// the reason we live (part 3)

THE STORY SO FAR

So, in the New Testament, everything changes, even as nothing changes. The manifestation of God’s glory shifts from occurring within a rigid ceremonial framework to dwelling within human hearts; Paul told the Corinthians, “you are a temple of the Holy Spirit”, and the reason behind all of this is Christ’s death on a cross – fulfilling the Law and making it possible for people to be holy in God’s sight. So now it is possible for God’s glory to dwell directly in His people, but it’s fairly obvious that this doesn’t happen automatically, or in an entirely simple form…

And then years of debate get us to 2009, trying to establish just how this all works…

DAY THREE

If you accept that it is now possible for God’s glory to dwell directly with His people, with you and I, then so what? Practically, what does that mean right now? Does God’s glory dwell with us all the time, or only in particular moments, like back in the Old Testament? Are there conditions to it? Would we even know what it looked like if we saw it? There are a million questions, and the simple answer is that we don’t really know for sure. But that’s okay, because from the very start God’s glory has been something mysterious, and that mystery isn’t a bad thing – it’s that which gets us started, gets us seeking God’s wisdom and resolving to go deeper…

Arguably, the big danger with all of this is that we start off viewing it like it’s all some kind of cosmic theological equation – like, Christ’s sacrifice makes us holy; our holiness makes it possible for God to draw near to us; God’s drawing near to us makes us glorious; our gloriousness brings glory back to God. That’s fine, but does it not sound a little like (kids’ game) Mousetrap to you? Things are rarely that simple, and especially not when it comes to God’s glory.

There are a number of assertions that I’ve asked you to accept over the past few days – that we are made holy by Christ’s death; that God is brought glory by His people acting in obedience to Him; that His glory may now dwell among those people, and that this is, in fact, what He desires. Assuming that you’re still with me on those, then when we pray “be glorified in me” or “Lord, let your glory fall”, can you see just what is that we’re asking, and how careful we need to be?

When we ask God to be glorified in us, we assert the power of Christ’s sacrifice to make us clean, and we remember our own place in the universe. We are simply vessels of God’s glory, irrespective of how impressive those vessels are; it is His sacrifice that has made a way for His glory to dwell within us, and it is His glory that we carry. Our praying that God will be given glory in us is a moment of sacrifice, then; admitting that we have nothing to offer God that He needs, and asking Him to use that which we give to communicate beyond itself and bring glory to His name. That’s an honour, but also one that needs to be viewed with healthy respect.

When we ask God to be glorified in us, we must come in awareness of the areas where we have failed and in awareness of our own inability to deal with those failures. God’s glory dwells with His people in moments of obedience, and moments of holiness; before we see it, we must come to Christ in vulnerability, in honesty, admitting our faults to him and asking to be made clean. Glory and holiness go hand in hand, but holiness does not happen automatically. Yes, we have the potential to be made holy, but we must come to a person – to Jesus, to the living Christ – in order to ask for that, and that means admitting that we messed up, that we are not good, that we need help.

When we ask God to be glorified in us, we come in willingness to let Him do whatever He needs to do through us, even if that seems discomforting or bizarre. We come laying down our selves, in true, godly weakness, prepared to listen and prepared to respond.

And, crucially, when we ask God to be glorified in us, we do so with full awareness that the purpose of this is to show that God is with His people and to declare His name to the world. It’s not to prove something to each other or to our meetings, and if it’s a place where we’re built up, we are built up in order to go out and carry God’s glory to the rest of the world. Our praying that God will be glorified taps into the very reason that we live; to bring glory to His name. That’s why we’re here. And it’s clear that He’s capable of doing that apart from us – He did so in the OT – but he has chosen to use us to display His glory to the world.

He chose you for that purpose.

So what do we make of this? How do we respond? What does our bringing glory to God mean? Why, and how, do we do it?

We start with accepting that this is not, and has never been, about us. Our actions are not our own; they point beyond themselves. There is a place for introspection here, for asking God to reveal those aspects of our lives that are motivated by ego and selfishness, and asking for the help we need to see and change those. We ask God to be glorified in us, and that’s the start of a process – and sure, we will get it wrong, we will forget and need to come back to Him again – but in that first statement, we start off by saying, ‘I am no longer my own’…

Paul’s much-quoted claim that we must “offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1) is what gets us started. We sacrifice ourselves, we state that we want Him to be glorified, and then we listen. To what this God is asking of us, to where He calls us to go. And we go, in the knowledge that, like the fire and the cloud that accompanied the Israelites, His glory will go with us if we set out with Him in the first place.

That may show itself in quiet and undemonstrative ways. It may be dramatic. It will be powerful. It will display God’s nature, God’s character, and God’s purposes. It is a huge responsibility, and not one to be taken lightly. But it is also thrilling

The God of the universe chose you. He has a purpose for you, and He knows why you are made the way you are. You were created to bring Him glory and to demonstrate His glory to a world which needs to see it…

He is making you glorious, in order to show just how glorious He truly is.

And that, if anything, is a reason to sing.

But that’s a story for tomorrow…

[TO BE CONTINUED]

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