Sanctification and Mission – John 17:14-19

Sanctification and Mission

Nick Esch, 8/12/2018 Cornerstone Baptist Church

John 17:14-19

Our passage begins in verse 14, with Jesus saying, “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.” Now, this idea of Christians being hated by the world is something that Jesus teaches on again and again. Already in John 15:18-19 Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” So, as Jesus says in verse 14, and emphasizes again in verse 16, “[Christians] (those whom God has chosen out of the world) are not of the world, just as [He is] not of the world.” And because this is true, just as the world hates Christ, so it also hates those who follow Christ… But there’s more to it than just that…

Christians aren’t people who have just decided to live differently than the world; Christians are literally otherworldly, because we are born again, and now our identity is in Christ—it’s in Jesus, who, though He is not of the world, came into the world to save His people. Notice how verse 14 starts: Jesus says to the Father, “I have given them (Christians) your word…” And then He goes on to explain how the world hates Christians… And, you see, these are connected; it’s only Christians that receive the Word of God, but it is in receiving the Word of God that we are made Christians. As Peter puts it, “[we] have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God” (1 Peter 1:23)… It is through the power of God’s Word that we are born again… Jesus gives His people His Word; and here what Jesus means by God’s Word, is on the one hand, the whole of the Scripture, but on the other hand, and more specifically, the gospel that God’s Word lays out (that’ll become clearer as we go deeper into our passage).

After Peter says that it is through God’s Word that we are born again, he then specifies and says, “And this word is the good news (or gospel) that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:25). As Paul says in Romans 1:16, the gospel, “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” God’s people are created by the power of His Word. I mean, this is what Ezekiel in the Valley of Dry Bones illustrates to us… We don’t have time to go through it now, but I would encourage you to take some time later to read Ezekiel 37; there Ezekiel proclaims God’s Word in a valley of dry bones—essentially in a graveyard—and the dead come to life. And this is what God’s Word, by God’s grace, through the power of God’s Spirit still does today…

Beloved, just as Ezekiel proclaimed God’s Word to the dead, so likewise were we dead in our trespasses and sins, until we were confronted with God’s Word, and by its power we were born again… We were dead, but now we live… Why? How? Because the gospel is the power of God for salvation… “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace” (Ephesians 2:4-5); through the power of His Word… “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14)… Through the person and work of the incarnate Word, and the power of His written Word, God saved us out of the world and brought us into Christ, making us otherworldly. And He is still doing this… When we evangelize we are always evangelizing in a graveyard; the world is dead in its trespasses and sins—that’s why it hates us… But God, in and through His Word, by the power of the Spirit causes the dead to live… He’s mighty to save! He can save the worst of sinners… And if we ever doubt that as Christians, we need only look in the mirror… If He can save us He can save anyone!!!

May we never under estimate the importance and the power of God’s Word. In Isaiah 55:10-11 God says, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” The one thing the gospel never does is nothing… God’s Word is powerful… God creates His people and accomplishes His purposes for His people through His Word… That’s why my sermons aren’t just Bible based, but Bible saturated… That’s why we actually study the Bible here… That’s why we saturate everything we do as a church with God’s Word, and center everything we do on the gospel… Because that’s where the power is… But I wonder if you take a similar stance in your individual life… Do you cherish, study, memorize, and meditate on God’s Word in such a way that you show that you really believe His Word is important and powerful? Do you share His Word with others? Beloved, God in His kindness has given us His Word; may we always take advantage of this amazing grace… May we be people of the Word… That in fact is part of our calling… We are to be Word people, not world people… If we are Christians we no longer identify with the world; now our identity is in Christ, who is the point of the whole Bible, and is Himself the incarnate Word…

Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, and neither does Jesus; this doesn’t mean that we are to just avoid the world all together… Look at what Jesus says in verse 15; He says, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” This is where we get the idea of Christians being in the world, but not of the world… We are to be in and among the world, but we are Word people, we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world… No doubt, we have real enemies in this world; the world by nature is against us, because who we are in Christ tells them who they are in their sin, and because they are under the sway of the ruler of this world—the evil one—Satan himself… And he is our greatest enemy… He hates Jesus, and hates us because we have been born again, and now our identity is in Jesus. Satan’s greatest enemy, the One who has already conquered him on the cross, is the One whom our very identity is rooted in…

So the world hates us, and the evil one hates us, and both are threats to us; that’s why Jesus prays this for us… But notice, Jesus doesn’t pray that we would never suffer, that we would never have hardships or be afflicted—as we’ll see in a bit, we are to be willing to lose our lives for Christ’s sake… Here He prays that the Father would keep us from the evil one; that is, keep us from falling in with the evil one… Remember, in verse 11 Jesus has already prayed that the Father would keep us in His name, and this petition goes right along with that. The idea here is that the Father would keep us faithful and steadfast; that He would enable us to resist the temptations of the devil, and to live holy lives that magnify His glory in and among the world.

