“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14
I remember being gripped by a life altering truth. The Reformers phrased it as, “Soli Deo Gloria!” – Glory to God alone. I had first been introduced to this phrase, not through church history, but through music. See, J. S. Bach would pen this Latin phrase at the beginning and end of each of his musical compositions (sometimes truncating it to “S.D.G”). As we all know from experience, grasping a fact and being gripped by that fact are two very different things. It wasn’t until after graduating from Bible college that God began to teach me what “Soli Deo Gloria” was. (Don’t think for one second that I think He’s done.. He’s not, it’s an ongoing journey. He is forever my Master and I am forever His “Padawan”.)
Fleshing out the Fact:
There is, however, a conjunction in the proclamation of the angels. They came proclaiming the arrival of The Messiah to God’s glory AND something else. It is the part after the “AND” that has been on my mind this Christmas season. (Actually, it’s been on my mind quite a bit before this month, but now is a convenient inroad to talking about it… and highly apropos as many will be singing it and hearing it in carols sung and played as well as reading it captioned on signs and billboards.) Grammatically, the “AND” is a coordinating conjunction; a word that joins two or more items (or phrases) of equal importance. So what the “AND” joins is just as important as the glory of God. This “AND” is a (dare I say “the”) primary way God’s Glory is fleshed out. This “AND” is the result of the coming of the long foretold Jewish Messiah (Isaiah 9:6). This “AND” is the result of the covenant faithfulness (righteousness) of God (Romans 3:21-26). This “AND” is the results fulfillment of the protoevangelium (Genesis 3:15) – Where God promises to crush the head of the serpent. This “AND” is the result of the death and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-28). This “AND” is the job of all those who are children of God (Matthew 5:9) because it is the task He,Whom we are to image to the world, accomplished through the cross (Colossians 1:20).
Walking in the Flesh(ed out Fact):
Truth be told, we often times forget all about the “AND”. We chant with Paul, “Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God!”, but for some reason we tend to compartmentalize that “whatsoever” – and by restricting the whatsoever, it ceases to be whatsoever.
There is an expression that warns, “Be careful of being so heavenly minded you’re of no earthly good.” The whole of Scripture clearly destroys that little quip for it teaches that giving all glory to God fleshes itself out in a specific result among the children of men (reaching the rest of creation also). If one ever is said to be so heavenly minded he/she is of no use on earth then that individual has ceased to actually be heavenly minded. He/She may be some breed of hyper-spiritualist, but having the mind of the God is not their situation. Spend some time reading Matthew 6:9-13 to see how inextricably linked heaven and earth are to each other.
So what does this fleshed out fact look like? How are we supposed to live that out in our earthy, day-to-day lives? Well, I wish I had a simple one liner that fit every situation so one could blindly live by that mantra. Actually, No I don’t! While that would make it easy, at least at first, it would drive us from following the very One that we should be driven to follow – Jesus The Messiah. When He came, He didn’t just appear on the scene and die on a cross. He lived a life; a life that is an example for us. His example is so vital that we are told to follow it in wondering how to respond under the most extremely harsh circumstance (I Peter 2:21). We are instructed that we will imitate His works (John 14:12). So how this bringing-peace-on-earth-life looks is this – it looks exactly like Jesus.
The early Christians, before they were called Christians, we known as followers of The Way (Acts 24:14). Jesus shows us this way. So for the rest of my life, I will follow Jesus – my Lord and my God – ever learning to be more like Him; and by His grace, bringing peace to a world enraged by sin and death (2 Corinthians 5:17-20).