Encountering the Glory of God

June 29, 2010

Well, another New Wine is in the books.  We had a FANTASTIC time.  Vicky Beeching was an amazing worship leader.  Kenny Borthwick’s humility and insight was inspiring. The seminars though, rose to a new level.  I had the chance to sit in on a couple, and I’ve listened to two more (looking forward to hearing the rest).  The ones I’ve heard thus far are: Peter Moore’s teaching on postmodernity, Rob Sturdy on discovering our purpose, Andy Morgan’s encountering the glory of God and Sherri Grady’s address on grief.  Andy Morgan has posted the text of his talk which I’ve reprinted below.  Other talks will follow.  If you wish to obtain a CD or MP3 of the talks, contact Catherine Guerry in our bookstore (843.284.4339 or  CGuerry@WeAreStAndrews.com).  Now, the talk: “Encountering the Glory of God”:

The Westminster Shorter Catechism begins with the Question What is the Chief End of Man. The answer is to Glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

What does it mean to both glorify God and enjoy Him?

How do we enjoy God? What happens, or what should happen when we encounter the glory of God?

This is what I hope to begin to explore and at least scratch the surface of this topic this morning.

Why do we need to understand or grasp this issue? Because, I think, that the Church and Christians today in the west, and especially in the USA and UK have not fully grasped what it is to encounter the glory of God and how that should effect us. Of course that is a broad brush stroke and you may know many people who are indeed living a life glorifying and enjoying God. But generally most of the Church is not, as we can see when you look at the impact of the church in our society.

Christian conversion and discipleship have become a sterile transaction for many.

You accept Christ as Lord and Savior after a period of time of reflection and interaction with Christians or a fellowship; you join a Church; you begin to get some teaching; you stop doing some things which you used to do (sins) and you do some things you did not do (reading the bible, praying and going to church). But generally our lives remain pretty much the same – we continue in our jobs (although some do leave their careers often to go to seminary) and our lives go on.

I do not know if you are aware of the name Yusif Islam? His other name is Cat Stevens. When he was still Cat Stevens in the mid seventies, he had an experience. While swimming off the coast of California we got into difficulties and began to drown. He cried out to God that if he saved him he would work for him. A wave came and miraculously swept him onto the shore. In his spiritual search after that event he came to the conclusion that to become a Christian would require him to change very little from the person he was. Hence his move towards Islam.

Now, there may be many other factors as to why he did not pursue Christianity but for him to seen, by perception, look at Christianity and SEE no major need to change your lifestyle is sad.

On our profession of faith in Christ Jesus we agreed to give our lives up to Christ. If we are here this morning and we call ourselves a Christian we have by that very definition said to God – I give you my entire life – it is no longer my own but yours Lord. All that I have is yours. My career, Lord is yours. My money and all my assets are yours Lord. My life and all I have are at your disposal Lord.

How many of us still think we are actually in charge of our own lives? Or think that the assests we have are our own? How many of us spend time wrestling in prayer seeking God if we should move house, or move jobs, or buy something?

How on earth can we have a Church in which encountering the glory of God – that is conversion – generally results in the minimal type of change in someone’s life. Again this is a broad brush stroke!

We are too cautious. A 55 year old comes to faith in Christ and knows that he should go and serve the Lord. Yet he is 3 years away from a major financial bonus in his company because of his age. 8 churches out of 10 would probably tell him to stay in his job. Be safe. Get the benefits. NO – leave – give it up – go serve! If that is what God is saying do it – the consequences are irrelevant when it comes to God.

Luke 9:57! We are to act – leave it behind – entrust ourselves to God.

Got a good income? A great job? A nice house? Feel God calling you to serve him? Give it up – quit the job, sell the house and downsize and downscale and go do it.

Pick up your cross and follow me did not have any safety net provision OTHER than God’s promise to take care of you here and in eternity.

Such attitudes are dulling the church.

