We’re going back to our Scripture in the Gospel of John this morning so that we might continue our study of Jesus’ prayer for His followers. If you will remember our time in God’s Word last week then you will remember that Jesus prayed for the Father to protect the hearts and minds of His disciples so they might keep the faith and remain spiritually faithful.
In our time together this morning I want us to focus on the desires of Jesus’ heart for His disciples. Jesus’ desire for His disciples is not unlike the desires of parents for their own children. Let me explain. Connie and I have prayed for our kids since before they were born. We’ve prayed, and continue to pray, that their greatest love in life will be to know and grow in their relationship with Jesus. We’ve prayed that they would discover God’s purpose for them in life. Before any of them were married we asked the Lord to prepare a godly mate for them, and we continue to pray that prayer for Annie. Our prayers for our kids have not been focused on them being successful, rich, for them to enter any specific profession, or to be happy. We’ve prayed specifically for our kids about the circumstances they’ve faced, but the heart of our prayers have always centered on their relationship with Jesus and His purposes for their lives.
Jesus prayed for His disciples in much the same way. He prayed for the Father to keep them faithful, He prayed they would be one, united in their love and purpose in life, He prayed they would have the full measure of His joy, and He prayed that God would sanctify them by the truth. Why were these things on Jesus’ heart as He prayed for those He loved just before He went to the cross? Was it because these would be most essential for their personal happiness in the world? Not at all. Jesus yearned for joy, unity, and sanctification to be the bedrock of their lives because He was sending them out into the world to carry on His ministry, to carry His message of salvation.
The yearning of Jesus’ heart for His followers is vitally important for you and me to learn, understand, and then live, passionately live out as we go about our daily life. It is in comprehending, taking to heart Jesus’ desire for us, that we will find direction and have our passion fueled, as we are “sent” by Jesus into this world as the Church, the Body of Christ. Let’s read our Scripture found in John 17:11-19 and then we’ll see what we can learn.
11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (John 17:11-19 NIVO)
There is great confusion in the Church at large today which has hindered, stifled our effectiveness. Remember, Jesus said, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” The vast majority of Jesus’ followers are oblivious to God’s desire to send them into the world as His ambassadors. There are many churches that are confused about their purpose in society. As a result of the confusion and misunderstanding we are hearing more and more about the decline of the church in our society today.
In 2014 the Pew Research Center confirmed the fears and speculation of many within the church when they published their findings in their “Religious Landscape Study.” Their findings showed that America is becoming increasingly secular and the perception of society is that the Church is becoming increasingly irrelevant. The group that got the most press coverage were the Millennials. Thirty-six percent of those born between 1980 and 2000 classify themselves as “nones,” meaning they are either atheist, agnostic, or have no religious affiliation whatsoever. Immediately the Christian think tanks went to work trying to figure out how to stem the tide and draw Millennials back to church. Drew Hyun is an Asian-American pastor who graduated from UC-Berkeley in 2001 and pastors a church in New York City. He wrote about the Millennial flight from churches in an article titled, “Millennials Need a Bigger God, Not a Hipper Pastor.”
There are 80 million Millennials in the U.S.—and approximately the same number of suggestions for how to bring them back to church. But most of the proposals I’ve heard fall into two camps. The first goes something like this: The church needs to be more hip and relevant. Drop stodgy traditions. Play louder music. Hire pastors with tattoos and fauxhawks. Few come right out and advocate for this approach. But from pastoral search committees to denominational gatherings to popular conferences, a quest for relevance drives the agenda. Others demand more fundamental change. They insist the church soften its positions on key doctrines and social issues. Our culture is secularizing. Let’s get with the times in order to attract the younger generation, they say. We must abandon supernatural beliefs and restrictive moral teachings. Christianity must “change or die.” (Hyun, David. “Millennials Need a Bigger God, Not a Hipper Pastor.” churchleaders.com)
I’m convinced, absolutely certain that those who do not know Jesus in our community, right here in Oklahoma City, will be more attracted to Jesus if we will embody the yearning of Jesus’ heart, if we will exhibit Jesus’ joy, model unity, and live a holy, set apart life of purpose. I’m convinced I don’t need a Caesar haircut and torn skinny jeans to effectively engage unbelievers in my community. Let’s learn about some tools Jesus has made readily available to us which I believe are much more attractive and relevant than anything being discussed by Christian think tanks.
