Sunday, June 17, 2018

Glorified

I love words. They are my friends. That makes me a logophile. And that’s one reason why it bothers me when words aren’t used carefully. I have a particular love for the words that express the Gospel. These are such important words. And they are important because they can help us live well in a very broken and evil world. But they cannot help us if we do not understand them. This explains my use of the phrase ‘church words’. These are beautiful Gospel words that we use with some frequency but, all too often, we don’t actually know very well what they are about. And when that is the case, these beautiful words are of no help to us. And that is just no good. I would not be a faithful pastor if I didn’t try to deal with that. I want you all to understand these ‘church words’ that we use. I want you to thoroughly understand what they are about so that you can see their beauty. And seeing that beauty, I am sure that you will stand amazed at the God who has given us what those words reveal. Out of that will come the ability to live well. So, today, we’re going to take a look at another church word.

 Listen to what Paul wrote.
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. Romans 8.29-30
Paul is explaining here God’s process in rescuing us from our sin, a process that begins in eternity past and ends in the age to come. I’m going to focus on the last word that I read, the goal of this whole process: glorified. We will be glorified.

To be sure, glorify is a church word. We’ve seen it in other contexts, like to glorify God. So, what does it mean for us to glorify God? It’s making God look as good as He actually is. We reveal something of His glory, something of what makes Him the God that He is, when we live well.

But Paul isn’t saying something about God in his sentences that I just read to you. He’s saying something about us. He teaching us about what will happen to us. He’s teaching about our future glory. We are going to be glorified. So, is this about making us look as good as we actually are? Well, not exactly. It’s about making us to be as good as we were created to be. It’s about the transformation that lies at the heart of the Gospel. Jesus did not come to change our final address from hell to heaven. He came to change us. He came to make us good. And when that happens we will express the glory that was originally associated with us when humanity was created, the glory of being men and women. We will reveal our glory just as God reveals His glory. We will be glorified.

What I just told you is true, but it doesn’t make you feel the power of this word, glorified. And it’s important that you feel it. It’s when you feel the power of Gospel words that your sense of wonder at God grows. There needs to be more of that these days. For you to feel the power of this word ‘glorified’ you will need to understand your unglorified selves. So, let’s look at what it might feel like to be glorified by contrasting that with our unglorified situation.

Here’s the first thing. Aren’t there times when you have this sense that something is missing from your life? You’re not sure what it is, but you can feel it. You can feel the hole. Something’s missing. And you want to do something about that.

Different people try different things to fill in the hole, to feel complete. I’ve mentioned to you that one of my idols in this is food. I hear this god telling me that having something tasty will make me feel better, will fill the hole that I am feeling. But it doesn’t really solve the problem. That sense that something is missing always lurks nearby, ready to ambush my soul so that I feel it again.

Everyone feels this. There is a hole in us. There is something missing. And there are those times when we feel it. And there is nothing, not some yummy snack, not seeing a romantic movie, not buying some new tool, nothing in all creation will fill that hole. And that’s because sin has created that hole. As long as sin afflicts us we will feel that hole. But when we are glorified, the hole will be gone. There will be no sense of anything missing. And that’s because nothing will be missing.

There is a Latin phrase that captures what this is about: Coram Deo. Translated, it’s ‘before God’. We were meant to live ‘before God’. This is reflected in something David wrote.
One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. Psalms 27:4
Once we are glorified we will live in God’s presence every moment. It will be impossible to be anywhere or do anything without having a sense of His presence right there with us. We will have an abiding sense of the beauty of the Lord. Coram Deo. That’s what we were created for. And that’s what we are missing now. That’s what we try to fill. But only God can fill our souls. And one day He will. He will fill them with Himself. And that will be the end of any sense of lack. For people like me, food will be what it is supposed to be, not a tool of some false god but something to enjoy and to be nourished by. We will be glorified.

Let me bring up another contrast between our unglorified selves now and what will be once Jesus returns.

