The strategy of Jesus on earth revolved around two main aspects: a message of redemption and a method of reproduction. Jesus’ strategy depended on a few disciples’ faithfulness to advance the message of redemption by following his method of reproduction. If we do not reproduce ourselves in disciple-making, then we will do a pitiful job of advancing the message of redemption. Will we be faithful to obey his plan? In this message on John 17:1–8, David Platt reminds us that God is glorified in the completion and continuation of the incarnation.
1. The Work of Jesus
2. The Foundation of Disciple-Making
3. The First Component of Disciple-Making
If you have a Bible, and I hope you do. Let me invite you to open to the book of John. Feel free to use your table of contents, if you need to. While you are turning there, to the book of John, I want to ask you the question. Start off this morning with a little Bible quiz. One question…probably pretty simple…hopefully. I want to know when and where Jesus said these words? When and where was He when He said, “It is finished?” Anybody know? He was on the cross! Okay. That’s our first answer. That is one of the places where Jesus said those words.
Look at John 19:30. One of the times where Jesus says, “It is finished.” This is where we often immediately think …well, when Jesus said He is finished, He was done, He finished all that He was supposed to do; it was John 19:30. When He is on the cross and says, “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).
Does anybody know the other time when Jesus said that He was finished? Turn back two chapters to John 17:4. Jesus uses the same word there. You kind of miss it because it is translated in some of our translations differently but it says in verse four, “I have brought you glory”—this is Jesus praying to the Father. “I have brought you glory on earth by completing”—or finishing—“the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). Same word in the original language of the New Testament that we see in John 19:30 is now used here in John 17:4.
The Work of Jesus…
Now here is what I want us to do today. I want us to think, if Jesus said it is finished on the cross but He also said I have finished the work you have given me to do in John 17 before He went to the cross. This doesn’t say that the cross wasn’t important, that was obviously a very important part of His work but there was also another work that He was doing here. That He could say even before He went to the cross, “I’ve finished the work you have given me to do.”
The strategy of Jesus on earth revolved around two main aspects …
I wanted us to begin by thinking about the work of Jesus this morning and I think the work and strategy of Jesus revolves around two main aspects:
One, in John 19:30, a message of redemption that was the picture on the cross that Jesus was giving His life to redeem men and women, which basically was to restore us to God. That was part of His work and obviously the central part of His work giving His life on the cross but in John 17, before He even went to the cross, He says, past tense, “I’ve finished the work you have given me to do.” What’s He talking about there? Let’s call that John 17:4, the method of reproduction, and what you’ve got is two aspects to Jesus work. Yes, He went to the cross and died on the cross to restore us to the Father. At the same time, he’s showing us a picture here of how His work also involved how that message is going to be reproduced throughout the entire world. I think that is the picture we have in John 17. He says this at the beginning of this prayer, “I have finished the work you have given me to do.” Then, he begins to describe that work. Over the next 22 verses we’ve got a picture of Jesus summarizing His work on earth.
What is interesting is that not one time does He mention a miracle that He performed. Not one time does He talk about the blind who could now see, the person who was dead who was now alive, or the person who was poor who had come into contact with Him and been healed of their sickness. But over 40 times, He mentions the men God had given Him out of the world. He never once mentions a miracle, He never once mentions all the masses and multitudes of people that followed Him but 40 times He mentions the men God had given
Him out of the world.
So here’s what I want you to do. You’ve got John 17 open. If you are okay with marking in your Bible, here’s what I want you to do. We’re going to read through this prayer and every time you see the word disciples or even us, as disciples of Christ two thousand years later mentioned, then I want you to put a box around each word in this chapter that describes His disciples or us. You might circle it, put a square, underline it or whatever it might be but every time you see the disciples mentioned put a mark there in your Bible. Let’s read this together now.
Now keep in mind; we are coming into a conversation between God the Son and God the Father right before He goes to the cross and He prays this prayer out loud for a reason. His disciples are there in the upper room and they are listening. Here’s what He says, verse 1:
He looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began’ (John 17:1—5).
Now some of you are thinking, “Alright, Dave, we have got a long way to go to get 40 plus times. Well, get your pen/pencil ready.
I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. My prayer is not for them alone (John 17:6—20).
This is where disciples of Christ come in after that, including us…
I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one:
I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them (John 17:20—26).
Do you get the point? Over and over and over again, Jesus says at the beginning, “I’ve finished the work you have given me to do.” And then, 40 plus times, He references this small group of men that He had poured His life into. Could it be that His work, yes, exemplified in the cross was preceded by His work of pouring His life into a few men, i.e. making disciples? They were His life that He had poured into so that He comes to the end of His ministry, He says, everything is staked on these guys.
Jesus’ strategy depended on a few disciples’ faithfulness to advance this message of redemption through a method of reproduction.
