Glory on the Horizon

                             Sermon on 25, September 2016 Romans 8:15-25;26-30                                                                                   PASTOR DON PIEPER

 

                             “GLORY ON THE HORIZON!

 

            Ever wonder what heaven will be like?  There are some rather interesting idea's in circulation these days. Gary Larson once depicted a man sitting on a cloud, looking bored, saying, “I wish I'd brought a magazine.”     Scrat, from Ice Age, winds up in a heaven filled with acorns....

            [YouTube video, “Scrat in Heaven”....]

            That's like the cat being told by St. Peter at the pearly gates that he can have or do anything he wants.  The cat responds that he'd like his master's satin pillow to sit on.  “Granted”. 

            Next Peter is approached by a group of mice.  He also offers to grant them whatever they want.  They tell him they've always dreamed of owning roller skates.  “Granted,” Peter exclaims. 

            The next day Peter is making rounds inside the gates when he sees the cat. “Well, Mr. Cat, what do you think?  Are you enjoying your satin pillow? 

            “To be sure!” says the cat.  “And might I say that the meals on wheels was a nice touch, too!”

            So some think it will be boring, sitting around on a cloud, playing a harp or some such thing – others that it's where we'll get to do and receive whatever we want.  But isn't that what plagues us here – unchecked selfishness, greed and self-indulgence?  Isn't that how things went south way back in the Garden...? There's a great deal of confusion out there regarding what lies beyond the pale. The question remains, what exactly is God offering us past that far distant shore, to which Jesus said he's the way...? 

            Paul answers that here at the center of his letter by pointing to glory on the horizon! No less than six times in thirteen verses Paul speaks of a future glory: “You received God's Spirit when He adopted you as his own children,” he writes, “and since we are His children..., together with Christ, we are heirs of God's glory.” (Romans 8:16-17)  Why is this glory better than getting what we think we want?

            Paul provides the first of several insights regarding this future glory that suggest this glory in question fills a need that is connected to the purpose of why we exist.  He says Christ makes us heirs of God's glory. That is, we don't earn it; it is bequeathed to us by way of a family relationship. As we relate to God's Son, Jesus, we become coheirs of his kingdom.  As Jesus declared: “God blesses those who are poor in heart, who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of heaven is theirs...  God blesses those who are humble for they will inherit the earth...  God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.  God blesses those who are persecuted...for the Kingdom of heaven is theirs.”                   (Matthew 5:3, 5, 10)

            These attributes are the attributes of Jesus himself, and those who resemble him, adopted by His Father in heaven, inherit the Kingdom of heaven.  As Paul puts it, Jesus shares his glory with them.  “Now we live with great expectation,” Peter once wrote, “and we have a priceless inheritance – an inheritance that awaits us in heaven, pure and undefiled...” (1 Peter1:4)                                                                                  

           In Charles Dickens' Nickolas Nickleby, Nickolas befriends an orphan at the orphanage he works Appalled at the his cruel treatment at the hands of the headmaster, Nickolas takes him under his wing...

            [DVD clip from the film, Nickolas Nickleby; 39:40 – 40:50]

            Dickens, a devout Christian, points to some profound truth here.  The world around and within us that separates us from God will never be set by him.  We wander but in the end, he is our home!  

            Ultimately, Nick brings Smike home, where his family adopts him as one of their own...

            [DVD clip from the film, Nickolas Nickleby; 1:14:55 – 1:15:57]

                                                                               

            The inheritance of greatest value to Smike is that of the family's unconditional love and the gift of being in the ongoing presence of his friend and coheir, who shares his glory with his friend.

            A second insight Paul provides in Romans 8 is that this future glory puts our present troubles in perspective: “If we are to share Christ's glory, we must also share his suffering.  Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He will reveal to us later.”  (Romans 8:17-18) 

            Paul points to a timeless truth here.  Seasons of pain come and go, but the joy that awaits us, the unconditional love, that we'll experience 24/7 will last for all eternity.  What we experience here is temporary at best.  What we experience ever-after is neverending! 

            It's one of the reasons I like to pray beneath a canopy of stars.  A starry night reminds me of how small and seemingly insignificant my worries and problems are in the big scheme of things, and yet, the Creator of the cosmos cares about them and me, and sent Jesus to draw me to himself that he might give me fresh perspective, hope and a great expectation. As Jesus said: “Don't let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God, trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father's home. When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you'll always be with me where I am.”                                                                                                                                     (John 14:1-3)

            Paul was no stranger to hardship and trouble: whipped, stoned, mocked, shipwrecked and bitten by snakes. Yet he said: 'What I suffer now is nothing compared to the glory He'll reveal to me later'  

                                                                                                                                    (Romans 8:18) 

            Paul goes on to point out that this future glory will involve the revelation of who God's true children are.  That's good news.  There are many today claiming to be Christian, or being identified as Christian, that don't in the least way resemble Jesus.  That frustrates me because I know many seekers give up on Jesus because of this fact.  I hear it a lot at Alpha.  Heard it this week!  But I'm encouraged, “For all creation is waiting eagerly for that day when God will reveal who His children really are!”                                                                                                                                (Romans 8:19)

            So its not just me!  All creation is eagerly waiting for that day.  There's a TV show, 'To Tell the Truth', in which three people pretend to be a fourth person.  The panelists try to guess which of the four is the actual person in question.  At the end, the host asks, 'Will the real...(John Smith), please stand up'. 

