Making God More Real in Your Life
by Jerry Shirley
Jesus is having a Q&A session with His disciples. They have left their jobs, boat investments, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, and all their life plans in order to follow the Lord. It has been about 3 years of this, and they think He is about to set up His earthly kingdom and they will rule with Him.
Jesus drops a bomb on them, stating that He is going to be killed, and will go to heaven. The Q&A begins.
Peter, bold and brash, asks the first question in 13:36 [read]
Jesus says, you can’t go where I’m going right now, but you will later!
Thomas asks the next question in 14:5
He wants a map. Jesus says, just follow me. He doesn’t point the way, He IS the way!
Philip is next [vv. 7-8]
“About the Father, we want to see Him too. Make Him more real to us if you are going to Him.” Philip says, “If you’ll show Him to us we will understand better and know Him better.”
Philip’s desire is a good one, though a little misguided. The desire of our hearts should be to know God better. We need to move from mere head knowledge to heart knowledge. [Just a closer walk with thee…]
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
“Know” is a keyword in John’s gospel, used 141 times. Study them and you find 4 levels of ‘knowing’:
1. Knowing facts. [head knowledge]
2. Knowing the truth behind the facts. [deeper head knowledge]
3. Knowing the truth behind the facts, personally [heart knowledge]
4. Knowing the truth behind the facts, personally, and intimately [deepest heart knowledge]
Remember, the Bible calls intimacy between husband and wife ‘having knowledge’ of them. [Adam knew Eve and she conceived / Mary was a virgin in that she had not known a man]
The highest level of knowing is intimacy, and not just physical…it can be emotional intimacy and, most importantly, spiritual intimacy.
When I first met Kimberly, we started out at the first level…facts and stats like age, college major, hometown, and some of those introductory things you want to know like: Coke or Pepsi, Cubs or Cardinals, calves or cankles! It was at a verbal, superficial level.
The more we talked the more interested I became, and we went to the second level. I began to know the truth behind the facts as I learned more about the inner person, her upbringing, and why she thinks the way she thinks and feels the way she feels, and what is her worldview.
We became close friends and through courting, began pursuing a relationship. I liked her…big like! She liked me back, checking the box my friend passed her in class! In time, through developing a close, heart knowledge relationship, I knew I loved her. And through a lot of effort, many gifts, and much prayer, she was deceived into loving me back! We gained heart knowledge of one other that went beyond the facts and stats, and even beyond friendship. About 7 months later we were engaged, and married 10 months after that.
Now, if you consider each of those first 3 ‘knowledges’ to be bases on a ball diamond, and if you remember that we have children, you can reasonably assume that eventually the blessed 3rd base coach waved me home! And for more than 20 years now we have been getting to know each other better, and we’re still trying to know each other better, and yes, sometimes there’s something you want to forget, and eventually you’ll see something you’d like to ‘unsee’, but overall, it’s a continual pursuit of deeper intimacy in all areas. [recently I asked my folks for a recent photo and dad said, we haven’t taken pictures in years…matter of fact, we have got rid of all mirrors in the house, just to help remove all evidence!]
Eventually time takes it’s toll on all of us, but the knowledge and closeness and intimacy should ever deepen.
When it comes to God, we begin with a set of facts about Him:
Once upon a time I learned that He created me, loved me even though I sin, was born of a virgin, died for me, and rose again, and wanted to save me. Over time I learned the ‘why’ about those facts. He made me for His glory, and to serve Him, and He loved me, in spite of MY nature, because of HIS nature. I learned why He had to be virgin born, why He chose to die, and what His resurrection meant for me. I believed and was born again. Head knowledge became heart knowledge. I was 6, and now for more than 30 years [just barely a little more!] I have been getting to know Him more intimately! Today He is more real to me than ever before, and I want tomorrow to break today’s record!
This is what Philip was seeking when he said, “Show us the Father!” He wanted God to be more real in His life!
1. The Meaningful Request.
• Philip’s desire.
Don’t think for one minute that he is expressing doubt. He is not questioning Jesus’ claim that He is one with the Father. He simply wants to know God better.
A principle: The longer we are saved, the more our desires should change – we should become more interested in God Himself, rather than just in what God can DO for us.
When we are born again, it is because we need something, like mercy and forgiveness. So, we come to God wanting something we need. Great! After that, we realize that God can give us more than salvation, like joy, peace, guidance, and help. And tangible things like financial and health needs. Again, we are asking God for something we need…and let’s be clear, there’s nothing wrong with that! God wants to be your source of needs.
But as we grow in grace, somewhere along the way we need to have a shift in our thinking…we should become less interested in the gifts of God and more interested in the God of the gifts. Now it’s not just about what God can do for me, but about my desire to know Him better.
This is one problem I have with today’s health and wealth movement. After all, He’s not some heavenly genie, cosmic Santa Claus, or holy slot machine. He’s our Father, friend, and Redeemer! This is a whole new level of spiritual maturity. Most Christians never take their relationship with Christ to the next level. We need to talk about how to go to that next level and know God more deeply and Him be more real in our lives!
Have you ever had a prayer time in which you never asked God for anything? You just had a talk with the Lord, and spent time with Him, or praised Him? Don’t get me wrong–I’m glad that when I need something, I can seek the hand of God. But I also want to seek the face of God!
Philip’s desire was good…
• Philip’s deficiency.
When he asked to see the Father, he meant with his physical eyes. He wanted a literal manifestation before him. It was a good desire to want to know God better, but it was misguided in this way.
We still have this problem today in our world. It’s the root of all idol worship…wanting something to see, touch, and manipulate.
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
They turn away from the true God, and turn to one of their own making. It’s the first 2 commandments broken! An ‘other God’. A ‘graven image’.
You don’t see a lot of wooden and stone idols in America like many parts of the world, but that doesn’t mean that idolatry isn’t alive and well. [American Idols!] Today we bow to the idol of materialism…money and things and people. It’s easy to tell what your idols are. What are your goals in life? What is your passion? Riches and fame? You bow to those things…they are your gods. You may achieve what you seek, but you will be empty of satisfaction. God may allow you to have what you want, but in the end, will you like what you have?
Some have created another Bible. Oh, it’s the same words, but only believed ‘cafeteria style’ [creation / homosexuality] We have also created another Jesus…many alternate versions of Him, as a matter of fact. Churches and people decide to remake Him into another image they come up with. Just because they call Him by the same name doesn’t mean He’s the same God!
A tall, ugly Jerry? No, that’s another guy by the same name.
Man’s greatest need is to know God. And when we do, we should want to know Him better. Philip is on the right track with his desire, but he had a deficiency, and Jesus tells him how to correct it.
1. That’s the Meaningful Request.
2. The Master’s Reply.
[Most Christians never take their relationship with Christ to the next level. We need to talk about how to go to that next level and know God more deeply and Him be more real in our lives! That’s tonite…]
v. 9 This is a mild rebuke…and He’s saying it not just to Philip, but to all of them. They have spent all this time with Him, and still don’t get it. It is possible to be in the very presence of the obvious and still not see it.
Traveling around the country we are shocked at how many locals have never seen the things we drove for days to see! It took us 12 years and a recommendation from someone across the country to decide to go see the blue mound! All I ever wanted our first 5 years here was Popeye’s, and then they came, and I never go!
The end of v. 9 is where Jesus makes it clear that it is THRU HIM that get to know the Father.
Now, there are some things that nature and creation tell us about God, like the fact that He is a God of design and order, with style and mathematical precision.
Even evolutionists are now making our point without knowing it. Because all of creation screams out that there is a design to it, they have begun saying things like “Evolution has designed the river otter to be an excellent swimmer.” What? Did you say design? Evolution is about random chance, and things adapting themselves and making themselves better, not being designed. That would require a designer! The same people admit that a building had a builder and a painting had a painter. But creation…have a Creator? Well, I just don’t see it!
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
We know some things about the Father just from His creation. But it took Jesus coming to earth in flesh, living and dying for us, conquering death in order for us to know that God is much more than a creative designer, but is a loving God of mercy and grace and forgiveness who longs to know us and to be known by us.
[Jesus] Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;
When you look at Jesus, you see the brightness and glory of the Father…they are one!
How do we see God in Christ?
• Through the words that He speaks.
v. 10 When you hear the voice of Jesus, you hear the voice of the Father.
When I was a kid, my sister would come in and say “Clean your room.” I’d say, “You’re not the boss of me!” Then she would clarify that “Dad said.” Now it had some power behind it. The disciples need to realize this about Jesus’ words. “The Father said!”
We see Jesus speaking profound words at 12 years of age, to the amazement of the spiritual leaders.
Later, as an adult, some soldiers were sent to arrest Him. They hid in the bushes, listening to what He was saying, and they went back without Him. Their bosses said, where is He? They said, “Never a man spake like this man.” And all who listened to Him were ‘astonished’ at His words.
