glory

Jesus After The Resurrection: The Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-35)

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing (reasoning) together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.  But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

And he said to them, "What is this conversation which you are holding with each other as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad. (“gloomy, sullen, dark") Then one of them, named Cle'opas (probably Jesus’ uncle), answered him, "Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?"  And he said to them, "What things?"

And they said to him, "Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. ("to liberate from an oppressive situation, set free")

Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since this happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. (“Nothing seems to make sense; astound") They were at the tomb early in the morning and did not find his body; and they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb, and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see.

And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! ("Without, understanding or perception") Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" (A corresponding OT word analogy literally meant “heavy.” Jesus was a heavyweight, a Messiah worth his credentials.) And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, but they constrained him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them.  When he was at table with them, he took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him (Jesus "made understanding possible"); and he vanished out of their sight.

They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?"  And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven gathered together and those who were with them, who said, "The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!"  Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread. (Luke 24:13-35)

I want to talk today about what we learn about Jesus in this passage, how this encourages us, and how this challenges us (and they will probably all run together).

1. Life is hard, but Jesus joins us in our journey

Through Jesus, God entered a world He created in which grief and joy cross paths constantly.

  • Jesus goes from John’s baptism to temptation in the wilderness
  • He was praised for miracles and then walked into traps
  • He fed the 5,000 and was then pummeled by storms
  • Lazarus lived/Lazarus died/Lazarus lived
  • Peter walked on water - and then Peter sank
  • Crowds love him, but villages hate him
  • The triumphal entry was followed by crucifixion, then resurrection
  • Now, on the Emmaus road, there is despair followed by great joy.

The resurrected Christ did not demonstrate the fullness of His glory by removing all the uncertainty and turmoil from life – He demonstrated the fullness of His glory by entering into those situations and redeeming them. David talked about how God would be with him when he walked through the valleys, not if.

You may have noticed that Jesus has not removed all the turmoil and uncertainty from your life.  There are still valleys.

  • Friendships ride roller coasters…
  • Marriages overwhelm us one day with happiness and bury us the next day in frustration…
  • Jobs fulfill and crush…
  • Physical health comes and goes…
  • Freedom from temptation is followed by what feels like overwhelming temptation…
  • Death impacts all of us
  • Or, like those on the road to Emmaus, the way in which you sense God near – or far - can change dramatically.

Here is the encouragement of this story: Jesus walks with us spiritually like he walked physically with those on the road to Emmaus. He did not remove them from this tumultuous world, and he does not remove us - yet. One day He will. One day there will be no more sickness, no more dying, no more tears. One day all that is bad will be undone. Until then, Jesus joined them, and Jesus joins us, and His ongoing presence points toward our ultimate reconciliation with Him in Heaven.

2. Jesus is content to remain hidden at times even though He is always near.

We do this with kids all the time, right? When teaching them to ride a bike, that first time we let go of the seat we run right behind them as long as we can just in case. We watch them on playgrounds even though they don’t know; we may or may not read Facebook posts when they don’t log out. We are often hidden even though we are near. It’s not a perfect analogy, but it’s the closest human expression I can think of.

When Jacob was traveling (Genesis 28:11) he had a dream that he was in the presence of God. Jacob said, “Surely God is in this place and I did not know it.” Scholars speculate that the Emmaus road revelation likely happened at the same place that Jacob dreamed he was visited by God.[1]  At the same place, the same thing happens to the travelers as happened to Jacob: “Jesus was in this place and we didn’t know it.”

God could have miraculously revealed himself to Jacob at any time. On the Emmaus road, Jesus could have instantly caught up and BAM, threw back his hood and said, “Guys! It’s me!”  But he let them peddle their spiritual bicycles and wobble for a while as he walked beside them, hidden to them.

Perhaps that is why we must walk with friends like you see in this account. It is much easier to keep going when you have a walking buddy. Many times we don’t sense God is near; one way to we find strength is by walking with others.  This is why we stress relationship at our church.  Nobody needs to walk their Emmaus road alone.

  • Ted ‘walked with me’ after my dad’s death
  • Scott and Karl have ‘walked with me’ for 18 years now through the ups and downs of life, which included that time
  • Paul and Jackie ‘walked with’ Sheila and I at a time when our marriage was really struggling
  • You all have ‘walked with me’ since my heart attack (very patiently and gently)

Those weren’t necessarily times when I didn’t sense God’s nearness, but they were certainly times when I had a lot of questions and uncertainty. There was something about the conversations, the time spent together, the laughter and tears, that stabilized me by giving me access to the ambassadors of God, the representatives of Jesus, in a way that I could experience.  Some of it was deep; lots of it was trivial. And yet it wasn’t. It’s nice to have pictures on our walls of Jesus with his arms around us to remind us of His love. It gets a lot more real when we are hugged by someone with the love of Jesus flowing through them.

We need each other. Perhaps others aren’t good at reaching out to you. Reach out to them. Maybe they are really clumsy in their attempts to walk with you. Offer them grace. Maybe you are really clumsy at it. Be honest about that to. I’m sure they noticed already.

Bearing each other’s burdens is one way we fulfill God’s command to love (Galatians 6:2). That means we must reach out for the burdens of others - and we must offer our burdens as well so they have the opportunity and the privilege of fulfilling this command to love.

3) Jesus will reveal Himself in His time

The two disciples did not recognize Jesus on the road. Revelation was required. How does God do this?

A) He Reveals His Glory Through His Word. Jesus could have just revealed this without opening the book – the book is about Him after all. He could have just skipped that step and popped out. But they had the Scriptures, so He walked them through the Scriptures as the form of revealing Himself even though He was right there. We see this form of revelation consistently in biblical accounts.

  • Old Testament quotations and allusions are found in the Gospel of Matthew (which was written especially to convince Jewish readers).
  • Apostles' sermon material found in the Book of Acts constantly refers back to the Old Testament (Genesis 22:18; 26:4; Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Psalm 2:1-2, 7; 16:8-11; 110:1; 118:22; Isaiah 53:7-8; 55:3; and Amos 9:11-12) as a means of revealing who Jesus is.
  • Once the New Testament was in place, that also became a foundational way of revealing Jesus to people.

If you are walking the Christian road, and you need to see Jesus…. read the Bible. This is the foundational revelation of His glory. Now, it was Jesus who made understanding possible to the travelers, and it will be Jesus who makes understanding possible for us, but it’s in the study of Scripture, with the help of God’s Holy Spirit inside of us, that Jesus is revealed, and we are strengthened and transformed. [i]

B) He Reveals His Glory Through His Suffering. Jesus tells them: “Wasn’t it necessary that the Messiah suffer to reveal His glory?” Then Jesus showed them through the breaking of the bread:  At the Last Supper he had said, “Take, eat, this is my body ,broken for you.” Jesus wants people to see His glory. How will this happen? Through his suffering for our sins, and through our suffering for the sake of the gospel.

 “Now if we are children, then we are heirs--heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:17-18 (NIV)

While there are many kinds of suffering, the Romans passage we just read talks specifically about suffering for the cause of Christ. We are not being threatened with beheading or burning by ISIS, but we have significant ways in which we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Christ.

