How to Enjoy God (Matters of the Heart, part 1)

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Michael Reeves helps us taste the goodness of God in the first of four talks from Word Alive 2011.

 

Part 2. How to be Happy in Christ

Part 3. How to Grow as a Christian

Part 4. How not to be a Hypocrite

 

 

Transcription

Welcome to Matters of the Heart. The aim of this track is not to equip you to do anything, not to get you to change your behavior; our aim is to go much, much deeper. It is to deal with our hearts. It is to deal with what we love, with what we desire. With those things, in fact, that drive our behaviour—much, much deeper things. And my hope is that these might stir up in you a deeper delight in God, so that you can leave with a deeper taste for God with a profounder delight in him. That you leave thinking, “really, from the bottom of my heart, I rejoice to know such a great God.” That’s the aim. My hope is that you will leave with a more enjoyed Christianity. Let me pray for us and then we’ll start.

Great God of heaven, my Father, thank you that I can call you that out of your pure kindness. I pray that you would open our eyes to see you more clearly, and so draw our hearts and fix them on you, such that we might delight in you, rejoice in you, enjoy you more than we ever have. We pray this in the name of your great and glorious son, Jesus. Amen.

Each day of these talks is going to be stand-alone, and each day we will be helped by an assistant: Richard Sibbes, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin, and Martin Luther. I’m not going to really introduce these guys, I will tell you a little about them, but that’s not the aim of it. The aim is really just to wheel in the master chefs, so the sauce tastes richer, so we say “yum.” These are the guys who are going to do the cooking for us. And today it is Jonathan Edwards’ turn. And Jonathan is going to help us think about how to enjoy God, which is one thing that he did a lot.

The Importance of the Affections

As I hope you’ll get to see very soon, Jonathan Edwards was a joy-filled and deeply affectionate father, husband, and believer. What do you need to know about him? You hardly need to know anything about him. Jonathan Edwards was a British pastor, living in the first half of the 18th Century in New England, in America. This was around Boston, Connecticut; this was a happy Eden of a colony before the unfortunate fall and rebellion around 1776. Now, Edwards’ day (you can guess it by the wig) was the day of the enlightenment. And there were many rationalists in that day who were saying Christianity is knowing about God, pretty much. Know the truth about the gospel, and you’ve got it. Edwards could not have disagreed more strongly. That is not Christianity.

A couple of years ago, Dane Ortlund summed up what Edwards was thinking on this in a book I would highly recommend, called A New Inner Relish: Christian Motivation in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards. And here’s how he put it:

“If post-Enlightenment thought is right in attributing pre-eminence to the cognitive over the affective, then let’s sign up the demons to teach our next Evangelism Explosion seminar.”[1]

He’s saying, if, in our modern world, we say the brain is really where it’s all at, that’s the most important thing; if we give pre-eminence to the brain over the affections, if that’s really what’s most important, then let’s sign the demons up to teach it because surely they understand the gospel better than anyone!

“But another way exists. For what makes demons fundamentally different from saints? Saints delight in God, demons gnash their teeth at them.”

It’s James 2:19. Do you remember James 2:19?: “You believe there is one God; Good! Even the demons believe that, and shudder.” And so what marks out the believer, Edwards is saying, and James is saying, is not the mere knowledge of the truth, but an inner relish, a delight in God.  That was Ortlund trying to explain Edwards. Let me take you to Edwards himself. Edwards says,

The devil once seemed to be religious, in Luke 8. When the devil saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before him with a loud voice, and said, “What have I to do with thee thou Jesus, son of God most High, I beseech thee, torment me not!” Here is external worship. The devil is religious. He prays. He prays in a humble posture. He falls down before Christ. He lies prostrate, he prays earnestly. He prays with a loud voice, he uses humble expressions, “I beseech thee!” He uses humble, adoring expressions, “Jesus, son of God most High.” Nothing was wanting or lacking. Nothing was lacking, but love.

