We welcome you to North Shore Church located in beautiful Menominee, MI. Pastor Duncan Ross shares a heartfelt introductory message to all who are looking for a place to worship, grow, and connect.
This week, we return to the 17th chapter of John’s gospel where John records this prayer of Jesus to his Father only a few hours before his crucifixion. We saw last time that Jesus begins his prayer with God’s highest priority because he repeatedly asks that he and the Father would be glorified—receive glory. We also saw (as we will see in this week’s section as well) that Jesus’ prayer reveals and celebrates the glory that God receives from his sovereign role in the salvation of sinners.
That is—that eternal life for sinners is something Jesus alone can give, but those to whom he can give eternal life is limited by those sinners the Father gives him to be saved. God’s complete control over who is saved glorifies both the Father and the Son. Finally, Jesus defines eternal life in an absolutely God-centered, God-glorifying way. Verse three says, 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” That implies that we should not think about eternal life in terms of going to heaven or being spared hell. What makes eternal life so astonishingly glorious is that—eternal life is about knowing the Father and the Son.
After the first five verses where Jesus prays for God to be glorified, in verses six through 19–Jesus prays for those who had been with him during his three years of ministry. Part of what makes this section a challenge to understand is that leading up to the first petition in verse 11 is a kind of self-evaluation from Jesus as to his ministry to his disciples as he looks back on his ministry to the 12. As Jesus is reflecting on his ministry to these disciples, he focusses on that fact that he had his faithfully completed doing the one thing that mattered most to him and is a huge part of him bringing glory to the Father. That is—he manifested or revealed the Father to his disciples. This was the driving passion of his life and ministry and this prayer reveals that he had perfectly accomplished this.
This is what he is saying in verse six when he says, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world.” The word “manifest” literally means “made visible.” When he says that he had manifested “your name” that phrase in the Bible is synonymous with “your Person”—who you are. So, Jesus is affirming that in his incarnation he manifested or made the invisible God visible which is another way of saying that he “revealed” his Father. The best way to bring glory to the Father is to in some way allow others to see his glory and Jesus continually did that in his ministry to the 12.
This theme of Jesus as the Revealer of his Father runs throughout the gospel of John. In chapter one, John spends the first 18 verses introducing Jesus and what he is about as he previews the major themes in the book. The conclusion of this introduction is in verse 18 where John says, “18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” The fact that John concludes the introduction to this book with Jesus’ mission to reveal his Father tells us it is central to how Jesus sees his life and ministry.
In chapter 14, as part of Jesus’ final teaching before his crucifixion, a bewildered Philip asks Jesus, “8 “…Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” Jesus is amazed that, after three years of ministry alongside Philip, he (and the other apostles) doesn’t know the most basic truth about the identity of Jesus. That is—that Jesus is the revelation of God the Father in human form.
Finally, at the end of this prayer in John 17, notice what is Jesus’ concluding request in verses 25-26. “25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known...” It is clear that John presents Jesus as the Son of God sent to glorify God and he did that by manifesting him/revealing him to his followers.
In the next few verses in his self-evaluation of his ministry to the 12 Jesus gives three proofs/ways to show that he had revealed the Father to his disciples. The first proof Jesus cites to show that he faithfully revealed his Father to the disciples is in verse seven. He says, “Now they know that everything you have given me is from you.” That seems unnecessarily redundant. Why does he say, “Everything you have given me is from you?” What’s he’s saying is something like, “I know that everything I have comes from you and I have been careful to communicate that I have nothing of my own, but I have only what I received from you.
This is one of the major themes of Jesus’ ministry to his disciples in John’s gospel. In 5:19, Jesus says to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” He says much the same thing just 11 verses later in 5:30. “30I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” Again, in John 8:28, Jesus says, “… “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.”
Finally, in 14:10 he says, “10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works.” Jesus had been very intentional in revealing that all that he gave out was what the Father had given to him. He intended his ministry to point to the Father more than to himself.
A second proof that Jesus had fulfilled his mission to reveal or make his Father manifest is in verse eight. He says, “…they…have come to know in truth that I came from you…” Jesus reveals or manifests the Father by affirming that he had come from the Father. This is yet another repeated theme of Jesus’ ministry in John’s gospel. In chapter eight Jesus is in a heated dialogue with the Pharisees and says in verse 42, “…If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here...”
