We went right up to and touched last week what the glory of God looks like/is. We learned that God’s name (which means His character) is a reflection of the cross. I want to explore now what about the cross would display God’s glory.
The cross of Christ Jesus shows forth God’s willingness to suffer. When we read our Bibles, we can’t simply brush the crucifixion under the “happed once” pile. God continually suffered for the sake of mankind. He willingly humbled Himself time and again for His love of His creation. The absolute nature of God is revealed in a suffering God who did not think it extravagant, nor did He think it unnecessary, to die.
Did you catch that? How many times have I heard people say that God doesn’t need us, or that it is simply grace that causes God to offer Himself as a living sacrifice? Yet, when we study the crucified God, it seems so much more than that. It seems quite contrary to what He Himself says. “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s own life for one’s own friends.”
It isn’t that God had to do it in a sort of oppressive sort of way. God’s very nature is that He must give Himself unconditionally to the other parts of the Godhead. It is God’s very nature to be sacrificial with Himself. The Son was always about glorifying the Father and defending the work of the Spirit. The Father and the Spirit were always about defending the work of the Son. The three were always humble and always sacrificial, and therefore always meek.
It seems like when you probe the deepest depths of God’s character being the cross, you come to conclusions about God’s character that we already know. He is love; He is meek; He is unlike any other. But what lies behind all of these characteristics is His nature to endure suffering.
If God foreknew that Adam would sin, then the very creation of the world was a suffering. God knew that it would lead to certain events, and yet He still made it. Why? Is God sadistic? Certainly not! It is intrinsic to God’s character to not shrink from suffering. When saying that God’s character is to endure suffering, we’re not talking about a God who desires to suffer. We are talking about a God who is willing to endure for the greater glory. The cross is not the final word. After the death of Christ there was a resurrection.
In the knowledge of God, the created world would collapse. Adam would sin. The cosmos would go into agony and suffering and moaning and groaning. But it wouldn’t stay there. There is a consummation of the ages. The end has not yet come, and when it does we will see the whole story.
God’s suffering is not in vain. It isn’t a sadistic side of the story that God likes pain and suffering, but a beautiful characteristic that He will not allow us to suffer alone. He will not abandon us. He will not leave us nor forsake us. He will walk with us through this thing, and He won’t back down. God will suffer for our sakes, because in the end His very suffering is the key to the whole cosmic redemption.
Coming into the stream of God’s life, we find ourselves also denying self. We deny luxury for us so that others may see benefit. Is that sadistic? We trust in weakness and poverty, no matter how foolish it may be, because we cannot allow those whom we love to perish. We willingly deny self for the sake of others all the time, and then we want to turn around and say that God doesn’t or can’t.
This is the very nature of God! When we speak of His loving-kindness we speak of this ultimate humility. When we speak of His grace and mercy, we speak of this reality. Ultimate reality is not found in strength. It is found in weakness. It isn’t found in power or might, in reputation or status, in the things that this world esteems. As Jesus said, “The things that men esteem are an abomination in the eyes of God.” The world puffs up such things as preservation of self, promotion, worth by success, and every sort of thing that will burn at the end of the age. Ultimate reality is walking in light of eternity. Ultimate reality is unequivocal denial of self for the sake of others.
This is the basis of the communal God. God being in community with Himself is displayed in His suffering for the other parts of the Godhead. Our basis of community with each other is considering others before self. It is found in pouring ourselves out like a drink offering for each other. That means, I might add, that you don’t stop pouring until every drop is gone. We find it an honor, and we don’t complain about it, because we love. Our love is too large to preserve self.
This is the glory. This is the thing that we cannot behold in fullness or we would die. The only way to see the magnanimity of the cross is to bear it. We can’t understand how this is glory until we have tasted of the same death and resurrection. Jesus bore the guilt and shame of His people and took upon Himself the very sin of all humanity. He died. It wasn’t a cute romantic thing. It wasn’t, “Oh look at what God did for me!” Jesus literally died. The wages of sin are death. That death is as real as the breathing we perform moment by moment.
It was in the suffering of Christ that we find the glory all the greater. Why is it that we see God’s nature in fullness at the cross of Christ? For one, we see God in fulness because God chose to reveal Himself in fulness. As simple and circular as that might sound, it is an answer. We also see the full demonstration of the principalities and the powers at the cross. We see a full representation of evil and thus we see a full representation of God in the midst of that evil.
We cannot spend time speaking of the cross without the resurrection. Usually it is an addendum. It ought to be the whole of our faith. We believe in the resurrection because God has raised us up with Him. We have been buried in the same death that Christ suffered – the old has passed away and all things have become new – and now we have been raised by the same glory of the Father that raised Jesus as well. This is His glory. We too have experienced the resurrection.
We too have ascended. In Ephesians 2, we read the verse, “We are seated with Christ in heavenly places.” Does that really mean right now? Yes. Yes it does. Everything we do is now saturated with life. We are consumed with Heaven. Nothing is secular. Nothing is common. Everything is spiritual. Everything is sacred.
This is the resurrection. We have been raised up by the same glory that Christ was raised. We have experienced that same power. You want to know what the glory of God is? Get saved. If you have already experienced that, then you should already know what His glory is. You shouldn’t only know it; you should be walking in it and revealing it with every breath and every step.
Our lives are hid with Christ in God. The whole crux of the glory of God comes down to this one thing: Christ in you – the hope of Glory. Everything that we do comes from God. It is all saturated with glory. That is, of course, if we walk in that. We can choose to have that salvation thing once and then act as though nothing else is to gain. We can continue to live to self. We can continue to reject the glory. We can continue to have ambition and seek promotion.
But that isn’t the resurrection. The resurrection no longer desires the things of death. Once you have been reborn you cannot die again. If we need to continually get re-saved then we have either never entered the resurrection or we don’t know how to walk in that glory. There is a sensation that comes over someone when they receive their new birth. You know something was transacted. Many times we get addicted to spiritual highs. This leads to hype and hysteria and emotionalism.
Everything is bent on the glory of God. Everything is bent on the resurrection. If our lives don’t display the resurrection in every aspect, then we have utterly failed our calling. This is why Paul charges the Church to walk worthy of the calling we have received. The calling isn’t about whether we’re to be ministers or not. The calling is that in everything we do we display the very character of God: a suffering servant. We renounce self out of love for others. We renounce pleasures and luxuries so that others might obtain something greater than what this world offers.
This is the glory of God. He has given it to us to display before all mankind.
We’ll continue next time in searching out the depths of our glory.