From the Pastor's Desk 

Joy in the World

2-4-18

 

            Let's pray.

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            We are slowly working our way through the gospel of John.  For the past couple of weeks, we've looked at John chapter 17.  This passage is normally referred to as Jesus' high priestly prayer, or the real Lord's Prayer.  There are basically three main parts to this prayer.  First of all, Jesus prays for Himself.  Then He prays for His disciples.  Lastly, He prays for all who are going to be saved.

            In the first five verses of this chapter is where we find Christ's prayer for Himself.  One aspect of this is that He prays for Himself and His relationship to the Father.  He knew it was time for Him to go to the cross and die for the sins of the world.  That was the reason that He came and it was now time for it to be fulfilled.  Through it all, one of His main concerns was that He glorify God and that the Father would glorify Him.

            In verse 6, Jesus shifts gears and begins to pray for His disciples.  This part of the prayer is specifically focused on His 11 remaining disciples.  Judas had already left the group in order to betray Jesus.  He prays that the Father would be made known.  Jesus did that through His works and through His words.  He prayed for His relationship with the disciples.  They were chosen out of the world and through God's words were changed forever from their former way of life.

            Jesus prayed regarding the importance of God's Word.  God's Word is very important.  In fact, it is the basis and reason and meaning of all of life.  Everything we are and everything we do rises and falls on the Word of God.  Jesus wanted God's name to be glorified.  Lastly, He asked the Father to keep the disciples secure.  They were secure because of who God is and because of the Holy Spirit and the fact that Jesus was praying and interceding for them.

            For those who were here last week, we closed the message with an exhortation for examination.  We talked about the kinds of names that people could call us based on how we are living our lives.  The question we asked was this:  what could you be called now?  What do you want to be called?  I hope that you all spent some time this past week thinking and praying about that.  My expectation and hope is that you are doing whatever you need to; making whatever changes need to be made, in order to accurately represent the person of Christ to a watching world.

            I think a name I could be called is mediocre.  I feel like a lot of what I do in life is kind of so-so and going through the motions.  I would like to be called excellent.  Not excellent that points to me, but I want everything I do and everything I am to point to Christ and make people think of how excellent He is.

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            This morning we are going to continue on looking at the portion of this prayer that focuses on Christ's disciples.  Today we're going to be reading from John 17:11-19.  What we're going to see is that Jesus prays for the disciple's protection.  The ultimate source of protection is through God's name.  He also prayed for their sanctification.  They were sanctified through the truth.  When Christ's disciples are protected by God and sanctified by the truth, there is real unity and everlasting joy. 

            Here's what I would like for you to think about as we work our way through this passage this morning.  How is unity displayed in your life?  What can you do to be more unified?  How is unity displayed in the life of the church?  Is there anything we can do to increase that?  Are you experiencing the joy of the Lord?  If not, what do you need to do to experience it in a fuller sense?

            Throughout their time in the upper room, Jesus had been giving the disciples what they considered to be bad news.  Now as we begin this new section of Jesus' prayer, we see where He once again mentions that He was soon going to go to be with the Father.  Of all of the many things Jesus had said to these men, that might have been the most upsetting to them.  They loved Jesus and certainly didn't want Him to leave them.  But leave them He must.  His impending departure is also one of the reasons why He is praying for these men.

            Jesus was no longer going to be with them, or as He put it in this prayer, He was no longer going to be in the world.  But the disciples were still going to be in the world.  They were going to have to deal with the world's temptations and with the world's hostility without the help of Jesus' immediate physical presence and protection.

            But they wouldn't be alone or helpless.  They might have felt that way at times, but Jesus had given them all of the resources they were going to need in order to be victorious and successful in fulfilling the calling Jesus had put on their lives.  He had already promised them that the Holy Spirit would come and help them and guide them and lead them into all truth.  Now through this prayer, He petitions the Father for a couple of other key resources that they would need.

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            Verse 11 is the only place in all of John's gospel that Jesus refers to God as "Holy Father."  It is a term that combines an awareness of God's awesome transcendence with the understanding of the personal aspect of family-type intimacy that we have with God.  The root of Jesus' holiness and the root of our own personal holiness is based upon our relationship with the Holy Father. 

            As Jesus progresses in this prayer to the Holy Father, He continues to lift His disciples up.  Since they were going to be left in the world Jesus prays for their protection.  But it's not just any old protection; Jesus was asking our Holy Father for divine protection.  (vv. 11, 12, 15). 