Jesus tells his disciples in 16:27, “27…the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” Three verses later, the apostles tell Jesus, “30 Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”
A third proof/way that Jesus had faithfully manifested or revealed the Father is in the next phrase in verse eight when he says about the disciples, “they believe that you sent me.” This is a bit different than saying that he came from God. The point here is that Jesus not only came from God, he came at GOD’S initiative, not his own. He was sent from the Father—he was on a mission from his Father to reveal him. Again, Jesus emphasizes this truth throughout John’s gospel. In 11:4, Jesus is praying for the resurrection of Lazarus as he is standing outside his tomb and prays, “…Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Jesus raising a man from the dead in response to his prayer to his Father was a clear indication that he was on his Father’s mission. In John 3:17, Jesus teaches this again. He says, “17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Finally, later in this prayer he prays for the unity of the church. He prays about the church and says in verse 21, “21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” The Father not only wanted Jesus’ disciples to know that he sent him—he wanted the world to know that Jesus had been sent by him.
Those are three proofs Jesus cites that he had been faithful to manifest the Father to his disciples. But HOW did Jesus manifest the Father? We’ve seen from some of these other references in John’s gospel that he did this in part through signs and wonders and in the Father answering his prayers, but Jesus tells us in verse eight the main way he has explicitly revealed the Father to his disciples. “For I have given them the words that you gave me and they have received them…” Jesus manifested the Father to his disciples by teaching them the Word of the Father in the Old Testament. The fact that Jesus makes a point to reference this as the main way he revealed the Father tells us that the best way for us to receive a clear revelation of God is to dig deeply into his word because he has given his word to us for the purpose of revealing himself.
We’ve said repeatedly that the Bible is a book about God. When we read it—is that our motivation—to know him? Do we pray as we read the Bible, “Father, I want to see you and your Son, Jesus in the pages of this book? Reveal yourself to me—show me your glory through what I read of your mercy and patience and power and love.” That should be our motivation in reading the Bible because that is the main reason God has given us his word—to reveal himself to us and in so doing bring glory to himself.
So, we’ve seen three proofs that Jesus had been faithful to manifest the Father to his disciples. We’ve seen HOW Jesus manifested the Father to the disciples—through his word. But a third question is, Why? Why was the Father so intent on Jesus revealing him to the disciples and why did Jesus do that? We get the answer in verse six. Jesus says, “6 I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.”
That makes sense. Jesus manifested the Father to his disciples because HE HAD GIVEN these people, HIS people to Jesus for that purpose. Again, we mentioned this last time in reference to verse two where Jesus says, “…You [the Father] have given him [Jesus] the authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” The Father has given authority to Jesus to give eternal life to people, but only those people who he had given Jesus. We saw last time that the Father determines who will receive eternal life based on who HE gives to Jesus to save.
Jesus expands on that here in verse six. He says that, not only are these people God has given to Jesus, these people personally belonged to the Father. Likewise, in verse nine Jesus says, “…I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” The fact that this is the third time that Jesus asserts that those who will receive eternal life are those the Father gives him and who personally belonged to him before he gave them to Jesus means its important. This is a powerful testimony as to how important it is to God for all to know that HE is sovereign in the salvation of sinners. That is—HE determines who he will save. Theologians call this election. God’s people are his own elect people.
When Jesus says to the Father about these people, “yours they were, and you gave them to me” its meaning is clear enough. One scholar says this about this truth. “Let this be personal. How is it that you came to belong to Jesus…Jesus says it is because the Father “gave” you to Jesus. And how is it that the Father could give you to this Son? Jesus answers…” because you already belonged to the Father…Why does it include you? Why are you among those who belonged to the Father before he gave you to the Son? Was it because you had some quality, and God saw this and chose you to be in the group that he would give to Jesus? Did he see that you were willing to come to Jesus or willing to believe on Jesus, and for that reason counted you to be part of those who were his?”
“No. Because in John 6:44, Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” In other words, being willing to come to Jesus was not something God saw in you, but something God worked in you. No one is willing to come to Jesus on his own. Only those who are drawn by the Father can come…Because we belonged to the Father, we listened to the truth; and because we belonged to the Father, we believed; and because we belonged to the Father, we were draw by him to Jesus; and because we belonged to the Father we were willing to believe.”
This becomes even more clear when we think about someone who Jesus says did NOT belong to the Father and therefore did not listen to the truth or believe in him. This was a man the Father did NOT draw to Jesus. That is–Judas. Jesus says in verse 12, “I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” Jesus gives Judas the title the “son of destruction.” The title “the son of destruction” means that Judas was not simply a disciple who decided Jesus wasn’t who he thought he was, so he chose to betray him to the authorities.
No—this title speaks of a person who was destined to betray Jesus as the son of destruction. That’s why Jesus didn’t guard him. This word translated “destruction” in the New Testament always speaks of eternal condemnation. The antichrist who is to come is called the “son of destruction” in Second Thessalonians 2:3. “3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction,” Judas is placed in the same category as the antichrist. The antichrist does NOT belong to the Father. He belongs to Satan. He is destined for condemnation—just like Judas.
