Glory, Part 4

Because the word “glory” is used so often in the Bible, it would be a good idea to see how it’s used. I’ve chosen a handful of examples, and so far here’s what we’ve discovered:

In Colossians 1:27, we read about the “hope of glory,” which is the hope all believers have. The world in which we live has little interest in Christ and frequently Christianity is mocked and Christians are rarely taken seriously, but we have the certain hope that in the future, our faith will become sight and our beliefs will be vindicated.

In Philippians 3:21, Paul talks about our “glorious body.” This is an exciting thought; the moment Christ completely transforms us – changes our earthly body into a glorified body like our Lord’s. This is more than just an end to death and pain and illness. It’s an end to our struggle against the flesh; no more to be pestered by the temptation to sin.

Finally, we discovered in Ephesians 1:18 that Christians are the Lord’s “glorious inheritance.” We have become valuable to God; our worth in Christ in incalculable.

Now let’s consider a couple of verse in Paul’s letter to the Romans:

For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. (Romans 8:20-21 | NIV84)

“The glorious freedom of the children of God” is an interesting phrase that captures both our attention and our imagination. What is our “glorious freedom?” Believe it or not, it all starts back in chapter 7 with the cry of Paul’s heart:

What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? (Romans 7:24 | NIV84)

Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever looked at the sorry state of your life in the light of God’s Word and realized how truly “wretched” you are? Paul may have written that verse, but any one of us could have. It’s the cry for help from those who see the need to be more than what they are, yet have no power to make the necessary changes.

Fortunately, for both Paul and us, the answer to the cry of his heart is given in the very next chapter:

because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2 | NIV84)

This “new law” applies to those who have been acquitted in Christ – those who no longer stand condemned by God – and who are consequently enabled to live in such a way as to:

Fulfill the moral law of God;
Live beyond the reach of sin and death;
Enjoy life and peace.

Romans 8 really is a remarkable chapter and reading it should encourage your heart as a believer. We learn, for example, that the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit enable and empower the Christian to experience the tiniest sliver of what will be ours in full at Christ’s return. It begins “in Christ” at verse one and ends “in Christ Jesus our Lord” at the last verse. It begins with no condemnation and ends with no separation.

No condemnation

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…. (Romans 8:1 | NIV84)

This is really a phenomenal verse, and it was accomplished by the work of Jesus Christ. Keeping the Law didn’t do it. Obeying the rules can’t do it. Your standing before God was achieved wholly by the work of Christ. You stand free and clear of any condemnation in God’s presence solely because of what the Lord did for you. This is spite of how you might feel, by the way. From time to time, you may feel condemned or guilty on account of your behavior, but if your heart is right, and you live in a state of forgiveness, then there’s no condemnation coming from God’s direction, only forgiveness and grace.

because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2 | NIV84)

Notice that there are two laws here:

The “law of the Spirit of Christ,” in 8:1;
The “law of sin and death.”

The law of sin and death

If you glance back at Romans 7, you’ll see what the “law of sin and death” is all about:

For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. (Romans 7:19 | NIV84)

This insidious, sinister law is always lurking near by, always challenging your earnest desire to right; always positing a sinful alternative. This nefarious law is so cunning and so clever that before a hapless Christian notices, he’s held captive by it.

The law of the Spirit

It seems like all is lost when you think about the power of the law of the sin and death, yet there is a law able to break the influence and dominion of that old law. Through Jesus Christ and the law of the Spirit, you are set free.

For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man…. (Romans 8:3 | NIV84)

That’s the very foundation of the Gospel of grace. Thanks to Jesus Christ – the Son of God – becoming a man, God is not an angry and ready to bring the hammer down on His misbehaving subjects. Because of the sacrificial intervention of His loving, obedient Son, God becomes our compassionate, loving Heavenly Father. Jesus came “in the likeness of sinful man.” In other words, remaining sinless, Jesus became one of us to save us.

Through His atoning death on the Cross, God was able to deliver us; to set us free from the law of sin and death, leaving us free to live a new life, led and empowered by the Spirit of God.

Now, that’s true freedom! To be set free from the awful addiction to commit sin is what Paul is talking here. You can’t kill that addiction by grit and determination or by obeying a written “code of conduct.” Some poet somewhere put it like this:

To run and work the law commands,
Yet gives me neither feet nor hands;
But better news the Gospel brings:
It bids be fly and gives me wings.

That’s exactly what God does! He wants you to live a certain way and He enables you to do it. This is the beauty of serving God through faith in Jesus Christ. You are not bound by rules and regulations impossible to keep and unreasonable to demand. You are able to live up to God’s expectations because Who is living in you.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:11 | NIV84)

There is no greater power in the universe than the power to raise the dead, and that’s the power resting in you because the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in your heart. The Christian, who has slipped and sinned, cannot say, “The devil made me do it.” The incredible resurrection power of God is in you; the devil can’t make you do anything. If you stumble and sin, it’s because you wanted to; you took your eyes off the prize for a moment. But fortunately for us, we don’t stop being God’s child because we occasionally sin.

Sonship

Now, all that is well and good, but it’s up to us to implement the power of the Spirit in our lives. To put it another way, the Holy Spirit won’t force us to live right. Paul, again:

Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation–but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it (the will of the Holy Spirit). For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Romans 8:12-14 | NIV84)

So the Christian has an obligation to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, and when he does that he will be free from sin. Think of it as a test. If you are truly a child of God, then you will live by the leading of the Spirit on a day-to-day basis. This is crucial to understand, and is often missed by the emotion of these verses. It is a privilege to have been adopted by God; it is a privilege to call God your “Father.”

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15 | NIV84)

It’s a singular privilege that has been afforded to Christians ONLY. Only Christians have a right to refer to God as their “father,” or as Paul put it, “Abba, Father,” which is really just an informal, intimate way to address your Father. But with that privilege comes a heavy responsibility. If you want to continue calling God your “Father” and you wish to have that familial relationship with Him, then you have a responsibility – an obligation – to be led by the Spirit of God and not by your sinful nature.

But it’s a great blessing to be a child of God. And sometimes you may doubt that – sometimes, depending on your day, you may not feel like a child of God. God has a remedy for that:

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. (Romans 8:16-17 | NIV84)

What a blessing it is to know beyond the shadow of any doubt that you are a child of God. God wants you to know it and to remember it, and God wants you understand the ramifications of being a child of God: You are an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ. What that means is nothing less than staggering, given what we read in the book of Hebrews:

but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:2 | NIV84)

Jesus Christ is heir of all things, and so are we! There’s no other way to interpret what Paul wrote to the Romans. It sounds too good to be true, but here it is in black and white. We are co-heirs with Jesus Christ, simply by virtue of our faith in Him.

The now and the not yet

Obviously, God has done so much for us. Yet much of what Paul has written is in the future tense. Our future is full of glorious promises, but in the present, not so much.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18 | NIV84)

Life isn’t so glorious right now. Sometimes we suffer on account of our faith. But whatever suffering we encounter today is nothing compared to the life God has prepared for us in the future. What is involved in that “glorious” future? Consider:

No more sin and decay and death;
All of creation will be released from its captivity to corruption and death and restored to perfection, as in the days of Eden.

The final restoration of all of creation hinges on our final redemption. So great will be the glory of our final redemption, that all of creation is longing for it take place. Nature, as it exists to day is, to use Paul’s word, “frustrated,” in verse 20. That’s the English translation of the Greek word mataioteti, which means, “to no purpose,” or “against the norm.” Nature today is in a discordant key, but when we are finally glorified along with our Lord, nature will be like a harmonious symphony once again.

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