Holy, Missional Lives — John 17:1-26

// March 21st, 2018 // Sermons

[Read John 17:1-26]

A few years ago, I was listening to John Piper talk about the role of the pastor. He said many of the things that you typically hear when people talk about being a pastor, but he also said something I had never thought about before. He talked about how many angry parents he’s had to deal with. He’s had parents threaten his life because of his ministry. Why? Because he has preached the Word of God in a powerful way, then the Spirit used his preaching to call someone’s child into foreign missions, and the parent was furious. They didn’t want their child to go away to another country that was dangerous. They didn’t want their child to risk their life for the Gospel. So, the come after John Piper and threaten his life, tell him that he needs to shut his mouth–that he needs to be quiet. He causing too many problems taking God’s Word seriously and calling people to live out their faith.

I’ve never had a parent threaten my life, or been furious at me because of my ministry (maybe I need to ramp things up a bit :-), but there are times when I find myself hesitate for a moment. I’m preparing a sermon for a Wednesday night, reading and studying a passage from the Bible, and I pause because I know that if I preach this text faithfully and accurately, and if you receive what God’s Word has to say, it’s going to blow things up a bit. It’s going to cause some problems. Now, I only pause for a second because I trust God’s Word, and if God’s Word is going to blow something up, that thing needs to blown up. Yet, I do pause, because I wonder what the ramifications will be if people finally begin to take God’s Word seriously. It’s going to cause some beautiful problems. I call them beautiful problems because, if God is causing “problems,” they are working toward something beautiful. We see them as problems because we can’t see the whole picture.

This is what Jesus is talking about in his prayer. This whole chapter is Jesus’ prayer to his Father the night before his crucifixion. In the middle of that prayer, Jesus knows that he is about to “leave” them, Jesus says, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14, ESV). See what I’m saying? Jesus says, “Father, I have given them Your Word and the world hates them because of it.” The fact that Jesus gave the disciples the Word of God caused things to “blow up.” It caused beautiful problems.

It caused problems because the disciples actually took God’s Word seriously. Earlier in this passage, Jesus says, “For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” (John 17:8, ESV). So, Jesus gave them God’s Word….THEN the disciples received it, came to know it, and believed it. That’s why things began to happen. That’s when the problems started. Now the Word of God was no longer something that was outside of them–something they didn’t take seriously–the Word of God was inside them. It was changing them. It was affecting who they were at their core. It changed the way they spoke and acted. It separated them from the world because it changed them–it shaped them to be more like Christ. That ended up causing problems.

Jesus says the same thing in verse 17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17, ESV). To be sanctified means to be made holy. Since Jesus is the only man to ever walk this earth in holiness, it can also be said that to be sanctified means to be made like Jesus–our words and our deeds to look like his. When Jesus prays for the disciples the night before his crucifixion, he prays that the Father would shape the disciples into His image. “Sanctify them,” he says. Yet, he says that they must be sanctified in the truth, which is the Word of God. That is how they will be sanctified. That is how they will be shaped into the image of God–through the Word of God. Then, as they are shaped into the image of Jesus Christ, they will be continually separated from this world and it is going to cause some problems–beautiful problems.

This is true for every one of us. The goal of the Christian life is to be shaped into the image of Jesus Christ–to be made holy, to be sanctified. We cannot do that apart from the Word of God. It’s not going to happen. If you are not regularly in God’s Word–receiving, knowing, believing–you will not be shaped into the image of Jesus, you will be shaped into the image of the world. That’s how it goes. Paul says the same thing in Romans 12 when he says, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” (Romans 12:2, ESV).  You are transformed by the renewing of your mind when you take God’s word, receive it, know it, believe it, and allow it envelope your whole live–every aspect of it. As your life becomes saturated with God’s Word, you are transformed, you become more like Jesus, you are separated from the world. Yet, if you are not in God’s Word, or if you are not letting God’s Word change you–transform you–you will be conformed to the world. You’ll look just like the world, you’ll have some temporary comfort in this world, and you’ll never find real, lasting joy. Yet, when you allow God’s Word to change you, when you begin to be transformed, when you begin to experience the fullness of joy that Christ has to offer, the world will also hate you. You will find yourself in tribulation and trials and there’s a temptation to run away from it.

Yet, Jesus says, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:15–16, ESV). Did you hear that? Jesus says that he doesn’t want the Father to take you out of the world. He doesn’t want the Father to separate you from the world. He wants you in the world. Running away to a monastery in the forest, or mountains or desert, is not God’s will for you. Jesus actually prayed that wouldn’t happen. Finding ways to stay away from all of the “sinners” in the world is not God’s will for you. Jesus prayed against that. Finding ways to avoid all confrontation between the Gospel and the World is not God’s will for you. Jesus prayed against that. Did you get what I’m saying? We are not to hide ourselves from the world. We are not to avoid conflict and confrontation. We are to be in the world with the life transforming power of the Gospel. That Gospel transformation should be exhibited in our lives and it should be flowing out of our mouths as we live in the world–causing some beautiful problems.

