Myanmar 2018 SEVEN Part series
Overcoming Obstacle to Revival
21 OCT 2018
The Word and Spirit of Love
29 OCT 2018
05 NOV 2018
Stephen and the Final Judgement
19 NOV 2018
John 17:1-5, 20-26; John 12:27-33; John 7:37-39
INTRODUCTION1)FIELD NOTE: [The original much shorter form of this sermon was preached in Khamti in Nagaland, Myanmar. People from 12 churches had gathered on the first day of our seminar. The locals were excited by this level of expressed unity.]As I was out walking this morning I sensed that the Lord was taking me on a different direction from my prepared material. Back in Yangon a couple of days ago I came across a taxi with a sticker on the back which grasped my attention; it was an image of two clasped hands with the words, “We are Drivers We are Brothers”.
If secular people can have a sense of brotherhood through a shared vocation how is it that Christians sharing in the brotherhood of Jesus2)Matt 28:10 ESV; John 20:17 ESV; Rom 8:29 ESV; Heb 2:11-12, 17 ESV can be so divided?
I have been involved in many attempts at unity building across the Church in Australia for decades (Evangelical Alliance, Perth Prayer etc.) but we never quite seem to reach the level of loving oneness that God desires and for which Jesus died.
As we met as a group of ministers around the table before today’s service, I had a sense of something I first encountered at a wedding some years ago. As I prayed for the couple it was as if they were encircled in a bright band of the love of God. (This marriage is still going strong.) God will do anything to draw us into his circle of love; this is the goal of the cross.
THE HIGH PRIESTLY PRAYER
Preachers on unity often go to the so-called High-Priestly prayer of Jesus in John 17 for the outcome of this prayer is the oneness of the Church.
More foundationally than the result of the prayer however is how it is the perfect expression of Jesus own oneness with the Father.
The start of Christ’s intercession commences when he moves from speaking to his disciples to speaking heavenward. “When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven…” (John 17:1 ESV).
Like in the prayer of Jesus in Gethsemane recorded in the other Gospels Jesus is on the threshold of crucifixion and feels very close to heaven.
In lifting his eyes and praying in earshot of the disciples he exposes the depths of his heart for as he himself said, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34 ESV).
This long prayer of Jesus is held together by his constant address to the “Father”3)John 17: 1, 5, 11, 24, 25 ESV.
The unique titles “Holy Father” and “Righteous Father”4)John 17: 11, 25 ESV testify that the heart of the Father is being intimately expressed through the life of the Son so that its words are strongly prophetic.
“I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (John 17: 4 ESV) Although in time his completion of the work of God would await the “It is finished” of the cross (John 19:30 ESV) he talks of an already accomplished mission because in the Spirit he sees it as already done.
The historical reality of a temporal delay is less real than his vision of faith (Heb 11:1 ESV). On one level “the work” that the Father gave the Son to do (cf. John 4:34 ESV) is what he did for us in coming, dying and ascending to heaven.
But focusing on what Jesus did for us is can easily move the centre away from the Person of Jesus to the benefits he brings, away from his own humanity to ours.
This robs the Incarnation of its power by undervaluing the work which was accomplished in the transformation of Christ’s own humanity in humiliation and exaltation.
Jesus can help us only be our effective mediator because his own mortality is elevated to immortality. John 17 ESV is particularly helpful in dignifying this work of Christ through its powerful emphasis on “glory”5)John 17:1, 4-5, 10, 22, 24 ESV.
Only an appreciation and revelation of glory can release God-given unity.
GLORY OF JESUS
Jesus prayed, vs.1 “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, vs.2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. vs.3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:1-3 ESV)
The “work” which Jesus speaks of as “accomplished” (John 17:4 ESV) is the work of glorifying his Father and the eternal life of as knowing God and himself (vv.2-3) comes through the glorious way in which Father and Son know one another. This is addressed in the next request; “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:5 ESV).
Jesus is looking forward to returning to the eternal uncreated glory of God (John 6:62 ESV); being taking up in his humanity into the unlimited sphere of the Father’s presence.
To quote Paul, into union with vs.15 “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, vs.16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see.” (1 Tim 6:15-16 ESV)7) cf. Rev 4:11 ESV with Rev 5:12 ESV.
By death, resurrection and ascension Jesus will become one with the Father in a far more elevated way than possible during his earthly life.
