This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here
Today is the conclusion of our service series “When God’s glory touches the earth / people. And I would like to draw the big bow again at the end. We have come to know one side of God, His glory, which we seldom concern ourselves with. Often we emphasize his love more and when we talk about God’s greatness, then some immediately have the image of a threatening, punishing God in mind. We have found that God is very threatening because he is holy, pure, we humans cannot stand his presence. This greatness of God, which we cannot grasp, is what makes us able to believe that God holds the whole world and its developments and also your and my life in his hand. And it is very much right that it is good to be in awe of God, that is to take him seriously and to give him the place in our lives that is due to him, at the center of our lives, for we have also seen what the consequences are when people lose sight of him. But God is not a God we have to be afraid of and who punishes us, hardly that we do anything wrong, but a God who wants to be close to us. The one way seeks and creates how we can meet him again in his glory and holiness, because that is God’s longing to live a deep relationship with us.
We have seen that this is why Jesus came to this earth as the Son of God, that he cast off his glory and became man, but that the glory of God is visible in his miracles, his words and his being and at least once in his appearance as well flashes through. Through his death on the cross and his resurrection, he makes the impossible possible. We humans can come back into the presence of God and have fellowship with him if we accept his forgiveness and start a new life with him. Through him, as Paul writes in Rom. 5: 2, we have access in faith, i.e. in trust and in our relationship with him, access to the grace of God. After his resurrection, Jesus appears to his disciples over a period of 40 days. They sit together, they eat together. In this way Jesus shows them that he really is resurrected. He explains to them what the kingdom of God is, how to live it. And finally, he tells his disciples that he will forsake them and ascend to heaven. That he will prepare apartments for them and come back one day and bring the people who believe in him and live with him to him. Heaven is open to everyone, but it is up to each individual to decide whether or not to accept God’s invitation. Jesus makes it clear to his disciples that this is why it is so important to tell everyone about God, his nature and his desire to have fellowship with people, and about what Jesus did for them. Last Sunday it was about the great goal of God with us humans, that there will be a place where God will dwell among humans again, as he originally thought, that there would be no suffering, no screaming, no pain will give more. That there will be peace, that there will be justice, that love will rule and all evil will be destroyed. But can it be that God wants to come very close to us humans now, not just then. That it is not enough just to live for this time. And can it be that God is much more deeply involved in our world than we often believe? Just before his ascension, Jesus said: (John 16.7)
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. Jesus is speaking here of the helper, other translators write comforters, and he means the Holy Spirit. The third person of the trinity. The incredible thing is that God wants to be so close to us that he sends us his Holy Spirit, who now lives even in us and through whom he is united with us. Paul writes it like this:
26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: 27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Colossians 1: 26-27) Christ in us, the hope of glory. So today we should conclude what this means for us as people who have accepted God’s invitation. Christ in us, the hope of glory, Paul writes that what has now been revealed is a mystery, and that this mystery contains a glorious riches for us. This wealth means first of all what it was all about last Sunday: We have a hope for future glory and with this perspective we can and should live:
1. Perspective – On the way to future glory
Paul prays, (Eph. 1.18) The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints. I think we all need those enlightened eyes right? When we are so involved in our everyday life, then we are so fixated on what is just ahead of us – the tasks, sometimes the mountains that pile up in front of us – and then we need this larger perspective. That that’s not all and that we walk around with our heads down, but that we raise our eyes to what is to come. Through Jesus we shared in the kingdom of God, which begins here, and in eternal life. Christ in us, the hope of the glory to come. I don’t want to repeat everything from last Sunday, please listen to the sermon again. But I am convinced that eternity will be an incredibly awesome place. John cannot really put it into words because it is beyond our understanding, all human experiences. But what he can describe is that all the difficult things in our life will no longer be there. No suffering, no screaming, no pain, instead peace, justice, love. All evil will be destroyed. And the best: God is there. Is he now, too, but then visible, he lives among his people, just as he went for a walk in the garden with Adam and Eve at the beginning. And what kind of hope is this in view of the current situation, what hope in view of your personal situation and what hope in the face of the last enemy of us humans, death. Today we celebrate Eternal Sunday and on this day we especially think about those who died last year. And what a hope that one day we will see the people who lived with Jesus again with him. What a consolation with all that is difficult, what that also means for those left behind who miss their loved ones. In the face of this hope Paul also writes For I am convinced that this time of suffering does not weigh against the glory that is to be revealed in us.
