This morning we are going to head back to our study of John 17. Each and every Sunday we pray the Lord’s Prayer together as a congregation. The truth of the matter is what we pray is the prayer Jesus taught His disciples. The Lord’s Prayer is found in John 17, it is the prayer Jesus prayed before He was arrested, tried in a kangaroo court, and sentenced to death on the cross. Jesus’ prayer fills the entire 17th chapter of John’s Gospel.
If you will take a look at John 17 you will notice that in the first 5 verses Jesus prays for Himself. When I say Jesus prayed for Himself I don’t want you to confuse how Jesus prayed with how we oftentimes pray for ourselves. We oftentimes pray for a better life, for the Lord to get us out of jams, etc. Jesus, knowing that the cross was just around the corner prayed, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.” (John 17:1c NIVO) It is mind-boggling to think that God would be glorified through the agonizing suffering and death of His Son Jesus and yet that is exactly what happened when Jesus rose from the dead. Death was defeated forevermore, and the glory of God shone with greater brilliance than a thousand noonday suns.
The remaining 21 verses of Jesus’ prayer are focused on His followers: 14 of the verses, vss. 6-19, focus on Jesus’ disciples and 7 verses, vss. 20-26, focus on those who would become followers of Jesus through the ministry of the disciples in the years to come. You know what that means? That means Jesus prayed for you and me. Peter, James, John, and the other disciples shared the Gospel with someone who believed and in turn they shared the Gospel with someone else who believed. Eventually someone shared the Gospel with you and me and we believed. Now, you and I are the next link in the chain of discipleship as we share the Gospel with those the Lord has placed in our path.
In our last study of John’s Gospel we spent our time taking a look at John 17:1-5 so today we’ll turn our attention today to John 17:6-10. Open your Bibles and let’s read together.
6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. (John 17:6-10 NIVO)
We are breaking up our study into at least three different parts only because of our limitation of time, but when you read the entire prayer you will find that Jesus prayed specifically for the needs of His followers. Jesus allowed His disciples to listen in as He prayed, as He asked the Father to protect them, give them His joy, and sanctify them by God’s Truth. Dr. Eric Alexander said he thinks Jesus allowed His disciples to listen in as He prayed so the disciples, in all their weakness and with all the pressures of the world around them, might know their eternal security and their present serenity rests in God alone. Jesus prayed for their needs and He continues to pray for ours. When the writer of Hebrews compared the ministry of the Temple priests with the ministry of Jesus our High Priest, he wrote,
25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest meets our need– one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. (Hebrews 7:25-26 NIVO)
I want you to notice how Jesus describes His followers in these verses. First, they are the Father’s possession. In verse 6, they are described as God’s own possession. Jesus said, “They were yours;” Second, the followers of Jesus are a gift to the Son from the Father. In verse 6, Jesus prayed, “those whom you gave me out of the world.” Jesus says, “They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.” Once again in verse 9, Jesus prays, “I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.” (John 17:9 NIVO) A little later in Jesus’ prayer His disciples heard Him once again pray that they were a gift from the Father. We can see that in John 17:24. Read it with me.
24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. (John 17:24 NIVO)
If we were to stop right here and spend the rest of our time simply meditating in silence on what we’ve just learned we would benefit greatly. This idea that the followers of Jesus belong to the Father and are a gift to Jesus His Son is not a new or isolated teaching in the Bible. In John 10:27-29 Jesus answered the Jews who were goading Him to admit it if He was the Christ. Jesus said, “I did tell you, but you did not believe…” Then Jesus said,
27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29 NIVO)
Did you hear it? “My Father, who has given them to me…” The Bible clearly teaches that you were known, loved, and chosen by God before you ever knew, loved, or chose God. We find example after example of this in the Bible. Why did God choose Israel as His Chosen People? Did they first choose Him? Were they more noble than any other nation on the planet? Did they show greater promise than the other nations of the world? Not all. Deuteronomy 7:6-7 tells us clearly why God chose Israel. Read along with me.
