I believe that Jesus Christ is as alive — in fact, ten thousand times more alive today — as you are. He’s more real than you are. And he certainly is more helpful to me than you are because you were all asleep when I needed you last night. He, as I sing to my little girl every night, never sleeps.
And so this morning, after I was trying to put the final touches on these few minutes together, I said to him, “Okay, I’m going to take some time — I don’t have all the time that I would like to take — but I will take some time just to let you talk to me.” And this is where he does that. And so I opened my Bible to the appointed reading, which was in Mark, and with a sense of desperation about whether I would have the physical and mental capacities to do what we have to do here today, I read the next paragraph.
And it was the story of the disciples, twelve of them, getting into a boat to go to the other side with Jesus, and they forgot to take bread (Mark 8:14–21). And they were upset about that. And Jesus heard them talking about how disturbed they were that they don’t have bread. And he said,
“Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? . . . When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:17, 19–21)
I love Jesus. He says, “Piper, I don’t care what sleep you got. I don’t care how much preparation you’ve done. How many baskets were left over when you started with these crummy fish? Just enough — one for each disciple the first time. And seven the next.” But Jesus came to me this morning. He’s alive, he comes to you, he speaks to you, he ministers to you, he meets your need, he knows everything about you right now in this room, and he’s here, and he’s magnificent, and he’s glorious. He’s worth singing to and he’s worth talking about.
Glory Through Death
John 12:21–26 will set the stage for our theme: seeing and savoring Jesus Christ.
Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”
I hope that you’re saying that as you come. I hope you are saying that.
So Philip went and told Andrew and Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. So they went to Jesus and they said, “There are some Greeks here and they want to see you.” And Jesus said, “They want to see me?” “Yes, that’s what we just said: they want to see you.” And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” I take that to mean they “I’m on my way to become infinitely worthy of seeing. I’m on my way to do something that will so add to my manifest glory, that then I will be for them infinitely worthy of seeing.” Now these people never show up in this story again. He never has a word to say to them. They never appear again. They just said they want to see him. And Jesus is off talking about something else, which is what he does a lot. And you just love him for it because nothing is quite expectable. You’re always off balance where you’re around Jesus. I am.
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 earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
In other words, “The way I will become infinitely worthy of being seen, infinitely glorious is by dying. I’m on my way to die. And you can tell the Greeks that I’m going to save them by dying and bearing much fruit. So when I have done what they need me to do, in dying for them and bearing fruit in Gentiles and Greeks and Jews all over the world, then maybe someday my final prayer will come true: ‘Father, I desire that those whom you have given me may be with me where I am to see my glory.’ But first I have to finish the glory.” “Well, Jesus, what should we tell them? What should they do?”
Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.
In other words, “If they want to see me someday, they must go with me. They must hate their life in this world, because someday I’m coming out of that grave. And when they hate their life in this world and follow me to the cross and deny themselves and take up the cross, then they will rise with me and they will see me. And I will then be infinitely worthy of being seen. I will be infinitely worthy of being waited on to be fully seen.”
So we’re talking about seeing and savoring Jesus Christ in these couple of hours together. And here’s the plan. We’ll see how it goes. The first session will be devoted to defining seeing and savoring: How do you pursue it? Why does it matter? So that’s where we’re going the first hour. Then we’ll come back, and we’re just going to talk about Jesus. The first hour is internal, methodological: How do you live this? How do you pursue this? What is this? And then the second hour is: look at him. So that’s where we’re going.
True Spiritual Sight
For everything I think about, I want to know: What is it? How do you do it? Why should I care? I just approach life like that. And so here we are with the issue of seeing and savoring Jesus, and I want to ask: What are you talking about? What is this seeing that you have in mind? So let’s answer that first. In Matthew 13:13, Jesus says he tells parables because “seeing they do not see.” Just take that phrase: seeing they do not see. So there are two kinds of seeing. There is this seeing that Jesus talks about here. And the other kind is the Ephesians 1:18–19 kind. Paul is praying that
having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, . . . you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe.
So evidently our hearts, in Paul’s way of thinking, have eyes. That’s very strange, isn’t it? That’s remarkable. Hearts have eyes, That’s the seeing I’m mainly interested in. I know our physical eyes are important, although there may be a blind person in the room, and if there is, blind people often see better than people who can see, because deprived of one sense, other senses are more awake and keen. And the key sense is the sense of the heart. And that’s what we’re talking about: a sense, a spiritual sense or apprehension of the glory of Christ, which physical eyes may have seen when they were on the earth with Jesus, or they may see in reading the Bible. But natural people, without any Holy Spirit help at all, see with these physical eyes, and they are lost, and that does them no good at all.
