Monday, September 3, 2012

Living the Glory

 Glory! The word appears throughout scripture nearly 300 times. But what does glory mean biblically and why does the Lord desire that the knowledge of his glory fills the earth? And what does glory have to do with living sent today? In this post I want to explore these questions. 

In John 17, Jesus gives us some important insight about the nature of glory when he prays, “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). Jesus says two important things here:  first, “I have brought you glory…” and two, he has “finished the work.” Let’s deal with the second briefly – the finished work Jesus refers to and then we’ll look at glory. Before our Lord went to the cross, before he died for our sins, before his resurrection from the dead – Jesus says he “finished the work” he was sent to do. Throughout Christian history the emphasis of Christ’s finished work has been on Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. On the cross Jesus says “it is finished.” (John 19:30). Of course Jesus atonement is central to our faith and the Good News (1 Cor 15:3-4). But here Jesus says that his work was finished, before he even went to the cross.  I believe understanding this finished work is key to living sent today. 

The finished work was to reveal the Father (John 17:6a). Jesus came to make the Father known to those whom the Father had given him (John 17:6b). These were the Father’s, for all are, and the Father had given them to the Son. They had obeyed the Father’s word by following the Son who was following the Father (John 5:19). Jesus was sent to make known the Father, the works he did was for that purpose (John 5:36). That was Jesus’ mission - living an incarnational witness to make known the Father for the sake of all peoples so that they would, having been saved, be presented as promised to the Son (Psalm 2:8). That was to be the mission of the first disciples as well (Acts 1:8). It is the crux of what it means to live sent – living to display God’s glory for all to see and believe. 

But how did Jesus bring glory to the Father through his mission? The essence of glory is this – to hold proper prominence for the Person whose plan provides everything for all people. Glory is singularly the Lord’s because he is the source of all things and deserving of honor for who he is and what he has done far above, exceedingly beyond compare according to his own divine will and pleasure. He is the Lord of life without whom there is nothing (John 1:3). It is in him that we live, and move and have our being (Acts 17:25). We are not independent creatures in a meaningless universe as a result of a cosmic accident and billions of years of random mutation. We are created beings, image-bearers, of a Creator who holds all things together (Col 1:17). What is even more amazing is that our Creator loves us with a never ending love (John 3:16) and desires that all people everywhere know him and worship him. Jesus understood this completely, having been sent by the Father for this purpose and revealed it to those who followed him (Matthew 28:19-20). Likewise, living sent means we are to reveal the Lord of glory. 

In the Old Testament the word glory is a noun (Aramaic), which means that is it an attribute of God, it is something God possess because of who he is. Moses asked the Lord to show him his glory and the Lord responded, “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the Lord before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion” (Exodus 33:18-19). To put it simply – all glory is God’s because glory is all God is. Prior to this account, Moses rightly asked: “Who among the gods is like you, LORD? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11) Now Moses was about to get only a glimpse of this glory. The Lord limits what was revealed, telling Moses “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” No one that is, but the Son who was sent by the Father to reveal more of God’s glory. God’s glory is beyond human understanding but the Lord desires that knowledge to fill the earth. 

God’s `glory is so incomprehensible that when Isaiah got a glimpse he responded, “Woe to me! I am ruined” (Isaiah 6:5). However the glory of God was to appear in the person of Jesus Christ and  Isaiah foresaw this and spoke of it: “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: ‘Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn—and I would heal them.’ Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.” (John 12:37-41).

Jesus lived to fulfill the purposes of God, to make his Father’s glory know – that is all that the Lord desires to make known about himself for the benefit of his creation. Jesus is the fullest revelation of the very image of God (Hebrew 1:3). He did only what he saw the Father doing, living with complete unity of purpose and selfless obedience to the divine will. Jesus’ life was totally about the Father because our Lord understood that making the Father’s glory known is the only way to fully live (John 6:63). That is why Jesus was sent and we’ll explore this more on this blog but a vital question is where are we today? 

Several decades ago A.W. Tozer discussed what he saw as the departure of the glory of God from the church because of a low view of God. Tozer diagnosed the problem: “The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshiping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.”  Can there be any doubt that this lofty concept of God has only diminished further since Tozer’s diagnosis? But can we recover a vision of God’s glory such that we can again “ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name” (Psalm 29:2)? Can the Church attain a high concept of God, once again? Yes, I believe so, but only as we learn to live as Jesus sent us. 

Before closing let’s consider at least one reason briefly, among several, for our present inglorious situation. In the Greek, one word translated glory is ‘doxa’ from which we get our term doxology – an expression of praise for who God is. ‘Doxa’ is a verb, meaning it is something that we do, an action that we take. Because it is an action, our problem is that we may make infrequent use of it, or worse, express it wrongly focused. Doxology was never meant to be a Sunday chorus for church-goers, as a song we sing.  Doxology must be an expression of the life we lead (John 4:23). Only then can we give God the glory he rightly deserves. Proper doxology requires living sent just like Jesus. But how did “glory” go from being a noun, something we possess, to being a verb, something we do? The difference is one of worldview between how the Hebrews and the Greeks understood their relationship with God. What that means we’ll look at next time. 

Now to answer our opening question: why does the Lord desire that the knowledge of his glory fills the earth? Because glory is all that the Lord is for us living sent today.

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