            The means by which God would protect these men was through His name.  This verse could also be translated "protect them by the power of Your name."  God's name is very important, we just talked about that a couple of weeks ago.  It's important because through His name we learn about His character and His nature.  When we call Him Jehovah-Jirah we are reminded that He is a provider.  When we call Him Adonai, we are reminded that He is Master and Lord.  Even the name Jesus means Savior.  Every time we say it should bring to mind who He is and what He's done for us.

            So God's name stands for His character.  But it also stands for His might.  Ps. 20:1; Prov. 18:10.  In Psalm 20 David was praying that the people of Israel would be protected by the name of God.  In Proverbs we learn that the name of Yahweh is a strong tower.  When we turn to Him and run to Him we find protection.

            They needed protection because they were going to stay in the world and the world was going to hate them.  In fact, they were going to be left in the world and they were going to have to deal with all that the world was going to throw at them.  Instead of asking the Father to take them out of the world, which would have negated part of God's plan of salvation and negated the work Christ did to prepare these men for ministry, He was asking that God protect them from the evil one.

            The term evil one could refer to "evil and sin in general."  Or it could specifically refer to "the devil."  We know that Jesus' death and resurrection dealt a crushing final blow to Satan.  But even though he's a defeated foe, he is not impotent.  He still has power and authority given to him by God to inflict damage on the Lord's followers.

            What does all of this mean?  Well, it doesn't mean that nothing bad was ever going to happen to them.  It doesn't mean that they could claim preferential treatment because they followed Jesus and that only good was going to come their way.

            These men went through all of the things that people go through in life.  It's not recorded for us, but we can imagine that they got sick; it's not too much of a stretch to think that they were cold and maybe sometimes hungry and suffered from all kinds of aches and pains if not other ailments.  We know that they all faced hostility and persecution.  In fact, they were all martyred for their faith and for their love of Jesus.  They all suffered horrifically for the cause of Christ. 

            But they would be forever protected and guarded spiritually.  In spite of all that they went through, Jesus' disciples were victorious.  They were successful in completing the mission Jesus had given to them.  They led folks to the Lord; they spread the gospel; they established new churches.  Through their lives and work God's kingdom was advanced and His name was glorified.  The devil and whatever other enemies they might have encountered failed at swaying them from doing what God wanted them to do.  In that way they were supernaturally protected.

            That's what our expectations should be as well.  Don't think that just because you're a Christian and belong to the Lord means that you're never going to experience bad, negative things in life.  Christians get sick; we suffer hungry and sleeplessness; some might find themselves homeless and destitute; we are persecuted and hated because the world hates Jesus Christ and anyone who follows Him.  This is not our best life now and we do not receive preferential treatment because we're born again.

            But God will protect us and keep us for heaven.  Nothing and no one can steal our salvation.  God gives us joy and peace that passes all understanding and is only a result of the Holy Spirit's working in our lives.  All of the spiritual blessings and benefits we receive because of Jesus have nothing to do with our circumstances and in fact we experience in spite of some bad times.

            We are not to withdraw from the world; we are also not to be confused with the world.  Instead, Christ wants us to remain in the world maintaining a witness to the truth with the help of the Spirit.  We are able to absorb all of the malice the world can throw at us knowing that we are protected by the Father in response to Jesus' prayer.

            All throughout His ministry, Jesus protected the disciples and kept them safe.  All of them that is, except for Judas.  But Judas wasn't a failure on Christ's part.  It was part of God's plan for him to betray the Lord.  He was chosen from before time to be that instrument.  It fulfilled Scripture and Jesus knew he was going to do what he did when He chose him to be one of the 12.

            Son of destruction in verse 12 can also be translated son of perdition.  That word in the NT commonly refers to "eschatological damnation.'  This expression can either refer to Judas' character or to his destiny.  It most likely refers to both although destiny is the more direct application.  The defection of Judas was part of God's plan and prophesied in Scripture, so again, it is not that Jesus failed because Jesus never fails.

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            Jesus prays for the disciples' protection; He also prays for the disciples' sanctification.  (vv. 17, 19).  The word sanctify here can also be translated holy.  It was a word rarely used in John's gospel.  One of the main purposes and goals that God has for our lives is for us to be holy and sanctified.

            We are to be holy because God is holy.  1 Peter 1:6.  Holy is one of the key adjectives to describe God's nature and character.  God being holy means He is "transcendent; other; distinct; separate from His creation."  It is this character trait that causes the angels in heaven to continually cry out to God in praise.  Rev. 4:8. 