So I’m most interested in what Paul means by the eyes of the heart seeing spiritual reality. In Ephesians 1 he is talking about the riches of the glory of our inheritance, and the exceeding greatness of the power. Evidently there are dimensions of hope, dimensions of inheritance, dimensions of power, which you can’t apprehend except by the eyes of the heart — words like riches of glory, exceeding greatness of power.
And one of the reasons they’re so little passion in the church for the riches of the glory of our inheritance and the exceeding greatness of power is that the eyes of our heart are so dim — or perhaps for many, still blind. So it matters a lot that we understand what’s up here and more important than understanding what’s up is to experience the awakening of the eyes of our heart to behold the glory of Christ.
Here’s another verse. It is programmatic, I think, in Paul’s understanding of sanctification, of growing in grace and being conformed to Jesus and being what the world needs from us.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
So right now, the only hope for our churches and the only hope for your family to become more like Jesus is to behold him. Beholding is becoming. If you haven’t devoted your life to beholding Christ, you’re probably not making much progress in becoming like him. So this beholding is a spiritual beholding because Paul said that right now we walk by faith and not by sight — not by sight. So where are you, Jesus? And he says, “Don’t say that. I’m not going to show up. I’m not going to be there for your physical eyes. But I can be seen; I can be beheld.”
So just make the distinction first of all between seeing they do not see — there is a seeing here, a reading with these physical eyes (and we could say hearing they do not hear, but we’re not into that metaphor this morning) — and spiritual eyes beholding him, which is most important. Many ordinary people can be seen with the physical eyes, but that isn’t the main glory of Jesus Christ. So we focus on seeing the glory of Christ, the beauty of Christ, the perfections of Christ, the worth of Christ. And it’s not synonymous with physical sight, physical hearing, physical reading of the Bible.
Seeing for Real
So what is it like? We still haven’t said, what needs to be said totally yet. Let me read you a quote from Jonathan Edwards, who is my main mentor outside the Bible. And he’s dead — most worthy mentors are dead, and I hope you don’t limit your being mentored to living mentors. They are very valuable and you should care about those, but if you don’t have one of those, please don’t feel adrift, because I would be willing to share Edwards with you. Here’s what he wrote:
A soul may have a kind of intuitive knowledge of the divinity of the things exhibited in the gospel; not that he judges the doctrines of the gospel to be from God, without any argument or deduction at all; but it is without any long chain of arguments; the argument is but one, and the evidence direct; the mind ascends to the truth of the gospel but by one step, and that is its divine glory. (Religious Affections, 298–99)
That is amazingly profound and controversial. It all has to do with the place of apologetics and trying to help people see and know Christ, which he says are valuable, but not decisive. One of the reasons he was so concerned to say that formal apologetics is valuable and not decisive is because he cared so much about the common man who had no access. He cared about the Indians in the Western parts of Massachusetts. How, in his preaching for the six years in Stockbridge, could they see and know the reality of the risen Christ? They couldn’t even read, let alone entertain any formal long chain of historical and logical argumentation. Can they be saved? Can they see him in his argument? And it is developed in a huge way. This is a tiny little tip of the iceberg.
“The evidence is direct; the mind ascends to the truth of the gospel but by one step, and that is it’s divine glory.” What he’s saying is: When the gospel is faithfully preached, unfolded in its fullness (and it takes some time to do that; it might take a half an hour in an evangelistic sermon to unfold the gospel, find the common ground, try to make things understandable at the rational level), the Holy spirit enables the eyes of the heart in and through the rational, objective display of gospel truth to apprehend glory and know it is true. Self-authenticating, self-evidencing word of God over this gospel, in this gospel, through this gospel, as this gospel, and people who are very simple may have profound assurance as the eyes of their hearts behold the glory of Christ shining off of the truth of the gospel. So we are talking about a seeing of divine glory, not a physical or rational display though. You see how important that is so important.
A little child may look at a Michelangelo and prefer a comic strip. And that’s the way many human beings are when they look at the cross.
