12 – Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but You have not let me know whom You will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with Me.’
13 – If You are pleased with me, teach me Your ways so I may know You and continue to find favor with You. Remember that this nation is Your people.”
14 – The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”
15 – Then Moses said to Him, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.
16 – How will anyone know that You are pleased with me and with Your people unless You go with us? What else will distinguish me and Your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
17 – And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”
18 – Then Moses said, “Now show me Your glory.”
19 – And the Lord said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, the Lord, in your presence.”
22 – There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,
23 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 – and all are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
1st Corinthians 10:31 – Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Last Sunday was the first session of the spring offering of my 101 class. And—at first no one showed up. The class I offer in the Spring is usually small so even though I was disappointed—I wasn’t that surprised. Well, I waited about forty minutes—and then I packed everything away—thinking I would push hard to re-start the class the next week. But then I heard someone at the door. It was Cheryl Day bringing me a class member. Thank you Cheryl!!!
Let me tell you a little about my sole student. His name is Dr. Easton Manderson. He’s an orthopedic surgeon who practices in Providence Hospital. I had met Dr. Manderson before—He’s been visiting here off and on for a couple months and has come to our Wednesday night prayer meeting a few times—but we had never had much time to talk one-on-one—so I was thrilled to have him come to my 101. So—as we sat down I asked Easton to tell me what brought him to Redland.
In his answer he shared a very interesting story. It happened years ago when he was on the surgical staff of the old D.C. General Hospital. A woman had come to the ER a couple months earlier with a broken ankle. The docs had set the bone—put a cast on her leg and sent her home.
But she had come back with a foot that was dangling—I mean, it was obvious the bone was still severed—still broken. When her case was presented in grand rounds none of the other docs knew why it hadn’t healed—but Easton did. He realized it had not healed because of a form of neuropathy—that affects the nerves, hindering or preventing healing. Easton told me it is referred to as Charkot foot.
Well, the other surgeons told the poor woman all they could do would be to amputate her leg—but she would have none of that. She had come to the hospital with a broken ankle and now they were going to take her leg?! I would feel the same! At this point, Dr. Manderson stepped up and shared what he thought was the problem—and even suggested a potential treatment—a treatment he had read about in some of the old medical journals that were in the library there at D.C. General. It involved using a steel rod to connect the bones—held in place with a special screw that Easton designed.
Here’s a diagram of Easton’s screw and rod. Well, the woman gave her permission—Easton operated—and it worked. X-rays taken eight weeks later showed that the woman’s bones were growing back together. Soon she was back on her feet—literally. After that Dr. Manderson was flooded with similar cases—because everyone knew that he knew how to CONNECT bones that suffered from this form of neuropathy. He knew how to HOLD these diseased bones together—so they could reconnect—rejoin.
And that leads me to mention another “connection fact” about my new friend. You see, when he tried to get a patent on the special surgical screw he had designed, he met our own Alvin Grant.
Remember? Alvin worked for the patent office—and he told Easton about Redland. When Alvin went to be with our Lord—Easton decided to check us out.
I share all this—because just as Dr. Manderson learned there are things that HOLD DISEASED BONES together, there are things that hold a church like ours together. I’m referring to our CONVICTIONS—those non-negotiable beliefs that unite us—those shared beliefs that join us together. Speaking of convictions, a German theologian from the 17th century named Rupert Meldinus penned these familiar words: “In essentials UNITY, in NON-ESSENTIALS freedom, in all things charity—or love.” Meldinus wrote this during the 100 years war—and perhaps that horrible LACK of unity—inspired his words.
Well, for the next five Sundays we will be looking at FIVE of these UNIFYING ESSENTIALS—We’re calling the series: “Convictions that Connect.” I’m basing our study on what is referred to as “The Five Sola’s” — and to refresh your memory, “sola” is the Latin word for “alone.”
These convictions that connect churches like ours could be connected in a sentence like this:
“We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, for the glory of God alone and the Bible alone has the unique authority to teach these things.”
Pastor Kevin and I will tackle these messages in tag-team fashion. Here’s how it will work.
