The Glory Of God Is Relevant To Absolutely Everything

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And the Lord said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you.” Exodus 33:18-19

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. 2 Corinthians 3:18

This prayer of Moses might be the greatest personal prayer in all the Bible: “Please show me your glory.” Just five words. Four of the words have only one syllable. The fifth word has only two syllables. This is simple. A child can pray this prayer. It is also profound. No one will never outgrow this prayer. I hope we never do. I hope we never get so full of ourselves that we stop yearning for God to show us more of his glory.

The Bible uses many words for the glory of God: not only glory, but also beauty, splendor, majesty, magnificence, excellence. These words are hard to define precisely, but we all know what they mean. The Bible uses not only words but also images to describe the glory of God: fire, light, a cloud, a throne, a temple, a storm, a king, a shield, a crown, a war chariot, an ocean.

Sadly, some people don’t even have these categories for God. Their thoughts and desires are focused on getting their kids into the right schools and being invited to the cool parties, and so forth. They don’t consciously reject God. They’re all for God. “Yeah, God!” But they miss out, they waste their lives, because they don’t even have the language to grasp the grandeur of why they exist, why they have a family, why an education, why a party. Do you understand that you were created to experience and to reflect a glory, a splendor, a beauty from beyond this world? You were created for more than the false glories of this passing age. You were created for real and lasting majesty that can only come down from above. God is able not only to reveal himself to you but also to put upon you something of his own splendor so that people around you have to say, “Here is someone who obviously has been touched by God. Here is someone who cannot be understood in terms of the right schools and the cool parties. The only way to account for the unusual quality of this human being is the presence of God.” Here in this boring world, that’s worth a lot. Still more, God is able to give all of us together as a church this sacred gift of divine radiance. The Bible teaches us to pray, “May the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us” (Psalm 90:17).

Here is an insight that will help. The world tells you you’ll be happy by having, by possessing, by controlling and amassing and hoarding. Then, when you’ve assembled around you your own ideal little world, with everything going your way – then you’ll be happy. It makes sense, doesn’t it? But does it work? That self-centered world of your dreams will break your heart. It will only increase your anxieties, because the more you have, the more you have to worry about. Not only that, but the more you have, the more it makes you weird – like Gollum with his “precious.” One of the surprising keys to a life worth living is losing what we once had, opening up our hands and letting it go, for the sake of a treasure that only God can give. And it works. We are happy when he shows us his glory. We are happy when he makes all his goodness pass before us. And that’s how something of his glory starts rubbing off a little on us, and we start looking a little bit beautiful, for his sake. In the next chapter of Exodus we find that Moses’ own face was glowing after he’d seen the glory of the Lord. How does that miracle become ours today? It becomes ours, as we turn away from our own ideal life scenarios and turn to God for what only he can do, and he does give himself to us. Long ago Augustine put into words what that turning to God feels like:

Give me a man in love; he knows what I mean. Give me one who yearns; give me one who is hungry; give me one far away in this desert, who is thirsty and sighs for the spring of the Eternal country. Give me that sort of man; he knows what I mean. But if I speak to a cold man, he just does not know what I am talking about.

We stumble into happiness not by having but by yearning. And so we will never stop praying, “Please show me your glory.”

Right now, let’s all of us as a church turn to the Lord and say in our hearts to him, “Please show us your glory! Let that be our story to the tenth generation!” He has been giving himself so kindly here at Immanuel. And he is able to increase the display of his glory upon us. We’ve only begun to see him as he really is. And let’s always remember how easy it is for a church to turn away to lesser things – even good things and noble causes. But when a church puts anything in that sacred place that the Lord alone deserves – the people of God in the Old Testament had a word for it: Ichabod, “The glory has departed” (1 Samuel 4:21). But the Bible also says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, that he may strongly support those whose hearts are completely his” (2 Chronicles 16:9). God’s heart is so eager to bless us that he is on the lookout for people who long for him, to prove to them how real he is.

