The Glory Revealed in Us

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy of the Glory which shall be revealed in us.                     Romans 8:18

As you read this verse, you naturally assume that in contrast to the sufferings that Christians go through on earth, particularly harassment, persecution, and ridicule, that these pale in comparison to the Glory that shall be revealed TO us as we stand before Jesus on the Last Day.  The problem with this is that although the statement is indeed true, is this an accurate interpretation of Paul’s words?

The word “Glory” is always something which catches my eye.  I immediately think of Exodus 33, where Moses asked to see the Lord’s Glory, I was fascinated by the Lord’s response.  Originally, I thought that “Glory” revolved around God in His majesty on the throne of heaven with all the angels at His command, ruling not just this world nor galaxy but the whole universe and far, far more.  That’s what I thought “Glory” meant.

Instead, the Lord’s immediate response to Moses’ request was: “I will show you My goodness, I will declare My Covenant Name (Yahweh/Jehovah), I will show grace, I will show mercy” – His Glory is His goodness, His grace, His mercy, and His Covenant.

Now, in the text, Paul says that God will show His Glory not TO us, but IN us – putting that together with GOD’s definition of His Glory, it would mean that God will not show His goodness TO us, but IN us; He will not show His grace TOWARD us, but IN us, He will show His mercy IN us, He will show His Covenant IN us.  I wonder if Paul meant that not only would we be the RECIPIENTS of God’s Glory, but also we will be walking LIGHTHOUSES of God’s Glory – IN US will be found God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and Covenant.

I mean the word “lighthouses,” because “Glory” always has the thought behind it of something shining and radiant.  God’s Glory cannot be IN us with no one being able to tell.  But what shines through us is not power, victory, and control, but rather God’s goodness, grace, mercy, and Covenant relationship.

Now the interesting thing about these four qualities is that you can’t draw a picture of them, you can’t have a medal or an award that says that you have them.  It is like at the end of the Wizard of Oz where the Wizard is trying to fulfill the desires of the Scarecrow who wanted a mind, the Cowardly Lion who wanted courage, and the Tin Man who wanted have heart.  But there is no such thing as a box of mind, nor a bottle of courage, nor a container of the passions of the heart.

So also there is no box of goodness, bottle of grace, nor container of mercy for God to show Moses.  These things can only be made evident through action.  For God to show Moses these things would mean that Moses would have to see the history of God in action – I believe he SAW the book of Genesis, he SAW God’s goodness, grace, mercy and Covenant in action, which he would then later write about.

So also, if God’s Glory is to be IN us, then it cannot be that these things exist in some trophy case tucked away in some corner of our beings.  God’s Glory occurs only when it is in action – just like God’s Name is not really a Name, but more like an action verb – so also His goodness, grace, and mercy must DEMONSTRATE themselves if God’s “Glory” is to have any Glory at all.

So we will be walking “lighthouses” of God’s Glory, DEMONSTRATING God’s goodness, grace, mercy and Covenant-relationship.  If this is so, then Paul may not be just talking about the Last Day.  Yes, on the Last Day when Jesus recreates our bodies to conform to His resurrection body, only then will we be flawless “lighthouses” of God’s “Glory.”  But the Holy Spirit already lives in us so that God’s Glory already exists in us.

This adds a slightly different flavor to the rest of the passage!  The next verse (19) goes on to say, “For the earnest expectation of creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.”  I’ve always taken that to emphasis the Last Day, which again is correct, but could it be talking about also right now?  That all creation is eagerly looking for you and me to demonstrate the Lord’s goodness, grace, and mercy right now as a taste of the Last Day, as a refreshing relief from all the other junk that is thrown at it by the rest of humanity?

It would mean that following ecologically sound principles, recycling and all the rest is something that creation is looking for and expecting in us already right now.  After all, when God created man, we were to be God’s representative to creation, reflecting Him, reflecting His wise management of this gift of the universe.