Edwards is saying that we can do all sorts of Christian stuff—we can pray, we can behave outwardly as the devil did, with the appearance of holiness—but if we do not have an actual heart love for God, it’s like this. He said,

“If a wife should carry it very well to her husband [if she does lots of nice things for him] but not actually out of any love for him, but out of other reasons which her husband knows about, would he at all delight in her outward respect any more than if a wooden image were contrived to make respectful motions in his presence.”

The wife doesn’t actually love him at all; she’s doing the nice things like, “Here’s a cup of tea.” Do you think the husband goes, “Oh, what a great wife! She’s making my cup of tea.” Well, he might think, that’s a nice slave I’ve got here, but he’s not delighting in his wife. And that’s the problem you have if your relationship with God is one of mere external performance without an internal love for and delight in God.

One of Edwards’ greatest works was a book called The Religious Affections. And in it, he summarizes what he was trying to say here. This is his thesis statement. He said,

“True religion in great part consists in holy affections.”

What he means is, when someone is converted, they are palpably moved. The motion of the blood, the animal spirits, begins to be sensibly altered to love for Christ and joy in him. Those affections, love for Christ, and joy in him—that is what it is to be a Christian, to have affections for God.

So, the first thing that God does to us in salvation is this.

“The first saving effect of the power of God as he regenerates our hearts is this, he gives the heart a divine taste or sense, he causes it to have a relish of the loveliness and sweetness of the supreme excellency of the divine nature.”

That word “loveliness”—I don’t hear it used that much speaking of the living God. But someone like Edwards would use this term a lot. Isn’t it striking? Says Edwards,

“Indeed, this is all the immediate effect of the divine power there is, this is all the spirit of God needs to do, in order to a production of all good effects in the soul.”

That’s how you carry on the Christian life. That’s how all good effects in the soul are produced: opening your eyes to see the supreme loveliness and sweetness of God. Isn’t that profound? And that word sweetness is absolutely key to Edwards. He says that having a sense of the sweetness of God is what really marks out a true Christian.

What he does is he compares two men. He says, there’s one man who understands that honey is sweet. I’ve got my head around that concept—honey is sweet. Got it. The second man loves honey, and is greatly delighted in it because he knows the sweet taste of it. That’s how it is with conversion. It’s not merely that I understand that God is sweet, it is that I have a sense and appreciation of that sweetness, it is that I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good. That is why, Edwards says, God gives us preachers. He says, in a striking passage,

“God gives us preachers, not that we might hear mere expositions on the Scriptures which might stir our affections; no, God has ordained preaching to affect sinners, to stir up the minds of the saints, quicken their affections, by bringing the things of the gospel before them.”

I love that phrase, “in their proper colours.” Painted aright, as they should be, and particularly, God gives preachers to promote those two affections in the saints, love and joy. What a definition of preaching! It’s not that I have a passage open in front of me, and I say “Now the passage works like this; do you understand the passage? You see my eight points in it? You understood? Great.” No, it is to put those things before people “in their proper colours” so that they might come to love Christ and have joy in him.

Do you see overall where he’s going? He’s saying that being a Christian is all about loving, delighting in, having a taste for, enjoying Christ. Isn’t that a high, warm, attractive vision of Christianity? Enjoying Christ! He says, therefore, being a Christian isn’t about sin, it’s the opposite. Sin is about having a hardness of heart that is simply not moved or affected by the beauty of Christ at all. He is highly wary of the rationalists in his day, who he’s thinking of, people who are so skeptical of affections that they teach that religion is the intellect simply choosing the right logical path. You know what’s logically correct, and so you do it. And he says, the brain simply doesn’t work like that, that’s not how we operate. Those who condemn high affections in others are certainly not likely to have high affections themselves.

Grace Is Not An Adrenaline Shot

Doesn’t this put up a challenge? You say, “wow, if it’s so much about enjoying God, how do you cultivate that enjoyment?” He’s ratcheting it up, isn’t he? Now, before we see how we grow in our enjoyment of God, I want to point out something critical by asking this question: “What is it that the Christian delights in?” Have a think for a moment. What does the Christian delight in? It’s not an abstract thing like salvation. The Christian doesn’t even necessarily delight in grace. No, what does the Christian delight in? Christ himself.