  • Jesus commands us to be pure, and we suffer in our struggle to remain pure in our thoughts and actions. Clicking the remote or turning off the computer can be a war. Saying no to sexual opportunities can be epic. But if I want to share in the glory of Christ’s purity, I must be willing to suffer the hardship of sexual restraint.
  • Jesus commands us to love people, and we suffer as we taken on the burdens of relationships with others. But if want to share in the glory of true Christ-like love, I might have to be deeply wounded and still come back for more if I want to share in the glory of Christ’s love.
  • Jesus wants us live lives of self-sacrifice, and generosity, and patience… and we can suffer as everything within us wants to be selfish with our time, greedy with our money, and impatient when things don’t go our way. But if we want to share in the glory of Christ, we have to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow.  
  • You might suffer as you stand for the truth of Scripture, and because you love Christ so much you will not compromise on the gospel. And when you do this with truth and grace - when in the midst of opposition you increasingly reveal not just the truth of the gospel but the heart and mind of Jesus -  you are pointing toward and sharing in the glory of Christ.

Can we all agree the world needs to see the glory of Christ?  It will be seen when we pay a spiritual price for the cause of Christ.

 “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (NIV)

He was known to them in the breaking of the bread. “Do this in remembrance of me.“ He will be known to us, and the world will see His glory, as we are broken too. Amy Carmichael, a missionary who worked in India for 55 years, once wrote (and I paraphrase):

‘Have you no scar? No hidden scar on foot, or side or hand? I hear you described as mighty in the land: I hear them hail you as a rising star: Have you no scar? Have you no wound?  As the master is so shall the servant be.  Pierced are the feet that follow me; but yours are whole. Can you have followed far if you have no wound? No scar?’”[ii]

We share in God’s glory when we suffer for His sake. His glory fills us and then leaks through our scars as our lives are broken on his behalf, and for His glory. But we do not lose heart, because we realize:

1 Peter 5:10 (NIV) “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”

Life is hard, but Jesus walks with us. Sometimes He hides, but He always reveals Himself and His glory through His word, His life and His people. If you are willing to be spiritually broken and poured out for the cause of Christ, God will reveal His glory through you to a world that desperately needs to see Him.

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[1] “When Jacob was travelling the sun set…and he had a dream that he was in the presence of God. God spoke to him there. And the name of the place was originally known as Luz — in the Septuagint it is Oulammaus. In the Codex Bezae this is the name used for Emmaus in Luke 24. In an early reading of Luke (perhaps the earliest) the Emmaus road revelation happened at the same place that Jacob dreamed he was visited by God.” http://vridar.org/2007/11/17/the-logic-and-meaning-of-the-emmaus-road-narrative-in-luke/

[i] Check out The Bible Project at https://thebibleproject.com. They have a bible reading plan where you read in conjunction with very helpful videos they have on the website. Shirley Beadle also has a Bible Reading Plan available in the office here at church.

[ii] See also 1 Peter 4 and 1 Peter 2:21

Reflecting The Glory Of The Lord

“A glass can only spill what it contains.” - mewithoutyou

That’s not bad insight into life. We often hear the phrase, “garbage in, garbage out,” but that’s true of good things as well. Jesus taught this clearly:

"The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (Luke 6:45)

You don’t have to be a Christian to recognize this. What we pour into our lives is what will eventually pour out of it in some way. It’s one reason people are increasingly talking about the power of entertainment.  There are ways to filter it – there’s a lot to be said about learning how to read, listen and watch as a Christian who listens and sees through the eyes and ears of Jesus – but in some fashion, what comes in will come out.

  • CNN’s Health section online featured an article entitled “Should Smoking Trigger an R rating?”  The author noted, “For every 500 smoking scenes a child saw in PG-13 movies, his or her likelihood of trying cigarettes increased by 49%.” [1]
  • The Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics reported: “Youths [12-17 years old who viewed sexual content on TV] in the 90th percentile of TV sex viewing had a predicted probability of intercourse initiation that was approximately double that of youths in the 10th percentile... Exposure to TV that included only talk about sex was associated with the same risks...”[2]

What we dwell on matters. There is a reason Paul wrote to the Philippian church to focus on things that were good, true, and lovely (Philippians 4:8).  The idea of this verse is not that we retreat from anything bad – we would have to live in a bubble – but that we actively pursue a mental and emotional diet made up of predominantly wholesome things.

We all fill our glass with something. The words and actions and attitudes that overflow will reflect the abundance of images and ideas with which we have filled ourselves.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul makes a similar claim:  We will become what we see. He uses the analogy of a mirror reflecting, but the idea is the same.  

As we see and reflect the glory of the Lord, we are transfigured by the Spirit of the Lord in ever-increasing splendor into his own image.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

In essence, we are mirrors that reflect the things at which we look. It’s another way of saying that what flows out of us will be an indicator of what’s been filling us. Before we talk about that more, I need to give a context to this sentence. Paul was talking to the early Christians about the Old Testament Law. 

2 Corinthians 3:7-18

7-11 The administration of the Law which was engraved in stone (and which led in fact to spiritual death) was so magnificent that the Israelites were unable to look unflinchingly at Moses’ face, for it was alight with heavenly splendor. Now if the old administration held such heavenly, even though transitory, splendor, can we not see what a much more glorious thing is the new administration of the Spirit of life? If administering a system which ends in condemning men was a splendid task, how infinitely more splendid is administering a system which ends in making men good! And while it is true that the former temporary glory has been completely eclipsed now, we do well to remember that is eclipsed simply because the present permanent plan is such a very much more glorious thing than the old.

12-17 With this hope in our hearts we are quite frank and open in our ministry. We are not like Moses, who veiled his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing its fading glory. But it was their minds really which were blinded, for even today when the old agreement is read to them there is still a veil over their minds—though the veil has actually been lifted by Christ. Yes, alas, even to this day there is still a veil over their hearts when the writings of Moses are read. Yet if they turned to the Lord the veil would disappear, and they would understand how their Scriptures point to Christ. For the Lord to whom they could turn is the spirit of the new agreement, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom and boldness to proclaim His message.

18 But all of us who are followers of Christ do not have veils on our faces as we see and reflect the glory of the Lord. We are transfigured by the Spirit of the Lord in ever-increasing splendor into his own image.

This passage raises some questions for me: Why is the Law glorious even as it brings death? Why didn’t Moses want them to see his fading glory? How does our being unveiled reflect the glory of the Lord? Since all of this sets the table for verse 18, let’s try to work our way through these questions.

Question #1: How is the Law glorious even though it brings death? Because it was a teacher, a guide to show us how God wants us to live (Romans 15; 1 Corinthians 10). In Galatians 3, Paul wrote,

“Until the time when we were mature enough to respond freely in faith to the living God, we were carefully surrounded and protected by the Mosaic law. The law was like those Greek tutors, with which you are familiar, who escort children to school and protect them from danger or distraction, making sure the children will really get to the place they set out for.” (from The Message’s commentary)

If someone asked, “What does God want me to do?” the Israelites had an answer – 613 answers, in fact. If you had asked a follower of Baal or Molech what their God wanted them to do, they would not have known.  They just hoped they were doing the right thing, and if something went wrong, they offered increasingly gruesome sacrifices to appease a mysterious, unknowable, and petty god.

When God gave His Law, He gave something of Himself to His people.  Now the will of God could be known. Do this, not that.  And if you keep God’s laws, all will be well. We tend to think of the Law as oppressive; the Israelites were grateful that God made himself known. [3]

You can fill up with God’s law, and if you do that well, good things will overflow….

God’s covenant with His people through the Law of Moses was a conditional covenant; that is, if they kept it, good things would follow. If they didn’t bad things would follow. In some ways obedience to the law was a case study in spiritual cause and effect. That’s an idea we can wrap our minds around because we see it all the time. If we practice, work, use self-discipline – good things happen. We can lose weight or build muscle or make money or hit a softball or graduate or expand our vocabulary or play an instrument or get really good at Wii bowling if we know the rules and try hard enough….