Don’t miss it, Jesus’ strategy depended on a few disciples’ faithfulness to advance this message of redemption through a method of reproduction. His whole work, His whole life in ministry hinged on the faithfulness of these few guys. That is the overarching truth that infiltrates and fuses every verse in John 17. Everything hinged on them reproducing the message they were going to see in the cross just like He had done that in their life.
As a result, I think John 17 gives us a pretty incredible picture of the heart of Jesus, the master disciple maker. It gives us a picture in to: What kind of work did Jesus do on earth? How did He do it? How did He pray for the people around Him? What it’s going to do over the next four weeks, this week and the next three weeks, it’s going to begin to unpack what it means to make disciples. We are going to learn directly from the heart of Jesus, Himself.
The urgent need …
Here’s the urgent need that we need to see. If we do not reproduce ourselves in disciple making, then we will do a pitiful job of advancing the message of redemption that has been entrusted to us. If we do not reproduce ourselves in disciple making, then the message of redemption on the cross in John 19:30 will not be advanced in the way Jesus desires for it to be advanced. The results are all around us. Over a billion people who have never heard the message of redemption (a sixth of the world). Forty seven million children were born this year, 2007, into families that have no knowledge of the redemption that comes in Christ. Forty seven million children just like our kids who right now are destined to grow up in a world where the name of Jesus is not even mentioned. Not just there but in Birmingham. How can we most effectively advance the message of redemption?
You know it’s funny that in a day where we have more faculties and more resources to advance the gospel to the ends of the earth than ever before, in this day and age with all that we have, do you realize that there are more unreached people, more people today on the earth who have never heard Jesus than there were before we invented the horseless carriage.
It’s at this point that some might think, well, man we need to rise up and start taking advantage of all this technology we have and the resources. Let’s start using all these things to begin advancing the message and while I am wholeheartedly behind using technology, any resources we have, to advance the gospel, but here’s the question I want to ask this morning. What if the answer is not in our technology? What if the answer is not in our resources? What if this is a problem that our money can’t solve? What if the main issue is not how we use our technology and our resources but whether or not we give ourselves to the plan that Christ has outlined. What if that is the core issue? What if it’s not about money, resources or technology? What if it’s about people and us pouring ourselves into a few?
The urgent question …
The urgent need at that point leads to the urgent question and the question is this: Will we be faithful to obey His plan? Don’t miss this! Because if this mission is dependent on us using technology and resources wisely, if it depends on us using all the things we have at our disposal, then that means that our brothers and sisters in Africa and East Asia, who don’t have all those resources, can’t accomplish the mission without them.
But what’s weird is, it is actually the exact opposite that is true. Those who have the least resources are seeing the gospel advance the quickest and those with the most resources are becoming stagnant with the gospel. Why is that? Because we become dependent on that which God has told us not to become dependent on and we miss out on the plan of making disciples of all nations.
So what I want us to do, over the next four weeks, is to dive into four components of what it means to make disciples. If you were not here last week, the goal is that through this series that you would be able to ask anybody at the Church at Brook Hills, “How do you make disciples?” And we would be able to say, “This is how you make disciples.” I want to show you four practical components and not just be able to say we know how to do it but we are doing it. I want you to see a foundation in this prayer and then I want to dive into the first component.
John 17:1–8 Lays Down The Foundation of Disciple-Making
So let’s start with the foundation for disciple making. It’s in these first five verses and I want to read back over them one more time. Instead of circling all the “they’s” and “them’s,” I want you to look for one word that is mentioned a couple of different times that really becomes the focus, the driving force, behind this prayer. Listen to John 17:1—5. The foundation of disciple making here: the prayer starts, “‘Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began’” (John 17:1—5).
Did you see one word mentioned five different times? “Glorify your son, that you Son may glorify you; the glory I had with you before the world began.” The driving force in this prayer is the glory of God. We see it in two different ways.
God is glorified in the completion of the Incarnation.
First of all God is glorified in the completion of the incarnation. What Jesus is doing is He is coming to the end of His life and His ministry here on earth. And as He comes to the end, we have studied the incarnation all through December and we saw how the Word became flesh, dwelled among us, He lived, He died, He rose from the grave and now we are seeing the completion of that, full circle. Jesus is about to ascend to the Father after He goes to the cross and He will be restored to His glory. This idea of “glorifying yourself, or glorify me,” basically means to clothe in splendor. So Jesus is saying, “Father I have lived to clothe you in splendor. Now glorify me, bring me to the splendor, restore me to the splendor I had with you before I came in the incarnation. We’ve got the completion of this whole picture. Jesus is going back to the Father.
This has been the driving passion at the heart of Jesus. Over and over again in the book of John, I think seventeen different times, we see this emphasis on glorifying the Father through Christ. It is Jesus’ driving passion. In John 12:28 he’s praying, “Father what shall I say, ‘Save me from this hour’” as He prepares for the cross and He says in verse 28, “No, this is why I came. Father, glorify your name. Clothe yourself with splendor through my life.”
