There are times in life when we can feel cut off from God, sometimes because of feelings of failure or unworthiness, sometimes because of feelings of ignorance or unbelief. How important it is for us to continue to read and reflect on God’s written self-revelation – for that is what the Bible is.
In Colossians 1:25-27 we read Paul’s testimony: I became a minister according to the divine office which was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made manifest to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
Paul’s words reflect the way God reveals his plans. Typically prophets first declared God’s promises concerning his plans for the redemption of a fallen humanity. However the timing and the ‘who’ of the plans were kept under wraps. ‘But now’, Paul says, ‘God has revealed his plans – to include non-Jewish peoples with Jewish people in the benefits of the salvation found in Christ Jesus.
There is a generosity and simplicity in Paul’s words as he sets out the meaning of our faith: Christ in you, the hope of glory. On the one hand we enjoy a present experience: Christ in you. On the other hand there is a future reality: the hope of glory.
For many the Christian faith is a moral code they must struggle to observe. Their faith is legalistic and tedious. But Paul tells us that the essence of Christianity is found in a relationship with the One who is at the heart of the universe. It’s about knowing Christ and having his Spirit live within us. ‘God in the soul of men and women,’ is how one ancient writer put it.
The tragedy is that many expect too little from Christianity. If we don’t know anything about a living relationship with Jesus, we have a faith in name only. It’s the heart experience of knowing Jesus Christ personally that we need to pray for.
And, coupled with this present experience of the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ in our lives, there is something else: …the hope of glory. There’s a future expectation.
Blessing though the presence of Christ is in our lives now, this is only a foretaste of something far greater that God has in store for us. Christianity is not just a present experience but a future hope – glory.
Death casts a long shadow over life. Indeed, many of God’s people in the Middle East, in Southern Sudan, in Nigeria and many other places, face the reality of death from one day to the next.
Glory. Paul is telling us here in summary form what we find more developed elsewhere. In Romans 3:23 we learn that all humanity has lost its pre-fallen glory. But in Romans 8:18, 21, Paul speaks of the glorious destiny God has planned for his people through the work of the incarnate Son of God. The good things that we experience of Christ living in us now are a tiny glimpse of what it will be like when we live with God. The best is yet to be.
There will be times when we will feel disappointed with the way life treats us now. We might feel that God has let us down. But if we think this way, we accuse God falsely. He doesn’t promise us that life will be a bed of roses. There will be difficulties and disappointments.
What the gospel message offers us here and now is not transformed outward circumstances, but rather transformed inner spiritual resources: Christ in you. That’s what the gospel is about now, says Paul. Outwardly our bodies are wasting away, he writes elsewhere. Inwardly we are being renewed, day by day.
Yes, there is a better world of which the Bible speaks, a world free from pain and frustration, a world in which there is no loneliness or grief. But we need to understand that is a future world, a world that at the moment we see by faith, not by sight.
That said, the hope of glory is not some vague, wistful, ‘maybe it will happen, maybe it won’t’. Paul speaks of a sure, confident, guaranteed kind of hope. And hope, by definition, is unrealized in the present.
To forget this is to invite a tragic, despairing disillusionment. The tragedy for many is that they expect too little from Christianity. The tragedy for others is that they expect too much.
Jonathan Edwards once wrote, Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected.
© John G. Mason – www.anglicanconnection.com