Being Human Beings

By Ben Swift

‘Science does an excellent job of telling me why I don’t have a tail, but it can’t explain why I find that interesting.’ (Rob Bell)

The question of what it is to be human is one that has surely bounced around in the minds of any person who has the mental capacity to reflect on the deeper things of life. But just how far must we travel in our search for a satisfactory answer; an answer that we can confidently call truth or at least reality? Finding answers to such questions can and will take us in all sorts of directions and so we firstly need a starting point, a contemplation that serves to steer us in the right direction.

A few years ago, the band ‘Casting Crowns’ released a song titled ‘Who Am I?’ that serves this purpose well. In the tradition of the psalmists of old, their lyrics cry out:

Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth, would care to know my name, would care to feel my hurt….

I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow, a wave tossed in the ocean, a vapour in the wind…

Surely such anguish-driven thoughts have paved the way for many a search for meaning. But before we head down the philosophical road, let’s take a detour and see what Science has to say.

At a scientific level, humans, like all other animals, consist of cells, the very fabric of life. These cells work together to enable the physiological and biochemical processes required by the organism to take place as it lives in an environment that meets the conditions needed for its life. The specific bundle of cells known as the human are classified as mammals, along with apes and lemurs, and belong to the order Primates – the highest level of mammal. They are first in the animal kingdom in brain development with especially large cerebral hemispheres. (Hickman, Roberts, Hickman) That’s right, humans have, in terms of the animal kingdom, relatively big brains. But it’s what drives these brains beyond biological explanation that is of greater interest.

Science – recognised as a discipline closely associated with logic – has led people to strange places when it comes to finding answers about the human condition. In 1907 Duncan MacDougall, an American physician, conducted a bizarre investigation known as ‘Weighing the Ghost’. He actually attempted to measure the weight of the human soul. His investigation involved placing humans literally on their death bed, enabling a difference in weight between the alive specimen and the dead specimen to be taken at the exact moment the soul was to hypothetically leave the body. Not surprisingly, nothing was really gained from these experiments. (Rooney)

Science as a discipline can teach us many things but it has its limits. Obviously, as humans, we are more than complex cellular organisms and not everything about us can be tested and measured scientifically.

Unless we are prepared to tackle the, ‘Who am I?’ question at a psychological and spiritual level, rather than at a material level, something of crucial importance to the understanding of what it is to be human remains a mystery. (Vardy)

While it would be foolish to deny that genetics plays a role in many aspects of the human being, just as it does throughout the animal kingdom, it cannot explain why we, unlike other animals, have a consciousness that calls us into a place of reflection and a search for meaning. You will find no written accounts reflecting on the longings of the heart from the perspective of a lemur. There’s just something higher about the human race, something that cannot be explained by including us purely as a piece of the evolutionary jigsaw puzzle.

It turns out however, that there are many voices trying to flag down our attention, hoping to convince us that they have the keys to the vault holding the truth about who we are. Thoughts from humanists, philosophers and religious teachers among others. Consider a thought from The Buddha:

‘All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think, we become.’

But what is the basis for such a claim? If we choose to venture down this path, our meaning as humans lies completely with the self, and it seems that the self has been unable to truly satisfy its own desire for higher meaning. The truth about who we are must transcend ourselves. Denial is a powerful mental state but surely we can’t deny that reality exists simply by thinking it into being something more palatable.

Alternatively, Genesis 1:26 clearly illuminates the special creative intentions that God has for human beings, explaining why we are the way we are.

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

Theologian Neil McKinlay puts it this way:

‘He gave His own reflection five senses to appreciate His beautiful creation. And with His own finger He delicately wrote His law of love on His little mirror as He breathed life into him. As the three persons love the eternal Godhead, so man was to image his Creator by loving God and his neighbour personally, perfectly and perpetually.’

