“Hope of the Glory of God”: Some Brief Thoughts on Romans 5:2

“Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:2)

What is the “glory of God”?
The “glory of God” refers to God’s splendor, brightness, amazing might, greatness, and glorious being. The focus is on who God is, not so much on what God does.

What is the “hope of the glory of God”?
This hope, although impossible for our feeble minds to comprehend, centers on three things: (1) A Christ-follower’s future life with God in Heaven forever; (2) a Christ-follower’s right-standing in Christ instantly after death; and, (3) a Christ-follower’s present life with the Holy Spirit in this world as he awaits death or the coming of Christ. Although these three aspects present different angles on the hope we have as Christ-followers, they are hinged on the fact that we live in the presence of Jesus Christ, Himself—today, tomorrow, and forever. And the hope of what is yet to come pivots on the truth that we will actually see Jesus face to face. When we begin to grasp these perspectives of the glory of God, we are transformed to truly experience the hope and joy of being Christ’s own.

This is our greatest hope.

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Do You See Clearly?

“2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4)

What is your response to the calamities of life? Do you celebrate? Is there excitement? Joy? If you’re like me, your natural response to the various trials of life is not jumping for joy. In many regards, it’s just not normal. For most, even the consideration of joy in the midst of trouble seems ludicrous.

So, why does James offer such a seemingly out of touch view? Was he some sort of fanatic?

Well, he saw something that many do not see clearly. He saw Jesus Christ. Yes, Jesus was his earthly brother, but through God’s grace, James began to see who Jesus really was. He saw that Jesus was not just another human man. No, Jesus was God; God in the flesh. Jesus stooped down to this world, willingly laid Himself down to brutally carry the sin of the world upon Himself, paying the punishment for each of our sins, and rising to life–conquering death forever! Jesus is truth, love, and hope. He is the hope of the restoration of all things, including you and me.

James came to the place—the cross—of embracing this. And because of the cross, his entire life trajectory changed. He had a different end destination. He lived invigorated with a new purpose that informed every area of his life. He experienced joy—even in the midst of suffering—because he began seeing the world through a different lens.

It’s not normal to see through this lens, but it is true…once we see Jesus clearly, we cannot help but view the world and its troubles differently. We see the difficulties and trials, but somehow, there is a hope that brightly illuminates the horizon and increasingly draws in our gaze. This hope is Jesus. Once we see Him, we begin to understand the transformation that occurred in James’ life.

We just need to believe—to invest completely our hopes, dreams, and lives in Christ.

James saw Christ. He saw Christ as the piece that connects all things for the hope of restoration. He saw Christ as the answer, the solution to the problem of sin. Therefore, James’ vision for life did not end with suffering or a “woe is me” attitude. He knew maturity and completeness were coming. He knew there was something more. He also understood that an endless state of perseverance never concludes the story. For those who see Christ, perseverance is simply a road to the hope of glory that is to come. Because James recognized this, he could write, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

Do you see clearly?

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Hope in Suffering

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18)

Back in college, at Northern Michigan University, I remember a dear friend, Morgan. She was a quiet, humble Art student, who’s face always shined a smile, laced with joy. She, just like any other college student in the U.P., loved exciting wilderness adventures and late nights laughing with friends, but her greatest love was Jesus. Whether she realized it or not, she had a knack for gathering people together, intently listening to them, and offering super-sized doses of encouragement.

Towards the conclusion of her college years, in November of 2005, Morgan was engaged to be married to her boyfriend of many years. But just a handful of months later, in April, Morgan was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma—cancer in her lymph nodes. And so, her many regular trips to the doctor for Chemo Therapy just began.

In January of 2007, Morgan married her best friend. She enjoyed the day, as her husband wore his cowboy-style tuxedo, and she dawned a simple yet beautiful gown. The day was a glorious celebration of their long awaited union in marriage, but the stench of brokenness still filled the air. As everyone at the reception danced wearing hats to make light of Morgan’s lack of hair, they were all thinking about how Morgan had to travel back to the hospital the next day for an extended stay. There would be no extravagant trip to the Bahamas or a quiet winter cabin in the woods with her husband. No, not even twenty-four hours after her reception, Morgan journeyed back to the hospital for more treatments.

