In the World but Not of It

July 29, 2019

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. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. John 17:14–17

In a society that is increasingly hostile to God, being a Christian isn’t always easy. And it’s going to get harder. Why doesn’t God take us directly to heaven when we are saved to spare us all this difficulty?

Jesus had washed His disciples’ feet. He had told these men that He was leaving and that the Holy Spirit was coming. He had told them that the world would hate them, and He had encouraged them to “be of good cheer” (John 16:33). Now Jesus began to pray.

Father,” He began, “the hour has come” (John 17:1)—the hour in which He would be glorified on the cross, the ultimate task for which He had been sent into the world. For three years Jesus had offered the people of Israel eternal life, and now He prayed, “I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4). He looked forward to sharing once again in His Father’s glory.

Who God Is

Jesus, knowing that His disciples would remain in the hostile environment of the world, began to pray for these men. “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me” (John 17:6), Jesus prayed. When Jesus came, people had been confused about God’s nature. Jesus had brought to His disciples and to Israel—and to us—a clear picture of who God is. Jesus had made God’s love and power and salvation known.

Now Jesus was about to leave His followers with their newfound knowledge of the Father and return to heaven. “Holy Father,” He continued, “keep through Your name those whom You have given Me” (John 17:11). The disciples would remain in enemy territory—the world system that lives in rebellion against God. Jesus prayed that the dangers of this fallen world would not sweep His followers away.

He prayed too that they would be protected from the directed, calculated strategy of our great adversary, Satan: “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). God allows Satan to have a certain freedom with us so that He can work things into us that wouldn’t be implanted any other way. But the Devil can’t do anything to us that the Lord doesn’t allow. None of us is a match for the Devil, but he is no match for the Lord.

Set Apart

Why does God leave us in this sin-saturated world? One reason is that He wants to use this life to sanctify us: “Sanctify them by Your truth” (John 17:17), Jesus prayed. The word “sanctify” simply means “to set apart.” Jesus was praying that His people would be set apart for God. He does this by His truth—His Word. With sin all around us, and inside us, we must immerse ourselves in the truth of God’s Word in order to guard against carnality. Every mature, Spirit-filled Christian on the planet has a serious relationship with the Word of God.

Now Jesus prayed for us: “I do not pray for these alone,” Jesus went on, “but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You” (John 17:20–21). Even when we don’t behave as if we are, all true believers in Christ are one. Christ is in us. The Father is in Christ. Christ is in me, and Christ is in you. We have an undeniable and unbreakable unity amid the animosity of this world.

Jesus Prays for Us

The world holds many dangers, toils, and snares that could sweep us away from the Lord. But Jesus prayed that while we are in the world, we would not be of the world. We are here for a reason: God is training us, growing us in Him so that we will be ready for the life to come.

In what ways are you tempted by the world? How might the enemy be attacking you right now? If you are struggling, be encouraged. The Lord has His eye on you. He is using your difficulties to make you more like Him and to prepare you for eternity.