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”.