Beholding the Glory of Christ Forevermore – John 17:24

Beholding the Glory of Christ Forevermore

Nick Esch, 8/26/2018 Cornerstone Baptist Church

Introduction

If I were to ask you what it means to be human, you would likely say something like, to be imperfect… We say that, don’t we? When we make a mistake, we say things like, “I’m only human…” And by that we mean that we are imperfect… And as Christians, we know that at the heart of this idea of us being imperfect, of making mistakes, and the like, is the fact that we are sinners… As Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”

But, what if I told you that what it means to be truly human, is not to be a sinner, but to be holy?… Or, in contrast to Romans 3:23, to be truly human is to not fall short of the glory of God, but to live for the glory of God… Let me show you what I mean; in Genesis God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (1:26)… And then we’re told that, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over [it]’” (Genesis 1:26-28)… So, humanity was created by God, for God… We were created in His image, to image Him, to act as His ambassadors, as stewards of His creation, and as representatives of what He is like; we were created to display and magnify who God is to the world… In other words, we were created to glorify God… This is all one and the same thing… As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever…” This is why we exist; and this is at the very heart of what it means to be human…

So, what happened? How did we get to the point where what we associate with being human is being a sinner, rather than being a person who lives for the glory of God? Well, as you know, it all started with Adam and Eve disobeying God in the garden… He told them not to eat of the fruit of one particular tree, the serpent comes and whispers a few lies in their ears: “Did God really say?… He just doesn’t want you to be like Him… You won’t die…” And after seeing that the fruit looked desirable, they eat, and everything is broken… They failed to trust God’s Word, and they failed to live for God’s glory… And the ultimate reason was because they themselves wanted to be God… They were glory hungry… And we are the same way…

As humans created to glorify God, we’re meant to be glory hungry, but to be hungry for the glory of God alone… Sin, by definition is falling short of the glory of God, because typically what we’re chasing when we sin is our own glory… And as we chase after sin, and chase after our own glory, instead of being boosted up and made much of, like our sinful pride desires, we are actually hurting ourselves; we’re dehumanizing ourselves… To be truly human is to truly glorify God and to enjoy Him above all else… That’s what we were created for… And that’s what Jesus came and did in our place… The perfect Son of God came to earth and took on flesh, and lived the perfect life as the perfect man… Jesus, who is God, is really the only true human to ever live, because He never sinned… He was never dehumanized… But, He came and lived in our place, and then died in our place—taking the punishment that we deserve because we have fallen short of glory—and then He rose from the dead, so that all who turn from their sin and trust in Him would be restored to their created design: glorifying God and enjoying Him forever… He saves us from wrath, from sin, and from ourselves… He saves us from our sinful glory hunger, and shows us the glory that we were created for; and that glory is where true satisfaction is found; again, after all, that’s why we exist… And this idea of getting us back to what we were created for, of getting us back to glory is what we see in our text today… So, with that in mind, look with me at John 17:24…

John 17:24

Remember our context; Jesus is praying to the Father just a few hours before He’s going to the cross to die for the sins of His people… And He’s been praying for His glory and that the Father would enable Him to boldly do His will… And He’s been praying for His apostles and all true believers that would follow them; He’s been praying that God would hold us fast, that He would keep us faithful in a hostile world, that we would be holy, and that God would keep us ever growing in holiness, and that we would be empowered by Him to live in this world on mission for the glory of Christ… And, here in our passage today, Jesus continues His prayer for us…

Now notice how our text begins; look at the first three words of our passage… Jesus says, “Father, I desire…” The King James Version says it a little more bluntly; it says, “Father, I will…” And that’s the idea here; Jesus is plainly stating His sovereign will for all Christians… And that should make your ears perk up… Have you ever asked yourself, “What’s God’s will for my life? What does Jesus want for me?” Well, beloved, we’re going to find out in this verse… But, I like the language of God’s sovereign will, more than desire, because we should understand this as something that will absolutely happen for all Christians… This is not Jesus laying out some hopes and dreams that may or may not happen… No! Jesus is the sovereign God of the universe… If He desires something—in the way the word is being used here—He gets it… So, as we look at the rest of this verse, this should give us great assurance… Everything that we are about to look at is tied to God’s sovereign will, not to our weak wills… So, let’s keep working through our text…