Next week Kevin will focus on the fact that we are saved through Christ alone. The following week my message will focus on the Bible. Then on May 20—PENTECOST SUNDAY—we’ll take a breather from the series so our friends from Jews for Jesus can come and tell us about the Jewish roots of Pentecost. Next, on May 27, Kevin will preach on God’s grace. And on June 3 my sermon will deal with faith.
Now, did anyone note which “sola” I omitted in the schedule? RIGHT—the GLORY OF GOD.
Not a difficult question to answer because as it says in the bulletin, that’s the focus of today’s message: “Sola Deo Gloria,” which means: to the GLORY OF GOD ALONE. Basically, this “connecting conviction” says that all the glory for any good in our lives goes to our Heavenly Father. All glory belongs to God—none of it belongs to us. It’s not “sola ME-o Gloria or “sola YOU-o Gloria;” it is “sola DEO Gloria.” And I want us to understand that this is not some abstract “Christianese” belief that we affirm as believers. No—giving God ALONE the glory is a bedrock of our faith. It connects us—because it defines how we are to live.
Now—WHAT EXACTLY IS GOD’S GLORY? What are we talking about with this particular “sola?” Do you remember the last verse I read a moment ago? In 1st Corinthians 10:31 Paul said, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” Well, what is Paul saying here? I mean, what does it look like to eat and drink to the glory of God? What does it look like to do everything in life for God’s glory? It’s important that we start by getting a good answer to these questions—because we can act a little confusing when it comes to giving God the glory. I mean, I’ve seen soloists in worship—not here—I’ve seen soloists sing in worship and the people all clap when he or she is done. The soloist responds, “All the glory belongs to God!” But with their body language, they communicate that they feel they deserved the applause and attention. It kind of comes off as a false humility—if you know what I mean.
I’ve seen the same kind of thing with preachers who are complimented after delivering a sermon. People might say, “That was the best sermon I have ever heard!” And I would say—I mean the fictitious pastor would say— “It’s all God—but tell me more about why you liked it so much!” Responses like these indicate that we don’t have a good grasp on the meaning of this first “sola.”
I think our problem stems from the fact that the word itself — “glory” — is a strange word for many of us—and it has been for a long time. Way back in the mid-20th century, C. S. Lewis wrote an essay titled The Weight of Glory. In it he says,
“I turn next to the idea of glory. Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. To me, either glory means fame, or it means luminosity. As for the first, since to be famous means to be better known than other people, the desire for fame appears to me as a competitive passion and therefore of Hell rather than Heaven. As for the second, who wishes to become a kind of living electric light bulb?”
So—glory can indeed be a confusing concept. I mean, if C. S. Lewis had a hard time with it…
Well, to help us understand this Biblical word—let me remind you that the Bible repeatedly states that God IS GLORIOUS. For example, Psalm 19 begins by saying, “The Heavens declare the glory of God.” We’ve used this text to say that creation itself proves God’s EXISTENCE. And it does. But this familiar phrase says MORE than that. It also says that the Heavens—all of creation—tells us something ABOUT God. The created order declares—or tells us about—His majesty, power—about the mystery of His wisdom—about His limitless creativity—about His love for people—since He made a world perfectly suited for human beings.
I mean, the Heavens—the world around us—reflects WHO God is—what He is like. As Paul puts it in Romans 1: “Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen—being understood from what has been made.” Well, if you add all those characteristics up—all the things you see about God in creation—you realize that God is INDEED GLORIOUS—because GLORY is what makes something—PRAISEWORTHY.
The glory of Matt Jenkins is his seemingly limitless IT skills—and his selfless willingness to use them to help us keep our computers and wi-fi system running here at Redland. The glory of Todd and Kathryn Kalota is their giftedness in the kitchen. The glory of one of our new deacons, Tom Garin, is his skill in statistics. I could go on—but you get the idea. The glory of something—or someone—is what makes them praiseworthy.
