Friday, 11 April 2014

Whose Glory are You Living For?

We come to the last in this mini series on the Lord’s prayer, a phrase not in the early manuscripts but found in the later ones, ‘Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever. Amen.’
Our own little kingdoms, power and glory are something that fallen humanity desperately craves, we want to be somebody, have some some power, achieve and be in control of something, and be applauded for it. Sinatra’s song fits well, “I did it my way” – I could do it, I did it, I deserve the credit.
Yes, power, success and fame are what we all want, what we crave – it’s exhibited in all the TV shows that offer the opportunity of stardom, and for many young people today that’s the aim, to be a great singer, a great footballer, to be a star one way or another.
It was what precipitated the fall of humanity – Lucifer wanted to be somebody other than God had created him to be, in fact he wanted the top spot, he wanted to be God, and in doing so he fell. Later he was to tempt Adam and Eve that God was not as good as he appeared to be and that he was withholding something from them – they could be like God. The thought was sown and entertained and they fell for it. And it has been humanities curse ever since. In some way or other we all want to be ‘gods’ in some way or another, having our own power, doing our own thing, controllers of our own destiny. Sadly in our hands it becomes distorted, abusive, dominating, controlling, manipulating, deceitful, destructive – we could go on, but you get the picture.
As we come to the end of this prayer it reminds us that to God alone belongs the kingdom, the power and the glory and we do best when we recognize that and live within it. The breath that we have is given to us by God, it’s in him that we live and move and have our being. It’s God who gifts and enables. It’s God who saves and sanctifies…..
Yes we are reminded that the best life lived, is a life under God, a life that lives for and returns the glory to God.
Sadly though the passion for power and glory creeps into the heart of God’s people. There can be rivalry and competition between churches, ministries, streams. It has wrecked lives, relationships and ministries. None of us is immune, we are all prone.  If we are honest with ourselves we love opportunities to exalt ourselves – evidenced in the desire to trump the story someone has just told us, or tell a better joke, to score a point in some way. We can be more concerned about what people thought of us in how we led worship last Sunday, how the preach went, than whether God was glorified and people encountered him. When I’m blogging I can can be more concerned about what people think of me about me than conveying the heart of God and seeking his glory.
In the world in which we live there is a lot of talk about the need for significance, which in reality is much the same thing under a different guise.  In reality there is a big difference between living for the glory of God and the desire or need for significance. Significance is more about me, about leaving my mark on the world, making a name for myself, and be known for and getting the glory for it. It can be more about the big things than the small things. It can be more about what is seen than what is not seen, and even our serving can be become very subtly self-serving.
It’s also evidenced in the cult of personality, something Paul faced when he wrote to the church at Corinth – if we can’t glory in ourselves then we’ll glory another, in who we follow, and for the Corinthian Christians it was about who was the best teacher/preacher, and Paul would have none of it.  He points them back to God as the one in whom it all works, and summed it by saying, ‘It’s because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who he has been made unto us wisdom from God, that is our righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that we should not boast in ourselves, but in the Lord.’ (1 Cor. 1:30,31), and bit later, ‘It’s God who gives the increase.’ (1 Cor. 3:7).
That’s why this prayer is important, and this particular phrase in it. We need the reminder, we need the challenge it brings as we honestly pray it. It gets under our skin. It challenges why we are doing something and who we are doing it for. It leads us from the place of control to one of surrender. It leads us from pride to humility. It leads us from confidence in ourselves to confidence in God and the way he leads, gifts and talents us. It leads us to say, He must increase, but I must decrease.
As Paul said, ‘By grace you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not a result of our own efforts, so that no one would boast in themselves’ (Eph. 28,9), and again,
Yes, the kingdom, the power, the glory are all his forever! Amen!