Jesus' Will for Your Life
April 7, 2019 Speaker: Mitchel Kirchmeyer Series: Final Words for Following Jesus
Passage: John 17:1–26
Jesus wants us to know God truly so we love each other deeply to prove the gospel is true.
When I have faced big decisions in life, I’ve wanted to know what God’s will is. I might pray like this, “God, what do you want me to do? What is your will?” When Katie and I were trying to decide if we wanted to keep working with the college ministry of Cru or pursue being a pastor, we asked these questions. When I was in seminary and had the opportunity to plant a church, we asked these questions. Where to church plant was a big decision to make. Buying our house was a big decision to make. Whether we should pursue adoption was a big decision to make.
“What is God’s will for my life?” That’s a question many of us have probably asked at some point. I’m sure all of us have faced big decisions where we wanted to know what God’s will is and I’m sure many of us are facing big decisions now or will in the near future. What college should I go to? What job should I take? Which house should I buy? Where should I live? We sometimes imagine that we are at a fork in the road and if we make the wrong decision, we will be on the wrong path and outside of God’s will for the rest of our lives. Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we knew what God wants us to do?
Why do we want to know God’s will for our lives? How would we feel knowing that what we are doing is God’s will?
This week we are continuing our series called Final Words for Following Jesus in the last chapters of the Gospel According to John. As Jesus prepares his disciples for his death, he gives them final instructions for remaining connected with him. In John 17, Jesus stops speaking to them and starts speaking to God. He prays for himself, for his disciples, and for future disciples like us who will believe through them. And in this prayer, we get a unique window into Jesus’ heart. In many ways, his prayer summarizes all he has been saying to them. It shows us his deepest desire for anyone who wants to follow him and be his disciple.
Jesus has talked multiple times about “praying in his name,” which means praying in alignment with who he is and what he is about. It means praying in alignment with his will and what he desires. What better way to learn how to pray in Jesus’ name than by learning at what he himself prays?
Jesus prays for three different people: himself, his original disciples, future disciples As he does so, he makes four requests but they have two desires at their core. He also has a specific outcome that will happen if these requests are fulfilled. The big idea that summarizes the two desires and the outcome is this: Jesus wants us to know God truly so we love each other deeply to prove the gospel is true. Jesus wants us to know God truly so we love each other deeply to prove the gospel is true.
We’ll break up Jesus’ prayer into three parts for the three different people he prays for. Let’s start in with Jesus’ prayer for himself in verses 1 through 5.
Jesus Prays for Himself (John 17:1-5)
Jesus spent the final week of his life in Jerusalem. And the night that he knew he would be betrayed, arrested, then sentenced to his death, he had this final conversation with his disciples. It started around supper then moved to the streets of Jerusalem. But after talking with them, Jesus then talks to God in a prayer as they walk through the streets of Jerusalem. Let’s walk through his prayer starting in verse 1:
1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come;
Jesus has been saying that his hour has come, meaning it’s the time to give his life. In light of that, he makes a request:
“Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,
Jesus’ first request is that God the Father would glorify him. “To glorify” someone means to make much of them - to reveal and declare their importance and worth. For what purpose does Jesus want the Father to reveal his importance and worth? That the Son may glorify the Father. Jesus desires that he be glorified so that he can glorify his Father. How does Jesus glorify the Father? Verse 2 gives some clarity.
2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.
“Since” or “because” the Father has given him authority over all flesh, Jesus asks that the Father would glorify him. What has Jesus been given authority to do? He says to give eternal life to all whom the Father has given them. Jesus has authority to give eternal life to people. What is eternal life? Jesus says in verse 3:
3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.
Eternal life is knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ who he sent. Eternal life is not what happens after we die. Eternal life is found in a relationship with God the Father and God the Son. Eternal life is being connected to God. Jesus goes on in verse 4:
4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.
Before anything else existed, Jesus existed with the Father. Jesus was with God and he was glorious. This takes us back to John 1. But Jesus came to earth and glorified God on earth by accomplishing God’s work.
What has Jesus accomplished? Jesus has revealed what God is really like. Jesus has shown his disciples and everyone else he has met the glorious character of God in a human being. And now he is about to go to his death which will accomplish the Father’s plan to restore humanity’s relationship with him. Why should Jesus be glorified? Because he has been put in charge of accomplishing the Father’s plan of salvation to give eternal life. His death will look like defeat and failure but it is actually him being faithful to accomplish the eternal plan of God to reconnect humanity with our Creator. It’s actually the most powerful display of the Father’s love for the world and the climactic event of his loving plan for the world. That’s why Jesus prays to be glorified because he is about to accomplish God’s eternal plan of love through his sacrificial obedience.