(Romans 8:18): For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
What is coming is worth holding on to and sticking with it. Christ in us, the Holy Spirit in us, he is the seal, the guarantee, the deposit, the security, the pledge that it will also come that way and that we will reach this eternity. Like our deposit system, where the symbol on the bottle guarantees that the machine will accept it and that you get your money. Someone once said that God takes bottles back because his Holy Spirit lives in us, even if you feel like a bottle empty, as Trappatoni once said, God receives you into his glory. By the way, God knows about our condition, including the guilt in us, but he loves us infinitely. We are not empty bottles for him. Paul writes:
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1: 13-14) Whatever your situation, we can look up and get that perspective on the way to future glory. And one of the meaning of the Lord’s Supper, which we celebrate afterwards, is to keep reminding us of this perspective: God made a covenant with me and took me into his family. I am his beloved child. And one day he will come back and take me to him. And when I have already died, he will raise me up to live in eternal fellowship with him. That alone is reason enough to be happy. But that alone is not enough. Just to put your hope in eternity. For Christ in us means that the glorious God lives in us. So one could also say that not only do we have hope of future glory, but glory already within us.
2. Presence – living and being transformed through and with Christ
Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you. 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: 9 Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. 10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 11 To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (1-Pt. 5.5-11) When Jesus ascended to heaven, he left his disciples on earth. Your reality, just like ours, like that of every human being, is that everything is not always easy in our life. Peter describes that dealing with one another is not always easy. That we have worries. That we suffer. That God’s adversary, the devil, wants to destroy people and destroy closeness to God. God knows about our condition, so Peter writes: God will bring you to your goal, he will strengthen you ‘in faith’, give you strength and put your feet on solid ground. And he does that through his Holy Spirit who lives in us. His job is to make the glory of Jesus visible; that he lives in me is the guarantee that I will arrive at my destination. We already had that in the first point: He gives me the assurance that I am God’s child. He comforts, encourages, teaches and reminds me of what God has said. He strengthens me when I come to God with my worries and gives me peace and trust. He gives me strength in the fight to withstand the devil and sin. He shows me what is good and what is not, he convicts me of sin and changes our hard and rebellious hearts and our characters into the image of Jesus.
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 So when we look at Jesus, an image that we live near him and maintain fellowship with him, then we are changed. Jesus speaks of just that in the image of the vine and the branches. If we stay in it, i.e. connected to it, then fruit arises. Then our character changes into the image of Jesus and this is also shown in our behavior. This life in communion with him is a full life. But if no fruit is visible in our life, if we do not love other people and God, because love is one of the main characteristics of God, then we have to ask ourselves how much space the Holy Spirit actually has in our lives or whether we might not be like the Pharisees are who only outwardly took care to keep up appearances, but who never really opened their hearts to God. All of what God has done through history, the climax of which is Jesus’ coming, death and resurrection, all of which are expressions of his desire to have fellowship with us. By accepting his invitation, we express that we too want this community. But it doesn’t just begin in eternity but now. His glory is within us. Paul writes that we are a temple to God, that we have treasure in us. God wants to be so close to us and we will miss God in today if we only live oriented towards the future and shut ourselves up now. Just like if we only lived in the past. Back then, what I then experienced with God … No, God is the same yesterday, today and forever and he speaks to us through his Holy Spirit: 7 Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, 8 Harden not your hearts, (Hebrews 3.7) God invites us today and every day to seek fellowship with him. He wants to talk to you today. He wants to work in you today. He wants to give you the fullness of life today. He wants to guide and change you today. He wants to use you today. Various things can disturb this community. That is why Peter writes that we should be careful and that we should bow under God’s hand. We should take him seriously in what he tells us, we should implement what he shows us in his word, so that the closeness to him and fellowship with him are not destroyed. But you know, God’s hand is not like a thumb that wants to crush us, but one that wants to protect us. He knows what is good for us. If we take him seriously, it is a sign of awe and appreciation for him, but it is not out of fear of him but out of love for him. The points that Peter mentions that can disturb our fellowship with God are: a. We shouldn’t become arrogant when dealing with one another. How up-to-date, and how easily does the current situation give cause to think, I have found out. Or as the other thinks, it is no longer completely sealed. How we meet, even if we have different opinions. How we think about one another, how we talk about one