We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:23–24)
In other words, two people can be staring at the cross exhibited in the faithful preaching of the gospel, and one person yawns and wants to go back to the comic strip. And the other person goes flat on his face because he has seen glory: glorious wisdom; glorious power; glorious, perfect tailor-made salvation for the way my sinful heart is broken and the way my God-shaped heart is hungry, and he sees it. He knows it. So that’s the seeing that we’re after.
I use the word savoring as almost synonymous. We’ll say more about this as we go along, but I’ll mention it here because to see as infinitely valuable is inseparable from embracing, receiving, enjoying, being satisfied by, treasuring, or — to use the word we’re using — savoring. And the only reason I use the word savoring is because starts with an S and it sounds good with seeing. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Taste doesn’t sound as good with see. I’m not criticizing the Bible. The Bible is in Hebrew. This is English. So I’m going to do English. And I think seeing and savoring really has a ring to it. If you don’t like it, taste and see is fine. It means the same. So I just want you to know where I got it. I didn’t make it up. It’s in the Bible.
And the Bible is really big on this issue of not only seeing God but tasting God, because that text is quoted in 1 Peter 2:2–3:
Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation — if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
Well, what’s that? That’s just another metaphor for the eyes of the heart beholding the glory of Christ. It’s an affective emotion-laded word that penetrates through the rational powers of the brain down to the heart where we not only think as the Bible says the heart does, but experience beauty in a spiritually aesthetic way that is only possible by the heart, through the work of the Holy Spirit. That’s all I want to say about the first question of what are you talking about? That’s what I’m talking about. That’s what I’m after.
Where to Look
The what has been answered. Now how? What do you look at? I mean, you’ve said it’s not with these eyes or this ear or this brain; it’s a spiritual perception or apprehension: tasting, seeing. But now what do I do? I’ve got eyes here. I’ve got ears here. I’ve got a brain, and I want this to happen. I want to know him the way he must be known. What do I do? Where do I turn? Do I look at anything with these eyes? That’s what we’re talking about now.
I think you should open your Bible now to 2 Corinthians 4. This text for me is so huge. There’s much we can do with it, but I’m only going to do one little thing on trying to answer the how question here. So let’s read 2 Corinthians 4:4–6. Keep everything I’ve said in mind.
In their case [those who are perishing] the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers . . .
Now that’s spiritual blindness, because unbelievers are really smart: They can get us to the moon. They can heal diseases. I thank God for the common grace of unbelievers when I ride in an ambulance, or get a shot that keeps me from getting the flu. I mean, praise God for unbelievers who use their God-given brains in God’s common grace and providence to not just kill each other, but save lives. So that’s who he’s talking about. And that’s the blindness he means. They’re not blind in every way. He’s got in mind a certain blindness.
[Satan] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing [there it is: that’s what I care most about my life and your life] the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
I hope lights go on for you everywhere right there. Because that’s what I’ve been talking about for the last little while. That’s why he’s glorious, so glorious, because he is the image of God. It’s divine glory.
For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 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.
The only thing I want to get out of there now (instead of preaching for an hour on that text, which would be easy to do) is to just get the word gospel, because that’s my answer mainly — not only, but mainly — to the how question: How do we see? Where do we look? What do we listen to? Where do we go? What do we do with this book?
And I just want you to see the word gospel in verse 4 again: “In their case the God of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” So my answer to the how question is going to be that we should mainly look at and listen to the gospel.
Seeing Through Hearing
Let me give a little parenthesis here. Somebody might ask: So Paul proclaims with his mouth, his vocal chords, and it lands on the eardrum and goes to the brain. What’s that got to do with seeing? That’s hearing, and the Bible says, “Faith comes from hearing” (Romans 10:17), and I’m right now saying amen.
However, there’s a verse that’s really helpful. There are a lot, but this one says it most clearly: 1 Samuel 3:21: “The Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.” The first two verbs sound like seeing verbs, and then you get this: “by the word of the Lord,” which I take to mean: we see with our ears. The eyes of the heart see with the ears, which is why the Bible says, “Faith comes from hearing.”
When you hear the gospel — statements made with mouths, articulated from brains, landing on eardrums that go into other brains, and thus you transfer statements about Christ crucified — that is the instrument that the Holy Spirit will use to grant sight to the eyes of the heart. Don’t separate them. Don’t separate hearing and seeing. Don’t separate the images of auditory and the images of sight. This is all one event because it is spiritual. Spiritual seeing happens through hearing the gospel.
