, a lot.

We should talk about Jesus often and be clear about his identity, resisting every temptation to make him peripheral, secondary, or assumed. Here are two reasons why: the gospel and the glory of God.

The Gospel

It’s important that we talk about Jesus a lot because the gospel is not, first and foremost, the mechanics of some design that we attempt to helpfully articulate. But the gospel is, first and foremost, a Person.

A person, Jesus Christ, is the one who suffered in our place, who was raised on the third day. Jesus, the Person, was the one who though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor so that we in his poverty might become rich. The gospel is about a person and that person is Jesus.

The Glory of God

It’s important that we talk about Jesus a lot because the glory of God is not an abstract idea or motivation that we aspire to live for. But the glory of God is a Person

A person, Jesus Christ, is the one in whom all the fullness of deity was pleased to dwell. Jesus, the Person, is the Word of God made flesh as the ultimate revelation of the triune God—the revelatory action of God who embodies and supremely expresses the LORD’s intratrinitarian majesty. The glory of God is a person and that person is Jesus.

This simple: there is no gospel and there is no glory of God apart from Jesus Christ.

So talk about him.

Holiness and Relation are the Selfsame Reality

John Webster writes:

Holiness is a mode of God’s activity; talk of God’s holiness identifies the manner of his relation to us. For if the word ‘holy’ is a shorthand term for a pattern of activity, if it indicates—as von Rad put it—’a relationship more than a quality’, then the holy God is precisely God manifest to humankind in his gracious turning.

‘God’s holiness’, wrote Bavinck, ‘is revealed in his entire revelation to his people, in election, in the covenant, in his special revelation, in his dwelling among them.’

What, then, we may ask, is the force of faith’s language of God’s holiness? What particular aspect of the unified identity of the triune God’s being, works and ways is indicated by this language? We may answer thus: Talk of God’s holiness denotes the majesty and singular purity which the triune God is in himself and with which he acts towards and in the lives of his creatures, opposing that which is itself opposed to his purpose as creator, reconciler and perfecter, and bringing that purpose to its completion in the fellowship of the saints.

Holiness, because it is the holiness of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ now present in the Spirit’s power, is pure majesty in relation. God’s holy majesty, even in its unapproachableness, is not characterized by a sanctity which is abstract difference or otherness, a counter-reality to the profane; it is majesty known in turning, enacted and manifest in the works of God. Majesty and relation are not opposed moments in God’s holiness; they are simply different articulations of the selfsame reality

For if God’s relation to us were merely subordinate to his primary majesty, then God’s essence would remain utterly beyond us, forever hidden; and if God’s relation to us were not majestic, then that relation would no longer be one in which we encountered God.

(Holiness, 41-42, paragraphing mine)