This is a prayer for holiness and faithfulness; this is a prayer for us to stay faithful to our identity in Christ. What we see here in verses 14-16, is that God’s gospel Word has so worked in our lives that it has given us a gospel identity, and Jesus prays that we would stand firm in that identity—that we would live in step with who we are in Him… Though the world is full of darkness, and under the sway of the evil one, we are not called to withdraw from the world, but to be lights in the darkness. We are not guaranteed exemption from the pains of this broken world; we’re not even guaranteed freedom from persecution and the like… In fact, God’s Word says, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12)… Jesus Himself said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Matthew 5:11-12)…

We are never guaranteed freedom from pain and suffering in this world; persecution comes for all Christians in one way or another… But, in this life we are guaranteed the power to fight sin and pursue holiness… How do we know this? Because Jesus is praying for us here; and we trust that this prayer will be answered, is being answered, has been answered… Because God delights to answer the prayers of His children, especially His eternally perfect Son… This is why Paul could say in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” Beloved, Jesus has prayed for you… The Father will keep you from the evil one…

Now, unfortunately there are many people who claim to be Christians who live no differently than the world, and seem to be caught in every temptation of the evil one… On the one hand, that may be because they are not actually Christians… But, on the other hand, it may be that they simply aren’t using the gifts and the tools that God has given them to fight sin and pursue holiness… For instance, think back to the importance and the power of God’s Word; knowing, believing, and being grounded in God’s Word helps us resist the evil one… I mean, that’s how it worked for Jesus. In Matthew 4, when Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, every time the devil sought to tempt Him, He battled him with God’s Word… Over and over again he tells Satan, “It is written…” And, after leaning on God’s Word again and again we’re told that the devil left him… Friends, if you wish to live faithfully for God’s glory in this world seek to write God’s Word on your heart… No doubt, every single one of us can think of times we have fallen into temptation; well, in that moment were you leaning on the promises of God, or were you believing the lie of Satan and sin? You see, Satan and sin always make great promises, but they never make good on them… But God, always makes good on His promises… God is faithful, and Jesus is better than the things of this world… So fight sin and cling to Christ… Turn to the truth of God’s Word again and again…

This is the same idea we see Jesus communicate next in verse 17; there He says, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” When we use the word sanctify, or sanctification we are typically referring to the process that happens throughout the Christian life, whereby we are made more and more like Jesus, more and more holy… And to be holy is to be set apart; for us to be holy is to be set apart for God… Now in one sense, this happens the moment we become a Christian: we are saved out of the world and set apart for God… We are in the world, but not of the world, because we are in Christ… Judicially we have been counted righteous in Christ, because, “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21)… As we sang earlier, our sin has been nailed to the cross and we bear it no more, because Jesus took our sin with Him to the cross… He took on our guilt and our punishment, and by grace through faith, He clothes us in His righteousness… However, though we are counted righteous judicially, practically we are still not righteous… We need to grow in righteousness; we need to grow in sanctification… And we do throughout the Christian life… So we have been made holy, but we are being made holy; we are growing in holiness… We are set apart, but we are growing in our set apartness… It’s a process… That’s the general idea behind sanctification…

Here Jesus asks the Father to sanctify His people in the truth; and He specifies and says that God’s Word is truth… Now the idea of God’s Word being the truth is nothing new. In Psalm 119:160, the Psalmist says, “The sum of your word is truth.” That has always been the belief of God’s people… God’s Word is absolute truth… And Jesus has already said in John 16:13, that, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…” In other words, the Holy Spirit will open our eyes to the truth of God’s Word; and as we come to know and embrace God’s Word, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we will grow in Christlikeness—we will grow in holiness—we will be sanctified…

But, it’s important for us to notice a couple of things here… In verses 18 and 19, Jesus says, “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” Notice Jesus links the idea of the truth, and our being sanctified in truth, with His being sent into the world and consecrated… Now, you can’t see it in English, but the Greek word for consecrate is really the same word as sanctify… So Jesus is essentially saying, “for their sake (for our sake) [He] sanctifies Himself, that [we] also may be sanctified in truth…” Well, if sanctification is being set apart for God and being made holy, why would Jesus, who has never sinned, who is perfectly holy, need to be sanctified?

