Category Archives: Bible Study

How can we pray more like Jesus prays? Part 4

“17 Sanctifythem by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” John 17:17-18 

The night before Jesus was hung on a cross, Jesus turned to His Father in prayer in John 17. In this prayer, we have one of the most intimate glimpses anywhere in Scripture of the heart and mind of the Lord Jesus. This is the longest of our Lord’s recorded prayers. We are learning from this prayer, how to pray like Christ prays. So far we have learned that like Jesus, we are to pray…

– For God to be glorified when we face trials (John 17:1-5)

– For those we disciple (John 17:6-19) which includes…

  ~ Praying fortheir receptivity to God’s Word (John 17:6-8).

  ~ Praying for their protection from the world and the evil one (John 17:9-15).

The third way to pray for those we disciple is to pray for THEIR PURIFICATION THROUGH GOD’S WORD (John 17:16-19).  Jesus prayed, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:16). Jesus repeats that the disciples “are not of this world” in their position just as He was “not of the world.” They were to become less and less influenced by the world. How?

Next Jesus prayed, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17). The word “sanctify” (hagiázō), literally means to “set apart1  from the world or “to make holy.” This is not referring to perfection. It is referring to spiritual growth or maturity – becoming more like Christ. How? We are to be “set apart” from the world’s influence and its values “by” the Father’s “truth” which is His “word,” the Bible. We cannot grow spiritually apart from God’s Word. So the way we grow in holiness is by renewing our minds in accordance with the truth of God’s Word (cf. Romans 12:1-2). Disciples of Jesus must abide in His word if they are to know the truth of His word and be set free from the lies that enslave them to sin (cf. John 8:31-36). We must feed upon God’s word to experience the victory Jesus has already won for us (John 16:33).

Diagram 1

At a meeting, a Native American Indian said a black wolf lived in his heart, but when Christ became his Savior, a white wolf came to live in his heart, and the two wolves were then fighting all the time (see diagram 1). After the meeting, someone approached him and asked, “Which wolf wins, the white one or the black one?” The Indian replied, “The one I feed the most.” If we feed upon God’s Word and do it, we are going to experience more victory over the world and Satan in our Christian lives.  But if we feed upon the lies of Satan, we will experience more defeat in our Christian lives and be conformed to the world. I like what D.L. Moody wrote on the flyleaf of his Bible. “This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book.” That’s the truth. If I let this book become more and more a part of my life it will keep me away from sin. Or sin can keep me away from reading His word.

Tony Evans writes, “This process happens through internalizing the eternal truth of God’s Word. Think of the Word like food. You can chew it all day, but unless you swallow it, you receive no health benefits from it. You internalize God’s Word, not by merely hearing or reading it, but by trusting and obeying it. Then its work of spiritual transformation is activated in your life (see 2 Cor 3:17-18).” 3

Diagram 2

Sanctification or spiritual growth takes place as we learn and as we love and as we live God’s Word. It is a balance of those three things – learning it, loving it and living it. We learn it with our mind. But that’s not enough. We probably know a lot of people who have learned the Bible with their minds and can even quote verses, but they are not growing because they don’t love it. They don’t love it with their hearts. And they are not living it with their will. They are not deciding to do the things it says. It is like a three-legged stool (see diagram 2) – learning it, loving it, living it. You can’t leave out any of those things. We may know some people who are trying to live God’s word without loving the One who wrote it. When we do that, the Bible is just a law. There is no relationship with God. When we start to learn His word and what it says, we start to love it with our hearts, and live it with our wills. when we have all three legs of that stool together, we’ve got a solid foundation for growth (cf. Matthew 7:24-25).

Next Jesus prayed, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18). Now Jesus is setting His disciples apart through prayer to do the same work He had done. Instead of taking the disciples “out of the world” (John 17:15), Jesus was sending them “into the world.” Christ had trained them to continue what He had come to do – reveal the Father (cf. John 1:18). Notice that sanctification or spiritual growth (John 17:17) and sending (John 17:18) go together. Christ wants the world to see what He is like through disciples who are growing spiritually. If believers are not going into the world to make Christ known, they are not growing spiritually because sanctification (John 17:17) leads to reaching out to a lost world (John 17:18). If we are becoming more like Christ, we will develop the same love for the unsaved that Jesus has for them.

Earlier in His ministry, Jesus called His first disciples, “Follow Me,  and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19). If we are not fishing for men (evangelism), then we are not following Christ. Notice, however, that it is our responsibility to follow Jesus. Christ’s responsibility is to make us fishers of men. Do you feel inadequate to evangelize the lost? Do you ever think that you do not know enough to share the gospel with non-Christians? Ask the Lord Jesus to help you follow Him daily and He will teach you all you need to know about evangelism. The best way to learn to talk to unbelievers is to walk and talk with Jesus.