What Edwards is getting at is trying to make a distinction to medieval Roman Catholicism. In medieval Roman Catholicism, basically, grace had come to be seen as some “stuff.” God’s up there, we’re down here, but God gives us this stuff called grace; and grace, in medieval Roman Catholicism, was supposed to be like a spiritual adrenaline shot. So you’ve got to be holy and to earn your salvation, but God’s gracious to you, so he gives you this kind of adrenaline called grace, which makes you go, “I’m going to go and be really holy now.” And God says “that’s my boy. Now I’ll save you if you do the holy thing.” But you’ll need the adrenaline shot first.

So grace was a thing. God gives you this stuff called grace, and Catholics would pray things like, “Hail Mary, full of grace.” Like Mary’s a bottle, and she’s got this stuff in her called grace. But when the angel appears to Mary in Luke, what he’s actually saying is, “Hail Mary, you who are highly favoured. Hail Mary, freely beloved.” It’s not like she’s full of some stuff called grace. It’s that the Lord is kind to her. Which means the delight of the Christian is not in something called salvation, or grace, or whatever it is. The delight of the Christian is in the Lord who is gracious. See the difference? It’s so easy to make our delight in something different other than him, than the Lord in his graciousness.

Now this was something Edwards wanted to be really clear on because of the danger of hypocrisy, which we’ll get to later in the week. Edwards was very aware of this. He was aware that it’s very possible for someone to have an interest in the gospel, but it’s not actually that they love Christ at all. It’s that Christ has bought them something they want, so they’re using Christ as eternal fire insurance. “I don’t actually love Christ at all, but he gets me heaven. That’s what I want for me, because I love me and I want good things for me. And so, I want heaven, and if Christ’s not there, hey, doesn’t bother me because I want heaven, not really him.” See the difference? That’s the danger of hypocrisy. But the true Christian enjoys, desires, delights in him.

Enjoying God by Recognizing His Divine Beauty

The question is, that sounds wonderful, but how then can we grow in a heartfelt, sincere, enjoyment of God? How can we do that? Quite simply, by knowing that he is supremely enjoyable. This is actually the real reason why so often we don’t want to spend time with the Lord. Because we don’t actually think he’s that great. Other things seem better than him, so I’d rather spend my time with other things. That’s why.

If you ever think other things are better than the Lord, enter Edwards. You’re going to love this one: “God is God, and distinguished from all other beings, and exalted above [th]em, chiefly by—” and how would you finish that? “Chiefly by his divine beauty.”

Were you expecting that? Isn’t that amazing! He’s “distinguished from all other beings and exalted above them chiefly by his divine beauty.” Now, I think that’s an immensely surprising thing to hear. Particularly surprising because this is holiness language being used here, right? “Distinguished from,” “set apart from;” that’s holiness language. To be holy literally means to be set apart. I think what’s so surprising here is to us, doesn’t holiness so naturally come off as slightly off-putting? And so, if holiness means to be set apart, we think “Oh, set apart, are you? Too prim and pure for the rest of us, and pulling yourself aside because you’re so pretty.” And that tone comes across when people say things like, “Yes, God is loving, but he’s also holy.” As if you’ve got the nice side where God is loving, but the holiness will stop him from being too loving, that’ll stop him getting carried away. Because you know what he’s like, he does love a lot, but the holiness makes him go “No, steady… not so much of the love.” As if holiness is something radically different, some less attractive side of God. But clearly here it just is not for Edwards. In fact, he said,

“Holiness is, as it were, the beauty and sweetness of the divine nature.”

You see, I think the reason why we instinctively think holiness is off-putting is that I think I’m just lovely. If God is holy and set apart from me, he must be a bit—well, why do you want to be set apart from me? It must be because there’s a problem with you! But that, of course, is not it at all. The reality is you and I are cold, selfish, vicious, and God is wholly distinguished from us precisely in that he is not like me in that. There are no such ugly traits in him. And he is holy in that, in the purity of his loving-kindness, of his beauty, his sweetness, he is all beautiful. There is no hidden darkness in him. So in reality God is more attractive, more desirable, more beautiful, more enjoyable than anything else. And if we don’t see that, it’s simply that we haven’t understood God aright. If there seems to be a dark, tyrannical, off-putting nature about God, it’s because we’re thinking of our idolatrous notion of God rather than the living God. But when you sense what God is really like, Edwards says, “he that is once brought to see, or rather to taste, the superlative loveliness of the divine being, will need no more to make him long after the enjoyment of God.”