But through his prophets, God warned over and over again: “This is not going to go well.” And it didn’t. The Law made it official that we the people (as seen in the Israelites) are never good enough.  God can tell us exactly what He wants us to do, and on our own we will just not do it. On our own, we will inevitably fill ourselves with sin even though we know it will eventually spill out of us and onto others. This is in line with how Paul describes the Law:

“The Law’s purpose was to make obvious to everyone that we are, in ourselves, out of right relationship with God, and therefore to show us the futility of devising some religious system for getting by our own efforts what we can only get by waiting in faith for God to complete his promise. For if any kind of rule-keeping had power to create life in us, we would certainly have gotten it by this time.”  (Galatians 3 as written in commentary by The Message)

The law unfortunately answers one of life’s most important questions: Can I be good if I try hard enough?  No.  It shows you the path of life,  and if you stay on that path it will give you life, but… you will wander off of it. [4]

Question #2: Why didn't Moses want them to see his fading glory?

A glory that is so obvious to everybody – and then fades -  is a problem. To all the people watching, apparently Moses was tight with God – and then he wasn’t.  I suspect Moses was ashamed of this. Pride makes us hide the parts of our life that shame us.  Ron Ritchie writes (I think correctly):

He realized that as long as he wore the veil, the people showed him respect because they believed that he was still visiting God; otherwise, why would he keep the veil on? But when Moses had not been in the presence of God, the glory of God began to fade underneath the veil…. For Moses the veil represented a false sense of competence, power, authority, glory, and pride. He used it to cover his fear and inadequacy… he sought in his own strength to compensate for the glory that had faded from his face.”[5]

That veil couldn't hide the fact that God’s glory was leaking out through the cracks made by sin. If I understand this passage correctly, Moses couldn’t keep God’s glory, and he was ashamed.

Question #3: Why are we unveiled now?

Because a) we do reflect an ever increasing splendor as we are transformed into the image of Christ,  and b) we don’t need to be ashamed when we fail.  And perhaps – much to our surprise – even in our failure the glory of God does not fade.

Let’s look more closely at Paul’s claim.  He expands the symbolism of hiding behind the veil and writes that followers of Jesus are not meant to hide.  They are meant to be on display; in his image with a mirror, they look at the glory of God without shame, and they fully reflect the permanent, ongoing transformative presence of the glory of God in their life.

Our life with Christ is meant to be an ongoing transformation in which we increasingly behold the person and work of Christ, increasingly become changed deep in the core of who we are, and increasingly become filled in such a way that we display the glory of God by His presence and work in our lives.

We remove the veil because it’s not about us. When we have the glory of Christ in our lives, it won’t be because we were awesome. It will be because “we are transfigured by the Spirit of the Lord in ever-increasing splendor into his own image.”

It’s an ongoing process. There’s no way we can escape being sinful and flawed – and that’s okay. After all, who can deny that we still have our ups and downs? We all have times when our reflection wavers, when what spills out of us when we go over the rough roads in life is just not anything we are proud of.

So what is the glory of Christ in our lives that does not fade and should never be hidden? I believe it is the grace and forgiveness that accompanies Christ’s salvation.

The way in which Jesus intends for the world to see his glory is not through our ability to live perfectly. We don’t need to be a crystal clear glass filled with AquaFina.  We can be a bottle from the trash filled with muddy rain water and still show God’s glory, because it is through God’s strength in our weakness that His glory is seen.

Let’s revisit last week. I made the point that people will reach conclusions about Jesus by looking at the people of Jesus.  That’s daunting. Here’s where we are relieved of the pressure to be perfect.

When we offer Christ to others, we don’t need to wait until we are perfectly clear of mud and junk, and we don’t need to wait to “unveil” who we are until we can present ourselves just right. We aren’t offering us to other people. We are offering a Savior who takes us with all our impurities and makes us new.

We are meant to, with uncovered lives, without shame over the visible gauge of our ability to be good or bad on full display, let God display what real glory is like in the person and work of Jesus.

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[1] http://www.cnn.com/2012/07/10/health/smoking-trigger-rating-movie/

[2] For more info on this issue, go here: https://ecfsapi.fcc.gov/file/7022283827.pdf

[3] For a longer look at the content, context and purpose of the Old Testament law, check out the series at TC Apologetics. Here is a link to the first post in the series: http://tcapologetics.org/old-testament-law-an-introduction/

[4] “If people in our Christian fellowships today were to announce that they had decided to keep God’s law, we would probably be skeptical and alarmed. We probably would take them aside for counseling and possibly alert other responsible people in the group to keep an eye on them. We would be sure nothing good would come of it. We know that one is not saved by keeping the law and can think of no other reason why one should try to do it. This leaves us caught in a strange inversion of the work of the Judaizing teachers who dogged the footsteps of Paul in New Testament days. As they wanted to add obedience to ritual law to faith in Christ, we want to subtract moral law from faith in Christ. How to combine faith with obedience is surely the essential task of the church as it enters the twenty-first century.” ― Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God

[5] https://www.pbc.org/system/message_files/8276/4337.html

 

The Glory Of God (John 13-17)

When we think of someone having glory, we tend to think of some who is either wildly over-promoted or who is an egomaniac. Children say, “Look at me!” and we think it’s cute, but when adults do this we think they are narcissists. If you are a Brian Regan fan, you are familiar with his Me Monster, the person who constantly turns every conversation back to himself. There’s this great line in Gladiator when he says to the monstrously proud emperor: “The time for honoring yourself is at an end.”

In the book of John, Jesus is constantly telling people to glorify God, and He is glad that through the salvation of people He himself is glorified. And then he says God will glorify those whom he has chosen, called and justified.[1]  So, if you are a Christian, you believe God is glorious; you believe He knows it and wants others to know it; and you believe that God wants to make you glorious. The language of glory and the reality of glorification is directly connected with God and with us. I don’t know about you, but I think that all sounds exciting even as I feel a little – maybe a lot -  uncomfortable.

Why? Because I don’t think we have a great understanding of glory. That’s not the Bible’s fault. I suspect it has a lot to do with how we see our fallen world distort or ruin our perspective on what makes something or someone glorious, and how we should respond.

So let’s talk about glory and glorificiation, because we are going to need a biblically grounded view of this if we are going to have a true view of God and of ourselves as followers of Christ. We will begin with a small sample of verses from the book of John that capture the biblical use of the word ‘glory’ as it relates to God, people, shame, suffering and hair.

  • John 8:54: “Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory (doksa) is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies (doksazo) me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’”
  • John 11:4  “His [Lazarus] sickness will not end in his death but will bring great glory (doksa) to God. As these events unfold, the Son of God will be glorified (doksa).””
  • John 12:23 “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” (in reference to his crucifixion)
  • John 12:42- 43 “…the Pharisees continued their threats to expel all His followers from the synagogue. Here’s why: they loved the glory (doksa) of men more than they desired to glorify (doksa) God.”
  • John 14:13 “Whatever you ask for in My name, I will do it so that the Father will get glory (doksazo) from the Son.”
  • John 15:8 “I am the vine, and you are the branches…. Your abundant growth and your faithfulness as My followers will bring glory (doksazo) to the Father.”
  • John 17:9-10 “This request is not for the entire world; it is for those whom You have given to Me because they are Yours… Through them I have been glorified (doksazo).”
  • John 21:19  Peter would glorify God by his death.