            Apparently, part of the way Christ will share his glory is by revealing the truth.  “Will the real Christ followers please stand up!” And only those who really are, will, and all of creation will rejoice!   

 

            Then Paul adds: “With eager hope, all of creation looks forward to the day when it will join God's children in glorious freedom from death and decay...  We eagerly wait for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.” 

                                                                                                                                    (Romans 8:21-24)

            There's a moment in the book/movie, Heaven Is For Real, that I particularly like. Four-year-old Colton tells of meeting his father's maternal grandfather, “pop”, during his time in heaven.  When his father later showed him a photo, Colton said, 'Dad, nobody's old in heaven and nobody wears glasses'.

         

            Frustrated that he didn't recognize him, Colton's father sought out a much older photo, dating from 1943 with 'Pop', age 29, sitting with several other people.  When he showed it to Colton, he asked what he thought.  “Hey, how'd you get a picture of pop?  How come it's in black and white?”

            Part of our sharing in Christ's glory one day will include new resurrected bodies.  One day, not only will the pain of this world be swallowed up in joy and victory but so will all forms of age & decay.

No more glasses, psoriasis, arthritis, knee or back issues – and lots more hair!  Yes...!                                                                                

            Paul continues his insights of future glory by noting that “we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory.”  (Romans 8:23)  This builds on what we read this: “The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you!”  (Romans 8:11)   God's resurrection power is to be released thru us by the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. That's what makes prayer so exciting! Furthermore, this outpouring of His Holy Spirit gives us a foretaste, a glimpse, of heaven.

            We catch powerful glimpses of such activity in the Book of Acts: “The apostles were perform-ing many miraculous signs and wonders among the people...  Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed.”                                                                                                                                    (Acts 5:12, 16) 

            Many who've been prayed for here, have experienced physical and inner healing.  Paul says this is a mere sampling of what awaits us, a glimpse what Christ's kingdom in heaven is like!

            We experience this as “the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness, prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words, and helps us to be in harmony with God's own will.”                                                                                                                                                       (Romans 8:26-27)

            We also catch a glimpse of God's glory when we see God's redeeming hand at work, transform-ing our mistakes, our woundedness, even our past waywardness itself to further His salvation plan for us and others.  “For we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”  (Romans 8:28)

            This is the overall witness of Scripture.  One of the most powerful images is that of the trees in Garden of Eden in Genesis 2 and those in Revelation 22.  The trees of life & knowledge are the catalyst for our separation from God as Adam & Eve eat from it's forbidden fruit, and the trees in Revelation 22 show God using the two trees to cause everything to work together for our good!                                                                                    

            “On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit.  The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.”  (Revelation 22:2)

           In God's good plan, nothing gets wasted.  It is God's ultimate victory over the enemy, even that which he plots and schemes to bring death and decay wind up being used by God for our good, for the healing of the nations and the redemption of all creation, better because the wounds reveal God's grace in ways that would not be visible or known any other way, than by his redeeming what was broken. 

 

            And that's not all, Paul writes, “God chose His people to become like his Son..., and having chosen them he called them to come to him..., and in so doing, gave them His glory.”                                                                                                                                      (Romans 8:29-30)

            This is God's ultimate plan, to transform you into the image of his son, that is, to sanctify you, by drawing you to himself.  It is by being in his presence that we become more and more like him, that indeed we come to reflect his glory.  Like Smike, we whisper, “You are my home! We're family!”

            There's the story of a woman who was dying of cancer.  During her pastor's visit she whispered to him her dying wish.  There was something she wanted to be buried with.  And so when the time came, he made it so.  At her open casket funeral people paused, marveled and murmured.  “Why, in the world, has some one put a common table fork in her hand?  What's that all about?” 

            The pastor explained.  The woman was an active member of his church and had attended countless church potlucks over the years in which she and others had been told at the end of the meal, with the yummy desserts waiting in the foyer, “Save your fork, the best is yet to come!” 

            Troubles will come, but don't let them distract you from the prize.  Christ intends to give you glimpses of future glory through an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but don't crave the manifestations, crave the relationship behind them.   Christ himself is the ultimate prize and he intends to share his glory with you!   Nothing could be more exciting!  So save your fork, the best is yet to come! 

            “Nothing can compare to the glory He will reveal to us later! We are heirs of God's glory!”                                                                                                                                    (Romans 8:17-18