Jesus says, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me…” Ok, so now we see that Jesus is praying for all whom the Father has given Him… And as we have seen in weeks past, by that He means all whom the Father has loved and chosen before the foundation of the world… He’s referring to the elect; those for whom Christ died… As Jesus said earlier, He has authority to give eternal life to all whom the Father has given him (John 17:2)… And He does; He has, He is, and He will… And that’s who He’s speaking of here; all true believers throughout all time… All that the Father has given Him, whom Jesus purchased redemption for on the cross…

So, what does Jesus desire for His people… He says, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am…” Oh church, what amazing words… This is the language of salvation… Jesus doesn’t want you to perish… Jesus doesn’t want you in hell… Jesus wants you with Him… He desires to have you with Him… What more could He say to express His total commitment to loving us, saving us, and being in eternal communion with us?… This is like the language of a wedding; which is appropriate, as over and over again in the Bible, God’s people are referred to as the bride of Christ… When a husband looks at his wife and says, “I do,” he’s saying he wants to be with my bride for as long as possible… And here Jesus is saying He wants to be with His bride, with His Church, with us, forever… This is like what God’s Word says in Isaiah 62:5, “as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you…” Do you see? The Son of God desires you; He delights in you; He rejoices over you; He wants you with Him where He is…

And again, this is God’s sovereign will were talking about here…. So this should give us great assurance… If Jesus wants you He will have you… The Father will answer this prayer; indeed He already is answering this prayer… As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:30, it’s, “because of him [that] you are in Christ Jesus.” By grace, through faith, in Christ, we have been made alive in Christ, and we will, because of His sovereign grace, live with Him where He is for all eternity… Again, this is not based on our weak will power; this is based on God’s sovereign will…

Your assurance of your salvation does not come from whether or not you really meant it when you asked God to save you, or whether or not you remember exactly how and when it was that you first trusted in the Lord, or on how strong your faith is now… Your assurance comes from the object of your faith, not the strength of your faith… So, are you forsaking your self and your sin and trusting in Jesus as your only hope, right now?… Yes, some days are better than others… Yes, some days you are really trusting Jesus, and some days you have great doubts… But at the end of the day, do you believe that Jesus is your only hope?… If yes, then understand, that belief can only come by the grace of God… And it is the sovereign grace of God that will keep you until the end and bring you safely to Jesus… God has, and will continue to make good on this prayer… He will keep His people in His grace, and all for whom Christ died will be with Him where He is for all eternity… “Oh blessed assurance! Jesus is mine!!!”

Beloved, this is the language of heaven… We can define heaven with two words: with Christ… I’ve shared this quote before, but it’s good enough to hear again. A pastor from the past, Samuel Rutherford, once prayed, “O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without thee, it would be a hell; and if I could be in hell, and have thee still, it would be a heaven to me, for thou are all the heaven I want…” In other words, what makes heaven heaven is Jesus… This is one of the reasons it takes a work of sovereign grace to make someone a Christian… As I said in my intro, we are all by nature glory hungry; but in our sin, we’re only hungry for our own glory; but when God causes us to be born again, Jesus and His glory become our greatest desire…

The world could care less about spending eternity with Jesus; but that’s our greatest hope… So many times I’ve look into the eyes of someone who just lost a loved one who was a Christian, many of you even, and I quoted Paul’s words of encouragement in 2 Corinthians 5:7-8, that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord… And, as Christians, we know that to be with Jesus is the best thing that could happen to those we love… So even though our hearts ache, and we grieve over their death, we rejoice that they are with Jesus, and we long for the day that we will be too… As Paul said, “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Philippians 1:23)… Far better than what? Than everything!!! But, outside of God’s grace we don’t understand that… But, by grace we long for this, we long to be with Jesus; and here Jesus is saying that He desires for us to be with Him too… How amazing is that?!

