Updated: Sep 27, 2020
What the Universe is Saying
“Who are you?”, the crook shrieked. Lifting him off the ground by his shirt, he pulled him to his face and said, “I’m Batman!” When I watched this with wide eyes as a kid it filled me with adrenaline and covered me with goosebumps. “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” I told my friends. Through the following weeks, “I’m Batman!” would sound from my room as I reenacted the scene with my dog (or a friend if one was there), with a blanket for a cape and all. What I saw was glory. Where do you find glory?
Glory is the gasoline that fuels us: it captivates, infiltrates, inspires, then transforms us. The Hebrew definition of glory comes from “heavy”, and often indicates something that’s larger than life; something that’s incredible or amazing, but not always safe. It’s those objects that, when we see them, they swallow our attention and affections whole. It’s like the sound of an 8.0 earthquake, or a sparkle in the night magnified into a galaxy. There is also a supreme glory.
God’s glory is revealed by creation. Paul calls this “His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature” (Rom. 1:20). These are the Creator’s abilities and how He uses them, which reveals His character. This is important. So how does God use His power? What does He show us about His heart from the invention of creation?
God “did not leave Himself without a witness,” Paul told those who never heard of Jesus, “for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). That means our lives, bodies, fruit, friends, Fall, trees, the sky – everything we need for health and happiness is not only given by God, but they're witnesses shouting “He cares about you!” From the cosmos to the cells in our bodies, reality exposes the kind character of God. This is supreme glory. Where do you find glory?
The Dehumanization Process
When 50 Cent was popular, I remember so many guys would talk hood, dress gangster, use 50’s hand gestures, and either aspire to be a drug-dealing pimp or a rap star – or at least act like it. They were amazed by him, so they all wanted to be him. They were captivated by his glory.
We’re engineered to see and crave glory. But it’s not enough to see it. We need to praise it. More, we need to talk and act like it to others. We drink it in then pour it on others so they can join us in swimming around in it. It’s like when you hear a good song. It’s not enough to listen to it. You’re compelled to sing it, then to share it, then to dance to it; and eventually, to sing and dance to it with other others. This is the human process, and it starts with a drip of glory.
God revealed His glory in His kindness so everyone would drink in this kindness and splash it around in all their interactions, painting the world with God’s brand of glory. That’s great, but what about when this doesn’t happen. What happens when they “exchange the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Rom. 1:19-23)? Here, Paul is talking about idols, which were statues of deities used to procure favor from the gods they represented. When this is the glory we pour in our engines, it distorts the human process. Where do you find glory?
When the glory that attracts us is a creature (anything but God), that is what we begin to conform to, and because it turns us away from replicating God, it diminishes our humanity. The idols of animals were the most popular alternative for God back then, which is why the pagan nations who followed them were called beasts (Dan. 7:3-8). They worshipped beasts so they turned into beasts. But this isn’t restricted to those who go after animal idols. Anyone who is drawn by another glory becomes “like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed” (2 Pt. 2:12). It begins to turn a person into another creature – one that isn’t made in God’s image. Like a humanoid.
In The Fly, Jeff Goldblum’s character is turning into a human-fly hybrid, and he’s concerned with the ramifications. “Have you ever heard of insect politics?” he asks his girlfriend. “Insects don’t have politics. They’re very brutal. No compassion, no compromise. We can’t trust the insect.” He then tells her to leave for her own safety.
When the glory of creatures is what lights us up instead of God’s mercy, we can’t be trusted either, because we’re becoming a human-other hybrid, instead of a human-Jesus hybrid. And when the beast-like nations rule the world, everything becomes an orgy of self-centered violence: justice decays, the needy are marginalized, and the poor are oppressed to enrich the powerful. The beasts tear it all up.
The Canaanites sacrificed animals to Baal and paid his temple prostitutes because they believed he would bless them with rain in return. This could change a village from starving to prospering. But Yahweh promised this very thing if Israel would serve Him (Deut. 28). He even delivered them from Egypt to prove His ability and heart to do it. This is a picture of our lives today.
God has chiefly demonstrated His trustworthiness by Jesus’ sacrifice so we could have hope of happiness, but also so we could be enraptured by the glory of His kindness. But when something else substitutes this role in our lives, we’re following the glory of our own Baal.
What’s your go-to for fulfillment? Money, food, sex, possessions, relationships, or careers? Being smart, successful, powerful, popular, or attractive? When we chiefly rely on such things to be happy, this is our Baal. This is the glory we’ve exchanged for God’s, and like drinking Dr. Jekyll’s potion, it destroys our humanity, leaving a monster in its place.
Such people “knew God” but, “worshipped and served the creature” instead (Rom. 1:25). This is when we center our lives around a substitute glory in order to maximize our happiness from it. It’s our top priority, and it results in “all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice”, which is what Paul calls futility (Rom. 1:21). Futility is a life devoid of purpose since it’s a life lived outside the design and intention of the Creator. It’s like using a lawnmower to vacuum the living room, and it’s a hurricane of chaos.
The Rising Sun and the Risen Son
When my eyes were opened to see God, Jesus looked more glorious than Batman ever did. And like telling my friends how cool Batman was, once the passion of a crucified King’s compassion burned in my heart, I went around telling everyone how incredible He was. And like reenacting my favorite Batman scenes, when I was opened to experience “the Son of God who gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20), I tried to be like Him. Now, it’s been a bumpy road with too many failures and unnecessary detours, but the more I see His glory, the more empowered I am to transform into Him.
Be careful about what glory you're adoring and trusting.
Be conscientious about what glory you're filling yourself up with.
Be cognizant about what glory you're displaying to others.
Consider the kindness of God that is all around us, from the rising Sun to the risen Son. It’s being played on full blast all the time. It just doesn’t make any noise (Ps. 19.1-4).