Understanding The Glory Of God

Understanding The Glory Of God

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Glory to God! This is something that most Christians have heard at one point, maybe in a song, or while someone was preaching or even while reading the Bible. But what does it mean, what is glory, what does it have to do with God and how to we give glory to Him?

Depending on which branch of Christianity you are apart of you may be familiar with pictures of God’s glory being anything from the sick being healed to people singing and dancing, to a magnificent cathedral decked out in gold or fine art or it could be a picture of a person coming to know Jesus. While there may be some traces here and there of God’s true glory in these pictures it is far from an accurate picture of what God’s glory actually is.

What Is Glory

Usually when we look at the concept of glory outside of the church we usually see pictures of grandness or power. The old phrase “for the glory of Rome” comes to mind which spoke of Rome’s power, dominance, authority, expansion and control of the people so that the state itself would grow and continue to consume. Or we see in sports where glory is seen as the afterglow which comes from a mighty victory where the champion(s) are exalted and recognized for years because of their accomplishments.

What these interpretations of glory have in common is that they are fleeting, based on works and are easily erased by others who come later. No longer is Rome the master of the Mediterranean but is the capital of a struggling nation a fraction the size the empire once was. Those who attained glory through sports are replaced by new champions and they become a fading memory or a statistic quoted by a color commentator on occasion.

When it comes to God’s glory we are dealing with something which is eternal, powerful and unstoppable.

When it comes to God’s glory we are dealing with something which is eternal, powerful and unstoppable. In the scriptures we see that God’s glory is spoken of constantly in places such as Psalms 24:7-10, 29:3, Exodus 33:18-23 and Isaiah 40:5. The glory of God at its core is the manifestation of God’s power and presence throughout creation (both natural and spiritual) it is the sonic boom that ripples through the air when God speaks. We see this in Exodus 24:16 when God’s presence came down upon Mt. Sinai, it came with clouds, thundering, smoke at a great billowing voice that terrified the people.

This same presence came again during the dedication of the temple in 2 Chronicles 7:1-3, where the power and presence of God was so overwhelming that the priests couldn’t even go into the temple. The glory of God is power, transcendence and holiness in full display for people to recognize, it is the wave which rises from the sea to crash upon the shore. The water is always there but at certain times the waves rise up for all to see and come crashing upon the shore. At times the waves are so great that they sweep inland and cause great destruction because the structures created by men and women cannot resist the force of the water that rose up out of the sea and entered their domain.

The glory of God is power, transcendence and holiness in full display for people to recognize, it is the wave which rises from the sea to crash upon the shore.

So it is with God’s glory at different points throughout history God has risen up and released His presence upon the world of men and women. At times He has swept away the structures made out of pride or ignorance, other times He comes to bring much needed water the barren fields and still other times the water has come to renew, restore and heal the people. At its core the glory of God is His nature, power, dominion, love, holiness, justice and will released into creation.

Living In The Shadow Of God’s Glory

We understand Heaven as the place where God’s presence and glory are able to shine without any hinderance , but if that were to happen here on earth nothing would survive. It would be like staring into the sun at high noon on a clear day, however this is possible when there is an eclipse. You see Jesus acts as a proverbial eclipse which allows the light of the sun to shine and allows us to gaze upon it. Jesus is that protection which allows us to behold God’s glory in a tangible way (rather than just an intellectual or theological way).

Now I’m not saying that the glory of God is absent from Jesus I am actually saying the exact opposite. The glory of God is just as strong in Jesus as it is in the Father, however through the atonement and covenant relationship we have been offered through Jesus we are able to behold that glory. Unlike Uzzah who died touching the presence of God on the Ark of the Covenant we are made alive by that same presence through the Holy Spirit within us.

At the mount of transfiguration in Luke 9:31 we see God’s glory radiating from Jesus, but it did not consume Peter, James or John but rather moved them to revere and worship Jesus because He is God. Jesus in Matthew 19:28 speaks of sitting on a throne of glory (or glorious throne in some translations), where He will rule over creation as God.

Notice that Jesus is not in competition with God because through the Trinity they are both equal (Hebrews 1:3). Just look at what it says in 1 Peter 4:7-11 and focus on what it says in verse 11 “that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” We see this idea of one brining glory to the other go the opposite way in John 11:4 where Jesus was to receive the glory for the resurrection of Lazarus.

What Does It Mean To Bring Glory to God?

