John 17:13 – “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”
As we noted previously, John 17 is a prayer which Jesus prayed not only for his disciples, but for Christians in every era.
Here in verse 13 Jesus tells us why he has prayed this prayer in the hearing of the disciples – to fill them with joy and comfort. Obviously, when Jesus is crucified, that is going to diminish the joy of his followers. But God has already prepared for that; once Holy Spirit comes to indwell each believer their joy will be greater than before – it will be fulfilled.
What exactly is joy?
Webster’s Dictionary defines joy as ‘pleasurable feelings or emotions caused by the acquisition or expectation of good; the obtainment or rational prospect of possessing what we love or desire; that which causes happiness’.
Notice that Jesus says the joy of each Christian comes directly from him (‘my joy’); he is our joy. This tells us a couple of things.
First, true fulfillment in this life can only be experienced through a relationship with God, our creator. As Christians, God is dwelling within us in the person of Holy Spirit. Consequently, joy comes from within us, not from factors or circumstances outside of us. This explains how Christians can have joy and peace even in the midst of grief or difficulties. Joy/peace in the midst of trials is often a strong witness to unbelievers who depend on the world for comfort and happiness.
Second, although we are all looking forward to our eternal reward, God desires for us to live joyful, blessed, fulfilling lives here on earth. Jesus did not die so that his followers would spend their lives being poor, hungry and beat down. He died that we might have abundant life (John 10:10). God has blessed his children with wisdom, knowledge, creativity and resources. So find something you are passionate about, and glorify God through it!
John 17:14 – “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.”
Jesus presented God’s word to the world and they rejected both the message and the Messiah. Consequently, the world hates Jesus because he condemns their sin instead of embracing it. Because Christians have accepted the word of God and strive to be like Christ, the world hates us as well.
The difference between the Christian and the world becomes more and more evident as we grow spiritually and become more like Christ. What are some of ways in which spiritual maturity/growth manifests in our lives?
Spiritual growth is evident when you begin to speak like Jesus does – Christians are constantly feeding on the word of God. Scripture tells us that doing so will renew our minds (Romans 12:2). As a result, things that the world finds socially, morally and culturally acceptable are abhorrent to us, because these things are in opposition to the principles of the kingdom of God.
For example, our culture accepts and celebrates homosexuality and other sexual perversions as legitimate lifestyles. But as Christians, we know this is NOT normal. It is in direct opposition to God’s law of marriage between a man and a woman. As we speak up for what God has mandated, the world will hate us just as they hated Jesus when he spoke out against their sin.
Another example is abortion. The world around us is in general agreement that there is nothing morally wrong with abortion. They maintain that the contents of a woman’s womb are merely ‘cells’ or ‘biologic materials’ which can be disposed of at will.
However, as Christians we believe that at the moment of conception, a child has been formed (Psalms 139:13). Killing it at any age or stage of development is murder/shedding innocent blood. And again, as we speak the truth of God into our society, the world will hate us just as they hated Jesus.
Spiritual growth is evident when you begin to act like Jesus does – As you mature spiritually, you no longer give free reign to your fleshly passions and desires. Instead, you crucify/deny your sinful desires and act more like Christ.
For example, when you were an unbeliever and someone wronged you, your flesh might react by holding a grudge, cursing, vowing revenge, refusing to forgive or even seeking immediate retribution. If your passions were out of control, you might even murder the one who wronged you.
But as a Christian, you no longer take orders from your flesh, but from your spirit. The more you mature, the more you follow where your spirit leads. Now when someone wrongs you, it may sting or even cut deeply, but because Jesus has forgiven you, you have the ability to forgive your adversary. This is just one example of the way we act/react differently than the world.
Spiritual growth is evident when you begin to think like Jesus does – Your thoughts are the place where your actions originate. For instance, if you continually think about committing adultery, that thought will take root in your heart and grow like a weed. Eventually, it will produce the fruit of sin (sexual immorality), which brings spiritual death.