For her first year of marriage, she spent more days at the hospital than at home. Her husband spent each week, two hours away, at their home so that he could work and try to pay the bills. He would stay with her at the hospital on the weekends, only to leave in the wee hours of the morning on Mondays to get back to work. For a year, this was Morgan’s normal; this was how she lived.

Morgan experienced extreme suffering, and many times, felt deep frustration or even anger towards God. But Morgan’s perspective ran deeper than the suffering she experienced. Through it all, her deepest desire was that God would be praised. She realized life was not about her.

In January of 2008, just one year after marrying her best friend, Morgan passed on to glory. Although covered in sadness and joy, Morgan’s story shaped the lives of her family and friends, but to others, it was simply a stark representation of how sin causes deep, deep suffering in our lives and in the lives of those we love.

Sometimes we experience the hurtful consequences of our own sin; other times, it is the interworking of the sin that is woven within our culture and world that causes severe suffering in our lives.

Suffering proves to be a very real experience for each one of us, even though it is often manifested in different ways. Suffering is heavy. It is oppressively disheartening. It can seem unbearable. Many even view suffering as the absence of hope.

But hope is greater than suffering.

Hope is the perspective that something better is yet to come. Hope can exist in a new job, a spouse, a vacation, a financial gain, or an upcoming social event. Some hope in food, drink, wealth, or relationship, but it is glory that provides supreme hope, the glory that is to be revealed to us.

The hope of glory–which presently resides with those who have received Christ–encourages, empowers, and strengthens those who suffer. When we have been grasped tightly by this everlasting hope, it is always enough. We thrive in it; we rejoice in it; we rest in it.

As Morgan laid in her hospital bed, just moments prior to breathing her last, she asked for a fork because she always lived by the motto: “Save your fork, for the best is yet to come.”

Just as Morgan looked ahead to the glory of dwelling in the eternal presence of her Savior, it is the future grace of glory that steadily and confidently leads each of us through the sufferings of this present time.

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All By Myself

“Dad, I went potty, all by myself!” Those are the words of my three-year-old and youngest son as he walked out from the bathroom at our house. He was thrilled that he was just like his big brothers in terms of his bathroom abilities. It was almost like he had been waiting for this moment, forever. It was finally here. He went potty all by himself.

I also see this all by myself attitude in my older boys. In fact, just last week, my six-year-old came and showed me the spaceship he made with Legos. It wasn’t enough to tell me about the powerful rocket blasters, incredibly accurate laser guns, and stealth landing gear attached to the underside of the spaceship; no, he emphatically stated, several times, that he made it “all by myself!”

That same day, my nine-year-old approached me, “Dad, when will I be old enough to stay home, all by myself?”

Like my boys, I find great pleasure in doing things, all by myself. It’s part of growing up–maturing to become a ‘real man.’ Being the not-so-handy guy that I am, I took great pride in installing a new kitchen faucet for my wife. I like that I could change the headlight bulb in my van without taking it into an auto shop. I feel good when I can help someone work through an emotionally difficult counseling situation. Having a truck to haul wood, bikes, and other big stuff so that I don’t need to ask to borrow someone else’s promotes a seemingly positive sense of “I can do this, all by myself.”

Being self-sufficient has a very lofty place in my life, and I would bet you, too, in one way or another, hold self-sufficiency in high regard. It’s just part of our culture. But more importantly, it is a sin problem.

The sense of accomplishment and pride I feel after completing a project all by myself invigorates me. Self-sufficiency makes us feel good because, deep down, at the core of who we are, we have a desire to make much of ourselves. Whether we realize it or not—whether we acknowledge it or not—we want to worship ourselves. This narcissistic state of being is subtle because our culture promotes it in an extreme way. Narcissism has keenly and quietly assimilated itself within our lives.

Our society wants our kids to develop a sense of pride in themselves. We’re called to “be all you can be.” We become afraid that if children do not have a high sense of value of themselves, they will turn into drug-addicts, alcoholics, or lazy couch-potatoes, who do not positively contribute to society.

In reality, kids need to know that they are insufficient because of their sinfulness and that they are deeply, forever loved by God, their Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ. When these truths collide in a child’s life–and, when their parents are the ones teaching and modeling these truths–kids will grow up to offer incredible gifts to society with their lives.

I do not consider myself to be some sort of ‘excellent parent’ (because I’m NOT), but I do see self-sufficiency as a major issue in American culture. I also see Jesus as being the fulfillment of our lack of sufficiency.