The response that some have had toward this truth about Judas being destined for destruction is to feel sorry for him because he “had no chance.” The way that Jesus speaks of Judas during his ministry however was not that AT ALL! Several times in Jesus’ ministry he acknowledges that one of the 12 would betray him. John 6:70 says, “…Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” Many people have wrongly pitied Judas as some kind of victim, but that doesn’t in the least reflect Jesus’ attitude toward him. Jesus calls him “a devil” and he very much holds him responsible for his actions. He said of Judas in Luke 22:22,” …woe to the many by whom the Son of man is betrayed.”
For our discussion, the point is that Judas had not belonged to the Father and according to Jesus’ prayer here, THAT’S why he did not receive eternal life. If we’re genuinely in Christ, we must always remember to see ourselves within this utterly God-centered perspective. What I mean by that is this. If you are in Christ, it’s because, from eternity past, God chose you to belong to him and HE placed you into Christ. If you are part of Christ’s church, you are part of the Father’s gift to the Son. The emphasis is on the Father’s proactive role in owning us and the Son’s role in receiving us as his gift.
This is not just a doctrine explaining the eternal workings of God in our salvation. This has some glorious implications. For instance–THIS is where we find our worth…that God, for his own sovereign purposes would choose us and present us as a gift to his Son—a gift we know he purchased with his own blood and which he deeply cherishes. Do we see ourselves that way? Does that truth frame our sense of who we are?
To the degree that it does, it’s so liberating because we tend to place ourselves at the center of our universe and then experience the great pressure and stress that comes from that. As we’re so busy running around–feeling responsible to run the world and manage our lives and rescue those around us and fix all our problems, it would do us all a world of good to regularly pause and, in a mid-course correction remember that— “You know—I’m not fundamentally a manager or a rescuer or a problem-solver.” Here’s what I am—I’m part of the gift the Father has given to the Son (deep sigh of relief). I’ve been taken OUT of that performance-based, world system where I had to achieve something in order to feel worthy and good about myself.”
It’s just not about me and what I can do for God—it’s what he has done for me in Christ. The Father gave these disciples as a gift to his Son before they’d done anything all that spectacular. And up to this point, they had (in human terms) been a fairly high-maintenance gift!
Think about these incredibly sinful attitudes these disciples had manifested. “I want to be the greatest, most renown disciple.” “Jesus, we would like for ourselves the position of highest honor next to you in heaven.” “Master, I must rebuke you for thinking you’re going to die a criminal’s death in Jerusalem—you’re quite wrong about that.” “Hey Jesus, how’s about we call down fire from heaven on these lousy Samaritans.” “Jesus, would you just show us the Father?”
Only a gracious and loving Jesus could see these disciples (or us) as a gift when we so often seem more like a curse. Yet, Jesus is thrilled to receive us as a precious gift from his Father and in verse six, Jesus says of these disciples, “…they have kept your word.”
In the second half of verse 11 is the first real petition he asks of the Father about his disciples. “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” When people familiar with this prayer think of it, they probably think of Jesus’ prayer for the unity of the church. That’s fair because he prays for it three times in this chapter and we’ll look more closely at that request, later. But Jesus ties verse 12 with verse 11 by citing another truth. In verse 12, Jesus cites a ministry he had been performing for the disciples and asks his Father that, in his absence from them, he would continue. In verse 12 Jesus says, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name which you have given me.”
Whether it’s the Father or the Son doing it, what does it mean to “keep” the disciples? What Jesus is praying for here is that the Father would keep the disciples faithful to expressing the Father’s character just as HE had kept them faithful to express God’s character.
But what does Jesus mean by referring to the Father’s name as the name “which you have given to me?” He’s asking the Father that he will keep the disciples faithful to display his character—which he had perfectly manifested to them. We know that part of what he’s asking for in this “keep them in your name” prayer is for the disciples’ spiritual protection because Jesus says in verse 12, “I guarded them, and not one of them has been lost…” The implication is—if the 12 are to display God’s character-most fully revealed in Christ—then the Father will need to guard them as Jesus guarded them as the Good Shepherd.
This is crucial. We cannot manifest the character of Christ unless God keeps us faithful to do that and part of what is involved in that is his protection of us. God not only saves us; he KEEPS us saved. This is a common theme in the New Testament. Paul writes in First Corinthians 1:8, “[The Lord] will sustain you (keep you) to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
He says to the Thessalonians, “May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” [1 Thessalonians 5:23–24)]. Jude begins his letter with “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ: May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you” [Jude 1–2]. In each of those verses we see that the God who calls us to himself in Christ is also committed to keeping us in Christ.