Now look at what Jesus says next… He says, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me…” So, Jesus doesn’t just want us with Him where He is, but He wants us to see His glory… But that begs the question, what does He mean by the glory that the Father has given Him? Jesus is God the Son, the second person of the Trinity; He is eternally glorious… How can He be given glory? Well, it would seem that He’s referring to the glory He gets as the glorified Son of Man, the glory that comes in and through the gospel… As we’re told in Philippians 2:5-11, God highly exalted Jesus because of His life, death, and resurrection… He magnified His glory in and through the cross… Now, here Jesus is praying just before the cross, but He anticipates all that is to come, and speaks as if it has already been done… I mean, after all, when He prays for us to be with Him where He is, that implies that He is not dead, but alive… He is risen! And because He is alive never to die again, though we die, yet shall we live! So, the glory He’s speaking of here is the glory of the gospel… The glory of the risen Lord… The full glory of Jesus, who is the Lord of lords, and King of kings…

And Jesus prays that we would see His glory… In John’s Gospel, he’s already said that as Christians we have seen His glory. After establishing that Jesus is the Word, and the Word is God, He says in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Now, this was true of the apostles who saw Him before the cross and even after the resurrection, but it’s true of every Christian… As we read earlier from 2 Corinthians, we all, with unveiled face, are now able to behold the glory of the Lord… Because, God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18, 4:6)… In other words, by God’s grace we have seen that the glory that we are truly hungry for is the glory of Christ… And we have now seen it; as the Psalmist says, we have tasted and seen that the LORD is good, and we have taken refuge in Him; all because we beheld His glory in the gospel… And every time we study His Word, or gather together under his Word and marvel at the gospel, we behold His glory again and again… So this part of Jesus prayer is already being answered as well. We have, and are even now, beholding the glory of Jesus…

But Jesus prays that we would be with Him where He is and behold His glory… So this has not yet happened for us… This is a prayer for us to behold His glory in glory… And the idea behind the word see, when He says that He wants us to see His glory, is to observe with sustained attention, and to enter into and experience it… It’s like what John says later in 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” We have gotten a glimpse of glory, but one day we will behold the glory of Jesus in its full radiance, and we will be forever changed… Essentially, Jesus’ prayer for us to be sanctified will be fully answered, because when we see Him in His glory we too shall be made glorious… We will be truly and fully sanctified because we will be glorified…

Friends, this should be our greatest desire; to be with Jesus, where He is, in His glory… As I said, we exist to glorify God and enjoy Him forever… We are glory hungry because we were created for the glory of God… And Jesus, as Hebrews 1:3 tells us, “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…” So our longing for glory, is tied up with a longing for Jesus… That’s why Paul said being with Jesus is supremely better than anything and everything… And again, we can only truly see this by God’s grace; but let me just try to help you understand it logically…

Our fallen, sinful minds and hearts tell us that living for ourselves, for our own glory, and the desires of the flesh and the pleasures of this world are what will truly satisfy us… But we all know that nothing of this world ever satisfies us; we can never get enough… We always need more… And that’s because we were created by Jesus, for Jesus… We were created for God’s glory… But, just stop and think for a second about all the things of this world that you enjoy, that you see as good, and that you are searching for satisfaction in… Let’s say for arguments sake, that most of these things are, by and large, good things, and not out right sinful… So, it could be your family, or friends, or whatever… Spending time with them, or whatever you enjoy… Well, God’s Word says that God is the only one who is truly good, and He is the Creator of all. As James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…” Therefore, anything that’s good in creation came from God and gets its goodness from Him… So, any goodness in this world is a shadow or a reflection of the goodness of God, because He is the source from which this world derives its goodness… That being the case then, God is supremely better than even the best things in this world, because however good they may be or seem to be, what little bit of goodness they have came from God who is eternally good… So, by settling for self glory, or the glory of this world, we are settling for a watered down version of what we were created for, and thus we will never be satisfied…

  1. S. Lewis once said, “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.” And that’s just it… We were made for glory! We were made for Jesus! But we settle for so much less… Lewis also points out that, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased…” Only, we aren’t really pleased… We’re hungry for more… We’re hungry for glory… And here Jesus prays that we would get it… That we would be where He is with Him and behold in unveiled splendor and enjoy and forever be changed by His glory…

This is our great hope! Perfectly seeing the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ is our ultimate hope… And such a hope, that is really known and treasured has a massive effect on how we live here and now… It gives us unshakable joy… It makes us incredibly gracious and loving… And it causes us to live with great boldness for the glory of Christ, because we are assured by His sovereign will that we will be with Him and enjoy Him forever… Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord…

