NOT OF THIS WORLD
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In January 28, 2016, Billy Graham preached a message entitled “In the World, But Not of It.” I am quoting from portions of his message here.
At a meeting of church leaders in Seattle, Washington, one member of the group reportedly said that if the church is to make its greatest impact on our generation, it must become more worldly minded. While in one sense that may bear some truth, in the Biblical sense it is false. As we read the New Testament, it is clear that we are not to become entangled with the world.
But the question I want to ask today is, “What is the world?” The world is the cosmos, the world system, which is headed by Satan and based upon self, greed and pride. This is the world that God warns about, and it is this world system and philosophy that Christians are to shun and remain free from. The world was such a great danger to our souls that this danger caused Christ, the Son of God, to go to the cross to deliver us from it.
Billy Graham goes on to say we need to be careful not to be deceived by the world. In this complex generation in which we live, it is not easy for the Christian to distinguish between that which is spiritual and that which is worldly. This cosmos has its own entertainment and diversions that so permeate the atmosphere that it makes the way of the cross seem antiquated and irrelevant. In much of the entertainment media fostered by the cosmos, the name of God is profaned, sex is glamorized, and high, ethical living and Christian moral standards are laughed at.
The Bible teaches that worldliness is a force, a spirit, an atmosphere of the cosmos that is in opposition to all that is godly and Christian. There is an undertow, a subtle current that runs against and in contradiction to the will and the way of God. Its eddies are deep and treacherous. They are stirred and troubled by Satan and intended to trap and ensnare those who would walk godly in Christ Jesus. Satan employs every device at his command to harass, tempt, thwart and hurt the people of God. His attack is relentless.
So we as Christians are in the world. We come in contact with the world, and yet we retain our distinctive kingdom character and refuse to let the world press us into its mold. The primary responsibility of the Christian is to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel—that God loves the world, has redeemed it through the cross of our Savior, and seeks to save it. But we are to achieve that most difficult of all tasks, not to be conformed to the world. This is the Christian’s stand; this is the Christian’s job. We are to be in the world but not of the world.
Last week, Pastor Stuart introduced John chapter 17 to us. This chapter has been called the High Priestly Prayer and it is the longest recorded prayer by Jesus in the Bible. Today, we are going to be focusing on the second section of Jesus’ prayer in which he prays for those closest to him while he was on the earth. Of the twenty six verses of Jesus’ prayer, 80% of them are focused on others. This includes those closest to him who believed in him while he was on the earth, those throughout history who have believed in him, those today who believe in him and those who will believe in him in the future. But 100% of this prayer, all 26 verses, are for those that are “not of this world.” Jesus was not of this world, the disciples were not of this world and all who have believed in him for all time are not of this world including believers today. If you are a Christ follower here this morning, you are a stranger and an alien on this earth and you are called to continue the work that Jesus has given you until you are called to your real home in heaven.
This morning we get to continue to listen in to Jesus’ High Priestly prayer just as the disciples of Jesus’ day did. We are going to hear who Jesus prayed for and we are going to hear what Jesus prayed about for them. Imagine hearing the Messiah, the Creator of the Universe, praying for you as you are listening. Maybe you have heard a parent or a pastor or a friend pray specifically for you. What did they pray for? Whatever it was it was probably important to them and to you. This morning we are going to see who was so important to Jesus and what was so important to pray for them about, that he took this opportunity so close to the cross to intercede for them with his heavenly Father. That brings us to our big idea that Jesus through John wants us to understand this morning which is “Knowing who to pray for and what to pray for them about is important.”
Before we start to unpack that big idea this morning let’s pray. Dear Heavenly Father, we come to you seeking knowledge and wisdom from your Word. We ask that you open our hearts and minds to what you want us to take away from your message this morning. Teach us, guide us, illumine us and use us to your honor and your glory, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
This morning, we are going to be studying John chapter 17, verses 6 to 19. Our first point is Who. Who did Jesus pray for and why was it important for him to pray for them. We see this in verses 6-11b. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, 6 “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. 7 Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; 8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. 9 I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours; 10 and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 I am no longer in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world, and I come to You.
