Yesterday I was preaching from Psalm 24 and God’s glory. It’s a helpful psalm to start the year as we plan and dream for the year to come. Reading a Psalm like this gets us asking the question: “Whose glory is at the heart of our plans?” Such a question can be abstracted to a point where it’s easy to fob off without much thought… of course I’m serving God’s glory! Some other questions help us to interrogate our motives though : “Whose resources are you seeking to grow?” (ours or God’s?), “Whose pleasure or comfort are you trying to serve?”
But like most sermons much content was left out. Essena O’Neill and her story about how the glory on social media she had achieved to satisfy because it was base on a ongoing burden for performance and ultimately pretending did get a mention (here is the article at The Australian I was referring to). However, while I printed a few copies of C. S. Lewis’ sermon: The Weight of Glory, (and they all gladly disappeared by the time I’d locked up), I didn’t mention it. It is available online here.
It’s a great sermon and has one of Lewis’ quotes I’ve regularly heard:
…if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
What I found helpful in what Lewis had to say was his struggles relating to us, simple Christians, actually sharing in Christ’s glory. Of being glorified by God, Lewis says:
When I began to look into this matter I was stocked to find such different Christians as Milton, Johnson and Thomas Aquinas taking heavenly glory quite frankly in the sense of fame or good report. But not fame conferred by our fellow creatures—fame with God, approval or (I might say) ‘appreciation’ by God. And then, when I had thought it over, I saw that this view was scriptural; nothing can eliminate from the parable the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” With that, a good deal of what I had been thinking all my life fell down like a house of cards.
When God’s great glory is understood and though Christ Jesus we can share in that glory (2 Thessalonians 2:14) we are liberated from being controlled by people’s expectations and being stuck in a game of performance and/or pretending about life. Tim Chester writes that often in Psalms, the author is reminding themselves “of God’s glory so that fear of others is replaced by trust in God. Whenever you see someone whom you fear or whose approval you crave, imagine God next to them. Who is more glorious, majestic, holy, beautiful, threatening, and loving? Whose approval really matters to you?” (Chester, You Can Change, p.92-3.)
God’s great glory therefore focuses our hearts to hold him in reverent fear and so be liberated from low self-esteem; and living an “edited and contrived” life. In Christ, we have God’s approval and hope of eternal glory!! We thus play to an audience of one—because only one matters and that gives us freedom to serve others in love (Gal 5:13).