Too many of us are in the west are like Simon the Pharisee in Luke 7:36-50. We had this reading recently in the lectionary..

Luke 7:36   Now one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 Then when a woman of that town, who was a sinner, learned that Jesus128 was dining at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfumed oil. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfumed oil.  39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner.”  40 So Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” He replied, “Say it, Teacher.”  41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty.  42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”  43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  44 Then, turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house. You gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  45 You gave me no kiss of greeting, but from the time I entered she has not stopped kissing my feet.  46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfumed oil.  47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little.”  48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?”  50 He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Simon has a form of decent religion. He loved God. He prayed. He tithed. He attempted to live his life rightly but he is missing the point. He is unable to recognize the character and nature of the very God he worshipped. He played it safe. He has climbed the ladder of success. He is secure in his position. Has a nice home. He is respected. Yet, He has no compassion, no encounter with, no real understanding of God, or how he should respond to God.

Too many of us are at the Simon end of the equation.

What we NEED to be like is the woman who anoints Jesus’ feet.

She has encountered the glory of God. She glorified God and she enjoyed God because had moved in her heart.

How do we get there. What needs to happen.

Well, let’s start by unpacking what the Glory of God IS.

The Hebrew word for Glory is Kabod – which means at its root “to be heavy” or weightiness. Often it is used in scripture to signify a person’s importance – his weightiness: The Greek word for Glory is Doxa which means to think referring to the opinion a person holds about himself or what others think about him, that is reputation. Doxa is used in the Greek version of the Old Testament.

An example of kabod meaning a person’s importance is found in Genesis 31:1 – Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were complaining,1 “Jacob has taken everything that belonged to our father! He has gotten (Kabod)2 at our father’s expense!”3

 

We can see in scripture how God’s glory is weighty.

Exodus 40:34-35 – Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.  35 Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.

 

1 Kings 8:11 – The priests could not carry out their duties14 because of the cloud; the LORD’s glory filled his temple.

However, in most cases, when the Bible Speaks about God’s Glory it is speaking about his essential being and nature. God’s glory is the inescapable weight of the sheer intrinsic goodness of God, inherent in the attributes essential to him.

To deny God any one of his attributes (i.e. to say that God is not good – or not trustworthy, or not merciful, or not faithful, or not just etc) is to attack the very glory of God.

And the effect of being in the presence of God and a taste of his glory is seen in Isaiah 6:

In the year of King Uzziah’s death,1 I saw the sovereign master2 seated on a high, elevated throne. The hem of his robe filled the temple.  2 Seraphs3 stood over him; each one had six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet,4 and they used the remaining two to fly.  3 They called out to one another, “Holy, holy, holy5 is the Lord who commands armies!6 His majestic splendor fills the entire earth!”  4 The sound of their voices shook the door frames,7 and the temple was filled with smoke.

 

Is. 6:5   I said, “Too bad for me! I am destroyed,8 for my lips are contaminated by sin,9 and I live among people whose lips are contaminated by sin.10 My eyes have seen the king, the LORD who commands armies.”

 

Ezek 1:28: Like the bow in a cloud on a rainy day, such was the appearance of the splendor all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD.  When I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of someone speaking.

Ezek 3:23: So I rose up and went out into the valley; and the glory of the LORD stood there, like the glory that I had seen by the river Chebar; and I fell on my face.

Ezek 44:4: Then he brought me by way of the north gate to the front of the temple; and I looked, and lo! the glory of the LORD filled the temple of the LORD; and I fell upon my face.

Luke 2:9: Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

So, we can see that one aspect of God’s glory is his presence – a presence which is weighty and powerful – a presence which causes people to fall down on their faces or be terrified.

But scripture also describes the Glory of God in another way. Exodus 16:4-7.

Ex. 16:4   Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.  5 On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.”  6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt,  7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD.

How is God’s glory described here?

Notice v7 – you shall see the glory of the Lord BECAUSE HE has heard your complaining against the Lord.