That brings us back to our big idea: Jesus wants us to know God truly so we love each other deeply to prove the gospel is true.
Jesus does what he does to make a relationship with God available to us. Jesus wants us to know God truly - as he is. Our biggest problem in life is not that we don’t know what to do. Our biggest problem in life is that we don’t know who God really is. Jesus came to reveal that God is way better than we so often think he is or believe he is. Jesus, the Son of God, left heaven to die the death we deserve. He paid for our forgiveness. This is a display of the mighty love of God.
What is Jesus’ will for your life? It’s that you know God truly. Everything God wants for you is accomplished through Jesus - his plan and will for you is that you know him.
Next, Jesus prays for the eleven disciples walking with him in Jerusalem in verses 6 through 19.
Jesus Prays for His Original Disciples (John 17:6-19)
Verses 6 through 11 tell us why he is praying for them. Basically it is because they have come to know God. They have come to believe the gospel. Jesus has revealed the truth about God to them and they have come to know God truly. Let’s read those verses.
6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. (John 17:6-11a)
Jesus says he has manifested Manifested the Father’s name to them, meaning he has revealed who God really is to them. They know the truth about God, primarily that he is loving beyond their wildest imagination. He says that they belong to the Father and the Father has given them to Jesus. He has been entrusted with them. He takes care of them. In the words of John 10, he is their shepherd and they are his sheep.
And he says that they have come to know the truth that Jesus was sent by God. They trust in him as their King. They are keeping his word and obeying him. They’ve committed to Jesus.
Jesus’ first request to God was that he would glorify him. His second request comes in the second half of verse 11.
Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (John 17:11b)
“God’s name” is God’s character. It’s who he is. His name represents everything true about him. Jesus asks the Father to keep them in that truth - to keep them believing what’s true about God’s character. To keep them knowing God truly.
For what purpose? That they may be one, even as he and is Father are one. Jesus has made a big deal about oneness in his final words. He wants us to be one with him and thus one with God the Father. He wants us to be united in relationship and in purpose with him. But thus far he has no spoken about oneness with each other. What he has said is that the world will know we are his disciples by our love for one another. Jesus’ final command he wants them to make sure they keep is to love one another as he has loved them. At the end of this prayer in verse 26, he prays that the love with which the Father has loved him would be in his disciples.
It makes sense that if we are one with Jesus that we would be one with each other. If we are all committed to and connected to Jesus in relationship and we are all one with him in purpose, that would be we are united in who is at the center of our lives and who we are living our life for. Jesus says that if we are going to live for him that what he really wants us to do is love each other like he has loved us.
Our big idea says this: Jesus wants us to know God truly so we love each other deeply to prove the gospel is true.
Knowing God truly - knowing the truth that God loves us so much he would pay for the wrongs we have done himself - transforms us to love one another deeply with that same sort of love.
Jesus’ prayer here is that his disciples would keep knowing God truly. Why does he think they won’t? He explains in verses 12 through 14.
12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 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. (John 17:12-14)
While Jesus has been with them, he has kept them in the truth about God. He has helped them walk in the light. But he is about to return to the Father and he knows the world is going to hate them. There is going to be immense pressure to stop following Jesus. There is going to be immense pressure to stop believing what’s true about God - to stop believing the gospel. They are going to be in the world, but if they keep following Jesus they are going to look like foreigners in their own country. In verse 15 Jesus gets even more clear:
15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. (John 17:15-16)
The “evil one” refers to Satan, the ruler of this world, the ancient Serpent who deceived Adam and Eve with a lie about God. And the evil one will continue to lead people away from God by getting them to believe lies about God rather than the truth. The only way out of the world head for eternal destruction is to believe the truth about God to have eternal life.
Then in verses 17 and 19 Jesus makes his third request in this prayer. He says:
17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. (John 17:17-19)
“Sanctify” and “consecrate” are the same words in the original language and they meant to “make something holy” which means “to set it apart for use by God.” For something to be used by God, it needs to be made holy. For us to be holy, we need to be washed of our sins. Jesus’ death is what pays for them and when we surrender our lives to him, we are washed clean. Just like how Jesus washed the disciples, Jesus gets down on his knees and he washes our sin, our guilt, and our shame away.
When we hear the truth about God and know him truly, that sanctifies us. But we are not only saved from our sins; we are saved for God’s purposes. We are set apart for use by God. Jesus says he was sent into the world with a purpose and he set himself apart for use by God and now he sends them into the world so they may be set apart for us by God in the truth.
