– Valuing God Through the Eyes of the Heart and the Ears of the Head –

When I Don’t Desire God by John Piper

There is more than one kind of seeing. Otherwise Jesus would not
have said, “Seeing they do not see” (Matt. 13:13). It is possible to
see in one way while not seeing in another way. The difference the Bible
describes is that we have two kinds of eyes—eyes of the heart and eyes
of the head. The apostle Paul prayed that you would have “the eyes of
your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which
he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the
saints” (Eph. 1:17-18). So there is such a thing as eyes of the heart. And
there is a kind of knowing or seeing that comes through these eyes that
is different from the seeing that comes through the eyes of the head.

Other Scriptures also link the heart and its eyes. Moses lamented
that “to this day the LORD has not given you a heart to understand or
eyes to see” (Deut. 29:4). They could still see with their physical eyes.
God had not struck the whole nation blind. But they could not see with
the eyes of their hearts. Seeing they did not see. So it was in the days of
Ezekiel: “Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who
have eyes to see, but see not” (Ezek. 12:2). And Jeremiah too grieved
over this spiritual blindness: “O foolish and senseless people, who have
eyes, but see not” (Jer. 5:21).


The psalmist described the connection between this inner blindness and
idolatry. “The idols of the nations are . . . the work of human hands. They
have . . . eyes, but do not see. . . . Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them!” (Ps. 135:15-18). Make and trust a blind idol,
and you become blind. Apply that principle to the modern world, and
think of the idols of our own day. What do we make and what do we
trust? Things. Toys. Technology. And so our hearts and our affections are
formed by these things. They compress the void in our heart into shapes
like toys. The result is that we are easily moved and excited by things—
computers, cars, appliances, entertainment media. They seem to fit the
shapes in our hearts. They feel good in the tiny spaces they have made.
But in this readiness to receive pleasure from things, we are ill-shaped for
Christ. He seems unreal, unattractive. The eyes of our hearts grow dull.

Paul said the same thing about the people of Israel in his own day,
quoting the prophet Isaiah: “‘This people’s heart has grown dull . . . and
their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes . . . and
understand with their heart’” (Acts 28:27). In other words, the heart and
its eyes are failing in their appointed task. In the book of Revelation,
Jesus saw this happening in the church of Laodicea, who thought they
needed nothing. He said to them, “You are wretched, pitiable, poor,
blind, and naked.” And he counseled them, “Buy from me . . . salve to
anoint your eyes, so that you may see” (3:17-18).

This divine “salve” must be what Paul was praying for in Ephesians
1:18 when he asked the Lord that the eyes of our hearts would be
enlightened to know our hope and inheritance and power. Without the
work of our omnipotent internal Eye Surgeon we would remain blind
and unable to see. Oh, how we need the gift of spiritual sight! Whatever
joy we have without this sight would not be spiritual joy. It would not
be a spontaneous response to seeing the beauty of Christ. And therefore
it would not honor Christ. It would be superficial and fleeting.


Why is spiritual seeing so essential to joy in God? It’s because spiritual
seeing is the act of the heart that corresponds to the revelation of the
glory of God for the enjoyment of his people. In other words, God’s ulti-
mate purpose for creating the universe and ruling the history of redemption
is the manifestation of his glory for the everlasting enjoyment of a
redeemed people. Jonathan Edwards, who has taught me as much as any
man outside the Bible, said in his great book on The End for Which God
Created the World, “It appears that all that is ever spoken of in the
Scripture as an ultimate end of God’s works is included in that one
phrase, the glory of God.”2 That is why we exist—to see, and rejoice in,
and reflect the value of the glory of God.3 “Bring my sons from afar and
my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone . . . whom I created
for my glory” (Isa. 43:6-7). That’s why we were created, and why we
should do everything for the glory of God: “Whether you eat or drink,
or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).