Who is Jesus praying for? He is definitely praying for the eleven remaining disciples. If you remember Judas has already left the upper room to go betray Jesus so the eleven other disciples are the subjects and the hearers of Jesus’ prayer to his Father. But he may have also been praying for other devoted followers that had heard his words and believed in him as their Messiah. But he probably had the eleven disciples in the forefront of his mind as he prayed because they were going to be the ones continuing his mission in the world after he left. He goes on to describe these eleven men whom he was getting ready to send out into the world.
The first way he describes them is that they were the men that Jesus manifested his Father’s name to while he was on the earth because they were given to Jesus out of the world by God. They were God’s and God gave them to Jesus. He also describes them as ones who kept God’s Word. Part of Jesus’ mission on the earth was to take ordinary men and make God known to them. John 1:14 says “And the Word (Jesus) became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” God, in the person of Jesus, became flesh and dwelt among the disciples so he could make himself known to them and show them his glory.
“Manifested” means “to reveal” or “to make known.” The tense here shows that Jesus perfectly accomplished the Father’s plan by revealing the Father to the disciples. The concept of God’s name means all that God is: his character, his nature and his attributes. Jesus was the perfect Word of God and the perfect manifestation of God and he perfectly revealed all God was to the disciples. Only Jesus could say “he who has seen me has seen the Father” as we saw in John 14:9. Hebrews 1:3a says, “And He (Jesus) is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.
We see God’s divine sovereignty and election at work here. The eleven disciples who belonged to God first were chosen by God before time began out of the world to be Jesus’ followers on the earth. Their choosing was based on nothing that they did but only on the grace granted them by God in Christ. John 6:44 says, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” But there is also human responsibility. The disciples had to make a choice about Jesus. They would be held accountable to how they responded to the words and the name of God revealed to them through Jesus. At the end of verse 6, we see how they responded. It says they “kept” God’s Word. This means they obeyed the Word revealed to them by Jesus. Obedience is essential to salvation and is the result of a genuine salvation experience.
The offer of salvation goes out to all people and is the same for everyone. God’s desire is that everyone will be saved but we know that not everyone will accept that offer. God in his sovereignty knows who will accept him and who will reject him. He knew that these eleven men would accept his Words and his Name that Jesus would make known to them. Salvation is never a result of human morality, wisdom or willpower but a gift of grace and mercy from God. Those who reject the gospel do so willingly and without excuse having been given many, many opportunities by God to respond.
Just like the disciples we will be held accountable to how we respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe the Holy Spirit is tugging at your heart right now urging you to take that step of faith toward salvation in Jesus Christ. If so this next step is for you: Admit that I am sinner. Believe that Jesus died for my sins. Confess that Jesus is my Lord. If you made that next step today, you are now “not of this world” and I would encourage you to let myself or Pastor Stuart know so we can share how you can now start to be discipled in Jesus.
In verses 7-8, Jesus continues to describe the disciples as those who have come to know that everything the Father gave the Son was from the Father, including the words given to Jesus from God. They truly understood that Jesus was the Son of God who came from God and was sent by God. In effect they believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Of course they did not fully understand Jesus’ mission on the earth but they would once he arose, ascended into heaven and the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost. But at this point they clearly realized that Jesus was who he said he was. They had proven to be his true disciples because they had received the words the Father gave Jesus, they understood that Jesus came from Father and they believed that the Father had sent Jesus. These things were further proof of the disciples’ genuine faith. They believed, unlike the Jewish religious leaders, that Jesus’ power, authority and words came from God and that he did God’s will while on the earth.
This was who Jesus prayed for. God had been revealed to them and they “kept” his Word. These eleven men had come to be in a close personal relationship with Jesus and he knew what lay ahead for them. So it was important for Jesus to pray for them and it was important for them to listen in to his intimate communication with the Father. BIG IDEA
In verses 9-10, Jesus continues to describe the disciples as a gift and as those whom he has been glorified in. Because the disciples had responded with belief and demonstrated genuine faith through their obedience, they showed that they had been chosen by the Father out of this world as a gift for the Son. Jesus was confident that his Father would hear and grant his prayer for the disciples because they were a gift from him.