Just as Jesus says the reason that none of the disciples were lost—none of them fell away, so also– no genuine believers will fall away because the Father is keeping us from walking away from him just as Jesus kept the disciples from falling away. The assurance we have is powerful. As God keeps us faithful to express his character—as he protects us from the world, the flesh and the devil, none of God’s people will be lost. None of the 12 were lost and no genuine believer will be lost.
No, if you’re genuinely in Christ, Jesus has prayed that the Father would keep you faithful to manifest God’s name, his character. We know from the disciples’ checkered performance that this doesn’t mean sinless perfectionism on our part, but it speaks to the general pattern of our lives. The Father will keep us faithful and protect us from anything or anyone that could cause us to shipwreck our faith.
Jesus’ prayer for his disciples is riddled with reassuring gospel truth. The gospel is sufficient to keep people saved so we can manifest the character of God. THE GOSPEL is the power of God for salvation—our past salvation, our ongoing salvation and our future salvation. The gospel should form our sense of identity–not our appearance or our age or our gifts or our gender or what others think of us or what honors we have been given. All that is shifting sand—it can be here one moment and gone the next. What enables me to be both humble and confident is the fact that I am part of the gift of the Father to the Son who died for me—my identity is wrapped totally up in God.
Listen to some implications Tim Keller gives for a person whose sense of identity is totally wrapped up in God and what he has done for them in the gospel. He says, “When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that, while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial. When I am criticized, I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’”
“My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism. My self-view is not based on a view of myself as a moral achiever. In Christ I am …simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me, and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.”
Do we hear the security in that? We are SAVED by God as a cherished gift—a cherished BRIDE the Father has given to his Son. We are KEPT by God so that will glorify him by manifesting his name even when we would otherwise walk away from him. We must bask in that security and allow it to soak into our souls and give us the peace and rest we’ve been given in Jesus. May God give us the confidence to know that we belong to him—that he will keep us faithful and that our identity is rooted not in what we can do for God, but in what God has done for us in Christ for his glory and our joy.
This week, we move into the 17th chapter of John’s gospel. This prayer is often called “Jesus’ high priestly prayer” and today we want to look at just the first five verses. This is a uniquely helpful section of Scripture because it gives us a unique opportunity to see Jesus the Son speaking privately to his Father about his redemptive work and his much-anticipated return to his former glory in heaven. This prayer actually gives us the opportunity to eavesdrop on an extended communication between one member of the Trinity and another.
First, let’s give a bit of context here. John writes, “After he had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, Father, the hour has come…” That introduction is there to show us that the chapter of Jesus’ earthly teaching ministry with his disciples is closed and now he’s focusing on the great work of redemption the Father has called him to do. That’s what he means when he says, “The hour has come…” The hour is the hour of his passion and throughout John’s gospel, Jesus has said at various points in his ministry, “my hour has not yet come.”
Here, the hour HAS now come, and we must read everything in this prayer and especially these first five verses with his impending crucifixion in mind. It hangs over this prayer and everything in here is colored by it. When he begins this prayer asking for the Father to glorify him, that he may glorify the Father, he’s talking about the glory he will receive by dying for his church and purchasing her with his blood and how that will glorify the Father.
In these first five verses of Jesus’ prayer, he reveals his great passion–what is most important to him. We know that because this is what he begins with. This is the starting point for Jesus as he thinks about the cross. We know that what he begins with is most important to him because when he teaches the disciples to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, he tells them to begin with the most important petition and it’s basically the same petition. When he tells his disciples to begin praying with, “…hallowed be your name” he’s asking them to begin their prayer asking that God—his name—would be hallowed, set apart…glorified.
So, the central truth revealed in these verses is: God’s supreme passion is for his own glory. His main petition here is this one in the second half of verse one. “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you.” That is his laser-beam focus here because everything else is simply an extension of Jesus’ request for him and his Father to be glorified. Today, when so many believers read the bible, NOT as a book about God, but as a manual for solving life’s problems or to help them grow spiritually, biblical texts like this one that speak about the glory of God can sound strange or at least, not all that practical.
You’re going to have to really focus on God today to get the most out of these five verses. Because they are so focused on the glory of God, for many believers, they can seem so high and exalted that they’re a bit out of reach. Even though the glory of God is arguably the CENTRAL truth in the bible, many believers simply don’t think much about it and what it means to them. For many believers, when they think about God and what is really important to him, their answer is “love,” or something strongly related to love and that’s in some ways understandable.
