To Judge the World (7)
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1.27
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5.1, 2
Glory now and then
We in the Christian community are sometimes guilty of using words without understanding what they mean. “You keep on using that word,” the Spaniard opined to the Sicilian. “I’m not sure it means what you think it means” (The Princess Bride). The same can be said of us, for example, when we talk about the glory of God.
What is the glory of God? We who are supposed to do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor. 10.31) ought to understand glory, and know it when we see it. Paul mentions a hope of glory, as though the glory of God should be a kind of driving force or guiding light in all we do. What is the glory of God, and how does the glory of God relate to our calling to judge the world with righteous judgment?
When we contemplate the glory of God, it’s typically with respect to one of two referents. We say that we know the glory of God in worship, when we’re singing heartily to the Lord and we have that sense of being together in His presence, filled with wonder and love and joy and shalom in the Lord. Something overtakes us at such times, and we are beside ourselves with joy. We say this is the glory of the Lord, and for many believers, this is what they seek in the worship God. The glory of God, in this view, requires a particular setting which is only intermittently experienced. Pastors and worship leaders hope the experience will be sufficient to sustain worshipers throughout the week, so that they’ll come back again next week for more of the same.
Or else we think of glory in hereafterterms: going to glory, seeing God in His glory one day, entering into the eternal glory of the Lord. Then we will rejoice in glory, because we will see Jesus face to face and be like Him. That will be truly wonderful beyond words, and every believer longs for the day of eternal glory. Glory in this view is a “then and there” condition, one we look forward to and earnestly hope for after we die or at the end of the world.
So glory is something we know “now and then” – every so often in the present, but only fully and cotinuously in the new heavens and new earth. Both these views are true, and we should cherish and pursue them diligently. But neither is a complete view of the glory of God, and neither quite gets at Paul’s meaning of glory, since each is rather more subjective – our experience – than objective – a reality external to us.
The glory of God
The glory of God is not, in the first instance, something we experience. That is, it is not an affection, like love or anger or fear, that arises from within us. Glory does not originate in us; it descends upon us. The heavens and all creation declare the glory of God (Ps. 19.1-4), whether or not anyone experiences that glory. But when glory does descend upon us, the weightof it can be spiritually arresting, disturbing, enlivening, even crushing, and can draw out from us emotions of fear and trembling, unspeakable joy, and unbounded courage.
For the glory of God is nothing less than the presence of God, when He makes Himself known to us in ways that are so pointed and clear, that we say to ourselves, like John to Peter, “It is the Lord.” It is the Lord in His glory as He radiates overwhelmingly from a dramatic sunset, weighing us down with the beauty, immensity, and constancy of the cosmos. It is the glory of God that brings us to tears of joy when the love of family and friends sinks in in new and deeper ways. It is the glory of God that brings us to tremble at a sudden clap of thunder. It is the glory of God that humbles and warms us when a complete stranger shows us an undeserved kindness. It is the glory of God that brings us to shame and repentance when, by whatever means, our sin is exposed, and we understand more clearly that we are the ones who nailed Jesus to that cross. It is the glory of God that emerges from the pages of Scripture as the Spirit speaks an especially pointed word to our need or fear or unbelief or doubt, or illuminates a sought-for path with sudden light and courage. It is the glory of God that envelops and embraces us, drawing us to participate in Him in all the everyday moments of life where we, through faith and obedience, choose His way rather than ours, and stand firm in our calling against the currents and blows of unbelief and sin. The glory of God is Christ Himself, in us, making Himself known, and showing Himself and the glory of God to the world.
We hope for such glory, to know it now and then, but not just “now and then.” By working to bring God’s shalom into the world in all our daily activities, all our judging and judgments, we are seeking the then glory of God in every now of our lives, every moment, every situation, every relationship, role, and responsibility. The judgments of God are in all the earth, bringing the glory of God to light in our every act of righteous judging and judgment.
Judging and glory
The aim of our work of judging and judgment is to bring the shalom of God into the world, because that peace, which surpasses understanding, creates an environment in which the glory of God can come to light. The world is not much acquainted with peace. It is a place of uncertainty, disillusionment, anxiousness, nervousness, tentativeness, and getting by and holding on. When the peace that passes understanding is injected into such a situation, it is unmistakable, and it brings a sense of relief and hope, if only momentarily so. Our objective is to flood our spheres of influence – our Personal Mission Field – with as much of that peace as possible, so that people might recognize that our choices, opinions, ways, and words are a source of something they wish they knew more of, some hope that can lead them to ask us why we are the way we are (1 Pet. 3.15).
The shalom that comes through our acts of judging and judgment can create an atmosphere of wonder that takes people aback, exposing them to something otherworldly – something other than what they typically experience in this world – and giving us the opportunity to say, in response to their queries, “It is the Lord.”
And then our work of judging the world, and the shalom that it introduces, can fulfill our hope by bringing the glory of God to the world.
1. How should we prepare so that we can glorify God in all things, whatever we do, every moment of the day?
2. What is the relationship between our calling to judge the world and the glory of God?
3. Meditate on 2 Corinthians 3.12-18. What does Paul mean by “glory to glory”?
Next steps – Transformation: Choose one thing you can do today to be more conscious of your calling to glorify God in all things. Share that with a Christian friend, and ask your friend to pray for you.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.
The Hope of Glory
- T.M. Moore
- December 12, 2018
The shalom of God is the staging-ground for His glory.
To Judge the World (7)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.