And just imagine how the earth must breathe a sigh of relief when Christians seek to demonstrate goodness, grace, mercy, and Covenant in all their doings, as individuals and as greater communities.  It would mean that the aweful destruction and scarring of land in wartime, with its accompanying devastation of anything that lives upon it is reduced.  Waste and pollution are reduced because of true concern, not only for fellow human beings, but also for the land that has been placed into our care.

It is interesting that when Israel and Judah went off into captivity, II Chronicles 36:21 put a reason as “to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.”  Powerfully there is the sense that the Promised Land itself was recovering from the gross sins of Israel.

Unfortunately, our problem with demonstrating God’s “Glory” IN us is the problem of the four soils in the Gospel (Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23).  Like the seed on the rocky soil that is carried away by the birds, one of our problems is that there are times when we just don’t WANT to be nice to other people, we don’t WANT to take the time necessary to recycle, we don’t WANT to demonstrate our Covenant relationship to the Jesus of the cross nor to the Creator of the universe.

The seed in the thin soil are those times when we get all fired up, perhaps because we’re tired of our guilty conscience beating us over the head, or else we begin to get bothered when some of the destructive humanness begins to affect us.  Perhaps our well gets a hint of pollution, or our child becomes the target of some nastiness, and so we hop on the bandwagon to improve ecology or to improve human relations.  But then things quiet down, the immediate reason for our action disappears – and so do we.

Or like the seed among the thorns, we just can’t keep our hands away from the glitzy .over-packaging that contributes to the garbage problem; we can’t help but admire the items made from forbidden ivory; we can’t help but be attracted to the successful people, even though they might be a teensy-weensy self-centered and manipulative.  Who cares what others think!  We want to be successful, we want to feel valuable, we want others to be impressed by us – no matter what the cost to ourselves, to others, or to creation.

The difficulty in this, is because we do get so easily sidetracked, how then can we become “lighthouses” of God’s “Glory”?  Yes, we do stumble – sometimes we don’t feel like we want to, sometimes we burn out much too quickly, and sometimes we get choked by things that seem so attractive – yet the reason why we are HERE is because we aren’t satisfied with those alternatives.  We really do want to be that productive soil that brings forth fruit, thirty- sixty-, a hundredfold?

This is where Isaiah (55:10-11) comes in.  God reminds us that we are not dealing with wishful thinking, nor a God Who speaks indefinite commands, but rather a God Whose very Word is alive and active.  But as John, chapter 1, points out, this Word also became flesh so that He could be among us – not just in one lifetime 2000 years ago, but also constantly part of our human life right now.

And remember that God’s “Glory” is already IN us, because the Holy Spirit – God Himself – is already living in us, and He is taking the Word-made-flesh and planting Him throughout our lives.  He plants Him in our consciences, He plants Him in our concern for others, He plants Him in our sense of values, He plants Him in our awareness, in our attitudes, in our speech, in our sense of justice – not just in human justice, but also in justice toward creation.

And then through hearing the Word, tasting Him here at the Altar, in prayers, in fellowship, in devotions, in the appreciation of nature, the Holy Spirit waters this Word.  Well, it sometimes takes time for a seed to put down roots, begin to show its top above ground, leaf out, and finally flower and bear fruit.  Sometimes the ground started out pretty cold, perhaps there have been some dry spells, perhaps a awful lot of weeding had to be done.

Yet finally, perhaps you are startled to discover that there seems to be a little extra goodness in what you do, that mercy seemed a little easier to give, that your words had more of God’s gracefulness in them.  Perhaps you found yourself rejoicing in the intimate relationship you have with Jesus, treating others, even creation with a different attitude, a different reason for doing what you do.

And suddenly you begin to realize that there is “Glory” that is IN you, an active “Glory”, a “Glory” that shines through you.  And it is kind of nice, you feel good about yourself, a kind of joy, and then you realize how this is the way it will be forever.  And now you understand just what it is that all creation is eagerly waiting for.  In fact, you find yourself a bit eager for “the revealing of the sons of God” as well.

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