Go to the Gospels
So how would you then pursue spiritual seeing? Let’s just start general and then go specific. I would say to a person, an unbeliever who said, “I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about. I don’t think I’ve experienced anything like a spiritual apprehension of glory or anything like that. I’m willing to pursue it. What should I do?” I would say, “Read the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. You’ve got to know him. And reading is just turning words into hearing and seeing to get the knowledge into your head because the Holy Spirit glorifies the Son when objective truth about the Son is made known to the mind, so that the Holy Spirit has stuff to work with.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t touch the heart apart from the gospel. He doesn’t do end runs in some loosey-goosey, fluttering way with your heart. I was talking to a person just a few days ago, and he was telling me that his girlfriend really gets moved and has wonderful, sweet experiences with God when she leaves her Bible behind and goes out to be with him by herself, apart from the Bible. I just get nervous about that. I’m not saying God can’t deal with people apart from the Bible. I’m saying that to the degree that gospel-centered, inspired-word saturated brains move away from the Bible, the experience they’re having is moving away from authenticity.
I speak in general, proportional terms rather than black-and-white terms there to just warn you that if you go here and get no buzz, and you go the woods and get a buzz, you’ve got a problem. And the problem’s not with the woods. God made the woods, and the woods are declaring the glory of God. You ought to get a buzz in the woods. The problem is not getting one here, which governs that one, shapes that one, controls that one. People who have more deep, happy, excited experiences with Jesus apart from the written word are in trouble.
So I’m answering the how question to pursuing an authentic seeing of Jesus, and I’m telling you: go to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John first. Now think about Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They’re very strange because we tend to want to compare them with biographies. And they’re very strange biographies, aren’t they? Two of them start at age thirty and tell about three years of his life. And two of them have little teeny stories about his birth and then jump over to age thirty. What’s going on? That’s not helpful. They leave out all that interesting information about age four, fearsome fours. Jesus at four would be helpful.
So what’s up with the Gospels? And you know what’s up: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). And that’s all it’s about mainly: “I’m here to die.” Let’s just shorten it down: “I’m here to die.” And therefore, when I say the how of the spiritual seeing of the glory of Christ is in the Gospels, the Gospels themselves, by their very structure, are telling me more about how to do that. They’re telling me, make haste to the main thing, which is the gospel, centered at the cross.
Seven Achievements of Christ at the Cross
Let’s linger at the cross for a minute. I would dishonor the Lord, I think, if I did not linger at the cross, because here is where his glory shines supremely. “You can tell those Gentiles who want to see me that I want be a fruitful person in obedience to my Father so that they could be included in the family that sees the Son forever. So I’ve got work to do, and I must go die. The seed must fall into the ground, or they’ll never see glory; they’ll be in hell forever.” So what happened at the cross?
1. Christ absorbed God’s wrath.
The wrath of God was absorbed by Jesus Christ completely and finally and decisively for all of his people.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us — for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13)
Is it not glorious and paradoxical that the moment when he was most gory, most horrible, most like a lamb with this throat slit and blood coming from everywhere, such that if you were there, you probably would have thrown up or passed out, at that moment, the most glorious act in the universe was happening, and the wrath of God that I deserve because of all of my dishonoring of his glory was falling on and being taken in and absorbed by the Son, so that when he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), I will never taste one ounce of the wrath of God.
Never will God ever show wrath toward any of his children. Discipline? Yes, sometimes tough, but filled with love, only for their good. Read Hebrews 12, those of you who had parents who did not do their job well. You have a father who does his job perfectly, and he is never judicially wrathful toward you. If he must spank you, oh, how much love is in his spanking because of Christ crucified, absorbing all the wrath of God. Behold your glorious Christ. See him.
2. Christ bore our sins and purchased our forgiveness.
He bore our sins and purchased our forgiveness decisively outside of us, two thousand years before we were born.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. (1 Peter 2:24)
Every sin that you sin in Christ, the forgiveness of it has been wholly decisively purchased and no more payment can be made to relieve you of it. It is finished by Christ at this moment.
3. Christ provided a perfect righteousness for us.
That righteousness becomes ours when we’re united to him by faith. But the finishing of the righteousness, which I do not have and must have, was completed two thousand years ago.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
And thus, he brought to completion, perfect consummation, a whole life of exquisite obedience — heart and mind fulfilling all of God’s demands, all of God’s laws, so that when I believe him, trust him, see him as glorious, in this moment of gospel presentation, that obedience is counted as mine, and the Father looks upon me in Christ as perfectly obedient. That was finished at the cross. Behold, your God. Behold the one that you should live for and savor forever and ever.