Consider loneliness. This is something that everyone feels, especially these days. Some people feel it more than others, but it is something that everyone feels to some extent.

So, why this loneliness? No one will listen. You share something important, something personal, and while people might hear what you’re saying they’re not hearing what you’re feeling as you speak. They’re not listening. And so, you learn not to say anything important and personal. After all, it hurts to open yourself up and find that no one is interested in listening. It becomes a bit scary to even think about doing such a thing. Who wants to hurt? So, we hide. We keep our secrets. We talk but don’t say anything important and personal. Some do this more than others, but we all do this. And that creates a distance between ourselves and others. This creates walls.

Feeling lonely, feeling alone, is difficult to handle because we were created to be social. We were created to connect with other people. We were created to be listened to.

But imagine, if you can, what it would be like to be listened to, always listened to. People hear what you’re feeling when you speak and respond to it with thoughtful words, encouraging words, words that make it clear that you were listened to.

Here’s something that relates.
And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Genesis 2.25
That’s not about sex. That’s about no secrets. It’s about the freedom to know and to be known, to be completely open with others as they are completely open with you. To connect. To be unafraid to speak because you know that you will be listened to.

It is inevitable to feel some measure of loneliness in this life. Again, it’s the result of sin. But one day we will be glorified.  That means that we will not only be listened to, but that we will all be eager to listen - to listen to what other people are feeling as they speak. And we will give them words that they need to hear. One day there will be no loneliness. One day we will be glorified.

One more.

This is about work. Not work as drudgery. Not work just as some way to pay the bills. No, work as opportunity, work as an expression of creativity, work as something that satisfies. God gives to each person a certain combination of abilities. What work is supposed to be is the opportunity to use those abilities, the opportunity to be creative like God is creative. The intended result is for you to be able to look at what you have created and say, ‘That’s really good’, just like God did. Work is the opportunity to feel a deep satisfaction through being creative.

There will be this deep satisfaction in your work because there will be no failure. There won’t even be any frustration. Oh, there will be issues to work through, questions to figure out and all the rest. But we will view those issues and questions as enjoyable challenges. They will be enjoyable challenges because we will know that we will arrive at a solution. It’s just a matter of time. We will end each day tired but satisfied because we will be pleased with what we will have accomplished. And each day our work will result a greater sense of wonder at the God who made us to be so creative. One day we will be glorified.

So, what have I done this morning? I’ve scratched the surface of a Gospel word: glorified. I’ve meditated on that word, explored it, bringing up related notions so that I could see what that word really means, and I’ve let you listen in. I do this sort of thing because I’m curious and because I love words.

I would really like it if you would also love words, especially Gospel words. I would really like it if, because of your love for those words, you would meditate on them, exploring what they mean - exploring these words that God has given us to reveal His Gospel. One result of doing that is being amazed at the God who gave us those words, the God who gave us that Gospel.

The word that we looked at today, glorified, is about what’s later. It’s about how good later will be for you. It’s about your joyous hope. I want you to see that more clearly. Later, being glorified, will be so amazingly good. It is a hope worth waiting for and rejoicing in. As you learn how to do that more and more, it will change your life.

Now, there is one more thing I’d like you to do. I’d like you to take this joyous hope about later, about being glorified, and connect it to what I talked about in last week’s sermon. That sermon was about groaning because of the enormity of the evil that is all around us. It’s not that some people groan because of the nature of their personalities, while other people are into joyous hoping because of the nature of their personalities. We are all to do both. While we groan over the evil, we are also to rejoice in the hope of what awaits. Not either/or. It’s both/and. That is a skill that may be hard for some of us to master. I have been working on trying to understand what doing both will look like for me. You all know where my tendencies lead me when it comes to those two. But I know that I need to do both: groan and joyously hope. You need to do the same. It is as we do both that we will be able to do some good while we are here, trying somehow, by the grace of the Spirit, to make a dent in the evil, being motivated, among other things, by the hope that we are striving toward: being glorified.

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