In one of the most important statements I have ever read, Edwards said
it like this:

God glorifies Himself toward the creatures also in two ways: 1. By
appearing to . . . their understanding. 2. In communicating Himself to
their hearts, and in their rejoicing and delighting in, and enjoying, the
manifestations which He makes of Himself. . . . God is glorified not
only by His glory’s being seen, but by its being rejoiced in. When those
that see it delight in it, God is more glorified than if they only see it.4

God’s aim in all that he does is to glorify himself. This involves both
radiance from God and reflection from creation. His glory streams out
from himself, and it streams back again in many ways, especially when
he is treasured and enjoyed by his people. “The refulgence shines upon
and into the creature,” Edwards says, “and is reflected back to the luminary.
The beams of glory come from God, and are something of God, and
are refunded back again to their original. So that the whole is of God,
and in God, and to God, and God is the beginning, middle and end.”5


Nothing in the universe is more central than the radiance of the glory of
God revealed in Christ for the enjoyment of his people. Therefore, the
importance of seeing it for what it really is can hardly be exaggerated.
For seeing it is foundational to enjoying it. And that joy is foundational
for showing the worth of Christ in the world. It is foundational for the
life of love and sacrifice and suffering that it sustains.

Therefore beneath the quest for satisfaction in Christ—which sustains
the life of sacrifice for Christ—is always the quest to see the glory
of Christ. All strategies in the fight for joy are directly or indirectly strategies
to see Christ more fully.


This connection between God’s glory and our seeing demands that we
understand the two kinds of seeing we have spoken about. For in one
sense the glory of God is not yet visible, and in another sense it is. Paul
says in Romans 8:18, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time
are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” This
means that the glory is not yet here to see. So he says in Romans 8:24-
25, “Who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see,
we wait for it with patience.” And in this hope we rejoice: “Through
[Christ] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we
stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:2).

This is the great global hope of all the prophets. “The glory of the
LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth
of the LORD has spoken” (Isa. 40:5). “The time is coming to gather all
nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory” (Isa.
66:18). Note well: they will see the glory of the Lord. Seeing corresponds
to the great and final revelation of the glory of God. There is a glory of
God that we hope for and do not yet see.


But that is not the whole story. The reason we hope for the revelation
of God’s glory is because we have indeed seen so much of it in Christ
and in nature that our hearts are captured by it forever. The apostle Peter
admits that in one sense we do not now see Christ. But listen to how he
says it: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do
not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inex-
pressible and filled with glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). We may groan at times
because our seeing is so incomplete (Rom. 8:23). But for Peter the joy
of what we have seen and the hope of what we will see are inexpressible
and full of glory.

Therefore, Peter called Christians to be so enthralled with the hope
of glory that they would be willing to make any sacrifice now for the
sake of knowing and showing Christ: “Rejoice insofar as you share
Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory
is revealed” (1 Pet. 4:13). The final revelation of the glory of Christ will
be the consummation of our joy. Every sacrifice will have been worth it.
Indeed those who have suffered most for Christ will say, in one very true
sense, “We never made a sacrifice. That slight momentary affliction was
‘preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison’” (see
2 Cor. 4:17).


The glory we have already seen, and the hope that we will see more, creates
and sustains our joy now. There are magnificent revelations of it in
nature—even if they pale in comparison to Christ. “The heavens declare
the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to
day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Ps. 19:1-
2). We know from Paul’s strong words in Romans 1:20 that we have
“seen” the “invisible” attributes of God in this universal display of
divine glory. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and
divine nature, have been clearly perceived [=clearly seen, kathoratai]
ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
This is amazing. Paul says that when we look at God’s display of his
glory in nature (from the atom to the supernova) we all see clearly the
glory of God. But seeing we do not see.

Why? Paul says it’s because of the “ungodliness and unrighteousness
of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom.
1:18). We see, but we suppress. We prefer mindless, moral-less, loveless
theories of naturalistic evolution to the glory of God. Oh, how deep is
our corruption! This is absolutely tragic. In one act of proud suppression
we cut ourselves off from God and joy. Oh, what joys God means
for his children to have in the beauties of nature! Not nature as an end
in itself, but as an almost endless diversity of spectacular wonders, pointing
always to God’s magnificence.

“O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made
them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and
wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small
and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play
in it” (Ps. 104:24-26). The Lord is lavish in creation, because his glory
is infinite in beauty and diversity and greatness. Alas that seeing we do
not see! And we consign ourselves to the kind of pleasures that sophisticated
human animals can feel as their chemicals interact.


