Sunday, December 24, 2023

What is the Glory of God? The Telescope to the Microscope and Beyond

The James Webb space telescope was launched into space on December 25th 2021, it’s predecessor the Hubble space telescope had taken thousands of amazing pictures of deep space with it’s powerful lenses, but the James Webb telescope would be even more precise in it’s photographic abilities, taking pictures of deep space with great accuracy.

I recall as a new Christian, about 10 years ago I went on the Hubble space telescope website and I was looking at the pictures. And suddenly I was shocked by a realization of what I was looking at. I realized suddenly, wait a minute, God made this.

The Bible says, Psalm 19:1 ESV “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

Every nebula, every galaxy, every star was created by an infinite creative intelligence massively brilliant beyond my ability to comprehend. And when I looked at the images in that light, I was stunned by the glory of God as looked at the pictures.

So I wanted to share some similar pictures with you today, which show us the glory of God, what God has made, and we should look and say wow, God made that. And it’s amazing. Be in awe!

Yet we also know that the Earth itself, not just the heavens are filled with God’s glory as well.

As it says in Isaiah 6:3 ESV And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”

“Example of AT2 and AT1 epithelial cell generation in a lung alveolar organoid used to examine MANC and AMP function. Green staining for surfactant protein C indicates AT2 cells whereas red staining for Hopx indicates AT1 cells. Credit: The lab of Ed Morrisey, PhD, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania”

Here is another picture, what is it? Perhaps a galaxy or nebula from the James Webb telescope? No, this is a microphotograph of a molecule in your lungs, from the lab of Ed Morrisey.

Whether we look through the telescope, or the microscope, we find something we’re studying today, called the glory of God. We find the fingerprints in the world of what God made, and we wonder at how he made it. We wonder at how it all works. And we’re amazed.

These are reflections of the glory of God. But what exactly is it itself?

What is the glory of God? Last week we talked about the presence of God, and being led by the Spirit of God. But, the glory of God is something different from the presence of God, or the leading of God.

The glory of God is an event or experience which reveals who God is to us in a deeper way.

Experiencing the glory of God explains to us in a deeper way, who God really is. It’s something that changes us forever.

The glory is mentioned in our foundation scripture for this series, John 1:14, it says, “ “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.“ -John 1:14

So you have the disciple John, writing the gospel of John, reflecting on his whole life, looking back, as an old man I’m sure, and saying, wow, living with Jesus those 3 years, I saw the glory of God simply by being with Jesus, listening to Jesus, watching Jesus work, seeing him crucified, it changed my life forever. I was not the same.

So I think, as we experience the glory of God, a little bit more each day, it simply reveals to us who God is, more and more. Until we can say wow, I really do understand who God is to me. Not completely, not entirely, but enough to say wow, I really do know God.

I recall particularly during our series of going through the parables of Jesus, we studied every single parable Jesus ever spoke recorded in all four gospels, and that was exciting for me, because every week I felt like we were getting another piece of the puzzle. And I think that’s how it is with the glory of God, more and more we encounter God, experience God, study God’s word, we understand more and more deeply the glory of God.

I want to look briefly at three different ides about the glory of God in the Bible where the glory of God is revealed.

Then conclude with the glory of God revealed to the shepherds at night, the night Jesus was born.

But first, what does glory mean exactly? The Greek word used in the new testament for glory is doxa.

The Outline of Biblical Usage includes the following definitions… (abridged)

I. opinion, judgment, view

II. opinion, estimate, whether good or bad concerning someone

A. in the NT always a good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honour, and glory

III. splendour, brightness

A. of the moon, sun, stars

B. magnificence, excellence, preeminence, dignity, grace

C. majesty

I found it fascinating that the concept of glory is tied to the idea of holding an opinion. You have this idea about who God is in your mind and in that you are showing glory, assuming it’s a positive opinion.

In Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary we see the following definition for glory… (among many other definitions)

1. Brightness; luster; splendor.

2. Honor; praise; fame; renown; celebrity.

3. Celestial bliss

So the glory of God, among other things, is an opinion we hold in our minds about who God is, that he is great, and true, and righteous and holy.

The glory of God is brightness, it’s viewing God as honorable. It’s worship as well. It’s considering God famous. It’s considering what God has created to be amazing. It’s awe and wonder as well.

The first thing we want to understand today about the glory of God is that we as humans were made for the purpose of glorifying God.

It says in Isaiah 43:7 ESV, “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

God created you to show His glory. To show just how amazing God is… he made you. He made you for his creative purposes, out of perfect love. I can only conclude that in making you, he was showing the world something about himself. You represent something about who God is in your redeemed personality.

True story. Your purpose is through living a life in relationship with God, you would show God’s glory to others through the example you set.

That was the original plan, but in connection to our first point, we also understand a problem occurred, a glitch in the system. We call it the fall of man.

So we also understand, we’ve all fallen short of it.

That’s what it says in Romans 3:23 ESV, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”

Deep within ourselves we sense we’re meant for something more. For the glory of God. We long for glory, for righteousness, but we fall short. So we find ourselves in this desperate, miserable state, where we know we want to be good, we want to be holy, we want to be glorious, but instead we seem to often end up in the mud. Messy. Sinful. Wicked. Wrong. So we get frustrated and angry, wishing for something more.

We realize our need for a savior.