It is exclusively through our understanding of who we are in relation to who the Triune God is that we come to comprehend what it means to be human. We have been gifted with the capacity to reflect the very nature of our Creator. Who we have become as human beings is often far from who we have been created to be and perhaps that’s why throughout history we have so widely missed the mark when it comes to answering the question of what it means to be human. The more we close our eyes and ears to all that Christ reveals to us about ourselves, the more we use our creative capacities to construct meaning from a source separated from truth and life itself.

Let us not be reduced to a complex clump of cells answerable only to our DNA or philosophies that preach the death of God and the power of the self. Instead let’s turn to a God who knows us better than we know ourselves; a God who has experienced what it is to be human.

“Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh.” (John Calvin)

Such is Love

By Ben Swift

Dedicated to Christy Jean Clarke (1974 – 2017)

“The beautiful simplicity of our faith is that it distils down to the exact same bottom line for both the brilliant theologian and the five-year-old child: love God and love each other – period.” (Richard Stearns)

Recently after attending the memorial service for a well-loved colleague who had passed away, I was overwhelmed by the intimate affect that one person could have on the lives of many people. Upon reflection, this remarkable woman’s legacy was so profound because her life, once unfolded and relived through those closest to her, embodied the essence of Stearn’s statement. It was said that while some people collect all manner of things, she collected people; people who responded to the genuine love shown for both God and others. To attend such a celebration of life is to hold a ticket to ride a rollercoaster of emotion, one that carries you from sorrow to joy to pure inspiration.

Several years ago, singer songwriter, Stevie Nicks, wrote a song called ‘Landslide’. Her lyrics, although reflecting on her personal issues, run deep and can serve to help us understand that life can sometimes take us to the top of the world, but in an instant, a landslide can bring us down. Consider the words of Stevie Nicks:

Oh mirror in the sky, what is love?

Can the child within my heart rise above?

Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?

Can I handle the seasons of my life?

And there lies the question that no human being can avoid. Can any of us handle the seasons of our lives? While there are many different ways we as people seek to sail through the changing ocean tides, few would disagree that ‘love’ must be part of the answer. But what is love? Or more importantly, “What is real love?”

It’s not uncommon to hear the phrase, “God is Love” but it’s the way in which we interpret this statement that becomes important to how it impacts our life. Our understanding of God as love will be shaped by our understanding of God in relation to both Himself and His creation. It is only in the relationship expressed in the Trinity that we can fully understand love, as this is the source of all eternal love.

‘Love is not eternal because the poet may ever so beautifully say so, but rather because God is eternal and says so. Each person in the Godhead eternally loves the other Persons. God eternally loves God and His neighbour as Himself. Love, therefore, protects and promotes the wellbeing of others.’ (McKinlay)

Stemming from this understanding of ‘God as love’, we who seek to love as Christ loves must see ‘God’s love for the world calling out an answering love from us, enabling us to discover that God not only happens to love us but that he is love itself.’ (Wright)

To the Christian it is clear that to understand love, and indeed to be truly loving, we must be in Christ, whose love exists eternally in the perfect loving relationship of the Trinity. This is because all aspects of love have been and are continually experienced and expressed in the relationship of the Trinity. The Triune God can identify with our human stories because He has firsthand experience with the emotions tied to our experiences of love. We see this time and again as we explore the revealed God of the Scriptures in the life of Christ.

“He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9b)

Louis Berkhof, in his book, ‘Systematic Theology’, suggests that ‘since God is absolutely good in Himself, His love cannot find complete satisfaction in any object that falls short of absolute perfection. He loves His rational creatures [us] for His own sake….He loves them in Himself, His virtues, His work, and His gifts.’ In other words, God’s love for us is tightly intertwined with us as His image bearers, sinful but perfected in Christ.

