God made men for glory. The glory of young men is their strength; silver hair is a crown of glory for older men. Children crown their fathers; grandchildren crown their grandfathers with glory. A wife is a crown of glory for man.
God made men for glory. He put Aaron and his sons in garments for glory and beauty for working in God’s presence and mediating that presence to the world. The priestly garments were meant to picture a man clothed in the glory that God always intended for men to bear.
We know God made men for glory because God is full of glory. God does whatever He wants to do, and He does it all very well. God doesn’t slip up, doesn’t make mistakes, never falters, is always right, and always does all that He does for the sake of His glory. But this is not monistic glory, no individualistic glory. This is Triune glory: The Father’s glory is speaking the Word and together with the Word sharing the life of the Spirit. And the Son’s glory is being the glory of the Father and the Spirit, performing the will of the Father, being the express image of the Father, being filled with the Spirit, and living out the power and authority and creativity of the Spirit. And the Spirit’s glory is filling and forming the image and glory of the Father and the Son in the eternal communion of God but also in creation and history and in men.
Glory shines. Glory is unmistakable. Glory looks good. Glory is substantial. Glory is authoritative. Glory is freedom to be who and what you are, what you were created to be. Glory has a long shelf life; it lasts. Glory is security, confidence, goodness.
Eric Liddell has famously said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” Glory is doing what God made you for and feeling God’s pleasure. It’s discovering, inventing, creating, accomplishing, winning, achieving, succeeding, liberating, conquering.
In the Old Testament, glory is literally heavy, weighty. Kings are glorious because they are rich; they are weighed down with gold and riches and gifts. Kings have no fear because they are rich, because they have resources at their fingertips. They have armies at their beck and call, servants at the ready. There is seemingly nothing they cannot have at their request. They are safe, secure, confident, unruffled, undaunted: glorious.
Likewise, children are commanded to glorify or honor their parents by making them glorious, considering their words and opinions weighty, heavy, and in their old age providing for them, making sure they have all they need. Making them safe, secure, confident through obedience and provision and service and sacrifice.
Glory is greatness, fame, honor, authority, power, freedom, security, confidence. And God made men for glory. Men are naturally hungry for glory. We naturally want glory. We want to be glorified. We want to be honored. We want greatness. We want authority and freedom and power. We love being secure and confident. And this is a good thing because our God is full of glory. Our God rejoices in His glory. He loves His fame, His honor, His authority, His power and freedom and security.
Hunger for glory is not evil. In fact it’s essential to our salvation. Paul quotes the Old Testament in Romans saying that God will render to each one according to his deeds, and then he adds, “eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality” (Rom. 2:7). Paul says that God grants the glory of eternal life to those who want it, to those who seek it patiently. In other words, God shares His eternal glory with those who chase after it. But Paul immediately adds that those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth will receive indignation and wrath (Rom. 2:8). There is a way to chase glory that is merely self-seeking, and there is a way to chase after glory that is God-seeking and God pleasing.
Young men are anxious for glory, for recognition, for respect. Boys want to grow up to be men, boys want to grow up and be strong, be honored, be followed. Young men want to find their niche, their gifts. They are anxious to hit their stride, to find what they were made for, to feel God’s pleasure.
Old men want to leave legacies of glory; they want to know they have done their best, and have no regrets. They want to be remembered well, to have spent their lives on worthwhile things. They want to feel God’s pleasure in their work accomplished, in their efforts expended. The proverbial midlife crisis is all about glory. It centers on questions of value, security, permanence. Are these things worthwhile? Is my job, my family, my wife, my life valuable? Will it leave behind a lasting legacy? Will I regret what I’ve done if this is how I finish the race? Is God pleased with my efforts, with what I’ve accomplished?
Of course a certain amount of circumspection is right and proper. We must judge ourselves or else we will be judged. We must prayerfully examine our lives before the face of God. Young men scramble for glory, grabbing for anything shiny, and sometimes any recognition will do. Young men are tempted to be impatient, insecure about their accomplishments or lack of accomplishments. They are tempted to grow bitter as they envy the early successes of their companions. Or they grow arrogant in as a protective instinct, an effort to offset their fears and insecurities.
Older men scramble for glory too, feeling the ticking of the clock of life, watching their hair recede and silver in the mirror, seeing friends and parents finish the race ahead of them. They are tempted to be ungrateful for what they have accomplished, insecure about what they haven’t accomplished, even bitter as they consider failed attempts, lost opportunities, and envious of the trophies they see on their friends’ shelves. They grow bitter, hard, protective. They try to consolidate, defend, grab for whatever they perceive as the glory nearest at hand.
All men want glory. All men want to be heroes. And that’s because we were made for glory. We were made to run well, to seek the prize, to feel God’s pleasure.
