Sunday, October 18, 2009

Knowing Christ (Part II)

Wall painting of Jesus Christ praying at the Mount of Olives. The interior of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Nativity of Christ in Ternopil, western Ukraine. via Wikimedia On the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus prayed for His disciples both present at that time and those that would follow after (including you and me)  This prayer is recorded in John 17.  The whole passage is good for us to remember.  As we face the world around us.  This prayer offers a picture of how we can know Christ while walking through the world. 

So often Christians become Spiritually insulated from the world.   That is to say they have a public life and a Christian life and the two never really cross each other.  I think this is more true for men than it is for women, but I suppose that it can happen for women as well.  Their behavior may or may not change as a result of what happens on Sunday morning, but the knowing Christ through the walk of the week is not a spiritual reality.  I think John 17 offers some insight into how we can walk with Jesus through the week and get to know Him more intimately. 

Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You, for You gave Him authority over all flesh; so He may give eternal life to all You have given Him. This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent-Jesus Christ.
John 17:1-3 (HCSB)

Knowing Jesus must first and foremost begin with receiving eternal life.  Jesus' mission was to bring salvation to your soul, that in receiving it you could pass into eternal life.  It is a life that begins the moment someone makes that commitment.  Knowing God and His Son Jesus in this way is the first essential step to having an intimate relationship with Christ (Click Here to learn more about this step).  It is the first step in an amazing and fulfilling journey.

I have revealed Your name to the men You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they know that all things You have given to Me are from You, because the words that You gave Me, I have given them. They have received them and have known for certain that I came from You. They have believed that You sent Me.
John 17:6-8 (HCSB)

Revelation and receiving go hand in hand.  Revelation is gaining knowledge about God and receiving it makes this knowledge intimate.  Just  at in salvation God is revealing his plan for you, just knowing it does not make one saved.  You have to receive the revelation (that is accept it as true) to be saved.  The revelation requires that we are listening and the receiving requires faith.  In this passage Jesus is saying that God has given men (and women) from the world to Jesus.  These are those that 1) Keep God's word, 2) Know what God has given through Christ, 3) hear the revelation of Jesus' words, 4) Receive this revelation, 5) Know that Jesus is the Son of God, and 6) believed that God sent Him.

I pray for them. I am not praying for the world but for those You have given Me, because they are Yours. Everything I have is Yours, and everything You have is Mine, and I have been glorified in them.
John 17:9-10 (HCSB)

Christ is in Me...

When a person gives their life to God through Jesus Christ they become property of God.  They are His.  This ownership allows for our lives to be a glory to God.  Glory is a celebration of God's Righteousness and Goodness.  I want to call your attention to that last phrase, "I have been glorified in them."  Normally parsing prepositions is not very interesting or fruitful, but in this case it it revealing.  The Greek word (en) translated "in" is a preposition that is intermediate between eis (into in English) and ex (from).  Consider it this way.  Jesus is from (ex) God the father,  He came to (eis) us, and is now glorified in (en) us.   This simple preposition in is profound in implication.  Intimacy is knowing or making known for others to see.  Intimacy with Christ is knowing or making known in you.  This is a work of the Holy Spirit, but when it happens Christ is Glorified in us.  Stated another way we have intimacy with Christ when we allow His Holy Spirit to Glorify Christ in us.  By doing this we move from knowledge about to knowing.  It is the knowing Christ that makes the relationship intimate.   It is difficult to imagine being more intimate in a relationship than having that person in you Spiritually.  Yet that is what Jesus is talking about here. 

Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don't go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you.
John 16:7 (HCSB)

When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. For He will not speak on His own, but He will speak whatever He hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is Mine and declare it to you. Everything the Father has is Mine. This is why I told you that He takes from what is Mine and will declare it to you.
John 16:13-15 (HCSB)

Jesus told his disciples that it was good for them that He "go away."  This must have seemed strange to them.  "How is it a benefit to lose the presence of our Lord and Savior?"  In fact it is recorded that they were confused, "We don�t know what He�s talking about (John 16:18)!"  However we know now that because Jesus went away there is a greater intimacy of having Jesus in us not just with us.  Notice also that the Holy Spirit reveals (revelation) not on His own, but what is Jesus'.  What is more is the Spirit will "glorify" Jesus.  Is the picture becoming more clear now?  "Jesus Glorified in me" is a work of the Holy Spirit when I receive the revelation from God through the Spirit and the Sprit glorifies Christ.  

Now having this intimacy with Christ established we now move into the world. 

I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by Your name that You have given Me, so that they may be one as We are one.
John 17:11 (HCSB)

Jesus stated that is was no longer in the world.  That is to say he was no longer going to be physically present in the world.  He is calling on Our Heavenly Father to protect His disciples and future believers (v 20-26).  The phrase "they may be one as We are one" denotes that special intimacy again. 

I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.
John 17:22-23 (HCSB)

See how this is all fitting together?  "I am in them" "given the the glory" "made completely one" "loved" these are all expressions of the intimacy we have with God through Christ. 