And there is SO MUCH that makes GOD praiseworthy—including the fact that He gives the flower its beauty and the strong man his strength—and the Redlanders I mentioned their giftedness. The fact is, one thing that makes God praiseworthy is the fact that He is the Source of every good and perfect gift.
But let’s go deeper—what is the one thing that is MOST glorious about God? For an answer I want to refer you back at our text in Exodus 33. Moses says to God, “Show me Your glory.”
Pretend you’ve never read this text. How do you think God should respond? I mean, if you were God, what would you show Moses to illustrate or define your glory? Would you show him the beauty of nature like:
- thunder and lightning
- huge ocean waves or
- distant galaxies?
Would you show Moses:
- a rain forest—or
- a towering waterfall?
Would you show Him:
- the Canadian Rockies—or
- a pod of blue whales napping under the waves?
God didn’t do any of that did He? No. He said, “[I will show you My glory—and here’s how] I will cause My GOODNESS to pass in front of you.” So—the most glorious thing about God is not his power, majesty, strength. The most glorious, praiseworthy thing about God is how GOOD He is. God passed by Moses that day and proclaimed His goodness, kindness, love, mercy, and compassion. That was and is THE ESSENCE of God’s glory. Behind everything about God that makes us want to sing His praises is this: HIS GOODNESS.
In his book The Holy Wild, Mark Buchanan says this passage from Exodus 33 should be referred to as “God’s Self-Portrait.” He writes, “Rembrandt did many self-portraits throughout his long career. So much is revealed in the EYES—in the artist’s dark, watchful eyes, with their hidden layers of grief and joy, playfulness and wariness. His last self-portrait [AND HERE IT IS] depicts and old man. His skin is mottled with liver spots. He is rumpled and pale. But the eyes are eloquent. They brim with secrets and rumors, with a deep, wordless knowing. There is sadness there, and wisdom. There is caution, humility, strength. There is vulnerability, as if he’s trying to tell you, with just his eyes, that he needs you to stay a little longer, wait with him, dwell in this silence with him—listen, watch. Those eyes plead and promise, invite and warn. His whole difficult life is present in those eyes. Moses—Moses never sees God’s face—not on Sinai. God shows him only His backside. But I think Moses—folded like a bird sheltering in a crease of granite—sees God’s EYES. He sees in them the One Who is full of mercy, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love, maintaining love to thousands—the One Who is unfailingly just, Who does not leave sin unpunished—His goodness shown, His name proclaimed. In His EYES, Moses sees God’s glory.”
That brings to mind another question. Have you ever wondered WHY it was so hard for people to look on God’s glory—why people could not abide God’s presence? I mean, back in Exodus 25 God’s glory is described as a CONSUMING FIRE. Like a fire, the Hebrews were drawn to it—but they were afraid of it as well—for the closer they got—the more likely they would be burned—consumed. So—they stayed at a distance. They said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die” (Exodus 20:19). The people did not come close because the glory of God is awful, in the OLD sense of the word—it is FULL OF AWE—AWE that is so great it causes fear. You might remember the shepherds in the Christmas story at Bethlehem. Luke 2:9 says, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the GLORY of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” Do you remember how the King James Version put it? It says, “They were sore afraid.”
Well, we are like those shepherds—like the Hebrews at the foot of Sinai—we are like Adam and Eve in the garden—WE flee from God’s glory—because we know that HE is good—and we are NOT. The purity of His goodness—is like a light that reveals our badness. God’s glory helps us to see that, as Romans 3:23 says, “We all have sinned—and fallen short of the GLORY of God.”
Okay—where and when do fallen sinners like you and me—where do we SEE God’s GLORY? God showed it to Moses on Mt. Sinai—but what about us?
Well, as I have said, we CAN see it in BIG things like for example—sunsets. Sunsets show God’s glory—His goodness to bless us with beauty like that. As I’ve told you in the past our family often goes to Ocean Isle, NC for vacation. The other vacationers who go there love the beach—they swim—they explore the tidal pools, they kayak in the sound—they grill burgers—and paddle board—but one OTHER thing many of them do is gather every evening to watch the sun set. There’s a spot on our end of the island that gives great views and everyone heads there about 6pm—because the sunsets there are GLORIOUS!