Now, look at the last part of verse 24 with me. Again, Jesus says, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” Here Jesus gives us the purpose clause behind all of this good news… God has so magnified the glory of Jesus, and will answer and has answered this great High Priestly Prayer, because He loves Him… In fact, Jesus says, that the Father has loved Him before the foundation of the world… In Genesis 1:1 it says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…” If you’ve ever wondered what God was doing before that, here Jesus gives us the answer… He was eternally loving the Son… And no doubt the Son was eternally loving the Father, and the Spirit was eternally loving the Father and the Son, and so on… If you remember in Genesis when God creates man, He says, “Let us make man in our image…” God is Triune… Three persons, one God…

God didn’t create because He was lonely; He created because He is glorious… God didn’t create because He needed someone to love… The Father has always loved Jesus; it’s a love that has no beginning and will never end; it has always been… This tells us a great deal about what God is like; He has always been a loving Father… Indeed, this is how we know that God is love; because He has always been actively loving Someone… If God were not Triune He would not be love; but He is; and He has always loved and will always love Jesus…The Father’s very being has eternally been about loving His Son…

Now, saying that the Father loves Jesus is really no different than saying that God loves His glory, because, as we have seen, Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God… Or, as we read earlier in 2 Corinthians 4, it is in the face of Jesus Christ that we see the glory of God… John Piper points out, “One of the best ways to think about God’s infinite enjoyment of his own glory is to think of it as the delight he has in his Son who is the perfect reflection of that glory.” And that’s what Jesus is getting at here; Jesus says that it is the Father’s love for Him that leads to everything in His prayer; so then, we could say, that God’s love for His glory, especially His glory in Christ, is what makes salvation possible…

It is eternally good news that God is all about His glory, because our hope hinges on the Father’s love for His glory, or the Father’s love for Jesus… Some people have a hard time with the God of the Bible because He constantly commands us to praise Him and to glorify Him; again the very definition of sin is to fall short of His glory… But it is eternally good for us that God is all about His glory, because if He wasn’t Jesus would not have come and lived, died, rose again, and ascended on high to save us… God’s glory is most magnified in the cross of Christ… So, God in His love for Jesus made a plan to save sinners and exalt Christ before the foundation of the world, not because we are at the center of the universe, or because we are so awesome and lovely; but because He is at the center of the universe, and because He eternally loves His glorious Son… It is good news that God is all about His glory, because God delights to be glorified in saving sinners.

And just think about that for a second… If God is perfect in every way, and He delights in Jesus above all else; and Jesus is eternally satisfying, because after all God has been loving Him and delighting in Him forever, and will be forever and ever amen… Then why would we go to lesser things for joy and satisfaction? Why would we settle for mud pies when we are being offered a holiday at sea? Jesus is infinitely better than everything… Seeing this truth should cause us to treasure the glory of God in Christ above all things and in all things; and it should cause us to forsake anything that would seek to distract us from this glory…

This is what Jesus is praying for us here… His great desire for us, His sovereign will for us, is that we would be with Him where He is and see, behold, savor, and enjoy His glory forever and ever… And notice where Jesus is; He’s in the eternal love of the Father… And that’s where Jesus wants us; and that where Jesus takes us… As Peter says, “For Christ . . . .  suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18)… That is, bring us to God, not to be judged, but to be eternally loved… If this is Jesus—the eternally glorious perfect Son of God—if this His desire for us, shouldn’t our desire be the very same thing? Shouldn’t we desire glory above all else?

Conclusion

As I said in my introduction, to be truly human is to be holy; and to be holy is to live for the glory of God; to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever… And that’s Christ’s prayer for us… That’s His sovereign will for every Christian… That we would be with Him where He is, in the eternal love of the Father, and that we would enjoy His glory forever and ever… We get tastes of this now as we study God’s Word, walk in faithfulness, and especially as we gather with God’s people to read the gospel, pray the gospel, sing the gospel, sit under the preaching of the gospel, and even see the gospel through the Lord’s Supper and the like, because after all, it’s in the gospel that we see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ… But, what we behold by faith now, one day we will see in its fullness. We will see Him as He is and we will be like Him… For all who are in Christ, this will happen… Because of His sovereign will we have great assurance; it is as good as done…

In Revelation 21, John—the same one who wrote this Gospel—tells us of this sure day that is coming… He says in that day, the dwelling place of God will be with man. He will dwell with us, and we will be his people, and God himself will be with us as our God. He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things will have passed away. And in that day we will have no need of sun or moon to shine on us, for the glory of God will give us light, and that light, that glory comes from the Lamb who was slain, from Jesus Himself… Christ will be ours forevermore… Oh what a glorious day that will be…