What Jesus prays is that we would remain in the world–in the midst of a fallen creation, in the midst of tribulation–but prays that the Father would keep us till the end. In verse 11 he says, “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me…” (John 17:11, ESV). Then, in this verse he says, “…keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15, ESV). Jesus does not pray that we would never find ourselves in the midst of conflict, but prays that the Father would sustain us through that conflict. Jesus does not pray that we would be removed from the sinful world, but that we would be kept faithful till the end in this faithless world. Ridderbos says, “[The church] may be forced out because of the world’s hostility, but the essential nature of the church is not that of a conventicle. Precisely for that reason God must ‘protect’ the church from ‘the evil one,’ not only from open or violent hostility and ‘hatred’ but also from the world’s desire to squeeze the church into its secular patterns of life and to seduce it into solidarity, a process that goes beyond the ‘distress’ of the world” (558).

It’s important to know that the Father will do these things in the church. He will keep believers till the end. He will keep you till the end. We know that He will keep us till the end because he has known us before the foundations of the earth. Yes, I’m talking about God’s sovereignty and election again. It’s all over in this passage. Jesus talks about it alot. Just look at one of the references, verse 9, Jesus says, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” (John 17:9, ESV). Jesus is praying for those the Father has given him, because they are the Father’s–they are His people. So, Jesus prays to the Father, that he would keep His people until the end. Do you have confidence that He will do that? Do have confidence that the God who chose you before the foundations of the earth, and brought you to faith in Him, will also finish what he started? That’s what Jesus is talking about and praying about in this passage. The Father knew you before the foundations of the earth, He called you to be his own, and in the midst of the trials and tribulations of this world He will keep you until the end. He won’t let go of you. So, live in the world with courage and boldness, set apart in the image of Jesus Christ.

Jesus wraps this up by taking things to another level. He says, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18, ESV). This is different from simply leaving them in the world. There is a popular saying that Christians are “in the world but not of the world.” That’s true, however, it’s not the whole truth. To be in the world but not of the world, means that we can simply walk around in the world with our heads down. We can simply be here, trying to pass the time until we leave and go to heaven. It can foster an attitude of “I guess I have to be here. So, I’m just going to do what I have to do until I’m out of here.” Sounds like a bunch of teenager’s attitudes in high school, right? Yet, Christ takes it a step further. We are not simple left in the world. He is SENDING us into the world. We’ve been given a mission. We are not to simply pass our days on this earth, keeping our heads down, waiting to get to heaven. NO. We have been sent into the world. We are called to Do Something in the world. We have been given a task. We have been sent into the world with the life transforming power of the Gospel–that Gospel transforming our lives, the lives of people around us, and the world we live in. We are supposed to “blow things up” with this Gospel power. We are supposed to find ourselves in conflict with the world. We are supposed to find the power of the Gospel working like leaven through all of our lives and society.

Jesus said this is why he consecrated himself. He says, “And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” (John 17:19, ESV). That word “consecrate” is just another word of “holy.” Jesus said it was for our sakes that he made himself holy. It was for our sakes that he came to earth. It was for our sakes that he lived a perfect life. It was for our sakes that he found himself on the cross, crucified, died, and buried. It was for our sakes that he rose again from the dean and ascended into heaven. All of these things were Jesus setting himself apart as holy, and he did it all for us SO THAT we would be sanctified in the truth. We begin that process by looking to Christ in faith, knowing, receiving, and believing what he said–that He is the Son of God–the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, all who believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Then the rest of your life is spent in the process of sanctification–becoming like Jesus Christ–through knowing, receiving, and believing God’s Word and incorporating it into every aspect of your life.

That’s how the Gospel spreads like leaven throughout our lives and society. Think about it for a moment. How did Jesus have such an impact on the world? He was set apart from the world as holy–perfectly conformed to the image of God–yet, did not remove himself from the world but was sent into the world. He lived his holy life in the world with a mission and it spread like leaven (it’s still spreading).

This is how we are called to live our lives in the world. We are called to live Holy, Missional lives. We are called to be saturated and transformed by God’s Word so that our lives are set apart from the rest of the world–they will know that we are different. Then, we boldly and confidently live those holy lives in the world with a purpose. We intentionally bring our holy lives into conflict with the holiness of the world in order for them to see the life transforming power of the Gospel.

Many of you are doing this already, whether you know it or not. Many of you are involved in the public schools. Five days a week you are surrounded by numerous people who are not believers–who are living unholy lives. Jesus’ call is for you to be transformed by His Word, and live your holy life out boldly and confidently in the midst of your school. It will bring some hatred your way, but it will also begin to spread like leaven in the school–life transforming power of the gospel will begin to spread. Some of you here tonight are homeschooled or are in a Christian school. First, the life transforming power of the Gospel is needed there too. Live out your holy lives in those places. However, most of you are also involved in some activity where you find yourself in regular contact with non-believers. Jesus’ call is for you to be transformed by His Word, and live your holy life out boldly and confidently in those place–at hockey, track, volleyball, robotics competitions, etc. When we do that, the life transforming power of the Gospel comes into conflict with the world and begins to spread like leaven through the dough. We can enter into these situations boldly and confidently because we are God’s people and He will keep us till the end.

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