What are you doing with your glory? – Dec. 30, 2018

In one Peanuts cartoon, Charlie Brown, Lucy and Linus are lying on the ground, looking up into the sky. Lucy says, “If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud formations. What do you think you see, Linus?”

Linus responds, “Well, those clouds up there, look like the map of the British Honduras on the Caribbean. And that cloud looks ‘a little’ like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor. And that group of clouds over there; gives me the impression of the stoning of Stephen. I can see the Apostle Paul standing there to one side.” 

Lucy says, “Uh huh, that’s very good. 

What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?” Charlie Brown replies, “Well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsy, but I changed my mind.”

What do you see when you look into the skies? The psalmist looked into the heavens and saw … (God). He wrote in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; – and their expanse is ‘declaring’ the work of His hands”.

Now, what do you see when you look at each other?  Do you see God’s glory manifested in all those around you? Or do you see only ‘fallen individuals’?

This sermon series, which we will conclude today, started with advent. I entitled the series, “The Lights of Christmas”. Today we are going to talk about light as seen in the power of God’s Glory.

You might recall that Glory means splendor or brilliance. To see glory is to see, beauty, majesty and give respect or honor. It can also mean weight, or that a thing or someone has importance or is significant.

Now, look around you again. Do you see ‘glory’ in the faces of those near you? Not glory in the sense that we worship one another other, but a reflection of the love of God. (2 Corinthians 3:18) Because if you cannot, you are missing something very important.

Many times when we are talking about glory, we are specifically thinking about giving God the Glory, and it is something we should do. But did you ever imagine that God also gives us some glory?

You might recall in Genesis, when God created mankind on the sixth day, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”  We were created with loving kindness and created very well! (Gen. 1:31)

Psalm 8:4-5 describes the wonder of our relationship to God, “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, the human beings that you care for them? You made them a little lower than the angels – and crowned them with glory and honor.”

When was the last time, someone told you that you were created very good and crowned with glory and honor? The Bible says we all were. But we also know…the rest of the story. There was the fall. (Gen. 3)

Our relationship with God was broken almost from the very beginning. We are a fallen race. We are lost, hopeless and filled with shame and sin. We are often blind to God’s goodness and self-centered.

But the Good News is, God still loves us and wanted to redeem us. And of course, that is where the story of Christmas comes in. Glory came back to earth, by way of Jesus.

Jesus came to glorify God. And he himself was glorified in the process. Jesus said in John 8:54, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.” In other words, all beauty, majesty, honor and significance comes from God. God bestows that on Jesus. Jesus uses that glory than, to point to God in heaven, not for his own pleasure.

We say that Jesus came to this lost world to redeem us and to save us. And that is true, but that is not all. He also came to re-establish us ‘to our former glory’. We call that restoration.

In our Gospel passage today, Jesus is praying for his disciples, present and future. He says, “My prayer is not for them (my current disciples) alone. I also pray for all of those who will believe in me through their message.” (John 17:20)  That’s all of us.

Then he says these words, “I have given them the Glory, that you gave me.” (John 17:22) 

It is a glory meant to restore us and unify us with God through Jesus.

Then, through Jesus, we are no longer just sinners, we are now in the eyes of God very good again. Restored! Whole. Once again, we have our glory. That is why Paul calls believers – Saints. (Phil. 1:1)

You might recall, humans were made ‘in the image of God’. (Gen. 1:26)

Romans says that once we repent and turn to him, we are at that moment, God’s children and joint heirs in the His Kingdom; provided we suffer with him in order that we may be also glorified together with him and one another. (Romans 8:16-17)

The Bible says our sin is as far removed as the east is from the west. (Psalm 103:12)

And Micah 7:19 reads, “Then, you will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the deepest depths of the sea.” That is what Jesus did.

Once we come to Christ, we are a new creature. (2 Corin. 5:17) Then old is gone…or is it?

It doesn’t feel gone, does it? Don’t we say, ‘I am a sinner – and will be all my days’?

Bruce Springsteen sings about living in his ‘Glory days’. They are the days, long past that cannot be re-captured. So he simply lives in the good memories.

What if…the glory days were all ahead? What if Christians began living, as the redeemed, instead of living as if we still sinners. Do you suppose it would make a difference?