Today I will explain how we can walk together in the glory of the Lord. And right now our deacons are wondering, Wasn’t Ray going to preach today on money and giving? Yes. I will have one paragraph on money and giving at the end. But first and foremost, the glory of God, because the glory of God is relevant to everything, and the glory of God is the only reason why anything matters. So a whole sermon about the glory of God, with one paragraph at the end about money and giving – that seems about right.

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. 2 Corinthians 3:18

God showed Moses his glory. God answered that simple prayer he prayed back in Exodus 33. And the glory showed in Moses himself. His face was shining. The people were dazzled. But after a while, the glory began to fade away. So Moses put a veil over his face so that no one could see that the glory was wearing off. Here in the New Testament, the apostle Paul is noticing something. That fading glory was the ministry of the law. The law was glorious, and with the glory of God. But that experience was given to only one man, and he couldn’t keep it up.

But the ministry of the gospel comes with greater glory. This greater glory is not given to just one man, the preacher, but to us all. Verse 18 starts out, “And we all . . . .” And this greater glory of the gospel doesn’t fade away. It only increases on us more and more, because God gives his glory freely by grace, a grace that he doesn’t take back, a grace that sticks and lasts and grows. That is the new story of your life and of us as a church. We’re being drawn into a glory that cannot be defeated, because it is all of grace. How can our weak ordinariness defeat his mighty grace? All we have to do is keep looking to him. When the sun of the gospel rises, the moon of the law is no longer bright. That’s what Paul is saying here as he contrasts the law and the gospel. The degree of contrast between the two is striking. The gospel is not just a little better than the law. Look at the contrast in verse 9 (“far exceed”) and in verse 11 (“much more”). The gospel far exceeds the law, because the gospel brings the glory of Jesus to us and puts his glory on us and it doesn’t fade but only increases. That is God’s commitment to us, on terms of his grace.

So this is how all of us as a church can walk together in the glory of the Lord – by staring at Jesus in the gospel and not turning our eyes away. I am not saying that’s easy. There are many distractions. But I am saying it’s powerful:

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.

So who is “the Lord” here? It’s the Lord Jesus. So the gospel unveils the glory of the Lord Jesus. The Bible says, “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (Galatians 3:1). How does that happen? As we hear the gospel. The way the gospel works, we see with our ears.

Here are the dynamics in the room when the living God smiles on us sinners through the gospel:

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. 2 Corinthians 4:6

Real Christianity is God making Jesus so real to us it’s as if we’re seeing him face to face. And the Bible is saying that, when we’re enjoying our Lord this way as we hear the gospel, the power of God is turning on the lights, freeing us from our past and assuring us we are completely forgiven and loved, so that we settle down and relax and cheer up, not because we’ve finally gotten on top of all our problems but because our hearts are caught up in his glory for us. And the Bible is saying that that miracle is the same power God exerted when he said “Let there be light” at the creation. Our darkness within cracks open and his light floods our awareness with clarity about Jesus. We bring nothing to the table but our darkness and despair and regrets and fears and our inexcusable sins, and God creates out of the nothing we bring his glory in us. And Paul is saying in verse 18 that that moment by moment miracle is how we change. The law doesn’t change us. What changes us is God opening our eyes to the glory of Jesus in the gospel. And that power is the only hope of our troubled world. No one anywhere is going to change by rules and threats and pressure but only by his glory.

What we’re doing here Sunday by Sunday is not just singing some songs followed by a theological lecture. What’s happening here is of God. We are being drawn to him by his grace. We are turning to him and looking to him and loving him and praising him and presenting ourselves before him with open Bibles and open hearts, rejoicing as he shows us his glory. This is the power of God’s grace, we’re receiving it, and his power is greater than everything against us.

The word “glory” suggests weight. The Bible speaks of “the weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17). So the glory of the Lord is his gravitas, his prestige, his consequence. How could we not long for the real Jesus to be non-ignorable in our city and far beyond? How could we be okay with the Lord of glory being trivialized in this world crowded with its fraudulent remedies? We long for the true Savior to carry all the weight he deserves. And we want to receive upon ourselves all the glory he’ll give.