I want to take the three yearnings of Jesus’ heart and share them with you this morning. I want to begin with the last one mentioned, a sanctified life, because I believe the other two are built upon it. Look at verse 19 with me where Jesus prays,
19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (John 17:19 NIVO)
What we are talking about this morning is not for everyone, but it is for those who are in Christ, those who have received Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives. It is important for us to understand the word, “sanctified” because it is the very foundation of our identity as followers of Jesus. Jesus said He sanctified Himself so that we might be sanctified. The word translated, “sanctified,” is the word, “ἁγιάζω” (hagiazo) and it means, “to be consecrated to God, to separate from profane things and dedicate to God, or to be made holy, set apart.” If you are a follower of Jesus you are no longer among the general population of planet earth, you have been set apart from the general population by God for His purpose.
Jesus acknowledged that He set Himself apart for the will of God, that is He was prepared to go to the cross, so that His followers could be set apart. It is through Jesus’ death on the cross that you and I can come to know Him, be reconciled to God, and become set apart for God’s purpose as a result of what Jesus has done on our behalf and our decision to surrender our life to Him. Peter knew firsthand what I’m talking about. He understand His life to be set apart for the purposes of God and he wanted the followers of Jesus in His day to see themselves in the same way. He wrote,
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9 NIVO)
We have no problem today telling our kids that they are special, but the question is, “Special for what?” For the followers of Jesus we can know that we are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God for a purpose. These descriptive phrases fit us because of what God has done on our behalf. What God does, He does with purpose. If you are a follower of Jesus you have been set apart “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” We are not here to receive the plaudits and applause of people, but we have been given this day to declare the praises of Him who has made a way for lost and broken people to be reconciled to God and find His meaning and purpose for their life in Him. Paul wrote to the brothers and sisters in Corinth,
2 To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ– their Lord and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2 NIVO)
We are not set apart because we are more morally solid than others or because we show greater potential than others, but those who trust in Jesus have been set apart in Christ Jesus, because of what Jesus has done on our behalf. Did you notice what Paul wrote to those in Corinth? He said those in Corinth were “joined together with all of those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours:”
This leads me to the second yearning of Jesus’ heart for His followers and that is unity. I don’t want to poke and prod too deeply on this one because we’re going to spend all of our time looking at Scripture and discussing the unity of the Body of Christ when we come to John 17:20-26. Take a look at the beginning of Jesus’ prayer for His disciples, in verse 11.
11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name– the name you gave me– so that they may be one as we are one. (John 17:11 NIVO)
Jesus prayed that His disciples would be one “as we are one.” Like I said, we’ll talk much more about Jesus’ prayer for the unity of not only His disciples, but all of His followers in a couple of weeks, but it is important for us to know that Jesus is praying for unity and not uniformity. He prays that we would be one as He is one with the Father. What was the unity that Jesus shared with the Father? Let me just show you one verse that describes for us the unity of the Father and the Son. Jesus told the crowd,
28 So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am the one I claim to be and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.” (John 8:28-29 NIVO)
Jesus was one with the Father’s will for Him. Jesus said, “I always do what pleases Him.” Our unity is based not on patterning ourselves after one another, but in fixing our hearts and minds on the Father and His will for our lives. Let me give you just one example of how this is worked out in our daily lives. John wrote, in 1 John 4:19-21,
19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:19-21 NIVO)
The love we have received from God is the love we are to offer one another. Our love is not based on whether or not someone deserves it, if we have an affinity for someone because they are like us or share similar interests, but it is based solely on God’s love for us. The love we are to offer one another is a bond, an incredible bond for those who are so diverse, and yet connected because of God’s love for us.
Jesus’ desire, His heartfelt prayer for His disciples, and for you and me is that we be sanctified, set apart for the purpose of declaring His praise, His grace, His mercy, His salvation to lost and broken people in our community and around the world. Jesus’ desire, His heartfelt prayer is that we be united in our desire to live our lives with commitment and devotion to the Father’s will and with love for one another. Last of all, Jesus’ heartfelt prayer for His disciples and all of us His followers is that we would be filled with the fullness, “the full measure” of His joy. Take a look at John 17:13 with me.