First John chapter four says, “God is love” [1 John 4:16]. It’s hard for God to identify more closely with one of his attributes than equate himself with it. Also, Jesus tells us the two great commandments are “You shall love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” [Matt. 22:37] and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matt. 22:39]. When you see the incredible value God places on love, it’s easy to understand why, for many believers, love would seem to be his highest priority.
When you start talking about God and “his glory,” it gets a bit fuzzy for many believers. In this very superficial world we all live in, “glory” isn’t nearly as accessible to us as love is and many believers aren’t sure of all that the glory of God embraces. That’s why–before we look at this text, we need to see how Jesus’ burden for his glory and his Father’s glory is all over the bible.
The Scripture—from Genesis to Revelation consistently teaches that God’s highest priority is in receiving glory and glorifying himself. We see this first in why he created the world. In Numbers 14:21 God says, “21 But truly, as I live,… all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD,” His glory is God’s ultimate purpose for this planet—that it would be a staging area for his glory to be manifested and seen by all people and all the heavenly beings. In Isaiah 43:6-7 God commands, “…Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, that God’s children are those who have been called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”
The human race—every sector of it—was created for the primary purpose of displaying God’s glory. In the Old Testament, if you examine all of God’s saving works as he related to his covenant people, you will see that his ultimate purpose for each and every one of them is the same–his own glory. This is also true of his greatest work—the rescue of his people from the penalty and power of sin through his Son, Jesus. When Jesus in John chapter 12 looks at his impending crucifixion, his burden is exactly what it is here in John 17. “27Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
Jesus’ main redemptive purpose for dying on the cross, what drives him to persevere through the profound agony and torment of his passion is …the glory of God. It should be no surprise that he has this identical motivation for his second coming in Second Thessalonians 1:10. “10 when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.” Jesus is returning to this earth to rule, to reign, to destroy all evil and bring justice. But ALL of those will be done for the same purpose we see throughout Scripture–that he will “be glorified in his saints.”
This is the beating pulse of the bible, and we must never forget this. It also begs a question. That is—If God’s highest priority—if his greatest passion and ultimate motivation for doing all that he does is receiving glory, how can that NOT be self-centered? Or, to put it a different way–how can God be good if he ultimately seeks his own glory? After all, he calls us to continually deflect all personal glory away from ourselves. Why doesn’t that ethic apply to him?
Think hard with me about this question as John Piper tells us why these rules of humility do not apply to God… “Because God is unique. As an all-glorious, totally self-sufficient Being, he must be for himself if he is to be for us. The rules of humility that belong to the creature cannot apply in the same way to its Creator. If God should turn away from himself as the Source of infinite joy, he would cease to be God. He would deny the infinite worth of his own glory. He would imply that there is something more valuable outside himself. He would commit idolatry.”
Some of you haven’t thought much about this so hang with me here. In other words, because God is the highest, most glorious, most praiseworthy Being in the universe and God always does or pursues what is best, then he absolutely MUST have as his greatest pursuit—the praise of his own glory. If the glory of God is the highest possible good, then God, who, as God, always pursues the highest possible good, could do nothing less than to seek after his glory.
The reason our pursuit of personal glory is evil is because we’re not seeking after the glory of the most glorious, most praiseworthy, being in the universe. We’re seeking to glorify a human creature instead of the infinite Creator. This is why living for our glory or recognition always ends up ultimately making us feel empty and miserable. We’re simply not wired by our Creator to live for ourselves and our own glory. It’s our sin that warps us to want to do that. For us, seeking after our own glory is an empty pursuit because we’re giving our passion to a pursuit that cannot possibly bring satisfaction.
This is NOT light thinking, but it’s intensely important to understanding God and the bible. Piper concludes, “God is the one Being in all the universe for whom seeking his own praise is the ultimately loving act. For him, self-exaltation is the highest virtue. [Here’s the reason for that] When he does all things “for the praise of his glory,” he preserves for us and offers to us the only thing in all the world which can satisfy our longings. ” To put all that in shorthand as Piper says, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.”
The more glory we seek to give to God, the more joy and satisfaction we receive. The bible teaches that God’s glory and our joy run on the same set of tracks. Unless we’re running on the tracks that lead to God’s glory, we can never know our highest joy because the only tracks that lead to our highest joy are the tracks that terminate in God being glorified.
The bible teaches that God’s glory is at the heart of every believer’s conversion. In Second Corinthians 4:4-6. Paul is speaking of those who do NOT know Christ and are perishing in their sin and says, “4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing [What is it unbelievers have been blinded from seeing but MUST see in order to be saved? They must see…] the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Don’t miss this! His glory is so central to who Jesus is that his gospel—the message of his sin-atoning death and his resurrection is called “the gospel of the glory of Christ.” The one theme that unites the entire bible which is—God’s redemption of fallen humanity has at its very center—God’s motivation to bring glory to himself and his Son.
