Monthly Archives: August 2017

Jesus prays for us (John 17.6-26)


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Jesus’ glory through us (17.9/10)

Last week’s blog stressed the Father and the Son bringing glory to each other. Now we note Jesus’ affirmation that he has been glorified in his followers – it is interesting how Jesus seems already to be living in the future beyond the cross and so uses a past tense here. It is amazing that the Lord of all glory trusts us as his people to bring him that glory – rather a big risk! Jesus immediately goes on to underline the dire situation with the striking use of “and” (Greek kai) three times in quick succession in verse 11: ‘and I am no longer in the world, and they are in the world, and I am coming to you’ (‘to you’, as is common in John’s Gospel, uses a preposition which carries the idea of movement towards). Jesus’ glory comes now through his people who face the hugely testing reality of being ‘in the world’ with Jesus no longer living with them in the flesh. Can he trust them not to succumb to the temptations and low standards of the world when he is no longer living each day with them as he had been during the past three years? That question rings urgently from generation to generation right through history and still challenges us now today in our contemporary societies. Will we glorify him in our world today? We want to relate culturally to the world, but we are called also to resist all compromise in adhering to the standards of the world.
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Protected (17.11)
Happily we are not left alone to face the dangers, temptations and opposition of the world. Jesus prays that his Father will protect us. The Father not only loves, cares for and provides for us, but he also demonstrates his power in protecting us. The same power that created the world and then was seen through the history of Israel in the Old Testament is now active in protecting us. He is our shield, so we can know a very real security and confidence although we live ‘in the world’.
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Oneness (17.11, 20-23)
The Father’s protection is also aimed at preserving a deep unity between his followers. Just as the Father and the Son enjoy absolute oneness together, so Jesus’ people can be protected from all disharmony and lack of love together. As Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus (17.21), so Jesus prays that we may be kept in a  similar unity. Jesus’ prayer seems to refer to such a warmth of mutual love, rather than any mere structural unity between denominations.
I always rejoice on a Sunday when we recite the Creed in church and declare that we believe in the church. What a joy and privilege it is to belong to the worldwide church with sisters and brothers of all backgrounds and colours in every country! And it is such a joy to meet up with sisters and brothers within our own little village church and to enjoy that love, unity and rich fellowship. Such loving unity also should attract others who are still outside the fellowship of the church. If indeed we manifested that united love, the world would discover that Jesus is not just another religious leader, but is indeed sent by and from the Father to love us ‘even as the Father has loved Jesus’ (17.23). Let us confess our failure and pray for such unity.
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Not just us! (17.20)
So Jesus has the vision before him of his disciples leading others to faith. Jesus has imparted to us the Word by which we know the truth (17.14/17). Indeed the Word of God not only contains the truth, but it actually is the truth in its essential nature. It is therefore through the verbal message of that Word of truth that others will come to know Jesus who is the truth (John 14.6). So the good news of Jesus is passed on through the generations  from person to person, family to family, place to place, country to country. The missionary task of Jesus’ church remains his calling to all of us as his followers today – whatever the difficulties and cost, in Britain and to all the world.
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Love (17.26)
Jesus’ prayer in John 17 concludes with the request to the Father that “the love you have for me may be in them”. Again comes this amazing reality. It is followed by the simple short statement “I am in them”. Staggering! Jesus is love personified. If he indwells us, the total love of the Father will shine in us too.
May the world see God’s love flowing out in the joyful fellowship of his people!

P.S. Elizabeth and I are away now for a couple of weeks, so the next blog will not come until we get back. We fly on Friday to Aberdeen for two days with a good friend who was a student at All Nations some 40 years ago. We shall be speaking too at an informal meeting of ministers and church leaders in her home. Then we fly on to Shetland where we are the speakers for their annual Bible Convention and shall also speak and preach at various other meetings. We value your prayers – thank you.

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Not for my sake (John 17.1-5)


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As Jesus begins to pray to his Father, he immediately notes that “the hour has come”. In facing the harsh reality of the cross he asks that the Father would glorify him (17.1). Of course Jesus had already known the fullness of glory in the unhindered presence of the Father even “before the world began” (17.5). But in his incarnation he had laid aside his glory and lived entirely as a human. Now he prays that in the victory of the cross the Father would glorify the Son. This should then lead on to perfect glory in his return to the Father’s presence.