Then Jesus prayed, “And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” (John 17:19). How did Jesus, the sinless Son of God “sanctify” Himself? Keep in mind that the word “sanctify” can mean “to set apart.” Jesus set Himself apart from the world to do the will of His Father which involved His sacrificial death on the cross “for their sakes” (cf. Hebrews 10:5-10, 14). In dying for His disciples (and all of us), He did for them what they could never do for themselves. He also died so His disciples “may be sanctified by the truth.” Christ’s death permanently set believers apart from their sin and guilt (cf. Hebrews 10:10, 14) and it also broke sin’s control over them (cf. Romans 6:5-11).

How important it is for us to understand that our spiritual growth and development is being nurtured by Christ’s prayers for us. We are also to pray for one another’s spiritual growth. Pray for God’s Word to shape us and mold us into Christlike people. Pray for one another’s commitment to holiness and godliness.

Diagram 3

The water spider is an amazing little creature (see diagram 3). Called the frogman of the spider world, it lives in rivers and streams. How does this fascinating species survive in its watery environment? It spins a tough basket-like web of silk, a kind of diving bell, and anchors it under water to plants or other objects. Then it captures a surface air bubble, which it pulls down and ejects into its underwater house, filling it with air. This combination of web building and bubble trapping allows the water spider to live in an environment that normally  would destroy it.

As Christians, we also live in an environment which could destroy us. The world’s values, attitudes, and practices threaten to drown us unless we are able to protect ourselves from them. How are we to survive spiritually in this hostile world? We are to build a “bubble” of protection around ourselves by praying for and with one another. Prayer for one another can insulate our minds and help to keep us safe and secure in the Lord. As the water spider lives in the water but is not of the water, so we are to live in the world but not of the world.

Are you building a safe bubble by praying with and for other believers? Do you have a prayer partner? Sometimes our pride keeps us from asking for prayer from others. Jesus’ prayer reminds us that we need to be in a community of people who pray. We cannot grow spiritually in isolation from one another nor apart from God and His Word. We need both to influence the world for Christ.

Prayer: Father God, we live in a world where Satan uses politics, the media, the educational system, the economy, the laws of the land, and our unsaved family and friends to draw us away from You and make us less sensitive to Your Word. But You have called us to become less and less influenced by the world’s values through the transforming truth of Your Word, the Bible. Please activate Your Word in our lives as we learn, love, andlive Your Word. Renew our minds so that our thoughts align more with Yours. And as we grow closer to You, Lord Jesus, Your love for the lost people of this world will become ours. Increase our love for those for Whom You have died. Thank You, Jesus, for sending us into the world just as the Father sent You into the world. Please teach us all we need to know to effectively share Your gospel message with those who are perishing without You. Help us to build a “bubble” of protection around ourselves by praying for and with one another to keep us safe and secure in You, Lord Jesus, as we live in this hostile world. We desperately need You, Your Word, and one another to accomplish Your mission of making disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). Thank you, my Lord and my God, for giving us all we need to honor and glorify You in this process. In the mighty name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 307.

2. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, compiled by Walter Bauer, trans. and adapted by William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, 2nd ed., rev. and augmented by F. Wilbur Gingrich and Frederick W. Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979), pg. 8.

3. Tony Evans, CSB Bibles by Holman. The Tony Evans Bible Commentary (B&H Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, 2019), pg. 1815.

How can we overcome self-centeredness? Part 3

“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” John 12:27

When we encounter stressful situations, it may be easy for us to want to medicate our uncomfortable feelings with some kind of unhealthy coping behavior such as drinking alcohol, blaming others, gambling, playing violent video games, overeating, overspending, taking drugs, viewing pornography, or watching excessive amounts of TV. We may have practiced these coping behaviors for so long that we are not even aware of what we are doing. The common thread in all of these coping behaviors is self-protection. We are trying to protect ourselves from uncomfortable feelings, so we engage in these unhealthy coping behaviors.

But instead of avoiding these uncomfortable emotions, God wants us to bring them to Him. He already knows they exist, so there is no need to try to hide them from Him. This is similar to what Jesus did when He experienced intense emotions prior to His approaching crucifixion.

In our study of John 12:20-33 we are learning how to overcome self-centeredness. So far we have discovered that the way to overcome our self-centeredness is through…

– Seeking Jesus (John 12:20-22).

– Self-denying service to Christ (John 12:23-26).

The third way to overcome our self-centeredness is by SURRENDERING TO GOD’S CONTROL IN PRAYER (John 12:27-30). Jesus said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” (John 12:27). As Jesus contemplated all that was involved in His approaching death – He would die for the sins of the world and endure separation from His Father – He experienced a surge of emotion which drove Him to His Father in prayer. He was emotionally stressed and turned to His Father asking, “What shall I say (not do)? Father save Me from this hour?” In view of His upcoming sufferings on the cross, He was tempted to shrink back and ask for deliverance from this major trial. This was a normal human response, but Christ prevailed through prayer.

Likewise, if we are going to overcome our self-centeredness, we must surrender to the Lord’s control in prayer. If God’s Spirit is to be released from our inner man, we must surrender to the Lord when we face difficulties and trials instead of succumbing to them and our selfish desires. When we feel out of control, we may often try to control the situation or the people involved. But God wants us to look to Him in prayer during those stressful times. Prayer is dependence upon God. One way to determine how much we are depending upon the Lord is to look at our prayer life. The more we are praying, the more we are depending upon the Lord. The less we are praying, the less we are depending on Him. God will use difficulties in our lives to make us more dependent upon Him.