That’s it. That’s what will make you enjoy God. That is so essential for today. This is why so many people are hostile to Christianity. Not actually because they have a problem with the existence of God, but because they have a problem with the character of God. The New Atheist Christopher Hitchens, for example. Hitchens thinks of God as this cosmic, North Korean-style dictator. Raw, absolute power. And in conversation with non-Christian students up and down the country, this is what I’m hearing as they describe the God they don’t believe in. A God who is, bluntly, a repellant monster.

And it’s not just non-Christians. Failing to see the beauty and utter delightfulness of our God—and by the way, I’m only saying the beauty of the living God; I know the idols our minds dream up are foul and repulsive, so when you just imagine the word “god” you’re not imagining the superlatively lovely being, I know that, but the living God of reality—failing to see his beauty is crippling Christians everywhere today. Because imagining that God is not supremely desirable, of course they desire other things more. And so, they are cold in their love for him; they are spiritually hollow, limp, and no wonder. They can try to cover it up by an act of raw willpower, but of course that is just covering up the problem. I actually feel cold toward the Lord, but I’ll make it appear as if I’m not. It’s just papering over the problem. But “he that is once brought to see, or rather taste, the superlative loveliness of the divine being, will need no more to make him long after the enjoyment of God.” For when you see that this God is more enjoyable than anyone else, then you will want this God more than your grubby pleasures elsewhere.

Now, I’m saying Edwards can help us, but this is a fundamental Biblical insight, is it not? Flip with me to Psalm 27:4. David says,

“One thing I’ve asked of the Lord, one thing I’ll seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, and gaze upon the beauty of the Lord, to inquire, to seek after him in his temple.”

Isn’t that striking? David doesn’t think there’s some darkness in the Lord, some hidden awfulness. He sees that the Lord through and through is so beautiful, so desirable, that David would spend all his days pressing in, probing ever deeper into the loveliness of God. Psalm 84,

“How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of Hosts, my soul longs, yes faints for the courts of the Lord, my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home and the swallow a nest for herself where she may lay her young at your altars, O Lord of Hosts, my king and my God.”

Even the birds flock to the temple in Jerusalem. The Lord who sat there in the Holy of Holies is so delightful, his presence so attractive, that even animals could see it. And verse 10,

“A day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.”

My friends, let us grow to know this. A day is his courts is better. We know him truly. We know him to be the one who is more enjoyable than anything else. A day is his courts is better than a thousand spent seeking a name for myself, seeking my pleasure in love, spent in self-righteous religiousity, anything else—a day in his courts is better.

Now, we could go anywhere to see the beauty of the Lord. But what got to the heart of it for Edwards was the concept of God’s glory. That was the life, heart, and mind-driving thing for Edwards. And so that we can savour God’s beautiful desirability, I’m not going to keep quoting Edwards. I’m going to take you to exactly the verses he takes you to. I’m going to take you to where Edwards goes on God’s glory. And we’ll see, in God’s glory, the most attractive God, a God we can enjoy.

God’s Glory Shines Forth

Let’s start with Ezekiel 1. What Ezekiel sees in Chapter 1—maybe you weren’t expecting Ezekiel 1 for the pure enjoyability of God, but watch. Ezekiel sees four great living creatures carrying a throne. And it’s really that throne that I want to zero in on. So sorry living creatures, we’re just going to skip to verse 26. Try to picture visually what’s going on here, try to see it.

“Above the expanse over the heads of these living creatures, was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire.”

Now what’s sapphire making you think of I wonder. Can you think of sapphire elsewhere in the Bible? What colour is sapphire? Blue. It’s often associated with the heavens, sapphire blue heavens.

