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!

Return to Glory

“I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do.  And now, Father, glorify Me in your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.  I have manifested Your name to the people whom You gave Me out of the world.  Yours they were, and you gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word” (Jn 17:4-6).

Notice the verbs in these verses.  Jesus glorified the Father during His time upon the earth.  Jesus accomplished all that the Father gave Him to do.  And Jesus manifested or revealed the Father to His followers.  As we have seen throughout these chapters in John’s gospels, there is an incredible Father-Son connection in how God reveals His identity and how He works in the world.

The specific way that Jesus glorified the Father in this passage is by accomplishing all that the Father gave Him to do.  This acknowledgement by Jesus that He has completed everything that the Father assigned Him is an interesting one in light of the one great work left for Jesus to do at this point – His upcoming death upon the cross.

I think we can say that the death of Christ is here a foregone conclusion in the mind of Christ.  Jesus is so sure of its outcome that His death, burial, and resurrection are as if they have already taken place.  Jesus’ hour has come and all that God has asked of the Son will surely be accomplished.

When that final act of obedience is completed, God will be glorified and the Son will be glorified.  Jesus will break free of His earth-suit.  He will be glorified as one with God, a glory He shared with the Father since before time began.  For Jesus, it will be a return to glory.

For us, it will cement our identity as those “whom You [the Father] gave Me [the Son] from out of the world.”  Jesus says these chosen ones, His followers in AD 33 and His followers to come, are given to Him from the Father.  And we were extracted “from out of the world”, as it were, to be joined to Christ in the family of God.

We “keep” the word of God by believing what Jesus, the Word Incarnate, said.  We believe what Jesus said about the Father.  We believe what Jesus said about Himself.  We believe what Jesus said about entering His kingdom by faith.  And the promise to those who “keep” His word is the everlasting presence of the Lord in our lives.  “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him” (Jn 14:23).