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Monday, March 12, 2012

When Glory Becomes Dim

When Glory Becomes Dim

Listen: When Glory Becomes Dim (mp3)

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"When the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all." Luke 4:13-15 (ESV)

ENDED: synteleo (to complete entirely, to execute); from syn (with or together) and teleo (to end, complete, execute, conclude, discharge); from telos (the point aimed at as a limit, the conclusion or termination, result, purpose, impost or levy); from tello (to set out for a definite point, goal)

Luke says that the devil ended every temptation of Christ. "Ended" is a word of finality...a word for successful completion.

In what did the devil succeed?

Jesus, after enduring without sinning the temptations of the devil, was empowered by the Holy Spirit to teach, and the hearts and minds of all glorified Jesus as Christ and Lord.

I don't think that's what the devil intended.

Glory: The End of Endurance

GLORIFIED: doxazo (to render or esteem glorious); from doxa (glory, as very apparent); from dokeo (to think or seem)

The result of Christ's endurance of temptation, and the immediate effect of His ministry, was glorification.

Glory is a difficult concept to imagine. Is it bright light? Is it powerful intelligence or beauty?

Our English word, "glory", means praise or honor, or that which causes praise or honor.

The Bible describes many different examples of glory, and frequently it is in the context of brilliance and beauty:

Solomon's clothing was glorious (Matthew 6:29). Long hair is described as a woman's glory (1 Corinthians 11:15). Celestial bodies, the sun, moon, stars and planets shine with glory (1 Corinthians 15:41). The face of Moses glowed with glory after experiencing God (2 Corinthians 3:7). The glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds (Luke 2:9). Salvation is "a light for revelation...and for glory" (Luke 2:32). Jesus appeared to the disciples after His resurrection and "they saw his glory" (Luke 9:32). Jesus will return as triumphant King, coming in a cloud with power and great glory (Luke 21:27). The apostle Paul was blinded by the brilliant glory of the light of Jesus (Acts 22:11).

The church, the Bride of Christ, the family of saints made holy by Jesus, is compared to a bright, shining city:

"Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb. - And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations." Revelation 21:9-11, 23-26 (ESV)

"God, who said, - Let light shine out of darkness, - has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:6 (ESV)

"[Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power." Hebrews 1:3 (ESV)

The Effect of Glory: Physical and Spiritual

The overwhelming physical effect of glory is a bright, shining appearance. The spiritual, figurative effect of glory is that of power, intelligence, beauty and love.

When Jesus began His ministry, filled with the Holy Spirit, His teaching resulted in glory. All those who heard Him recognized His power, His intelligence, His beauty and His love. More than only recognizing or acknowledging His attributes, they esteemed them as greater than those of any other.

Our praise and honor of Jesus does not add to His glory. Jesus does not need us to praise Him and honor Him in order to have glory. We see His glory and it moves us to praise and honor Him. This is our part in glorifying Christ. In nothing can we add to His glory, but we glorify Him by esteeming Him glorious.

God is glorious, whether we recognize it or not. Our praise, or our lack of praise, does not increase or diminish God's glory. When God chooses, He can make His glory appear. He can knock us flat to the ground with His brightness and power. He can blind us with His light.

When He chooses.

In this world, God's blinding, astounding, brilliant glory is often very dim.

When Glory Becomes Dim

"If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."
2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (ESV)

The night sky filled with stars is a good picture of our earthly condition regarding God's glory. Our view of the stars is so limited. Stars appear as just pinpoints of light, easily ignored, easily forgotten.

But sometimes we remember the truth, that stars are huge orbs of flame, as large and many much larger than our own sun. Stars have unimaginable forces of gravity, heat and light. If we remember the truth about stars, our hearts can be filled to bursting with the glory of the night sky.

Another way to illustrate our earthly condition is that of a cave. It's as if we each live in a cave, lit only by a small candle or lamp. All we know of the world is what we see by the light of our own making. The sun could be shining brightly, the wind blowing fresh air, yet we would know little of the real world. All we would have would be the small space illuminated by our small candle.