We can also see God’s goodness—His glory—in the cherry blossoms around the tidal pool down in D.C. We can HEAR His glory—His goodness—in the birds singing their springtime tunes. We can see it when rainbows appear. We saw this one the last day we were in the D.R. As soon as it appeared everyone came running with their cell phones to capture it. I mean, God’s awe-inspiring goodness is clearly seen in the beauty of creation.
This week I read that on Christmas Day 1968, the three astronauts of Apollo 8 circled the dark side of the moon and headed for home. Suddenly, over the horizon of the moon rose the blue and white Earth garlanded by the glistening light of the sun against the black void of space. Frank Borman, James Lovell Jr. and William Anders were very educated men. They were experts in science and technology, but they did not utter Einstein’s name. They were all well-read, but they were not inspired to quote the world’s great poets. No—only one thing could capture the awe-inspiring thrill of this magnificent sight. Billions heard their voices from outer space as they said: “In the beginning God…” The only concept worthy enough to describe that unspeakable awe, unutterable in any other way were the first words of GOD’S WORD. Seeing what they saw gave them an invasive, inescapable sense of the infinite and the eternal—the GLORIOUS goodness of God.
Nature views like that always do. They show us God’s GREATNESS—and our SMALLNESS. They remind us why we praise Him. But perhaps the most amazing thing about God’s glory—His goodness—is the fact that it’s not only seen in BIG things like sunsets and the change of the seasons and the earth rising over the moon. It’s seen—BEST seen—in little things—like His children—Christians. You see, when we walk through life with Him—when we live as He commands us to live—we become REFLECTORS of His glory—like the moon that has no light of its own—it reflects the light of the sun. Let me put it this way—when we walk with Jesus—we reflect not the S.U.N but the S.O.N.
It’s like what happened in Acts 4 when Peter and John stood before the Jewish leadership. It says, “When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.” Our Lord’s GLORY shown through Peter and John that day.
Paul goes so far to say that we are better than the moon. In Philippians 2 he says that when we live OBEDIENT lives—when we are, “blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation—we shine like stars in the world.” Have you ever thought of that? When we live as God wants us to live—when we let our light—HIS light shine—we can be just as GLORIOUS as a star! People can stare at us with the same jaw-dropping awe—as they do the sunsets at Ocean Isle Beach.
Do you remember what Moses said to God in our text? He said, “If Your presence doesn’t go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that You are pleased with me and with Your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and Your people, from all the other people on the face of the earth?”
Mark Buchanan points out, “Moses isn’t distressed here about losing the PROVISION of God. He is distressed about losing the PRESENCE of God.” And I agree—I mean, think about it—what distinguishes us as Christians from other people? Nothing. We don’t have halos floating above our heads. We look like everyone else. Quoting Buchanan again, “If I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but God’s presence does not go with me, what else will distinguish me from just another orator? If the church is involved—and she must be—in social action, in legal reform—in feeding the hungry; if we give our bodies to the flame and have faith to move mountains—and to fathom all mysteries—but His presence does not go with us, what else will distinguish us from all the other educational institutions and welfare agencies on the face of the earth? NOTHING.”
He’s correct! The world’s charitable institutions have better budgets, better marketing, and more streamlined organizations than we do. Without God’s presence IN us—we are far inferior in many ways. Organizations like the RED CROSS have better facilities on the whole.
I’ve worshipped with congregations in other countries that meet in nothing more than a glorified garden shed. I’ve worshipped where the accompanist played on a squeaky electronic organ and she hit more wrong notes than right ones. I’ve worshipped where the pastor’s sermon was poorly worded—and poorly delivered. I’ve watched docs worship by treating sick people who lived in a home made of sticks and trash with a dirt floor. Yet—in these places there was a joy—and an expectancy—a GLORY. Why? BECAUSE GOD WAS THERE! It is as Paul put it in Colossians 1:27, “It is Christ IN YOU the hope of glory.” And I have to say—I love seeing sunsets and rainbows—but my favorite way to see God’s glory—His goodness—is in the lives of Christians.
