Equipped and Sent
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 17:13–17:19
And please open to John 17 with me. John 17, verses 13 through 19.
Well, John 17, verses 13 through 19 is our text for the morning. Jesus is finishing up the part of his high priestly prayer where he’s praying specifically for his disciples that are near him at the moment—the eleven who would have been still with him at this point.
So John 17:13-19. Please follow along as I read.
But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 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 ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
I’ve entitled this message “Equipped and Sent.” Equipped and Sent. Now we’re just starting a new school year here, and some of you have children. Some of you are going to school yourself. Some of you have grandchildren. Some of you remember the days of school back then, some time ago.
Well, the beginning of the school year starts, but what happens at the end of the school year and ultimately at the end of a milestone in a person’s education career is a graduation ceremony. And oftentimes, those are called commencement ceremonies.
Now, we’re used to them because nowadays they have a graduation ceremony for virtually every single grade. So good job, Johnny, you’ve graduated kindergarten. Good job, Johnny, you’ve graduated first grade. Good job, Johnny, first semester of second grade, and we put caps and gowns on everyone these days.
But the graduation ceremony is known as a commencement. And I think that if you think of a graduation, you oftentimes think of the end of something. Well, the graduation commencement is the beginning of something. It’s meant to tell little Johnny that you’ve finished your training for the purpose of doing something with it. It’s just the beginning, Johnny. Here’s what student loans look like. Here’s what the responsibilities of a family look like. Go get ‘em.
So, the commencement is the beginning of something. And in a sense, where we find ourselves in John 17 is the end of something. It’s the end of Jesus’ time on earth. He’s praying before he’ll be arrested, tried unjustly, executed, buried, rise again, appear as a witness, and then ascend to heaven. But this is the end of his time on earth.
But it’s the beginning of his disciples’ mission on earth. And he intends, two thousand years ago and today, for people who have been changed by him, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to actually be him, be the representation of him on earth. And before he sends them out to do that, we hear him pray to the Father about things that he wants true of his disciples so that they can go out and do that mission of representing him.
And so this morning we’re going to see four characteristics of what Christ wants his people to be. Four characteristics that Jesus desires for his disciples while they are in this world representing him. So we’re going to look at the fact that Jesus wants his disciples joy-filled. He wants them protected. He wants them sanctified. And ultimately, number four, for the purpose of having his disciples commissioned, sent out. Joy-filled, protected, sanctified, and commissioned.
First, Jesus clearly wants his disciples to be joy-filled. Verse 13: “But now I am coming to you [speaking to the Father], and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”
Now Jesus, as you know, in the upper room, has told them a lot of difficult news. I’m gonna be gone in a little while. The world’s gonna hate you. You will have sorrow. He just says what’s real.
But three times in the upper room discourse, and here again, he tells—well, we hear him tell the Father—but he clearly wants his disciples to have joy. Not just any joy. He wants them to have the same joy that he experienced with the Father while he had a difficult time on earth. That’s what Jesus wants us to have—his joy as he goes through the trials of this world, as we go through the trials of this world. Again, this is the third time that Jesus wanting us to have joy is mentioned in this section from John 13 to John 17.
And notice, his joy is connected to what he speaks. So the joy that we have is meant to be drawn from what he speaks. The joy we have in going through trials—whether they be physical, trials because of family, emotional trials—whatever kind of trials they are, he means us to be encouraged by his words, what he speaks.
That’s why he says, “[T]hese things I speak in the world.” He says, I’m going back to you, but I’m saying these things, I’m praying this prayer, and they’re hearing me so that they would have joy. He wanted us to hear this prayer so that we would have joy as we go out and complete his mission, work in his mission that he has for us in the world.
Jesus’ desire is that his disciples, and you and I, would have joy in all circumstances. Now, if your joy is based on your circumstances, there will oftentimes be a lack of joy. But if your joy is based on the one who governs all circumstances and has a purpose for all circumstances and tells you that he wants you to have his joy, then you can have joy despite and even in all of your circumstances.
Psalm 43 is a passage that just speaks to this idea. Joy in the midst of attack. Enemy attack, whatever it may be. Listen to Psalm 43:1-4. The psalmist says this:
Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? [And then here’s the request.] Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
The psalmist is in despair. He’s in a trial. And he says, bring me your light. Bring me something that can guide me to your presence. That can be the word of God. The word of God is spoken of as a light, as a guide. Bring me, by the word of God, to your presence.
And then what does the psalmist experience when he comes into the presence of God? He experiences joy. And what’s more than that, he says that God is his exceeding joy. God himself is his exceeding joy.
And this is what God has intended, not just for the psalmist back in the day before Christ, not just for the disciples; God intends this for his people, as they go through the world, a world that is not their home. A world where the devil tempts, the flesh tempts. A world where all of those adversaries are constantly present around us. He intends to be our exceeding joy as we understand his word, his promises.
This is where you go when you’re absent joy. The word of God. That could be you, to some regard. My former mentor used to say, “Every soul is a hurting soul.” To some degree, your soul is not where it should be. To some degree. Where do you go when your soul hurts? You go to the word.
Now that sounds pretty simple, right? Well, yeah, you’re supposed to say that as a pastor. But think about that. Oftentimes when we are not experiencing joy, it’s because of a circumstance that we don’t like. And sometimes it’s hard to go to the word of God. That’s sometimes the last place you actually want to go for some strange reason.
But I’m exhorting you, open your Bible, go to the word of God, and meditate on it. Think about him. Hear what he says. Hear how he deals with enemies. Hear how he deals with his own people. Hear what he wants you to do. Listen to him and see the joy start to come as you submit yourself to understanding your God.
