- Sermon Notes
Unity on Purpose
Intro: The Key.
Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is the longest recorded prayer He prayed. In that prayer, He gives a secret. Something life changing in light of the divisions we are faced with not only in the world, but specifically in the church.
In His prayer, He prayed not only for His disciples, those He had walked with, but also for all who would come after His disciples and believe in Him because of their word. Jesus’ prayer then, is for you, me, and all throughout history who would come to know and believe in and follow Him.
Read: John 17:9-21
As Jesus prays this prayer, there are some topics and themes that are prayed for specifically. In verse 9, Jesus prayed these words, “I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but on the behalf of those whom You have given Me, because they are Yours…” The “they” Jesus is drawn to pray about, are His disciples, His followers. He is getting ready to pray for unity, and He says I am not asking these things on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those who are yours.
In other words, there is a specific desire Jesus has for His followers. There is a specific call, specific instruction for the construction of their lives. In reading through His prayer, there are some themes. The first I would like to point out is regarding who we are to be, while living in the world.
I. Live in But Not of the World
Between verses 9 and 21, the word “world,” is found 13 times.
And there are two specific phrases He uses throughout, they are: “in the world,” and, “of the world.”
John 17:11, I am no longer going to be in the world; and yet they themselves are in the world…
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.
John 17:16, They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
So, from verse 11, Jesus’ disciples are “in the world,” but from verses 14 and 16 we understand that Jesus’ disciples are not “of the world.” Perhaps you have heard that before… That we who are in Christ are in the world, not of the world?
As Jesus says His followers are not of the world, it is important to understand what He means, and what it means when “the world” is written in the Bible.
The term “the world” is used nearly 200 times in the New Testament, but it is used in three different ways.
Illus. “The world” can mean: the earth and planet; people or humanity; or the world system.
First, it is a term that speaks of the physical world. First, it speaks of the planet. Paul says in Acts 17:24 that God made the world and everything in it. From Job 37 we understand that the clouds, direction, and turning of the earth, the planet are at His command.
Secondly, “the world” in Scripture refers to humanity, mankind, people. From John 3:16 we know that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish.
There is a third use of “the world” in Scripture. It’s the world as a humanistic system that is at odds with God’s system. It’s regularly used this way in the New Testament. It is the way Jesus refers to “the world” here.
The word “kosmos”, which is the Greek word for world comes from a verb that means to set things in order or to arrange.
The term or the idea of the world is the world system. The way the values, the way the principles and activities are all arranged. The order of their way of thinking, standards, and philosophies. It’s the world’s value system.
We are in a physical world, surrounded by a world of people, but dominated by a world system, get this, a world system whose values, standards, and ideas are controlled by satan.
The Bible calls satan in 2nd Corinthians “the god of this world who has blinded the minds of those who do not believe.” So here we are in the physical universe filled with the world of people, dominated by a system that is opposed to the values and standards of God.
To be in the world means we are physically present, but not of the world, meaning we walk according to a different value system.
1 John 2:15, Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Now, it gets interesting because sometimes there is confusion surround the world’s system and those who live in the world.
1 John 4:7, Beloved, let’s love one another; for love is from God, and everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.
Matthew 22:36-39, Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
So, we are not to love the world’s value system that is incongruent with God, but we are to love those who live in it and even love those who seem to have fallen in love with that value system.
The love of the Father is not in us if we love the world and things of the world. But we show that we are born of and know God personally when we love others.
Loving others, however, does not mean loving everything they love.
Romans 12:2, Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
We are to be transformed according to the will of God. The virtues of a life God identifies as good and acceptable and perfect are in conflict with what the world system will often call good and acceptable and perfect.
Living in this day and time in history, it is plain to see the disparities between the world’s value system and God’s.
As we read earlier in verse 14, Jesus acknowledges that the world has hated His disciples because they are not of this world.
The greatest temptation would be to opt out of it all, but Jesus makes His desire clear for His people to remain in it, but not be of it.
John 17:15-16, I am not asking You to take them out of the world, but to keep them away from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
Jesus does not want us to be taken out of the world.
Matthew 28:19 says we are to “go and make disciples of all nations,” Acts 1:8 tells us we are to be witnesses to the world.
Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Jesus calls us a city on a hill. That means that how we function and what we do is clearly seen. It can be seen from afar, the eyes of the world are upon us!
If we, together are a city that is set on a hill, it is important that we have an understanding concerning what those who look at that city are seeing.