A couple other examples not found in the book of John:

  • 1 Corinthians 11:15 “But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory (doksa) to her: for her hair is given her for a covering.”
  • Philippians 3:19: “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory (doksa) is in their shame.”
  • Ephesians 3:13 “So I ask you not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory (doksa).”
  • 1 Corinthians 6:20 “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify (doksa) God in your body.”
  • Matthew 5:16  “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify (doksazo) your Father in heaven.”
  • 2 Corinthians 3:18  “So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord--who is the Spirit--makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious (doksa) image.”

Paul even writes in 1 Corinthians 15 how there are different levels of glory for stars and moons as well as for the physical body and the resurrected body. Add them all up, and that’s a lot of glory, and over some seemingly odd things. So, let’s dig.

Dóksa is the Greek word that means "that which evokes good opinion, i.e. that something has inherent, intrinsic worth." Doksazo is related, and it means “to ascribe weight by recognizing real substance (value).” It acknowledges the true character of someone or the essence of something, exalts a glorious rank or position, and seeks to increase renown.[2]  

So it is praise-worthy; it’s inherently weighted with value; it’s something good in its essence or nature; it’s achieves a good goal or fulfills purpose; it’s something that brings renown or honor; it’s the majesty associated with perfection.[3] Understanding how this one word is used for all kinds of things can help us make sense of some of the puzzling Bible verses.

  • Paul said long hair was a woman’s glory because in the city of Corinth, it was praise-worthy or evoked good opinion. The women whom the culture admired all had long hair; it was considered a sign of inherent or intrinsic worth. Long hair exalted them and increased their renown.
  • Shame can be our glory when a sinful, destructive lifestyle is something we exalt in to make us famous.
  • Suffering is for the glory of others because it shows the intrinsic value of other people. The Christians in Ephesus had a very real ‘weight and substance’ (they mattered!), so much so that Paul considered suffering for them to be a privilege.
  • We can glorify God with our body through sexual purity because in so doing we are acknowledging the real value of our sexuality, and then directing it toward God’s designed way, thus protecting the intrinsic worth and true essence of our sexual nature – which in turn evokes the “good opinion” not just of God but of others.
  • Jesus said he would be glorified in His death (John 13:31). That act of sacrifice was loaded with value; it would bring renown or a reputation of an event and God who could forgive the sins of the world, and it was the perfect way in which He fulfilled His purpose on earth (John 18:37).

With all this in mind, I will attempt a condensed definition of glory: “That which is present in someone or something whose nature, character and/or actions are worthy of honor.”  

TYPES OF GLORY (ways in which someone’s nature, character and/or actions are worthy of honor)

  • Intrinsic:  Because God is the Creator, there is a type of glory embedded in everything.[4] It’s embedded in the very nature of things crafted by the Master Designer. There are different levels of this, of course.  A tree has its own kind of glory. A horse is glorious as a horse. You, however, are far more glorious because you are created in God’s image.  That is the greatest glory God grants to any part of His creation.  There is nothing the Hubble telescope captures that compares to your glory. This could also include the idea that there is a design and purpose for your life in a deeply spiritual sense (to glorify God and be transformed into the image of Christ) and on a practical level (you have a unique set of personality traits, character, skills, and opportunities).[5]
  • Inherited: Everyone is born with a citizenship in a country, which may or may not be glorious.  You have a racial or ethnic glory – there is a biological history of who you are. You have a family glory  - or at least that’s God design for the family. IN all these cases, sinners in a fallen world can turn this potential glory into shame.
  • Granted: Knighthood. Honorary degrees. Perhaps even adoption fits into this category. In fact, adoption may be the best example because knighthood and honorary degrees, while given as a gift, are both earned to some degree. The Bible portrays adoption into the family of God as one of the most glorious things that can happen to us. That is a granted glory: we weren’t born into his family biologically; we didn’t inherit it; and we can’t earn it (which is our next category). It was given to us in an act of grace and love. Perhaps we should add suffering.
  • Earned: We are rewarded for completing task (“Well done!”) Real degrees. Awards of all kinds. NBA champs. Fittest Man/Woman in the world; promotions; elections. Earned glory fall into the category of what the Bible calls “the glory of men.” This is not necessarily a bad thing; some things we have received or that we do are worthy of being applauded.  I was watching the Crossfit Games this past week, and let me tell you, those athletes deserve huge props for what they accomplished. They have earned a moment of glory from the crowd. But then there’s next year. If they don’t win again, their name fades. In ten years, only true fans know who they are, and in 50 years, nobody cares. The Bible is very clear that the ‘praise of men” ought not be a goal that drives our lives. It withers like cut grass (1 Peter 1:24); it’s s crown that fades (1 Corinthians 9:25; 1 Peter 5:4).  The glory of people will fade; the glory of God remains for eternity.  (Perhaps we should add suffering here; God will glorify us as we suffer for him, and that’s a glory that we earn by our suffering for the sake of the Gospel. That glory is not temporary and will not fade.)

GOD’S GLORY IS INTRINSIC

It is not inherited, granted or earned. Christian philosophers like to say that God is a maximal being – he has no room to grow; he is perfectly full of all his attributes.  When we say that God is love, truth, life; that he is full of kindness and anger; that he is just and merciful; we mean He is perfectly and completely these things, and they all intertwine and balance in ways we cannot possibly conceive. His will is the best will possible. His acts are the absolute best acts that can be conceived or done.

God does not need our attention to build His glory. He’s just fine on his own. When we see and acknowledge God for who he is, we are not giving temporary applause to a fleeting, imperfect person. We see True Glory in  God’s perfect nature; the eternal, profound weightiness of His existence: his real, indescribably valuable substance; His perfect (albeit mysterious) work in the world.

GOD’S GLORY IS OVERWHELMING

The Bible tells us that we can’t handle seeing the glory of God’s nature. Exodus 33 records that when Moses asks to see God’s glory, God allows Moses to see His back but not His face.  God clarifies what this means: “ You can see my goodness and my acts of mercy and compassion, but you can’t see me directly.” In the next chapter, when God does pass before Moses, here’s what He says:

“The Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished...” (Exodus 34:6-7)

It’s all actions. On this side of Heaven, we see God’s glory by His work in the world, which reveals his nature in a way that has to be hidden to some degree (Revelation 22:4). It won’t be until we get to Heaven that we will see God as He is (1 John 3:2).

(Worth noting: When John records in Revelations that he had just a vision of God, he fell down as if he were dead (Revelation 1). We cannot handle ‘seeing the face of God’ on this side of Heaven. I hear more and more popular church teachers talk about being caught up into Heaven and personally talking with Jesus or talking with God face-to-face. If I look to the Bible, I have to believe this is not happening literally or they would be dead. Even if it’s a claimed vision of God, look to the testimony of John again. If they have a legitimate vision of God, I would expect that either they can’t talk about (which was Paul’s experience – 2 Corinthians 12:2) or and they would fall down as if dead and be totally undone. I have yet to hear this in modern reports, so based on the record of Scripture, I must conclude they are not visiting or having visions of God.)

GOD SHARES HIS GLORY WITH HIS CHILDREN

We need to make a distinction between some language in the Old Testament vs. New Testament on this issue. Isaiah 42:8 says that God will not yield His glory or praise to another. What does this mean?

  • First, there is no other God like him. He is King of kings, and Lord of lords (Revelations 19:16).
  • Second, He is Israel’s covenant-making God who protects, leads, and delivers them, and Israel had better not give the credit to anyone else.