6 For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. 7 The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. (Deuteronomy 7:6-7 NIVO)
From Abraham on God chose His people, He set His love upon them, and called them to take His love to the nations so they might come to know His love and mercy. We find another example of what I’m talking about in the life of the prophet Jeremiah. Turn with me to Jeremiah 1:4-5 and let’s read together. Jeremiah says,
4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:4-5 NIVO)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…I set you apart…I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” God chose Jeremiah and then Jeremiah chose God, to love and faithfully serve God. One of the greatest insights you and I can ever gain my friend is to recognize that God has set His love upon us, He has bridged the divide created by our sin through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son. He has chosen you, called you to be His son or daughter so that you might live in the freedom of knowing His Sovereign hand leading and guiding you through this life and into all eternity. Paul wrote to the people of Ephesus to remind them of this truth. Turn with me to Ephesians 1:3-6.
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:3-6 NIVO)
We were chosen by God before the foundation of the world, before time began. There is a stark contrast between the teaching of the Bible and all of the other religions of the world. Religion is humanity’s effort to please God to the degree where we will be acceptable to God. The teaching of the Bible, the bedrock of Christianity, is that God chose us, came looking for us, saved us, and restored us to a right relationship with Himself so we might know His grace and mercy. Paul puts it much more eloquently in Titus 3:4-7. Read it with me.
4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7 NIVO)
So, some would say, “Well, either I’m chosen by God or not. There’s nothing I can do so I might as well eat, drink, be merry, and live my life since it’s all up to God.” If that is your mindset then you need to go back and study the Scripture we are looking at this morning. While the Bible teaches God chooses us, it also teaches us the importance of our choosing Him. You say, “Well, which is it?” That’s a great question and the answer is, “It’s both.” God’s Word offers the invitation to sinners, those separated from God by our sin, to turn from our sin and recognize our need for the salvation that is found in Jesus alone. To the most religious people of His day, Jesus said,
39 You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life. (John 5:39-40 NIVO)
“…Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” The Scriptures testify about Jesus. All of creation points beyond itself to a greater Power, a more enduring reality than either the mountains or the oceans. Our lives are covered with the fingerprints of Almighty God’s providential care. Who do you think got you through that dark, lonely time of your life when you couldn’t come up with a reason to carry on? Who gave you the abilities you possess? Who has provided you with the strength you have to get up in the morning and make it through the day? Did you do that yourself? It’s one thing for God to provide for you and me, but the question is, “Will we recognize His hand of grace and mercy reaching out to us?”
When we were in Israel the first place we went to visit was Caesarea, located on the Mediterranean Sea. Paul was held in prison there for two years. Shortly after becoming the Governor of Judea, Festus heard Paul’s case. He wanted to return him to Jerusalem, but as a Roman citizen Paul made an appeal to appear before Caesar. Time passed and the day came when King Agrippa II, the great-grandson of Herod the Great, and his sister Bernice, arrived in Caesarea. Festus asked him to hear Paul’s case. King Agrippa allowed Paul to speak for himself and towards the end of Paul’s defense he said,
27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” 28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” 29 Paul replied, “Short time or long– I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.” (Acts 26:27-29 NIVO)
King Agrippa was an authority on the Jewish Scriptures, he was appointed by Rome to be the curator of the Temple, which meant he had the authority to appoint high priests, and yet he could not be persuaded even by Paul to believe in Jesus.
No author of God’s Word wrote more extensively or more passionately about God’s having chosen us and yet no one was more committed to traveling across land and sea to share the Gospel with everyone who would listen because Paul knew how important it was for people to choose Jesus.
My friend, it’s not enough that you go to church. It’s not enough that you attend Bible study now and then. It’s not enough that your mom, dad, or grandparents are godly people. You must recognize your need for Jesus and choose to receive the gift of the forgiveness of your sins for you to be reconciled to God and receive eternal life. Paul wrote to the people in Rome and said,
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: 9 That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:8-10 NIVO)
There are people here this morning who have never chosen to surrender their life to Jesus. “The word is near you” my friends. “If you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Let’s go back to Jesus’ prayer. We’ve talked about God’s gift to those He had chosen out of the world. Now, let’s talk about the believers gift to God. What does Jesus say about those chosen by God? First, in verse 6, He says, “they have obeyed your word.” In verse 7 Jesus says,
7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. (John 17:7 NIVO)
In verse 8, Jesus said they accepted the words or the teaching He gave them. He also said that His own know with certainty that Jesus came from God and that He was sent from God. In verse 10, Jesus said glory had come to Him by them. That last statement startled me this past week while I was studying these verses. Peter, the one who denied he even knew Jesus, brought glory to Jesus? The disciples who even as Jesus was nearing the end of His life were fighting over who would be the greatest in heaven, who would be able to sit at Jesus’ right hand, they brought glory to Jesus? The more I prayed about it and thought about it the more I understood. All of the disciples were sinners, saved by grace, just like you and me when we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior–we are sinners saved by grace. We are quick to point out the times they stumbled and failed, but we all too easily forget that these guys were the real deal. They believed Jesus with all of their hearts, they were willing to die for Him and many later would, and when others walked away, when Jesus’ teaching became too tough, they stayed.