As we come to see love in light of God’s true nature, we come to a deeper appreciation of how great the sacrifice made on our behalf as Christ took upon Himself the sins of the whole world. Christ the Son, eternally existing in perfect love with the Father, being separated from Him as he took upon Himself the curse rightfully owned by humanity, is an act of love we will never fully comprehend. Jesus does however, give us a glimpse of His anguish both when praying in the garden before His arrest and from the cross.

“He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:35-36)

“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)

Although many would agree with the words of Jesus in John 15:13 in that there is no greater love than to lay one’s life down for another, the question of how a loving God could sacrifice His one and only Son is the flip side of ‘The Cross’. While there is mystery surrounding the events of the cross, just as there is mystery as to why people have love for one another at all, what was achieved through Christ on the cross helps us make sense of our own love.

We love because Christ first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

When it comes to ‘love’ there is much to be said and much that has been said. I wonder when the band, ‘The Beatles’, bombarded the airwaves with, “All you need is love”, if they had any idea of the truth that lay behind these words. While these words ring true in many ears, their power becomes real only when they acknowledge that ‘God is love’. All we need is God and the perfect love that can only be found in the Trinitarian relationship of God. In the Father’s deep love for the Son, we who belong to Christ have been given to Him as a loving gift from the Father.

Let us thank God for the people in our lives who truly bear the image of God by reflecting His love in their lives. These are the people whose theology becomes brilliant in their simple acts of loving God and loving others.

Grace Story

By Ben Swift

You’ve always been there

You watched the pendulum of time unwind

Before the bells could sing their chime

Man’s Christ bearing image forged within your mind

A revelation intimately signed

Creation’s gift of breath and beauty intertwined

But breaking your heart, man’s sin denied

The true place of man and of God only divine

Yet in grace, Father, Son and Spirit cried

Let our perfect love shine its’ Christmas light

In Christ man can truly be justified

As Satan’s skull is crushed forever from life

Sadness and the tears of man will be wiped from their eyes

Now eternally loved and sanctified

In the heavenly dimensions of God his sheep will reside

In fields of gold, beholding the Tree of Life.

Between The Trees

By Ben Swift

“But we shouldn’t be concerned about trees purely for material reasons, we should also care about them because of the little puzzles and wonders they present us with.” (Wohlleben)

Several years ago while studying for a Bachelor of Science, I needed to narrow my interests and choose what discipline would become the main focus of my study. Looking back I find it interesting – although not surprising – that I was most drawn to subjects in the field of botany. The life of trees and indeed all plant life can be fascinating and far less removed from our own lives than many people would care to contemplate. The life of trees have the potential to provide many profound lessons as they illustrate ever changing seasons of life and death, often forming significant links to memories of times past. In fact we are first given a taste of the significance of our botanical friends in the beginning.

God said, “Let the earth put forth grass, seed producing plants, and fruit trees, each yielding its own kind of seed-bearing fruit, on the earth”; and that is how it was, the earth brought forth grass, plants each yielding its own kind of seed, and trees each producing its own kind of seed-bearing fruit; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:11-12)

While humanity, created in God’s image and likeness, is recognised as being the pinnacle of creation, let’s not forget that God’s creation of the entire cosmos was said to be good, a claim from the Creator himself that includes botanical life. One may ask, “Why is this important?”

It turns out that human beings are not only to be sustained physically by God’s botanical creation, but are to learn from the many lessons revealed to us as nature and theology combine, pointing us to important truths.

Pastor Rob Bell once released a short film in his ‘Nooma’ series concerning life between the trees. As Bell digs his shovel into a strip of soil where he proceeds to plant two trees, he suggests that when we acknowledge ourselves as created beings in God’s world, we all find ourselves living between two trees. It is here that the trees metaphorically symbolize firstly Eden, God’s original garden paradise, and the beautiful, life-sustaining garden described in Revelation in which the Tree of Life exists for all who are in Christ. But what will our lives between the trees be like? What will be our story?

Where human kind was once cut off from the life-sustaining garden called Eden, falling under the curse of Adam’s legacy, we find that it is a tree of another kind that becomes the crucial tree in the human rescue story.

