Sunday, January 15, 2012

Entering into Glory

Last week a friend of mine posted her status on Facebook, noting that 10 years ago on that date her husband “entered into Glory.”   I’ve only known this woman for three years and know her to be a person of deep Christian faith.  I know little of her husband or the circumstances of his death except that he, too, was regarded as a man of faith, and that his passing from this world came unexpectedly. 

As I read her status I wasn’t sure how to name what I was thinking and feeling about what she had written.  She didn’t note how the loss was felt by herself or her family, but instead placed the focal point on her husband’s present existence and the future that is promised to all who place their faith in Jesus.

She didn’t say that her husband had “died,” or that he had “passed on,” or that he had “gone to a better place,” although we frequently hear these kinds of things at the time of death and they may speak a measure of the truth.  They convey to us the sense that the person we knew so closely, and was so dearly loved, is no longer among us.  My friend placed her focus on her husband and stated that at this very moment he was experiencing that destination that awaits all Christians, the very presence of the Lord, a presence summed up in one word, Glory.

When we consider ‘glory’ we think most basically of praise and honor.  But when applied to God, as ‘Glory,’ one dictionary says we have “The divine essence of God as absolutely resplendent and ultimately great” and “The praise and honoring of God as the supreme Lord of all.” (114)  The promise to be in God’s glorious presence and to participate in his praise is granted to all believers in Colossians 3:4, where Paul writes:

“When Christ who is your life appears, then you will also appear with him in glory.”

After seeing that initial status on Facebook by one friend I later saw one from another friend, who had seen the new movie about Margaret Thatcher.  The lesson she drew from that movie goes something like this: Thoughts shape words, shaping actions, shaping habits, shaping character, and ultimately shaping destiny. 

When I first read her report on the movie I thought that it made good sense, but when I thought about it later I came to the conclusion that for the Christian the starting place is not our thoughts, but our destiny. 

Our destiny is not some place or particular achievement here on earth.  Our destiny is an eternal existence with God in heaven.  In John 14:2-3 Jesus teaches:

“In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

Using our destiny as the beginning point, rather than the ending point, we can then seek God’s wisdom and help to guide and shape our thoughts, words, actions, habits and character in ways which are both pleasing to him and bring him glory in the world.  Paul writes about this at length in Colossians 3:5-17, the heart of which is:

“seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

I didn’t know my friend 10 years ago but I do remember the circumstances of my life at that time.  And as I ponder the intervening years I recall many of the people I’ve known and the way that God has been at work in my life.  I also am mindful of the ways I’ve resisted God.  Thankfully God’s promise is to always forgive my wayward thoughts and actions whenever I turn back to him.  Thinking and writing today of God’s glory reminds me of ways in which I can shine his light into the world, so that others may come to know his rich and everlasting promise.

None of us know when the time will be when we will be called by God to leave the places and people we so dearly love.  But what we do know, with certainty, is that because of the redemptive act done through Christ we who have faith in Christ will enter into his glorious presence, and participate in his Glory, forever.

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