In America, we have been blessed, by God, with so much! We have so many more resources than in most other parts of the world. This fact not only calls us to give generously to those who do not have what we do; but, it also implies that we must be intentional about our battle with the sin of self-sufficiency. It is in no way wrong or sinful in itself to manage situations or do projects by ourselves. This becomes a challenging topic to address because there is value in being independent and not fully reliant on others to meet every basic need that we have (i.e. food, shelter, clothing—we need to get a jobs and provide for our basic needs). However, the problem arrises when our hearts fill, and begin to overflow, with pride, arrogance, self-promotion, and the addictive feelings of self-independence.

We were never made to go through life alone. On quite the contrary, God created us for community with Himself. Psalm 73:26 says, “God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” God is our portion for life! He is enough; He is sufficient. He is our everything! God created us to be solely dependent on Him.

As we depend on God, we were also made to exist in intentional community with one another. This truth is clearly stated throughout Scripture. In Genesis, God said of Adam, “I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). The New Testament speaks of each of us as being important parts of the “body of Christ.” Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

We were meant to live dependently in community with God and with one another. Self-sufficiency has no place in our lives. God desires to live and work through our lives to sustain, shape, and spur us on to do His work. God intentionally places other people are in our lives to help us. He places us in others’ lives to help them.

So, what should we do?

In times when we feel overwhelmingly self-sufficient, we need to repent and acknowledge our need for and reliance upon God. We need to see how God places others in our lives for a purpose—that we would invest in them and they in us.

In seasons of insufficiency, rejoice, because God created you to lean on Him. And, He is enough; He is always enough.

And as for parenting, when my youngest son came out of the bathroom, excited that he went potty all by himself, I responded: “That’s great buddy! I am thankful for how God helped you learn how to do that, but did you wash your hands?” You can probably guess his response.

There is still much more for us to learn.

Thank you, God, for creating us to be dependent on You and for Your merciful grace that sustains us through it all.

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Inexpressible Joy

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”
(1 Peter 1:8)

I was asked last Sunday morning at church, “Mike, how are you?” I enthusiastically started my response by saying, “Great! I am doing great!” But very quickly, I remembered the reply I was ‘supposed’ to give. “Well, actually…my father-in-law had a liver transplant several weeks ago; my grandpa passed away the week after that; my grandma is struggling through alzheimer’s in a nursing home; my wife is overwhelmed with the kids being home on a cold, winter day; and, I just got word that my other grandpa fell, hit his head, has not regained consciousness, and will very possibly die soon.”

As soon as the enthusiastic response departed my mouth, I recalled how I was expected to answer the question, “How are you?” Given the circumstances, most people would expect tears of sorrow or a ‘woe is me’ attitude. In fact, my response even surprised me. It is far from our cultural norm to say, “I am doing great!” while experiencing deep hardship.

I don’t—in any way—intend to be rude or insensitive, but in my experience (which is limited, considering I am only 34 years old), most of us tend to translate the inquiry, “How are you?” to “How do you feel about the way your circumstances are affecting you?” We often times consider the events that take place in our lives to determine our attitudes or states of being. I am guilty of this, seemingly constantly.

Daily, I allow my circumstances to affect my attitude about life. When I am overly hungry, my attitude is cranky. When I am tired, my attitude is repugnant. When the budget gets tight, my attitude is anxious. Needless to say, circumstances, at times, directly impact my attitude.

Because this seems so often to be the case, I was surprised when I responded differently last Sunday at church. My heart honestly felt great! Although grief and sorrow were real and alive in my heart, they could not touch the joy that trumped them.

Please don’t misunderstand—circumstances should impact us! If God did not intend life’s happenings to shape us in some way, He would not have given us our senses—sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. These provide evidence that God desires us to feel the world. God not only allows us to go through difficult circumstances, but He also intends that we would go through struggles, so as to grow and shape us for His glory.

However, when circumstances function as the primary navigation tool of our attitudes, we miss out on God’s best. In fact, when we view our attitudes about life through a circumstantial lens, our worldviews are self-centered—everything is about what happens to us; the world is seen as having a spotlight on our own lives.

