Jesus Prays For His Disciples - Part Two
Scripture: John 17:11–19
Jesus Prays For His Disciples-Part TwoJohn 17:11-10
Sunday, February 15, 2004
Pastor Randy Smith
Quite often in our lives there come periods of time when we are separated from loved ones. Often just before the separation, we convey vital information to them essential for their well-being. It is because of our deep concern for them; we omit the small talk and focus on the priorities in the few final minutes of our time together.
Consider what a husband would say before he departs on a two-week business trip, or a mother before she allows her child to play in the water, or a father before he drops his son off at college for the first time.
Jesus is about to depart from His disciples in a physical way via the cross. He has already prepared them in the Upper Room discourse, which we covered in chapters 13-16. Now as He goes before the Father in prayer in chapter 17, He identifies six priorities that He wants for His followers. I cannot think of another portion of Scripture that better conveys the heart of our Savior. This is an intimate pipeline into the thoughts of Jesus. These are His main concerns in light of His departure. Though specifically spoken to those He was presently leaving behind, we can generally say these are the utmost desires for His church.
This morning, we'll cover these six fabulous prayer requests. But as we do, I want you to keep in mind the following two questions. Is this prayer of Jesus being answered in your life? And, is the prayer of Jesus being answered in the life of our church?
1. KEEP THEM IN YOUR NAME (vs. 11-12)
First of all, Jesus asks the Father to help His disciples persevere in the faith. He prays that they may abide in Him and remain in Him faithfully until the end. In verses 11-12 Jesus says, "I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name which You have given Me; and I guarded them and not one of them perished but the son of perdition, so that the Scripture would be fulfilled."
Last week (according to verses 6, 7, 9 and 10) we learned that the Father gives people to the Son for eternal life. These souls, commonly called "the elect" are a precious gift to Jesus Christ. And like any gift we receive, Jesus knew the gift-giver is most glorified when the gift-receiver enjoys, treasures, protects and keeps the gift.
How would you feel if you noticed the gift you gave me last week abused and left on the street corner for Monday's pick-up? This is the heart of Jesus' plea. He received these souls, these gifts from the Father and during His earthly ministry verse 12 says He was "keeping them" and He "guarded them." He even goes on to say "not one of them perished" other than Judas, the "son of perdition." But even that was not His fault as Judas was never truly given and his departure, fully in accord with his own free will, was "that the Scripture would be fulfilled" (Psm. 41:10; cf. Jn. 6:64, 70; 13:10-11, 18, 21-22).
You see, the Son takes His gifts from the Father very seriously. He demonstrates the value of these gifts and His power as the Good Shepherd to keep these gifts in the name of the Father faithfully until the end. This is why I believe so strongly in the eternal security of believers. Those who fall away are never truly saved, but those who are saved will be forever kept by the Son. They must for the sake of Christ's glory which we learned in verse 1-5, is preeminent in His affections. How can Jesus be glorified if He loses these gifts just days after they are taken out of the wrapper?
This concern for the security of His followers is evident as it initiates the petitions for His disciples. Jesus remarks that He was faithful to keep His followers faithful. None of those given to Him perished. But now His physical presence with these men is ending. Their ever-present Guardian is leaving. So He hands them back over to the Father for protection. In verse 11 He says, "I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me…"
God is able, and must for His glory; keep those who are His until the end. However, nothing supports the fact that God's keeping of us takes place irrespective of the lives we live. Biblically speaking, His keeping is not without certain means. Obviously the chief of these means is prayer. Christ prays for us as He did Peter. Remember that? "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail" (Lk. 22:31-32). We too must pray for each other to persevere. We too must encourage one another daily to persevere. Hebrews 3:13, "But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." We need accountability, regular Bible reading and regular church attendance.
As I grow, the more I understand how much I need this church body. I need to be around the preaching of the Word. I need biblical fellowship. I need to exercise my spiritual gifts. I am forever learning the weakness of my flesh. If I wish to abide in Christ, I need to be here more than just Sunday mornings. Hebrews 10:25 speaks of "not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near." We must prioritize the spiritual disciplines if we wish to persevere and live Christian lives that glorify the Master. It's interesting; often those most involved in the church are those most spiritually mature. Is it that their involvement led to their maturity or is it that their maturity shows itself by their involvement? It's been so clear in my years in the pastorate, the spiritual vigor of those who prioritize the spiritual disciplines and the spiritual shipwreck of those who are indifferent toward them.