Jesus Prays for Future Disciples (John 17:20-26)
Jesus’ fourth request makes clear what this mission looks like. Jesus has commissioned these disciples to go into the world as he went into the world. And he anticipates they will help others follow Jesus. So in verses 20 through 26, he prays for future disciples that don’t even exist yet. He prayed for people who would believe 100 years after he lived, 500 years after he lived, 1,500 years after he lived, and he prayed for you and me. The main theme of his prayer is for oneness. Let’s read verses 20 through 26.
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 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. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 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.” (John 17:20-26)
Jesus’ desire for us is the same as his original disciples but he expands on why he wants us to love each other deeply. In verse 21 he says: so that the world may believe that you have sent me. Then in verse 23 he says: so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Jesus wants the world to know John 3:16: for God so loved the world that he sent his only Son.
These disciples have come to believe that good news: that Jesus was sent to bring us back to God. And we who have trusted in Jesus have come to believe that good news. Jesus has made the truth about God known to us in coming to die for our sins. He has made the truth of God’s love known.
Go back to our big idea: Jesus wants us to know God truly so we love each other deeply. Why? To prove the gospel is true.
Our love for each other shows the world that Jesus really was sent by God and that God really loves us. There’s a lot at stake! These three things are like a chain reaction. When we know God truly his love for us will create deep love for each other which will show the world that our message is true. It’s pretty unconvincing to tell people a message of God’s love if they see no love in us. “You are the people loved by God?”
Here’s a way to think of it. In order for a musical instrument to sound good, it needs to be in tune. We were made as instruments of God’s love. Our life is supposed reflect his love for us but it won’t unless we are in tune with the truth about God. We need to tune our hearts to what’s true about God - his name, his character, his word. Knowing God truly is what tunes us as instruments to play the beautiful music of his love. God’s will is that we do everything in tune with the truth about him.
Jesus wants us to know God truly so we will love each other deeply. Jesus wants us to be one with God so we will be one with each other. If you think about an orchestra and the conductor of an orchestra, they are different people but they are one. All the instruments are tuned to the same pitch. All the musicians follow the conductor’s lead and together they pursue one purpose and create one song.
We need to know God truly as our conductor. We need to follow his lead. We need to be in tune with who he is. Then as God’s people, we are all in tune with the same reality of his love for us. And as one group, we follow his lead.
But it isn’t just that Jesus has left us with a sheet of music to play and says good luck. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to be our conductor. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to live inside us and to be with us. The Holy Spirit tunes our hearts to the truths of the gospel. And He’s directing us in how to live in light of the gospel.
Jesus says that his greatest desire for us is that we would know God truly. What gets in the way of knowing God?
Knowing God is Jesus’ biggest desire for your life. It’s what he literally gave his life to make possible for you. This is what keeps us from those things we listed earlier about why we want to know God’s will. If we are going to live God’s will for our lives, we need to know God.
God guides us in his will not so much in telling us what to do but in changing what we desire. As we get to know him, his desires become our desires. What he values becomes what we value. What he loves becomes what we love. His character becomes our character. Character formation is always a more powerful, lasting change than behavior modification. God desires a deeper change than simply telling us what to do. God wants to give us new desires that direct our decisions. That’s how the Spirit guides us from within.
Jesus’ will for your life is that you know God truly so we love each other deeply. If we love each other, it proves the gospel is true. It proves he came from God and that God loves us.
But instead of knowing God truly and loving each other deeply, we often try to play a solo with no regard for the conductor or the rest of the orchestra. Remember back to our tugging the rope image. We can’t be tugging on the rope with the conductor if we want to be one with him. We can’t be tugging on the rope with other orchestra members if we want to be one with them. We need to let go of the rope - stop tugging for our will, our desires, our preferences.
When it comes to God, we can say in our hearts, “I don’t need him. It’s about me.” And if we say that about God, what are we going to say about other people? “I don’t need them. It’s about me.” We can’t live as family and love as servants if this is our mindset.
Let’s say this out loud together: “I need God.” “It’s about him.” Turn to the person next to you and say, “I need you.” Now tell them, “It’s about God.”
Jesus calls us to be different from the world in our love. Love is both about connection and commitment. As a connection, love is a feeling. Love is affection. Love says, “I want to be with you.” But love is also a commitment. Love says, “I am committed to you. I’m not going anywhere.” Even if I have a hard time saying, “I want to be in this relationship,” I will stay. Even if leaving would be easier, even if giving up would be easier, I am not going anywhere, you can count on me, I am committed.
That is God’s commitment to us. And it’s not only that God commits to us despite our sin, despite our stubbornness, despite our difficult in following his will, despite our selfishness, but in his grace he also wants to be with us. Love from God is both connection and commitment. He takes joy in us. We are his treasured possession. And this is the type of love that Jesus wants to see in his disciples.
More in Final Words for Following Jesus
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