another. Jesus makes it clear how important dealing with our fellow human beings is to him by saying that if something stands between others and us, we should take the first step, regardless of who is responsible, to create peace as far as possible, and forgive the other. Because God also loves the other, and because we should love one another, and because we Christians in particular should be recognized by this love for one another. In connection with the sacrament, Paul writes that we should examine ourselves how to eat it. And he does not mean an external form, but that the rich had a fat meal before the meal and when they were finished, the poor were allowed to come and then one has the Lord’s Supper celebrated together. And what he means is that it is not worthy because we are all one body. We should be considerate of one another, treat one another well, clarify things that stand between us, if that is possible, and then celebrate the Lord’s Supper together. Because the meal is also a sign of community and love among Christians. b. A second where Peter writes that it can disrupt fellowship with God is worry. We should be careful how we deal with our worries and give them to God. Over and over again. Otherwise we will start to revolve around our worries in everyday life instead of revolving around God and trusting him. We are then no longer free for God’s guidance but start to go our own way. I have read about someone who does what we have already done symbolically in the service at home, namely to take a stone for a care and to put it in a special place where he has put a cross. If the worry is gone, he also takes the stone away again. And so he says that he will be relieved, because now it is no longer he but Jesus who bears these worries and takes care of them. c. And finally we should be vigilant and prudent and take action where we find that our relationship with God is threatened. It can be external circumstances, pressure, persecution. It can just as well be a sin that is still there and tries to lead us into doing things that are not good for us. But that can also be comfort, indolence, indifference, where the enemy just wants to lull us and we creep away from God. We have a responsibility in all of this, namely by holding on to faith. So by trusting God in these challenges, by turning to him in prayer, by continuing to listen to him. And then the Holy Spirit helps us and ensures that such times serve to ensure that blessings arise from them, that good results from them, as James writes, that the Holy Spirit especially uses these times to shape us. Christ lives in us, we have treasure in us. Let us not be robbed of fellowship with him and let us perceive this treasure anew as a great reason to be happy! Paul writes that all of this is happening That we should be something in praise of his glory. (Eph. 1.12) So it’s not about that we do something, we are quick to do it, but that we are something, with our whole character, and that will then automatically radiate and also lead to action. And that brings me to my final point, what it means for the glory of God to live in us:
3. Radiance – life in praise of his glory.
Imagine a beautiful work of art, the Mona Lisa, if you like. I can’t understand that, but when we were in the Louvre we could barely see the picture because there was such a crowd in front of it. Everyone wanted to see this picture. We are just such a work of art. God’s Spirit transforms us with his grace. When you look at such a picture, you are automatically amazed at the artist. All glory is due to God and people should recognize him in us. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2nd Cor. 4.6)
But you know, sometimes it is like that, we want to make it big. We want to get the honor and recognition. And sometimes it is exactly the other way around, when we think how can one recognize God in us? There’s still so much dirt there, so little God. Paul continues to write We carry this precious treasure within us, even though we are only fragile vessels. In this way everyone will see that the extraordinary power that is working within us comes from God and not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4.7 And then he writes of pressure, of persecution, of God’s power, which is powerful in the weak and that an unimaginable glory awaits us and that we should fix our gaze on it and not let ourselves be distracted by what is now besetting us. Perhaps it has to be that our life has and is getting some cracks. A light in a box like this doesn’t do anything if you shield it like that, but if there are cracks in there, then the light shines out. And so are the cracks in our life, so that God’s glory shines through and that other people and we ourselves recognize that it is God and not us who is so brilliant and deserves all honor. Maybe that can relax us knowing we don’t have to be strong. It is enough if we stick to him and he changes us and in our weakness God shines through us. (See Peter, the rock. Perhaps when Jesus called him he was a little too hard (rock) and relied too much on himself and his abilities. It was only through his failure that he was ready to focus entirely on Jesus that changed him and Jesus shone through him more). Christ in us, that is the pledge for the future glory, which we approach and which we should look at again and again. Christ in us, that is God, who wants to be so close to us that his Holy Spirit with his glory dwells in us and transforms us. And Christ in us, that shines and we live to praise his glory. Hope in glory, there is reason to have hope in this time too. Look at Jesus – radiate that hope. We now want to join in the praise of his glory with songs, even if worship is much more than just our singing, but our life should praise him. But also our words. And so I invite us to stand up in his honor.