That’s the Old Testament context for God saying he will not share his glory. I’m talking about a different kind of sharing to which the New Testament refers. So let’s go back to my opening remarks about people who are egomaniacs when they demand attention.  We must see the stark contrast between a person who says “Look at me!” and a God who says the same.

We try to get people’s attention to fan the flames of our fading, temporary glory. It’s why we get so obnoxious. It’s why, for example, our cultural conversation is getting worse. People get attention like never before because of social media. They are also competing with more people than ever before. So they say or do something - and it fades. So they do something more controversial. It fades too. Building and sustaining a glory that relies on the attention and praise of others is exhausting and destructive.

And as we give glory to God, He doesn’t just absorb it like a person would. God does something very different: He gives His glory to us, and as we are transformed miraculously into the image of Christ with ever increasing glory (2 Corinthians 3:18), that glorious transformation points toward the glory of a God who can work that kind of miraculous transformation. Here’s how Romans 8:28-30 describes it:

“And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.”

Egomaniacs absorb your time and attention because they want to be the only ones who matter. They want you to disappear, to lose your value in the light of their glory. God demands our time and attention so He can in turn transform us by the light of His glory into the kind of people God intended for us to be.

When we commit to Jesus there is not a diminishing of our value or a disappearance of our self; it’s a transformation into the fullness of whom God intended us to be. His glorious nature is revealed when He brings us from spiritual death to spiritual life in a way that testifies to the world that it is only Christ in us that gives us the hope of true and lasting glory (Colossians 1:27).

So that’s glory. But we are called to glorify. That’s a verb, not a noun. We are supposed to do something on behalf of that which is glorious. Glorification can be defined this way: “Acknowledging, honoring and promoting someone with glory.”

Affirm Intrinsic Glory

This can be done with people by acknowledging the image of God in them, and by seeing the character traits/gifts/skills/opportunities that make them uniquely them. Proverbs admonishes parents, “Raise up children in the way they should go…” Josh McDowell has made the point that this isn’t about the paths of righteousness; it’s about seeing the strengths in your children and helping them to flourish in the way they are built to go. There is a glory that God imparts to us by letting us bear His image, and that shows up not just in our intrinsic value, but in our unique creation.

Be in awe of the intrinsic glory of God. It is supreme. It is flawless. We don’t have to hedge our bets like we do with people. With people, we say: “I know you are image bearer and all, but I think the image of a jerk got mixed up in there somehow. You might be a special snowflake, but you’re melting.” There are no qualifications when it comes to God. God is the only one who deserves unreserved affirmation of the intrinsic glory of His very nature.

Applaud Glorious Actions

We do this with people all the time. Masons build fireplaces; firemen put out fires; cooks make meals. When their work is done with excellence, properly displayed and clearly seen, people applaud and nobody objects. Applause and appreciation is what is supposed to follow from work well done.  Our leaders are supposed to “praise those who do well” (1 Peter 2:14). Jesus will say to those in heaven, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21). It’s a good thing to give proper applause for glorious actions.

Worship God for what He has done (which is a revelation of His character). If we think it’s good to praise other people for what they do well, how much more should we be praising God? God is the Creator of all things. He saves us from the spiritual death that follows sin; He has the power to heal us on every level (and He does so at times in this life and for good in the next). He judges rightly; He punishes fairly; He shows mercy generously; He loves profoundly and relentlessly. And when the perfect work of God in properly seen and understood, praise is the natural and necessary response.[6]

Reflect/Emulate That Which Is Glorious

On a person-to-person level, we see this all the time. It’s what kids do to parents, purposefully when they are young and unwittingly when they are older. There’s a country song: “I’ve been watching you, Dad, ain’t that cool. I’m your buckaroo I want to be like you.”  For better or worse, kids reflect their parents to some degree.

It’s how protégés honor their teachers. It’s how coaches pay homage to the coaches who coached them.  We reflect others when songs or books change us or we begin to talk like the people around us (if we were in the South, I would say that ‘all ya’ll do that’). We are always reflecting. I’m not sure we have a choice – which is why it is so important to be aware of whose image we are reflecting.

When we see something that we believe is glorious (go back to my earlier definition), we don’t just copy it, we spread it around. We want what we love or admire to go viral. We tell others and try to get them excited about the one to whom we believe glory is due.

This principle is at work spiritually between us and God. Moses’ face reflected God’s glory (Exodus 34:29); followers of Christ will increasingly be transformed into His image and in so doing will reflect His glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). It is our glorification of a glorious God by living a life in which our attitudes, words, and actions reflect His glory. I will let Andrew Murray, a Dutch Reformed missionary to South Africa in the late 1800’s, have the last word:

“This is the glory of God, that He is the alone and ever-flowing fountain of all life and goodness and happiness, and that His creatures can have all this only as He gives it and works it in them. His working all in all, this is His glory. And the only glory His creature, His child, can give Him is this -- receiving all He is willing to give, yielding to Him to let Him work, and then acknowledging that He has done it. Thus God Himself shows forth His glory in us; in our willing surrender to Him, and our joyful acknowledgment that He does all, we glorify Him. And so our life and work is glorified, as it has one purpose with all God's own work, that in all things God may be glorified, whose is the glory for ever and ever.'

The glory of God as Creator was seen in His making man in His own image. The glory of God as Redeemer is seen in the work He carries on for saving men, and bringing them to Himself. This glory is the glory of His holy love, casting sin out of the heart, and dwelling there. The only glory we can bring to God is to yield ourselves to His redeeming love to take possession of us, to fill us with love to others, and so through us to show forth His glory. Let this be the one end of our lives -- to glorify God; in living to work for Him, as of the strength which God supplieth'; and winning souls to know and live for His glory.Lord! teach us to serve in the strength which God supplieth, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, whose is the glory for ever and ever. Amen.” Andrew Murray, “Working For God”

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Recommend Resources

https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hbd/view.cgi?n=2322

http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/glory/

http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/how-to-do-good-so-that-god-gets-the-glory

http://www.puritansermons.com/watson/watson5.htm

https://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/kevindeyoung/2010/10/05/how-can-i-glorify-god/

https://www.theologyofwork.org/the-high-calling/blog/glorifying-god-all-things-all-times

FOOTNOTES

[1] Paul tells us in Romans, “Those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified (doksazo). “

[2] http://biblehub.com/greek/1391.htm

[3] http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/doxa.html

[4] 1 Corinthians 15: 39-44  For not all flesh is alike, but there is one kind for men, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.”

[5] “Don’t Neglect Your Gift”

[6] I don’t have the time to delve into the problem of pain and suffering. How is God glorified through that? It’s an important question. For now, I will point you toward an article at TC Apologetics, “The Problem Of Pain,” which is the first in a series. http://tcapologetics.org/the-problem-of-pain/?print=pdf

 

Made…For The Glory Of God

In all the things we’ve been talking about in this series, one reality has become clear to me: what we bring to the table on our own power is a whole lot of broken.  God’s design and purpose for us as men and women in complementary community is amazing and full of life – and out of our reach.  We simply cannot do it like we should.

How many times have my wife and I failed to love and respect each other like the Bible commands us?  Men, how many times do we fail to make the world safe for the women around us? Women, how many times have men felt demeaned or belittled around you? In the midst of this brokenness, how is God possibly glorified?*

 Because God is glorified when it’s clear that He is awesome.

 Let’s backtrack to the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a prophet living in Babylonian captivity. The first part of his book explains that the Israelites lost their land because of their sin; the middle part chronicles how other nations will experience judgment for their sins as well. Beginning in Chapter 33, God begins to unveil for Ezekiel what revival and restoration will look like. We will begin in Chapter 36, verse 16:

 When the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions…I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the Lord’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’  I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.”

