I have shared recently in Sunday morning messages that “glory” is translated in the Old Testament from a word that means “weight” (as in the total weight of something or the full expression of something). In the New Testament it comes from a word that means the shining of an object that is brilliant. I have compared the N.T. thought to the rays of the sun. The sun is brilliant, and we see evidence of that brilliance through the rays of the sun that provides heat and light. The Bible says that God is glorious. Moses asked God to show him His glory (Exodus 33), and God allowed Moses to get a glimpse of Him from the back. This offer of glory was not a one-time thing for one superstar Old Testament patriarch. God offers us His glory on a regular basis. I was recently intrigued by Christ’s prayer for us (John 17:20-26), and I taught on this text yesterday. Jesus actually prayed that we would experience His glory. He said in verse 24 that it is His will that we see His glory. This thought took me to 1 John 5:14-15: “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.” Think for a moment about these two Scriptures. Jesus said it is His will that we see His glory. God says that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us and answers our prayer. Do you want to see the glory of God, like Moses? All you need to do is ask and get ready. It is God’s will to show Himself to you. I think we should start our day, before getting out of bed, asking God to show us His glory. As we go throughout our day, we should look for “the shining that comes from Someone brilliant,” and we will see demonstrations of God’s glory all day long. Four years ago, I bought a Ford Taurus. I suppose I had seen them before I made the purchase, but after I bought this vehicle, I began seeing them everywhere. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen other cars that look just like mine. I believe that when we become aware of God’s glory and begin to anticipate seeing it, we will be overwhelmed with His glory that is all around us. This leads to worship and obedience as we begin to see that God is intimately and personally involved in our lives. Let’s join in with the prayer of Moses: “Show me your glory.” When we do, we will find we are immersed in the brilliance of God’s presence.
I am currently reading James MacDonald’s book Vertical Church. It contains a powerful challenge to be the kind of church that leads people to encounter God’s glory and not just man’s experiences. The fact is most of us have a horizontal orientation. It is interesting that in our quest for meaning and fulfillment, our focus usually leads us to focus on horizontal things – things that are beside us and around us like relationships, success, money, and experiences. Focusing on the horizontal things of life is very natural. The only problem is that the horizontal things of life are not the things that bring lasting fulfillment. God has made us to be vertical first.
When James MacDonald said that everyone is longing for transcendence, I had a sense of agreement deep inside as I knew that I too long for something bigger and more adequate than myself. That something is a Someone. As a pastor, I long for my congregation to encounter God’s glory as we meet on Sundays and to reflect God’s glory as we live throughout the week. One comment in this book that caught my attention is this: “God won’t do through me what He can’t do in me. It’s easy to sit back and wish my church was more Vertical, more powerful, more culturally penetrating, more glorious…but do I want this for my own soul? Will I let God do in me what I long to see God do through me?” The fact is my church can’t be vertical unless I’m willing to be vertical. This is true for every Christian. If we want vertical churches, we must be vertical Christians. We will find that when our vertical relationship with God is right, every other horizontal relationship and experience will be right. If we are not vertical first, then we become like King Solomon who said, “All is vanity.” All is not vanity if God is first.
Longing – We all have experienced it at one time or another in such consuming ways that we feel as if we cannot be contained. I remember the feelings deep inside of me on numerous Christmas Eves I faced as a child. I longed for the morning to come to the point where sleep would elude me. I can think of the longing for marriage, the longing for graduation, and the longing to see my children; none of these compare to the deep longing God has placed in the heart of every human being who has ever lived. As I taught this past Sunday, this longing is for something who is bigger and beyond us, and that something is a Someone. It is God alone. The otherness of God of which I spoke is called transcendence. A. W. Tozier is one of my favorite authors. He wrote of God’s transcendence in The Knowledge of the Holy:
“We must not think of as highest in an ascending order of beings, starting with the single cell and going on up from the fish to the bird to the animal to man to angel to cherub to God. This would be to grant God eminence, even pre-eminence, but that is not enough; we must grant Him transcendence in the fullest meaning of that word. Forever God stands apart, in light unapproachable. He is as high above an archangel as above a caterpillar, for the gulf that separates the archangel from the caterpillar is but finite while the gulf between God and the archangel is infinite.”
God made us to long for Him, to yearn for him, as a deer pants for water. We only find fulfillment through knowing God. The deepest needs in our lives are met only through our personal experience and relationship with Christ. In my message on Sunday, I quoted from a book entitled The Furious Longing of God by Brennan Manning:
“The gospel is absurd and the life of Jesus is meaningless unless we believe that He lived, died, and rose again with but one purpose in mind: to make brand-new creation. Not to make people with better morals but to create a community of prophets and professional lovers, men and women who would surrender to the mystery of the fire of the Spirit that burns within, who would live in ever greater fidelity to the omnipresent Word of God, who would enter into the center of it all, the very heart and mystery of Christ, into the center of the flame that consumes, purifies, and sets everything aglow with peace, joy, boldness, and extravagant, furious love. This, my friend, is what it really means to be a Christian.”