By Ben Swift
“Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected.” (Jonathon Edwards)
Anyone who grew up in a 1980’s Western influenced culture would have found it difficult to avoid hearing the husky voice of Bruce Springsteen, ‘The Boss’, dominate the airwaves about the same time video put to death the radio star. One song in particular sits firmly embedded in my minds playlist, not only for its sound but also its lyrics. ‘Glory Days’, a simple yet deep reflection touching on life’s finite journey. The following words would ring true in the head of anyone who’s walked the earth long enough to wrinkle, “Glory days, well they’ll pass you by, glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye, glory days, glory days.” (Springsteen)
There is no denying it. We human beings have a short amount of time on this earth and an even shorter amount of time to reflect on what counts. We all need to ask ourselves the question, “Are we here to create glory days for ourselves or are we here to bring glory to our God?” While the temptation to strive for greatness is often held as the pinnacle of western living, it’s a question of who we seek to glorify in the things we strive to achieve. Clearly God has equipped humanity with a vast array of gifts and abilities but these can be used to either glorify ourselves or to glorify our creator.
Surely as followers of Christ we must clothe ourselves with the attitude of the Psalmist in Psalm 115:1 declaring, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness.”
Jesus way of being when it comes to glorification is very much tied to the nature of the Trinity and his relationship within it. As Christians we need to grasp the importance of the perfect loving relationship between God the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit so as to comprehend our purpose in serving to glorify the Triune God to all the world, in all that we do. Jesus makes this clear when he prays for himself:
“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, so that the Son may glorify you – just as you gave him authority over all mankind, so that he might give eternal life to all those whom you have given him. And eternal life is this: to know you, the one true God, and him whom you sent, Yeshua the Messiah. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. Now, Father, glorify me alongside yourself. Give me the same glory I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:1-5)
Maybe it’s a personal trait or maybe it’s one that is shared by many but I am often drawn to reflect on God and truth while listening to great music, not necessarily written with a Christian message in mind. The late, great Chris Cornell recorded an acoustic version of the Audioslave song, ‘Like a Stone’, which always draws me to a place of reflection, a place of longing for a relationship that can only be satisfied in knowing Christ. Consider the following words:
‘In your house I long to be, room by room patiently, I’ll wait for you there, like a stone, I’ll wait for you there, alone’ (Commerford, Cornell, Morello, Wilk).
When we place ourselves firmly in the house of the living God, like an immovable stone immersed in grace, we can become transformed in a way that brings glory to God, reflecting his glory into the world as we strive to live as he desires.
It’s not that Christ needs us to bring glory to himself or to the Father, rather it’s that we who have been called to him should feel compelled to acknowledge who he is and who we are in relation to him. Equipped with a knowledge of the reality of Christ, the focus of how we live should be narrowed in on bringing glory not to ourselves but to the One whom glory belongs. After all, Jesus once said that if the people were to become silent in praising him, the stones themselves would cry out, for his glory will not be contained.
Humankind has achieved so many great things and overcome so many immense challenges throughout history. We are constantly in awe of what we can achieve as we continue to build on the knowledge of our forefathers. We’ve not only put a man on the moon but explored the depths of space, mapping out a universe so vast and complex it boggles the mind. We continually break records in the sporting arena and improve what the body can achieve through advances in nutrition and biomechanics. We have learned to stop many deadly diseases in their tracks and operate on delicate organs such as the brain using high-tech equipment. We’ve learned to harness the energy of nature, gradually creating more effective sustainable forms of energy to combat climate change. The list could certainly go on. There is no question about the great potential of the human, it is simply about whether the potential of the human to desire personal glory from these pursuits be the goal, or as Scottish runner Eric Liddell did in his athletics career, to bring glory to God in all that he achieved. For to bring glory to our creator in this way is to play our part in the renewing of a broken world.
N.T. Wright in his book, ‘Simply Christian’, provides us with the following insight: ‘But new creation has already begun. The sun has begun to rise. Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world. It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds and stewards of the new day that is dawning.”
Let us then embrace our personalised set of gifts, talents and opportunities by investing them securely in Christ, by bringing ‘Glory Days’ to the one to whom they ultimately belong. Let Grace then be perfected in the glory of the Triune God.