Our Journey to God
James C. Denison
I got an email this week with these assertions:
You use 200 muscles to take one step.
The average woman is five inches shorter than the average man.
Your big toes have two bones each while the rest have three.
A pair of human feet contains 250,000 sweat glands.
The human brain cell can hold five times as much information as the Encyclopedia Britannica.
The average dream lasts two to three seconds.
At the moment of conception, you spend about half an hour as a single cell.
Your thumb is the length of your nose. You really want to test that, don’t you?
It’s all interesting, but not very relevant to our lives. For many of us, heaven and “the glory that will be revealed in us” seems the same way. We’re glad that we’ll go to heaven rather than the alternative, but how many of us want to go now? How many of you want Jesus to come back today? We have unfinished business–dreams to fulfill, goals to meet, children to raise, work to do. We want to go to heaven when we die, but not before then. And not any time soon.
So it’s hard to see heaven in the future as the reason to suffer for Jesus today.
Our culture rewards a certain level of faith, but no more. It’s fine if you want to attend church and Bible studies and prayer meetings, but don’t invite your colleagues or friends at school to go with you or you’ve crossed the line.
Keep religion and the real world separate. Give what you can spare of your money and time. Meet your religious obligations along with your other charitable work and volunteer commitments. But don’t pay a sacrificial price for your faith. Don’t sacrifice your time or money or popularity or success to follow Jesus. Live in two worlds, and be happy in both.
But that’s not biblical Christianity. Jesus wants not some but all. He calls us to take up our cross and follow him, to be willing to die for him. He wants us to give our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). He wants to be Lord of every moment and every dollar we have. He wants to be Lord of our families and work and schools. He wants it all. “Jesus is Lord” is the central claim of the Christian faith.
What is your next step in following Jesus? What person must you forgive? What sin must you stop? What witness must you share? What step of faith must you take? Why pay such a price? Paul has an answer for us.
Why sacrifice for Jesus?
Our text begins: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (v. 18).
“I consider” translates a Greek word which refers to mathematical calculation. His phrase could be translated, “I have come to the reasoned conclusion” or “I have done the math and am sure of the result.”
“Our present sufferings” means “the sufferings of this present age” in contrast with the glory of the age to come when the Messiah returns. Paul is not thinking of suffering in general, but more specifically the hardships involved in following Jesus. Roman Christians got the worst jobs if they could find jobs at all. They lived in the worst tenements. Neighbors sometimes turned them in for following Jesus, in return for a percentage of their household possessions when they were confiscated. And increasing numbers were being imprisoned and executed for following Jesus.
Paul would one day join them. He would be thrown into the Mamartime dungeon just off the Forum in Rome, where sanitation was a hole in the ground and air, food and water came through a hole in the roof. He was chained to a post still visible in the cave, until he was taken to the Ostesian Way and beheaded.
Paul would ask you what it will cost you to take the next step with Jesus. Those “present sufferings,” in Paul’s reasoned opinion, “are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed.”
Paul is saying that when we measure present suffering and future glory against each other, the glory outweighs the suffering every time. Future reward outweighs the cost of present obedience. Eternal glory outweighs the cost of present suffering. When you do a cost/benefits analysis, heaven wins over earth.
Paul made the same claim to the Corinthian Christians, no strangers to persecution and suffering for their faith: “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
One day we will be rewarded with “the glory that will be revealed.”
“Revealed” translates the Greek word apocalypse, to be “unveiled.” This is the word for which the book of Revelation is named. It means to draw back the curtain, revealing what is already there so we can see it.
In this case, what will be revealed is “glory.” The word in the New Testament refers to brightness, brilliance, splendor. In the Bible, this word applies to God and those who are with him. It shone on the face of Moses when he was in the presence of God (2 Corinthians 3:7). It was revealed on the Mount of Transfiguration when the glory of Jesus was unveiled for his disciples to see. “Glory” refers to the presence and splendor of God.
This “glory” is already present in us as the Spirit of God lives in us, but it is veiled by our fallen world and nature. Our sins and failings have drawn the curtain over this glory of the Spirit dwelling in us. However, this glory is already a revealed fact for those who are with Jesus, and will be revealed for the entire world to see when Jesus comes back to be with us.