 “I had concern for my name” seems like an understatement.  God’s people show up places, and everybody around them says, “What a bunch of losers. Their own God kicked them out.” They had broken a key commandment: “Don’t take God’s name in vain.” God is not pleased. And yet…

 “Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.”

 That’s an astonishing passage. After all that God has just said about them profaning his name (his character and reputation), God says He will be show His holiness of His great name through them so much so that everybody who sees them will know that the God of the Israelites is God.**

 “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness…

 God is going to gather up a profane people who defiled the land he gave them, clean them up, give them a new heart, give them His Spirit, and put them back in a land they didn’t deserve – and then he will proudly claim them as His own. He’s not doing this because Israel is awesome. Israel is terrible. This wasn’t like The Voice, where Israel is auditioning while God’s chair is turned around, and He’s waiting until they hit the right note to turn His chair and beg them to be on his team.  That’s just not Israel.

 He’s doing this because He is awesome.  I’m still waiting for Blake Shelton to hit the button on someone who couldn’t carry a tune if it was in a bucket, and when asked why he did it, I just want him to say, “Because this will settle the debate about who the best coach is. You all keep choosing people who are already amazing. Have any of you chosen someone who sounds like cats fighting? No? Watch what I can do with this.”

“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited. Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’  (Ezekiel 36:16-36)

 Lest there was any doubt, this wasn't going to happen in a way where the Israelites could take credit. The nations will know that God rebuilt what was destroyed and replanted what was desolate. There wasn’t going to be a couple builders hanging around on the walls saying, “Hey, did you see that cool stonework I just did?” There would be no farmers sitting by the road at their market taking credit for their amber waves of grain.  This was the kind of restoration where the people around them would say, “Are you kidding? How did this happen? Only a God could do this.”

 So that’s what God says he will do for the land and for His name. But in the next chapter, Ezekiel has a vision of a valley full of dry bones, lifeless skeletons. God reveals to him what the vision means for the people within the land:

These bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel.  Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’” (Ezekiel 37: 11-14)

 Rebuild what is destroyed, replant what is desolate, and bring life and hope to the dead people returning to a land they had broken but God would heal.  God says to the people of Israel that He will do it for them not because they are great, but because He is great. The nations will know, and His people will know.

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 Here’s the bad news: we are like Israel. People look at us at times and say, “Seriously? You’re a Christian?”  Our spouse or kids or friends know that we can make the land desolate. We will knock our homes and our church to the ground if we aren’t careful. On our own, we are the dry bones, lifeless shells that make a mockery of what it means to be fully alive. Without Christ, we were dead in trespasses and sins (Romans 8:7–8; Ephesians 2:1; John 15:5). While we were yet sinners, Christ went into the grave to bring us back out.

Here’s the good news: What God did with Israel, he offers to us through Christ. Christ alone has the ability to genuinely heal us, to bring us back to fullness of life, to rebuild our homes, our relationships and our souls and bring a bountiful harvest in the midst of desolation in ways we cannot comprehend. Look what we read in the New Testament:

Blessed be God, the Father of our Lord Jesus the Anointed One, who grants us every spiritual blessing in these heavenly realms where we live in Christ—not because of anything we have done, but because of what He has done for us. God chose us to be in a relationship with Him even before He laid out plans for this world; He wanted us to live holy lives characterized by love, free from sin, and blameless before Him.

He destined us to be adopted as His children through the covenant Jesus inaugurated in His sacrificial life. This was His pleasure and His will for us. Ultimately God is the one worthy of praise for showing us His grace; He is merciful and marvelous, freely giving us these gifts in Christ. Visualize this: His blood freely flowing down the cross, setting us free! We are forgiven for our sinful ways by the richness of His grace, which He has poured all over us.

With all wisdom and insight, He has enlightened us to the great mystery at the center of His will. With immense pleasure, He laid out His intentions through Jesus, a plan that will climax when the time is right as He returns to create order and unity—both in heaven and on earth—when all things are brought together under Christ’s royal rule. In Him we stand to inherit even more. As His heirs, we are predestined to play a key role in His unfolding purpose that is energizing everything to conform to His will.

As a result, we—the first to place our hope in Christ—will live in a way to bring Him glory and praise. Because you, too, have heard the word of truth—the good news of your salvation—and because you believed in the One who is truth, your lives are marked with His seal. This is none other than the Holy Spirit who was promised as the guarantee toward the inheritance we are to receive when He frees and rescues all who belong to Him. To God be all praise and glory!”  (Ephesians 1:3-14)

As a kid, I was always the last one chosen at school recess when captains picked teams.  I dreaded every time we lined up. I just wanted one captain to say, “I want Anthony,” not, “I guess we’ll take Anthony. There’s nobody else left.”

God didn’t say to Israel, “I guess I’ll take Israel seeing how Horus already got the Egyptians and Baal has the Philistines. Fine.” God said, “I want you. I will make something of you, and because it is through you that I will display my glory, what I make of you will be glorious.”

God doesn’t say to us, “Fine. I guess I’ll take Anthony. Or Sheila. Or…” God says, “I choose Anthony.”

And if I see myself honestly, my reply is, “But…do you see what I have to offer? I’m proud, self-centered, forgetful, offensive, short-sighted, overly sensitive at times and not sensitive enough at others, I over think some things and under think others, I fail as a husband and a father and pastor and teacher and friend. I wish I could take back so many things I’ve said and redo so many situations in life. I want to date my wife again and do it right, and then learn how to communicate effectively early on, and learn how to honor her and love her before 20 years have slipped by …”

And God says, “I know. This is going to be awesome! Have you seen what I can do with even guys like you?!  My name will be made great not because you are awesome, but because I am awesome, and that’s going to be really clear when my Glory begins to make something glorious out of the ruin and desolation you brought to the family.” That’s an imaginary conversation, but the principle is in the Bible:

“Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.” (2 Corinthians 3:4-6; 18)

We see that with the greatest clarity when he brings the dead to life, when he makes something beautiful from the ashes of our life, when the old, broken, and used becomes new because of Christ.  That’s why Paul writes,

“Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”  (Ephesians 5:14)

God is glorified when it’s clear that He is awesome.

There are times we will not want to rise up from the deadness of our selfishness and pride. I promise you that if you really try to live up the biblical standards for what it means to be a man and be a woman, if you really look hard at how you handle headship and humility… it is not a pretty picture. The only way genuine beauty is brought from the ashes we make of our lives is through Christ.***  So we read in Hebrews

"Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16; ESV).

 Men and women, if you have failed to be the kind of man or woman God wants you to be – and you have - commit your life to God, pray for Christ to shine on you as His Spirit gives you life. God will be glorified as you are transformed into the image of Christ. Boldly ask God for mercy and grace… and freely pass it on to those around you who need it, which is all of us... and God will be glorified. 

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NOTES

* Listen or watch Casting Crown’s “Broken Together” for a poignant look at how we need the work of Christ in order live together well.  Listen or watch Mercy Me’s “Greater” for an invigorating look at the promise and hope we can find when we really experience the greatness of God in our lives.

