In a day when we see so much
which is ugly, distorted, or that which is beautiful but
has been vandalised we wonder at the cult of the unlovely.
When beautiful women and handsome men want to look scungy
and dreary, when they want to distort their natural good
form by weird hair treatments, body attachments, and when
they want art to depict gross and hideous forms, or to
distort what is attractive into what is empty, meaningless
and despairing, we ask ourselves why this should be so.
We can get answers, 'Well, that is how we see things. That
is our kind of beauty. We are realists, seeing things as
they are-really ugly, perverted, empty and pointless.'
That is certainly one view
and calls for understanding, though we do not have to applaud
it. In an age of narcissism-self-worship-we find the narcissists
are those who have 'low self-esteem', poor self-image'
and so on, and they are among the foremost in committing
suicide, especially when they use drugs and alcohol. If
we had a good view of humanity, no matter how much and
many its faults, then we might drop our endeavour to demean
ourselves and recognise great elements that have been given
to us in our birth. The other day a study I once did of
human glory came up on my computer.
I thought it might be a
bit helpful to read, even in its present, rather formal
1. THE GIFT INCONCEIVABLE
Twice Paul talks of a gift
that is inconceivable. The first is in I Corinthians 2:7-9,
'But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which
God decreed before the ages for our glorification. None
of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they
had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But,
as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for
those who love him," God has revealed to us through the
Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths
of God.' This is the gift of glorification.
The second gift is spoken
of in II Corinthians 9:15, 'Thanks be to God for his inexpressible
gift!' The second gift is Christ himself, but then with
him all that God gives in grace to fallen Man. In the end
the two gifts are much the same, since in Colossians 1:27
Paul writes, 'To them God chose to make known how great
among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this
mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.' God's
gift prepared for man from before the foundation of the
earth is glory. Man ought always to keep that in mind.
Unless he is redeemed he will not have it in mind to keep.
Christ, God's inexpressible gift to him is the redeemed
man's hope of glory, that is, glory is assured to him.
2. MAN CREATED AS THE
IMAGE AND GLORY OF GOD
When God said 'Let us make
man in our own image and likeness' he intended just that.
Paul says 'Man is the image and glory of God'. Now what
that glory constituted is not easy to cover, but Psalm
8 helps us. So in verses 3 and 4 the Psalmist is amazed
at God's care and consideration of Man. He asks, 'When
I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon
and the stars which thou hast established; what is man
that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou
dost care for him?' Then he answers his own question in
verses 5 to 8, 'Yet thou hast made him little less than
God, and dost crown him with glory and honor. Thou hast
given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast
put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and
also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and
the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of
the sea.' Man, then, has great glory. This was God's great
gift to him. It was what made Man, Man. It is really the
gift of himself.
3. MAN CAN SAY OF HIMSELF,
'O MY GLORY!'
There is a fascinating statement
in Genesis 49:5&endash;7. Jacob, in prophesying over his
sons says regarding Simeon and Levi that they are cruel
men. He addresses himself and says, 'O my soul, come not
into their council, O my glory (kabod) be not joined
to their company.' This address may sound strange, but
it is used in other places, for example Psalm 16:9, 'Therefore
my heart is glad and my glory (kabod) rejoices.'
In the context we can see how thrilling it was for the
Psalmist to be in God's presence and to know that God would
not let him see death, a mighty truth to be fully revealed
by Christ at a later time in history.
What, then, do we make of
a person speaking of his glory? The word kabod can mean
glory, reputation and honour. We are supposed to honour
all men and women and children throughout creation. We
are to say nothing which will give them a bad reputation.
The truth is that as persons created by God they are creatures
of glory. Even if Man, since Eden, has fallen short of
the glory of God he has never completely lost the glory.
Jacob could be said to be a man without pure glory, and
he was told 'You were a rebel from your mother's womb',
but something happened to him later in life when he was
a man of wealth and great worldly kabod. He met God in
the angel at Peniel and fought with him, demanding the
blessing. God told him he was no longer Jacob (cheat) in
character but Israel-the one prevailing with God. Since
that night of transformation Jacob wanted nothing of the
cruelty or vandalism such as were the 'unglory' of his
two sons. He knew glory within, and walked according to
that glory. Of course he had looked into the eyes of the
angel and seen the glory of God and could never be the
same man again.
4. THE LOSS OF GLORY
It happened in Eden. Finally
Paul has said, 'For all have sinned and come short of the
glory of God. He is speaking about the whole of mankind.
