knowing Christ: His PRAYER for us

John 17

Knowing Christ: 

Philip Yancey, in his book "Reaching for the Invisible God" describes the way most people think of God. 

"When Princess Diana died in an automobile accident, a minister was interviewed and was asked the question “How can God allow such a terrible tragedy?” And I loved his response. He said, “Could it have had something to do with a drunk driver going ninety miles an hour in a narrow tunnel? Just How, exactly, was God involved.”

Years ago, boxer, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, killed a Korean opponent with a hard right hand to the head. At the press conference after the Korean’s death, Mancini said, “Sometimes I wonder why God does the things he does.”

In a letter to Dr. Dobson, a young woman asked this anguished question, “Four years ago, I was dating a man and became pregnant. I was devastated. I asked God, “Why have you allowed this to happen to me?”

Susan Smith, the South Carolina mother a couple years ago who pushed her two sons into a lake to drown and then blamed a fictional car-jacker for the deed, wrote in her confession: “I dropped to the lowest point when I allowed my children to go down that ramp into the water without me. I took off running and screaming, ‘Oh God! Oh God, no! What have I done? Why did you let this happen?”

Now the question remains, exactly what role did God play in a boxer beating his opponent to death, a teenage couple giving into temptation in the back seat of a car, or a mother drowning her children?

Is God responsible for these acts? To the contrary, they are examples of incredible human free will being exercised on a fallen planet. And yet it’s in our nature as mortal, frail, fallen people to lash out at one who is not, that being God." 

Most people have little to no real relationship with God and seldom think about Him unless there is a tragedy in their life. Jesus Christ as the Son of God come to earth wants nothing more than to be in a relationship with you and I. He came in the flesh that we might know Him and walk with Him every day of our lives. 

In John 17 we find a personal and up close look into the heart of Jesus Christ. He is moments away from being taken on false charges, tortured, beaten and the hung on a cross to die. While this is not His last prayer, (that was prayed from the cross) it is unusual in the fact that it comprehensively covers what poured out of His mind and heart. These words should also be accepted as a reminder of what Christ is praying in heaven for us. 

There was a popular Christian song years ago that said, When He was on the cross, we were on His mind. Be assured that we were on His mind long before that. 

Christ’s Position

Before we look too deeply into His prayer it is critical to note something. In His opening words of prayer He utters an indisputable theological fact that I want to point out to you. More and more I hear people make some form of this statement: “All roads lead to heaven,” or “Jesus isn’t the only way to get to God.” 

“ 1 After saying all these things, Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so he can give glory back to you. 2 For you have given him authority over everyone. He gives eternal life to each one you have given him. 3 And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth. 4 I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. 5 Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.” John 17:1-5 NTL

It is important that you know that we teach and believe the biblically based concept that no man or woman will see God or be prepared for heaven unless they enter through faith in Christ. If you believe that all roads lead to heaven then we have wasted our time doing world missions and evangelism. He was and is the Son of God. He came from God and in this prayer He reclaims His glory and position.
Now let’s look at what He prayed for and what I believe He is still praying for: 

1. He prayed for our Protection

 9 “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. 10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. 11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me.  I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.” John 17:9-12 NLT

The early Native Indians had a unique practice of training young men. On the night of a boy’s thirteenth birthday, after learning hunting, scouting, and fishing skills, he was put to one final test. He was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then, he had never been away from the security of the family and the tribe. But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of a thick woods and he was terrified! Every time a twig snapped, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce. After what seemed like an eternity, dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees, and the outline of the path. Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow. It was his father. He had been there all night long.

 Jesus’ first prayer for us is a prayer for protection. Of course, unlike that young boy, we have the benefit of knowing in advance that our Father is there to protect us; although just like the young boy, we don’t always see our Father guarding us. Jesus asks the Father to “protect” us. He prays, “Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” A little later he prays, “I ask you to protect them from the evil one.” Eugene Peterson translates the word “protect” as “guard,” and this is a helpful way of seeing it, especially when we think of that father watching over his son while the son was in the woods and thought he was alone.

The protection He prayed for was in three specific areas. 

a. Temptation “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.”

Temptation comes to everyone of us yet the Bible clearly teaches that with every temptation there is a way of escape. You and I must be in a relationship with Christ that is alive and vibrant enough that stepping away from our walk with Him is not an option.

If you go back and examine this passage in John 17, you will find that Jesus never prayed that we would be separated and isolated from the world but that we would be protected as we were salt and light. 

John Stott describes "rabbit-hole Christians" as those who are around non-Christians all day, but never go to them. They pop their heads out of their Christian homes every morning and scurry to class, only to frantically search for Christian friends to sit by. At school they proceed from class to class, then regroup in the cafeteria for what the athletes call the "holy huddle" (the corner for all the Christians).

And all the time the Christians are thinking, What a witness! At night they go to their all-Christian Bible study where they will probably pray for nonbelievers. Then they scurry home, glad to be safely through the day without getting their fur ruffled by the world! (Out of the Salt Shaker, Rebecca Manley Pippert, InterVarsity Press, p.124)

While we are to be a part of the world we are not to conform to it. This is probably the greatest temptation in all of our lives. The church sometimes talks about assimilating people into the church but let me assure you the world and culture has done an incredible job of assimilating the church into the world.

“1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.  2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” Romans 12:1-2

b. Transformation: “Make them holy. . .”

