Friday, July 10, 2015

Lifting Glory

Listen to this sermon here

Why is sin such an uncomfortable topic? To understand why sin is so uncomfortable you must understand the scope of God and God’s glory.  If God’s glory was a book, I could spend my entire life studying this topic and not get past the gold filigree on the cover.  To understand why we feel so condemned when light is shown on our sin we have to wrestle with the profound weight of God’s glory.    

We use the word glory often and frequently. Unfortunately we rarely stop and let the word truly impact our hearts and souls.  The word glory in the Hebrew bears with it the idea of majesty and of wonder and of something bearing down with a heavy weight.  The glory of a ruler bears weight down on his subjects when he passes. 

And this idea of weight is very real when we approach the glory of our Lord and God, who is infinite in his power and majesty.  When I say the Glory of God here is what I mean: the glory of God is the radiance and the weight of the sum total of all of his attributes.  Everything that God is in his infinity comes with a brilliance that makes the brightest star seem like a dull candle.  Everything that God is bears down on us with a weight that makes the densest black hole look like a fluffy pillow.  And this is no exaggeration.  If anything it is a woefully under represented. 

Take a look at the video below.  This is a model of the interstellar movement of Galaxies.  This is called the Laniakea Supercluster.  It is made up of galaxies, and each little dot is not a star but a galaxy of billions of stars.  This little red dot is the location of the Milky Way. 

If you shot a laser from one side of the Milky Way to the other it would take 120 thousand Years for the light to travel that journey.  In that amount of time you could play the totality of recorded history, from the rise of the Egyptian empire to the day you read this blog, 12 times before the red light of that laser journeyed across the Milky Way. 

Do the same to Laniakea.  You could watch the history of the world 52 THOUSAND times before the light made it from one edge of the Super cluster to the other.  And this is just one of hundreds in the visible galaxy.  And we believe that God created every single one.  What Glory and power he must have.

I wonder how often we flippantly think we can come before God and stand up to the profound power of his glory and majesty.  The sheer weight of that Glory will crush us! And that is what we found in the series of text we read today.  The weight of God’s glory was too much for the people who encountered it. 

Read:  Job38.1-3; 42.1-6
            2 Chronicles 7
            Luke 5:8
            Acts 9:3-9

In many ways these passages represent what the story of the bible is all about: humanity’s encounter with the glory of God.  All of these people when they encountered God had a very similar reaction.

First, they all fell to the ground or covered their face or both.  Imagine when you wake up in the middle of the night and someone turns on the light.  What is the first thing that you do? You cover your eyes because of the newly encountered radiance.  The weakness of our eyes cannot process the pure blinding brilliance of the Glory of God.  Our weak physical bodies cannot stand up to the weight of his glory.  We encounter God and our bodies know better than we do and we fall to our faces.  This is why the crowd fell before Jesus when they tried to arrest him.  They asked him who he was and he, using the name God gave himself before Moses, said, “I Am.”

The second thing we see is a proclamation of guilt.  It is either done by the covering of the face or by the proclamation of words.  Take Isaiah he was ministering at the temple, in the function of a priest.  He threw himself to the ground, and proclaimed his guilt and the guilt of his people, when he experienced the manifestation of God in his midst (and the world shook).  Does anyone think that the purity and holiness of God’s glory won’t demonstrate our profound brokenness and rebellion in sin? It is worse, it will demonstrate that not only are we sinful, but that we were craving sin because of how little we craved God. 

Third there is an expectation of death.  Though not explicit in every case I believe that everyone knew that God would be just in destroying them in the judgment of that one moment.  Job says in Job 42:6, “I repent in dust and ashes.”  I believe that, in many ways, he was saying the only proper act of repentance would be returning ashes to ashes dust to dust.  His death was the only logical conclusion to his encounter with God from the whirlwind.  You know when we encounter God we will see his holiness and we will have no other option then to declare his justice and say that he is good for bringing judgment to us.  It will be by our lips that we will declare him good in his judgments. 

What happens after all of these encounters with God’s glory? Transformation happened. Moses transformed from a murderer and a coward, hiding out, to the one who liberated Israel by God’s name.  Isaiah was transformed from a man of unclean lips to a man who’s lips declared the message of God, to a people who would never change. Peter after the resurrection went from clumsy, fearful, fisherman to the leader of God’s church.  Paul went from persecutor of the church to the greatest missionary and writer of scripture.  Every person who encounters God in the splendor of his glory is either destroyed or transformed.  There is no middle Ground. 

Why does this happen? You need to understand, for God to transform us into his children he must crush us.   Do you know how a good wine is made?  You take grapes and crush them.  The grapes never recover, but something new is made from those grapes.  You cannot have wine without crushing grapes.  You cannot have sanctification, transformation, and salvation without being crushed.  What did you think you could come before God and not change?  It is not possible the weight of his glory is too great. 

So here is the question we are kind of dancing around today: What does sin have to do with the glory of God?  Sin is the rebellious corruption that creates structural flaws in us that will lead to our destruction.  Look at the I35W Bridge in Minnesota.  In 2007 during a busy commuting time the bridge gave out and fell almost 100 ft. into the Mississippi river.  The reason the bridge collapse is that little gusset plates underneath the bridge were failing.  There were pictures take in 2003 that showed little bows in the gussets.  These little flaws in the plates meant the bridge could not withstand the weight of the heavy traffic that day. 

