"I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one." (John 17:15)
Our text comes from the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus on the night before His crucifixion. The portion of the prayer we are exploring today is that which He prayed for His disciples. Not just for the eleven and soon to be twelve but also for His many disciples of this day. That would be, I prayerfully hope, would be you and I. We are looking at verse 15 where Jesus prayed to the Father that He would not ask for them to be taken out of this world. How hard this must have been for Jesus to pray to know that each of them, with the exception of John, would be slain for His cause of the gospel message. Oh, how He loved them and cared for them the past three years during His ministry here in the world. How easy it would have been to take them with Him to the glory of His Father. Yet, if He had you and I would be eternally lost in a dying world.
Jesus could have taken them all with Him on that evening as the Father had taken Enoch. "Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." (Genesis 5:24) Or the Lord God could have sent a Chariot of Fire and carried them to be home and in the presence of Jesus. "As they were going along and talking, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven." (2 Kings 2:11) Or the disciples could have just died releasing their spirits from their flesh before their time and therefore been rid of the afflictions that lay shortly ahead of them.
How many of us when we are facing the trials and tribulations of life have thought, I wish the Lord would just call me home where I could find eternal rest. Do some of you pray that God in His mercy would just free you of the flesh, free you of the trials and tribulations that the world thrust upon you, and just bring you home to be in the presence of your Lord? The Apostle Paul knew the temptation of that thought. "Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord--for we walk by faith, not by sight-- we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:6-8) Being a Christian is not the easy way out of life here in the world but a life of serving our Creator.
The Christian life is not taking refuge in monasteries or isolating ourselves in the Church. No these are institutions where we learn and are equipped for the ministry of the gospel that we might fulfill the Great Commission that we have been charged with. (Matthew 28:19-20) The Christian life is a life of service to our God and to our neighbor. (Mark 12:30-31) We were not saved to be taken home but to do the good work that we were created in Christ to do. "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)
Jesus came to establish His Church. Paul writes to the Church in Ephesus, "So that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him." (Ephesians 3:10-12) We see then that the wisdom of God is made manifest in spiritual places through the Church. This was in accordance with God's eternal purpose for His church. This was carried out through Jesus Christ. The Church then has six functions that are worship, spiritual discipline, discipleship, fellowship, service, and evangelism. Therefore it was in the interest of Jesus according to the will of the Father that we remain here to carry out the good work that we were created to accomplish through Him.
Then Jesus prayed that His disciples be kept from the evil one. The god of this world who prowls to and fro searching for those whom he could devour. "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8) That we should not fall to the temptation of sin as Adam in the beginning. Being of divine righteousness is not a guarantee that we can put off the temptations of the evil one. It is a bitter thing when we sin against a good God. His righteous law is for our good and to depart from it will lead to our destruction and ruin in the testimony we have towards our God and Savior.
This the Apostles were kept and we His disciples and saints are also. We are but men and prone by our sinful nature to the commission of sin but in answer to the prayer of Jesus to the Father we are kept from the dominion of sin in our lives. We are kept from the evils of this world but not the curse of sin in the world. We will suffer the afflictions of sin. In our tribulations, we can find peace because we are at rest in the hand of God. "These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)
The trials and tribulations that we face for the sake of Christ are but challenges that through faith we can overcome, as He overcame. Our trials are but obstacles that through perseverance we can overpower as nothing is in our path that we cannot bear. This is a promise from God the Father. "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13) An answer to the prayer of the One who prays constantly for us.
Therefore knowing that we have victory through Jesus being led by His Spirit we can defeat the desires of the old sinful nature and live in the new self, the spiritual life that He has created in us. "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh." (Ephesians 5:16) With this truth, we can find strength and freedom to overcome the temptations of the evil one and consider the testing of his wiles and ways a joyful experience because his work is fruitless and his testing of our faith strengthens our endurance to complete the race. "Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4)
Jesus endured the horrors of the cross to purchase us that we could accomplish His work by Jesus living through us. How humiliating it must have been for God to hang on a cross by men. Yet His love for men is so great that he endured the suffering and shame. Jesus, like all who desire success, kept His focus on the goal which was the work of His Father’s will. It was His desire to make His Father’s joy complete that His joy would also be complete. This too is the goal of the Christian and we must keep our eyes fixed upon Him as He upon the Father. "Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Hebrews 12:2) This is also the desire of the Father that joy is fulfilled in our lives.
For some in the world, the joy of Jesus is but a flicker in their lives. But the fullness of the joy that God can give us comes from abiding in His Son and living the abundant life for the Kingdom of God. We cannot accomplish this, we cannot dream of it, and we cannot grasp it unless we abide in the one who dwells within us. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:5)
We are His ambassadors, representatives of His Kingdom. It is time for Christians to stop living as if we are in the world but live as if we are in the Kingdom we are representative of, the Kingdom of God. We are as a ship in the ocean-going across the water to the yonder shore. We would not allow the ocean to be in our ship and neither should we allow the world to be in us. It is our Lord’s Prayer, and God the Father will answer that the joy of Christ will abide in us. "But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves." (John 17:13)
Thomas N Kirkpatrick
First Baptist Church of Durant, May 3, 2017