Are We of the World But Not in the World?

I’m pleased to share the steerage of the Daily Text this week with Dr. Wade Paschal, a long time friend and colleague of mine. Most recently retired from a long tenure of service as the Senior Minister of the First United Methodist Church of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Wade is a pastor-teacher of more than thirty years, a writer and mentor. He is father to three children and grand-father to two. He started as an economics major and went on to do New Testament studies, earning a PhD in Biblical Studies from Cambridge. He served as the founding Dean of the Beeson Center for Biblical Preaching and Leadership at Asbury Theological Seminary, but spent most of his time on the front lines of his downtown church. You will be enriched by his writings this week.

June 14, 2017

John 17:11-19

11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

13 “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. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

CONSIDER THIS

These verses form the heart of Jesus’ prayer. As he departs from the world, he prays for those left behind. In these verses Jesus commissions his followers to carry on his ministry knowing that as they do, they will experience the same hostility and opposition that he has faced.

I could wish that Jesus prayed that I would be spared the conflict that witness brings, but he does not.

Instead, Jesus prays very bluntly, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world.”

We might think faithfulness to Jesus would guarantee success and that Christ would minimize the conflict. But instead Jesus seems to think that if the disciples do what he calls them to do, they will inevitably experience resistance from those who reject Jesus. Their job will be to witness to Christ. They cannot do that without angering those who do not believe. Being faithful to Christ will mean challenging the norms of culture and this will never be comfortable.

Moreover, in the midst of this discomfort and opposition we can be sure Satan will be at work.

Indeed, this has already happened once—John 13 tells us that Satan has entered Judas and seduced him to betray Jesus. Exactly, how this happened is not said, but we know from John 12 that Judas had a weakness for money. It may be that Satan whispered in his ear, “Take the money, get in good with the authorities. Choose the easy way out.”
It would be just like Satan to use the fear and anxiety that comes with honest witness to Christ to lead us to compromise and deflect us from our mission. Jesus prays that God will protect the disciples as they face these whispers and intimidation.

We still need these prayers—maybe more than ever.

As a young college student I had the opportunity to hear John Stott teach on these verses, and he said something then that stuck with me. He said, “The problem with the church today is that too often we are of the world, but not in it, instead of in the world but not of it.”

He meant, I think, that in many ways Christians have accepted the values of our culture. We look for security in money, we value the same success everyone else does. Comfort and pleasure seduce us.

We withdraw from genuine engagement with the world—we avoid being challenged about our beliefs by spending all our time in groups that are comfortably Christian. The little time we are in the world we live virtually unseen and unheard because we look like and sound like and act like everyone else. We tend to differ from culture in trivial ways that are easily ignored and do not really witnesses to Jesus.

Of the world, but not in the world.

Jesus prayed for people radically in the world for him—“sanctified” or set apart for his use through the word that they believed and lived and sent into the world to be his presence through their lives.

Jesus wanted his disciples in the world un-intimidated by the resistance of culture and undeceived by the whispers of the Evil One. We are called to speak out our faith and to live it out.

THE PRAYER

Lord, I ask your Spirit to make the truth of Christ alive in me, so that others may see and hear Christ in me. Protect me from the whispers that invite me to comfort or compromise. Give me courage through your word. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  • What sets my life apart from the rest of culture?
  • Do the differences in my life really witness to Jesus and his truth?
  • If I am honest, what tempts me most to compromise with culture?

For the Daily Text, I am Wade Paschal.

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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