Apart From, Of or In?
I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. (St. John 17:15-18)
Can you imagine what it would have been like to be Robert Spiener on June 6, 1944?
Mr. Spiener served in the Navy that day – D-Day, or the invasion of Normandy, France, as we have come to call it. He landed on Omaha Beach that morning, watching black smoke hover over him as his fellow servicemen scaled the beachheads into oncoming German fire. He has written that he experienced exhilaration on D-Day, but he also describes the grisly scene of floating bodies of Allied soldiers in the water.
Mr. Spiener experienced the high of surviving the invasion of Normandy and of liberating Europe from Nazi control, and he experienced the terror and horror of war.
But could you imagine what it would have been like to be in Mr. Spiener’s – or any soldier’s – shoes that morning? You and I should have a world of respect for these freedom fighters. They were well-trained. They were called to a monumental, daunting, downright frightening task.
Yet they dove into the heart of evil and of danger in order to bring freedom to Europe.
In a sense, you and I as Christians are a lot like Mr. Spiener and the Allied fighters invading Normandy.
Now I don’t mean for a minute to degrade their heroism at Normandy. Not at all; these men and women served with great honor and valor, far above what many folks can offer today.
But you and I as followers of Christ have been commissioned our Savior to bring light and hope to a dying world. This morning, as we study Jesus’ Highpriestly prayer, which he offered in the presence of his disciples shortly before he went to the cross, you and I hear his commission to us.
Be warned: your task is fearsome. It won’t be easy. You are called to attack the very heart of evil, and the enemy will seek to devour you.
Yet you and I as Christians, much like the well-trained Allied forces of World War II, are a special people. First we learn that you and I have been transformed and chosen by the Lord to serve him in his world. And second, you see that Christ prays for protection and for provision for you as you serve him in enemy territory.
The Lord has chosen you as his very own. He protects you by His Spirit and nourishes you by His Word. So be courageous in your witness for Christ: the Lord of hope is on your side!
First you learn in Christ’s prayer that you have been chosen from before the world was created to serve the Lord.
The work of salvation is not willy-nilly. Christ says plainly in speaking to his Father that the Father had given him a flock, and Christ was soon to complete the work of salvation for them.
Notice the eternal plan involved: there is a giving of some sinners to the Son by the Father. In other words, God chose those who later would come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ – from Matthew and Mark all the way to you and to me. And these who were chosen by the Father also believed the word that Christ spoke to them about himself.
Here’s a lesson, friends, in predestination. Christians do not comprise a large, spiritual “country club” with no purpose. Predestination does NOT mean that you can believe on the Lord Jesus as your Savior in this life and get to the judgment seat of God, only to learn you weren’t “predestined” unto everlasting life.
Predestination means this, in a nutshell: God didn’t have to save you. He would have been right in condemning all of us to hell, because all of us in Adam disobeyed God’s simple, easy commandment. But of His own gracious purposes, the Lord chose a people for Himself.
How can you know if you’re one of His chosen flock?
Well, how have you received the Word of God? Do you believe that the God of Scripture created you to know and to serve Him, but that you are out of relationship with Him because of your sin? Do you trust Christ as your Redeemer by faith alone? Do you struggle with sin every day, not trying to earn your way into heaven but to show your thanks to the Lord?
If you answered “yes” to all those questions, then you have been chosen by God in Christ for salvation. You are a gift of the Father to the Son. God chose you. God has done all the work for your salvation. He even gave you your faith!
As a result, Jesus says, you and I who follow him by faith are not of this world. Yes, we live in the world. But you and I are not “of” the world: we don’t adopt what it says is right morally. We don’t espouse its man-honoring, God-negating idolatry. We submit to God’s Word in Scripture, not to what 21st-century man says is correct about morality or about worship or about ethical business practices.
Now Jesus says twice that you are not of this God-hating world – but he also says you and I, as well as his disciples, have received his Word. Of course you don’t keep his Word perfectly. Each of you sins every day. Each of you violates his holy law, from a lustful thought to a hateful word uttered.
But in the main, you and I have received His truth about our sin and about Christ as our only hope of salvation. And as a result, Jesus says you and I who are “in” but not “of” this sinful world are called not to be “apart from” the world but instead must act in it daily for his glory.
In other words, the Father has chosen you in the Son for salvation according to His wise and gracious purposes. And now, Christ is sending you as his envoy into this world, to bear witness to his grace so that elect sinners may see Christ in you and be drawn by the Spirit to faith in Christ.
Like a spiritual D-Day, your mission is frightening. Satan is poised against you. Selfish God-haters in this world, who want you to cheat at work regardless of your Christian convictions, hate you also.
That’s why secondly, Jesus prays for you and for me in several ways. Jesus speaks these words out loud so that his disciples, and you and I later in history, may be comforted by his words and by his prayer.