Who is the HE – HE is the glory of the Lord – the second person of the Trinity.

Numbers 14:10ff: But the whole congregation threatened to stone them. Then the glory of the LORD appeared at the tent of meeting to all the Israelites.  11 And the LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people despise me? And how long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?  12 I will strike them with pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”

 

Num. 14:13   But Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for in your might you brought up this people from among them,  14 and they will tell the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that you, O LORD, are in the midst of this people; for you, O LORD, are seen face to face, and your cloud stands over them and you go in front of them, in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.

Num. 16:19 Then Korah assembled the whole congregation against them at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the LORD appeared to the whole congregation. Then the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying:  21 Separate yourselves from this congregation, so that I may consume them in a moment.

The Glory of the Lord appears and then speaks to Moses and Moses speaks back.

Ezek 1:28

Isaiah 40:3-5: A voice cries out:

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

The Glory of God is revealed? This is part of the prophecy for John the Baptists ministry – this is a prophecy of Jesus being revealed.

And then we have Isaiah 42:1-8 – lets read:

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

Is. 42:5    Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6 I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. 8 I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols.

What is the Glory of God? The Glory of the Lord is His self giving love – it is a person who embodies the wholeness of the presence of the Trinitarian God and gives Himself for us. This does not reduce the Glory of God to a nice response to a good act – no the Glory of God is terrifying and should forces us to our knees or faces. To encounter it is to come face to face with the reality of who we are – sinners – in the presence of a fearful, magnificent, holy Trinitarian God. Isaiah and Ezekiel are not proud to have found themselves face to face with the presence of God – Isaiah believed he was undone – exposed – about to be consumed and Ezekiel falls on his face. But ultimately the Glory of God, according to Isaiah 42 shows us that The love of the Father for the Servant, the son, spills over to the whole world. The Creator of the Universe will bring reconciliation through His servant.

The argument is not; God loves God therefore you should love God, as some theologians have argued. It is God loves you, you should love God.

This leads me to ask the question of whether we have underplayed the experience of conversion within our evangelical tradition. Have we gone too far in simply affirming that knowledge of the gospel is sufficient for conversion. For Jonathan Edwards, known as Americas greatest theologian from the 18th century, a puritan and yet also an experientialist, conversion can never be rational. It is not about a statement of belief only. It can never be just be a rational “I believe in Christ”. There has to also be an EMOTIONAL response to God’s self giving love.

He writes:

Men in a natural condition may have convictions of the guilt that lies upon them, and of the anger of God, and their danger of divine vengeance. Such convictions are from light or sensibleness of truth. That some sinners have a greater conviction of their guilt and misery than others, is because some have more light, or more of an apprehension of truth than others. And this light and conviction may be from the Spirit of God; the Spirit convinces men of sin: but yet nature is much more concerned in it than in the communication of that spiritual and divine light that is spoken of in the doctrine; it is from the Spirit of God only as assisting natural principles, and not as infusing any new principles.

 

His point here is that Rationally, an unbeliever can know he is a sinner. He can even feel guilt. But that does not save him.

For Edwards conversion has a sense of the gloriousness of God in the converts heart.  Conversion is a response TO what God HAS done, not just an understanding of something!

Conversion must go beyond a rational belief, to an inward experience; in Edwards words – a sense of the loveliness of God’s holiness. For Edwards you can never be converted, meet with the living God and remain the same. The issue is not will it change you – it MUST totally and utterly transform you. To encounter God’s glory means you simply CANNOT remain the same. Edwards writes:

A true sense of the divine and superlative excellency of the things of religion; a real sense of the excellency of God and Jesus Christ, and of the work of redemption, and the ways and works of God revealed in the gospel. There is a divine and superlative glory in these things; an excellency that is of a vastly higher kind, and more sublime nature than in other things; a glory greatly distinguishing them from all that is earthly and temporal….

