Not of this world: John 17

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Today’s reading: John 16-18.

For me, there may be no truth so difficult to hold onto as the truth that I am not of this world. All I have ever known, physically, is in this world. The people I love most are the ones I have known in this world. The times I have enjoyed most have been spent in this world. Yet Jesus declares, and I believe it to be true, that I am not of this world.

I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. John 17: 14-18

Jesus means that in the truest and deepest sense believers are not of this world. Spiritually we belong to the kingdom of God. Eternally we will be in Heaven. We are citizens of another country. We may live here now but we will not live here long. In yesterday’s post I wrote that we must abide in Christ by remaining with him in presence, by remaining with him through the duration of time, and by remaining with him in like character. In a similar way, true believers are already in the heavenly realm in presence, will remain there throughout eternity, and have a character modeled after Jesus rather than the ways of the world.

The ways of the world. There is the problem. The ways of the world envelop us like the weeds in Jesus’ parable. They weigh us down and trip us up like the entangled runner in Hebrews 12. They lure us away as the prodigal was led astray. They threaten to make us ignore God’s saving grace as the man with bigger barns ignored his salvation. They flood over us like the man who built his house on the sand.

But we are not of this world. Look how Jesus describes us:

  • We belong to God.
  • We obey his word.
  • We accept Jesus and believe he was sent by God.
  • We glorify Jesus.
  • We are hated by the world.
  • We are sent into the world.
  • We are one in Christ.

If you want to know how to define a disciple of Jesus, this makes a good definition, and it is straight from the Lord. John expands on these proofs of a believer in 1st John.

What are we meant to do then, as believers who are not of this world?

We claim heaven as our home. “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

We focus on the eternal things. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:1-2).

We are united with other believers. “So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19).

We abandon the ways of the world. “Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11).

We engage the world to glorify God. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

He did not pray that his disciples should be removed out of the world, that they might escape the rage of men, for they had a great work to do for the glory of God, and the benefit of mankind. But he prayed that the Father would keep them from the evil, from being corrupted by the world, the remains of sin in their hearts, and from the power and craft of Satan. So that they might pass through the world as through an enemy’s country, as he had done. They are not left here to pursue the same objects as the men around them, but to glorify God, and to serve their generation. The Spirit of God in true Christians is opposed to the spirit of the world. – Matthew Henry

Image by Foxspain Fotografia on Flickr, CC by 2.0

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3 thoughts on “Not of this world: John 17

  1. “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.” John 17: 20-23

    “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” Mark 3: 24-25

    How well are we fulfilling Christ’s desire for unity? I worry we are failing. Does it matter? Jesus hints at the weakness inherent in disunity.

    Paul would seem to agree, “Is Christ divided?” His desire for doctrinal unity is put forth in these two messages:

    1 Timothy 6:3–5: “If any one teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”

    Titus 3:9-11: “But avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels over the law, for they are unprofitable and futile. As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.”

    We have a common foe, one that assaults us on every possible front, externally and internally. Paul wants us to “put on the full armor of God”. It would also be helpful to be on the same team. I pray all of Christ followers can stop the infighting and unify for goals of common good, that we can be “in full accord and of one mind” and to “stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” “There is one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

    Jesus’ high priestly prayer is indeed a tough standard to follow, but it is his desire. It is beyond my understanding to know how God will work this out, but I look to the relationship between the Greek and Roman Churches as a sign. As one Protestant theologian puts it:

    “Denominationalism thus represents the moral failure of Christianity, and unless the ethics of brotherhood can gain the victory over this divisiveness within the body of Christ it is useless to expect it to be victorious in the world. But before the church can hope to overcome its fatal division it must learn to recognize and to acknowledge the secular character of its denominationalism.”

    H. Richard Niebuhr

  2. Pingback: Bible Daily Devotional – Not of this world: John 17 | ChristianBlessings

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