 

** We see this principle in the New Testament as well. Often, when talking about how men and women are to live together in Christian community (think of the Household Codes and Church codes we talked about earlier in the series), the writers of the New Testament letters give a clear reason: so that God and His Kingdom will be glorified.  Three examples:

  • “Live honorably among the outsiders so that, even when some may be inclined to call you criminals, when they see your good works, they might give glory to God when He appears.” (1 Peter 2:12)
  • “…give the enemy (opponents, adversaries) no opportunity for slander. (1 Timothy 5:9-10)
  • “…that the word of God may not be dishonord. (Titus 2:3-5)

 

*** There is a great episode in the life of Moses. Not long after the Golden Calf incident, Moses goes to God with a poignant request:

Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people. The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”  (Exodus 33:12-16)

How will anyone know that God is pleased or that His people are blessed? Not because of their past actions, that’s for sure. And it wasn’t because of their current righteousness. Ever since the golden calf incident God has referred to them as Moses’ people, stiff-necked and stubborn (Exodus 32:7-9). And yet Moses has the audacity to ask, “Will you go with me?”

 When I am in Costa Rica driving, I don’t want a map. I want Delynn or Gloria in the seat next to me.  And when my wife and I struggle in our relationship and we need to go to places emotionally that are dark and frightening, the key question we ask each other is, “Will you go with me? To this counselor… into this part of our hearts…in front of a mirror that will show us who we really are.”

 “Will you go with me?” is the haunting question all of us ask as we go into the dark, into a scary situation, into a new place. God’s presence matters. How will God be made glorious unless He goes with us?

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Are there areas of your life where you can see the desolation and ruin of your sin in your relationships, your identity, or your community? In what way to you need to be brought back to life?
  • Have there been times in your life when you have clearly seen God bring healing, hope and life back into your life? How was His name glorified in the process?
  • Where do you see your need for the Holy Spirit most clearly? When have you most clearly seen the Holy Spirit at work in your life?
  • Talk about some times when you have experienced mercy and grace. 

God’s Nature: Revealed in Christ (Colossians 1:15 – 1:23)

I am a big fan of Lebron James. But as I watched the playoffs this this last week, I thought, “Glory is hard taskmaster.” Lebron promised Miami a handful of championships, and now there is tremendous pressure on him to win. He gets high renown and honor if he performs up to expectations, but he can go from hero to zero over the course of just two games. He may look magnificent in the moment, but those moments fade, and then he has to look magnificent again by doing something amazing yet again.

But let’s be honest: We pursue glory (renown, recognition and applause) in our homes, our work place, our church, online, with our friends. We want to be renown for something. We might not say “Look at me!” but we think it and hope it.  And if being noticed become the most important thing – an idol, really - we will need to keep accomplishing things, and we will need to have people around us who notice.

In our homes: we want our spouse or our kids to be impressed by our magnificence. So we do more yard work, or cook more, or take them on a bigger vacation, or buy them stuff, or work harder at our job to make more money…. And it’s not that these things are necessarily bad. They just become bad if they become about us. Soon we realize we are running ourselves into the ground, and the family isn’t noticing. So we have to either remind them about everything we are doing, or point out all their failures so our successes look better.  

With our friends: We want them to be impressed with our magnificence. So we get the beach body abs, or the new car, or the degree, or the new job. And even when they notice, we are never satisfied with the applause, and our friends are growing weary of us, and we just keep pushing ourselves harder and others away. And it’s not that these things are necessarily bad. They just become bad if you make them an idol.

 In church: We are generous with our time and money, we read and study so we know a lot, we have grown kids God’s way and they are just a model of respect and godliness (at least in front of others), we lead, teach, worship or serve in some way that is powerful and moving.  And all of these are good things – unless we have turned them into something that is supposed to get us the glory and honor that is finally due to us. But we keep trying harder, thinking that one day God will reward our hard work and we will be NOTICED!!!  

There are so many good things God has given us or placed around us, and they are meant to be a gift to us and the world.  But if we simply pursue our own glory,  this “I”dolatry will drives us mercilessly. It will always fades always leave us empty, always take a toll on the people around us. This brings us to Paul’s letter to the Colossian church. Right after his opening prayer, he quotes what many believe to be an early hymn of praise:

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 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God, the firstborn of creation, the eternal. It was by Him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes. He has always been! It is His hand that holds everything together. He is the head of this body, the church.

 He is the beginning, the first of those to be reborn from the dead, so that in every aspect, at every view, in everything—He is first. God was pleased that His full nature should forever dwell in the Son who bled peace into the world by His death on the cross as God’s means of reconciling to Himself the whole creation—all things in heaven and all things on earth." (Colossians 1:15-20)

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Christ is...

  • The eternal God in the flesh
  • Creator and sustainer of everything.
  • The Designer of Purpose
  • The Head of the Church
  • The Resurrector of the Dead
  • The Redeemer and Reconciler of all Creation

 He is preeminent, ultimately outstanding, first in everything, everywhere. Why does this matter? Because that kind of God is the only one who can do this:

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You were once alienated from God, wicked in your ways and evil in your minds; but now He has reconciled you in His flesh through His death so that He can present you to God holy, blameless, and totally free of imperfections as long as you stay planted in the faith. So don’t venture away from what you have heard and taken to heart: the living hope of the good news that has been announced to all creation under heaven and has captured me, Paul, as its servant...

  What I am talking about is nothing less than the mystery of the ages! What was hidden for ages, generations and generations, is now being revealed to His holy ones. He decided to make known to them His blessing to the nations; the glorious riches of this mystery is that Christ lives in you, giving you the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:21-27)

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 “The living hope of the good news” is that we have been reconciled to God through Christ who lives in us, giving us the hope of glory.Commentators note that this phrase probably has a dual meaning. First, “the hope of glory” refers to the promise our next life in heaven. Second, it also refers to the impact of God in this life as well. Dóksa ("glory") corresponds to the OT word, kabo ("to be heavy"). Both terms convey that there is infinite, intrinsic worth of God’s very essence that has a depth, permanence, and beauty beyond what we can imagine.

God alone can bear what C.S. Lewis called “the weight of glory” – and He chooses to pass it on to us. And I don’t mean the glory that we tend to pursue. This is a different kind of glory that is all about Christ. It’s the kind of glory that does not fade, and is not empty. So what are the implications ?

We are free from the burden of generating our own awesomeness. We don't have to worry about the applause of others – with Christ in us, we have the applause of heaven.  We are magnificent because Christ is in us, not because we had the biggest sales month or have kids whose hair is always washed or we look good in a swimsuit or we are a leader.  No one needs to notice. We no longer say “Look at me!”  We say, “Look past me!”

 We don’t need others to fail so we look better. We don’t need to impress anyone, and we don’t need to hold them hostage to our need for affirmation.  They can flourish and we will rejoice. “You have the spotlight! Well done.”

 Let’s just say, theoretically, that we were awesome for a day. And let’s just say that no one noticed. That’s okay. They weren’t supposed to look at us anyway. They were supposed to see Christ, and if I remember correctly, He is supposed to increase while we decrease. It’s when people look past us that they Christ in us, the source of our only true glory and our only true hope. 

Bearing the Mark of Christ (Galatians 6:17)

All scars tell a story. Some people are proud to display them; others want to cover them up. Either way, they tell a story – and it often goes deeper than the skin, and sometimes doesn’t show up on the skin at all. This is more along the lines of relationships, commitments, and ”bearing burdens.”  It's the hidden hardships, wounds, and brokenness that leave very real scars that nobody sees. John Connolly wrote of one character in The Reapers:  “He was the kind who didn't like to turn away from another's pain, the kind who couldn't put a pillow over his ears to drown out the cries of strangers. Those scars he had were badges of courage, and Willie knew that there were others hidden beneath his clothes, and still more deep inside, right beneath the skin and down to the soul.”