4. Christ defeated death when he died.
Since the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death. (Hebrews 2:14)
So your liberation from death was decisively accomplished two thousand years ago — before you were ever born — on the cross and in the resurrection.
5. Christ disarmed Satan when he died.
[Christ canceled] the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to an open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Colossians 2:14–15)
When Christ died, the decisive undamning blow — that is, undamning you from Satan’s damning influences — was delivered. This is troubling to people and glorious because people say, “Well, I think Satan’s quite alive and well because he’s beating me up all the time. He is lying about me. He’s accusing me.” And that’s true. He’s shooting his fiery darts at us all the time according to Ephesians 6:16. He’s got devices that we’re supposed to know about, so we don’t get tripped up by them.
So what’s the deal with Colossians 2:14? “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to an open shame, by triumphing over them [all these demonic forces, including Satan] in him.” How so? In two senses, which are profoundly relevant for you.
Satan only has one damning power, and it is the accusation of you with your unforgiven sin. That damns you, and it would make him very happy. If he can accuse you of unforgiven sin, you’re damned and he’s satisfied. And guess what happened at the cross? That weapon was taken out of his hand. He cannot damn anybody who is in Christ, whose blood covers us.
And the second sense is that he’s decisively finished, and he will be thrown into the lake of fire someday precisely because of what happened at the cross.
Do you remember what the devil said to Jesus when he arrived? The demons said, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” (Matthew 8:29). Have you ever wondered what that means? There’s a time coming and they know it. They know they’re finished. They know they’re going into the lake of fire. It’s why they beat up on us as much as they can. “You’re here too early because it’s supposed to happen later.” And Jesus is the strong man: he’s going to bind the one who is strong against us. And he did it decisively at Calvary. Look at the gospel when you want to see Jesus.
6. Christ purchased our healing and holiness.
Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
Now that’s not complete now, but sometimes now. We should pray for healing for each other and expect God to do remarkable things — even heal cancer and other awful things. Ask him, because he bought it. Just don’t do what some charismatics do by saying he bought it all for now. They’ve just got their timing wrong. He bought it all — but not all for now. Some of it is for now, and all of it is for later.
Paul says in Romans 8:23 that we “grown inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” And what he meant was his back hurts because he’d been whipped with thirty-nine lashes five times, and he can hardly move because of the scar tissue on his back. Maybe that’s the thorn in his flesh. I don’t know. But he groaned every day of his life. “I die every day” Paul said (1 Corinthians 15:31), and Christ totally bought my healing. So look to the cross and admire your Savior.
7. Christ purchased our sure access to God.
Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18)
That’s the capstone of the gospel. All these other things are means to this: he suffered once, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to the fountain where we will be satisfied forever — himself and his Father. So my answer to the question of how — What do you do if you want to see? — is go to the book, and especially in the book, go to the Gospels. Notice that the Gospels themselves are so structured as to get us to the cross.
And then I would say go to the Epistles, which unpack the achievement of the cross more than the Gospels. If you think about the Gospels, they’re narrating the event. And the event is indispensable to the gospel — no event, no gospel. But the Gospels do not unpack nearly as fully as the Epistles what happened at the cross. The Gospels do some, but not much. So that’s the how question.
Why Seeing and Savoring Matters
And I’m moving toward a close with the last question, the why question: Why does seeing and savoring Jesus matter? Here are the reasons.
Saving faith, without which we perish, includes savoring Christ. Does that make it important? It makes it infinitely important. I’m not here to do a seminar on peripheral things — like, if you savor Christ, things go better; if you don’t, you still go to heaven. That’s not true. I’m arguing now that the first reason that seeing and savoring Christ is important is because saving faith includes it.
Believing Is Receiving
Let me say it like this: Almost everybody would agree, wouldn’t we, that faith is a receiving of Christ?
To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)
So I don’t think we’re going to have any argument that the heart of what faith is, is receiving. It’s a receiving. It’s not a performing. It’s not a doing. It’s not a being. Oh, how many heresies come from messing up what faith is in how it saves. It turns faith it into a virtue, and then the virtue becomes worthy of something, and now we’re into works. Faith is essentially receiving something. And I just want to make sure you understand the two ways it receives Christ. It’s all one, but I’ll split it out so you can make sure it’s happening.