Jesus is praying for you to persevere, but it is never absent of the means He has provided to help you press on and "fight the good fight" (1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7).
2. MAKE THEM ONE (vs. 11)
Interestingly, as we move to the second point, Jesus gives the reason He so vigorously prays for our perseverance. The purpose of our perseverance is so that we may be unified with each other. At the end of verse 11 He says, "That they may be one even as We are." In other words, Jesus petitions the Father for perseverance so that His church can enjoy the same unity that He enjoys within the Trinity.
Do you see what He is saying? We are kept on the earth and kept in the faith so that we may reflect the unity of the Godhead back to an unbelieving world. Isn't that Christ's point in verse 21? "That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me" (cf. Jn. 17:23).
Satan is the master of disunity. He loves gossip, backbiting and slander. He thrives on factions, partiality and divisiveness. He knows how important the unity of the church is for the glory of God. Unfortunately few in the church know it as well as he does. For those of you concerned for the glory of God, I would encourage you to deal with these sins of disunity immediately first in your own life and then in the lives of others. These sins, often viewed as little (more of Satan's deception), spread like wildfire and consume God's purpose of unity for His church.
The remedy? We must be walking in the Spirit and abiding in Christ whereby we can produce fruit that binds us together in love. Only then, enabled by His power, will we be about the things that make for unity. Only then will we have the love and humility necessary to forgive one another, deny ourselves, submit to leadership, befriend new people, uphold the Word, agree on our mission and deepen our relationships. Only then will we have "all wills bowing in the same direction, all affections burning with the same flame, all aims directed to the same end - one blessed harmony of love" (author unknown).
3. GIVE THEM JOY (vs. 13)
How can we achieve this high standard? Nehemiah 8:10 says, "the joy of the Lord is (our) strength." As we move to the third petition, we see that Christ not only wants us to persevere until we get to heaven, but He also wants us to be joyful in the here and now. In verse 13 our Lord prayed, "But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves."
We may be indifferent to our joy, but Jesus is not. Just like His former two petitions, His glory is at stake when we are not rejoicing. When His sheep are discontent, dissatisfied and depressed, He is not demonstrated to be the Good Shepherd who provides for His flock "abundant life" (Jn. 10:10) and the fullness of joy (Jn. 15:11; 16:24; 17:13).
In addition to His glory, this petition for joy further ties into the earlier petitions for perseverance and for unity.
We will only experience the joy of Jesus Christ when we persevere. To persevere we must abide in Christ and joy is the by-product of abiding in Christ. If we are half-hearted to the spiritual disciplines that help us abide (things like fellowship, church attendance, Bible reading, prayer, etc), we will never receive the fullness of joy Jesus spoke of in verse 13. The joy Jesus is speaking of is His joy. And His joy is only received when we persevere by abiding in Him whereby His joy pulsates from the Vine into us, the branches, by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 15). So please realize this, when I encourage you in the spiritual disciplines it is not that I am trying to be legalistic, it is that I am trying to make you happy!
Also, our joy is tied into the unity we share with Christ and each other. Jesus wants us to partake of His life. Jesus wants the unity we share with Him to be manifested in our life whereby His joy actually becomes our joy. And when we receive Christ's joy from being united with Him, we are able to double our joy by sharing it with others in the church with whom we also share union (Rom. 12:5).
A.W. Pink remarked, "A miserable Christian is therefore a self-contradiction" (Pink, John, 942). This is because a joyless Christian is always one that is out of communion with the Father.
4. USE THEM IN THE WORLD (vs. 14-16)
Let's move to the fourth petition from Jesus Christ. Beginning in verse 14, "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world" (Jn. 17:14-16).
One pastor tied to summarize this by saying, "The disciples were given to the Son out of the world; The Lord Jesus was not praying for the world but for them; He is leaving the world but they will continue to live in the world; The world has hated them because they are not of the world; He does not pray that they be taken out of the world but protected in the world; They are not of the world; but the Lord has sent them into the world" (Robert Rayburn).
Maybe we should back up on this one a bit! We have already learned that every person belongs either to the church or the world. The church submits to God and seeks to bring Him glory. The world is in active rebellion to God. Because the world and the church are clearly opposed, a conflict is bound to arise between the two. The world loves its own (Jn. 15:19a), but hates those who belong to the church (verse 14). They crucified Jesus and exhibit the same hatred to those who are growing in His image (Jn. 16:1-4). Taken with the last petition, there is nothing the world hates more than a Christian joyfully obeying the righteous commandments of God.