Paul continues in verse five, “5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For 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.” Stay with me now because this is important. In verse four, Paul tells us that Satan has blinded in the minds of unbelievers from seeing “…the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” He has blinded them from seeing the glory or, the all-satisfying beauty of Christ revealed in the gospel. According to verse six, that means that what happens in our conversion is this–We are given by God the capacity to know or see his glory–the all-satisfying beauty of God in the face of Jesus Christ as he reveals that in the gospel—his death and resurrection.
One scholar explains that, as a result of this sight-restoring work of God in our conversion “Christ is no longer boring. Christ is no longer mythological. Christ is no longer a mere tradition. Christ is the …all glorious, all-satisfying Savior, and the Lord and treasure of the universe.” That is at the heart of what happens to us in our conversion—we are awakened out of spiritual death so that we can, for the first time, see the glory of God in the perfect life, sin-atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Salvation is not fundamentally about getting us to heaven or losing our bad habits or discovering the wonders of the bible. Those are simply echoes of what is at the center. The salvation of sinners is the most powerful way God reveals his glory by means of his self-sacrificing, saving gospel.
If you’re not used to thinking about God’s glory as his highest priority, this might take a while to sink in, but once you’ve embraced this, it will cause the Bible and God himself to come alive for you in a new way. It will also give you a greater passion to make, as the purpose for your life, bringing glory to God because you will know that, as you do—you will find your highest joy and satisfaction because you will be fulfilling God’s purpose in creating you! Now that we’ve set the table for this prayer, let’s look at three ways Jesus expresses in this prayer that God’s greatest passion is for his glory.
The first way we see God’s ultimate passion for his glory is the most obvious. That is Jesus repeatedly asks for glory for the purpose of glorifying his Father. He makes this explicit request in two of the five verses–verses one and five. Again, verse one says, “1When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,” What does Jesus mean by asking the Father to “glorify” him? As we’ll see from verse five, the word “glorify” in this instance means, “To clothe with splendor.” Jesus is asking the Father to clothe him with splendor and that will in turn, glorify him. Why is it that—when Jesus is glorified, the Father is glorified? On one level, this is just one more example in John’s gospel of Jesus’ repeated teaching on the profound unity he and the Father share. “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” We also see in other Scriptures WHY when Jesus is glorified, that also glorifies the Father. In Hebrews 1:3, the author says of Jesus, “He is the radiance of the glory of God…”
That means that Jesus is “the outshining of the brightness of God’s glory, or…the reflection of that glory.” When you look at the sun, you see this blinding yellow orb, but blazing out from the sun in all directions, you see dazzling light radiating out from the sun—you see its outshining. When you see Jesus—you are seeing the outshining of the blinding glory of the Father. Think about the time in Jesus’ ministry when God revealed just a small part of the glory of Jesus in his transfiguration. Matthew describes this in 17:2. “2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.”
As in his transfiguration when the man Christ Jesus was glorified, here in his prayer for the Father to glorify him, Jesus is not asking the Father to remove his humanity so that his deity can be seen. No. He’s asking that his own eternal, infinite glory as the Second Person of the Trinity would shine through his sinless, glorified humanity as it did in a very limited way in his transfiguration. The reason the Father is glorified when the Son is glorified is because—the outshining of the glory points back to the glory of the Father that it shines out.
In verse five, Jesus repeats this request. “5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” The fact that this request to be glorified is repeated means that Jesus intensely longs for this—he deeply yearns for his pre-incarnate glory. There are however two additional elements of his request here in verse five NOT found in verse one. One is that he will be glorified “in your own presence.” That is—he wants to be glorified in the presence of his Father.
He clearly yearns to once again be in the manifest presence of his Father which he had experienced for all eternity past. Second, Jesus communicates the eternal nature of his own glory when he says, “I had [it—this glory] with you before the world existed.” This pre-incarnate glory was something the Son had radiated for unfathomable eons before God created the universe. Here, Jesus is just expressing what we’ve already seen–God’s supreme passion is for his glory because this is his very first request and he prays twice that the Father would glorify him and thereby, glorify himself.
We also see God’s passionate desire for glory in verses two and three. Let’s get the context by citing part of verse one as well. Jesus prays, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” Again, we see the truth that when the glory of the Son is manifested, that will also bring glory to the Father. But as Jesus is thinking about his great saving work on the cross, he specifically alludes to his work on the cross as it relates to his and the Father’s glory. “…since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.” The second way God’s ultimate passion for his glory is seen has to do with the cooperative relationship between the Father and the Son in giving eternal life to sinners.