James 1:14-15 – But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.
Obviously, we know that Jesus never had a sinful thought, because his thoughts never resulted in the fruit of sin. His thoughts were centered on the doctrine and will of his Father and they only produced fruits of righteousness. And even though we will never be completely sin-free in this life, we must strive to think like Jesus did.
As we fix our thoughts on the word of God, we plant good seeds within our hearts, such as sexual purity. Because we do so, we will reap purity in our lives. This places us in direct opposition to the ways of the world.
The world hates Christ, so as we become more like him in the way we speak, act and think the world will hate us too.
John 17:15 – “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”
Jesus has the ability to call us home to heaven the minute we are born again, which would prevent us from facing any persecution or temptation. So why doesn’t he do that? Why does he want to keep us here in the world?
One reason is because God has given us a job to do on earth. We are to be fruitful, multiply and subdue the earth (Genesis 1:28). We are also to spread the gospel to every nation and make disciples of all men (Matthew 28:19-20).
If every Christian was suddenly called home to heaven, who would be left to tell sinners to repent? Who would be left to enforce the kingdom of heaven here on earth?
Clearly, we need to be here; God wants to rule on this planet through us. So instead of immediately taking us home, Jesus prays that the Father would leave us in the world while preserving us from evils such as sin, apostasy, temptation and other snares of the enemy.
Remaining on earth for a time will benefit us. It allows us to:
* Produce fruit for the kingdom of heaven (John 15:5).
* Become experienced soldiers in the kingdom who will enter eternity in victory (Ephesians 6:12-16).
* Earn rewards in heaven (I Corinthians 3:12-14).
* Develop a true and trusted relationship with God, Jesus and Holy Spirit (John 15:4).
This brings up another excellent point – We cannot complete these jobs if we seclude ourselves from the world. It is right and proper for us to have friends within the church. It is very encouraging to have fellowship with other believers. But on the other hand, we need non-Christian friends as well, so that we can show/present the love of God to those around us. While we can witness to someone we don’t know, having a relationship with non-believers allows us a different and exciting opportunity to share Christ.
John 17:16-17 –“They are not of the world, just as I am no of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
The word ‘sanctify’ has two separate meanings, both of which apply here.
One definition of sanctify is ‘to consecrate, to set apart for a holy or religious use’. This kind of sanctification takes place instantly, when we accept Christ as our Savior. Once we have surrendered our lives to God, he gives us a holy calling or job to fulfill in his kingdom.
This can certainly be said of the disciples. They had been set apart from other Jews and even other believers in order to fulfill a specific duty in the kingdom of heaven. In their case, they were to establish the church, open the gospel to the Gentiles and provide us with the word of God.
God is still sanctifying/setting apart Christians for specific tasks in his kingdom today. This type of sanctification does not apply to just a ‘special’ group of people, it is for everyone in the kingdom!
God has called some of his children to be apostles or prophets or pastors or teachers. Some are to encourage, some are to care for the poor, some are to administrate, some are to function as intercessors, etc. Each one of us must examine our own lives and find the specific area which God has assigned us in his kingdom. What has God set you apart for? How are you pursuing that sanctification?
‘Sanctify’ is also defined as ‘to make free from sin, to cleanse from moral corruption and pollution; to purify, to make sacred or holy.’ This kind of sanctification is progressive; it happens over time. It describes the process in which we become more and more like God while becoming less and less attached to the world (John 3:30).
John 3:30 – He must increase, but I must decrease.
This type of sanctification describes the process that each individual Christian undergoes as they gain control over the flesh, crucifying evil thoughts and passions (Colossians 3:1-17), while simultaneously allowing Holy Spirit to grow his fruit within our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).
This sanctification is produced in our lives by the word of God, which is the only source of truth.
It is interesting to note that just before Jesus was sentenced by Pilate, they had a conversation in which Jesus says he came into the world to bear witness to the truth:
John 18:37 – Pilate therefore said unto him, Are you a king then? Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth hears my voice.