Put Jesus’ words in anyone else’s mouth and they don’t fit. Jesus said I am meek and lowly. Can you imagine Peter saying that? Jesus spoke of believing in things you can’t see with your eyes. Thomas would never say that. Jesus’ words are powerful because they are God’s words!
• Through the works that He does.
vv. 11 The ‘work’ Jesus did was salvation, which proves He is God! His primary work on earth was not feeding multitudes, walking on water, or even raising the dead, like Lazarus.
For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
How do we see the Father in the Son? For each good work of Jesus on earth, we see an attribute of God…for instance:
• When Jesus healed the sick, we see the mercy of God. And better than being healed of physical sickness is someone being healed of spiritual sin-sickness!
… with his stripes we are healed.
• When Jesus calmed storms, we see the power of God. “Peace be still,” He said, and the winds and waves laid down like whipped pup. Power!
• When Jesus lived sinlessly, His entire life, we see the holiness of God.
• When Jesus ate and fellowshipped with sinners, we see the grace of God.
• When Jesus died on the cross, we see the love of God.
I’ve never seen God physically, but I’ve seen Jesus, and so I know what the Father looks like, sounds like, and what makes up His character. Jesus is God…spelling Himself out in a language that mankind can understand!
Jesus shows us the Father thru His words and His works!
3. A Magnificent Revelation.
• The privilege of greater works – Can we really do greater works than Jesus? Not in quality, but in quantity! 3,000 were saved in 1 day in Acts. And millions of Christians today can go about giving the gospel, where Jesus was just one person, and He never left His homeland.
• The pathway of greater works – How can we get on track to do greater works? Because if we get involved in them, God will become more real to us!
vv. 13-14 Prayer.
It’s something we need teaching on, as the disciples asked. None of us have arrived. We must be challenged, reminded, and we must practice everyday!
Does this verse mean you can ask for anything you want and you will receive it? No, there’s a qualifier here, that the Father be glorified.
1 John 5:14
And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
In context, Jesus says this in conjunction with doing greater works. If we get serious about doing ‘greater works’, there will be many needs, and Jesus here promises that those needs will be met…so the work can be accomplished…so the Father will be glorified.
v. 15b Obedience.
You see, we have a bad habit of claiming promises out of context, which may or may not apply to us.
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
We love to quote it, but it is given in the context of faithful givers. Does it apply to you? Nowhere does the Bible make financial promises to the unfaithful, but it does say there’s a curse upon those who know better and don’t give. [Mal. 3]
v. 15a Love.
We can apply the love motive to any commandments of God, OT or NT. But in context here, Jesus is saying if you love me you’ll pray, if you love me you’ll give, if you love me, you’ll serve…you’ll obey, you’ll witness, you’ll want to do the greater works, and thru it all you will come to know me and the Father more. We will become more real in your life!
Most Christians never take their relationship with Christ to this level. Most never witness…most never turn their life upside down in such a way as to forsake everything and seek the greater works. Why? We could talk about fear and ignorance and make all kinds of explanations, but the bottom line is this — it’s a love problem! When you really love somebody, no sacrifice is too great.
When Peter denied the Lord, cursing and swearing, it was simply the symptoms of being a guy whose motives for following the Lord needed to be deepened. He knew the Lord, and loved the Lord.
Jesus saw Him after His resurrection and 3 times asked if he loved Him. Of course He did, but he needed to love more deeply.
I love Jesus, but there’s a greater work to be done, a greater love to possess.
You pray, yes…but “Lord, teach us to pray,” there’s a greater work of prayer to be done.
Lord, I believe, help Thou mine unbelief! Greater faith.
We give, but there’s a greater work to be done!
I feel like I obey God in many areas, but as I look at the greater chunk of my life…opening up all areas for inspection, there’s room for a lot more obedience!
You may serve, but there’s greater works which need to be done…will you step up and do them?
When you love somebody, you love what they love. Jesus loves the church. Jesus loves lost souls. Jesus loves glorifying the Father. And this is the purpose of greater works.
• The purpose of greater works.
Glorifying God can be done thru every detail of our lives. It’s not just something we do when we sing, give, serve, or pray.
1 Corinthians 10:31
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
Nothing brings God more glory than helping others get saved, because now there’s a new child of God who can bring Him more glory like He deserves. Wanting to bring God glory leads us to do greater works. And these things make God more real in our lives!