Then Jesus prays something that may surprise us. He says that he is praying for his disciples that God has gifted him, but not for the world. Remember the world is the evil, godless, satanically ruled system comprised of all that oppose God and his kingdom. Now this does not mean that God doesn’t care for those who reject him. John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. That word “world” in John 3:16 is the same word used here in verse 9. But Christ’s high priestly work of interceding is done on behalf of those given to him by the Father: those who have received God’s words from Jesus, understood that Jesus came from God and believed that God sent him. The unredeemed world was not the subject of this prayer. He had been praying for them all throughout his ministry and even with his dying breath he was praying to his Father to “forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Jesus’ statement that “they are yours; and all things that are mine are yours, and yours are mine” shows his confidence that the eleven belonged to God. It was also a claim by Jesus to deity and full equality with God the Father. Jesus and God are one so the disciples were not only God’s and chosen by him but they were also fully and equally the Son’s and chosen by him. Those who belong to the Father belong to the Son as well.
The disciples were also men that Jesus has been glorified in. Jesus had been glorified in the disciples’ because they accepted and obeyed God’s Word from Jesus and believed that God sent him as the Messiah. This glory would continue to be displayed on the earth as the disciples lived out the Great Commandment and the Great Commission to love God and others and to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them all that Jesus had commanded them. Imagine that - sinning, denying, doubting, failing human beings represent the glory of the holy Son of God! Do you feel that way this morning? Jesus feels that way about you.
Pastor Stuart mentioned last week that one of Jesus’ purposes on the earth was to glorify God and we have the same purpose as well. We see this in Matthew 5:16, which says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” And 1 Corinthians 10:31, says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” God and Jesus will be glorified as Christians reflect Christ’s glory in the darkness of this world.
In verse 11a we see why Jesus is praying for the eleven disciples. He is praying for them because he is leaving the world to return to the Father but the eleven will be staying in the world without him. This was an important reason for Jesus to pray for them. Yes, Jesus will rise again from the grave and they will rejoice. Yes, the Holy Spirit will come upon them at Pentecost and they will be bold. But Jesus in bodily form whom they loved and whom loved them would not be with them day in and day out any longer. They were already devastated, saddened to the point of despair and anxious and depressed. So Jesus, with the cross looming before him, audibly prays to his Heavenly Father in their presence for them on their behalf. He wanted to uplift their spirits and remind them of how much he loved them. These eleven men were of super importance to Jesus and because of their importance to him he prays for them, interceding for them with his Father. BIG IDEA.
That brings us to our next point this morning which is What. What did Jesus pray about for his disciples? What were some of the most important things Jesus felt he needed to bring before the Father on the disciples’ behalf? We see these things in verses 11b-19. Follow along as I read those verses. “Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. 12 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. 13 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. 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. 15 I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
Jesus starts his intercessory prayer for his disciples by addressing God as “Holy Father.” The use of “Holy Father” is unique here in the NT. It suggests both remoteness and nearness. God is both awe-inspiring and loving. The Son was not only celebrating the holiness of God but was remembering God’s holiness to the disciples. It would be their holiness that would help them to overcome the hostile world as they lived in the world but be “not of the world.” Their relationship with God while on this earth was to be characterized as “holy” even as God was “holy.”
The first thing Jesus prayed for his disciples was unity. Jesus wanted God to “keep” his disciples by the power of his name so that they would be one as the Father and the Son were one. Remember God’s name represents all that he is and in this instance Jesus asks the Father to “keep” them according to his holy character and attributes. What did Jesus pray to keep or protect them from?