God is glorified in the continuation of the Incarnation.
But that is not where it stops. If it stops there, with Jesus going back and the incarnation being completed, and that happened two thousand years ago, how does that affect us today and how did that affect these disciples then? What we see is that God is glorified by not just in the completion of the incarnation but God is glorified in the continuation of the incarnation.
The Word was made flesh in Jesus two thousand years ago but the beauty of the gospel is that when He goes back to be with the Father now the Word is being made flesh in who? In you and me, in us; Christ lives in us. “Christ in you,” Colossians 1:27 says, “the hope of glory.” Christ is making Himself known through us. We are His hands. We are His feet. We are His mouthpieces. We are the Word made flesh today. That’s why He prayed over and over again for these guys. It is almost as if Jesus is saying to the Father, “Father it is best for your glory that you bring me back to you because when you do then I will show the Word made flesh in each one of these guys as they go out into the world.” The incarnation will continue over, over and over again. Here we are getting into the heart of disciple making.
We know, Scripture is clear, that we were all created to bring glory to God. How do you do that? How do you glorify God? The picture is you let the Word become flesh in you in your life and you let Christ live through you and Him to become a reality in and through you on a daily, on a weekly basis. So that is the foundation. As a result, the Word is at the center of disciple making. The Word and the sense of the person of Christ living in us as well as the Word we are about to read in just a second. It shows the emphasis on His actual words, His commands.
John 17:1–8 Shares The First Component of Disciple-Making: Share the Word
So with that foundation, here’s what I want us to dive into. The first component of disciple making that we are going to see here in John 17. Component #1: To share the Word. This is where disciple making starts. I want us to dive into John 17 verses 6—8 in particular. I want you to see how Jesus began with these guys. How He began to bring them to Himself and how He began to make disciples. Listen to what He says, “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me” (John 17:6—8).
Now the overarching theme there is the fact that Jesus has shared the words of the Father with them and they’ve accepted them. Since they obeyed His Word, they accepted His Word, they believed His Word, they had come to that initial point of faith in Christ. Obviously it was still a little incomplete because Jesus had not gone to the cross yet and the ramifications of the gospel had not been spelled out completely, but these guys undoubtedly throughout the book of John had come to the point where they had embraced Christ and they had basically said, “We trust who you say you are. We are going to follow you. We are with you.” They had identified themselves with faith in Christ. They had come to that initial point. So, Jesus had shared the Word with them and they had received it. That is where disciple making starts.
We see it not just in Jesus’ life with these guys but in their response to Jesus. Turn with me back to John 1. Go back to the first chapter in John with me. I want you to see three different people that encounter Jesus, This is the introduction to Jesus in John 1 and three different people encounter Him. I want you to see what they do first thing as they encounter Him. Some of you have studied this already this morning in your small groups. You’ve looked at theses passages.
Look at John 1:29. This is the introduction of Jesus, the Word made flesh, verse 29 says, “The next day John”—meaning John the Baptist—“saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’” (John 1:29). So as soon as John sees Jesus, he proclaims, he shares the truth about Jesus. “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
Now look at what happens as a result. Go over to verse 40 in John 1. It says, “Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus” (John 1:40—42).
So John sees Jesus, he announces who He is. Andrew sees who He is, and first thing he does is he goes and tells Simon, then look down in verse 44, “Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’” (John 1:44—45).
So three people encounter Jesus and the first thing they do is what? They share that Word; share Christ; introduce others to Christ—share Christ with people around them. This is the first component of disciple making and it is very simple, it’s natural. If we are going to make disciples of Christ, then we have to introduce people to Christ, right! It only makes sense and it was natural for them in John 1. But I think we’ve missed this drastically in the church today. What we have done is we have separated, and I am going to use a term here that I know has some negative stereotypes, “evangelism”. This is a great biblical term. It talks about sharing good news but as soon as I say that word you’ve got images of people on TV trying to get your money or asking you to come put your hand on the screen so they can pray for you okay. Put that aside alright! What we’ve got is evangelism here!
Evangelism, what we do is we come up with programs for evangelism and then we put discipleship over here and we say, well, “We got discipleship and evangelism over here.” Most of us are gifted; we like doing discipleship. About two of us like doing evangelism. So the really outgoing, do evangelism and the rest of us do discipleship and clean up the mess they’ve made. So that’s what we do! We separate the two.
What we’ve got to realize first of all is that evangelism is not a program in the church and discipleship is not a program in the church. Second, there is no way we’re ever going to get world evangelism without disciple-making. It’s not going to happen. How do you know? Well, look at the world. Okay, you are not going to get world evangelism without disciple-making. Similarly, you cannot do discipleship apart from evangelism. To focus on knowing Christ but not sharing Christ certainly doesn’t add up. Nowhere in Scripture. We’ve got to bring these two together.