As the triumphant Lamb of God the glorified humanity of Jesus now shares fully in the attributes of his Father, to quote Revelation, he is “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev 17:14 ESV)8)cf. Deut 10:17 ESV; Dan 2:47 ESV.
Since the work of the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45 ESV) is “much more” powerful than the ruin from the first Adam (Rom 5:15, 17, 20 ESV) Jesus has done far more than recover the glory lost in Eden (Rom 3:23 ESV).
The glory of the Lord Jesus and salvation in him is nothing like the feeble imaginings of a Buddhist Nirvana, Islamic Paradise, or tropical island getaway of Western dreams. Jesus has ascended (1 Tim 3:16 ESV) into unbreakable oneness with the uncreated glory of God. This is the glory he gives to his Bride the Church (Eph 3:21 ESV).
GLORY FOR THE CHURCH
Jesus’ prayer rises to supreme heights when he testifies, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one…. to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world…. that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”” (John 17:22, 24, 26 ESV)
The glory of God which Jesus gives to the Church for her unity is the eternal glory to which he has returned in heaven. This is beyond the limits of earthly manifestations for Christ has taken us his Body “into God” forever 9)Eph 1:3 ESV; Col 3:3 ESV.
By grace we are as essentially one as Christ is one with his Father. vs.10 “All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. vs.11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they maybe one, even as we are one.” (John 17:10-11 ESV).
We cannot make ourselves one or somehow become one by human effort. The unity we share is essentially divine and so an accomplished reality.
Peter testifies of the exceeding greatness of salvation by saying, vs.3 “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, vs.4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Pet 1:3-4 ESV).
As humanity fell into disintegration, death and decay (Rom 8:20-21 ESV) through selfish desire, our sharing in the oneness and incorruptibility of the character of God in Christ means glory and immortality10)Rom 2:7 ESV; 1 Pet 1:3, 23 ESV.
The essential unity of the Church is a sign of the power of the gospel to regenerate the creation by bringing it into the indissolubility of God’s own life11)Matt 19:28 ESV; Rev 21:4 ESV.
In sharing with us his own glory God has shared with us his own indivisible nature as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The New Testament the Trinitarian glory of God; “the Father of glory: (Eph 1:17 ESV), the “glory as of the only Son from the Father” in Jesus12)John 1:14 ESV cf. 2 Cor 4:6 ESV; Heb 1:3 ESV, and “the Spirit of glory and of God” (1 Pet 4:4 ESV).
There are not three separate glories but one glory in three Persons perfectly united in love.
As the one Church shares in the unity of the one God it is impossible for there to be a denominational, Anglican, Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic or Orthodox etc., glory. If we think otherwise we are as foolish as the contending factions in the Corinthian Church of whom Paul asked, “Is Christ divided” (1 Cor 1:13 ESV).
GLORY MAKES THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE
Jesus prayed for the unity of the people of God for an express purpose, so “that the world may believe that you have sent me…. that the world may know that you sent me…” (John 17:21, 23 ESV).
Unity makes spiritual realities visible in a way that engenders belief because unity is the result of glory, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,” (John 17:22 ESV).
God’s glory appears (Ex 16:10 ESV), is revealed (Isa 40:5 ESV), it can be seen (Num 14:22 ESV), it is radiant13)Matt 16:27 ESV; Luke 2:9 ESV; 2 Cor 4:6 ESV; Acts 7:55 ESV; Acts 22:11 ESV.
Glory makes the invisible God visible.
This is why the Word became flesh; “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18 ESV), “he (the beloved Son) is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15 ESV).
This revelation of the invisible God happens most potently in the Church.
God is “seen” in his Word put forth14)Isa 1:1-2 ESV; Isa 13:1 ESV; Rev 1:1-2, 12 ESV, and “the manifestation of the Spirit” in spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:7 ESV) is a real seeing of the Person of the Holy Spirit.
Glory gives people a revelation of the inner reality of God. So when Barnabas came down from Jerusalem to test out what was really happening amongst the Gentiles in Antioch, “he… saw the grace of God” (Acts 11:23 ESV). Making the spiritual visible through the impartation of glory is central to the ministry of God’s Holy Spirit (1 Pet 4:4 ESV).