This is important because what Jesus says here tells us that the decision as to those who receive eternal life is not a matter ultimately left up to the sinner— even though the sinner must make a decision to receive Christ. Jesus says here that his authority over all people that the Father has given him includes his unique authority to give eternal life to them. The question of who gets eternal life is a matter under the authority of Jesus. But he tells us something else very important about this authority he’s been given. That is–he tells us that his authority to give eternal life to people is limited—it’s restricted by something. He can’t use his authority to save people– to give eternal life– to just anyone. He tells us that he can use it to save ONLY those people God has given to him to save.
So, the second way we see God’s ultimate passion for his glory is: Jesus’ sovereign authority over humanity and their salvation brings glory to the Father and the Son. The question is: how specifically does that authority the Father gives the Son to give eternal life to certain people—how is that related to Jesus asking his Father to glorify him? Because that’s what it says— “glorify your Son…since you have given him authority…”
Here’s how. Again, it has to do with this cooperation between the Father and the Son in saving sinners. Jesus asks the Father to glorify him by showing in his passion that HE is the one who has authority to give eternal life to sinners. Because he alone as the Son has that awesome authority, that glorifies him. And when he is glorified by showing that authority to save certain sinners, that brings glory to the Father. It glorifies the Father because when Jesus shows his authority to give eternal life to certain people, those people are determined by the Father. The Father is glorified because HE uniquely is the one who determines who will receive eternal life through the authority of Jesus.
The salvation of sinners is an expression of God’s sovereign authority because if the Father has not sovereignly given a person to his Son to be saved, the Son cannot give him/her eternal life. Notice who it is who sovereignly initiates this giving of eternal life. Notice the role of the believer is minimized—he/she is ultimately the beloved gift the Father gives to the Son based on the Father’s pre-selection of that gift/person. It’s the Father who personally chooses the bride for his Son and both the Father and the Son are glorified in that. This is nothing new to John’s gospel.
Jesus has said this before in John 6:37. He says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” ALL those whom the Father gives WILL—no doubt about it–come to Jesus—but ONLY those he gives to Jesus. This coming to Jesus is absolutely and sovereignly determined by who it is the Father gives to Jesus. God’s sovereign control over every aspect of the salvation of sinners is part of what brings glory to both the Father and the Son.
A third and final way we see God’s ultimate passion for his glory is: He defines eternal life in a way that puts him [God] in the absolute center. God does many things in the people he saves. He forgives them, he makes them legally right with him, he adopts them as his children, they’re brought from darkness to light—from slavery to freedom and from death to life and ALL those things are important.
But when Jesus is talking to the Father about eternal life, notice in verse three where he places the emphasis. “3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Jesus places the focus of eternal life NOT on going to heaven or being spared from hell or being liberated from sin and the devil or living forever. Jesus defines eternal life in terms of the relationship—the sinner comes to know God! Eternal life is knowing God. That’s utterly God-centered. It couldn’t be any more God-centered.
This is so important because sadly—as we’ve said before–so many professed believers today think about eternal life too much in terms of pearly gates and streets of gold and reuniting with departed loved ones. That’s so wrong because eternal life is about knowing God, fundamentally—it’s not about us! This verse proves that all or most of the books written by people who’ve claimed to have gone to heaven in a near-death experience must of necessity be fiction. Whether the authors are perpetrating a fraud or whether they have been deceived, I cannot say, but what most of them write cannot possibly be the experience of one who has truly visited heaven.
The reason we can know that is because—from what I know, the primary emphasis in those stories is always placed on the opulence of heaven and reuniting with departed loved ones. Jesus here declares that THAT is NOT fundamentally what eternal life is about. “And this is eternal life, that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” That means that anyone who might have temporarily visited heaven, in their account of that experience, will write on page one, line one something like— “I cannot possibly hope to convey to you what I witnessed in seeing Jesus Christ in all his glory.”
By an immeasurable distance, that’s the most powerful appeal of heaven for the genuine believer—everything else is little more than window dressing compared to that. The reason heaven is glorious is because GOD dwells there. The glory of heaven comes from HIM and points to HIM. The glory of heaven is a reflection of HIS glory!
Knowing God is, throughout Scripture, the ultimate goal in God’s plan of redemption. The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah speaks of the New Covenant relationship God will establish with his people. In 31:34 he says, “34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” The reason God forgives sin is not fundamentally to get us to heaven, but so that we will be able to know the LORD.