We are set apart and clearly seen. But what is it that sets us apart?
John 17:17-19, Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. Just as You sent Me into the world, I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, so that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.
II. Be Certain Your Steps are Settled in Truth
That we would be sanctified in truth, while living in but not of the world.
To be sanctified means to be set apart. It’s the process of becoming less like the person you used to be when you were in the world and more like the person you will be in heaven.
If you are in Christ, God’s heart is to sanctify you in the truth, in other words, transforming your life so that you are like Him.
When we are set apart, or sanctified in the truth, the space we occupy and remain in, is the truth.
What should be seen in God’s people, the city on a hill, is that they are walking in His truth and according to His word.
Illus. In Luke 6:46-49, Jesus says, “Now why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” And then goes on to describe those who build their lives on His truth, and those who do not.
In verse 17 Jesus makes it clear that God’s word is truth. So when we build our lives on God’s word, we build our lives on truth.
The biblical definition of truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured.
Truth is the absolute standard by which reality is measured, it is what God has to say on every subject.
So then, our opportunity, for those who are set apart, or sanctified in the truth is to ask not what do I think, or what does this person think, but rather, “what God has said on the subject? And what does God want us to do with what is being said by Him on the subject?”
Illus. Facts vs. Truth.
John 8:31-32, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly My disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Jesus says to continue in His Word, and as you do, you will know the truth and the truth will set you free!
It’s not the facts that set you free, it’s the truth that you know. So, we who have chosen to follow Christ must make sure that we continue in His Word and distinguish ourselves as those who not only know but walk according to the truth.
III. Live with Oneness of Purpose
Throughout His prayer, Jesus expresses His desire for oneness. In verse 11, “so that they may be one”; in verse 21, “that they may all be one”; verse 22, so that they may be one”; verse 23, “that they may be perfected in unity.”
This is something seen throughout the Bible:
Psalm 133:1, How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
Galatians 3:28, …You are all one in Christ.
When it comes to oneness and unity, it is important to understand what exactly is being referred to as we see the continued call to unity amongst those in Christ.
In Scripture, the term “unity” is sameness, or oneness of purpose, not sameness of persons.
In verses 11 and 22, Jesus, talking to God the Father says, “that they may be one, just as we are one.”
Jesus points to His oneness with the Father. As we know Jesus was God incarnate. Our triune God.
We believe there is one God, eternally existent in three co-equal persons (Deut. 6:5, Matthew 28:19). They are one in nature and essence, while distinct in personality.
Illus. Unity = Distinctions going in the same direction.
Illus. Worship Team.
There are a couple factors regarding unity that I want to close with, and I believe are important for us to see when it comes to unity in the body.
The first is found in verses 20 to 21:
John 17:20-21, “I am not asking on behalf of these alone, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, 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 sent Me.
As the world looks on, to the city on a hill, to the parts and pieces that come together in unity to make the whole, they see something that they have never seen.
And we get to partner with Jesus in showing, that they will see Jesus and believe.
Luke 19:10, For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.
They see something out of this world because it is not of this world, it is something that is given divinely, when we choose to agree on Jesus, that His glory is the goal, and that by seeing you and me in unity, they too might come to believe in Jesus personally.
In John 17:4, Jesus said that He accomplished the work the Father had sent Him to do.
Jesus had a goal; it was to accomplish the will of the Father.
Matthew 26:39, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”
To follow, is to “line up behind.” So the call to Jesus’ disciples is to line up behind Him in pursuit of the will of God.
Unity cannot be seen if we are not all lined up behind Jesus.
In closing, I want to look back at verse 10, where Jesus, speaking of His disciples says, “I have been glorified in them.”
To be in unity and get toward the same goal, it is imperative that we know the supreme goal of everything we do must be to bring God glory.
1 Corinthians 10:31, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all things for the glory of God.
Earlier I referenced Matthew 5:16, Let your light shine in such a way that others will see our good deeds, and glorify God!
We have the opportunity to glorify God in our lives and to bring Him glory.
Isaiah 43:7 tells us that we were created for God’s glory.
Glory is greatness and splendor, the translation of the term is “dignity, honor, praise, and worship. To glorify God then is to acknowledge His greatness and give Him honor by praising and worshiping Him, primarily because He, and He alone, deserves to be praised, honored and worshiped.
There are many other things this world would have you glorify, magnify, worship, or praise.
Philippians 3:18-19, For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even as I weep, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who have their minds on earthly things.
Philippians 3:20, For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ…