1. The deepest obstruction to knowing the truth of Jesus is a heart obstruction, not a head obstruction.
Let this land on you with great force: the deepest obstruction to our knowing Jesus for who he really is is not a head obstruction. It’s not because you’re not smart enough. It’s a heart obstruction. It is a problem with our will, not first a problem with our reason.
Our natural love for human glory makes it impossible to know and follow a person whose whole life is bent on emptying himself to glorify his Father and save sinners. It is impossible to know him for who he really is when his whole coming, living, and dying contradicts your deepest love, namely, the love of human praise.
To know him for who he is, we must be changed — not just in our ideas but in our wills. Which is why this gospel puts such an emphasis on the new birth. You must be born again. This is what happens in the new birth. The new birth is not a decision. The new birth is beneath decisions. The new birth is the work of God to take out a heart that loves human praise more than it loves God’s praise, and put in a heart that loves the praise of God more than the praise of man. That is the new birth.
2. Pray that God would cause his name to be hallowed in your heart above all things so that your eyes would be open to who he really is.
I pray this every day of my life. If you feel deficient — and who doesn’t? I certainly do. If you feel deficient in God’s exaltation, ask him to change you. Are you a fatalist? Have you just given up? “I’m just not like that. I’m not wired that way.” Well, that’s why we pray to a God of the impossible.
“The deepest obstruction to knowing Jesus for who he really is is not a head obstruction.”
Nobody is wired by nature to love the glory of God more than he loves the praise of man. Nobody. This is a miracle. Don’t give up. Keep praying. Pray every day. Isn’t that why the Lord’s Prayer is in the Bible as a daily prayer? “Give us this day our daily bread” is in the middle of the prayer (Matthew 6:11), which means all the other pieces have to be said every day as well.
I should ask God every day, “O God, cause me to hallow your name today because, to the degree that I don’t hallow your name, I can’t even see. I get the world all wrong. I’m a shell-gazer. I don’t love people. I don’t love you. And I don’t see anything the way I ought to see it because deep down I’m just loving me, and I’m loving my praise, and I’m ticked off that people aren’t going my way.”
You can’t see the world and you can’t really know Jesus until that deep, deep will problem gets changed. And I’m simply saying that you ask him to change it. And don’t let go of him until he does.
3. Strive to increase your spiritual taste for the glory of God as your favorite pleasure.
I know many of you are sitting there right now saying, “I’m just so far from what you’re talking about. What do you mean by strive to increase your spiritual taste for the glory of God as your favorite pleasure?”
What would you do if you wanted to increase your love for the glory of classical music? Your love for it might be small, it might be big, or it might be nonexistent. If you want to increase it, what would you do? You would study it some, and spend time talking with people who love it and might be able to explain some of it to you, and you would listen and listen and listen.
Or what if you wanted to develop a love for the glory of visual art? Maybe you don’t get it. You go to the art museum and just say, “Why is this considered great?” If you wanted to increase your love for the glory of visual art, you would study it, and you would go to museums, and you would spend time with those who love it and talk to them, and then you would look and look and look.
And if you wanted to develop a love for the glory of the heavens and the stars, you would get a telescope, and you would read some astronomy, and you would spend time with people who talk about it and are amazed by it, and can tell you facts about it. And then you would gaze and gaze and gaze.
“Gaze and gaze and gaze at the revelation of God, especially in his word.”
And if you want to increase your love for the glory of God — if you want to. This is the will piece. I wonder if you do. God, please cause us to want this. If you want to increase your love for the glory of God above all other glories, then you’ll study God. Spend time with lovers and knowers of God. You’ll listen to God, and you’ll look at God, and you’ll gaze and gaze and gaze at the revelation of God, especially in his word, and most pointedly in the face of Jesus Christ, his Son. “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). That’s what the Gospel of John is written for.
So I’m pleading with you to strive to increase your spiritual taste for the glory of God as your favorite pleasure. And if you understand this sermon, you’ll know that the reason for that is then you’ll know so many things.
4. Trust what Jesus says.
Jesus does not merely speak from himself. The words that he speaks are from the Father (John 12:48–49). He speaks for God, and when he says, “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58), he’s claiming to be the eternal Word, which was with God and was God (John 1:1–2). And when he said that, he’s true. You’ll know it.
Or when he says, “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11) and “whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37), that’s true. And you’ll know it, and you’ll come. I pray that you do.
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