Friday, May 9, 2008

The Glory of God

Next week I have to present a five minute topical sermon in my Public Communications class at college. So I thought I’d practise my content on you first! I will be speaking about “The Glory of God”, and yes I know what you are thinking, that’s a big topic to chew off in five minutes. But ya know, never let it be said that I’m shy of a challenge!!

We use the term “glory of God” a lot in Christian circles. It’s a bit of a holy catch-all that we throw around when we need to feel spiritual. We talk about doing things “for the Glory of God” and if we are of the Pentecostal persuasion then we may talk about “the gllllorrry in the saaanncctuaaary”! Even in the bible the term sometimes seems to be used a bit lightly. For example when Jude is signing off his letter, he includes the following comment, “…to the only God our Saviour be GLORY, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord… Amen” (1:25) which in context just seems to be a holy way of saying “Bye, catch ya later”.

So yes, it’s a bit of an abstract and esoteric term. And we do tend to use it quite lightly. Interestingly, however, in Hebrew the word for glory (kabowd) actually means “HEAVINESS of honour, splendour, dignity” so this is perhaps something we should not take lightly!! I want to take a quick Trinitarian look at the glory of God and then look at how it is relevant to the way we live our lives.

#1 – The Glory of the Father
One of the first revelations of God’s glory recorded in the bible was to Moses in Exodus 33:18-20; 34:5-7:

Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.” And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”

Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, 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; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

It is interesting that when Moses requests that God would show him His glory, that what Moses gets in response is primarily a revelation of God’s character. God reveals Himself as merciful, kind, slow to anger, loving, faithful, forgiving and just.

This pattern of a display of God's glory being coupled with a revelation of His character is repeated throughout the bible. For example, in 2 Chron 7 at the dedication of the Temple, the glory manifested, and there was a statement of God's character in the praises of the people, that He is "good and his love endures forever". Similarly, when Isaiah sees the Lord in Isaiah 6, the statement of God's character is in the praises of the angels, who sang, "Holy, holy, holy".

So I think we can say that, the Glory of God is the Revelation of His character.

#2 - Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God's glory
Jesus is of course the ultimate revelation of God's glory. In Jn 1:14 it says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And in this verse we see again the coupling of the glory of God with His character -- in this case being full of grace and truth.

Hebrews 1:3 further expands this idea when it says that Christ is, “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being”. In this we see that Christ is the pinnacle of God's glory, and that that is by exactly representing God's being, His person, His character. And so in Jesus we see a life that is truly glorifying to God, through being a REVELATION OF GOD'S BEING (CHARACTER).

#3 – Our partnership with the Spirit for God’s Glory
As I promised, this is a bit of a trinitarian look at God's glory, and so having discussed the glory of God in light of the Father and the Son, let's look at the Holy Spirit. In 2 Cor 3 there is an extended section on the glory of the ministry of the Spirit, over that of the Law (verses 7-9; 18):

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that brought condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness!
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

And so we see that the ministry of the Spirit is glorious because He is transforming us into His image, that is so that God's character (in this case His righteousness) is REVEALED IN US. So that is to say that we are a revelation of God's glory to the degree that we reveal God's character -- and this is done in partnership with and dependence on the Spirit.

So the question is how are we transformed so that we reveal God's character, and bring Him glory? This is picked up in 2 Cor 3:18, it is by contemplating (or in some translations beholding) the glory of the Lord -- through this we are transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory.

So that's pretty cool huh? So now when we talk about doing things "for the Glory of God" we have a firm frame of reference for what we are talking about. What we mean is that we are doing that thing in a way that reveals God's character. I personally think that's pretty exciting. First of all because it's so simple! But also because it seems so worthwhile, what could be more meaningful than glorifying God by being a means by which He reveals His character? How much more pleasant a way to be transformed so that we can do this, than by beholding His glory, His character? And then how gracious is He that He not only calls us to glorify Him, but through His Spirit actually enables us to do it??

So I want to leave you with a few questions:
  • What have you learnt about God's character by beholding His glory?
  • How can you bring God glory by reflecting those characteristics of His?
  • What are some situations where you specifically want to bring glory to God?
  • Who are some people to whom you want to show the glory of God?
  • What are some areas in your life that do not display the glory of God?
  • How can you, by working with the Holy Spirit, display God's character in these situations, to those people, in those areas of your life?

God bless,

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