Since September 11, 2001, I have seen more clearly than ever how essential it is to exult explicitly in the excellence of Christ crucified for sinners and risen from the dead. Christ must be explicit in all our God-talk. It will not do, in this day of pluralism, to talk about the glory of God in vague ways. God without Christ is no God. And a no-God cannot save or satisfy the soul. Following a no-God—whatever his name or whatever his religion—will be a wasted life. God-in-Christ is the only true God and the only path to joy.
To bring us to this highest and most durable of all pleasures, God made his Son, Jesus Christ, a bloody spectacle of blameless suffering and death. This is what it cost to rescue us from a wasted life. The eternal Son of God “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing.” He took “the form of a servant” and was born “in the likeness of men . . . . He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
All Things Were Made for Him
This Jesus was and is a real historical man in whom “the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9). Since he is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God,” as the old Nicene Creed says, and since his death and resurrection are the central act of God in history, it is not surprising to hear the Bible say, “All things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). For him! That means for his glory.
Ever since the incarnate, redeeming work of Jesus, God is gladly glorified by sinners only through the glorification of the risen God-Man, Jesus Christ. His bloody death is the blazing center of the glory of God. There is no way to the glory of the Father but through the Son. All the promises of joy in God’s presence, and pleasures at his right hand, come to us only through faith in Jesus Christ.
If We Reject Him, We Reject God
Jesus is the litmus test of reality for all persons and all religions. He said it clearly: “The one who rejects me rejects him who sent me” (Luke 10:16). People and religions who reject Christ reject God. Do other religions know the true God? Here is the test: Do they reject Jesus as the only Savior for sinners who was crucified and raised by God from the dead? If they do, they do not know God in a saving way.
That is what Jesus meant when he said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Or when he said, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:23). Or when he said to the Pharisees, “If God were your Father, you would love me” (John 8:42).
If we would see and savor the glory of God, we must see and savor Christ. For Christ is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). To put it another way, if we would embrace the glory of God, we must embrace the Gospel of Christ. The reason for this is not only because we are sinners and need a Savior to die for us, but also because this Savior is himself the fullest and most beautiful manifestation of the glory of God. He purchases our undeserved and everlasting pleasure, and he becomes for us our all-deserving, everlasting Treasure.
The Gospel is the Good News of the Glory of Christ
This is how the Gospel is defined. When we are converted through faith in Christ, what we see with the eyes of our hearts is “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The Gospel is the good news of all-conquering beauty. Or to say it the way Paul does, it is the good news of “the glory of Christ.” When we embrace Christ, we embrace God. We see and savor God’s glory. There is no savoring of God’s glory if we do not see it in Christ. This is the only window through which a sinner may see the face of God and not be incinerated.
The Bible says that when God illuminates our hearts at conversion, he gives “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). Either we see the glory of God “in the face of Jesus Christ,” or we don’t see it at all. And “the face of Jesus Christ” is the beauty of Christ reaching its climax in the cross. The bloody face of Christ crucified (and triumphant!) is the countenance of the glory of God. What was once foolishness to us becomes our wisdom and our power and our boast (1 Corinthians 1:18, 24).
Life is wasted if we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain.