Sent Into the World

“As You sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  And for their sake I consecrate Myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (Jn 17:18-19).

Jesus continues His prayer to the Father for the future welfare of His disciples.  He reveals here a “sending out” of His followers that is still to come following His death and resurrection.  And the mission they will be sent on is a continuation of the mission Christ has been on; a mission initiated by the Father when He sent Jesus into the world.  “As You have sent Me, I am sending them” (vs 18).

I like the phrase “sent into the world”.  Our relationship with the world has been a common theme in Jesus’s prayer.  As you recall, the disciples were given to Christ “out of the world” (vs 6).  They no longer “belong to the world” (vs 14, 16).  They remain “in the world” (vs 11), and are not immediately “taken out of the world” (vs 15).  And they remain here with a purpose, “sent into the world” (vs 18).  The disciples were not left behind with no purpose, but remain “in the world” as Christ’s messengers.

Just as Christ was “set apart” for His ultimate mission, so the disciples are “sanctified” for their mission.  “I consecrate Myself” (vs 19) can be thought of as Christ saying, “I offer Myself as the sacrifice.”  He did this for us (“for their sake”).  Christ consecrated Himself, was set apart, to be the sacrifice for us.  He died in our place, our substitute, for our sins and the sins of the world.

We have been “set apart” to continue Christ’s mission by proclaiming Christ’s message.  In this world, we are Christ’s physical presence.  We are His body.  And we continue His mission when we share this truth that life – abundant, true, and eternal life – is found only in the name of Jesus Christ.

To repeat from last time, we are sanctified by God’s truth.  We are set apart in God’s truth.  We are standing on a firm foundation of God’s truth.  Be confident.  Your faith is in the true God and His true Son, Jesus Christ.  And no one can take that away.

Set Apart by the Truth

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (Jn 17:17).

If you have embraced the gospel message of Jesus Christ, then here are some things that you believe to be true.  You believe that Jesus is the Son of God.  You believe that Jesus came to the earth as God in the flesh.  You believe that Jesus died on a cross as a substitute for us, paying the penalty for our sin through His death.  You believe that Jesus was buried and rose again completing the sacrifice on our behalf.  You believe that your sins are forgiven.

You don’t believe these things in some philosophical way that only applies to you like it is your own “truth”.  These are not just ideas that are “true” for you and your circle of friends.  No, you and I believe that the paragraph above are actual facts.  We believe they are true in the truest sense.  We believe they are true for all people, in all places.

Christianity makes a bold claim that its tenets of faith are true.  Not useful, not appealing, not positive thinking, not a coping mechanism, not just attractive thought, not unique to our own minds.

And the person of Christianity, Jesus Christ, has proclaimed Himself to be “the truth”.  Jesus is truth personified.  “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me’ ” (Jn 14:6).  And from earlier in John’s gospel, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).  Jesus was filled to overflowing with grace and truth.

We needed grace.  We were lost without any hope of saving ourselves.  We were slaves to sin, unable to earn our way back to God.  Christ purchased our freedom as a pure gift; a pure gift of His grace.  He gave us a new and abundant and eternal life with nothing required from us in return.  By grace, you have been rescued (Eph 2:8).

We also needed truth.  For our Christian faith to produce the promised life it must be true.  For Christ’s death to have the result of new life for us, it has to have happened.  It can’t just be in our imagination.  Christ died or He did not.  If He did not, then we are foolish to follow.  But we believe it did happen.  We believe all that Jesus said and did is true.  Our faith is based on truth, not fantasy.  “For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (II Pet 1:16).

We are sanctified by God’s truth.  We are set apart in God’s truth.  We are standing on a firm foundation of God’s truth.  Be confident.  Your faith is in the true God and His true Son, Jesus Christ.  And no one can take that away.

Safe from the Evil One

Jesus prayed … “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.  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” (Jn 17:14-16).

“The world has hated them” is a theme Jesus visited previously in these chapters (see Hated by the World).  The world system and its leader, Satan himself, is at war with the body of Christ.  We do not fit in with this world system because we are “not of the world”.

It would seem to me a good idea to be removed from this battle; to be taken out of the world as it were.  But Christ specifically asks the Father to NOT remove us from the world.  Jesus has a role for us to play here.  We are His physical representation on the earth.  We are the body of Christ in this time and place.

With this war mentality as a backdrop, what does Jesus request from the Father to sustain us in the battle?  Rather than remove us from the conflict, Jesus prays that the Father would protect us from the enemy.  I believe Christ’s prayer is aimed at both flanks of the enemy’s attack; the enemy within and the enemy without.

The “enemy within” is described in the New Testament as the flesh; the part of us that seeks to draw us back to the world’s ways.  The flesh is at war with the new you.  The flesh is at war with your new self.  The flesh is at war with your new nature.  And the flesh is at war with your new Holy Spirit living inside.  “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another” (Gal 5:17).]

But God has given us an answer to the flesh’s pull.  He has given us His Spirit.  “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).  When “we walk by the Spirit”, we are following the Spirit’s path for us.  We are leaning into “How would the Spirit inside have us respond to this person or this situation?  What would the love of Jesus flowing out of me look like here?”  We would be answering these and a thousand similar questions in our minds and acting according to the Spirit’s leading.  And God would be producing the fruit of His Spirit in us.

Turning to the “enemy without”, we see Satan and the world system seeking our destruction.  Again, God has generously given us a defense.  “Take up the shield of faith which with you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one” (Eph 6:16).  Have you been feeling Satan’s flaming missiles?  I know I have.

Our faith is our shield.  Our faith is our power to overcome the evil one.  Our faith believes the truth about God and His purposes in the world and in our lives.  Our faith believes that God is a good Father when the world appears to be outside His control.  Our faith believes we are forgiven, even when Satan exposes our sinful thoughts and actions.  Our faith believes we have a new heart and new nature that is warm toward God.  Our faith believes that God loves us unconditionally.  Our faith “believes” in the face of Satan’s accusations and temptations.

“You are from God, little children, and have overcome them [every evil spirit]; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (I Jn 4:4).  “And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (I Jn 5:4).  God, through giving us His Spirit and the gift of faith, is answering Jesus’ prayer to “keep us from the evil one”.

Guarded by God’s Name and Power

“And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You.  Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as We are one.  While I was with them, I kept them in Your name, which You have given Me.  I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.  But now I am coming to You, and these things I speak in the world that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves” (Jn 17:11-13).

As we continue in Jesus’ John 17 prayer, we find Jesus preparing to leave this world.  While Jesus was in the world, He “guarded” the disciples so that none were lost (with the exception of Judas, whose chose his own path of destruction).  In this prayer, Jesus now transfers His guardianship to the Father.  He asks the Father to “keep them in Your name.”  That is, to keep them with God’s power.

Throughout the Old Testament, the name of God is equated with the power of God.  “May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!” (Ps 20:1).  “Through Your name we will trample down those who rise up against us” (Ps 44:5).  “Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your power” (Ps 54:1).  “Nevertheless He saved them for the sake of His name, that He might make His power known” (Ps 106:8).  “Our help is in the name of the LORD, who made heaven and earth” (Ps 124:8).  And one of my favorites, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe” (Pr 18:10).

Jesus also prays that “they may be one”.  We will see this specific request of Jesus a few times in His John chapter 17 prayer.  Our unity as believers is of great importance to the Savior.  I believe that is why the apostles emphasize the unity of the body in their letters to the churches.  “With all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3).

This call for unity is very serious.  Division is deadly to the body of Christ.  Too often, we separate over points of theology or over what should be emphasized in a church’s mission or which personalities to line up behind.  But we all need, with our various gifts and personalities, to come under the authority of Christ’s prayer; His prayer that we would be one.  Their is no greater aspiration in the church.  Our unity is a direct demonstration of our “loving one another”.

Earlier in the evening, Jesus said to His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (Jn 15:11).  Here in verse 13, Jesus prays to the Father requesting that their experience of His joy would indeed come to pass.  Christ’s joy in you is Christ’s promise to you and Christ’s prayer for you.  May you dwell in the answer to this prayer, and feel the overwhelming warmth of Christ’s joy in you.

Sent by the Father

We continue with Jesus’ prayer …

“Now they know that everything that You have given Me is from You.  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.  I am praying for them.  I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given Me, for they are Yours.  All Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them” (Jn 17:7-10).

How did we become members of Christ’s family?  How did we become God’s children?  How did we become “those whom You have given Me”?  By believing in Jesus; by believing in the One whom God has sent.

Look at how many times in just the gospel of John that belief in Jesus and receiving eternal life is tied to believing that Jesus was sent by the Father.  Here are just a few of the 41 times in John’s gospel that the word “sent” from the Father is used.

  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (Jn 5:24).
  • Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (Jn 6:29).
  • Right before Jesus raised Lazarus, He said “I know that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me” (Jn 11:42).
  • And Jesus cried out and said, “He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me” (Jn 12:44).
  • “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Jn 13:20).
  • “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (Jn 17:3).
  • “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” (Jn 17:21).

Again, there are 34 more verses just in John where Jesus identifies Himself as sent by the Father.  Believing that Jesus came from the Father, that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, that He died for our sins in our place is the path to eternal life.

Jesus is specifically praying in these verses for His church; His family.  He identifies the disciples as those who were given Him by the Father and as those who received His words.  We are now in this class.  And His prayer in John chapter 17 is for us.

We belong to Christ.  We belong to God.  And we are valuable.  In fact, so valuable that Christ Himself “is glorified in us”.  How can Christ be glorified in us when we are jars of clay; simple earthen vessels?  He is glorified in us because this “earthen vessel” now contains the “treasure” of Christ Himself.

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves” (II Cor 4:7).  You are not the Deity, that’s true.  But you, my friend, CONTAIN the Deity.  Celebrate that!