For it is written, ‘The Messiah redeemed us from the curse pronounced in the Torah by becoming cursed on our behalf; for the Tanakh says, “Everyone who hangs from a stake comes under a curse.” (Galatians 3:13)  So it was that Jesus Christ, God’s perfect Son, took upon himself the curse of Adam and his offspring as he hung from a tree, crucified for our sake. Through this act of love, God’s grace can be a part of our story as we live between the trees.

Just prior to the nailing of our Saviour to the tree, he was subject to the torturous act of being crowned with a twisted circle of thorns. The significance of this should not be overlooked. It has been suggested that thorns and thistles are a sign to us of God’s covenantal curse. When Adam sinned against God in Eden, the Lord said to him, “…Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you.” (Genesis 3:17-18) Once again, a botanical reminder of what has been achieved through Christ as he took on our curse in more ways than one.

As we read through and contemplate Scriptures, we see that Jesus himself invites us, time and again, to reflect on life and truth using plant life to simplify the profound.

As the stresses of this life begin to dominate and darken our stories, consider the comforting words of Christ: “Think about the wild irises, and how they grow. They neither work nor spin thread; yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed as beautifully as one of these. If this is how God clothes grass, which is alive in the field today and thrown in the oven tomorrow, how much more will he clothe you!” (Luke 12:27-28)

And then there are times where Christ, Creator of all things, refers to himself as a plant for the sake of our ability to understand our deep need to be rooted or grafted in Him.

“I am the vine and you are the branches. Those who stay united with me, and I with them, are the ones who bear much fruit; because apart from me you can’t do a thing. Unless a person remains united with me, he is thrown away like a branch and dries up. Such branches are gathered and thrown into the fire, where they are burned up.” (John 15:5-8)

Interestingly, following the death and resurrection of Jesus, the first person to encounter the risen Christ identified or mistook him as ‘The Gardener’. She [Mary] turned around and saw Yeshua [Jesus] standing there, but she didn’t know it was he. Yeshua said to her, “Lady why are you crying? Whom are you looking for?” Thinking it was the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you’re the one who carried him away, just tell me where you put him; and I’ll go and get him myself.”(John 20:14-15)

As was said in the beginning, God the Creator was pleased with His work, proclaiming it to be good at the conclusion of each working day. As many scientists – including well-known nature lover David Attenborough – attest, trees are the lungs of the earth. We are not only sustained by their ability to clean our air and produce the oxygen we need to breathe, but in their beauty and diversity, they also teach us about ourselves. Is it any wonder that God, ‘The Gardener’, uses his trees to teach his people about life in him, and therefore our own lives as we live between the trees?

Lines in the Sand

By Ben Swift

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever in not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. (39 Articles of Religion, 1562)

The trouble with great theologians can be that they are more often than not, very convincing expositionalists, capable of taking their well-ingrained, well-educated perspectives on doctrines and persuading their audience with the backing of Scriptural exegesis and logical arguments. But what occurs when one tries to draw a line in the sand, when it comes to age-old doctrinal debates such as ‘Election’ and ‘Predestination’, is that you can on one particular day, under the tutorage of one school of thought, take out your big stick and draw your line in the sand, only to have a wave of alternative thought swiftly wash it away, preparing a fresh sandy slate for a new line.

C.S. Lewis in his book, ‘Mere Christianity’, cleverly provides his readers with a metaphor for the Christian Church. He likens the Church to a mansion containing numerous rooms, each representing alternative traditions within the one true church body. He suggests that although Christians should be encouraged to meet in the hallways for discussion and debate, they need at some point to make their home in one of the rooms in order that they grow deeper roots and establish relationships that encourage each other in their Christian lives.