There’s a story in John 6 that perfectly illustrates what I’m talking about. Jesus had just shared something that the crowd of admirers thought was too hard to hear and we read,
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:66-69 NIVO)
“Lord, there’s no place else for us to go–you have the words of eternal life. We believe, we know that you are the Holy One of God.” They believed and their faith would grow stronger in the days and years to come; and so will ours if we will focus on who He is and what He has done in our life.
Let me close by sharing a story with you. William Cowper was born in England in 1731. His father was a pastor and his mother was from a very prominent family in England. William was educated in private schools and eventually earned a law degree. All outward appearances pointed in the direction of great success with even greater potential for the future, but beneath the surface William was fragile. He had lost his mom was he was just six years old and he never recovered. In addition to the trouble he had grieving the loss of his mother, William experienced a breakup with someone he loved and this led to a failed suicide attempt. To make matters even worse, William was so introspective, he was more than familiar with his failures and what he saw as his lack of character and integrity. He knew the Bible and he just could not be good enough. He read the Bible, he believed Christianity was true, but he focused on his lack instead of God’s provision and it led to a mental breakdown. He was admitted to an insane asylum for eighteen months. While at St. Alban’s Asylum he battled deep depression. He wrestled with the idea of salvation and peace with God. He picked up a Bible one day and began to read from Romans. The Scripture seemed to refocus William’s attention away from his condition and on the reality of God’s work in Jesus. William read,
25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished– 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:25-26 NIVO)
Something clicked. William’s eyes were opened for the first time to the reality that being reconciled and having peace with God was not based upon how good he could be, but on God’s unmerited, unearned grace. Later William wrote about his experience.
Immediately I received the strength to believe it, and the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness shone upon me. I saw the sufficiency of the atonement He had made, my pardon sealed in His blood, and all the fullness and completeness of His justification. In a moment I believed, and received the gospel . . . Unless the Almighty arm had been under me, I think I should have died with gratitude and joy. My eyes filled with tears, and my voice choked with transport; I could only look up to heaven in silent fear, overwhelmed with love and wonder. (Gilbert Thomas, William Cowper and the Eighteenth Century, p. 132)
Oh my friend, it is so vitally important for you and me to focus on God’s provision for sinners like you and me. There is no one who is more familiar with all of our foibles, peculiarities, sin, and hypocrisy than our glorious God and Father. It was not while we were good, but while we were sinners that He gave His Son to die for our reconciliation. If you focus on your potential to be good, if you guard and measure your goodness each and every moment of each and every day you will most certainly lose your mind because you will consistently fail to measure up. But, if you will fix your gaze on the holiness and righteousness of our great God, if you will focus your thoughts on our glorious Savior and His willingness to take on flesh and blood so that He might rescue you and me from the slavery of sin, then you will come to know a freedom that will set you free. You will come to know the mercy and grace of the Father lavished upon you and me.
William wrote many hymns in the years following his conversion, but none more accurately describes his experience, and the experience of every sinner who turns to Jesus. In “There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood,” he writes,
There is a fountain filled with blood
drawn from Immanuel’s veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains
The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there may I, though vile as he
Wash all my sins away
For since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply
Redeeming love has been my theme
and shall be till I die (William Cowper, There is a Fountain Filled With Blood)
Redeeming love can be your theme until the day you die if you, this very morning, will recognize God’s provision of grace and mercy through the life, death, and resurrection of His wondrous Son for you my friend. Won’t you bow your head and open your heart to Jesus this morning?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114