I am a big fan of Lebron James. But as I watched the playoffs this this last week, I thought, “Glory is hard taskmaster.” Lebron promised Miami a handful of championships, and now there is tremendous pressure on him to win. He gets high renown and honor if he performs up to expectations, but he can go from hero to zero over the course of just two games. He may look magnificent in the moment, but those moments fade, and then he has to look magnificent again by doing something amazing yet again.
But let’s be honest: We pursue glory (renown, recognition and applause) in our homes, our work place, our church, online, with our friends. We want to be renown for something. We might not say “Look at me!” but we think it and hope it. And if being noticed become the most important thing – an idol, really - we will need to keep accomplishing things, and we will need to have people around us who notice.
- In our homes: We want our spouse or our kids to be impressed by our magnificence. So we do more yard work, or cook more, or take them on a bigger vacation, or buy them stuff, or work harder at our job to make more money…. And it’s not that these things are necessarily bad. They just become bad if they become about us. Soon we realize we are running ourselves into the ground, and the family isn’t noticing. So we have to either remind them about everything we are doing, or point out all their failures so our successes look better.
- With our friends: We want them to be impressed with our magnificence. So we get the beach body abs, or the new car, or the degree, or the new job. And even when they notice, we are never satisfied with the applause, and our friends are growing weary of us, and we just keep pushing ourselves harder and others away. And it’s not that these things are necessarily bad. They just become bad if you make them an idol.
- In church: We are generous with our time and money, we read and study so we know a lot, we have grown kids God’s way and they are just a model of respect and godliness (at least in front of others), we lead, teach, worship or serve in some way that is powerful and moving. And all of these are good things – unless we have turned them into something that is supposed to get us the glory and honor that is finally due to us. But we keep trying harder, thinking that one day God will reward our hard work and we will be NOTICED!!!
There are so many good things God has given us or placed around us, and they are meant to be a gift to us and the world. But if we simply pursue our own glory, this “I”dolatry will drives us mercilessly. It will always fades always leave us empty, always take a toll on the people around us. This brings us to Paul’s letter to the Colossian church. Right after his opening prayer, he quotes what many believe to be an early hymn of praise:
“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God, the firstborn of creation, the eternal. It was by Him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes. He has always been! It is His hand that holds everything together. He is the head of this body, the church.
He is the beginning, the first of those to be reborn from the dead, so that in every aspect, at every view, in everything—He is first. God was pleased that His full nature should forever dwell in the Son who bled peace into the world by His death on the cross as God’s means of reconciling to Himself the whole creation—all things in heaven and all things on earth." (Colossians 1:15-20)
- The eternal God in the flesh
- Creator and sustainer of everything.
- The Designer of Purpose
- The Head of the Church
- The Resurrector of the Dead
- The Redeemer and Reconciler of all Creation
He is preeminent, ultimately outstanding, first in everything, everywhere. Why does this matter? Because that kind of God is the only one who can do this:
“You were once alienated from God, wicked in your ways and evil in your minds; but now He has reconciled you in His flesh through His death so that He can present you to God holy, blameless, and totally free of imperfections as long as you stay planted in the faith. So don’t venture away from what you have heard and taken to heart: the living hope of the good news that has been announced to all creation under heaven and has captured me, Paul, as its servant...
What I am talking about is nothing less than the mystery of the ages! What was hidden for ages, generations and generations, is now being revealed to His holy ones. He decided to make known to them His blessing to the nations; the glorious riches of this mystery is that Christ lives in you, giving you the hope of glory." (Colossians 1:21-27)
“The living hope of the good news” is that we have been reconciled to God through Christ who lives in us, giving us the hope of glory.Commentators note that this phrase probably has a dual meaning. First, “the hope of glory” refers to the promise our next life in heaven. Second, it also refers to the impact of God in this life as well. Dóksa ("glory") corresponds to the OT word, kabo ("to be heavy"). Both terms convey that there is infinite, intrinsic worth of God’s very essence that has a depth, permanence, and beauty beyond what we can imagine.
God alone can bear what C.S. Lewis called “the weight of glory” – and He chooses to pass it on to us. And I don’t mean the glory that we tend to pursue. This is a different kind of glory that is all about Christ. It’s the kind of glory that does not fade, and is not empty.
So what are the implications ?
We are free from the burden of generating our own awesomeness. We don't have to worry about the applause of others – with Christ in us, we have the applause of heaven. We are magnificent because Christ is in us, not because we had the biggest sales month or have kids whose hair is always washed or we look good in a swimsuit or we are a leader. No one needs to notice. We no longer say “Look at me!” We say, “Look past me!”
We don’t need others to fail so we look better. We don’t need to impress anyone, and we don’t need to hold them hostage to our need for affirmation. They can flourish and we will rejoice. “You have the spotlight! Well done.”
Let’s just say, theoretically, that we were awesome for a day. And let’s just say that no one noticed. That’s okay. They weren’t supposed to look at us anyway. They were supposed to see Christ, and if I remember correctly, He is supposed to increase while we decrease. It’s when people look past us that they Christ in us, the source of our only true glory and our only true hope.