He that is spiritually enlightened truly apprehends and sees it, or has a sense of it. He does not merely rationally believe that God is glorious, but he has a sense of the gloriousness of God in his heart. There is not only a rational belief that God is holy, and that holiness is a good thing, but there is a sense of the loveliness of God’s holiness…

This knowledge is that which is above all others sweet and joyful. Men have a great deal of pleasure in human knowledge, in studies of natural things; but this is nothing to that joy which arises from this divine light shining into the soul. This light gives a view of those things that are immensely the most exquisitely beautiful, and capable of delighting the eye of the understanding. This spiritual light is the dawning of the light of glory in the heart. There is nothing so powerful as this to support persons in affliction, and to give the mind peace and brightness in this stormy and dark world.

True conversion is about experiencing God and his glory – and true discipling is about the continued experiencing of God and his glory.

Edwards, writing just after his conversion says:

“The first that I remember that ever I found any thing of that sort of inward, sweet delight in God and divine things, that I have lived much in since, was on reading those words, 1 Tim. 1:17, ‘Now unto the king eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever, Amen.’ As I read the words, there came into my soul, and was as it were diffused thro’ it, a sense of the glory of the Divine Being; a new sense, quite different from any thing I ever experienced before. Never any words of scripture seemed to me as these words did. I thought with myself, how excellent a being that was; and how happy I should be, if I might enjoy that God, and be wrapt up to God in Heaven, and be as it were swallowed up in Him. I kept saying, and as it were singing over these words of scripture to myself; and went to prayer, to pray to God that I might enjoy him; and prayed in a manner quite different from what I used to do; with a new sort of affection”

What Edwards writes of here is what the Psalmist knew to be true:

Psa. 40:8 I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you. (Psalm 119:11)

With my lips I declare all the ordinances of your mouth. 14 I delight in the way of your decrees as much as in all riches. (Psalm 119:13-14)

Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. (Psalm 119:35)

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:103)

Are we at this place? Do we truly look at scripture and treasure the words of God?  Are the words of God as honey to us? Or do we look at passages like the sermon on the mount and say – too difficult – too hard. Do we rationalize ourselves out of ‘turn the other check’ – ‘do not resist an evil man’.

Have we lost the joy, the wonder, the excitement and the commitment of our salvation?

If we truly have experienced the Lord God’s self-giving love in our lives, knowing that we are saved – why do we have fear? Why do we disobey God when he tells us hundreds of times ‘do not fear’ – ‘do not be afraid’.

Why do we not live our life without fear – with great abandonment proclaiming the gospel at home, in our communities and at work? Why are we not causing our local and national legislature to be debating the incredible ministries and work of the church in our towns and cities?

Compared to what Scripture, the Church Fathers and Edwards say about what happens to a person when they meet God the Church in the west to day is anemic!

We need to understand that to encounter God’s glory is to know that God loves us – and that in response we love God right back.

Let’s return to Luke 7 and the woman at Jesus’ feet. For this is what our response to God’s glory should be

Luke 7:36ff

One of the Pharisees asked Jesus to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table.  37 And a woman in the city, who was a sinner, having learned that he was eating in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster jar of ointment.  38 She stood behind him at his feet, weeping, and began to bathe his feet with her tears and to dry them with her hair. Then she continued kissing his feet and anointing them with the ointment.  39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him—that she is a sinner.”  40 Jesus spoke up and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” “Teacher,” he replied, “Speak.”  41 “A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  42 When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more?”  43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the greater debt.” And Jesus said to him, “You have judged rightly.”  44 Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has bathed my feet with her tears and dried them with her hair.  45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not stopped kissing my feet.  46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  47 Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.”  48 Then he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”  49 But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”  50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

The woman has encountered the glory of God. She has encountered God’s self-giving love. Be it through a direct encounter with Jesus or through his teaching this woman has meet God and she has changed. And now she responses to what God has done for her. She submits herself at the feet of Jesus, in public and extravagantly worships him – pouring herself out to him. She responds to God’s glory – to his self-giving love, by giving herself completely to God. She knows she has been forgiven much. So she loves much.

