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Way of Grace Church

Inspiration for Your Resolutions (John 17)

Inspiration for Your Resolutions
John 17:1-26
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
December 30th, 2012

 

 

I.  Resolution Imposition?

 

Are you a resolution-maker? The New Year begins on Tuesday and you know what that means. According to one survery, as many as 45% of Americans have made or will make New Year's resolutions. Maybe you have in the past. Maybe you have some resolutions in mind for 2013.

 

But can you imagine someone else making New Year's resolutions for you? “You WILL resolve yourself to exercise more! You WILL resolve yourself to quit smoking!”

 

Well, I'm not sure anyone can really impose resolutions on anyone else, but other people can and do inspire our resolutions. That friend who lost 50 pounds. That family member who went back for their college degree.

 

Well, this morning, I'd like to at least make some suggestions, not in order to impose, but hopefully, to inspire. And the source of my suggestions is the prayer we find in John 17. Let's look at that passage together this morning. Turn to John 17.

 

 

II. The Passage: “He Lifted His Eyes to Heaven and Said” (John 17:1-26)

 

If somehow you knew that today was your last day in this world, that you only had hours to live, how much of that precious time would you spend praying? And if you did pray, how would you pray?

 

Well John 17 contains the longest, continuous prayer of Jesus that has been preserved for us in Scripture. Often referred to as His “High Priestly Prayer”, this prayer was prayed just after  His last meal with the disciples, on the night before Jesus was crucified by the Romans.

 

But there's one more thing I want you to see before we read through this prayer. Look at verse 20. Jesus prays, ““I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word...” Do you see what Jesus is saying there? This prayer was prayed not only for those disciples who were with Jesus on that fateful night, but for everyone who would believe because of the testimony of those first disciples.

 

That means this prayer was prayed for any here this morning who have believed on Jesus Christ, because every Christian today can ultimately connect their faith back to the witness of the Apostles.

 

These are not simply principles that we transfer from an ancient setting to a modern setting. No, Jesus is praying here for them and YOU! Isn't that amazing!

 

So listen to this prayer and consider how they might provide inspiration for your resolutions:

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

 

6 “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. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 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. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 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. 12 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.

 

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. 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. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

 

18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just 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 have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

 

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

 

There is so much in this prayer and it would be impossible to explore this morning all of the ideas that Jesus includes in this plea to the Father. So based on our objective this morning what I’d like to do is attempt to summarize the prayer with four truths, truths that I believe should inspire a resolve in us, a resolve to live in light of the very things Jesus himself prayed for you and me.

 

Let’s dig out those four truths together.

 

A. Resolved for His Glory (17:1-5)

 

First, look back at the first five verses of this chapter. Notice that Jesus’ prayer begins with this mysterious phrase, “the hour has come”. What hour is he talking about? It is the hour of his betrayal and death on the cross.

 

Jesus is leaving the upper room where he has shared the Passover meal with his disciples and he is heading toward the garden where he knows he will be betrayed.

 

In light of this setting, the actual prayer request here is certainly a strange one. The request is not, “save me” or “protect me” or “strengthen me”. It is “glorify me”! “Glorify me that I may glorify you.” Jesus is asking that God glorify him on the cross. Why?

 

Because Jesus has been given the authority to give eternal life and eternal life can only come through a recognition that there is glory in the cross of Jesus. Thinking the cross is sad or heroic or gruesome or bizarre or senseless or noble will not do it. We have to believe the cross is glorious because of the glory revealed by the One who hung there.

 

How was his glory revealed? Through his perfect obedience to God in an act of incomparable and selfless love. That's the message of the gospel!

 

Notice how Jesus clarifies this in verse 3. A right recognition of Jesus brings about a right relationship with God, and it is that relationship with God through Christ that is eternal life. Eternal life is not the result of that relationship. It IS that relationship. It is a life with God that is so new and transformative that the best way to describe it is with the word, “eternal”. You see, “eternal” is not simply about duration of life, but also the quality or character of that life.

 

So the first truth we pick up on here is that Jesus wants us to live the eternal kind of life that only the gospel makes possible, for the glory of God.

 

That’s the first thing he prays for because it is the first and greatest need in all the universe.

 

 

B. Resolved for His People (17:6-12)

 

Now look at where he goes from there, look again at verses 6-12.

 

His focus shifts from his own fate to that of those who are his own, “the people” he describes in verse 6 as those “whom you gave me out of the world”. These are his disciples who have believed the words of Jesus and recognized that Jesus has been sent by God (v.8).

 

Look again at verse 9, He says, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.

 

Now that statement may be a little surprising to us in light of the fact that we just talked about the cross about Jesus desire to give eternal life. If we went back to John 3:16 we would see that God’s love for the world led to the giving of His Son for this very hour. So why isn’t Jesus praying for the world here at this crucial time? Why is he only praying for those who have already trusted him?

Well, let’s hold that question and first figure out what exactly his prayer request is for his followers. Because they will remain in the world after Jesus’ departure, he prays that his Father would “keep them in [His] name…that they may be one”.

 

The prayer is that this new people who have been called out by God would remain united in their commitment to the exalted Jesus. “ They have kept God’s word (v.6) and Jesus is praying that they would continue to keep it, even when he is gone. They have believed that Jesus was sent by God (v.8) and Jesus is praying that they would continue to believe.

 

And so we could say that the second truth we see here is that Jesus wants His followers to stand together and stand firm in this eternal kind of life.

 

 

C. Resolved for His Word (17:13-17)

 

But there’s something else he prays for them, another aspect of this heart for his people. Look at verses 13-16. Let me read them again:

 

13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world [that is, these things I pray out loud to you], that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 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. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.