GLORY IN THE SPIRIT
Jesus declared, vs.13 “When the Spirit of truth comes….vs.14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-14 ESV), but the Spirit’s ability to reveal Jesus to the Church hinges on Christ’s own prior glorification.
vs.37 “Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. vs.38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” vs.39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39 ESV)
The Spirit was not “given” until Jesus glorified the Father through his suffering and returned to the majesty of heaven. Only when the humanity of the Son had been united with the glory of the eternal God could the Spirit be poured out at Pentecost.
The mission of the Church released at Pentecost was an answer to Jesus’ prayer in John 17.
SENT IN GLORY
In John 17 the disciples are believers because they know Jesus has been “sent” by the Father (John 17: 3, 8, 25 ESV). This sentness is the sole way in which Jesus oneness with God is revealed in love.
Before however the disciples can “see” that Jesus is one with God his own knowledge of being sent as the Saviour of the world testifies to Christ of how much the Father loves the world in sacrificing him the only Son (John 3:16 ESV).
This also is the basis of Jesus’ own sense of being loved; “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.” (John 10:17 ESV).
Only through sacrificial self-giving in sending and being sent are and Father and Son united in love15)John 8:55 ESV cf. John 17:3 ESV. Without the Word becoming flesh the depths of the inner love of God would have remained unknowable.
Jesus’ prayer makes it plain that we are loved by the Father with the same glorious eternal love which sent him into the world, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me…. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (vv.23, 25).
The result of our oneness is that “the world may know that you sent me” (v.23).
All this means that the unity of the Church is an essentially missional unity, a unity experienced and expressed in being sent; “all wills bowing in the same direction, all affections burning with the same flame, all aims directed to the same end….an inward unity expressing itself in a common message and mission…. (Milligan-Moulton; Strachan)”.
Only by cooperating in mission can the Church reveal the full extent of the saving love of God. If in Christ God shares with us his own glory, love and unity why do we live as so divided?
The answer must have to do with the cross.
JOHN (Seventeen) and the CROSS
As Paul confronted the contending parties in Corinth by holding up “the word of the cross” (1 Cor 1:10 ESV ff.) so Jesus’ great High Priestly prayer necessarily begins with a consciousness of his “hour” of suffering (v.1).
Jesus knows that without his suffering the love of God cannot be perfected, his oneness with the Father cannot be shared and the revelation of glory cannot be completed. The theme of the revelation of the glory of God in John’s Gospel is highly distinctive16)John 1:14 ESV; John 2:11 ESV; John 12:41 ESV.
The fullness of the loving glory of the unseen God (John 1:18 ESV) is decisively manifest in Jesus willingness to die (John 10:17 ESV). Whereas abandonment characterises Christ’s cries in other Gospels in John the note of fulfillment is dominant (John 19:24, 28, 36 ESV).
The climactic words from the cross, ““it is finished”” (John 19:30 ESV), reveal the perfecting of the Son’s oneness with Father by testifying that he has completed all the will of God.
The suffering of the cross is the highest point of the revelation of Jesus’ unity with the Father because it is the highest expression of self-sacrificial love.
In dying the Son glorifies the Father through obedience to his will and so the Father glorifies the Son by giving him all authority that the world may know the truth of their shared glory (John 17:1-8 ESV) and become one with it.
When Jesus says in John 12 that in death he must be “lifted up” (John 12:32-33 ESV) the Jewish readers of the Gospel would connect this with the covenant curse of being cut off from God by hanging under the Law (Deut 21:22-23 ESV).
When “it is finished” the the Lamb of God has taken away the curse and opened a new creation for all believers17)John 1:29 ESV; John 3:14-15 ESV; John 6:51-58 ESV cf. Rev 22:3 ESV.
Jesus proclaimed the necessity of his death for the creation of a new community; “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified … unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:23-24 ESV).
Jesus is no longer alone in the glory of his Father (cf. Heb 2:10 ESV) because his death has released his glorified life into the world.
If we would be dynamically united with the glory and unity of God we must walk with Jesus in the way of self-sacrificial love and in the laying down of life for friends18)John 12:25-26 ESV; John 15:12-13 ESV; Eph 5:2 ESV.
For Christians to live together in love and unity requires an active participation in the sacrifice of Christ for others.
