God's Glory Is Our Greatest Good
I grew up in Oklahoma. Some of my favorite memories are of spending the blazing hot summer days eating snow cones and swimming in my Grandparents’ backyard pool. The only thing that could spoil the fun were the annoying wasps and pesky mosquitos. So my Grandpa (I called him Poppie), bought a Bug Zapper.
I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a Bug Zapper. It’s basically a big, lantern-looking device with a glowing, blue light. Bugs are irresistibly drawn to it, so they fly close. Then – ZAP! – they are annihilated. It even makes a satisfying sound every time a mosquito gets just a little too close.
Disney capitalized on the Bug Zapper in the movie A Bug’s Life. There are two flies together, staring at the light. Both are sorely tempted to draw near, but one lone, prophetic bug cries out, “Don’t look at the light!” Unfortunately, his friend cannot resist.
Although this is a slightly irreverent illustration, there are some ways in which the Bug Zapper is like God’s glory. He is majestic, full of splendor, holy, powerful, and irresistibly beautiful. God’s glory is manifested in each person of the Trinity. In John 17:5, Jesus asked the Father to glorify him “with the glory which I had with you before the world was.” It’s hard to imagine what this was like, but we do get a taste of it in the Old Testament. God’s glory rested on Mt. Sinai as a consuming fire. Like the bugs, the people of Israel were awed by God’s presence and power, but, because of their sinfulness, they could not draw near without being in grave danger. In fact, God warned them not to touch the mountain (Ex. 19:21). This happened to Isaiah, too, when he encountered the glory of Almighty God – he fell on his face and cried, “Woe to me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips.” (Is. 6:5) Yes, God is everything we could ever want, but in our fallen state, his glory will consume us if we draw near. This puts us in an impossible place, longing to know God’s glory, but at our own peril.
Since we could not draw near to the infinite God, he drew near to us and revealed himself in Jesus.
However, God, in his infinite wisdom and great love for his image bearers, decided to make a way for us to draw near without being consumed. He did that by doing something that no one would ever expect. It’s a whole other side to the glory of God. God the Son actually gave up the great glory he had with the Father to become a man. Paul writes, “Christ Jesus, although he existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.” (Phil. 2:5-7) Since we could not draw near to the infinite God, he drew near to us and revealed himself in Jesus.
Even more astounding, Jesus did not merely give up the glory he had with the Father, he gave up his very life. Paul continues, “Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:8) And here’s the key: Jesus’s death itself was the glory. Right before he went to the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son, that the Son may glorify you.” (Jn. 17:1) When John talks about “the hour” he means the hour of death. So, then, it was in the depth of giving his very life for the sake of others that we see the height of God’s glory. It is not what humankind would ever devise or even expect, but it is in this way that God has revealed his great glory
Best of all this display of glory accomplished our greatest good. Jesus’s death paid the debt for our sinfulness so that we could draw near without being consumed. In that same prayer in John 17, and in a display of ultimate selflessness, Jesus asked the Father to give all of his people eternal life. And this is how he defined it: “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (Jn. 17:3) Our sins have been erased, by the death of Jesus, for a purpose, and that purpose is that we might know God. Not in a distant way in which we see his glory but are afraid to draw close. No, in Christ, we have been brought near. We have been brought into the intimate, loving, eternal fellowship of the triune God. We are welcomed as children of the King never to have to fear being consumed by his glory.
Of course, Jesus did not stay in the tomb. He was raised from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God. One day soon, he will return again in great glory. Paul says that then “every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:10-11) And at that time, we will receive the fullness of the answer to Jesus’s prayer – we will know God fully. He himself will wipe away every tear from our eyes and will dwell with us forever. We will be with him in his full majestic, holy, beautiful splendor. This is the great glory of God, and it is our greatest good.
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