“And seated above the throne was the likeness of a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire, enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness all around him.”

Fire, brightness, in the sapphire blue—making you think of anything? This looks like the shining sun, does it not? The light of the world. The shining sun set on the throne of the heavens.

“Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so is the appearance of the brightness all around, so is the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord, and I fell on my face.”

Now, when Jonathan Edwards read this, he said,

“Christ in the gospel revelation appears as clothed with love, as being, as it were, on a throne of mercy and grace, a seat of love, encompassed about with pleasant beams of love. Love is the light and glory which shine about the throne on which God sits.”

Now, if that isn’t immediately obvious to you, I want to show you now that Edwards has hit the bulls-eye. For that is exactly what we see here. “Love is the light and glory which shine about the throne on which God sits.” And here’s why he’s right.

What he does next is examine the word “glory.” Do you know what glory means? In Hebrew, the word means heaviness or weight. The glory of something is its mass, its substance, its bulk, its essence, what makes it up. God’s glory is his essence, what he’s essentially like. Which says something very important. We tend to use the word glory very often, and I think loosely, in Christian circles. I often wonder, when people say “Glory to God,” or “Let’s glorify God,” what do we mean here? What are we talking about? It’s good Christian jargon, but what does it actually mean to glorify God? If God’s glory is his very being, what he’s like, then to glorify God cannot mean to “big” God up. Right? You cannot. To glorify God isn’t to make him greater. It is to ascribe to him what is already his. To make him known as he actually is. That is to glorify God.

The question is, what is God’s weight and substance? What is he, essentially? Here’s the really surprising thing. Ezekiel 1:28. The light, the brightness all around, Edwards says, this was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. The glory of the Lord is like light shining. Edwards shows us that throughout the Bible, that’s what you see, that the glory of God is like light shining out. Let’s see a few examples. Ezekiel 10:4. See the connection between glory and light shining.

“And the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub to the threshold of the house, the house was filled with the cloud, and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the Lord.”

Isn’t that a majestic vision? “The brightness of the glory of the Lord.” Shining out the glory. Ezekiel 43:2 talks about the Earth which shone with his glory. Here’s another one for you—think of Jesus’ transfiguration. We’re told Peter and James and John see Jesus’ glory. What does it look like? His face shines like the sun. Isaiah 60:1:

“Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you, for behold, darkness shall cover the earth, thick darkness the peoples, but like the sun, the Lord shall arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.”

The Lord is very like the sun here. I think there are hints of Psalm 19.

“The heavens declare the glory of God.”

How? Well, the one thing we’re told about the heavens declaring the glory of God is that in the heavens he set a tabernacle for the sun, which is like a bridegroom, the sun which shines over the earth and is like his glory. The Lord, who is the bridegroom of course, shining over the world with his glory. Flick to another one you might know, Luke 2:8:

“There were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night, and an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them.”

Edwards takes you through loads more. Just go to one more. Revelation 21:23.

“And the city, the new Jerusalem, has no need for the sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light.”

And so, the glory of God is like light shining out. And that is what God is like in his innermost being. He is a sun of life, of light, of warmth. Always shining out. That is what he is, in his innermost being. He is beautiful. Do you see, the shining out, it’s about giving of himself, out. “Love is the light and glory which are about the throne on which God sits.”

Do you see the difference? What Edwards has got here in this understanding of glory, it’s not that the Lord sits on this heavenly throne, as if he’s above love, and one day he goes, “I know, wouldn’t it be fun to be loving today? Why don’t I have a crack at that? I’ll see how it goes.” No, it’s not like that at all. He is love, his innermost being, his weight, his essence, his glory is love. He is outgoing, shining out, spreading goodness, generous, overflowing love. So what we have here is not an empty god, all about taking from us, grasping from us; here is a God so full of life, love, and goodness that he overflows. Edwards again:

“What God has in view in neither of them, neither in his manifesting his glory to the understanding, nor communication to the heart, is that he may not receive, but that he may go forth: the main end of his shining forth is not that he may have his rays reflected back to himself, but that the rays may go forth.”