If God’s glory has to do with his power, nature, holiness, dominion and will then how can we bring glory to God. How can we give Him what He already has in abundance (it’s actually limitless)? To understand this we have to go back to the original Hebrew and Greek. The word translated into glory was also translated into several other English words. In Hebrew that one word is translated into English as beauty, splendor, fame, honor, admire, magnificence, weight, power, majesty, heaviness, and importance. While the Greek word doxa is translated in the New Testament into the words glory, boast, praise, honor and glorious.

Our ability to give glory to God is not tied up in us giving God more of His own presence but it has to do with us recognizing that power, presence, love, holiness, justice, dominion and will through us honoring and loving Him.

Our ability to give glory to God is not tied up in us giving God more of His own presence but it has to do with us recognizing that power, presence, love, holiness, justice, dominion and will through us honoring and loving Him. The two go together God moves in power, love, conviction and we move in gratitude, obedience, honor and love. Look at what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:15-18

15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (NKJV)

Through Jesus we are able to witness and partake in the glory of God being poured out into the world. No longer do we hide our face from the sun but now through the atonement and the protection of Jesus we can look upon God and what He is doing through the spreading of the gospel, the expansion of the Kingdom and the working of miracles. Rather than being burned up by the light and power of God that shadow cast by Christ allows the glory and nature of God to transform us, it strips away the filth of the world but does not destroy us, so how can we help but to worship, honor, thank and proclaim God.

We can now see a clear progression of glory which looks like this:

God > Jesus > Believers > Jesus > God

Does that progression seem strange? What did Jesus say in John 17:20-23? In verses 22-23 Jesus said “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.” God moves through Jesus and his adopted brothers and sisters to unleash upon the world the words and power of God so that the world will be able to witness the truth and presence of God.

The works of Jesus done through believers brings glory to God by testifying of his goodness and power towards other people so they can accept and believe the gospel so they to can be part of the same relationship we have with God so others can be delivered through the gospel

We should look at ourselves as being living and breathing representations of the Ark of the Covenant. The ark was the symbol of God’s presence among Israel and it housed God’s words, a testimony to His power (Aarons rod and the manna) and it was infused with God’s presence and glory. All of those facets live inside of us so we to must see ourselves as being like the ark instead of just and average Christian who may or may not have a prayer answered and just hopes for a quiet life where no one is disturbed.

How Do We Hinder God’s Glory?

Our ability to limit the expression of God’s glory upon the earth and our ability to glorify God is tied directly to our ability to sin. When we sin it is like building a dam to hold back a mighty river, our actions attempt to throttle the power and presence of God being released into the Earth. When we rebel, or disobey, or ignore what God has called us to do He lifts His glory off of us until we come to a place of repentance.

When we are in sin we cannot honor God because our actions show that we honor ourselves and our own desires more that God. When we sin we are declaring to the world that God is weak and powerless because despite our claims we still live and do as we please without fear of reprisal or correction. When we sin we no longer look at the sun through the eclipse of Christ but rather bury our heads in the dirt and end up like those Paul spoke of in Romans 1:21-23.

When we sin it is like building a dam to hold back a mighty river, our actions attempt to throttle the power and presence of God being released into the Earth.

Is this any different than what happened to Israel, they failed to see the Ark of God as the symbol of God’s glory and presence among them and instead treated it like a good luck charm. Eventually this logic led to the Ark being captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). Then later on in the days of Jeremiah the people used the presence of God in the Ark at Jerusalem to excuse them of how they were living in idolatry and sin. It is ironic then that after the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon that the Ark disappeared never to be seen again.

If the glory and presence of God in your life can be compared to a crown then sin can be seen as you lifting that crown off of your head. However through the forgiveness and atonement made available to us through Jesus He comes and places that crown back on our heads, at which point we honor and thank Him for that forgiveness. That is how we glorify God by publicly showing love, honor, thanksgiving and testimony of what He has done to us to the world around us.

We now see how the glory of God is His love, power, holiness, dominion, justice, mercy, and will released into the world like and unstoppable wave. We also see how we are to respond to that pouring out but honoring, thanking and proclaiming to others what God has done to us. Therefore, don’t wait any longer and go out and proclaim what those in heaven declared in Revelation.

Revelation 5:11-13 “11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,  “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (NKJV)

To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Christian beliefs which is now on sale. Available in paperback (Canada or USA) and eBook! Get your copy today and discover not just your purpose but learn how you can build the Kingdom of God here on the Earth.