Image Source:

Sin does the same for us.  It creates profound flaws, often unnoticeable to the human eye.  Yeah, so and so is such a good person.  He does all of these good things.  Yet, do you see the gusset plates underneath bowing?  You really never know the destruction sin has on your soul until it is put under the load bearing test of encountering the glory of God.  And like that bridge sin will cause you to collapse. 

What can we do then?  What can we do before the glory of God?  When we are called to account before the almighty creator what can we do? The answer is nothing.  There is nothing we can do that will give us the legs to stand before the creator.  There is nothing we can do that will keep us from being crushed and destroyed.  So the question becomes, “what hope do we have?” The answer is none.  That is it, we do not have a hope.  Lay down your tools lay down your weapons it is over. 

That is unless God does something to change the equation.  That is unless God does something to lift the weight of his glory for us.  This is exactly what God did.  He took the full weight of his glorious wrath and poured it out upon himself in the person of the Son, Jesus Christ.  He crushed His Son so that we could stand in the weight and brilliance of his Glory.  Don’t think that means God’s glory isn’t heavy, or that it won’t transform you.  It clearly and necessary must. 

What this means is that Jesus, the Anointed one, stands under the weight of the full glory of God and takes the destruction it would do to us.  He takes your flawed gussets and gives you his fixed ones.  We have joy because God loves us so much that, in his glorious justice and in his glorious love, he punishes sin and provides a way for us to be called His children.  We are not destroyed when we encounter God, but we should be utterly transformed. 

Jesus Christ lifts God’s glory so that we can come under the powerful weight and radiance of that glory (and not be destroyed).  My fear is that we would look at this tremendous gift and never enter into the wonderful crushing, rearranging, and transforming glory of God. 

Do you ever wonder why the Hebrews made the golden calf after leaving Egypt?  They saw day turn to night they saw plague of sores, locus, frogs and more, they saw the Nile turn to blood, and they saw God bring the greatest nation in the world to its knees with the judgment of every first born child.  They saw the Red Sea part and the Egyptian Army destroyed, and they made a golden calf to be their god. 

Why did they do that?  I believe they did that because they saw the Glory of God and they understood the weight of that glory, and they were cowards.  They did not want to be crushed and transformed by the only power of the universe.  So what did they do?  They made a glory that they could lift.  They knew the golden cow.  They worshiped it in Egypt.  It was comfortable they could lift it on their own.  They did not have to go under or encounter the weighty glory of a God who was truly all powerful.  Instead they built a god they could lift. 

You must understand that the glory of God will bring you through uncomfortable, many cases painful, total transformation.  And every ounce of it will be worth it.  But you have to enter under the weight of that profound Glory!

I am terrified that we would keep a tame god.  That we would worship a god who doesn’t expect too much of us.  We get dressed up, we give regularly, we fellowship well together, but we don’t expect any transformation.  We do not expect any deep transformation.  We can build a comfortable golden calf of religion.  We can comfortably lift that god on our own, and the church has been doing it for years. 

But, God is calling us to something much more profound and much more painful, and much more glorious.  He wants to transform your soul.  He is not satisfied with just your soul.  He wants to transform the soul of you and your community.  There are so many broken and dyeing people who are in desperate need of transformation. Please lead the way. Unless you come under the transforming weight of God’s glory you will have little testimony to say, “Yes it will be heavy but you will not be destroyed.”  May we never tell people to go to a God that we ourselves have never dared to encounter. 

What is our ultimate desire?  Is it more of God and his glory?  C.S. Lewis, in the book Weight of Glory, captures this dilemma perfectly,

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desire not too strong but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mudpies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.” 

Our desire should be for more of God.  Our desire should be more of the eternal and infinite joy that is only completed in Him.  And yet we are content with the comfortable when Infinite Joy is offered to us.  No one reading this today is exempt from this timid, cowardly, and lazy heart.  Every one of us need to seek God more.  We need more of his glory. 

Even though his glory has a crushing weight, it is the only true source of Joy.  And the more we bring broken people into the crushing transforming weight of God’s glory, the greater our Joy will be. We will see their joy satisfied in Christ.  We do not fight against each other over joy.  We fight with each other for Joy.  The more people we have who have been transformed by joy the greater the joy we will have. 

I am afraid that we want small things when God wants to give us great access to the joyful, crushing, transforming weight of his glory.  Unfortunately, to get to that point, we have to realize that we have nothing to bring.  As soon as you realize your insufficient inadequate ability, and your profound need, then you can begin to experience the weight of glory.  Until you stop lying to yourself that you have it all together. Until you stop lying to yourself that you have to look right before coming to God.  Until you stop lying to yourself that you can lift any of God’s Glory you will not experience the rich transforming joy that he has to offer you.

Here is the awesome truth.  God wants to crush you, and transform you into something amazing.  But, you have to be willing to surrender all.  ALL!  All earthly treasure and reward for something greater, the opportunity to have more of his glory!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, I often lose sight of how tremendously awe-filling and matchless our God is. The analogy you offered of the "grapes never recover[ing]" is excellent.