The first time the word glory really captured my attention was on a hot Sunday morning at a predominantly Black church in Atlanta, Georgia. I was the young guest preacher, and “Glory!” rose up repeatedly from the back row of pews as I spoke, rich in cadence and with undeniable spiritual authority. The bold group of women in the back were in tune with something that I, as a fresh graduate from seminary, was not. As I spoke to their beloved church, I was more focused on intellectually connecting the dots of my text and passing along my knowledge of the Scriptures than in the reality of this glory they so beautifully proclaimed. For me at the time, the word glory did not occupy much space in my thoughts or conversation. The concept seemed vague and even made me a bit uncomfortable. But that day, I decided I needed to know what those women knew. I spoke with them after the service, and it was abundantly clear that they were not shouting rote religious words to stir up emotion—they had been experiencing the gathering of the saints and the preaching of the Word as a sharing in his glory and as fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
Their vibrant faith reminded me that we are becoming what we behold. As we fix our eyes on Jesus and experience the presence and power of God in our lives, we understand and reflect glory more and more. On the other hand, the greatest bondage comes when we fix our eyes on ourselves or the idols that surround us. Jesus made a way for the Spirit’s indwelling, so that we could be set free from bondage to sin and behold the Lord’s glory. His advent removes the veil over our hearts and offers both the blessing of beholding his glory and that of being transformed into the same glory (2 Cor. 3:17–18).
On that Sunday morning many years ago, it was clear to me—and those around me—that I was out of my comfort zone. As I expressed my own challenges after the service, one woman declared, “He’ll get you through!” I have needed that encouragement to fix my eyes on Jesus throughout the journey of life and my pastoral vocation. Those women were, for me, like the angels who proclaimed “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (Luke 2:13–14), declaring the glory of the Lord and pointing me to the presence, power, and peace of my Savior. I wish they were part of my church every Sunday, helping me behold Jesus, who came so that we could all become like him.
Steve Woodrow has been the Teaching and Directional Pastor at Crossroads Church Aspen, CO. for the past 23 years.
This article is part of The Eternal King Arrives, a 4-week devotional to help individuals, small groups, and families journey through the 2023 Advent season . Learn more about this special issue that can be used Advent, or any time of year at http://orderct.com/advent.
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