It’s interesting, even when you read books on disciple-making today many times they leave evangelism completely out of the picture, and I think unnecessarily and frankly unbiblical. We need to bring this together that sharing the Word is a part of making disciples. I think as we see this unfold with Jesus’ heart and the way He interacted with His disciples that we are going to see some truths come out. They are going to be really encouraging for us and hopefully change some of those stereotypes we have with that word.
Our confidence in sharing the Word is grounded in God’s sovereignty, not our savvy.
I want you to see a few truths that arise. First of all, this first component of disciple making: Share the Word, our confidence in sharing the Word is grounded in God’s sovereignty not our savvy. I want you to see how this unfolds in the verses we just read. We are going to be turning to a few different places in John and we’ll always come back to John 17. I want you to listen to these verses and I want you to think about, this idea of sovereignty means control, authority or dominion. God is sovereign. He is in control. I want you to hear these verses and ask the question as I read them to you, “Who’s in control here? Who’s got the authority here? Who’s doing the work here?” Listen to this, “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me” (John 17:6—8).
Who is doing most of the work here? It’s the Father! If we didn’t know Jesus’ heart and the way He loved these disciples, we would think He was a little frustrated at this point. God you gave these guys to me. They are not that sharp but they are yours. You put me in this mess, and I gave them the words you gave me and now I am stuck with them. So I have come to the end of my life and I’ve finished the work and this is it. The Father’s is sovereign behind this whole thing. He’s the one who gave these guys. He gave the words. He gave them to Him. He sent Him to them. God is sovereign over this whole thing. Now, some of you, that’s making you a little uneasy because you are starting to think, “Well, does God give to some people and not other people…? How does this whole thing work? Is God just controlling us like robots?” Well, don’t miss it, when we are talking about God’s sovereignty here, the goal is not for us to get into a debate on predestination. That is not the goal. Here’s why, because this passage is pretty clear to tell us that these guys had a part in this thing. They believed. They obeyed. They accepted the words. There is human responsibility all over these things. And somehow, and I can’t describe exactly how, but God’s sovereignty and our responsibility don’t conflict, they come together. They are all over Scripture together. We can get into trouble when we begin to emphasize God’s sovereignty all the time and we miss out on the fact that we are a part of this thing. We have a responsibility. At the same time we begin to focus on well I am in control, I am doing these things when God is in control. They go together.
I want you to see in those verses what the Father gave Jesus, and the implication is what He gives us. First of all, He gives us the people. He gives us the people. Over and over again, Jesus says, “You gave these guys to me.” The whole prayer started off, “You granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him” (John 17:2). This is really neat! I want you to think about this with me. The disciples, and even us, when you get to the last part of the prayer… The disciples are described as the Father’s gift to the Son.
Now I want you to think about that with me. We’re used to thinking of the Father’s gift to us being Christ. John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son or one and only son.” He gave Him as a gift to us. Do you realize what John is showing us here? The Holy Spirit is telling us that we are the Father’s gift to the Son. Let that soak in for a second for you, personally, to realize that you are a gift from God the Father to God the Son, precious and honored and valued by Him in a way that nothing in this world can compare with. So He gave the people, He gave them to Him.
Not just does He give the people, but second He gives us the words. Jesus said, “You gave me these words that I gave to them.” So He gives us the people and He gives us the words and then third, He gives us the authority. He gives us the authority. We see that in the fact that Jesus, the son, had been sent by the Father but even way back up in verse two when it said, “You granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him” (John 17:2). So Jesus had the authority to give eternal life to all those the Father had given to Him. So the Father gave the people, the Father gave the words, the Father gave the authority and Jesus’ job at that point was pretty easy.
I want you to think with me about how this affects the way we share the Word. Could it be that God desires to give us the people as well? Could it be that just like He said to Paul in Acts 18? Remember that story? Paul’s in Corinth. He’s having a really rough time. People don’t like him. They are persecuting him. Many people aren’t coming to faith in Christ. He’s having a real difficult time. What happens? Jesus comes to Paul in a vision. He’s thinking about leaving, and Jesus says, “Don’t go anywhere, stay in Corinth because I have many people in this city. So stay here.” He did; he stayed there for a couple of years and many people came to faith in Christ and a great church was born.
Could it be that God has people in Birmingham that He desires to bring to faith in Him? That He is sovereignly drawing to Himself? Could it be when it comes to this sharing the Word thing we are not out on our own trying to do this work for God? Could it be that He is right now working all over this city to draw people to Himself and He is sovereignly bringing our paths across the paths of people this week that He is drawing to Himself that we have the opportunity to simply join Him in what He is doing? What an incredible truth to think that God is sovereignly working in people’s lives that you will intersect with this week. He has given us the people.