He has lost what he had. In Romans 3:9&endash;18 Paul describes
what Man has become. Jesus described this in Mark 7:21ff.
What comes out of a man's heart defiles him. Jeremiah in
17:9 of his prophecy shows how the heart of Man is deceitful
above all things and desperately corrupt. Romans 1:18-32
shows the depravity of Man. Another way of speaking of
the loss of the glory of man is to say that the image of
God in Man went into reverse-horribly so. Man lived by
love. Now, cutting himself off from God as his 'supply'
he became a creature of self goodness, self righteousness,
self holiness, self veracity, self love. Self love we call
self-centred love, and theologians speak about eros although
that is a word not used in the New Testament. It is self
love, and it is centred on glorifying itself. Eros causes
most of the misery that there is in the world. Man sees
his answers to life's problems in himself. There are many
forms of humanism which are the '-isms' of humanity.
5. TRANSFORMED INTO GLORY
God had always intended
our glory. 'Should not perish but have everlasting life'
is another way of saying Man was created for glory. I Corinthians
2:7 says that God had a wisdom before the foundation of
the world which was designed for Man's ultimate glory.
Can you imagine that glory! It is to be like the glory
of the Son. On the Mount of Transfiguration Christ was
seen in glory. So were Moses and Elijah.
This glorious radiance is
to be our lot. Our bodies will be changed so that they
will be like his glorious body. Yet the Transfiguration
can be summed up by the saying that 'He was transfigured
that he might be disfigured, so that we who are disfigured
might become transfigured'. It is a thing of glory to be
disfigured for others when that will transform them. To
come into this world he made himself of no reputation,
that is, he emptied himself, he became a man in all truth.
Yet he loved doing this. He wanted to do it for others,
for these he placed before himself. This is the meaning
of 'he emptied himself'. He also loved going to the Cross
where he would become as a debased figure with all the
depravity of Man being borne in his body on the tree. John's
Gospel tells us it was here that he showed the glory of
God. It was a glory which rescues us unto glory. It sets
the ultimate goal for us as glory.
6. THE ACTION OF GLORY
IS GOING ON IN US NOW
In II Corinthians chapter
3 Paul compares the glory that Moses showed when he looked
at God in those days on the Mount. He saw the Glory and
was thereby glorified. Yet that glory would soon fade and
so he used a veil that the fading might not be seen. In
another sense he used the veil so that glory might not
be seen, so powerful and even frightening it was. Paul
then contrasts our position with that of Moses. He says
we look at Christ's glory, with unveiled faces and so we
are being glorified from one stage of glory to another.
This is happening, NOW! We are seeing 'the glory of God
in the face of Jesus Christ'. Indeed Paul tells us that
we are in Christ, and that Christ is among us and that
he is our hope of glory. It does not yet appear what we
shall be but we know that when we see him, we shall be
7. 'HAVE YOU GOT ANY
GLORY IN YOUR SOUL?'
That is a question we used
to ask each other when we were teenagers together. We really
put the responsibility on each person to have glory in
his/her soul. We were going back thousands of years when
Jacob-and doubtless others-saw their soul or spirit or
'inner man' as their glory. Sure the Psalmist could sing,
'My glory and the lifter of my head!' knowing that only
God could give us glory, but then He would do that. In
this sermon I have not tried to speak of the actual nature
of glory and its practical working out in life, but I can
tell you-on the basis of Exodus 34:6&endash;7 which was
God's stated glory-that it is a moral glory to do with
love and mercy and forgiveness and kindness and holiness
which forgives only where there is repentance. It is to
do with holiness and righteousness and goodness and truth
and love which flow from God into us, and then through
us to others.
In that day we will see
His glory, face to face, and we shall have the glory like
unto that of His Son, and we will thrill with the assurance
of 'O His glory! O my glory! O their glory!' Thus we will
know the threefold glory-of the triune God, of Man and
of creation, for then the glory of God will cover the earth
as the waters cover the sea.
Now I ask you this morning
in repentance and faith to receive the gift of your glory
and your participation in His glory and to live in the
glory of the renewed creation. How futile our pathetic
attempts at glory; how fragile our possessions and our
reputations! How sad our competition to achieve glory!
Lay down your arms, lay down your ambitions. Submit and
come to know the glory.
G. Bingham, Kingswood,
Adelaide, 25th June 1999.