 
What is the ultimate purpose and goal of mission? What are we aiming for in our Christian lives? What sort of mission statement should our church have? Such discussions have often occupied Christian leaders. But Jesus’ prayer in John 17 offers us a simple answer to these questions. Our purpose in everything is that the Father should be glorified through the glorification of the Son by the working of the Holy Spirit. The final test in all decisions is: does it bring glory to the Father? As Christians we live for the glory of the Lord.

 
Jesus’ prayer is not for his own sake. “Glorify your Son” leads straight on to an “in order that . . .”. Jesus’ aim in asking to be glorified is that “the Son may glorify you”. How typical of the inter-relationships of the three persons of the Trinity! The Spirit always works to glorify the Son, not to glorify himself. Jesus’ purpose is always to glorify the Father and the Father delights to glorify the Son. They do not seek their own glory and honour, but always serve the other. What a radical change we should see if we followed this divine model in our politics, industrial relations, family life etc.!
The word ‘likewise’ (the first word in Greek in verse 2) shows that Jesus has an ulterior motive in receiving the Father’s gift of authority over all people. A second “in order that” reveals that Jesus does not revel in his authority for his own sake, but “in order that” he might give eternal life to all his followers, the people the Father has given to him. So in his gift of eternal life Jesus also passes on the Father’s glory to his people (17.22). Amazing!
Eternal Life

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Jesus proceeds to define eternal life (17.3). As good Pauline evangelicals we might have expected his definition to be centred on our salvation from the sin which separates us from the all-holy God. In his Gospel John does mention that Jesus is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (1.29). John would have no hesitation in agreeing to everything Paul asserts concerning the atoning work of Jesus on the cross, but John primarily underlines other aspects of Jesus’ purposes for us. So in 17.3 he defines eternal life in terms of a relational knowledge of the Father as the only true God and of Jesus himself who the Father has sent. The heart of eternal life is to know God and appreciate his nature more and more fully. In our post-modern world relationships are enormously important. It is good news indeed that as believers in Jesus we can share in his perfect relationship with the Father, a beautiful relationship of love (17.26). That’s what we need and long for. What a relevant message for the broken world in which we live today!
The gift of eternal life begins now in this world as we are united with the incarnate Christ and so come to know the Father. It blossoms as we experience Jesus’ resurrection which gives us the fullness of abundant new life. And finally it comes to full fruition as we ascend with Jesus into the immediate presence of our Father in heaven and our knowledge of him will be complete. So we rejoice in life with God today, but also look forward with eager anticipation to the absolute peace and love we shall experience eternally in the glory of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Wow! What good news indeed!
The only true God

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The two adjectives “only” and “true” both speak particularly to us in our contemporary world. John’s Gospel is so amazingly relevant to us today!
a) Only.
We live today in very inclusive societies which emphasize tolerance, but are deeply intolerant of anything or anyone they consider intolerant. It has become quite unacceptable and almost illegal to hold firmly to biblical truth and speak openly on such issues as marriage between one man and one woman. Likewise the uniqueness of Jesus as the one and only saviour and way to the Father seems grossly intolerant in our multi-faith society (I hope that my books “What about other Faiths?” and “One way?”, published by Hodder and Kitab respectively, may be a help in this area). People are amazed to discover that we believe in God revealing himself uniquely in Jesus and the biblical Word of God! As Christians we may suffer for our faith in the Father as the only God, in Jesus as the unique saviour of the world, in the Holy Spirit of Jesus as the only divine power within us, in Christian revelation as the sole absolute truth.
Of course Jesus and the early church lived in the midst of a multi-religious society which also strongly opposed any firm conviction in a unique faith in the God of Israel as the only true God. They even had to suffer martyrdom for their belief that “Jesus is Lord” (not Caesar or any of the Roman and Greek gods). So Jesus’ assertion that his Father was “the only true God” demanded tremendous faith, courage and boldness. It remains a challenging model for our faith today.
b) True
As we have seen before, it is not only the Father who is “true”. Jesus is also the Truth and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. In each of the three Persons of the Trinity the vital importance of truth is underlined. In God we have the absolute revealed truth, not just an expression of our particular inclinations. We hold to the truth of an objective reality, rather than a subjective interest or belief. This truth, Jesus says, is found in God’s word – “your word is truth” (John 17.17) – and is the means of God’s work of sanctification. Without such objective absolute truth it is impossible to distinguish convincingly between good and evil, truth and untruth. It is noticeable in Britain how the decline of the Christian faith has led also to the growth of inadequate wishy-washy morals and the frequent breakdown of relationships.

