Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Finishing the Sermon of Glory

I finished preaching a message yesterday that I left incomplete five years ago. There are moments in the Christian walk where you learn something from the Holy Spirit as you worship in His Word with other believers; these moments are beautiful and exhilarating...and bittersweet, as well. To have said something beautiful from the Word about our incredible God but – at the same time – leave the whole tale untold is heartbreaking. Thank God for His grace in Christ!

Years ago I preached on Exodus 33 & 34 a message called “God’s Glory Is His Character.” Moses, encouraged by successfully mediating between an unworthy group of idolaters in covenant with God to be His people and to be the means of Christ coming into the world on one hand, and a holy God justly offended by their idolatry on the other (Moses foreshadowing how Christ would have to intercede on our behalf today!), makes an amazing request: “I pray You, show me Your glory!” (Exodus 33:18).

Now, the folks at the foot of Sinai would have thought Moses crazy to ask such a thing. After all, God had descended upon the mountain with impressive special effects: “So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound...Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently...the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder...” (19:16-19). And Moses was in the midst of all this up on the mountain! How could he ask to see God’s glory?! Didn’t he have eyes to see and ears to hear all that surrounded him?! Moses had a vision of his knowledge of God that went beyond the special effects. These things, as impressive (and scary) as they were, did not show God’s glory.

God tells Moses he cannot see His face, for “no man can see Me and live!” (33:20). But the covenant God does show Moses His glory (which He also calls “all My goodness,” vs. 19) through almost creedal pronouncements about Himself: “I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you, and will proclaim the name of the LORD before you; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show compassion on whom I will show compassion...the LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; Who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, Who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” (33:19; 34:6,7). God’s glory is His character and sovereignty, not the special effects or supernatural sound system.

That was the message I preached several years ago. It’s true and it’s awesome, but that’s not the whole story. Not by a long shot.

This invisible God revealed Himself perfectly and completely when God the Son, second Person of the Trinity (one God in three Persons), added humanity to His eternal and full divinity. The invisible God became visible in His glory:
  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God...and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth....no one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:1,2,14,18).
  • “Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, “Show us the Father”?’” (John 14:8,9).
  • “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15).
  • “God...in these last days has spoken to us in His Son...He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

The Son, through the visibility of His divinity shining forth through His humanity, showed us the invisible Father’s glory. This was a glory the Father and Son shared from all eternity, being the one true God (John 17:5).

This is wonderful and incredible...God’s glory revealed perfectly and finally in His Son Jesus. But even this is not the whole story.

Yesterday afternoon, in the CLD class I help teach for the Southwest Baptist Association, we were covering glorification (described by the Baptist Faith & Message 2000 as “the culmination of salvation and is the final blessed and abiding state of the redeemed,” IV.D). I am thankful I got to finish the sermon left incomplete five years ago.

What is our glorification? Paul tells us. “...those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son...these whom He predestined...He also glorified (Romans 8:29,30). To be “glorified” is “to be conformed to the image of His Son,” Who is the perfect reflection of the invisible Father’s glory from all eternity. The glorious goodness and perfection of the Godhead in all its unimaginable fullness, shared between the Father and Son perfectly, is applied to us by the Holy Spirit, Who brings us into union with the Son unto eternal glory.

Father and Son share glory. Moses sees glory, of which the Law revealed through him showed all of us to fall short as sinners (Romans 3:23). The Son fully reveals glory. The Holy Spirit applies the saving work of the Son to us, bringing us into union with the Son unto glorification. We are brought into the glory of the Triune God for eternity. A full circle of glory, told from cover to cover in the Bible and made reality in our lives through the preaching of that glory.

We get to share this story, that others might by the grace of God “see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God...God, Who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One Who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4,6).

Believe in His glory through Christ unto infinitely satisfying union with that glory forever. That’s the whole story.

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