Which brings us to our second point for today, the glory of God is perfectly revealed in Jesus Christ himself. Like John said in verse 1:14, they saw the glory of God in the life of Jesus. Something touched them, and changed them within, after being with Jesus those 3 years.

We know the same thing. We’ve seen in church, in sermons, in prayer, in bible reading, glimpses of something more, that something more, is the glory of God. You can sense it from time to time. Something pure, something greater, something perfect, as you read your Bible, as you pray, and worship God in song, you sense a taste of the glory of God.

Jesus is then to us, a picture of the glory.

It says in Hebrews 1:3 ESV, “He 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. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…”

Jesus radiates the glory of God. Like a furnace pumps out heat, Jesus radiates the glory and goodness of God. Grace and truth. I imagine being with Jesus we would sense it continuously.

Another scripture brings this to light, “2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV, “For 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.”

Remember the definition of glory is like “brightness.” That’s one thing to understand, heaven is bright, much brightness. Hell is of course total darkness. Here on Earth, we get light and darkness. A mix of both.

God has shown in our hearts, giving us the light, which is in fact the knowledge of the glory of God. And we find it in the face of Jesus Christ.

Which brings us to our third point for today, that, God has allowed us to see Jesus, many in this world, most in this world, are deceived, they have blinders on their eyes, so they can’t see Jesus. They are deceived by Satan and his demons. But God has helped us, as we’ve reached out for him, to see Jesus. And then to receive Jesus as our savior.

Then we went from seeing Jesus, to receiving Jesus, and Jesus came into our hearts.

As it says in 2nd Corinthians 3:18, “ 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.”

The glory of God has jumped off the pages of the Bible, and into our hearts, and is now transforming us, changing us slowly, into the same image, which is the image of Jesus Christ. We are being changed into the likeness of Christ.

Today you are not the same as you were a year ago, or a month ago. The glory of God in your heart, the Spirit, is changing you, from one step to the next step, to the next.

1 Corinthians 10:31 ”So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

As you’re working, or helping someone, or eating a meal, or drinking a cup of coffee, I want you to say out loud, God I do this to your glory. Get in the habit of saying that, God, this is for your glory. Do it for God.

This is the mystery of Christ in us. Which is talked about in Colossians 1:27, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

Christ in you, is also a hope for a future glory.

Point number four, our future is heaven, a place where the glory of God is the sun in the sky.

We as Christians look forward to a time in the future, when we will see God face to face. We will live in the glory of God. That is our great hope.

Romans 8:18 ESV For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

A time will come when the glory of God will fill the Earth, as it says in Habakkuk.

Habakkuk 2:14 ESV For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.

In the end times, at the end of the book of Revelation, we know that Jesus will return to the Earth. Many will mourn when they see him coming, because they had rejected him, and followed satan instead.

It says in Matthew 24:30 ESV, “ Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

Power and glory, as Jesus returns to the Earth. The glory of God will be made manifest. Some will rejoice in the glory of God, others will mourn because they know judgment is coming against them.

What’s amazing though, for our reward in heaven, we will live in the New Jerusalem, the city of God.

It says about it in Revelation 21:23, “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.”

The light of the city is the glory of God, his brightness, his goodness, his infinite power, his infinite love and we will rejoice in the glory of God. Because the glory of God is His holiness, yes, but also, his perfect love.

To tie it all together, we go now to the night of Jesus birth. Sheep herders were out that night, watching over their flocks.

It says in Luke 2:8-14 (NIV) And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

The glory of God is at first terrifying. God is so much bigger than us. He is infinite. When we see into His realm, it’s just plain scary. For some, their worst fears will be realized on that day when they see Jesus face to face, because they will know they rejected him in this life, and they will be sent out of his sight, into a repeating horror known as hell.

For us we find good news, behind the initial fear, of forgiveness of our sins, and the hope to be brought into the glory of God, through Jesus Christ. We either become the glory of God, by embracing Jesus, or we face judgment because we rejected the glory of God.

Point number five, as God reveals his glory to us, like he did to the shepherds, our job is to cry out “glory to God” to return the glory to God as worship. In the now, before heaven, we must live our lives everyday to glorify God in how we live, how we think, how we feel, all of it. We receive the glory, share the glory with others, as the shepherds did, and we return the glory to God as praise.

The angels cry out Glory to God! We cry out, Glory to God! We see the glory of God, we receive the glory of God, we repeat the glory of God, and we speak the glory of God, back toward God, then one day we bask in the glory of God, in the eternal city, the new Jerusalem.

Let’s review:

1. The universe out there, and the universe with declares the glory of God

2. You were made for the purpose of glorifying God

3. We’ve fallen short of God’s glory due to sin

4. We see the definition of God’s glory in Jesus

5. With Jesus in our hearts, we are being changed from one point of glory to the next

6. In paradise, the glory is the sunlight around us

7. In the now, we perceive the glory, declare the glory to others, and return the glory to God as worship

It started at Bethlehem, it ends in the New Jerusalem. But the end, is really just the beginning, for the hope of the glory of God, within us right now, in Christ, becomes the thing we bask in forever in heaven. We live in the constant joy of the glory of God in paradise. That’s the future goal. Until then, live giving glory to God as much as you can in your life.

One day from ground to sky, the new Jerusalem will be filled with the glory of God. Right now, we carry a smaller portion, within us, the Holy Spirit, Christ within us. So, as a reminder of what Jesus has done for us, come forward during our response time and take a cup. Keep it as a reminder that God has poured out his glory in the birth of Jesus, for your salvation.