Lewis’ suggestion – although wise and worth considering – becomes difficult when the desire to choose a room is hindered by conflicting internal understandings surrounding important doctrinal perspectives. This becomes a particularly strenuous wrestling match when the doctrinal truths that one would seek to align with are scattered throughout different rooms and fail to all exist in a single room.

Having grown up the son of an Anglican Minister, and having frequently moved home as an adult where I have been associated with churches from several denominations, I am reluctant at the thought of settling in just one room within Lewis’ metaphorical house, particularly when I know the room must surely exist, just not in the part of the city within which I now live.

So why is this such a struggle? Can one overthink these things? Recently whilst attending a Presbyterian Church, the Pastor in his sermon on Romans 14 emphasised Paul’s desire for Christians within a church to avoid disputes with fellow members of the church body over issues that are secondary and that don’t define the primary, central truths of the Christian Faith. While this is certainly healthy advice for the strengthening and encouragement of the Church, the problem arises as to where we draw the line in considering what to include as central, doctrinal truths. Concerns may arise that perhaps carry some importance but shouldn’t become the cause of division within the church, but which concerns fall into this category? And who decides? Of course some may be obvious to most but some may be cause for further reflection.

“Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Romans 14:19)

Let us take for example the sacrament of Holy Communion. In terms of how often The Lord’s Supper is celebrated throughout the year, churches aligning with a Reformed tradition may show less concern for frequency than churches aligning with Lutheranism. Because the line in the sand separating these two views is not the same, it becomes difficult for a Lutheran to settle in the metaphorical room of the Presbyterians in this case. Why? Brian Thomas suggests, ‘The Reformed tradition is reluctant to accept that God can, and indeed does, work through external signs to bring sinners into saving union with Christ through the Holy Spirit.’ In other words, if you align with the Lutheran perspective on Holy Communion, by being denied regular, frequent opportunities to receive The Lord’s Supper, you are in essence, being denied the promise and presence of God in the meal. This is by no means a secondary concern in this way of thinking.

When it comes to debating about the different beliefs that surround a Calvinist view of double predestination in comparison to single predestination as held by Lutherans and many other protestant Christians, it is often said that we shouldn’t become too caught up in the differences as these are secondary to the centrality of the Gospel message. This becomes a struggle however, if we consider the flow on effects of each position. While much could be and has been written about these endless debates, an important point of difference that is central comes down to the question, “Who did Christ die for?” In other words, how do we read verses of Scripture such as, “And he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the whole world.” (1 John 2:2)

What does it mean, ‘the whole world’? Is it every human being or restricted to the ‘elect’? Are we to settle comfortably in a room that builds its understanding of who Christ died for when it sits on the wrong side of the line we’ve drawn in our understanding of the doctrine of election? Can these questions really become secondary concerns in our faith or do they in fact shape the way we interpret the Gospel message itself, the heart of the Christian Faith?

Perhaps we should be encouraged to take hold of the advice given by many biblical, evangelical scholars who suggest the following when reading and interpreting Scripture:

  1. What is the plain meaning of the text? To put it another way, without trying to read the text into a particular system of thought, what does the text actually say?
  2. Interpret Scripture with Scripture, not with any additional teaching.

As we continue in our Christian journey, seeking to draw lines in the sand that clearly define what we hold as truth, our lines may shift from time to time. It’s true we need to walk the hallways of discussion and debate as C.S. Lewis describes and hopefully, in prayerful consideration, find a room in God’s house in which we can let our roots penetrate. One thing is for certain, we who seek to live in the truth of Christ can all agree, if not always in our theology, on our humble dependence on the Trinity. Our dependence is on God and his Word. (John Stott)

‘Ism’ Schisms

By Ben Swift

‘Augustine was the ablest and purest of all the doctors, but he could not himself bring back things to their original condition, and he often complains that the bishops, with their traditions and ordinances, troubled the church more than did the Jews with their laws.’ (Martin Luther)

Like many other Christians from reformed, protestant churches, I recently attended a celebration of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, hosted by an evangelical group of Anglicans in Brisbane, Australia. While the night mainly focused on an insightful look at the life and influence of Martin Luther, it was during a concluding prayer session that my ears really pricked up. A gently spoken woman in humble desperation, placed before God her desire to see the Anglican Church as a united body, once again embracing the truth of Christ by acknowledging the Christian Scriptures as the inspired Word of God, the authoritative rock on which our life in Christ is to be built, the central place where our discernment is to be sourced through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.