Not just the people but the words. Isn’t it good to know that sharing the Word is not dependent on our intellectual capacities, our ability to master and bolster this great argument for why someone should give their life to Christ? He gives us the words.
Now there are some people today who say that in our culture, 21st century culture—pretty far removed from the Bible—you really can’t use the Word when sharing the gospel with people. You can’t use the Word because people won’t listen to it. They don’t respect it. They don’t trust it. They don’t attribute much to it, and so it’s not very effective. Well, I’m not in favor of us just going out and quoting all our memory verses to a lost and dying world so they see our Bible drill skills. However, I think we are ignorant and foolish if we think we can do God a favor by taking His Word out of sharing the gospel with people around us and think that we are going to be more effective. We are not that good. We are not that sharp and we don’t have that many skills. He has promised; don’t miss it; He has promised that when this Word is shared He has guaranteed that it will bear fruit. It will lead people to Christ. Guaranteed! The question is, “Will we share the Word?” He gives us the words.
He gives us the people; He gives us the words; He gives us the authority! This is why Jesus says at the very beginning of the Great Commission, “All authority in heaven on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22, both say that all authority has been invested in Jesus. He has authority over every world religion, philosophical system in the world today, to bring people to eternal life. Now, with that behind you, think of the confidence this gives us in making disciples. That He gives us the people, He gives us the words and He gives us the authority.
I remember the first time these truths began to come home to me in a new way. It was two years ago, almost this exact time two years ago, when I was in India. Some of you have heard me talk about my trip to India that particular time in a city with 7,000,000 people most of whom had never even heard the name of Jesus. As we were walking in the city, our job every day was to go share Jesus with people have conversations and share Jesus. These are people when you say the name Jesus they say, “Who is that?” It is the first time they are hearing the name Jesus. We would walk everywhere we went. We were literally surrounded by thousands of people. We would go to a park, or this part of the city, thousands of people everywhere.
What began to grip me was the realization that as I walked out into that city, opened the doors and stepped out in thousands of people the confidence that somewhere in this group of a thousand people of this park that there was somebody that God was working in their life that I was not out there on my own. He had been working all along. My job was simply to find the people where He was working in their hearts and to be sensitive to that. Then once I found them, to begin to share the words that had been entrusted to me. To give them a picture of Christ and to know, talk about the authority, to know that in that city that was filled with Hinduism and Islam that Jesus Christ had authority over every single foreign god that was being worshiped there. Jesus Christ had authority over every single belief in reincarnation or this or that. Everything He had authority over. That is great confidence when you go out to make disciples.
Think about it He gives us the people. When I think about that and see that truth, I remember in East Asia a guy named Charlie. He’s a professor. Heather and I, my wife and I, were in his apartment. This is another area of the world where very few people know about Jesus. Somebody had actually given him a Bible. So, Charlie comes up to me as we are sitting in his apartment. He sets the Bible down in front of me and he says, “I need you to tell me how I can have a meaningful life based on that book.” Are you ever looking for like an “in” to share the gospel? Well, there it was! And so we do! God gives the people. He gives us the words.
When I think about that I think about in New Orleans, a friend of mine named Byron and I one day were walking around the neighborhood around our church. Just getting to know folks, praying with folks, sharing the gospel as the Lord provided opportunities. I remember we were walking by this one guy’s house. He’s up on his porch, kind of a Bohemian type guy, and we start a conversation, “How’s it going man?” He immediately says, “I don’t want it. I don’t know what you are selling but I don’t want it.” We say, “We’re actually from the church down the street.” He says, “Okay, I don’t want it.” He was just real standoffish. Not wanting anything to do with it. I’m saying okay then we need to move on here and he says, “You know I appreciate what you guys do but I am kind of more “New Age,” and he began to talk about how everything in the universe happens for a reason. I’m thinking, okay, it’s time to move on.
About that time Byron, he’s standing next to me, said, “Well, if that is true, then, what do you think the reason is for us coming in contact with you today?” I thought, “Man Byron that was pretty good”, and then I started getting a little mad, kind of jealous like, “Why Lord, why didn’t you give me that line? I mean that was sharp!” This guy, an instant before as cold as could be, he sits up and he says, “Now that’s a good question.” He walked out to us on the street. He says, “Let’s think about that.” We start sharing the gospel with this guy.
He gives us the words, and He gives us the authority.
What I always think about at this point is the last five or six years of my life, before coming here, is spending week after week in the French Quarter of New Orleans with homeless men and women who were engrossed in alcoholism and other vises that this world has trapped them in. With fortune card readers, tarot card readers, palm readers, and the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans who are outright pagans, say we are pagan in our beliefs and to know that in every single conversation that Jesus Christ has the power to overcome anything in these folk’s lives to bring them eternal life and to see Him do it.
To see Him take a guy who is engrossed in alcohol begin to come to church, to get saved and to be baptized and now to lead in homeless ministry in New Orleans at that church. He has authority.