Creative Commons LicenseUnderstanding The Glory Of God Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Playing With Shadows

Shadow in dogwood park

Podcast Of This Message

AS CHRISTIANS AT TIMES WE CAN TAKE FOR GRANTED who we are and what we were like before we encountered Jesus. We sing the songs about being changed and redeemed but those just become words and it is easy to lose sight of the journey we have taken from where we once were to where we are today. You see before we were redeemed our lives could be compared to a shadow cast upon the ground. People could see us and there was some trace of us but it was only a faint outline of who we really are. Shadows can interact with each other, overlap and give the impression of life, but its life is based on something else, something real.

You can look at shadows and recognize people talking, walking, running, or sitting, but shadows are not limited only to people, anything exposed to light casts a shadow. The object is real but you can’t do anything with its shadow, I can’t drive around in the shadow of my car, I can’t walk into the shadow of a grocery store and come out with a snack. A shadow is only a projection of what is real and the shadow is revealed only when light is shone upon it.

Before we were redeemed, forgiven, restored and born again we were nothing but shadows of the person God created us to be. We were hollow and like a vapor, we were fully formed on the outside but missing a vital piece within us. We were like a vapor which had lifted off from a lake, and was slowly drifting away until we becomes completely dispersed in the air around us.

But God came into our lives (Mt 4:16, Lk 1:79) and we no longer live as a shadow cast upon the ground. We now through atonement and the New Covenant have taken our place as the person we truly are and have been created to be. None of this is because of our own goodness, hard work or devotion, we have been changed from shadow to person only because of Jesus.

Paul lays this out clearly in 2 Corinthians 3:18-21 but I want to emphasize what he said in verses 5 to 6: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (NKJV).

The Shadow Remains

Despite the light and new life Jesus has given to us we still cast a shadow, the shadow of what we once were, the shadow of what remains from our old life (Rom 7:21-25). The struggles, the weaknesses, the sins, the old ways, selfishness, greed, pride and so on. That shadow is still there and not only that but through the light of Christ it appears even more detailed and richer than it had before. This is true for two reasons first your perspective has changed from that as a shadow cast upon the ground in a dark two-dimensional world to one standing above the ground in a fully lit three-dimensional world where you can see yourself and the shadow (Mt 6:22-23).

Secondly when there is more light a shadow stands out so much more because there is a contrast between the two. It’s hard to pick apart two shades of grey but very easy to see the difference between white and black. The more of the light of Jesus we have in and around us the greater amount of contrast there is between His nature and the one we had when we were still lost in sin and unforgiveness (Jn 1:5).

The more of the light of Jesus we have in and around us the greater amount of contrast there is between His nature and the one we had when we were still lost in sin and unforgiveness

How Do We Cast Off This Shadow?

Now what are we to do with the shadow of our old life that still clings to our feet and follows us around in our daily lives? It’s simple, get more light. Don’t misunderstand me I’m not getting metaphysical I am just painting a picture of what is happening within us, and it’s a picture which God uses frequently throughout the Bible (Jn 1:9, Jam 1:17). When I say get more light I am talking about things such as building our relationship with the Trinity, I am talking about prayer, faith, holy living, reading and understanding the scriptures, worship, thanksgiving and everything things else Jesus has called us to be and do in this world.

The more light we can have shining upon us from different angles makes it so there is less room in our lives for shadows to find a place to rest. This is all no different than how it is in film making or photography. In these industries they use multiple sources of light to get rid of any unwanted shadows in a shot. Sometimes two, three, four or more lights, types of bulbs, diffusions, soft-boxes and so on are needed to cancel out any unwanted shadows that another light source could be casting.

We have to look at our lives the same way, when we come to Christ and receive His gift of atonement and forgiveness whereby a great purifying light is shone upon us (Jn 8:12). That light makes our old shadow look so much more evident that we need more light to surround and radiate from us (Mt 5:16) us so that there is no more shadow, or at the very least one that is barely noticeable.

All of this takes not just work but more importantly relationship building between us and God, we must go beyond a Sunday morning only Christianity and move into one where God is a living part of our daily lives. Then and only then can those shadows of our old ways, the world and the flesh can be drowned out buy God’s light, love, holiness, justice, forgiveness and covenant goodness. The first step though is looking behind yourself and recognizing that shadow behind you and then we look forward towards Jesus and invite Him to shine even brighter in our own lives.

John 3:18-21” 18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. 21 But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (NKJV)

Creative Commons LicenseHow To Be A Shadow ChaserCameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.