Bearing “The Weight of Glory”

C.S. Lewis wrote in the conclusion to his famous sermon, “The Weight of Glory”:
 
“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.
 
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. […]
 
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit— immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. […]
 
“Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”

 

In this sermon, Lewis was largely addressing the final glorification of believers at which time they will be fully conformed to the likeness of Jesus; who is the perfect image of God.
 
And in that moment, they will finally be completely re-conformed to the image of God that they were originally created to be; and thereby they will fully render unto God the fullness of glory which He is due for all eternity.
 
For this is the single purpose for which mankind has been created.
 
As John the Apostle wrote:
 
“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
 
And as Paul wrote:
 
“Just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man” (1 Corinthians 15:49).
 
However, the process of being conformed to the image of Jesus will only be completed at our glorification; it must begin here and now in this life, when we begin to imitate and obey Jesus as His disciple.
 
Paul also wrote concerning this process:
 
“You heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:21-24).
 
And:
 
“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
 
Paul taught that as we imitate and obey Jesus as His disciple, we are progressively being transformed into His image; and therefore progressively rendering unto God increasingly the glory He is due as we are re-conformed to the image of God that we were originally created to be.

 

This is why at His Words His Ways Fellowship, we have argued extensively that the end goal of the Gospel is that men bring glory to God by being re-conformed to the image of God that they were originally created to be.
 
And that this re-conformity is only achieved by being conformed to the image of Jesus, who is the perfect image of God, by imitating and obeying Him as His disciple (through the supernatural empowerment and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit).
 
Moreover, we have argued extensively that these principles are not only taught, but are emphasized throughout the New Testament.
 
Almost every book of the New Testament contains either an allusion or a direct reference to believers being conformed to the image of God/Jesus.
 
And we are not the first to have argued this position. It has been argued by Athanasius of Alexandria, John Wesley, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and A.W. Tozer among others.
 
But personally, I would go even a step further and argue that this is the central plot-line of Scripture.
 
Scripture opens with man being created in the image of God for a specific purpose and function. Scripture then introduces into the story the conflict of the plot; that man disobeys God and falls from his original purpose and function.
 
But then the hero, God, re-enters the story and introduces His plan to rescue and redeem man from his fallenness.
 
The plot of the story of Scripture then climaxes in the fullness of time when Jesus steps in as the perfect image of God, the second Adam, and carries out God’s rescue mission by paying the full price to redeem mankind from the bondage of his fallenness;
 
…and by establishing the process of discipleship through which men will be re-conformed to their original purpose and function by imitating Him as His disciple (through the supernatural empowerment and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit).
 
The plot of the story reaches its conclusion and full resolution when all of those who have believed in and followed Jesus as His disciple are restored to complete perfection along with the rest of creation; and they then perfectly render unto God the glory He is due for all eternity.
 
However, as we have attempted to have conversations with church leaders about these important principles which are clearly taught in Scripture, we have noticed a strange (and honestly frustrating) phenomenon:
 
Even though no one has, as of yet, openly disagreed with us that Scripture teaches these things…
 
…and even though everyone agrees that these principles are important and therefore should be taught in church…
 
(of course, this is only logically if we claim as Evangelicals to believe and teach the full counsel of Scripture)
 
…we have, as of yet, to observed anyone (other than ourselves) teach them inside a church within our immediate culture and context.
 
Which then raises the frustrating question:
 
“If we agree that these things are taught in Scripture, that they have been historically taught by faithful men of God, that they are important to the life of the church, that they clearly explain why we are to be and make disciples of Jesus who imitate and obey Him, and that therefore they should be taught in the church…
 
…then why are we so reluctant to teach them?”
 
After much consternation, consideration, and internal debate, I think the answer might be found in what C.S. Lewis said in his sermon:
 
“It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbour’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.”
 
Once we teach these things as church leaders and say them out loud to our congregations, we must then also take upon ourselves the burden of their glory; not only in the hereafter, but more immediately in the here and now.
 
And in doing so, we accept that we share in bearing the weight of the glory of those whose discipleship is under our care. And as Lewis stated, “it is a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, the backs of the proud will be broken.”
 
Unfortunately, what we have done in our churches instead is to attempt to keep “rendering glory unto God” as a mysterious and vague process.
 
We quote: “…whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,” to our congregations without explaining to them HOW to do so.
 
Because, if we can keep “rendering glory unto God” mysterious and vague, then we as church leaders cannot be held responsible for it.
 
By the same token, we use terms such as “being and making disciples,” which sound pious and sincere; but are still just vague enough to allow us an escape out from under the responsibility of teaching men to bringing glory to God by being re-conformed to His image.
 
But in contrast, once we openly teach that men bring glory to God by being re-conformed to the image of God, through being conformed to the image of Jesus, which only occurs by imitating and obeying Him as His disciple; then we as church leaders can be held responsible for that.
 
Then the weight of each of my church members’ glory becomes a burden that I as a church leader must willingly bear.
 
And in my own experience, it is both a terrible and joyous burden to bear.
 
Moreover, I realize that the only way I am able to bear such a burden is that it is to Christ to whom I am yoked, and that it is He who bears the brunt of the load.
 
For as Lewis stated, it cannot be borne in pride. If you do take it up in pride, it will break you until you are either humbled or destroyed.
 
I am by nature a prideful man. But the weight of glory has beaten me down and broken my pride over the years. I would not yet call myself humble, but I am a shadow of the prideful man that I once was.
 
However unfortunately, as far as we have observed, too many church leaders are afraid to take up the weight of their congregants’ glory. They seem afraid to openly speak the words and truths that are so clearly taught in Scripture.
 
Perhaps it is because they are as painfully aware of their pride as I am of mine, and they fear being broken under the burden and weight of glory.
 
Whatever the reason, I would remind them of the words of our Master and Savior:
 
“I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. […] Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:25-30).
 
 
If you are interested in learning more about why it is so important that we imitate and obey Jesus as His disciples, start here and follow the links at the end of each page: