By Rev. Dr. Brent Russett – Asbury Free Methodist
February 26, 2023 – John 17:1-5
Today is the first Sunday of Lent. Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, that lead up to Easter. During this season of lent, I will preach through the seventeenth chapter of John. You have also been provided with Lenten devotionals that we, as a church, can walk through together. There are some at the back of the church, or you can have them emailed to you.
My hope is that in this sermon series and through these devotionals, we will raise the spiritual temperature of our church; That a hunger after God will be stimulated; That the power of God will be evident; That the presence of God will be revealed. It is my hope that you, as an individual, will be enabled to let God fill more of you.
I have been following, with interest, the revival, or the awakening that has taken place at Asbury College in Lexington Kentucky. It started a couple of weeks ago. The defining feature of this move of God’s Spirit was a sense of his presence, a deep peace in his presence. There was confession of sin, and making relationships right. That move of God’s Spirit will mark those people for the rest of their lives. I have heard of reports of it spreading to other colleges and other places like Porterico.
When I was in Cuba we were in one service that was marked heavily by the presence of God. God was revealing himself. His presence was unmistakeable.
The old timers used to talk about services like that as “the glory coming down.” That is good description. Today I want to talk to you about the glory of God.
Come with me to John 17
John 17:1–5 (NIV)
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
I want you to remember the context of this. Jesus had just completed three years of ministry. He went around healing the sick and teaching the crowds. But more than anything, he had poured his life into his disciples. Now everything was about to change, and he knew it. Tomorrow he would be crucified.
If you had one last prayer to pray, what would it be? What would you pray for if you knew you were going to die and your heart was right before God? You would probably pray for that which was the most important to you. Your family, your friends, the things that are closest to your heart.
That is what Jesus does. He prays for the things that are the most important to him. The first thing that he prays for is the glory of God. God glorify me that I may glorify you.
Now I don’t know what you think of when I say “the glory of God”. I suspect a lot of you think of the Christmas story, where the angels appeared to the shepherds, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them. We pray the glory when we pray the Lord’s prayer. “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever, Amen” But what does the glory of God mean?
I suspect others of you are thinking, that’s a nice theological topic, Brent. Totally irrelevant, but nice topic. It ranks right up there on my interest list, right behind rutabagas.
But if you can grasp the concept of the glory of God, a lot of things about the Christian life will fall into place for you. The Westminster catechism says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” If you grasp the concept of the glory of God, the meaning of your life will become clearer to you.
But I need you to stay with me. I am going to preach like one of Paul’s letters today. In the first part, I’ll explain the concept, then I will look at how it applies to our lives. But you have to stay with me for the first part, so you can get the second part.
In these 5 verses, Jesus prays “glorify” or “bring glory” five times. In this crucial time, where the most important thing comes to the fore, he prays for the glory of God to be seen.
Stephen Covey said, “The main thing in any organization is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Jesus had a knack for doing that. In spite of all that was happening and all that was going to happen, he was keeping the main thing the main thing, The glory of God. That was the reason for his life. That was the reason for his ministry. That would be the reason for his death, and so in this prayer, he prays, God glorify yourself, in me and through me.
When the Bible talks about the glory of God, it uses phrases like,
“The whole earth is full of his glory.”
“The heavens declare the glory of the Lord.”
When Moses spoke to God he said, “show me your glory.” The LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence…”
The glory of God is the revelation of God. The glory of God opens our eyes so that we can see who he is. The whole earth declares who God is. The heavens declare who God is. When God passed in front of Moses, he showed himself to be good and declared his name, which was a further revelation of who he is.
The glory of God is the display of God’s fierce beauty and awesome character. Isaiah uses phrases like the glory of his majesty. Wherever the glory of God is seen, God is revealed. In fact, the way glory is used most in the Bible is the revelation of God through his Son, Jesus. “And we beheld his glory.”
The glory of God is such that if it were to be taken away, God would no longer be God. God’s glory is intrinsic to who he is. The Glory of God is the essence of God.
That is not so with us. You have probably watched the Olympic games. An athlete competes, and if they win, they receive the glory of an Olympic medal. Now a person’s glory, their wealth, their achievements, their reputation, can be taken from him or her but that person will still be a person – they will still be human. But God cannot be God without His glory. For this reason, he is jealous of it. We must not take the glory that belongs to God.
God cannot be separated from his glory because it not only reveals who he is, but it is who he is.
So when Moses prayed, “show us your glory” he was praying – Lord show me who you are. Let me see you. Let me know more of you. Let me know you.
Tha is my prayer. Lord show us your glory. But the reason God show us himself is that we can in turn glorify him.
When we glorify God, we reflect back to him, his beauty and his character. In other words, we worship him.
Now we come back to our passage of Scripture.
John 17:1 (NIV)
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.
When Jesus was walking around on the earth, he was extraordinary, but it was possible to miss his divinity. The Pharisees missed that this was the very Son of God. The crowds missed that Jesus was God become human. They just saw a person who could make a whole lot of food out of very little.
They wanted to make Him king, not worship him as God. If you had met him at the town well, you may or may not have known that there was something extraordinary about this man.
But Jesus prays, the time has come — glorify me. Reveal yourself in me. Show your character and your beauty in me. And I, in turn, will glorify you. I will be the representation of you on this earth. When people see me, they will know that they are seeing you. John 17:1 “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. (NIV)
God is glorified when people see Jesus for who he is.
Now the next four verses talk about how God is glorified.
John 17:2 (NIV)
2 For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.
The Greek here links the idea of glorifying the father to giving people eternal life. God is glorified when people experience eternal life. Then he goes on to tell what eternal life is.
John 17:3 (NIV)
3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
We have eternal life when we know God and his son Jesus Christ. God is glorified, and God is worshiped when we know him.
This is a two-pronged idea. God is glorified when people experience eternal life for the first time. When they realize that they need God in their lives, and they turn their lives over to God. When people pray, “God, I recognize I have been separated from you by going my own way, I want to know you. I want you in my life.” God is glorified when people come to know God. God is revealed to them and in them. That is part of the definition of glory.
But it also speaks to the person who has known God for a long time. 1 John speaks of the children in the faith, and he describes them as knowing God. “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” But then it speaks of the fathers in the faith, and it describes them as “knowing the one who is from the beginning.” There is a deeper knowing.
And when you get to know God in a deeper way, when you grow in grace and in the knowledge of his goodness, God is glorified. He is worshiped in your spiritual progress. That is why discipleship is so important. That is why we emphasize it. When you grow in your faith, God, who is worthy of all glory, is glorified.
John 17:4 (NIV)
4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.
Jesus brought glory to God, but doing what he was called to do. His life up until this point had been a life that revealed the character of God. It had been a life of worship. He had said what God had told him to say. He had finished what God had told him to do.
I would remind you that if you were to do a business assessment of the life of Jesus at this point, he probably would not be getting a raise.
The crowds to which he had shown compassion the next day were going to yell, “Crucify him, crucify him.” The disciples whom he had poured his life into were going to desert him. And yet he is able to say, I have completed the work you gave me to do.
It seems like our work is never done. Our lives are full of busyness, and our “to-do” list is never-ending. Oh, that we would be able to say with Jesus, I have completed the work you gave me to do. There were people left unhealed. There were people who were unevangelized. There were people who were still confused and guilt-laden. But Jesus had fulfilled his calling.
You will not finish the task of doing good, but you can finish the task of doing your good; you can fulfill your calling. God is glorified when we do what we are called to do.
John 17:5 (NIV)
5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
God, before this world began, I displayed your glory. I was in very nature God. The glory of God defined me. But to take on the form of a human, I had to empty myself. The people around me could not handle a full display of your glory. But now, God, I am coming back to heaven, restore the glory again.
God is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ. God is glorified by people receiving eternal life, both coming to faith and growing in the faith. God is glorified by fulfilling our calling. And God is glorified in the person of Jesus Christ.
Now let’s take a step back. Jesus had a knack for keeping the main thing, the main thing. And during this final prayer, he prays that God would be glorified in him and that he would glorify God.
There is something significant there for us. If glorifying God was Jesus’ life goal, if it was Jesus’ dying prayer, and if it was Jesus’ identity, and we are to be imitators of Christ, then we need to adopt this as our prime directive. Our lives are to glorify God.
Our lives are to reveal the beauty of God and the character of God. And when we glorify God in such a way, we are worshiping. Our lives become lives of worship.
And when our lives become lives of worship, we will be doing what we were created to do. We will be being what we were created to be, for we as humans were made in the image of God. We were to be the prime revelation of God on this world. We were to mirror the character of God.
But sin caused that mirror to be broken. It is no wonder that people struggle with the meaning of life. We were meant to be reflections of God, we were made in the image of God, but we lost all that. But we gain a good measure of that back when we set out lives to glorifying God. When we become worshipers.
It is my hope that in this Lenten season that, you will be inspired to become worshipers. That you would orient your life to glorifying God, that you will reflect God better than you have ever reflected him before.
God is glorified when people see Jesus for who he is
God is glorified when people experience eternal life for the first time.
God is glorified when our spiritual lives grow
God is glorified when we do what we are called to do
God is glorified in the person of Jesus Christ.
God is glorified when we follow the example that Jesus has set. God is glorified when we receive and live out eternal life.
You hear me praying that we will see over a dozen people come to know the Lord this year through the ministry of Asbury. Why? Because each time a person comes to faith, God is glorified. Over this Lenten season, regularly pray for those who you want to see come to know Jesus.
My prayer for you and my prayer for myself is that we will know him who is from the beginning. I have come to know Christ, but I want to know Christ and the Father whom he has revealed. When we do that, God is worshipped. When we live out the eternal life within us, God is worshipped.
My prayer is also that you and I will know what we are called to. There are a lot of good things that you could be doing, but you are only called to a few of them. God is glorified; God is worshiped when we do what we are called to do. My prayer is that you will know what that is, and then be obedient to the calling.
I really believe that if a number of you caught hold of God’s vision for your life, if you could see his plan and his purpose, it would significantly change your view of yourself and your view of others. Not only that, but I believe that people who know their calling and live out their calling have the biggest chance of making a significant difference in their world. I believe that if we as a church catch onto this concept, we will impact our town in a significant way for Christ. It is my prayer that you would know your calling.
The primary way that God reveals himself is in his son. It is my prayer over the next little while that we will catch a fresh glimpse of Jesus. As we see him more clearly, a hunger will develop in our souls for more of him. We will love the things that he loves and hate the things that he hates. Open our eyes, Lord.
The Westminster catechism had it right. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever. Will you embark on this spiritual adventure with me?
Sermon Questions – The Glory of God
1. What are you giving thanks for this week?
2. What are you praying about this week?
3. Read John 17:1-5. If you knew it was your last evening on earth, what would you pray about?
4. The definition of the “glory of God” is – the revelation of who God is. Can you think of some examples from scripture that talk about the glory of God?
5. What is the difference between “God’s glory” and “glorifying God?”
6. Read John 17:1 – What was Jesus asking for? Try to put this verse in your own words. What does this verse tell us about how God is glorified?
7. Read John 17:2-3 – What do these verses tell us about how God is glorified? What do these verses tell us about how you can glorify God?
8. Read John 17:4 – What does this verse tell us about how God is glorified? How can we live this verse out in our lives?
9 Read John 17:5 – What does this verse tell us about Jesus?
10. If we are going to be like Jesus in these verses, what will our lives look like?