Facing the difficult task of being Christian ambassadors at school, at work and at play, you and I can take comfort that Jesus prays for our unity. Note that he’s not praying here for the world, although he does so in other passages. Here Jesus is focused on you and me, his sheep, because he’s well aware of the dangers of being on mission for him.
Jesus doesn’t pray for you to be taken out of this sinful world. No, he commissions you to go straight into the heart of darkness, as it were. And he prays that you and I – on a common mission for the triune God – may be one as God is one.
Certainly you and I can’t replicate the unity of the three persons of the Trinity in every way; we aren’t God! But the Father and the Son, together with the Holy Spirit, are one in love, in the mission of salvation and in the mission of holiness. There is an intimate bond between the persons of the Trinity that makes possible the God-honoring work of salvation.
What does this mean for you and for me in Leakesville?
It doesn’t mean we’re to join with every denomination regardless of doctrine. It doesn’t mean we’re to be communists.
Yet Jesus does pray that you and I will join together actively every day in town, and that we’ll unite as far as possible with Christians of every denomination, as we face common persecution and trial and temptation. He means that you and I will pray for Methodist missionaries spreading the gospel in Asia. He means you and I will support each other in prayer to Christ as we witness by our examples in the workplace – even though you’re Baptist and I’m Presbyterian. He means we’ll forgive each other – as hard as it can be some days! – and love each other.
Jesus also prays that the Father will protect his disciples, and you and me by extension, from the Evil One. No doubt the Lord allows you to undergo the effects of evil every day. Probably each of us knows someone who was affected directly by Sept. 11. No doubt the Lord allows you to be tempted to steal and to lie and to act selfishly.
Jesus doesn’t pray for smooth sailing for you and for me. He, after all, had to endure the cross for your salvation.
He does pray for preservation, so that Satan would never draw you away from faith in Christ Jesus as your Lord and Savior. The Son of Perdition, Judas Iscariot, was damned to hell from before the world began; his lost-ness was planned by God. But you and I are preserved by the Lord, no matter what we face, because His grace is stronger than Satan’s might.
And Jesus also prays that as you and I enter the fray of this world, the war against sin and unbelief, we would be set apart to him – “sanctified” – by the Word of God.
Does it seem tough sometimes to stand up for Jesus? Does it seem like your fleshly desires and temptations are about to cause you to wander away from Christ? Do you ever fear for yourself when you want to tell a friend about the Lord?
Then turn to the Scriptures, God’s Word. They are truth. They are the foundation of your faith. As you meditate on God’s truth, you’ll be transformed in your thoughts and in your heart attitudes. You’ll find comfort, encouragement and gracious promises from the Lord as He calls you to witness for Him in a hostile world.
You and I are a people of the Book. We as Christians are not out attempting to further our own desires; we are on a mission to show others the forgiveness that can spring only from Jesus Christ. You are called to delight in God’s saving grace, revealed to you in Scripture, and to be set apart in showing others that same grace.
You will be fruitless and hopeless as a Christian without reading God’s Word regularly, even daily. This church will have no foundation and will wither and die if she does not read and preach the inspired Word of God.
As Jesus calls you into the fray, to reveal him to this world, he arms you with unity, with protection and with his perfect, eternal Word of promise.
And so what are you this morning?
Each of us is in the world: members of the created order. But you might be “of” the world as well, drawing your faith and your ideas and your practices from a world that has long since rejected the God who made it.
Today if the God of Scripture is not your God, and if the Lord Jesus Christ is not your Redeemer, then look to him in faith and be transformed. Do you want hope, but all you’ve found is emptiness? Do you want real religion?
Then look to the Lord Jesus, who is the way, the truth and the life, and be saved.
If you are a Christian, then you enjoy God’s blessings all because of His grace. You didn’t earn it. You certainly didn’t merit it. Christ is yours because of God’s mercy.
Yet you are called by Christ to be in this world, actively showing sinners the Lord Jesus.
So many Christians recognize that they are not of the moral or theological fiber of this sinful world, and they retreat. They see the world, the flesh and the devil pressing in on them, and they run. Young men who stand for purity are rejected by their friends. Mature women who stand for Godly business practices, not for greed, are rejected by their peers.
Still, press on! Still, go forth! You must not be “apart from” the world but “in” the world, being the best teacher, parent, lawyer or farmer you can be to the glory of God. And Christ is with you, protecting you and nourishing you by his Word.
Let us be united in our battle against sin. Let us be united in showing this world Jesus Christ in our everyday activities.
Friend, this sinful world needs you to show it Jesus Christ. Where would you be if some faithful believer had not entered the fray?
Press on: for you are on a glorious, eternally important mission to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.