He gives us the words! He gives us the people! He gives us the authority! This is our confidence in disciple making. It is not dependent on our savvy but on His sovereignty.
Can I let you in on a little secret here? You got to keep it in here okay! Here’s the secret: God’s got this thing rigged! This whole mission is in the hands of the Father and it cannot fail. His plan will be accomplished. The question is, “Are we going to get in on it?” How are we going to be faithful to obey His plan and take Him at His Word and trust His sovereignty that He wants to give people in Birmingham? Give us the words! Your walk with Christ will rise to all kinds of new heights. Your journey and your faith in Him; your dependence on Him will rise to all kinds of new heights when we begin to give ourselves to His plan.
Okay, it’s His sovereignty not our savvy. It’s not dependent on us. That’s good news! We’re not the sharpest group, but His sovereignty is in control. I mean that in the best way as your pastor.
John 17:1–8 Asks Us To Share The Word
When we share the Word, we share eternal life, not religious laws.
Second, when we share the Word, we share eternal life not religious laws. When we share the Word, we share eternal life not religious laws. Now I want you to see how this unfolds because in verses 6—8 it talking about how they obeyed your Word, how they believed in you and they trusted you and they accepted you. What’s it talking about there? We’ve got a clue back up in verse three. It’s kind of a summary statement along with John 20:31, the whole book of John, where it says, “This is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” So when we share the Word, we share eternal life. They may know you.
This is a theme all throughout the book of John. Let me show it to you. I want you to see them; maybe circle them in your Bible. Look back in John 1 again. Let me take you on a quick tour and I want to show you life, eternal life, over, over and over again emphasized by Jesus. In the life of Jesus, John 1:4. This is the introduction to who Jesus is. It gives us a picture. This is His identity. It says in John 1:4. I just want to show you some places where you see life and eternal life. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4).
His very essence was life. In him life is found.”
Look over in John 3:14. This is Jesus’ conversation with this guy named Nicodemus. He’s telling him you need to be born again. Well, what does that mean? Listen to what He says in verse 14, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14—15).
Then we know the next verse, quote it with me if you know it, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). That’s the picture here. He’s giving eternal life.
John 4:14, He’s having a conversation with this Samaritan woman at the well crossing all kinds of boundaries and what does He say to her? He says, “Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
Look over in John 5:21. This is a great text right here that describes some of the things we’ve been talking about. How the Father is working? Look at verse 21. It says, “Just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it” (John 5:21). Look over in John 6:33, Jesus feeds over 5,000 people with a little bit of food. As a result He draws a crowd. Free food, we like this guy! So, they are following
Him. Look at what happens in verse 33. He says, “The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world” (John 6:33). Not just temporary life but life, true eternal life. Verse 35, “Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty’” (John 6:35). Never! It is eternal life!
This is a side note: this chapter right here is so huge for showing us God’s sovereignty because He talks about some of the things we see in John 17. I want you to see what Jesus tells the crowd. He’s got tons of crowds following Him. Look at verse 53, this is what Jesus said, He says, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:53—54). Is that a little weird? If you are following Jesus, isn’t it good to know that Jesus said that and people followed Him so we can be confident as we share. God’s working behind this thing. Look at John 10:10. Jesus gives us a summary statement. He says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). John 10:10 says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Look over in verse 27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Here it is, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28). Isn’t that good news! Isn’t it good to know that there is absolutely nothing you can do to earn your salvation? As a result, there is nothing you can do to lose your salvation. God’s got you in His hand. By His grace and by the finished work of Christ on the cross, we can be assured of eternal life. That’s good news!
Keep going over John 11:25, Lazarus is being raised from the dead in this story. “Jesus said to [Martha], ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25—26). One more, John 14:6, Jesus is talking about heaven. He is talking about where He’s headed. Thomas asked Him, “We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way” (John 14:5). And Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Over and over again we see the central purpose of Jesus that the center of His mission was to impart life. So when you come to John 17 and it says, eternal life is this the emphasis is not on the fact that it is everlasting existence, the point is that you now know the everlasting God that you walk with the eternal God. He says that they might know the true God.
This word is more than just intellectual knowledge. It’s a word that we see all throughout Scripture to describe it. Intimate faith and intimate trust. Even in Genesis 4 just to give you a little picture and Greek translation of the Old Testament He uses this word to describe how Adam “knew” his wife Eve and they had a child as a result of “knowing” each other. That is more than intellectual assent in Genesis 4:1. It is an intimate relationship. That is the picture we are getting here of knowing God. Life is found in each and every day from now through all of eternity. Each day exhausting more and more the infinite goodness, grace, mercy and greatness of our God. There is no end to His goodness, no end to His greatness. We will never tire of this life. It starts now!