No matter how much one might try you cannot avoid this truth in the Bible and in your Christian life. God’s wish and demand for us has always been holiness.  In this context and in other translation Jesus words are translated, “Sanctify them by your truth. . .”

To be sanctified means two things in the Bible; One is to be set apart for service and the other is to be made holy. Actually in this prayer Jesus is praying for us to experience this both ways. We are to live and serve in this world that we might be salt/light and a witness or testimony about Christ. We are also called to be holy through the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

c. Truth:  “Teach them your word which is truth.”

We come back to this over and over but here we go again. The Bible contains truth and the more you read it the more truth about God, your life, your relationships, your money, your time, your purpose on this earth, and your faith will become clearer to you. We should be lovers of this book because we should be lovers of the truth. The truth of this book has caused men and women throughout the pages of history to lose their lives because they refused to compromise their commitment to truth. They didn’t use the carnal weapons of this world to fight back against the evils of society they just kept true to the word in their faith and walk and let the society around them do to them what it would.

Listen to this Old Testament admonition: “And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6

2. He prayed for our Purpose 

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. 

 22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.  John 17: 20-23 NLT

The more we understand the attributes and character of God, the more we experience unity. 

A.W. Tozer: “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become “unity” conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. Social religion is perfected when private religion is purified.” 

a. Perfect Unity:  With God 

Let us seek this with all of our hearts, minds and souls. There is nothing sweeter than walking day by day in a relationship with God that is guilt free. The most miserable people in this room today are the men and women that are trying to walk with God yet are doing things day after day that they know are displeasing to God.
The point is that we get to a place in our relationship with Christ that the last thing in the world we would want to do is to damage our relationship by straying away or indulging in sinful behavior that destroys our relationship with Christ. 

With others 

This is really simple: The more you are in relationship with God the easier it will be to get along with other Christians. Disunity among Christians sadly is not uncommon but it can always be laid right back to the feet of people who are not walking close to God. When people in churches fight and bicker there is nothing godly about it. 

Puritan Thomas Brookes wrote, “For wolves to worry the lambs in no wonder, but for one lamb to worry another, this is unnatural and monstrous.” 

Thomas Manton said, “Division in the church breed atheism in the world.” 

“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. 

 22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.
  John 17: 20-23 NLT

b. Proclamation of Christ’s Message 

“. . .so that the world will believe you sent me.” When we live out the prayer that Jesus prayed by resisting temptation, loving and seeking holiness and truth, we will walk in unity with God and those around us and we will be one. We will fulfill Christ’s purpose on this earth and that was to bring salvation to all men and women everywhere. 

3. He prayed for our Preservation

24 "Father, I want these whom you have given me to be with me where I am. Then they can see all the glory you gave me because you loved me even before the world began! "

Someday you and I will move from this world to another. According to the word of God and the teachings for Christ there are two addresses to which we can choose to move. One is heaven where we will be with God for the rest of eternity. The other is referred to in the Bible as hell which has become a byword to describe a bad time in our lives. Let me assure you, you want to avoid hell. 

The longer I live and the longer I process the years of my life the more obvious it becomes that our short time here is but a dress rehearsal for the drama. The real drama is to be played out in eternity where time will never end. 

Hell is described in the bible as a place of eternal or continual torment. It is a place of fire. It is a place for liars. It is a gathering for all those that pursue evil publically or privately. It is a place on great sadness and sorrow and it is eternal. It is forever.
For the authentic Christfollower, eternity is a place of blessing where there is no more sorrow, sickness, or tears. We are told the lion will lay down with the lamb. We will exist in perfect peace with no more sinfulness or evil to cause us fear and dread. There will be no more locks on our doors or distrust of those we have to live around in this world. No more threats of war, or murders, or robberies, or drunk drivers or sexual abuse. We will be free from the cares and burdens we bear day to day. 

I wish I could really impress on you the importance of what we do with our short lives here on what happens in our life after death. 

Remember what Jesus said to a woman at a well in Samaria? We just looked at it a few weeks ago. 

“ 13 Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. 14 But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:13 NLT

Remember what Jesus said to a man named Nicodemus? He not only told him he needed to be born again but listen to these words, 

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. 

 18 “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. 19 And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. 20 All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. 21 But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.” John 3:16-21 NLT

In the calendar you will find that this Sunday is called Palm Sunday. A day or so before Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples where He taught them and prayed this prayer He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The streets were lined with people waving palm branches and shouting His praise not because they knew Him or had a relationship with Him but because they were part of a mob that thought Jesus would overthrow the Roman Empire that they lived under. 

One week later when He was brought before the Roman Governor Pilate it was this same crowd of people that yelled and screamed again only this time it was not praise but these words, “kill him, crucify him.” 

I guess what I want you to know today is that Jesus Christ loves us in a way that most of us can’t comprehend really. He prays for us. He longs for us to do His will. He longs us for us to live the way He intended for us to live and that is completely surrendered to Him in our words, thoughts and deeds. 

I would like us to worship Him before we go today. You may want to stand and just sing your prayer to God or you may want to come and kneel and talk to God here at the front. Either way is fine. 

 25 “O righteous Father, the world doesn’t know you, but I do; and these disciples know you sent me. 26 I have revealed you to them, and I will continue to do so. Then your love for me will be in them, and I will be in them.” John 17:24-26 NLT