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Love and Peace (John 16.25-33)

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The Spirit’s gifts of love, joy and peace lie at the heart of God the Father’s relationship with us. They really belong inseparably together, but last week’s blog would have been too long if I had commented on all three in it! So we just looked at joy last week and now move on to love and peace. Thank you, Father, for these three amazing gifts!
Love (16.25-28)

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“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so”. The music of this old chorus is of course now totally antiquated, but its heart message remains. What a wonderful reality! And it is not only Jesus who loves us, but also “The Father himself loves you”, Jesus assures his disciples. For so many people God seems to be a distant and irrelevant ‘old man up top’, but for those of us who follow Jesus he has shown himself to be the Father who loves us. What an immense privilege it is to love and be loved by a parent, spouse or children and grandchildren! The assurance of love is so precious. And even more amazing is the truth that as Christians we can have a loving relationship with God the Father himself. I personally never knew my human father because he died a few months before I was born. Some other people have bad memories of their human father. But for us all we can bask in the warmth and joy of an intimate relationship of love with God himself as the eternal, ideal and perfect Father. Rejoice! Take a moment to be still and let the Father’s love warm your heart!

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Because the heavenly Father himself loves us, Jesus declares that he does not now need to mediate for us and ask the Father for us – although we know that he nevertheless ‘lives to make intercession for us’ (Hebrews 7.25) and he is at God’s right hand in glory “interceding for us” (Romans 8.34).

Λέγουσιν οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ Ἴδε νῦν ἐν παρρησίᾳ λαλεῖς, καὶ παροιμίαν οὐδεμίαν λέγεις.

In this context Jesus feels free to speak openly and clearly to his disciples. Formerly he had often used proverbs and parables in figurative forms of communication because he feared that people would twist or misunderstand his teaching. Now, however, with the immediacy of his cross and resurrection, ‘his hour’ has come and he doesn’t need to avoid misunderstanding any more. Now he speaks (Greek = proclaims, a more significant word) ‘boldly’. In NIV this latter word is translated as “plainly” and “clearly”, but it really conveys the sense of a boldness which is based on absolute assurance of its truth. Thus in Ephesians 6.19 Paul asks people to pray that he may “fearlessly (same Greek word) make known the mystery of the gospel”. Jesus says that now he will boldly proclaim the good news of us being loved by God the Father. This relationship of love is the very heart of the gospel. It is indeed very good news in a world which is full of unhappy relationships!

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What leads to us being loved by the Father? Jesus makes it clear. God loves us “because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God” (16.27). As good Pauline evangelicals we might have expected him to emphasize faith in Jesus’ atoning work for our sin. But this is not a major emphasis in John’s Gospel. In John’s Gospel the key is our faith in Jesus as the one who is sent by the Father into the world in order that through faith in Jesus we might come into a relationship of love with the Father. Again, good news indeed!

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Peace (16.29-33)
Jesus’ disciples may abandon him and leave him to the horrors of his trial and then his crucifixion all on his own without their support, but he reassures them that actually he will not be alone. His Father is constantly with him (16.32) and will be with him when his disciples ‘forsake him and flee’. Likewise Jesus reminds them that they have (continuous present tense – not just future) affliction and suffering in this world (16.33). But in this context of tribulation, Jesus encourages them with the assurance that he has “overcome the world”. It may seem that this world’s anti-Christian opposition and indifference reigns supreme, but finally the victory lies in Jesus’ hands. He is king, while Satan is merely the prince of this world. Jesus and his righteousness will be vindicated. Through his cross, resurrection and ascension he is victorious over all the evil powers of this world. With this message of victory he reassures his suffering and apparently weak followers.

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“I have told you these things”, Jesus says, “so that in me you may have peace” (16.33). In a world full of troubles and insecurities, what a lovely gift Jesus’ peace is! Jesus points out that this gift of God’s peace is “in me”. It is only as we rest in in the loving arms of the victorious Jesus that we can enjoy his peace. It is only as we remember in faith that Jesus has won the victory and now rules supreme over the affairs of this world that we can have God’s peace permeating our hearts and thoughts.
Joy, love and peace. “Against such there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires”, Paul declares (Galatians 5.23/24) as he lists these wonderful fruits of the Spirit. He then exhorts us, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” So let us allow the Holy Spirit to fill us with joy, with love and with peace!

 

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