That’s the message of this first five verses of John 17. But what difference does any of this make to us? So what? — if God’s ultimate desire is for his glory and he demonstrated his glory by sending his Son and giving him authority to save those he has given him—so what? So what?–that Jesus repeatedly asks for glory—the glory he had before he came to earth? So what?–that God defines eternal life by knowing him and not simply ending up in heaven?
One answer to those “so what” questions is—because we were created to glorify God—that—his glory—should therefore be THE focal point of our lives. Remember that Isaiah 43:7, speaking of God’s children says, “7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Revelation 4:11 says, “11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” God is worthy to receive glory and honor and power because he created all things. That’s why he created all things.
We were saved from our sin fundamentally for his glory. Psalm 79:9 says, “9 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!” We can so easily make our faith about all the wrong things—good things perhaps, but not ultimate things. We must regularly remind ourselves that Christianity is not mainly about getting to heaven and avoiding hell. It’s not about living a morally excellent life. It’s not about loving and helping others. It’s not about fulfilling religious responsibilities like attending church. It’s about living for the purpose of bringing glory to God within the context of a relationship where we are constantly striving to better know God and his Son Jesus as well as we can. All those other things—as important as they are, fall far below this.
God has given us the most powerful incentive imaginable for living for his glory because when, we live for the glory of God—we will know our highest and deepest joy and satisfaction. This is because–when we live for the glory of God, we are fulfilling the purpose for which he created us. If a believer seeks anything other than this highest goal—to glorify God—that’s the ultimate shoving of a square peg into a round hole.
Flowing from that truth is a second one. For the believer–pursuing our ultimate joy and pursuing God and his glory should look exactly the same because the one leads to the other. Pursuing our highest joy means pursuing the glory of God and pursuing the glory of God means pursuing our highest joy. If we’re pursuing joy, we’ll look for it in its ultimate source and the ultimate source of joy is knowing and delighting in God. “4 Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” May God give us the grace to see God’s passion for his glory and to make his glory our ultimate pursuit–for his glory and our ultimate joy.
 Piper, John, (1996), Desiring God—Meditations of a Christian Hedonist, Multnomah Books, pp. 47-48.
 Piper, John, Desiring God…p. 49-50.
 From a message found here: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-gospel-shaped-mouth
 Carson, Pillar, Gospel of John, Electronic version.
Volunteers, please submit your March and April “Can’t Serve” dates into MSP by Friday, February 7th. For questions on how to do this, please contact your ministry team leader. Thank you!
Screwtape Letters — C.S. Lewis
This classic has doubtless been in our library at some time in the past, but we purchased it because it was not currently in found in our collection. Screwtape Letters was written by the great 20th century Christian thinker, author, theologian and apologist, C.S. Lewis. This book takes the form of a series of letters between a junior demonic tempter named Screwtape and his evil but intensely crafty mentor, Wormwood. In these letters, Wormwood coaches Screwtape on the fine art of deceiving his very first human assignment with the final goal of bringing about this man’s eternal destruction. Though that may sound a bit fanciful, the book is not only profoundly engaging, it is filled with biblical wisdom about how the evil one works to deceive and tempt fallen humans. In the process of reading, you will also learn much about the human condition and what makes us tick. It is a quick read and, if you are typical, you will return to this book repeatedly to glean the great wisdom found in its pages.
NSC is looking for people who are interested in serving on the Hospitality team. When we have a list of people who would like details of what it means to serve on the Hospitality Team, a meeting will be set. Attending this meeting does not mean you are committed to serving on the team, but it is your opportunity to meet with us, hear the details, and ask questions. Beth and Sue are stepping down from Hospitality as of March 31, 2020 and if there is not enough interest in serving on the team, church-wide events may not take place (Easter breakfast, VBS Meals, Church Picnic, etc.).
Sign up below or at the Welcome Center if you are interested in learning more about Hospitality and ways you can serve in this ministry.
The NSC Women’s Ministry is excited to announce the creation of a Women’s Book Club! During the month of February, all interested ladies can join us in reading Rosaria Butterfield’s, “The Gospel Comes With a House Key,” expanding our understanding about biblical hospitality.
Then on Saturday, February 22nd at 10 am, we will have a potluck breakfast where we will discuss the book as a group. This is a very informal time of sharing what we have learned from the book and how we can implement aspects of biblical hospitality into our own lives.
How does it work? Purchase “The Gospel Comes with a House Key” by Rosaria Butterfield in the format you prefer 1) physical book, 2) download to Kindle or 3) download through Audible Books. Begin reading right away. This book is captivating, challenging, and convicting.
Please sign up and let us know who is reading the book with us and planning to join the potluck breakfast on Saturday, February 22nd.