Advance 2020 – Devotion
January 12, 2020
The second of our Four Points is Devotion, which we describe with the tag “We Love God.” John 17 reminds us of the importance of this biblical theme in two ways: by reminding us of our need to be sanctified by His Word, and by demonstrating our need for one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.
We find John 17 at the end of what scholars call the Farewell Discourse (John 14-17), the last set of Jesus’ teaching in John’s Gospel. This chapter is the longest recorded prayer of Jesus. For a whole chapter, we get a glimpse into Jesus’s prayer life! What kinds of things does He prioritize as He prepares for His betrayal and crucifixion? What Jesus says to the Father has direct bearing on us today, for His prayer concerns us, His Church, directly!
God’s Glory (vv. 1-5)
What does it mean that they are glorifying one another?
In these verses, Jesus speaks to the Father about the Father glorifying Him, and Him glorifying the Father. What does it mean that they are glorifying one another? Theologian Wayne Grudem defines God’s glory as “the superlative honor that should be given to God by everything in the universe.” In this passage “glory” is unique because it refers to glory that was uniquely shared between the Father and Son (and by implication, the Holy Spirit). God has been glorifying Himself through all eternity. He alone knows fully how amazing He is! Created beings can only glorify God as spectators and reflectors of His glory.
How does the Father glorify the Son and the Son glorify the Father?
Throughout John 17, we see references to Jesus’s imminent death and His subsequent return to the Father (verses 11, 13). The Father will glorify the Son by receiving His sacrifice as full payment for our sin, and will receive Him back into His presence following His death. Jesus is about to glorify God by testifying to all people that God is just and must punish sin, but that He is also merciful because He makes that payment on our behalf.
Do we glorify God?
We were created to bring God the honor He deserves, but our willful rebellion against God meant that we were unable to bring Him glory. We were no longer able to, nor did we want to! Instead, we focused on ourselves. This is what is meant in Romans 3:23 when it says “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” As a matter of fact, the only way we would glorify God was in receiving His just punishment of our sins.
In verse 4, Jesus speaks of His own perfect life, lived completely for God’s glory. Jesus offers this perfect life up on our behalf on the cross. His purpose: to give us eternal life, with a right standing before God (our slates wiped clean) and a new heart that wants to know and glorify Him! Verse 3 says that our new life is all about knowing God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent. Devotion, then, is the response to what is happening in verses 1 and 2 as we give our lives to the new purpose of loving God.
Devoting Ourselves to God on His Terms (vv. 6-19)
In verse 6, Jesus turns to the topic of His new people, specifically His disciples. We see evidence that they are God’s new people because they keep His Word (v. 6), they know that Jesus’s teaching comes from God (v. 7), they have believed that He came from God (v. 8), and they have been changed by Jesus words (v. 14).
This is what happens with us when we become believers. We received God’s Word into our hearts, and it changes us. Apart from Him showing us who He is, we would never know Him. As finite beings, we do not have God’s perspective on the world. We are blinded by our own sin, making it impossible to see Him for who He is. We may see Him as a cosmic killjoy who stands in opposition to our having a good time. Or we may see Him as a person whose favor can be purchased by a few good deeds scattered here and there over the course of our lives. However, when God makes our hearts awake and alive in Jesus (regeneration), we begin to see Jesus for who He is.
Jesus says that God’s Word is Truth
In verse 17, Jesus says “your word is truth” (alethia). He could have used the adjective, “true” saying that God’s Word aligned with some external measure of truth. Jesus states that God’s word is actually the standard measure. God’s Word is that source of truth for our world, and it sanctifies us.
The words “sanctify” and “holiness” have gotten a bad rap because so many people have used them when referring to external behavior. God knows our hearts (1 Sam 16:7; Jn 2:24-25) and sees whether our actions come from a desire to justify ourselves before others, like the Pharisees, or whether they come from pure hearts that have been changed by Him.
Sanctified means that something is set apart for God’s use. In verse 19, Jesus speaks of His consecration of Himself, not that He is adding to His perfect holiness, but that He is setting Himself apart for His work on the cross. He is fully focused on His mission. Sanctification is devoting ourselves to Jesus, becoming like Him. This is what all Christians want to do because we have a new nature. We need to be changed by God’s Word each day, to become more like Him. Regular hearing, reading, studying, memorization (Ps 119:9-11), and meditation (Josh 1:8) on God’s Word are like food for our renewed hearts! We need to take in and be changed by His Word.
Devotion to God by Loving One Another with His Love (vv. 20-26)
In verse 11, Jesus prayed that His disciples be one, just as He and the Father are one. This is a tall order, when we consider the inseparable bond between the three Persons of the Trinity. Jesus’ prayer is that we grow together, like family. Family language (brothers and sisters) is frequently used to describe the church in the New Testament.
Consider Ephesians 1:3-6. Paul speaks of God’s rescue plan, lovingly planned before the foundation of the world, to make us God’s sons and daughters through Jesus’ work on the cross. God has made us a family, and He means to join us together in the practical stuff of everyday life. It is never a question of whether we are family, it is just a question of whether we are going to act like it or not! We become one by loving one another with the love that Jesus places into our hearts.
Verse 21 says that as we become one, the world will believe that God has sent Jesus. The Word of God will be believed because of the love of God in the family of God.
How do we become one?
There are many commands throughout the New Testament that tell us how we are to express God’s love to one another. We are to:
- Serve one another (Gal 5:13)
- Pray for one another (Jas 5:16)
- Bear one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2)
- Forgive one another (Col 3:13)
- Exhort one another (Heb 3:13)
Growing in Devotion to God is not a solo project. We need one another in order to grow in Christlikeness.
Our Plan at Four Points
We want to obey God’s commands together, which is why we have a structure and a plan for building each other up in love. Everyone in God’s family should have a seat at the table! Our structure includes:
- Small Groups, which meet several times a month in homes for Conversations, Care and Mission
- Dwell and Forged Groups, smaller same-gender groups with a focus on study and accountability
- Four Points University classes, more geared towards training, but another opportunity to gather and form relationships
We use these opportunities to grow in our Devotion to God’s Word and to grow in God’s love as family. Following Jesus in community will cost you time, effort and intentionality, but the whole church will be built up in love as we come together. People will see who Jesus is through His love at work in Jesus’ family, the Church.
- How do we see God’s rescue plan mentioned throughout John 17? How does this passage give us a unique view of the Gospel?
- Do you give priority to studying God’s Word in your own life? If so, what have you found helpful? If not, why not? How can you make personal reading and study of God’s Word a priority?
- Do you memorize and meditate on God’s Word? Why or why not? Consider choosing a passage to memorize over the next month and sharing it with someone for accountability.
- How are you actively involved in Devotion at Four Points Church? How can you take a step towards joining our family more closely during this new year?
- Why does God want us to be joined to His church in love before we are sent on mission into the world? What is the importance of the Church to God, according to this passage?
- Read some of the “one another” passages above. After reading them, can you see that sanctification is not a solo project?