But that can change, and we should fight to change it with all our might.
Our hearts can change so that when the desert blossoms like a crocus
we “see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God” (Isa. 35:2). The
change comes when we turn to Christ. Here the veil is lifted from the
darkened heart. What Paul said about the Jewish people is true for all
of us, whether we are reading the Bible or the book of nature: “Their
minds were hardened. . . [The] veil remains unlifted, because only
through Christ is it taken away. . . . When one turns to the Lord, the veil
is removed” (2 Cor. 3:14-16).

Salvation is the purchase and provision of sight for the blind. God
sent Christ into the world to die for our spiritual blindness, pay its
penalty, absorb the wrath it deserves, and provide a perfect imputed
righteousness for all who believe. This is the most beautiful display of
God’s glory that has been or ever will be. The divine glory we have been
redeemed to see is most beautifully shown in the redemption itself. The
all-glorious Christ is both the means and the goal of our salvation from
blindness. His life, death, resurrection, and present reign in heaven are
both the means by which we sinners regain our sight and the highest
glory we are saved to see.


This is why God has appointed that turning to Christ is the way our sight
will be restored. The point of restoring the sight of the blind is that they
might see and enjoy the glory of Christ. That is the reason we have
eyes—both physical and spiritual. Therefore it would contradict the very
purpose of seeing if God were to restore our sight by any other means
than the revelation of the glory of Christ. If we were given eyes to see
and there were no Christ to see, then the joy of our seeing would not
glorify Christ. But the Spirit who wakens our inner sight was sent to glorify
Christ. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he . . . will glorify
me” (John 16:13-14). Therefore the Spirit will open the eyes of the
blind only in the presence of the glory of Christ.


But how can this be when Christ is in heaven and the glory of his
redeeming work happened centuries ago? The answer is given by the
apostle Paul in one of the most important gospel passages in the Bible:

If our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing.
4 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, who is the image of God. 5 For what we proclaim is not
ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants
for Jesus’ sake. 6 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. (2 Cor. 4:3-6)

Here Paul defines conversion—which Satan does all he can to hinder—
as “seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (v. 4). He
says it a different way in verse 6: It is the shining in our hearts of “the
light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
These descriptions of conversion imply two things. One is that the gospel
is the proclamation of the “knowledge” of Christ in such a way that its
glory can be seen by the eyes of the heart. The other is that this “seeing”
is the work of God, “shining in our hearts” the same way he did on the
first day of creation when he said, “Let there be light.” In other words,
seeing the glory of Christ in the gospel is a gift.

Therefore when I said above that the Spirit will open the eyes of the
blind only in the presence of the glory of Christ, I meant, only in the
hearing of the gospel of Christ does God say in the heart, “Let there be
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light.” By means of the glory of Christ in the gospel, and for the sake of
the glory of Christ in the gospel, God restores our sight only in the presence
of Christ in the gospel. In this way, when our eyes are opened and
the light shines, it is Christ whom we see and enjoy and glorify.

Telling the gospel of Christ’s death for our sins and his resurrection
(1 Cor. 15:1-4) is a re-presentation of the glory of Christ once revealed
in history. At that time the apostle John said, “The Word became flesh
and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only
Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In other words,
the eternal “Word”—the Son of God—entered history and revealed “the
glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” So now when the Word of God
is preached (“the gospel of the glory of Christ”), that same glory (“the
light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”)
shines forth. Becoming a Christian means seeing this glory when we hear
the gospel.


This relationship between the Word of God and the glory of God—
between hearing and seeing—is not new. In Exodus 33:18 Moses said
to God at Mount Sinai, “Please show me your glory.” He wanted to see
the glory of God. God responded with a revelation of himself by the
Word. He said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will
proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD’” (v. 19). And then he did that
on the mountain with a full proclamation of the meaning of his name:
“The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a
God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast
love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving
iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the
guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s
children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Ex. 34:6-7).
That was God’s deepest answer to Moses’ request, “Let me see your
glory.” He proclaimed in words the essence of his gracious name.

Similarly God revealed himself to the prophet Samuel by the word.
First Samuel 3:21 says, “And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the
LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.”
This is what we want as human beings: We want a revelation of God
himself. We want to say with Moses, “Show us your glory.” And indeed
a time is coming when “the glory that is to be revealed to us” will make
all “the sufferings of this present time” seem as nothing (Rom. 8:18). But
for now, in this age, God has ordained that primarily he reveals his glory
to us “by the word of the LORD.” Hearing is the primary way of seeing
in this age.