Honestly, there isn’t much to look back at, is there? I was born a sinner and lived in sin. But now that I have accepted Jesus, doesn’t it make more sense to look ahead?

Christian theologian and writer CS Lewis once wrote, “There are far, far better things ahead – than any we leave behind.”

Dennis Byrd was an up-and-coming defensive superstar for the New York Jets Football team. It was predicted that he would ‘help turn’ the Jets organization around. Then tragedy struck…

On November 29, 1992, the Jets were playing the Chiefs. Dennis was about to sack the quarterback when he collided with a teammate and his spinal cord was snapped.

In a split-second, his football career ended. He was paralyzed from the neck down. Everything he had planned for his life came to a screeching halt.

Later, he wrote about waking up in the middle of the night at Lenox Hospital in a halo brace, not knowing where he was, not knowing why he couldn’t move, not knowing what was happening. Suddenly, he went from dreaming of making it to the Pro Bowl – to hoping he could someday hold his daughter in his arms again.

From a worldly perspective, Dennis was no longer able to reach his potential. But in God’s eyes, Dennis Byrd was capable of much more than sacking quarterbacks. In God’s eyes, Dennis Byrd still had an amazing future.

The world watched and listened as Dennis Byrd told the media that Christ was his source of comfort in his time of tragedy. The doctors announced to the media that Dennis would more than likely never walk again, but it would be years before they would know. Dennis told the media that with God’s help, he would walk again—soon.

On opening day of the 1993 football season, less than a year after the tragic collision, – millions of television viewers watched Dennis Byrd walk out to the middle of the Meadowlands Stadium while 75,000 fans stood cheering in ovation.

The miracle in Dennis Byrd’s life was not that he broke his neck and walked again. The miracle was that the injury that destroyed his career didn’t destroy his life. In fact, it gave him new ways to live in God’s glory – and point to God in heaven.

Someone once wrote a poem about not forgetting what Jesus has given us, it is titled…

What We Have In Christ
A love that can never be fathomed;
A life that can never die;
A righteousness that can never be tarnished;
A peace that can never be understood;
A rest that can never be disturbed;
A joy that can never be diminished;
A hope that can never be disappointed;
A light that can never be darkened;
A happiness that can never be interrupted;
A strength that can never be weakened;
A purity that can never be defiled;
A beauty that can never be marred;
A wisdom that can never be baffled;
A glory that can never be clouded;
And resources that can never be exhausted.

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We are made in the image of God, – to be like Immanuel, Jesus, who was ‘God with us. He was given glory and yet he chose to live as a servant. He had power – and he chose to lay it down. He could have hated us and refused to forgive us – but instead, he chose to love us.

Like him, we are not given our glory to hog it or to glorify ourselves, instead, we have it to show others God’s Glory in all things. We do that when we stop looking back at what we were before Jesus came into our lives and start thinking ahead.

One translation of John 17 reads like this, “God’s Glory has been restored to you.”

We were created to be people of great value, ones that are; beautiful, honorable, noble, loving, faithful, and true. We were called ‘the crown of God’s creation’. (Isaiah 62:3)

When Jesus died on the cross, he took our shame, and gave us His righteousness and restored to us our original glory. You are the beloved, – not the lost and worthless anymore.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to live a different life.

Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 3:10, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each should build with care.”

Each day, we lay down a few new bricks that will leave a legacy for others to follow and build upon. Build carefully. And Build on God’s strengths, not your own weaknesses. Try to see yourself through God’s eyes. As one who is redeemed, restored, loved, worthwhile, and blessed.

Be a person who wishes to be united with other Christians – and to stand firm in the faith. And never forget what Jesus has already done for you. He said, “The glory that you have given me, – I have given to them.”

And that leaves me with just one question, “What are you doing with your glory?”

My parents used to say, when we left the house, remember that you are a Garver. In other words, you represent something greater than yourself, so act with good judgment. I pray that you will live this next year, as a new creation in Christ; that you look ahead, instead of behind. And that you will live as one who is truly loved, so that you can truly love others.

That is your assignment, to truly live to as Children of God, so that others can see Christ in you. What we say and how we live makes a difference to how others see God, so be on your best behavior. You are a Child of God!!!

Amen.