In his commentary on this passage, the late S. Lewis Johnson helps us understand this a bit; he says that to sanctify, “means to set apart and dedicate a person or thing to God’s service and, more precisely, to dedicate as a sacrifice (cf. Jer. 1:5; Deut. 15:19, 21: sanctify and sacrifice become synonymous). The word, then, had a double meaning. It denoted the consecration of a man to God’s service, implying that he is separated and made righteous in that, or it denoted the dedication to sacrifice of that which was already without blemish.” So, you have these dual ideas of being set apart for God, and a sacrifice for God tied up in the word sanctify…

So, when Jesus says that, for our sake He consecrates Himself, or sanctifies Himself, He’s speaking of the cross… Essentially this is saying the same thing that we see throughout the New Testament: that Christ loves us and gave Himself up for us… This is why the Father sent Him into the world… “For God so loved the world, that he gave (or sent) his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)… Jesus, “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45)… “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15)… “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8)… For Jesus, “came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10)… And the way He did that was by living the perfect life that we should be living, and then dying a sacrificial wrath-absorbing death in our place, and then rising from the dead in victory… This is the gospel… That Jesus lived, died, and rose again to save all who will repent and believe; so that all who trust in Him could live with Him forever in perfect joy… So, if you’re here today and you haven’t done that, trust in Jesus, for He is mighty to save… This is why the Father sent Him; for this great gospel mission… To save sinners like you and me; so trust in Him…

Now, with this idea of sacrifice, and gospel mission in mind, we need to recognize that Jesus is tying the gospel directly to the truth of God’s Word… God’s Word is what lays out the gospel for us… From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible communicates to us God’s grand plan of redemption; and this plan finds its fulfillment in Christ… So, what this tells us, is that the gospel is not only the power of God for salvation, in the sense that it makes us Christians; but it’s also the power of God for sanctification, in the sense that it matures us as Christians… As 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, as, “[we behold] the glory of the Lord, [we are] transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another…” And just a few verses later, in 2 Corinthians 4 we’re told that the gospel is where we behold the glory of Christ… So as we look to Jesus again and again, and His wonderful gospel, we are sanctified; we are all the more set apart for God and made more and more like Jesus…

The gospel is not just for unbelievers, it’s for Christians as well… As J. D. Greear, the president of the SBC has said, “The gospel is not just the diving board we jump off of into the pool of Christianity; it’s the pool itself…” Or, as pastor Tim Keller has said, “The gospel is not just the ABCs but the A to Z of the Christian life. It is inaccurate to think the gospel is what saves non-Christians, and then Christians mature by trying hard to live according to biblical principals. It is more accurate to say that we are saved by believing the gospel, and then we are transformed in every part of our minds, hearts, and lives by believing the gospel more and more deeply as life goes on.” And what Keller refers to as being transformed, is the same idea as being sanctified…

Now, notice Jesus ties this sanctification in the truth to holiness and mission… We are not of the world just as He is not of the world, yet we are sent into the world just as Jesus was sent into the world… And why was Jesus sent into the world? Well, He came and did many good works, He loved and served people, He boldly preached, but above all He came to seek and to save the lost… And He did this by laying down His life… So, do you see what this means? Jesus is praying for all Christians here: that the Father would empower and enable us in the truth—the truth of the gospel—to be sent forth as righteous men and women, to live for His glory, spreading His Word, loving people and calling them out of darkness into the light, making disciples, and pouring out our life for His fame among all peoples…

Again, the idea of sanctification carries with it the idea of sacrifice… Paul understood this; do you remember what he said? He said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God (by the gospel), to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). We are to be otherworldly, fighting sin and pursuing holiness, and being utterly set apart for God; and we are to always be pouring out our lives for the fame of Christ, like a living sacrifice; but, following in the footsteps of our Savior, we are also to be quite willing to lay down our lives if need be for the glory of God and the good of people… The more we grow in sanctification, the more we should be willing to count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord (Philippians 3:8). We are not called to withdraw from the world; we are called to engage the world with the gospel, and to love the world sacrificially, no matter how much it hates us… For, we were by nature hostile to God; we resisted Him, we sinned against Him, indeed we hated Him… Yet He pursued us; He loved us and gave Himself for us… And here He’s calling us to pick up our cross and to follow Him by lovingly engaging the world with the gospel, come what may…

Conclusion

God’s Word is truth… God’s Word is gospel truth… And this gospel is the power of God for salvation… It makes us Christians, it sustains us as Christians, and it sanctifies us as Christians… And to truly be sanctified is to be set apart for God, to be otherworldly; but it’s also to be on a mission in the world for the glory of God and the good of people: that good being salvation and eternal joy in Christ… When we give ourselves to Christ, we are giving ourselves to this mission… For it’s when we pour out our lives for the fame of Christ that we truly glorify Christ; and that’s what being a Christian is all about: making much of Jesus… Christians are set apart for God from the world; but we are sent into the world on a mission… Jesus summed up this mission well at the end of the Gospel according to Matthew; He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20)… Our mission is to magnify the glory of Christ by being disciples who make disciples… We are to laydown our lives for this great mission… For that is what true holiness looks like… And that is Jesus’ prayer for us… Is that what we’re praying for?…