That’s the picture. So when we share the Word that’s what we share. I want you to think about how we miss this. Often times when we think about sharing the Word and the whole evangelism thing we begin to think about all the things that we need to know to say. Things we need to say. This is what you do. At that point we are getting into some laws.
John 17:1–8 And How To Share Laws
Here’s the deal. If we share laws, we need to have programs that tell us how to share the laws and if we share laws we need to memorize presentations. We need to be well versed in the presentations we can recite in order to share the laws that are necessary to share. We need to have programs, we need to memorize presentations and we need to organize projects. So we need to get together to come up with some projects so we can go and share these laws. If we share laws, we need to have programs, memorize presentations and organize projects. I give you the contemporary picture of evangelism in the church—programs that we participate in, presentations that we learn and were trained in, and projects that we now go out and do.
Now, I am not saying that any of those things are bad in and of themselves. In fact some of them can be very helpful tools, but I want to free you up some. One of the reasons we think we cannot be effective in sharing the Word is because we haven’t been through the program or we don’t know the presentation or don’t have the assigned project when the beauty of it is if we were sharing life then the only thing we need to know is the Person—Jesus. The only thing we need to know is the Person! It is His life in us.
Now some of you at this point are thinking, “Dave, I’m not buying it. I’ve tried this thing before. I’ve tried to share the gospel and you don’t just need a person you need some help. You need to know what to say how to say this or that and you don’t want to mess up. All these things, you need some training!” I’m not saying training is bad, but I am saying training is not necessary. Did any of these guys in John 1 have training when they introduced these other guys?
Let me bring it into our world. How many of you are grandparents? Those of you who are grandparents let me ask you a question. How many of you, as grandparents, enjoy talking about your grandchildren? Most everybody does. If that is the case, then let me ask you, how many of you trained in how to talk about your grandchildren as a grandparent? How many of you have taken the course? Just to make sure nobody is left out here. Let me ask you a question. How many of you over the last week or two have mentioned the name of Nick Saban, anybody? If you are not raising your hand, you are lying! Okay! How many of you have received training on how to talk about Nick Saban at the office? In the neighborhood? In the home?
God help us, what’s on our minds and what’s on our heart comes out of our mouths. May it be so that Jesus Christ is at the center of our minds, and He’s at the center of our hearts so that it comes out of our mouths and may we not be a people who come up with a list of reasons why he’s not coming out of our mouths. May we be a people who share the Word. Let His life flow through you! How meaningless our conversations can be when we have the message of eternal life. This is good news that we don’t need these things, we have Jesus who gives us the people, the words, and the authority.
Sharing the Word is designed to humble us and honor Christ.
Last truth that arises from John 17:6—8 that I hope is a comfort for us is this: Sharing the Word is designed to humble us and to honor Christ. God’s got the whole thing rigged and it is designed to humble us and to honor Christ.
Now, we’ve seen this already in these few verses. Everything Jesus did pointed back to the Father and he’s intentional to tell us not just that, “I know these things came from you,” but “These guys know they came from you. These guys know that you sent me. These guys know that your words are coming through me.” The whole thing was designed even in Jesus own life so that the Father was exalted. So that everything would point to Him not even to Himself.
Now think about how that relates to us. The greatest obstacle to sharing the Word is fear, anxiety or intimidation, whatever you want to call it, it’s fear. If you have ever felt that kind of fear when it comes to this idea of sharing the Word, I want you to be comforted by this; if you experience fear then that’s a confidence you can have that God designed it for you to have fear. He made it that way. Now you may not think that is very encouraging, but it is because it’s in our fear that He shows His power most clearly. It’s in our intimidation that He shows His strength. This whole thing is designed so that our weaknesses are put on display and His strength is magnified and people don’t say, “This guy did this in my life; they say God did this in my life!”
Yes, they led me there but here’s the deal, this goes back to our intellectual arguments, you can come up with a great argument but someone else is going to have a better argument over here and a better argument over here, and a better argument over here if it is based on us. However, God the Father is behind this whole thing. The beauty of it is, this is where this comfort comes in, Christ is exalted through our weakness. Christ desires to be exalted through our weakness and not just to be exalted through our weakness so we say, “Well, I was weak and He was strong,” but to follow up on that not only is Christ exalted in our weakness but praise God, people are saved through our witness. We are in on the plan of God. We are in on His mission in the world.
I’ll never forget the first person I had the opportunity to lead to faith in Christ. Sitting at a school cafeteria table across from one of my buddies, it was just the two of us, and I had a track. I don’t know if you know what a track is but it is basically just a little leaflet, booklet, paper presentation of the gospel. I thought, well okay, I guess I should share the gospel with my buddy. So, I pulled out the track and I just kind of read through it. “Jesus died on a cross.” I read through the thing and I get to the end. Ask the question now, “Would you like to give your heart to Jesus?” I remember Scott looking at me and he said, “Yeah, I would,” and I thought, “You would? What do I do now? Pray this prayer.” I remember, right there in front of me, seeing my friend’s life, and it was headed to a Christ-less eternity, take an eternal turn to life everlasting.