Jesus then prayed, “Father, glorify Your name.” (John 12:28a). Jesus came to “this hour” (12:27b) of suffering to “glorify” His Father through His death on the cross. Even though Jesus knew all the trials and troubles He was getting in to, He endured them so His Father would be glorified. When Jesus prayed, “Father glorify Your name,” He reminds us of a very important principle. We are to let God glorify what we do, not us. Jesus did not pray, “I will glorify Your name.” Jesus let His Father do the glorifying. He saw that His Father was in control. He submitted to His father and His Father glorified what His Son had done.

We are to focus on doing God’s will and let Him glorify what we do. Do not try to do God’s job. He is big enough to bring honor to Himself. How often we may try to get in God’s way by drawing attention to what we do. Let God draw the attention. God glorified and exalted His Son (Philippians 2:8-11) after His Son submitted to His will, and one day God will exalt and honor those who are surrendered to Him now. The Bible says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (I Peter 5:6). Our responsibility is to humble ourselves before God. It is His responsibility to exalt us in His time and way.

Also, when Jesus faced the cross, He denied Himself and sacrificed His life. His self-denying obedience to the Father’s will glorified the Father. Jesus wants His disciples to face trials in the same way. He struggled and went to God and sought to glorify Him. Can we say that our purpose in going through trials is to glorify God? By His grace we certainly can. When we endure trials through God’s strength, He receives all the glory.

As Jesus approached the time of His sufferings, He understood who was in control, but did the people? 28b Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’ 29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, ‘An angel has spoken to Him.’ ” (John 12:28b-29). A thunderous voice from heaven said, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again” through the death of Jesus. God the Father was in control and He would glorify Himself through the triumph of the cross. The crowd heard the sound of God’s voice, but some thought it had thundered, while others thought an angel had spoken to Christ. They did not understand God’s message, but they should have.

Christian author and speaker, J. Vernon McGee says, “That is the same reaction many people still have today. They say God’s Word is full of errors and the miracles recorded can’t be accurate. Because they don’t believe in them, they say it just ‘thundered.’ ” 1  

“Jesus answered and said, ‘This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake.’ ” (John 12:30). God’s message was meant to benefit the crowd, not Jesus. They needed to recognize that God the Father was in control and would be victorious. God intended this to be an auditory approval of His Son so that the crowd might believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah-God.

Jesus understood His Father’s voice, do we? We have the Holy Spirit to help us understand God’s Word. First John 2:20, 26-27 say, “20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things… 26 These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you. 27 But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him.” Ask the Holy Spirit to give you understanding and teach you as you read and study the Bible. You can also ask His Spirit to give you the power to obey what the Lord is saying to your heart and mind.

One reason we may not hear God’s voice is because we have so much noise in our lives. We may be too busy to slow down enough to hear the still small voice of God’s Spirit. Take time today to slow down and listen to the voice of God. Find a quiet place to meet with the Lord. Then take a few moments to do some deep breathing. Inhale God’s peace and exhale your stress. Inhale God’s peace and exhale your stress. Then read a Bible passage aloud, slowly, and attentively. Then pause to let it sink in. Read the passage again, this time asking the question, “Where am I in this verse?” Finally, read the verse or passage again noticing what word or words jump out at you, grabbing your attention. Meditate on those words. Chew on them for a while.

Then write down what you observe the Holy Spirit saying to you. Writing down what you observe clarifies your thought processes and involves another whole section of your brain. Then request that the Holy Spirit help you see how all of this applies to your life. Instead of asking God to help you analyze His Word, ask Him to use His Word to analyze you. This is a supernatural process that produces a neurochemical flow of new understanding where your mind is being renewed (Romans 12:1-2). Once the Holy Spirit gets you headed in the direction God wants you to go, dedicating yourself to that direction in life will be used by the Lord to transform your life from the inside out.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for not surrendering to Your intense emotions when You contemplated the cross. Instead, You surrendered to the will of Your Father Who sent You to glorify His name by dying in our place on a cross as our Substitute. If Your love was a feeling, You never would have died for us. Thank You for showing me that You understand what it is like to feel troubled inwardly when faced with extremely difficult circumstances (Hebrews 4:15). You know how it feels to have a storm of emotions raging in one’s heart before yielding to the Father’s will. Thankfully, You are not overwhelmed by my intense emotions. You understand that the best thing I can do with them is to share them with You in prayer. And as I talk to You about those uncomfortable emotions, their power is diffused and Your peace that surpasses human understanding can guard my heart and mind as I yield to Your control. By Your grace, I want to give everyone and everything to You. Glorify Your name my Lord and my God however You deem best. In Jesus’ matchless name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTE:

1. J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee. 5 vols. Pasadena, Calif.: Thru The Bible Radio; and Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1983, 4:448.