The Church in the World

Vincent van Gogh, “The Church at Auvers”, 1890, Musée d’OrsayParis

John 17:6-19
For Sunday, May 16th, 2021
7th Sunday of Easter, Year B

This is a very significant post for me. I named this blog “Church in the World” and realized in studying this passage that it speaks about precisely the name of this blog: the church in the world.

What did Jesus want the community that commits to follow him to look like and be? Here is the answer. Let’s set aside for a moment our current conceptions of ‘church’ and let Jesus prayer repaint the canvas for us.

The church in the world that Jesus envisioned carries 3 marks of identity:
● We carry the Father’s name revealed
● We are unified in purpose
● We experience the completed joy of Jesus

We carry the Father’s name revealed (vv. 6-8)
The first mark of the Church in the world is that we carry the Father’s name revealed. Jesus says, “I have revealed your name to the men you gave me out of the world” (v. 6, NET). Because we carry our Father’s name, Jehovah, we understand that everything comes from him (v. 7). We accept and really understand that Jesus came from his Father who is now our Father (v. 8a). We believe that our Father sent his son to save us (v. 8b).

How easy it is to lose sight of these ground truths amidst all our concerns about theological propriety, worship styles, and church issues of 100 stripes. We carry the Father’s name revealed. That is what matters!

I remember working with some young pastors in Siberia. I encouraged them to meet in groups of 3 and simply come together around the wellspring of the gospel, drop their guards in complete confidentiality, and let the Spirit encourage them. They were gone for about an hour. When they came back, the light in their eyes and the joy in their hearts was an absolutely beautiful thing to behold. We carry the Father’s name revealed!

We are unified in purpose (vv. 9-11)
The second mark of the Church in the World is that we are unified in purpose. Jesus prays, “Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one” (v. 11). To be “one” means to be “unified”. Please note that the context of this unification concerns our mission versus or theologies or organizations. We must understand that that rather than the church having a mission, the mission has a church! God the Father so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. His son completed the mission given to him by the Father. The Son is glorified in us: our unity in continuing the mission brings the Son of God glory!

How easy it is to lose the forest for the sake of the trees here. Unify not around everything that doesn’t ultimately matter. Unify instead around the one thing that ultimately does: the mission of reclaiming those who belong to the Father out of the world.

We experience the completed joy of Jesus (vv. 12-14)
The third and final mark of the Church in the World is that we experience the completed joy of Jesus. Jesus prays, “But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves” (v. 13). As the church, as a community of believers, we are intended to experience together the completed joy of Jesus! Jesus, when he was with our spiritual forbearers, “kept them safe” and “watched over them.” Now Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, knowing that he completed his mission, and that not one of us that belongs to him can ever be lost. Can you imagine the joy that must bring to Jesus as he looks down upon us? He wants us to carry in our own hearts this very same joy. It is the joy of victory complete.

There is something very special knowing that you’ve done something that no one can ever take away. Think of the satisfaction you would have as the winner of a Super Bowl or of a World Cup. How much greater is our joy knowing that we have won the ultimate spiritual battle because of what Jesus accomplished for us by dying sacrificially for us on the cross and then being raised to life to show his total victory over pain, suffering and death!

Jesus closes his prayer for us by asking that his Father keep us safe from the evil one. We are safe from the evil one. Jesus asks that the Father would sanctify us (set us apart) in truth. The Father has. Jesus tells the Father that he has sent us into the world. We have been so commissioned.

We have our victory already secured. We have our protection. We have our orders. Now, the only question that remains is this: will we go and fulfill our destiny as the Church in the World? How thankful I am today for the shared identify, victory and calling that I have together with you.

You ready? Let’s do this!


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