Jesus is from above (Jn. 8:23), but we as Christians were chosen out of the world (Jn. 15:19b). Jesus is about to depart from the world, but His followers remain in the world until we die. So in verse 15 Jesus prayed, "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one." So here's the million-dollar question: What is the Christian's relationship to the world? And the textbook answer is: We as Christians are in the world but not of the world.
Throughout the centuries Christians misunderstanding this concept has led to error on both sides of the spectrum. Many never see the responsibility to separate from the world. They are in the world and of the world. Their values, philosophies, means of entertainment, language, spending habits, conduct, attitude, interests, ambitions and passions are no different with the world. The Bible says that we are to be "aliens" in this world (1 Pet. 1:1; 2:11), but many professing believers think this is their home (Phil. 3:20) and act no differently than the citizens of this fallen world opposed to Christ. While we as Christians are called to make an impact on the world, I believe the world has made a greater impact on many who call themselves Christians. Jesus called us to choose our side of allegiance (Mt. 12:30). Jesus said we can only follow one Master (Mt. 6:24). The Scriptures teach that "friendship with the world is hostility toward God" (Jas. 4:4)?
On the other side of the coin we have witnessed those who have recognized the evil of the world and have sought to remove themselves from the world contrary to the Lord's prayer. In an extreme degree this is seen in monasticism. In a more subtle degree, but no less dangerous, this is seen in those who wrap themselves and their families in Christian cocoons. Their only activities are church activities. Their only friends are Christian friends. These people may not be polluted by the world, but unfortunately they have lost all contact with the world. This was the error of the Pharisees, for even their name means "separated ones."
Kent Hughes said it well. "We are all susceptible to this. It is possible to go womb to tomb in a hermetically sealed container with fish stickers. It is possible to abandon our culture to the devil. It is interesting to note that though Moses, Elijah and Jonah all asked to be taken out of the world, not one of their requests was granted (Num. 11:15; 1 Ki. 19:4; Jon. 4:3, 8). We need to ask ourselves honestly if we have functionally removed ourselves from the world. Christ prays that we will not" (Hughes, John, 402).
Jesus purposely prayed to the Father that we may remain in the world (verse 15). Why? Because we are called to be salt and light, winning people to Christ out of this lost world that are in desperate need of a Savior! God saves people as we manifest the name of Christ by rubbing elbows with them. And the only way this will happen is if we understand our proper relationship to this world. Becoming like the world destroys our testimony. Removing ourselves from the world nullifies our witness.
Jesus calls us to be fishers of men (Mt. 4:19). We are to wins souls for Christ through the gospel. But we will never catch any of the Lord's fish unless we are willing to venture out into the ocean of the world. Sure it's dirty work. Sure it can be dangerous. But as long as we stay in the Lord's boat away from the perils of the world's water we will be safe. But once we let the world influence us, the moment we begin to allow water into our boat, we are compromising our spiritual safety and destroying our testimony.
We must develop the right Christian mind-set in relation to the world. A few practical points for consideration: We need to get more involved in community activities, but not at the expense of church activities. I am so encouraged that many of you are involved in coaching teams, heath club membership, room mothers, club sports, leisure with unbelievers like fishing and golf and surfing. I am so encouraged that many of you are not turning away from hostile unbelieving family members, but rather seeking to win them to Christ. Many have your children in the public schools that provide thousands of opportunities. There is nothing wrong with Christian schooling or home schooling as many opportunities are there as well; however, we must be careful that we do not raise another generation of children who don't know how to evangelize.
Many of you work with unbelievers. Consider your job a mission field. Serve your employer with excellence, but realize your true Master has you there to manifest His name. God has providentially placed each of us in possibly the least evangelized region of America. Our town is under 1% Christian. Our opportunities are endless. Unless God is clearly calling otherwise, I beg you to stay in this dark community. And I can say that because if it were about "Christian comfort" our family would never have left Wheaton, Illinois! I believe it was John Knox who said, "Give me Scotland or I die!" Oh how I pray God would write on your hearts, "Give me New Jersey or I die!" And whatever you do, don't leave the world. Function as an ambassador for Jesus Christ and play a part in His awesome work to seek and save the lost as He uses you to call people out of this fallen world and into His glorious church. Perhaps the Apostle Paul said it best, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me" (Phil. 1:21-22a)
5. HELP THEM EVANGELIZE (vs. 18)
The fifth petition naturally follows on the heels of the fourth. In verse 18 Jesus said, "As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world" (cf. Jn. 20:21)
Jesus Christ was sent by the Father to bring the gospel to those living in darkness. In the same way Christ sends us to continue His work in this world. We all have a calling from the King to be missionaries whether it be to those across the world or those across the street.