 

I hope what you see there is the centrality of God’s word. We’ve already heard about the word in verses 6 and 8, but here we see Jesus explaining further the importance of God’s word.

 

This word, this truth has been given to the disciples by Jesus (v. 14), and because they have received it, the world has hated them. And because of the word, they are targets for the evil one, the devil, who desires to turn them from this truth.

 

That’s why Jesus prays, “sanctify them in the truth” or we could say “set them apart in the truth”. What truth? The truth of what God has spoken. The truth of God’s word as revealed through Jesus. So what we see here is that Jesus’ desire that his people stand together and stand firm is inextricably connected to God’s word.

 

Therefore we could add to that second truth by saying that Jesus wants those living the eternal kind of life to be grounded in and guarded by the truth of God’s word.

 

But that’s not the end of his prayer, is it?

 

 

D. Resolved for His Mission (17:18-23)

 

Look at how Jesus once again adjusts the focus in verses 18-23. Listen to verse 18:

 

18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

The world may hate the disciples, but as we read in verse 15, Jesus is not asking that they be taken out of the world. He wouldn’t pray that because as we see here in verse 18, Jesus has sent them into the world.

 

Jesus is still praying for his followers but notice what he is saying about the ultimate goal of his prayers for them. He again, in verse 21, prays “that they may all be one”, but in order that…they might delight in the joy of their fellowship? No. That they might go deeper in your word? No. “So that (v. 21)…so that the world may believe that your have sent me.”

 

And look at verse 23. The idea is repeated there. This “oneness” of Jesus followers is a testimony of the truth about Jesus Christ.

 

And so, Jesus’ prayer for his disciples is not unrelated to the fate of those who do not believe. No, his prayer for the faith of those who do believe is ultimately a prayer for those who do not believe…that they would believe.

 

Here is the heart of Jesus once again. We see here that Jesus wants the world, through his followers, to know the eternal kind of life that only He can give.

 

If you look closely at those final verses, verses 24-26, you’ll see that Jesus simply comes full circle; he comes back to a desire that his glory might be seen. And He affirms that his heart is, his desires are informed by a perfect knowledge of God and a love that comes from God himself.

 

 

III. Practical Suggestions for 2013

 

Now, there have been times when people have shared with me how God used the prayers of a parent or a grandparent to change their life. When you hear someone you deeply love and deeply respect pray for you, in most cases, you take those words to heart, don’t you? They often make a profound impact, don’t they?

 

So let’s stop for a minute and think about what we’ve just discovered. We’ve just seen how Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the promised Messiah, Jesus, the conqueror of death, Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life…we’ve just seen how Jesus prays for us. And so the question must be: “How will this impact our lives…today…and right on into 2013?”

 

It seems there are a lot of things the church is about today. Self-improvement. Entertainment. Education. Social activism. Political influence. Others may be about proper worship or building empires. But what is the church….what is the church if not the vehicle for the heart of Jesus Christ to be revealed and lived out in this world?

 

If you are committed to this church family, then my call to you this morning is live in light of what Jesus prayed for you, for us.

 

Did you notice that these four truths contained in the prayer of Jesus are the same four truths that we see every Sunday when we walk through those doors: One Lord. One Body. One Truth. One Mission. We call those our “Four Essentials”. And whether we are 50 or 500, these are what we need to be about as a church. And that begins with each of us filling our focus with these Four Essentials every day.

 

Let me give you some very practical suggestions that I hope God will use to inspire resolutions in you. As one of your shepherds, these represent my heart for all of us in the coming year.

 

First of all, based on this prayer of Jesus, I want to encourage you to preach the gospel to yourself on a daily basis in the New Year. This prayer, this suggestion, has to be first, because everything else should flow out of the grace of God in your life. Through the word and prayer, God wants us to keep in mind, at all times, what Jesus has accomplished through His death and resurrection, and the grace in which we now stand if we have received, through faith, this gift of eternal life.

 

A gospel-centered perspective on your past, present, and future truly does change EVERYTHING! There are many resources that can supplement your time in God’s word and prayer. One is “A Gospel Primer” by Milton Vincent. Pick one up if you haven’t already.

 

Second of all, based on this prayer of Jesus, I want to encourage you to make a Core Connection for discipleship in 2013. Now, in light of Jesus’ prayer for us to stand together and stand firm, there are a lot of ways I could encourage you. I could encourage you about the importance of regular attendance on Sundays or about our Partnership (Membership) Class coming up in February.

 

But what I would like to love to see, and will be working hard to realize in the new year is more and more of you meeting with another in groups of two or three in order to study God’s word and pray together (who has been involved?). These kinds of Core Groups are so important for true spiritual growth. Fill out a blue card if you are ready to connect in this way!

 

Number three, based on this prayer of Jesus, I want to encourage you to regularly read God’s word and hide it in your heart. You can do that very thing with two resources that we have made are making available. Our Three-a Day reading calendar and our Way of Grace Memory Verses booklet. Men and women do not live by bread alone, do they? No, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of God. And of course, this suggestion is vitally connected to the first two, isn’t it?

 

Fourth and finally, based on this prayer of Jesus, I want to encourage you to make a prayer list for the lost in 2013. God has placed people in your life, and placed you in people’s lives, in order that you might shine the light of Christ to them…in order that you might testify to this eternal kind of life that God is offering to any who will turn and trust. But first and foremost, that work is God’s work. It is His work that opens doors. It is His work that gives us words. It is His work that softens hearts. Therefore we need to be people of prayer! When you start praying like this, WATCH OUT! You will be amazed at what God will do.

 

Jesus has prayed for us. Will you live in light of His prayer for you? Will 2013 be defined by your desires or His desires. Let’s ask God to make this THE inspiration for our resolution!

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