"We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (ESV)

Jesus began His ministry in power, with people singing His praise and applauding His excellence. Reports of His glory went out through all the surrounding country. Everyone recognized and cheered His greatness. All spoke well of Him and marveled at the gracious words that came from His mouth.

Until He spoke in His hometown.

And then His glory became dim.

The missionary message of Jesus was this:

  • God's Spirit is upon me
  • I bring good news of God's favor
  • You are poor, blind, oppressed captives
  • God promises you liberty, healing and freedom (Luke 4:18)

The people in his hometown blinked and waited for thunder. Or perhaps they waited for stirring orchestral music, a cloud of glory, a snap of the fingers and miraculous transformations.

Nothing.

Jesus rolled up the scroll and sat down.

The people frowned. That's all?

Then the people got angry.

"They said, - Is not this Joseph’s son? - And he said to them, - Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, - Physician, heal yourself. - What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well. - And he said, - Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian. - When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath." Luke 4:22-28 (ESV)

The point of this stinging response from Jesus was unbelief. Jesus rebuked the unbelief found in the people of His hometown by comparing them to other towns and other times. It was not to a Jewish woman that God sent Elijah, and it was not a Jewish leper that Elisha healed. The Jews listening to Jesus felt His rebuke immediately.

I'm not sure that I can blame the people. I mean, if I do criticize their unbelief, I must include myself with them.

Without lights and sirens...without fireworks and fanfare, I tend to live as if Jesus is a myth, or at best, He's the mascot of an exclusive club in which I think I belong.

Without a physical manifestation of His bright, shining, glorious greatness, I forget about it.

Without looking at the night sky with the knowledge of the real power behind each small pinpoint of star light, I forget about it.

Without leaving my snug cave and seeing the sunlight and feeling the wind, I forget about it.

God's glory gets hidden by affliction. It gets squashed by perplexing problems. It gets chased away by persecution and violence.

I can't see the glory because all I feel is the dim grayness of everyday life.

Am I lost? Am I one of the "perishing"?

"If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (ESV)

There is a wonderful progression in Paul's words to the Christians in Corinth:

  • Light
  • Gospel
  • Glory
  • Christ
  • God

In this list, the first item is the last! Light is the end result of a chain of grace that begins with God.

From God came Christ, the Son of God, the God-Man sent to live for a time among us. Christ was glorious, most excellent in mind and body, in power and intelligence. The gospel was the good news of Christ's glory made available to us. Christ promised His life to those who believed, and this brought light to a darkened world.

How often I forget this. How often does my life seem gray and worthless.

A Reason to Hope

Yet, even in darkness there is hope.

The fact that I feel sad and ashamed of my inability to rejoice in God's glory is a strong reminder that I do belong to Jesus, despite my grayness and weakness.

Listen again to Paul:

"We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh." 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 (ESV)

Jesus began His ministry with a fantastic fanfare of praise and celebration, with reports of His glory echoing all over. But it quickly became dark and dangerous. Paul's experience was no different.

Neither will be ours.

Rejoice in the light of God's glorious Son, Jesus Christ.

And when you feel beat down, saddened by your lack of enthusiasm and joy, depressed by the darkness that seems to conceal God's glory in your life, rejoice that your spirit longs to regain that sight of His glory.

Rejoice that God has not left you without some sense of what you lack.

Without God's Holy Spirit indwelling you, you would be truly blind to His glory. You would be completely without any sense of desire to see His glory. You would be indifferent to your spiritual blindness.

Jesus began His ministry in you, and He will always be with you.

"Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you...I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. ...I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word...I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them...Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one...I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world...I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world...I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them." John 17:1,4,6, 9-11, 15-16, 20-24,26 (ESV)

Image of stars provided by robin24, Creative Commons License.

Image of supernova by the author, using GIMP, Creative Commons License.

Image of cave provided by Ian Armstrong, Creative Commons License.

Image of clay jars provided by pictureclara, Creative Commons License.