First, Christ, according to the gospel, finished the work of salvation two thousand years ago, such that (1) God’s wrath is removed, (2) the holiness of God is satisfied, (3) righteousness is provided, (4) God’s law is fulfilled, and (5) sins are covered with blood. That all happened outside of you by another, and you desperately must have it. You must be punished for your sin. You must have a perfect righteousness to enter into God’s presence. And you don’t have it. And you don’t want to go to hell and be punished for your sins. You want to be saved.
How then does the gospel explain we are saved? And it says by faith alone, which is a receiving of the one who is the righteousness, a receiving of the one who died my death, a receiving of the one whose blood covers my sins. If I receive him, I have in him the righteousness I need. I have in him, the death I have already died. In him, I have passed from death to life, and I am clothed with righteousness. And it all happened because I received a gift. That’s faith. I hope everybody agrees with that. I hope you’re all, right now, doing it. It’s not something you just do when you’re six or thirty-six. You do it every day. Every day you receive him. You just live on the ever-coming arrival of Christ.
And the second thing is that he, in doing all of that gospel work, is infinitely valuable, and faith receives him as such — or doesn’t receive him at all. That’s controversial but let me press it. If you wonder why there’s so much nominalism in the churches. One reason is because we have not understood what receiving Christ means. Here’s a way to describe the problem: Many people (and these people are in grave danger, so test yourself) receive him not as supremely valuable and thus savor him, but they receive him as sin-forgiver because they hate being guilt free, not because they love Jesus.
- They receive him as rescuer from hell because they don’t want to burn.
- They receive him as healer because they love being disease free.
- They receive him as protector because they love being safe.
- They receive him as prosperity giver because they love money.
- They receive him as Creator because it would be better to have an orderly impersonal universe.
- They receive him as Lord of history because, like order and purpose in the universe, history is steadying.
They don’t receive him as supremely personally valuable to them. They don’t receive him as more glorious, more beautiful, more wonderful, more satisfying than everything in the universe, which is in the gospel shown most clearly. They don’t prize him, treasure him, cherish him, delight in him. They just, treat him like: “Am I going to heaven? Of course, I’m going to heaven. Look at the ticket. I said, ‘Hey, I’ll sign the card.’ I prayed the prayer. I keep it in my wallet. Sit on it. I pull it out. If you want to know about it, I can pull it out. But love this? Cherish this? Savor this? That’s stupid. That’s a tattered card. I just want to go to heaven. That’s all.” That’s just what our churches, I fear, might be filled with.
Another way to say it is this: They receive Christ in a way that requires no change in human nature. They don’t have to be born again to receive Christ this way because every fallen person, with no change whatsoever, loves being guilt free, pain free, disease free, safe, and wealthy. So if Jesus can get me there, take him, of course. Why wouldn’t you? He’s a means to the end. You step on him: you get what you want to go from here to there. “All right, what do you want me to do? I’ll pray, I’ll come to church.” But to embrace Jesus as your supreme treasure requires a new nature.
Fallenness means mainly, sin means mainly savoring non-God, savoring anything: family, health, money, job, fame, ministry, success — savoring anything above him. So if we don’t preach the essential nature of saving faith as including a receiving of Christ as infinitely valuable, we’re going to fill our churches with non-born-again people who are here for the payoff, not the king.
Jesus says, “Therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26). You renounce them because he’s been discovered of superior value. “Be thou my vision.” He said, “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). That’s not adding works to faith. That’s describing the nature of faith. When we receive him, we receive him as more valuable than Mom or a daughter. Christ is more precious to me than my eleven-year-old daughter Talitha; otherwise, she couldn’t be as precious to me as she is. (That’s another sermon.)
That was my first reason for why it’s important to savor and see him spiritually. I’ll just bullet the last three and we’ll be done. Maybe I’ll say something more about them in the next session.
- Reason 2: You were made for majesty.
- Reason 3: Seeing and savoring him transforms your life. We saw that in 2 Corinthians 3:18. Your life needs to be transformed. It needs to be liberated from selfishness into risky good deeds for others.
- Reason 4: God is most glorified in you when you’re most satisfied in him, and the universe exists to give glory to God. And therefore, if we don’t savor Christ the Son of God in the gospel, if he is not satisfying our souls but rather non-God is the real satisfaction of our souls, then he’s dishonored in that.