So what do we do with our scars both seen and unseen? Show ‘em off or hide em? Are they symbols of failure or reminders of healing? More importantly, what does Christianity teach about our moral and spiritual scars? Are they shameful reminders of failure or abuse or tragedy? What does God think of them? Is he embarrassed? Does God hate our scars? (Because if he does, He probably hates us).

 When Jesus reappeared to the disciples after his Crucifixion and Resurrection, we read that "he (Jesus) showed them his hands and his feet." (Luke 24:40) Why would Jesus do this? He is in his resurrection body, right? He has been raised from the dead! Why were these particular scars worth showing off?

1) Identity. It proved He was the same Jesus whom they had followed. Jesus was not a new or replacement God. He wasn’t a ghost. He was Jesus who was born in Bethlehem, son of Mary, crucified messiah, and now risen Lord.

2) Empathy.  There is hardly a more obvious place than our hands on which to carry our scars. We reach out with our hands to help, heal, discipline, and 'high five'. When you have scars on your hand, everyone sees them. Jesus’ scars send a clear message: “I have suffered, too.”

3) Hope. If Christ has wounds, we should expect to have wounds too. That may not sound hopeful, but if we want to share in the power of His resurrection, we will have to share in the fellowship of his suffering. There are no biblical alternatives.

“We a pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but are never destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4: 8-10

Christ did not leave even his wounds behind him in his resurrected body. We needed to see that He has healed wounds, not running sores. He was the Savior who suffered as well as the God who heals, and he will always be both. A wound that kills does not leave a scar. Dead people do not form scars. Our scars remind us that we are still in the land of the living.

4) Glory. A Savior who does not love enough to suffer does not love enough to care. A Savior who is ashamed of his suffering has something to hide. A Savior who proudly loves us enough to suffer and die and who can by that suffering claim his power of sin and death – that’s a God of power and might. As novelist Dean Koontz has noted: “A scar is not always a flaw. Sometimes a scar may be redemption inscribed in the flesh.”

When we get to the end of Galatians, we read an interesting statement from Paul:“ I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” Paul’s scars tell a story.  In Lystra, he was stoned, dragged from the city, and left for dead (Acts 14:19). He received five beatings by the Jews of 39 stripes - 195 stripes from these five beatings alone. Three times he was whipped with “rods,” a Roman punishment, and the Romans didn’t limit the number.

Paul said, “I bear on my body the marks (stigmata) of Jesus.” They clearly told a physical story. But a stigmata meant more than that. A slave could go to the temple of Heracles, take a stigmata, and receive sanctuary. No on could touch him. The god owned him. In the Roman army, new recruits would get a stigmata when they had proven themselves. Soldiers might tattoo on their arm or hand the name of a favorite general or particular god.

By claiming his physical scars as the stigmata of Christ, Paul was declaring both allegiance and spiritual sanctuary. God owned him, not anyone else. He was safe in all the ways that mattered. His suffering marked him as one being brought from death to life by the One who would one day give him the fullness of life eternal. Paul understood the connection between scarring and glory.

So what does God think of our scars?

Our scars of sin can be transformed into a symbols of hope. We read in Isaiah,“He was wounded for our rebellion and crushed for our sins, his punishment brings us peace, and by his strips we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) This isn’t a commentary on sickness; this is a window into how God handles the wounds of our sin. Jesus took physical wounds upon himself that the wounds of our sin could be healed. What do you get when a wound heals? Scars.

  • It’s the wound of addiction that has healed into a scar of “clean and sober.”
  • It’s the wound of prison that has healed into a scar of freedom. Our liberty reminds us that a God of Grace is a God of second chances.
  • It’s the wound of divorce that has healed into a scar made up of repentance, humility and forgiveness.
  • It’s the wound of pornography that has healed into a scar of virtue and genuine love.
  • It’s the wound of hypocrisy that has healed into a scar of transparency and honesty.
  • It’s the wounds of the many ways we punish, harm and exploit ourselves that has healed into a glorious scar of worth, peace, and identity found only in a God of grace and relentless, beautiful covenantal love.

If this is your wound, give it to Jesus. You will be scarred, but only the living form scars. And the scarred can be beautiful. The scarred have been healed by a God of love. But Paul is talking about scars of commitment, those wounds received when he was persecuted for the cause of Christ. This is not the wages of sin; this is “the fellowship of His suffering.”  This is stepping out for the cause of Christ knowing we will be hurt.

  •      Health and life (depending where you live)
  •       Reputation (when we take a stand for truth and we are insulted or dismissed)
  •      Jobs (when we can’t do things that would compromise our commitment to Christ)
  •      Friends (when we have to put boundaries in place so that our faith can stay pure)
  •      Budget (when the cause of Christ trumps our personal pleasure)
  •      Emotional Life (as we are ‘broken and spilled out” for others)

Do not be afraid to bear the wounds of Christ. Be broken and poured out for the sake of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  Love sacrificially. Give sacrificially. Defend your faith boldly even in the middle of opposition.  It will mark you. It will wound you. But you are among the living, and it will only leave a scar. And it will be glorious.

Permanent, Invisible Things

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The year was 1951. It was Valentine's Day and I (Ted Smith) was 3 ½ years old. My two brothers, Dick (11 yrs old), and Gary (7 yrs old), had just come home from a Cub Scout Party. Our family farm situated on the west shore of West Grand Traverse Bay, about five miles out from town. The frigid February temperatures had just put a thin film of ice over the whole bay. My two brothers, and a neighbor boy, were excited about the new ice and without saying a word to my parents; they left the safety of the farmyard and headed across the road to the bay. When my dad discovered they had gone down to the bay he went running after them.....but it was too late.

My dad nearly drowned that day! He searched desperately for the boys, repeatedly falling into the frigid water as the in the hole in the ice got larger and larger. The three of them were gone….forever. As I grew up in our home I heard many stories about the boys, about that horrible day, about “loss,” and what life was like from mom and dad.

The life of the Christian has many blessings. It’s important to have a thankful heart. But, if we’re honest, we’ll admit that the even though we’re endeavoring to follow Christ in this life, we who have placed our hope and trust in God also have our share of pain, grief and loss. Unexpected events can arise that shake us to the core and leave us wondering what happened. Was God asleep? Am I a crazy? Did I miss some important bit of instruction about life?

I suspect that every one of us could tell of events that have shaken our world. I’ve known more than one believer who has turned away from following Christ because they could not regain their sense of stability following the pain or loss that came their way.

 For my parents, their faith in Christ and the support of their local church family  kept them "putting one foot in front of the other." What  my sister Judy and I witnessed, first-hand, was not not “running from God,” but a purposeful “running to God.” From what I observed, my parents did just what Paul talks about in his letter to the Corinthians.

 Paul gives a perspective for handling this earthly life while waiting for the promised, eternal life. He draws on his own experience of suffering, and gives them answers to questions that still arise. We’re followers of Christ…but we still live this earthly and sometimes painful existence. How do we handle the difficulties and disappointments that arise?

Paul has just finished saying that “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9) After establishing the trials they faced, he adds:

“Therefore we do not lose heart; though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

The “eternal weight of glory” refers to the splendor, the magnificence, the honor, and the happiness of the eternal world, the world that has been promised to those who have been reconciled to God through forgiveness of sins and faith in Jesus Christ. There is an eternity in the presence of God that is prepared for those who love Christ. Something about this “looking at things not seen,” looking at God in the midst of -- and in spite of -- the pains and sorrows that come our way, opens the way and brings us into an “eternal weight of glory.” The Bible captures the beauty of this promise in the next chapter:

 “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord — for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-7 )