Here’s how it happens. As the gospel is landing on us so that we feel the weight of his grace, that’s when we rejoice in the finished work of Christ on the cross, and we glow with our love for him. As the gospel is landing on us so that we feel the weight of his sovereignty, that’s when we stop fretting and start trusting, and we are cheerful even in pain. As the gospel is landing on us so that we feel the weight of his second coming when he will bring justice to the nations, that’s when we become confident enough to get involved and make this world a better place right now. And so forth. Jesus has many glories. But just knowing theoretically about his grace and sovereignty and justice and so forth – theories about him will not make us beautiful. But when our hearts feel the weight of who he really is, that is his glory coming down upon us.

Your soul has senses, the way your body has senses. For example, the New Testament speaks of “the eyes of the heart” (Ephesians 1:18). Your soul was created with senses to experience the glory of the Lord. The ministry of the gospel is a multi-sensory experience of Jesus in our hearts. Richard Sibbes, the Cambridge puritan, put it this way:

God puts a spiritual eye by his Spirit into all true believers, whereby they behold this excellent glory, this glorious grace . . . . The Spirit creates and works in us spiritual senses. With spiritual life there are spiritual senses: sight and taste and feeling. Sight is put here [in verse 18] for all the senses, “We behold.” [IV:249.]

In writers from previous centuries I often run across this kind of language to describe what the gospel does. One of the phrases I find is “believing views.” Our forefathers understood that the gospel is more than information. It’s the Spirit showing us Jesus so that our hearts rejoice in his beauty in a way that can only be understood as the touch of God. Charles Spurgeon said this in a sermon:

You had heard the minister preach about the blood of Christ a thousand times, but you passed by; it was nothing to you that Jesus should die. You knew that he atoned for sins that were not his own; but you only regarded it as an idle tale. But when the Spirit of God led you to the cross and opened your eyes and enabled you to see Christ crucified, Ah then there was something in the blood indeed.

It’s as if the Lord takes your hand and puts your hand on his heart and says to you, “I want you to feel my heartbeat of love for you.” And we melt. We finally have the clarity and strength to live for him. Marion M’Naught was a friend of Samuel Rutherford, the seventeenth century preacher in Scotland. She wasn’t in his parish, but she went over to hear him now and then. She explained why:

I go to Anwoth so often because, though other ministers show me the majesty of God and the plague of my own heart, Mr. Samuel does both these things, but he also shows me, as no other minister ever does, the loveliness of Christ.

Seeing the loveliness of Christ – God loves to give this sacred gift to undeserving sinners like us. Jesus died to give this to you. The Spirit moves to bring this to you.

When we pray, “Please show me your glory,” what we mean is, “I get in my car and drive down to church to see him. I want his gospel to land on me with his power. I want to grow. I am willing to take off my veil and be honest about my needs and shortcomings. I’m not here to look good. I’m here to see his glory.” And that is how we are set free to live all-out for him.

So, money. Here is all I want to say about that. Money is one tool for growing this ministry of the gospel, so that more and more people can see the real Jesus and be caught up with us into his true glory. This past week I was moved when watching the second of the Hobbit movies. At one point, the dwarves have hired Bard to row them across the lake. As Balin is collecting the money from each dwarf, this happens:

Balin: There’s um . . . just a wee problem. We’re ten coins short. Thorin: Gloin, come on. Give us what you have. Gloin: Don’t look to me. I have been bled dry by this venture! What have I seen for my investment? Naught but misery and grief and – [Then Gloin notices the other dwarves have fallen silent. The clouds have parted and they’re seeing off in the distance their ancient home, the Lonely Mountain.] Gloin: Bless my beard. [immediately Gloin takes out his sack of coins] Gloin: Take it. Take all of it.

There is a glory revealed in the gospel. It’s the only real glory this world will ever see. When his glory gets hold of our hearts, we are too happy to cling to this world.