Let me tell you what I didn’t walk away and say. That was an incredible presentation of the gospel. Let me tell you what I didn’t walk away with confidence in myself. I walked away with great confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit to draw people to Christ. We don’t get there, to that kind of confidence, until we let Him show it in our lives. This is why we don’t wait until we are at a certain point.
Some of you are thinking, as we are going into this series on disciple making, “I need to get some things right in my own life and then I’ll start making disciples.” That is not the point. The point is that when we begin to take responsibility for the plan of Christ and give ourselves to making disciples it causes us to shape up. It causes us to do what we have been putting off forever because now our spiritual life is beginning to affect the lives of others around us and that is exactly what Christ said.
Look in verse ten. You’ve got to see this! He comes to the end of this part and He says, “All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them” (John 17:10). Jesus says, “My glory is seen in them, in their lives.” These guys, eleven guys, Judas is mentioned here, He says, “My glory comes through them. I live for them so that they would pour their lives into others.” That’s the whole picture.
So, the question I want to ask you this morning is this: Will we live so that Christ receives glory in others? Now you see why disciple making cannot be self-centered, and why it is no longer about “in my life.” Put a box around my life, my family, my house and we will live to glorify God. If that is what we do and we make disciples in our house, which we need to be doing, mom’s and dad’s across this room pouring their life in their children and showing them Christ. But if we stop there, then how will we ever reach an unreached world with the gospel?
What happens when, just like we live for those people that are closest to us, we begin to live so the glory of Christ is seen in others around us and we live our Christian lives not for our sake but for others sake so that they see Christ in us? Now you see the core of disciple making! Why it’s not about us, but it’s about them?
That’s what Paul says, you get to 1 Thessalonians 2:19—20. He’s telling the church there, he says, “You are my crown. You are my joy. I live for you. If you succeed with the gospel then that is a picture in my life. I glory in you. You’re my crown. You’re my joy. What happens when an entire faith family of believers begins to see others in their community like that? Or, begins to live for others sake?
That’s why I told you last week that I don’t live for the institutional survival of The Church at Brook Hills. My dream is not for bigger buildings and bigger programs. My dream is the lives that are represented in this room. You are life. You are the life of Christ being made known throughout this community. You are my dreams. What happens when we begin to live like that for each other? We begin to live so that Christ is receiving glory in all the people around us. Then the gospel is starting to multiply and the message of redemption is advancing rapidly through reproduction. God may it be so. Jesus had staked His whole life and ministry on these guys. The entire success of this plan depended on their faithfulness to follow His example and to begin doing that by sharing the Word.
So What Now…
So what do we do? What does this mean for us? Two questions I want to ask you. Number one: do you know the Word? I want to ask that question in silence. John 8:12 makes it very clear that you can be stuck on church and religion all your life and never know Jesus. So, I want to ask you point blank. Do you know eternal life? Do you know Jesus? An intimate trust and relationship with Him? Because all of eternity hinges on that question. Do you know the Word?
And if you do, second: will you share the Word? It’s at this point that I want to lead us into a time when we pray together. First, for those of you who don’t know the Word and you’ve not come to a knowledge of eternal life through Him, I want to urge you not to go another second without trusting Him. There are some leaders who will be at the front. Their purpose is to be available to you and others that are responding in different ways. For you to come and say, “How do I know the Word,” and for them to share with you how you can know eternal life through Jesus. God may guard’s to be let down; may prides be let down across this room this morning as people come to faith and the Word.
Second, if sharing the Word has not been a part of your walk with Christ and you would say, “I need to put a stake in the ground. Even in my weakness I’m going to trust Him and I’m going to trust what He gives and begin to give myself to this.” I want to give you an opportunity just to do business with God and spend some time with Him. You might even if you have people in your life at work or home or in your neighborhood that you have been praying for, you have had on your mind even as we have been talking about this today, for you to have a time, for us to have a time, when we come before the Father in this room and just call out for people that we long to see come to know eternal life through Christ. I want to give you an opportunity to do that.
God I praise you for your gospel…for your Word…and for the privilege of introducing others to you. God I pray that you would draw people to yourself for the first time. God I trust that you are working in hearts all across this room and I pray that you would bring men and women to eternal life through Christ just as you did all throughout the Gospels. We pray that you would do it here. God we pray that you would raise up your church to surrender ourselves to this mission and that we would begin by surrendering ourselves to sharing the Word. God put on our hearts your heart, your heart for the people around us that we may begin to live so that they see the glory of Christ in us and they come to know eternal life. We pray that you would raise people up, who despite weakness, despite struggle, would trust in your strength and we give ourselves to your plan. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.