So send I you to labor unrewarded,
To serve unpaid, unsought, unloved, unknown,
To bear reproach, to suffer scorn and scoffing,
So send I you to toil for Me alone.
So send I you, to bind the bruised and broken,
O'er wand'ring souls to work, to weep, to wake,
To bear the burdens of a world aweary;
So send I you to suffer for My sake.
So send I you to loneliness and longing,
With heart a-hung'ring for the loved and known
Forsaking home and kindred, friend and dear one,
So send I you to know My love alone.
So send I you to leave your life's ambition,
To die to dear desire, self-will resign,
To labour long, and love where men revile you,
So send I you to lose your like in mine.
I ask you Christian, are you willing to devote your life to that adventure?
6. SANCTIFY THEM IN THE TRUTH (vs. 17, 19)
Finally, in the sixth petition Jesus prays that His disciples will be sanctified. In verse 17 He says, "Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth."
To sanctify something means to make it separate or set apart for its intended use. Jesus prays that we will understand that we no longer belong to ourselves. We have become God's possessions whom He has separated and set apart for His purposes, a purpose like evangelism.
Our primary purpose in the Christian life is to grow in Christlikeness (practical sanctification) so we may fulfill our commission of making disciples of the world for His glory. God has sanctified us for that purpose. When we fail to fulfill this purpose, we do not understand the intended purpose of our salvation and have become a vessel that is of no use to the Master.
This sanctification is complete the moment we trust Christ (positional sanctification), but in many ways we grow in an understanding as to how we should live in light of our position in Christ. The means to this understanding is the Word of God. As Jesus prays in verse 17, we are to be sanctified in the truth by the Word of God that is truth. Not "a truth" or "contains truth," but truth, no error, the final authority in all matters.
Jesus prays that we will be people of His Word. Tuesday's "Grace Quote" said, "If we slight the reading of the God-breathed Word, the Holy Spirit is handicapped with dull tools…Why then should we be surprised that we fall short of godly character, feel spiritually incompetent in Christian witness, and fail at good works? The loop of learning takes us back to the basics. If we want the qualities associated with spiritual maturity, we must be avid readers of the God-breathed Word and serious students of Scripture" (McKenna, David L, How to Read a Christian Book, pg. 52).
It goes back to what we said earlier. Christian usefulness will only be possible as we abide in Christ through His Word. We must hear the voice of the Shepherd. It must begin there. But technically our sanctification goes back even further. We would never be sanctified if Christ were not sanctified for us.
In verse 19 Jesus said, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth." In other words, if Jesus never set Himself apart for His intended purpose on the cross, we would never have salvation from God. And without salvation from God, we would never be sanctified for our God intended purposes.
This morning we've covered six key prayer requests from Jesus. Each one of these is impossible to achieve on our own strength. How can we persevere when we are barraged from Satan and the flesh? How can we be united when others in the church hurt us so much? How can we continually rejoice when we live in a world of suffering? How can we live in the world and not be of the world? How can we lovingly evangelize those who hate us for being Christians? How can we set ourselves apart for God's holy purpose? On our own it's impossible, but though His grace and His strength we can achieve all that God expects of us. So we trust His power and bear His fruit, magnifying His sufficiency that He is God "who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us" (Eph. 3:20).
It was such a blessing this week as we participated in our 24-hours of prayer and fasting. I was continually reminded that throughout that 24-hour period, somebody was praying for our church and specifically as an elder, somebody was praying for me. What a sense of security! Don't ever forget that you have a have a Mighty Savior in heaven that is still making petitions to the Father continually on your behalf.
I end where I began. Christ is making these petitions for you and our church. Are His prayers being answered? Are we persevering? Are we united? Are we rejoicing? Are we rightly related to the world? Are we evangelizing? Are we sanctified for our intended us?