NOT OF THE WORLD
"'I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.
"'I have given them your word and the world has hated them, 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 the world.'" John 17:13-16 NIV.
Strange! The way the disciples were thinking and behaving at that moment, I would have thought that Jesus would realise that they were very much still part of the world -- frightened, insecure, unbelieving, uncomprehending, competitive, bickering, indifferent -- that about sums them up at this stage.
Amazing! Jesus saw them not as they were then but as they would be as they moved towards their potential as apostles and witnesses for Him in the world. He spoke prophetically and confidently of who they would become when the Holy Spirit fell on them and transformed them into bold, confident and faithful followers of their Messiah.
Jesus had spent three and a half years with them, patiently giving them God's word. As young Jewish men they would already have memorised the book of Leviticus by the age of 6 and the entire Torah by the time they celebrated their Bar Mitzvah. The foundation of truth was already firmly laid in their minds in their formative years.
During His time with them it was Jesus' task to teach them His yoke -- His way of interpreting and applying the Torah to His own life, and instilling it into His disciples so that they would imitate Him as they, in turn, made disciples of others. It was their task, in turn to release them from whatever "yoke" had brought them into bondage and place His yoke on them, setting them free from rules, regulations and obligations to live as sons and daughters of the Most High God -- what Jesus called "binding and loosing".
It was this yoke of loving God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength and showing mercy and compassion to all people, that would, first of all, bring the hatred of an unbelieving world down on them, alienating them from the heartless and selfish attitude that rules in the world system. It was this yoke as well, that would insulate them from the temptation of the evil one to live for themselves and indulge their old, selfish nature.
God's protection from the evil one comes, not in some mystical or angelic guard around us so that the devil can't get near us. It comes in the form of changed lives that flow from changed minds as God's truth about Himself and us gradually replaces our old ways of thinking and acting. Our enemy operates in our minds, sowing lies and trying to deceive us into thinking the worst about God and ourselves.
We erroneously think that the devil attacks us through our circumstances. When things go wrong we wail, 'O-o-oh, I'm under attack!' Really! Yes, we are under attack, but not because of trouble and hardship but because we misinterpret these things and get into fear and panic mode, which are exactly what the devil relishes because they neturalise our confidence in the Father's love.
Remember, Jesus said, 'In this world you will have trouble'? This is a statement of fact. But God permits and monitors the hardships we endure because He has another agenda. If we give the devil credit for the trouble we experience, we miss the whole point of the exercise.
Firstly, God wants to see what is in our hearts, whether we will trust Him or not.
"Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commandments. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." Deuteronomy 8:2, 3 NIV.
Secondly, God is disciplining us as sons so that we may share His holiness.
"Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as His children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?...They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness." Hebrews 12:7, 10 NIV. We have only one safeguard against the devil's wiles -- knowing and living by the truth.
David put it this way: "Teach me your way, O Lord; and I will walk in your truth..." Psalm 86:11a.
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