This relationship between the Word of God and the glory of God is
remarkable, and we should grasp it firmly. God ordained that spiritual seeing
should happen mainly through hearing. Christ is not visually present
for us to see. He is presented today in the Word of God, especially the
gospel. Paul said, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the
word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). But we know from 2 Corinthians 4:4 that
faith springs from “seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.”
Therefore we can say that seeing the glory of Christ is what happens in
the heart when the hearing of the gospel is made effective by the Spirit.
That is, when, through the gospel, the omnipotent, creative voice of God
says, “Let light shine in the darkness of this heart,” the gospel gives rise
to faith. When hearing, by grace, produces seeing, it produces faith.

This is crucial because the glory of God is the ultimate reality. The
glory of God is more ultimate than the Word of God. And so seeing is
more ultimate than hearing. Nevertheless the glory of God does not
come to us in a saving way except through the Word of God. Therefore,
seeing the glory does not happen except through hearing the gospel.
Word corresponds to hearing, and glory corresponds to seeing.
Ultimately God has spoken in order to reveal his glory for the enjoyment
of his people. Therefore we must hear what he says in order to see what
he reveals. The Bible does not speak of hearing the glory of God, but
seeing it. Hearing is the means. Seeing is the goal. The aim of all our
hearing of God’s truth is the seeing of God’s glory.


Yes, seeing divine glory is the goal of hearing divine truth. But seeing the
glory of God is not our ultimate aim. Our ultimate aim is to glorify God
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by enjoying him forever. If seeing did not produce savoring, God would
not be glorified by our seeing. Therefore the final goal in our hearts is
the enjoyment of the glory of God, not just the seeing. And the final goal
in the universe is the fullest possible display of the glory of God. That
fullness comes to pass not only but mainly through the white-hot, joy permeated
worship of his people as they exult in the glory of his Son.

The reason I say “not only” is that the wrath of God against unbelief
will also glorify his justice and wisdom. And the reason I say “but
mainly” is that judgment is not God’s highest design for the glory of his
name; rather the highest design is “that the Gentiles might glorify God
for his mercy” (Rom. 15:9). The revelation of the glory of his grace
reflected in the joyful exultation of his people is God’s highest and ultimate
end in creation. “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the
world . . . to the praise of the glory of His grace” (Eph. 1:4, 6 NASB).


This will come to pass, and our hearts will be full of joy in it, if we fight
to see the glory of God. Second Corinthians 3:18 gives the decisive word
on the necessity of seeing for the sake of rejoicing in and reflecting the
glory of God: “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. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” By
seeing the glory of Christ in the gospel we are changed. In what way?
Not first externally, but first internally. What is this internal change that
comes from “beholding the glory of the Lord”?

It is the awakening of joy in Christ himself, and all that God is for
us in him. It is the awakening of a new taste for spiritual reality centering
in Christ. It is the capacity for a new sweetness and a new enjoyment
of the glory of God in the Word of God. Therefore, nothing is more
important for us in life than to “behold the glory of the Lord.” Satan,
as Paul says four verses later (2 Cor. 4:4), uses all his devices to keep us
from seeing “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ.” This is the
most foundational strategy in the battle for joy—the strategic battle to
see. In all the strategies commended in this book for how to fight for joy,
this is always the aim of each. Directly or indirectly every strategy is a
strategy to behold the glory of Christ and become enthralled with his
beauty above all.


As Jesus came to his last night before the crucifixion, John, the beloved disciple,
says, “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them
to the end” (John 13:1). One of the demonstrations of that love was the
great prayer that Jesus prayed for his disciples and for us who would believe
on him through their word (John 17:20). And the climax of that prayer
came with these words: “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have
given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given
me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (v. 24). Why
would the most loving man who ever lived, at the most loving hour of his
life, pray that we would be able to spend eternity seeing his glory?

The answer is not hard: This will satisfy our hearts and glorify his
worth. That is what it means to be loved by Christ. He prays for what
is eternally satisfying to us and eternally glorifying to him. Seeing his
glory forever is the greatest gift he can give to us. Therefore praying and
dying that we might have this gift is love. Resolving to fight with all our
might that we might see what he died to show—that is a great honor to
Christ. The rest of this book is an effort to help you do that. I am still
learning myself. May the Lord give us the grace, more and more, to follow
the lead of the apostle Paul and “look not to the things that are seen
but to the things that are unseen” (2 Cor. 4:18). May this kind of looking
enable us to see more of Christ than we would have ever seen if our
looking stopped with what is seen.