As God shines his glory, it’s a light, but a warming light. So as God shines his glory on his, he’s revealing his innermost being to us, that enlightens the understanding. It’s light to our eyes, but it also communicates to the heart a warmth. So as our eyes are open, our hearts are drawn to him. But what God aims at is “not that he may receive, but that he may go forth. The main end, the point of his shining forth, is not that he may have his rays reflected back to himself, but that the rays may go forth.”

See the difference? It’s not that he gives to us in order that he may really, ultimately, take from us. It’s not that he’s gracious to us because what he really wants to do is sit around going, “I know, I know, I’m good, aren’t I? Come on, let’s hear the praise. That’s what I was really after.” It’s that he delights in loving, in giving himself. He rejoices in that, which causes his people to praise him as they enjoy and rejoice in how good he is. And that is why Hebrews 1:3 calls Jesus “the radiance of God’s glory.” Because Jesus is the radiance of the Father, the shining of the Father’s bright glory, and as such, as Jesus goes out from the Father, so he is the glory of God, exactly showing us what the being of the Father is as he goes out from the Father to spread his Father’s love.

Flick back to Ezekiel 3. Something very interesting there. Ezekiel 3:23:

“So I rose, and I went out in the valley, and behold, the glory of the Lord stood there. The glory of the Lord stood there like the glory I’d seen by the Chebar canal, and I fell on my face.”

For the one Ezekiel had seen on that throne of grace in Chapter 1 was the glory of God himself, the bright radiance of his Father. And as he saw him in Ezekiel 1, the glory streams from him. His Father’s love embodied in himself shines through him and on. And so what we see is, as Jesus, the glory of God, comes to save us, he humbles himself, he brings the Father’s love to us, and that is the glory of God coming to us. Jesus humbling himself even to the cross. And so what we have here, the glory of this God is not the glory of a proud God, but we’re shown the innermost being of a humble, self-giving love, God’s innermost being, brought to us in the form of a servant, dying to give us life.

The next passage Edwards goes to is John 12, which starts getting really freaky now. In John 12 you’ll see something that is true of no other god. Jesus said,

“The hour has come for the son of man to be glorified … Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

And so Jesus is the glory of his Father, shining out from his Father, perfectly enlightening us to see what the Father is really like, but now Jesus himself, Jesus the glory of God, is himself going to be glorified. On the cross we’re going to see the innermost being and weight of God displayed. And it all looks like a seed dying to bear fruit. So, on the cross is the moment when Jesus is glorified, when God is most clearly seen to be who he is, so on the cross we see the glorification of the glory of God. There on the cross, that’s it. On the cross we see the deepest revelation of the heart of God. And what sort of God do we see on the cross? A God all about laying down his own life, to give life, to bear fruit.

Now that’s a glory no other God would want, right? Think about any other god. All other gods are greedy, because they’re needy. They want service, sustenance. They need stuff from us. But this God needs nothing. He has life in himself, and so much so that he’s brimming over with life. He gives it away. His glory is giving, and he delights to do it. He’s not a grasping, needy, taking, empty God, but a glorious fountain of life. You see the cross and put to death all your pompous and unkind gods. You know how you wake up in the morning, and you immediately assume, “God must want certain stuff from me, before he’s actually pleased in me.” That sort of knee-jerk, gut reaction, it’s just a complete idol you’ve made up in your head. The glory of this God is his graciousness and kindness and love. It’s a very different glory.

God’s Glory Shared Through His Son

Now, having said all that, I want to wrap up by posing you a riddle. I want you to turn to Isaiah 42:8. See if you can crack this one.

“I am the Lord, that is my name, my glory I give to no other.”

Now, just stick something in Isaiah 42 and turn with me to John 17. The Lord said in Isaiah 42, “I am the Lord, that’s my name, my glory I give to no other.” Now flick to John 17:22, where Jesus says to the Father,

“The glory you’ve given me, I’ve given to them.”

Hmm? Jesus, don’t you realize Isaiah 42—you can’t do this! “My glory I give to no other,” says Isaiah 42. What are you doing Jesus? Well, come back to Isaiah 42. What is going on there? We’ve not got a single-person god, a kind of Allah-like figure, who’s hugging himself and saying, “My glory I give to no other! It’s mine, back off!” That’s not how it is. Look, who is the Lord speaking to?