13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. (John 17:13 NIVO)
It’s important for us not to confuse joy with happiness, as the world defines happiness. Most Americans are starved for happiness. If you were to Google, “How can I be happy?” you would get 190,000,000 responses. That tells me there’s a lot of folks looking for happiness out there in the world. It also tells me there’s a vast variety of opinions about just how to experience happiness. The reason why so many lack happiness and joy is because they are looking for a consistent flow of favorable circumstances, an emotional giddiness, a life free from problems. Biblical happiness and joy are not determined by our circumstances. I learned something this past week that I will never forget. Dr. James Montgomery Boice writes,
Circumstances refers to things that are without. The word itself is based on two Latin words: ‘circum’ which means ‘around’ (as in the word “circumference”), and ‘stare’ which means ‘to stand.’ So circumstances are the things that are standing around us. They are external. But where is the Lord in this picture? Is He without? No, He is within. It is a case of ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory’ (Colossians 1:27). So why worry about what is without if Christ is within? To know that He is within and that He is directing us moment by moment, day by day, is the secret of that supernatural joy that is our rightful birthmark as God’s children. (Boice, James Montgomery. The Gospel of John: Volume 4. pg. 1297)
I want to give you an example of what Dr. Boice is talking about from our Scripture for this morning. In just a few short hours He will be arrested, beaten to a bloody pulp, and nailed to a cross. He knew what was coming yet He prayed that His disciples might have the full measure of His joy within them. The circumstances of Jesus present situation did not diminish the joy He knew from doing His Father’s will.
Jesus had spoken to His disciples about His joy back in John 15. It’s interesting that when Jesus spoke to them He told them if they obeyed Him, if they were faithful to Him, then His joy would be in them and their joy would be complete.
10 If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15:10-11 NIVO)
I hope you are getting a clearer picture of the joy and happiness that is available to you and me. Our joy, our sense of security, peace, and well-being is not to be determined by our circumstances, but by our relationship with Jesus. Our relationship with Jesus is not some nebulous, esoteric, cosmic, new age kind of oneness with the Universe. Jesus is not a force, He’s a Person who lived His life on this earth, died for people like you and me so we could be reconciled to God. He was raised from the dead, death could not hold Him down. He told His disciples that though He was leaving them He would be with them in the Person of the Holy Spirit…and He is with all of those who surrender their lives to Him.
We can learn what Jesus is like, how He relates to those who are His own, how He lived His life, how He desires for us to live our lives, and how He helps us in living life by spending time in His Word. Some might say, “How can I get to know someone who is no longer here? Someone I can’t sit down and talk to?” That’s a great question and I’ve got an answer for you. Let me give you an illustration. When I was a kid, from the time I was in grade school until I graduated from high school, every time I had to write a book report I wrote it over the life of Jim Thorpe. I bet I wrote 10 book reports about Jim Thorpe. The book I read in grade was an easy reader compared to the books I read in middle school and high school, but I always wrote about Jim Thorpe. I could be a Jim Thorpe historian I read so much about him. I read so much about Jim Thorpe I felt like I knew him. Learning about Jesus is much the same except for one huge difference–Jim Thorpe has been gone for many years, but Jesus lives and He is our ever-present help in our time of need, He is the Rock of our salvation, and He is the Constant Fountain of the believer’s joy. Jesus is not only the source of our joy in the hardships of life, but He sustains our joy when life’s troubles are overwhelming. Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote,
Your joy then, I say, needs looking after. I do not doubt but you have very suggestive proofs of this, yourselves, in your external circumstances. You cannot always rejoice because, although your treasure is not in this world, your affliction is. Poverty will sometimes be too heavy a cross for you to sing under. Sickness sometimes casts you upon a bed on which you have not, as yet, learned to rejoice. Losses befall you in business, failures of hope, forsaking of friends and cruelty of foes—and any of these may prove like winter nights which nip the green leaves of your joy and make them fade and fall off your branches… Your joy will need to be looked after, then, lest floods should come in and quench it. You will need to cry to Him who alone can keep its flame burning, to trim it with fresh oil. (Spurgeon)
We live in a lost and broken world full of men, women, boys, and girls who are lost and broken. “Relevant” churches with all of the bells and whistles capable of mesmerizing the masses cannot penetrate the darkness that enshrouds the heart, or break the chains that keep the hurting shackled in despair. Those who are hurting don’t need programs or slick presentations. What they need is Jesus. They need to know that they have been created, knit together in their mother’s womb, by the God of glory who loves them with an everlasting love. They need to know that He is the light of the world, the only One who can pierce the darkness and bring them into His glorious light. They need to know that He is stronger than all of the troubles of the world and He will lead them through every trial and hardship. Do you know God’s plan for dispensing all of these wonderful truths to them? His plan is to use you and me. Before you can ever be used by God, you must first come to know Jesus. Do you know Him? I didn’t ask if you go to church. I want to know if you know Him. Not know about Him, but truly know Him? I pray that those of you who do not know Jesus will not leave this place today until you do.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
March 12, 2017