Gaebelein says, “That keeping means everything. Keeping from falling away, from evil doctrines, from being overcome by sorrow or in tribulation and suffering, keeping them in life and in death. From this first petition of our Lord’s prayer we learn the absolute security of a true believer. If a true believer, one who belongs to Christ, who has been given by the Father to the Son, for whom the Son intercedes, can be lost, it would mean the loss of Christ’s glory, the loss of a part of the travail of his soul.”
This “keeping” or protection was important so that the disciples would be one as the Father and the Son were one. This unity of the Father and the Son is seen in the power of the name of the Father which is also the Son’s name. God’s holy character was reflected perfectly in Jesus. Jesus had provided the disciples with a perfect picture of who God is and what he expects. God is faithful and true, so is Jesus. God is loving, gracious and merciful, so is Jesus. God is holy and just, so is Jesus. Jesus is praying to the Father for the disciples to have the same unity that they have because he knows their unity will be important as they live in the world but not be of the world so that they can continue the work that Jesus started on the earth.
The nature of this unity is important. It is a unity already given. Jesus doesn’t pray that they become one but that they continually be one. This is an invisible spiritual unity which rests in abiding in Jesus and having him abide in them. It is an invisible unity, produced by the Holy Spirit, that is the foundation for the visible unity that the world should see in the Church. The world should see this unity in us practically as a common love for God, commitment to his word, a love for his people and a life lived in holiness. Christ followers should be noticeably different from the world they live in. We are to be the salt of the earth and light in a darkened world. If we aren’t, Matthew 5:13 says we are “no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
During Jesus’ ministry on the earth he “kept” and “guarded” them in the Father’s name given to Jesus. He guarded them so well that not one of them perished except the son of perdition. For three years Jesus taught them God’s words, he empowered them so they could continue his work on the earth after he left and he shielded them from persecution by the hostile Jewish religious leaders. The word Jesus uses for “kept” means preserve and watch over. “Guarded” gives the idea of protection from outside dangers like the strong man who guards his house in Luke 11:21. That verse says, “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed.” Jesus “kept” and “guarded” his disciples and they were not “disturbed.” Taken together the words give a picture of compete deliverance from all perils and lasting security. The Son asks the Father to secure his disciples knowing that it was the Father’s will and Jesus always prayed in perfect agreement with his Father.
Jesus says none perished but the “son of perdition.” He was talking about Judas. Only Judas who never had a true relationship in the first place was not “kept . . . by that name you gave me.” There is a play on words in the original text: “Not one perished but for the son of perishing.” His loss was not due to Jesus failing to keep him by the Father’s name or by not guarding him properly. Judas was characterized by “lostness” not predestined to be “lost.” Greene says, “Scripture was fulfilled by the loss of Judas not that he was lost to fulfill scripture.” Judas was still personally responsible for his actions and rejection of Jesus as the Messiah but God used his evil actions to bring about his own divine purposes. God’s will was done in the handing over of Jesus to be crucified.
The second thing Jesus prayed for his disciples was for them to have the complete joy of Jesus in them. Imagine their thoughts as they hear Jesus pray these things about and for them. Jesus has described them as men who were chosen by God to have the very words of God revealed to them. They were a gift from the Father to the Son and Jesus said he was glorified in them. Then Jesus asks God to keep and guard them as they continue his work in the world. I would have to believe that hearing this prayer on their behalf would produce joy in their hearts and help them to overcome their fears as Jesus was getting ready to return to the Father. But this wasn’t just any joy; this was Jesus’ joy. Jesus loved his disciples so much and was so concerned for their well-being that he wanted them to have the same joy that he experienced. This was joy based on the eternal purposes of God which the disciples would now take part in. The disciples would also share in Christ’s joy as they would experience eternal life made possible through his death and resurrection.
Just as the world hated Jesus, God’s incarnate Word in the world, the world hates the disciples because they accepted the word given to them by Jesus. By rejecting both Jesus and the disciples they were ultimately rejecting God. The hatred of the world for the disciples was proof that they were not of this world just as Jesus wasn’t. They were reborn, born again, from above. Their citizenship was no longer on the earth but in heaven. Effectively they were strangers and aliens here just as everyone today is if they have been born again.
The third thing Jesus prayed for his disciples was for their protection. Even though they were not of this world Jesus was not asking the Father to remove them from it. But he was praying God would give them a supernatural awareness of the world’s evils so they could be avoided. It would be important that they were kept from evil because evil would be fatal to their mission. He also asked his Father to protect them from the evil one while they continued his work on the earth. Carson says, “Followers of Jesus are permitted neither the luxury of compromise with the world, nor the safety of being taken out of the world. But we are assured of the safety that only God can provide as certainly as the prayers of God’s son will be answered.” Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 59:1 says, “Deliver me from my enemies, O God; be my fortress against those who are attacking me. And 2 Thessalonians 3:3 says, “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.”
In verse 16, Jesus again states that the disciples are not of the world just as he is not. This was more than just a restatement of verse 14. Jesus was emphasizing the unity that the disciples shared with him. Imagine the joy they would have felt at hearing Jesus pray for their protection from the world and the evil one. They would have the same joy that Jesus had. They would enjoy the same unity that Jesus and the Father had. They would have the same protection from the Father as Jesus had.
The last thing Jesus prayed for was that his disciples would be sanctified. “To be sanctified” means to be “holy” or “set apart.” The world is hostile to God and the things of God, including his Son and disciples. The only way to overcome the world and the evil one is to be sanctified. Jesus was sanctified and set apart by the Father and sent into the world to redeem it. Now Jesus asks his Father to sanctify the disciples for the same purpose. They are to be sanctified and set apart from the world in order to make disciples of Jesus Christ. The instrument of this sanctification is “truth” which is the Word of God. Their protection would be found in God’s Word. As they were preaching and teaching the “truth” in the world they would not only be protected from outside evils but also from inside ones. The evil one would try to stop the disciples from finishing Jesus’ work by attacking their unity, their joy and their hearts and minds.
They needed to be continually internally transformed by reading and studying God’s Word, by obeying the Word, by prayer and striving to live as Christ lived on the earth. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. And 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Bruce says, “The very message which they are to proclaim in his name will exercise its sanctifying effect on them . . .” Think about that. You are sanctified as you read the word, as you talk about the word with others (Bible study) and as you obey the word. And others are sanctified as well.
But this continued work would not be possible except for the sacrificial death of the Son on the cross. MacArthur says, “What he was about to endure on the cross would make salvation possible for the eleven and for those who would be saved through their extended ministries. For the disciples’ sake Jesus would sanctify himself by himself being set apart to righteously obey the Father’s will by dying on the cross. It was only because of Jesus’ atonement for their sins that they themselves would be sanctified in truth. Having been justified by their faith in Jesus they would be daily conformed more and more into his perfect image.”
So, “knowing who to pray for and what to pray for them about is important.” I have two questions for each of us this morning. First, who do you pray for on a daily or regular basis? Who are the people closest and most important to you? Is it a brother or sister? A mother or father? A husband or wife? Maybe it’s a close friend. And what do you pray about for them on a daily or regular basis? Do you pray for their unity in Christ, for their joy in Christ, for their protection from the evil one and for their sanctification? If not the second next step this morning is for you: Pray daily for those most important to me for their unity, joy, protection and sanctification. Second, do you pray for your church family? Do you pray for those who worship here at Idaville Church with you? What do you pray about for them? Do you ever pray for their unity in Christ, for their joy in Christ, for their protection from the evil one as they live out the Great Commandment and for their sanctification? If not the last next step is for you: Pray daily for my Idaville Church family for their unity, joy, protection and sanctification.
As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in our final hymn this morning let’s pray. Holy Father, we thank you for your Incarnate Word, Jesus, and your words to us this morning. Help us to model our prayers after the prayers of your Son especially this prayer in John chapter 17. Help us to remember our family, our friends and our Idaville Church family in our prayers to you for their unity and joy in your Son, for their protection from the evil one and for a continued striving to holiness as we live in this world but not of the world. In Jesus name, Amen.