And the Devil loves to trip up men of God in sins of fear and envy and insecurity. And so the exhortation is a warning against these temptations men face as they chase after glory, as they must chase after the glory of God.
First: Do not be afraid of anything. Do not fear any pain, any humility, any sacrifice. As Christian men, as Christian ministers and elders we must understand the nature of true glory. When the first disciples of Jesus argued about greatness, Jesus didn’t correct their misunderstandings by telling them it was stupid to even want to be great. Rather, he insisted that if they wanted to follow Him, they had better get their heads in the game, and get down and dirty. The kind of ladder scrambling they were grunting about is the path to a cheap, superficial glory. Jesus doesn’t have time or interest for fake stuff. Jesus wanted and wants real glory, and tells His disciples that the secret to true glory is service and sacrifice.
Real glory is born out of real sacrifice, real risks, real pain. That means it’s going to hurt. It’s going to be painful. It will involve shame and agony. But men because of sin are naturally lazy cowards, and they’d rather get a crown of glory at the Devil’s Bargain Basement than actually get cut and bleed. But Jesus went to the cross for worthless rebels like us, Jesus humbled Himself for our sakes.
But some men, some Christian men, some Christian ministers ironically refuse to be crowned by God because they refuse to humble themselves before other men they perceive to be a threat to their glory, their authority, their prominence. But Jesus said that the way to greatness is through serving. And He proved it through His own death and resurrection. Humble yourself in the sight of God, and He will exalt you. Do not fear any humility. Do not be afraid of pain, of misunderstanding, of lies about you. Seek the face of God, trust your elders and fellow pastors, listen carefully to your wife, and then fear no humility, fear no sacrifice, fear no pain. If Jesus is in it, you are safe from every threat. And there is only resurrection and glory on the other side. Do not back away from the battle. Do not back away from the fight. Do not cower in the face of conflict. Do not be afraid of anything or anyone.
Second, we don’t crown ourselves. Therefore, do not envy another man’s crown. If it’s real glory, then you know he didn’t grab that crown for himself. It was given to him. If he did grab it for himself and now he’s making an arrogant show in the end zone, it isn’t real glory, and no matter how many twitter followers he has, no matter how big his church is, no matter the stories he tells, it isn’t the real thing and you don’t want it. Real glory is something that is always given. It is never grasped, never demanded, never tricked or caught. Glory, true glory, is always given by God and only by God. Glory is a gift and God is the source of all real glory. All glory flows from Him, from the Father, Son, and Spirit. If it isn’t from God, we don’t want it.
This also means that there is no such thing as someone who is just a glory-getter. Men are tempted to think that this is possible and envy those who seem to always have the lucky breaks, the book deals, the influential speaking opportunities, rapidly growing churches, whatever. But the only kind of glory there is flows to those who are glory-givers. The Father is glorious because He glorifies the Son and the Spirit; the Son is glorious because He glorifies the Father and the Spirit; the Spirit is glorious because He glorifies the Father and the Son. We do not and cannot crown ourselves; but those who set themselves to crowning the gifts of God in others are chasing real glory because they are imitating the God of glory.
Do you want glory? Then give it. Give it gladly. But remember: there’s nothing quite so inglorious as flattery. Praise and honor given with a manipulative intent is just sick. There was a movie a few years back called “Inglorious Basterds.” I don’t even remember what it was about, but that’s what a flatterer is: a false brother, a false inglorious son. And of course when you truly honor others, you will frequently run the risk of being accused of being an obsequious flatterer. But let the haters hate. We fear no false accusation. God gives glory. Glory is always given.
Third and last, men are tempted to be fearful, insecure, and envious because we assume that glory is a finite commodity. We imagine that glory is a pie with only so many slices, and when we see a brother served up an enormous slice we assume that means less for us. We secretly hate the brother and hate the Giver of that glory because we wanted a piece that big. But that’s not how glory works. Real glory, true glory isn’t so small, so finite. Glory is precious, valuable, and in one sense limited and scarce, but at the same time, because it is found in God Himself, it is unlimited, infinite, bottomless. Many heartaches and gut-wrenching theological and ecclesiastical scuffles and food fights occur precisely because at some level, men assume that if another man gets the prize that’s one less prize, one less opportunity for glory. If that man gets a promotion, then obviously I can’t get it, we subtly or not so subtly surmise. You can tell this kind of thinking is going on especially when men start making excuses for themselves and their situations or imputing motives or lucky break scenarios to other men. I would have … but I couldn’t… He wouldn’t have… except that he… And maybe it’s not polite to normally make those kinds of claims in public, but maybe you think them, maybe you say it out loud to your wife, or to a particularly chummy elder. But if the Trinity is our model for glory, then glory is actually something won, bestowed, and shared infinitely. And that doesn’t lessen any of the value. You don’t need to come up with some unique, super special, until-this-very-moment unknown tap into the glory of God. Far too many men go on the quest for absolute novelty, and the end of that road is a lonely seat in Hell.