We naturally tend make everything about ourselves. We see those things that happen to us as the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in our lives. We also tend to narrowly look for how we can be benefited, rather than others. This is true for all of us. Even as Christ-followers, we focus on the benefits of following Christ, rather than on Jesus Himself. Although we should celebrate the forgiveness of our sins, the enlightenment that comes from God’s Word, and the hope we have in Heaven. But, even these wonderful gifts (circumstances) should never become more delightful than knowing the Person of Jesus Christ.

I understand that it seems to be an impossible task to see how the world centers around Christ when all we can see in a particular moment is that which is through two small eyeballs in one tiny corner of the earth. But the truth is, people live, die, and are forgotten everyday. Even the most famous of people gradually become distant historical figures, of whom are known increasingly less. Simply put: Life is not about us or the things that happen to us. Everything—from the world in which we reside to the daily happenings of our lives—is about Jesus and His glory. And this is not a bad thing. This is the most amazing truth we can ever comprehend.

Jesus is sovereignly reigning over all creation. Jesus is the centerpiece of all things…and, He has our best in mind.

And when we realize this and come to a place where we delight in Jesus—for who He is—we live differently. We answer the question—“How are you?”—differently. We can live with an inexpressible joy that grief and sorrow cannot touch, even in the very real troubles of this world.

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This Love…Proclaimed

We recently started a new sermon series at Gateway, and it’s called, “This Love.” In this series, we will be exploring love in the letters of 1-3 John. It is a series about the one and only, true, lasting, pure love that is Jesus and His grace.

I kicked it off with a message titled, “This Love…Proclaimed” on June 22. You can check out this message and others in the series by visiting: http://www.gatewayepc.org/media.php?pageID=30

And remember…when this love grips us, we can’t help but proclaim it.

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What Is Real & True?

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.” (1 John 1:1, NIV)
Have you ever heard something was true but struggled to believe it? It could be a fact of nature, such as: the lightning we see in the sky is actually traveling from the ground to the clouds. Or, it could be something more personal. Perhaps your wife got pregnant while all of the doctors said it could never happen. Maybe a family member overcame a zero percent chance of remission from cancer. How about getting that job that no one, including yourself, thought you were qualified for?

Sometimes we cannot fathom what people say. We have to see it to believe it. We want to hear from a witness. Someone who has seen and heard and touched the truth. We want to understand the truth from someone ‘credible.’ We want to know what we are hearing is credible. We want to have all the evidence.

This was true for the early Christians in and around Ephesus concerning Jesus. They needed to hear from a witness. Someone who actually saw what happened. Some struggled to believe Jesus really was God, or that He truly rose from the dead. But there was a witness. Actually, there were many witnesses.

This is the message of 1 John 1:1. John, a cousin and disciple of Jesus, talked with Jesus and spent significant time with Him. In fact, he devoted three years of his life to walking around with Jesus. From the day he began to follow Jesus, John knew—without a hint of doubt—that Jesus was different. John knew Jesus was special. John came to know Jesus as God, manifested in human form. That’s why he says, “That which was from the beginning…”

Jesus was in the beginning.
He is God, and He created the universe. The Bible says, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth…all things have been created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:15-16, NIV)

John continues to explain that this same Jesus who was in the beginning was also the one that John spent a significant part of his life with. He writes, “…which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched…”

Jesus is that guy! Jesus is God, but He is also the One John followed around for several years. And John is saying, “I know this guy! I spent time with Him. I listened to Him. I observed how He lived. I watched the miracles. I witnessed how He died and rose to life on the third day. I’ve touched His hands. This guy is the real deal!”

You see, John is a witness. John recognized who Jesus was and who Jesus still is today. And John saw the truth so clearly that he became overwhelmed by it. It moved him; it provoked him to action. Therefore, after Jesus ascended to Heaven, John spent the remainder of his earthly life writing and telling others about Jesus. He couldn’t help but spread the message of what he had seen and heard. He just had to tell everybody about Jesus.

What about you?
Have you been so transformed by the reality of Jesus and His work in your life that you can do nothing else but proclaim Christ?

He was real to John. John saw, heard, and touched Jesus. John recognized Him as God, and he worshiped Jesus.

Is Jesus real and alive in your life? Have you encountered Him?
If not, open the Bible, read, and listen carefully. Expect to experience Christ.

And then, be ready. Because He will change you…forever. You will never be the same. You will be overwhelmed by the truth and work of Jesus. You will find yourself in that place where all you can do is proclaim Christ.

Jesus is real, and His message is true. Will you believe?

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