In 2 Corinthians 1:5-6 ESV Paul seems to tie his sufferings to the actualisation of fellowship in the Church. vs.5 “For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ we share in the overflow of comfort too. vs.6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation.”
Christ’s sufferings flow into our lives through the anointing of the Spirit and flow out to others for their completion in Christ.
Suffering with Jesus releases the fullness of his sacrifice in the Church (Col 1:24 ESV); this is why Paul exhorts the Ephesians, “I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.” (Ephesians 3:13 ESV). This glory makes the invisible God visible in the fruit of the unity of the Church for the salvation of the world.
John 17 reveals the heart of the Father in the prayer of his Son, a prayer to be shared in as the one Church of God.
Christ was willing to die so that through glory the love of the invisible Father might be made visible through the Church for the salvation of the world.
The visible unity of the people of God speaks prophetically of the destiny of the whole universe. In the plan of God love gives glory for the final unity of all things19)John 17:20-26 ESV; Eph 1:10 ESV.
The Church is as gloriously one as the Father and the Son (Eph 3:21 ESV) but constantly struggles to manifest the character of this eternal unity through her unwillingness to embrace the scandal of the cross.
Our disunity reflects our failure to love (Col 3:14 ESV) one another sacrificially in the power of the God who “so loved the world” which hated and murdered his Son20)John 3:16 ESV; John 7:7 ESV; John 15:18 ESV; John 17:14 ESV
The circle of love which is the Father, Son and Spirit in their mutual other-glorifying is already drawn around all those who are in Christ.
Our great need is for mothers and fathers in faith who live self-sacrificial lives to release Christ’s glory for the churches and authoritatively teach others how to live in the same way.
Our manifest divisions are a tragedy for the world for which Christ died.
Only a revival of love can turn back the tide of fragmentation which has flowed so powerfully across the centuries.
This would be a tremendous miracle, but since all this has already been accomplished in Christ it is not beyond the reach of faith21)John 17:4 ESV; John 19:30 ESV.
MESSAGE DELIVERED: 5. November, 2018 Location: Unknown
Author: Dr. John Yates
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References [ + ]
|1.||↑||FIELD NOTE: [The original much shorter form of this sermon was preached in Khamti in Nagaland, Myanmar. People from 12 churches had gathered on the first day of our seminar. The locals were excited by this level of expressed unity.]|
|2.||↑||Matt 28:10 ESV; John 20:17 ESV; Rom 8:29 ESV; Heb 2:11-12, 17 ESV|
|3.||↑||John 17: 1, 5, 11, 24, 25 ESV|
|4.||↑||John 17: 11, 25 ESV|
|5.||↑||John 17:1, 4-5, 10, 22, 24 ESV|
|6.||↑||John 7:30 ESV; John 8:20 ESV; John 13:1 ESV; John 16:32 ESV|
|7.||↑||cf. Rev 4:11 ESV with Rev 5:12 ESV|
|8.||↑||cf. Deut 10:17 ESV; Dan 2:47 ESV|
|9.||↑||Eph 1:3 ESV; Col 3:3 ESV|
|10.||↑||Rom 2:7 ESV; 1 Pet 1:3, 23 ESV|
|11.||↑||Matt 19:28 ESV; Rev 21:4 ESV|
|12.||↑||John 1:14 ESV cf. 2 Cor 4:6 ESV; Heb 1:3 ESV|
|13.||↑||Matt 16:27 ESV; Luke 2:9 ESV; 2 Cor 4:6 ESV; Acts 7:55 ESV; Acts 22:11 ESV|
|14.||↑||Isa 1:1-2 ESV; Isa 13:1 ESV; Rev 1:1-2, 12 ESV|
|15.||↑||John 8:55 ESV cf. John 17:3 ESV|
|16.||↑||John 1:14 ESV; John 2:11 ESV; John 12:41 ESV|
|17.||↑||John 1:29 ESV; John 3:14-15 ESV; John 6:51-58 ESV cf. Rev 22:3 ESV|
|18.||↑||John 12:25-26 ESV; John 15:12-13 ESV; Eph 5:2 ESV|
|19.||↑||John 17:20-26 ESV; Eph 1:10 ESV|
|20.||↑||John 3:16 ESV; John 7:7 ESV; John 15:18 ESV; John 17:14 ESV|
|21.||↑||John 17:4 ESV; John 19:30 ESV|