读经： 诗115:1-11 腓1:27-2:11 耶1:1-2:30
Bounce It Back Up
It was one of the most moving and powerful testimonies I have ever encountered. A former sex worker, drug addict and dealer described how she had reached a point at which, in her own words, she was ‘dead’. She said her ‘blood was black’ and her ‘heart was black’. She described how she came on Alpha and heard that Jesus loved her so much that he died for her. She described how this had broken the concrete of her heart. She experienced God’s love for her for the first time. She is now filled with love for everyone, forgiving those who abused her, and radiating the love of Christ.
After she had given her testimony to a stunned congregation, I went up to thank her and said how extraordinarily powerful it had been. She replied, ‘I need to bounce it back up!’ I didn’t understand what she meant, so I asked her to explain. She said, ‘It’s all his grace. I need to bounce the glory back to him.’ She has a profound understanding of grace, glory and what it means to be Christ-like.
The theme of ‘glory’ runs through each of today’s readings (Psalm 115:1; Philippians 2:11; Jeremiah 2:11). In each passage we see why, how and when the people of God bounced the glory back up to God.
1. Why glorify God?
Psalm 115:1-11When people came up to John Wimber and praised him because of a talk he had given or a healing that had happened through his ministry, he used to say, ‘I’ll take the encouragement, but I’ll pass the glory on.’
The psalmist gives us a great example of passing the glory on – bouncing it back up to God. He starts: ‘Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness’ (v.1). He goes on to give two reasons why we should glorify and worship God.
The first is because of our experience of God’s ‘love and faithfulness’ (v.1b). Worship is a response to what God has done for us, and this is why we should give him all the glory.
The second is the oft-repeated biblical truth – you become like that which you worship: ‘Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them’ (v.8). So, if we worship idols, we become totally lifeless, unable to do anything of any value at all.
Put your trust in the Lord who is your ‘help and shield’ (vv.9–11). If you put your faith in the Lord and worship him, you will become like him – you will be changed into his likeness and obtain fullness of life.
Lord, help me to trust in you, my help and shield, and to experience your love and faithfulness. Help me always to ‘bounce it back up’ and to give you all the glory.
2. How to glorify God?
Philippians 1:27-2:11Paul explains how you can glorify God by becoming like Jesus: ‘Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself’ (2:5, MSG). Become Christ-like in attitude because of concern for the ‘name of Jesus’ (v.10) and the ‘glory of God’ (v.11).
Live a life ‘worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (1:27). It is a privilege, not only to believe in Jesus, but also to suffer and struggle for him (vv.29–30).
When people or events come against you, you need to ‘stand firm’ (v.27) in unity against all the opposition and attacks that you are bound to encounter. The language Paul uses is that of aphalanx – the most formidable military device of antiquity. With shields together and spears out front, the soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder in files eight men deep. As long as they did not break rank, they were virtually invincible.
‘Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the Message, the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition. Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you – and both because of God’ (vv.27–28, MSG).
A Christ-like attitude is the key to this unity. Any disunity in the church would have detracted from Paul’s ‘joy’ (2:2). Disunity so often comes from ‘selfish ambition and vain conceit’ (v.3a). The key is to consider others better than yourself (v.3b), to look not only to your own interests, ‘but also to the interests of others’ (v.4).
‘Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand’ (vv.3–4, MSG).
In other words, you are to have the same attitude as Jesus, who let go of his natural, legal and social status, and made himself ‘nothing’. He took ‘the very nature of a servant… he humbled himself’ and ‘became obedient to death – even death on a cross!’ (vv.7–8). He took the path of downward mobility, humble service and unselfish love. If you are ever anxious about your relative status, remember that Jesus made himself lower than we could ever imagine.
‘It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that – a crucifixion’ (v.8, MSG).
And as a result, ‘God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (vv.9–11).
This is how you can glorify God: by following Christ in his humble service and selfless love.
Lord, help me to have the same attitude as Jesus. Help me to take the path that brings glory to God the Father. Help me always to bounce the glory back to you.
3. When to glorify God?
Jeremiah 1:1-2:30What happens when troubles, difficulties and disruption come into your life and the lives of those around you?
Jeremiah lived in one of the troubled periods in Israel’s history – the fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC and the exile in Babylon. He was given a difficult message to give to the people. He did it with great courage in the face of hostility and persecution.
The opening chapters of Jeremiah show two more ways that you can glorify God and when you can do so.
First, you glorify God when you respond to God’s call. Age is no barrier to leadership. Jeremiah was probably a teenager when God called him, around the year 627 BC. He could be described as both a ‘born leader’ and a ‘born prophet’. Before his birth he was set apart to be a prophet. God said, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew [and] approved of you… and before you were born I separated and set you apart… I appointed you as a prophet to the nations’ (1:5, AMP).
God knows all about you – the good and the bad. His knowing leaves nothing out. He loves you. He does not necessarily approve of everything you do, but he wants you to live, like Jeremiah, with the freedom of knowing his love and approval.
The Lord tells you, as he told Jeremiah, to go wherever he tells you to go and say whatever he tells you to say (v.7). This takes the ultimate responsibility off your shoulders. Glorifying God does not mean having to try to save the whole world (that is God’s responsibility), but rather doing what God asks you to do. This will not be easy. God warns that there will be opposition (vv.17–19).
Second, you glorify God when you respond to God’s correction. God asked Jeremiah to warn the people against worshipping worthless idols and to call them back to worshipping him.
Jeremiah said, ‘My people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols’ (2:11b). Not only does this deny God the glory he deserves, it is actually self-destructive. When we turn away from God we lose the blessings of relationship with him, and replace it with something useless. God laments how ‘my people have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water’ (v.13).
Again, we see that you become like whatever you worship. Those who follow ‘worthless idols’ become ‘worthless themselves’ (v.5). If you follow Jesus, you become like him. If we try to find satisfaction, meaning and purpose through our own ambitions and self-centred appetites for power, money, food, drink, and drugs, we become of no value – our lives are worthless.
In particular, they were ‘on the hunt for sex, sex, and more sex – insatiable, indiscriminate, promiscuous’ (v.24, MSG). They were ‘addicted’ and could not ‘quit’ (v.25, MSG).
Jeremiah despaired that God’s people had not responded to his correction (v.30). They had forsaken his blessings, and failed to give him glory.
Lord, help me to fix my eyes on Jesus, the spring of living water, and to turn my face towards him. May I become Christ-like and give you all the glory.
‘The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you see, Jeremiah?” “I see the branch of an almond tree,” I replied. The Lord came to me, “You have seen correctly, for I am watching to see that my word is fulfilled.”’
It is interesting that God uses pictures to speak. They can be so comforting, encouraging and memorable. I find it a little scary if I think I have a picture at a meeting. It is easy to discount it, thinking someone else will probably have a better one and that maybe I’d made it up anyway. I am trying to be a bit braver and, if I have something, to share it in the hope that God might give me more.