Jesus is no longer physically in the world.  However He is in us through the Holy Spirit.  In this way we become very important ambassadors representing Christ.  For what purpose?  "So the world may know You (God) have sent Me (Jesus) and loved them (us) as You have love Me.  There is a moment when we represent Christ to the world that intimacy grows.  It is an interesting thing that the more you share the gospel the more intimate you are with Jesus.  What is more the more intimate you are with Jesus the more you share the Gospel.  I have personally experienced this truth.  I believe that this has to do with the being one with the purpose and desire of God which is to restore lost sinners to Himself.  I think the reverse is also true.  It is hard for me to imagine becoming more intimate with Jesus while relegating your faith to something you do on Sunday morning, but completely keep to yourself the rest of the week.  In other words the more you keep your spirituality to yourself during the week the less intimate you are with Jesus,  likewise the less intimate you are with Jesus the more you keep your spirituality to yourself. 

... Yet I am In the World

As Christian's we have a dilemma.  We have the ability to experience intimacy with Christ, but we continue to live in a fallen world.  This world can be a stumbling block to true intimacy.  And desire for true intimacy can interfere with our second greatest purpose that God has laid out for our lives which is sharing the Gospel (Loving other's). 

I have given them Your word. The world hated them because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world. I am not praying that You take them out of the world but that You protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. I sanctify Myself for them, so they also may be sanctified by the truth.
John 17:14-19 (HCSB)

Sanctification is the key to living in the world but not being of the world.  We miss golden opportunities when we neglect God's word for us.  Jesus lays it out very plainly in this prayer.  Christ is sanctified Himself, by being obedient to God's word.  He creates the potential for us to be sanctified as well.  Note the potential is their but the application of that sanctification is by truth.  Jesus makes it clear that the truth is the word of God.  Further we know that John the author of this Gospel declares that Jesus is the word.  It is a coming together of truth.  This applies to us because when we spend time in God's word we are cultivating intimacy with Christ and Christ is sanctifying us that we might be sent into the world. 

Jesus makes it clear that we are being sent into the world.  There are some things that we should know about being in the world. 

First there is a high likelihood that we will be hated if we are spending time with Christ.  Jesus was hated and so will we when we are accomplishing his mission for our lives.  Someone asked, "If I am not hated then am I doing God's will?"  It is an interesting question.  I don't think that you have to be hated to do God's will, but I do believe that if you are going into the world as on sanctified by Christ and spreading His gospel that you will come to those who express hatred toward you eventually.  So in answer to the question of not being hated, either you are not being sanctified by truth, you are not spreading the gospel, or you are not in the world. 

The second thing about being in the world is that we are in a spiritual war.  We need God's protection in this battle.  That protection is gained not by isolating out of the the world.  It is possible to be protected from the evil one by not being in the world.  We can come to Church, have Christian friends, work in a Christian business, listen to Christian music,  Wear Christian clothes, talk in Christian phrases, participate in only Christian activities, read only Christian books, buy things from Christian stores, work with only Christian businesses, and drink milk from a Christian cow.  Just kidding on that last one  Although we could find a Christian dairy farmer I am sure.  The point is this, protection by isolating is not really protection at all.  We are in a spiritual war and when we isolate ourselves from the world in this way then we are not really a threat so we do not need protection.  On the other hand when we take it to the streets then we do become a threat and we need that protection.  Jesus is teaching us that our mission must be covered in prayer. 

The third truth which we have already touched on, but I want to emphasize at this point is that we are sent.  Jesus is sending us into the world.  We are called to go into all nations and spread the good news of Jesus Christ.  If you think that being sent is for pastors, evangelists, or the apostles consider this:

I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.
John 17:20-21 (HCSB)

Did you catch that last part, "That the world may believe You sent me."  We are sent into the world that they might believe.  Now this is not a promise that all will believe.  In fact there will be those that believe and those that will hate.  However, the outcome does not change that we are sent. 

Lastly we need to make sure that we are intimate with Christ and not with the world.  Jesus says that we are "in the world," but "not of the world."  The phrase "not of the world" means that we do not originate out of the world and its ways.  Our sinful flesh makes it possible for us to slip back into worldly ways.  Being in the the world, but not out of the the world means that we make no provision for the flesh that we should obey it's lusts.  We have to put to death worldly ways.  If we do not then the message is defeated.  No doubt our spiritual enemy and the haters will be looking for some hypocrisy or weakness to attack. 

This brings us back to the importance of Christ being in us, sanctification through God's word, and covering our lives with prayer.  When Christ is in us we can have the spiritual closeness with God that we long for and were created for.  Sanctification through God's word allows us to be connected to God and his purpose for our lives.  It gives us strength to face the world with out being conformed to the world.  Prayer is a special type of intimacy that allows us to communicate and be with our God.  This close bond is one of communing as well as God protecting us from the forces of spiritual darkness.   Remember we discover intimacy with Christ as we we go through the world no called out of the world.