We are sinners who have been forgiven much – and therefore we should love much. Do we feel the same level of gratitude to God as this woman did? We should. Indeed this is what we must do each day – submitting to our Lord – pouring ourselves out to him. Giving all that we have to him – not questioningly, but joyfully, delighting in his word, delighting in his law, delighting in his commands!

Of course, the cross is the pinnacle, the center of God’s glory – his self-giving love as he gives the second person of the trinity – as the second person of the trinity willing sacrifices himself. The cross glorifies the son because the son glorifies the Father. It is the self giving love of God. John 17:1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you

To encounter God’s glory, is to do the same. It is about giving ourselves to him completely. It should become our self-giving love to God.

The post resurrection Jesus tells Peter this. In the conversation at the end of John’s Gospel when Jesus asks Peter three times if he loved him, Jesus says:

Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.”  19 (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”

As Peter responds and encounters God’s glory, he is told that he would be poured completely for God and that his death would glorify God.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6, as he talks about how we are part of the body of Christ says in 20, For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

We are to respond to God’s self-giving love, to glorify God in how we ACT. In our bodies. In what we DO. This means being obedient. Not being hypocrites. Not walking on the fence. Happy to dabble in things which are really of God – to watch dubious movies, or read dubious books, or to steal from work, or break the law by speeding, or cheating on our taxes, or being rude to people, or being unfair to those we work with or are in charge of, or neglecting our families because we over work placing our careers higher than both God and our families.

Paul says it even better in 2 Cor 9:13-14; Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others,  14 while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you.

We are to be obedient to the gospel – we are to joyfully be obedient to the gospel.

I love the story of The Wise Men in Matthew. It is the story of utter commitment and obedience. Here are some foreigners who, for whatever reason (and I think the reason is they were disciples of Daniel) are inspired to leave their homeland – to travel a thousand miles, in order to find the King of the Jews and when they do, and it’s not what they probably expected – no great palace, no pageantry – only a baby in an animal shelter – they BOW DOWN AND WORSHIP HIM.

Finally, as I close, Encountering God’s Glory is a whole life experience. Not just in regards to our daily life but throughout our life – from our conversion to our death.

As a pastor, and as someone who regularly sees people with severe problems, illnesses, and facing death, I am saddened how often, when hard times comes to christians, or when Christians are diagnosed with a terminal illnesses they seem to struggle, get angry and depressed, even struggling with their faith.

Why?

If everything was stripped away from you tonight, career, family, health, status, money – would you glorify God? Yes we should.

The whole race that is life must be run. Dying is an intensely spiritual experience. It beings with us dying to ourselves – a living sacrifice to God – but it ends with our bodies dying. We need to think about the whole race. Not just conversion – not just ministry – but our dying. We need to prepare ourselves to die physically – to encounter hardship in the joy which scripture says we should – to face suffering in the manner Christ says we will face suffering – rejoicing that we have life – that we have a future – that we have encountered the glory of God and it has changed us, transformed us, and prepared us for the journey of faith which leads us not just TO death, but through death into eternity with our God.

God did not create us to get the cosmic, infinite joy of mutual love and glorification, but to share it. We were made to join in the dance. If we will center our lives on him, serving him not out of self-interest, but just for the sake of who he is, for the sake of his beauty and glory, we will enter the dance and share in the joy and love he lives in. We were designed, then, not just for belief in God in some general way, nor for a vague kind of inspiration or spirituality. We were made to center our lives upon him, to make the purpose and passion of our lives knowing, serving, delighting, and resembling him. This growth in happiness will go on eternally, increasing unimaginably (1 Corinthians 2:7-10).

One response to Encountering the Glory of God

  1. Pastor, I am blessed by the message. May God continue to multiply His grace in your life and your ministry