“My servant whom I uphold, my chosen one, in whom my soul delights, I put my spirit on him.” (Isaiah 42:1)

This is the chosen one, anointed with the Spirit. This is Christ. And so you see, in Isaiah 42:6 the Lord is speaking directly to him.

“I am the Lord, I have called you, my servant, in righteousness. I’ll take you by the hand, and keep you, I will give you as the covenant for the people, a light for the nations.”

Of course, the glory of the Lord, of course he’s going to be the light for the nations.

“To open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, those who sit in darkness, I am the Lord, that is my name, my glory I give to no other.”

So here the Father is giving his glory to his son, but he’ll give it to no other than him. Still you may go, but what does that mean? It may still look to you like a reluctant, limiting thing. As if the Father goes, “I’d like to bless my son, but that’s enough blessing for me, thanks. So I’ll bless my son and that’s it, no more blessing for anyone else!” No, it is that the Father only wants his glory, his love, not to be limited, but he wants to pour all his love, all his blessing, on his son, only on his son. But then having poured all his blessing on his son, he sends his son to share with us all his fullness. John 17:22:

“The glory you’ve given to me, I’ve given to them.”

What you have here is just the best news in the world then! Salvation with this God is not about God sprinkling blessings from on high. “I’m up here and I’ve got my grubby little creatures down there, but I’ll flick little bits of grace to them.” No, it’s that he doesn’t want to have servants who approach him on the basis of some vague or small little blessing, and so he blesses his son. And his son shares with us all that is his. He gives us his glory; from his gratefulness we all receive. Which means that salvation is being caught up into that relationship between the Father and the Son to share that glorious love. That as the Father blesses the son, the son shares his fullness, so it can be said of us, 1 John 3:1,

“Behold, what manner of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God, and that is what we are.”

Is there not here a God we can enjoy when we see who he is? When we see that this God is a God of spreading, overflowing love and kindness? His innermost being is pouring out his glorious love and kindness. And so, how do you get to know him? Look at him as he reveals himself. How do you get to enjoy him? Get to know him as he reveals himself, know him aright. Look at how he reveals himself in his Word, and you’ll see, our God is the beauty of beauties! His innermost being, his glory, is the warming, spreading, generous, kind, outgoing light of love. And he shares it all with us, maximally, in Jesus. Isn’t that the gospel? He shares all that with us in Christ! It’s such kindness. In him there is no hidden darkness, but spreading light of glory.

“He that is once brought to see, or rather to taste, the superlative loveliness of the divine being, will need no more to make him long after the enjoyment of God.”

Let’s pray.

“God who said, ‘Let line shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Our Father. We are so delighted in you, that your glory is a happy, crackling fire of loving-kindness. You’ve shone the warmth of your glory into the cold darkness of our lives. And when we see aright how different you are to the idols, we want you more. So I pray, come by your spirit, and work in us a deeper taste for you. Blow away our idols, by the light of your revelation chase that darkness away, and so make us rejoice to make you known as you are. To ourselves, to each other, to the world. And so may your glory resound. Amen.

[1] Dane Ortlund, A New Inner Relish: Christian Motivation in the Thought of Jonathan Edwards (Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2008), 105:

 


 

©2011 Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF)
This talk is reproduced from UCCF’s Theology Network www.theologynetwork.org and is used with permission.

 

Michael Reeves

Michael Reeves

Michael Reeves is the President of Union School of Theology, where he teaches in the areas of systematic and historical theology and also on preaching and spiritual formation. He is author of several books, including Rejoicing in Christ, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith, and Rejoice and Tremble: The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord.
Michael Reeves

Michael Reeves

Michael Reeves is the President of Union School of Theology, where he teaches in the areas of systematic and historical theology and also on preaching and spiritual formation. He is author of several books, including Rejoicing in Christ, Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith, and Rejoice and Tremble: The Surprising Good News of the Fear of the Lord.