But we have been given the inheritance of Jesus through the Spirit. We have a treasure that is inexhaustible and glorious and that will never run out, and because of God’s infinite knowledge and love, He is able to plan the absolute, infinite glory of every one of His sons in His beloved Son. This means that God is able to orchestrate the history of the world such that His glory is shared with a multitude that no man can number in such a way as to secure their glory without diminishing any of it. At the resurrection of the just there will not be just a vague blur of monotonous glory – an oxymoron if there ever was one, as though if everyone gets a prize, no one really gets a prize, like if everyone is special, no one’s special. No, the glory of God fills the heavens and the earth now. And if this broken and groaning creation still sings the glory of God now, we can rest assured that the new creation will blow our minds.
So this is the point: If the rulers of this age had known, they would not have crucified our Lord of Glory. But they did, and now He has been enthroned in a glory that will never fade and never run out, a glory that He is determined to pour out forever and ever on this world, until the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. And Jesus made this certain when He was lifted up on a Roman tree. There, He was the Lord of Glory because He took into Himself all of our stories, all of our aches, all of our guilt, all of our shame, all of our weakness, all of our failures, all of our lost opportunities, all of our wrong turns, all of our envy and fear, and then like a nuclear reaction, the world went black and on that first Easter morning the glory detonated, and the rest of the history of the world is this explosion of grace, rippling out in slow motion, echoing to the ends of the earth.
And to be forgiven and washed and adopted into the family of Jesus is to be invited to ride the waves of this glorious explosion. This is a wild ride, at times a terrifying ride, but it’s all glory, all grace. And there is no shortage. Wherever there is darkness, we proclaim this light. Wherever there is sin, we proclaim this forgiveness. Wherever this is pain, brokenness, hurt, we proclaim this justice. In the face of all fear, insecurity, envy, regret, shame, impatience, we proclaim the glory of God. God made men for glory; God made men to chase after glory, to love glory, to hunger for glory. And God has promised “eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality.”
Men, we have been invited into glory; we are traffickers of glory. We are glory dealers, glory givers, glory mongers. We are addicted to glory, and we want to get our people and this world hooked. At the center of this glory is a miracle called death and resurrection. We see this pattern in nations, in families, in individuals, and the center of this glory is the life of the Christian Church because the center of all human history is the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Lord of Glory. This last year, I have seen several remarkable instances of this glory, where broken, downtrodden, guilt ridden, shame-filled men have met this glory, have been knocked off their horses and met this Jesus and they are not the same. It’s common place to talk about how glorious the gospel is, but when you’ve seen hardened, angry, selfish men undone by the gospel, it’s glory in your face. And when you’ve tasted and seen that glory, the glory of forgiveness, the glory of light shining in the darkness, the glory of transformed lives and families, the glory of death and resurrection, the glory of new life, the glory of leaving sin and death behind forever, it reminds a minister, a man of God, it reminds us what we are for, what we are called to, that God has given us a particular kind of race, but He has made us fast and when we run this race we can feel God’s pleasure.
As we share our victories, our failures, our needs, our successes in the coming hours today and throughout the year, I want us to do this as a merry band of warriors, a team of brothers and sons who have a common goal, a common mission, a common race, chasing the glory of God, chasing trophies and crowns that cannot fade, calling down a glory from heaven on this world that cannot be shaken, a glory that cannot be taken away from us because we serve the Lord of Glory. And therefore, we are not afraid of anything or anyone.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Let us pray: God of all Glory, Father, Son, and Spirit, we worship you, we honor you as Lord of all Lords, God of all Gods, King of all Kings, and there is none beside you. We are tiny ants in your sight, small, feeble men, but you have made us to love you, to look up to you, to want to be like you. You have made us for you, to walk with you, to know you, to grow up to be big and strong and glorious like you. Teach us to number our days, to know that our lives are but a breath in your sight, but also teach us to glory in our moment, to rejoice in the glory of being small, to rejoice in humility, in sacrifice, in the pain for the joy and glory set before us. Fill us with the Holy Spirit, that our eyes may be fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, that Your glory may fill our lives, fill our churches, fill our cities, fill our nations, to the ends of the earth. Father we ask for miracles, for transformed lives, for forgiveness of sins, for radical, unflinching freedom to proclaim Your glory. We ask for your glory to come down on us, on our people, and our cities. And we ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord of Glory, who was crucified and raised for the salvation of this world. Amen.