What then is this seeing with the eyes of the heart? It is a spiritual perception
of the truth and beauty and worth of Christ for what they really
are. To use the words of Jonathan Edwards, it is “a true sense of the
divine excellency of the things revealed in the Word of God, and a conviction
of the truth a reality of them thence arising.”6 The key word here
is “sense.” The person who sees with the eyes of the heart “does not
merely rationally believe that God is glorious, but he has a sense of the
gloriousness of God in his heart. There is not only a rational belief that
God is holy, and that holiness is a good thing, but there is a sense of the
loveliness of God’s holiness.”7

This “sense” or perception is different from physical perception, but
not disconnected from it. When the gospel is heard and Christ is objectively
portrayed in his perfections and his works, the physical perception
of these things may lead to an embrace or rejection. But the spiritual
perception leads only to an embrace. Indeed it may be so interwoven
with the embrace that they are indistinguishable. Can we really distinguish
between perceiving something as infinitely desirable from the
awakening of desire for it? Is not the wakening of the desire for Christ
the recognition of him as desirable?

The words of David in Psalm 34:8 seem to imply this: “Oh, taste
and see that the LORD is good!” Which comes first: tasting that the Lord
is good, or seeing that the Lord is good? Or is the taste the sight? Listen
to Thomas Binney’s reflections on these words.

There are some things, especially in the depths of the religious life,
which can only be understood by being experienced, and which even
then are incapable of being adequately embodied in words. “O taste
and see that the Lord is good.” The enjoyment must come before the
illumination or rather the enjoyment is the illumination. There are
things that must be loved before we can know them to be worthy of
our love.8

That is the difference between physical perceiving and spiritual perceiving.
Spiritual perceiving is the creation of a new taste in the soul.
Before our conversion the honey of Christ tasted sour or bland and thus
undesirable to our souls. Then, by grace, we were granted a new capacity
for sweetness, and we tasted the honey of Christ for what it really is:
sweet and desirable. This is the seeing that provides the enjoyment of
Christ. The seeing and enjoying are inseparable. Indeed it appears that
the enjoying is the seeing. Or as Jonathan Edwards says, the heart’s seeing
a person as lovely implies that the person is pleasant to the soul.

There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey
is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. . . . So there is a difference
between believing that a person is beautiful, and having a sense
of his beauty. The former may be obtained by hearsay, but the latter
only by seeing the countenance. . . . When the heart is sensible of
the beauty and amiableness of a thing, it necessarily feels pleasure in
the apprehension. It is implied in a person’s being heartily sensible
of the loveliness of a thing, that the idea of it is sweet and pleasant
to this soul.9


Together this spiritual seeing of Christ and enjoying him—or this spiritual
sense of his beauty and corresponding pleasure in the soul—refer
to what Paul calls “knowing” Christ. Paul prays in Ephesians 3:19 that
we may “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge.” And he
says in Philippians 3:8, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing
worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” This knowing is no
mere intellectual knowledge. The devils have such knowledge and tremble
(Jas. 2:19). This knowing “surpasses knowledge.” This knowing
includes tasting and seeing. It is the knowledge of honey that you have
only when you put it on your tongue and taste that it is sweet. Therefore,
knowing Christ in this way means seeing him for who he really is and
enjoying him above all things.

Therefore the prophetic challenge, “Let us know; let us press on to
know the LORD” (Hos. 6:3), is the same as the challenge of this book:
Let us fight to see; let us press on in the fight to see and enjoy the glory
of Christ.

I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart
that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that
made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness was Jesus
Christ himself, “The same yesterday, today, and forever.” Now
did my chains fall off my legs indeed. I was loosed from my
afflictions and irons; my temptations also fled away; so that
from that time those dreadful scriptures of God [about the
unforgivable sin] left off to trouble me; now went I also home
rejoicing for the grace and love of God.

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners1

. . . looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who
for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising
the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

H E B R E W S 1 2 : 2

Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when
I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me. I will bear the
indignation of the LORD because I have sinned against him, until
he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring
me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication.

MI C A H 7 : 8 – 9