Pilate, who was not a believer, admitted that he did not know what the real truth was (John 18:38). But you and I do! We know that the truth which Jesus revealed to us is the message of the gospel, also called the word of God (John 15:3, Ephesians 1:13).
It is the word of God, quickened by Holy Spirit, which works in our hearts and minds to regenerate our spiritual man and make us over in the image of Christ. There can be no doubt that the Bible is the word of God, and that it is a complete work – it contains all the truth of the gospel which God wanted to reveal to us.
No other books or teachings are needed to walk in salvation. So if you belong to a group which teaches that their particular prophet or leader brought forth a new revelation from God which is necessary for salvation, or which explains/supplements the bible, you can be assured they are teaching a false gospel.
In summary, we can say that during this prayer Jesus asks the Father to confirm and continue the work of sanctification in our lives through his word and the work of Holy Spirit. He also prays for Father God to carry on this important work until we leave this earth and enter heaven.
John 17:18 – “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
God sent Jesus into the world to bring the message of the gospel. Although Jesus shared that message with multitudes of Jews, he only revealed it in depth to his apostles. Jesus has now appointed them to continue the work of establishing and spreading the gospel message throughout the earth, by the power of Holy Spirit.
Because it is the Spirit who convicts men of sin and causes the gospel message to take root in the lives of unbelievers, the disciples could have confidence that their preaching and teaching would be just as successful as the ministry of Christ. In fact, they could expect it to surpass what Jesus did (John 14:12). As long as they were willing and obedient, Holy Spirit would work through their words to bring conviction and salvation to the lost.
This principle is still in effect today. If we follow the leading of Holy Spirit, he will continue to anoint our words with power so that sinners will be convicted of sin and drawn to Jesus.
Just as God protected Jesus, he will continue to protect and defend those whom his Son sends out into the world as ambassadors for his kingdom.
John 17:19 – “And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.”
When Jesus speaks of sanctifying or consecrating himself, he cannot be referring to personal, ongoing sanctification, since he had no sin. Rather, Jesus is speaking of the act of devoting himself to the exclusive service of God. In other words, his only focus was to devote himself to the work of redemption; to become both our high priest (Mediator) and the sacrifice for our sin.
Hebrews 2:17 – Therefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
Clearly, Jesus sanctified himself for our benefit; as the result of the sanctification of himself, we can be made pure by his shed blood. This is evident by the words of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 5:25-26 – Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word…
In the Old Testament, priests were sanctified by the blood of animals. Under the New Covenant, all Christians are royal priests in the service of God (I Peter 2:9); we have been sanctified by the blood of Christ. And Hallelujah, the blood of Christ has not lost its power! It can still cleanse any sinner who repents and asks for mercy.
Let me offer you some encouragement:
Jesus makes it very clear that he is our ultimate joy. Therefore, we can always joyfully praise and adore him, despite our circumstances.
If you are encountering a rough patch in life right now, I encourage you to take your eyes off of your situation and place them back on Christ. Recall all the things that he has done for you and all that is waiting for you in eternity. Let go of the things of this world and let the joy of Christ be your strength.
Let me offer you some relief:
In today’s post we noted that sanctification is an ongoing process in which we learn to crucify our flesh and its evil desires. That sounds simple, but as we all know, it can be very difficult indeed!
All of us have areas which we can sanctify pretty quickly and we all have areas we are still working on. It’s good to remind ourselves that when we fail, Jesus is right here to forgive us and Holy Spirit is right here to continue the work in our lives.
So don’t condemn yourself if you fail – just get up and get back in the game (Proverbs 24:16).
Let me offer you some strength:
Jesus prayed that the Father would keep us from evil rather than taking us out of the world. He knew that with the help of Holy Spirit we could stay here and successfully work for his kingdom.
But sometimes the road can be difficult. If you are facing persecution from the world, remember that your strength comes from the Lord:
Psalm 28:7 – The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song will I praise him.