            If God is holy, that means that anyone or anything reserved and set apart for God is also holy.  That would mean for instance that a censer used in the temple worship and sacrifices would be considered holy because it was set apart for use to God.  It would also mean that someone like Jeremiah or Aaron and his sons were all sanctified because they were set apart for sacred duty for the Lord or in other words, reserved for God.

            God desires holiness in our lives but sadly we see more un-holiness than holiness in the church.  Yes, we're sinful and always will be this side of heaven.  But that doesn't justify or excuse our lack of holiness.  We can't throw our hands in the air and say, "I'm not holy; I'm sinful.  Oh well, I guess that's just the way it's going to be."  No, we need to strive to be holy.  Someone who is set apart for God and for God's purposes alone will do only what God wants.  They will hate all that God hates.  That's what it means to be holy as God is holy. 

            We also see in both of these verses that we are sanctified by God's truth.  The means that God uses to sanctify Christ's followers is the truth.  Jesus was the agent and means of revelation of God's truth.  God revealed Himself and His truth through the life and testimony and witness of His Son.  That truth and God's Word was then passed down to the disciples who have thus passed it down to us.

            We know God's truth and we can apply God's truth through the working of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  One of the main jobs the Spirit has is to guide us into all truth.  Jesus' followers, including the original disciples and all of us alive today, will be set apart from the world, reserved for God's service as far as we think and live in conformity with the truth.  No one can be sanctified or set apart for the Lord's use without learning to think God's thoughts after him; without learning to live in conformity with the Word He has graciously given to us.  Jesus prays for protection for His followers and for sanctification.

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            We also see in these verses a couple of outcomes from those prayers being answered.  We know that these prayers of Jesus will be answered because His prayers were always answered because He always prayed according to the will of God and for the glory of Almighty  God.

            One outcome of our protection and sanctification is unity.  (v. 11). We are ultimately unified because of God's name.  He has saved us and He has bought us; we belong to Him and live under the banner of His name:  Christians.  The Father and Son are perfectly unified within the Trinity.  We will be unified as long as we remain loyal in our walk with the Lord and live consistently with the name Jesus Christ. 

            The unity Jesus has in mind is the spiritual unity that all believers possess because God has regenerated us and we are a part of His family.  The emphasis of unity in this sense is the real, constant unity that is invisible.  The unity of the invisible eternal life is the foundation for a visible unity.  We're already one with the Father and because of that we can be one with each other.

            Because of God's love for us and His work of redemption in our lives, we can and do have unity.  This spiritual unity produces a common love for the Lord (1 Jo. 4:20-21); a commitment to His Word (Eph. 4:13); affection for His people (Col. 3:14) and a separation from all that is ungodly and worldly (1 Jo. 2:15-17).  Because of God's work in and through our lives, we can and will have unity in the faith.

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            The final outcome of our protection and sanctification is joy.  (v. 13).  God's work in our lives produces spiritual fruit that we don't even cultivate because it stems from the Holy Spirit's work in our lives.  But it's also helpful to understand that the Father is protecting us and that Christ is interceding for us.  That knowledge and understanding can also help produce joy in the hearts of Christ's followers.  It must have filled the disciples with joy to hear Jesus pray these prayers on their behalf.

            Jesus wanted His disciples to experience joy and He wants us to experience joy as well.  For the disciples it wouldn't be until after the crucifixion and resurrection until they really started to experience joy in their lives.  At that time, they started to understand everything Jesus had said to them and they were already starting then to go out in obedience to do what He told them to do.  The essence of joy is us abiding in the Father's love.  We abide in the Father's love as we obey Him.  John 15:11. 

            Jesus prayed that the disciples would be kept safe.  An outcome of that protection is that they would remain in the Father's love.  As they remained in the Father's love, they would live in obedience to Him and to the word they had been given.  As all of that happened in their lives, they would be unified, working together as one, filled with and sharing the joy of the Lord in their lives.

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            At the beginning, I asked you to try to consider a couple of thoughts as we worked our way through this morning's passage.  Do you feel like you are experiencing unity in your life with other believers and unity in our church?  If not, what needs to happen in your life to make things more unified?  Remember, we should never sit back and point fingers at others; we should always be looking in the mirror at ourselves and examining our own lives.  Are you experiencing joy?  If not, why not?  What then do you need to do to increase the amount of joy you experience in life?

            As our singers and musicians come now, we invite you to a unified, joyful life as you walk with the Lord.  If there are any professions of faith or commitments that you need to share with us, I encourage you to do that now as we stand and sing.

 

            Prayer.