Now—I thought of ending this message with an inspiring story about a Christian who made the news with their amazing goodness—maybe a story about a missionary. I did a search of the data base at PreachingToday.com and there are tons of true stories like that. But I realized that the coolest thing about God’s glory is that it isn’t just out there somewhere.
It’s right here. All you have to do is look for an obedient Christian and you can see it. So, I want to share some examples of the GOODNESS of God that I have seen right here at Redland—and I say SOME because I have a time limit—and sharing all the instances where I have seen God’s glory in this church would take longer than you would be willing to sit and listen. So—I’ll just share some—and after I share each one I want you to join me in giving the glory to God by saying: “Sola Deo Gloria!” Let’s practice. On the count of three everyone say, “Sola Deo Gloria!” One, Two, Three: “SOLA DEO GLORIA!” Good—you’re ready to go!
I saw the glory of God in one of our members recently—a woman who dropped her lengthy to do list and spent day after day caring for the preschool children of one of our young moms who was ill and bed-bound.
SOLA DEO GLORIA!
I saw it in one of our deacons—who shortly after his own chemo treatment—spent most of a precious day driving a needy individual a LONG WAY to and from a dentist appointment.
SOLA DEO GLORIA!
I saw it in a family who said they had a grown child who needed furniture and the entire church went into action donating beds and couches and clothing—and food.
SOLA DEO GLORIA!
I saw it in the warm welcome our men give every Monday night to guys from the neighborhood who come to the ROC to play pick-up basketball.
SOLA DEO GLORIA!
I saw it in the way a woman in our church responded to a pre-schooler who attended Sunday School years ago—a little girl who had special needs—I saw it in the way this Christian woman volunteered to work one-on-one with that little girl in Sunday School every week for as long as it took.
SOLA DEO GLORIA!
I saw it in one of our charter members—a skilled carpenter—who after age and injury made him too feeble to work—continued to go on mission trips where he would sit in the equatorial sun under an umbrella and guide the labors of other men building a home for a needy family.
SOLA DEO GLORIA!
I saw it a couple months ago when seven people from our church spent over $2,000 of their own money to work in for a week putting new roofs on homes damaged by Hurricane Maria.
SOLA DEO GLORIA!
I saw God’s glory when one of our members flew wounded vets in his own plane for free so they could get medical care.
SOLA DEO GLORIA!
I saw a few years ago in a young mother in our church who read a post on a Craig List site where a single mom confessed that she was struggling financially and felt hopeless—and overwhelmed in trying to care for her three small children. This young mom went to this other mom—befriended her—offered free baby-sitting and made her burdens her own.
SOLA DEO GLORIA!
I saw it when two of our families told me they are starting outreach Bible studies in their neighborhood—to share the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel with people who don’t know Jesus.
I could go on and on—but do you get the point? Living for the GLORY OF GOD ALONE—is doing what He would do—loving as He would love. And, LIVING THIS WAY—CONNECTS US LIKE NOTHING ELSE! It puts aside the great enemy of unity—PRIDE—as we humbly work together to lift God up.
One more thing to remember is this—showing God’s presence in us—by doing what He would do—loving as He loves—IT DRAWS LOST PEOPLE TO HIM. It is as Jesus said in Matthew 5, “[When you] let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds—[they will] glorify your Father in Heaven.” It turns out that the best strategy for evangelism—is SOLA DEO GLORIA—living to show the glory—the goodness of God—Christ in you—in your relationships with others.
This morning I want us all to RESPOND publicly BEFORE we sing our closing hymn. I want us all to commit to this first SOLA—I want each of us to commit to living only for the GLORY OF GOD—I want us to pledge to live humble, obedient-to-Jesus lives—lives that make God’s glory VISIBLE. If you will make that commitment—think about it first—but if you are willing—stand to your feet and say one by one—as loud as you mean it: “SOLA DEO GLORIA?”