How utterly bizarre and saddening that a Christian would ever need to ask for these things, as if they no longer carry weight in their cross section of the Body of Christ. But why?

Many have discovered that the deeper you travel in your theological journey, the more you come across the ‘isms’ that lead to schisms, but it’s how we deal with these that is of vital importance. After all, five-hundred years on from the Reformation, those of us in the West at least have the freedom to debate without the loser’s head being escorted to the chopping block. That’s not to presume there will be no fallout whatsoever though.

I have often thought of how great it would be to share in the life of the great theological minds of history, to reflect, read and write about all things Christ and discuss them, perhaps even respectfully debate them over a pint in the stalls of an Oxford pub. Just who would be invited to these great discussions on such important matters? Surely the likes of St. Paul, Luther, Calvin, Barth, and Lewis, but the list could certainly go on.

While this may be the pipe-dream of any apologist striving to deepen their knowledge of how to argue for their faith, thanks firstly to the printing press and now the Internet, we can all – minus the pint and physical presence – delve into the minds of the God fearing men whom God has spoken through as they helped expand the boundaries of Protestantism from the time of the Reformation.

But what might we discover as we digest the printed words of historical theological thought? Will these men of influence bring cohesion or ‘isms’ that lead to schisms within the Body of Christ?

What are some of these so called ‘isms’ that have seemingly caused schisms within the church? While there are too many to mention, perhaps some that have been of strong influence within Protestantism include Lutheranism, Calvinism, Romanism, Evangelicalism, Liberalism, Pentecostalism and Post-Modernism to name a few. Between these ‘isms’, while many core beliefs are shared, there also exists differing interpretations that have been influenced by key theological and philosophical figures throughout history.

Perhaps some of the more significant areas of contention revolve around such areas as the authority of Scripture, election, predestination and who Christ died for, the nature of sin and the correct view of the sacraments. There are some in the church who suggest that these matters are not central to the Gospel message and therefore we should not become too caught up in trying to grapple with them at the expense of unity. Others would argue that wrestling with these understandings – while conceding that some things will remain in the realm of mystery – is incredibly important as they act as a lens through which we read and interpret Scripture. Take for example the current issue being hotly debated in many western countries around whether or not to redefine marriage to include same sex couples. The way in which Christians view Scripture is pivotal to how they will interpret what writers such as the Apostle Paul are teaching us in relation to this issue. Are Paul’s letters inspired words of God or are we to reinterpret them according to the culture of our day? But then if we can reinterpret Scriptures to suit the desires of our culture, can we then not reinterpret Jesus’ exclusive claim to be the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the father but through him? (John 14:6)

Returning to the roots of the Protestant Reformation is important. It was through this reforming that the Church once again became more than the religious institution. All could now read or hear for themselves the good news that in Christ we have assurance that through faith we can become the children of God and no human can alter this truth. As Jesus said just before his dying breath, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

Upon final reflection of the presenter’s words from the Reformation Celebration, the Reformation is by no means over, we who seek to follow Christ in all his truth are still in the midst of an ongoing process. We need to continue in our struggle for the upholding of truth, always taking the schisms that inevitably come through the ‘isms’ back to Christ, back to the Scriptures and back to a place where even the most theologically astute humble themselves like children before their Triune God.

For in the end we must all arrive at the conclusion of Karl Barth who when asked after a lifetime of theological research and contemplation, “What have you learned?” He answered, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

Glory Days

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.