I remember as a young believer—I hadn’t been through many trials as a believer yet—but I was a young believer going through a significant trial, not liking the circumstances, and after weeks of just simply not liking the circumstances, I just started to dive into my Bible. I didn’t know it all that well. And initially I started diving into it to find verses that would tell me that my circumstances would change. Okay, where’s the verse that’ll tell me that this actually will happen and that circumstances will change the way I want it to—I never found those verses.
But over time I started to read my Bible just to know God. No other agenda. I just want to know him. And I remember carrying my Bible around to work, because I would try to read it on breaks, at lunch, things like that. I just needed to spend time with God. I needed to hear from him. And I carried it around—I was one of those guys that would carry it around in the box. Okay? Carried it around in the box. And it still got worn out.
But over time, as I learned my God—it was this one here [holding up tattered Bible coming apart at the binding]—this Bible taught me who he is, what he’s like. And my circumstances did not change, but the joy of my heart sure did.
God does not often give us joy by changing our circumstances. He often gives us joy by teaching us about him in the circumstances. That’s why some believers, even years later, can say, thank you, Lord, for putting me in that situation, for what I learned about you and how you drew near to me as I drew near to you.
That’s what Jesus intends his disciples to experience. They’re going to be physically without him. They love him. He was going to save their souls and give them a relationship with God the Father, whom they had offended. They love this man. And he’s going away. And he’s going to put them in the heat of a battle. And he tells the Father, give them the joy that I had while I went through all these things.
This is what your Lord wants for you today. I promise you that, based on the word of God. He wants you to have joy in any trial that you go through, because you know his word. You’ve heard from him.
Jesus desires that we’d experience a fullness of joy because of his word, but he also has another desire here that we see in verses 14-16. Jesus desires that his disciples would be protected. Jesus wants his disciples protected (verses 14-16). The plan is not to remove them from the world. The plan is to protect them while they’re in the midst of the world. Verse 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.”
So the disciples have responded to the message of God’s salvation. They’ve responded to the messenger himself, Jesus Christ, the message of salvation. They’ve responded to the message that says that they are in trouble with God, and they must believe on Jesus Christ to be saved. They must trust in Jesus, the only source of salvation that heaven has to offer. They must trust in Jesus to forgive their sin as he dies on the cross, and to prove that that forgiveness can be granted and that sacrifice means something and that’s actually a legitimate sacrifice, because he rose from the dead three days later. They need to believe that Jesus Christ died for their sin and rose from the dead, according to what the Scriptures say, the Old Testament Scriptures.
When they believe that message, that changes them. And all of a sudden, instead of being a friend to the world, the world is hostile toward them. Why is the world hostile toward them? Because the world was hostile toward Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ came telling the world, repent and believe. You must change. You must trust in me. I’m the Messiah. I’m the light of the world. You need to believe that message. Jesus came preaching that message. He didn’t come preaching, hey, you guys are better than those evil Gentiles; you’re fine. He went to the teachers of Israel that said they knew God and said, repent and believe. You must be born again. The world hated Jesus.
And so, anybody who follows Jesus the world would hate. Fast forward two thousand years. The world still hates Jesus. Now, the world will try to redefine Jesus to make him likable. But the actual Jesus? Hated by the world. And those that follow the actual Jesus—not the cartoon—the actual Jesus? Hated by the world. This is just normal. It’s normal.
The disciples now desire to be righteous like Christ. They desire to proclaim the message that Christ proclaimed. That’s not something that goes over well with the world. And so, Jesus could have said, my work here is done. Let’s go, guys. But Jesus didn’t do that.
Is this unkind of Jesus? I’m leaving to go receive glory; you’re gonna stay here and suffer. That seems unkind. It’s exactly the opposite. Why? Because Christ has a love for the world. Christ has a love for his enemies. Christ has a love for sinners. He didn’t just have a love for them two thousand years from now. The reason he’s left us here is because he still has a love for people who hate him. It’s not unkind of Christ to leave and go to heaven and to leave us; it actually demonstrates his love.
And as we go and be his representatives, he promises to give us joy, to protect us, to sanctify us, to keep us till the end. God’s love isn’t just manifested in the fact that he’s preaching a gospel to the world today; his love is also manifested in the fact that he loves you as you do it and even as you suffer for it. The fact that Jesus is in heaven and we are here as his representatives shows all sorts of reasons why Jesus Christ loves the world still.
But he’s not of the world. He’s not one of the world. He doesn’t follow their system, and neither do we. We’re in it, but not of it. Jesus has left us here, and he intends to protect us as we engage in this work.
Verse 15: “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” So leave them there, but protect them. Keep them from the evil one.
Remember back in Genesis 3:15 when Jesus curses the serpent for leading Adam and Eve into temptation? God says this to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman [between you and Eve], and between your offspring [Satan’s offspring] and her offspring [anybody who would come from Eve—that’s you and I].”
So God is saying to the serpent, there will be enmity, not just between you and the woman. Anybody who is of you—of the world, led by Satan—and anybody who comes from her line—regenerated, Jesus Christ first and foremost, but even those who would come from his line. So there’s gonna be enmity between the people of Satan and the people of Christ. That’s the way it’s always gonna be, until he comes back to make all things new and reconcile all things. But for now, we find ourselves in this situation—children of God who are hated by the children of the adversary.
Now what’s interesting is, we don’t hate them. People in the world are not our enemies in that sense. You know what they are. They’re the mission field. We have a love for them. But no matter how much you communicate that, their thought is they hate you and they think you hate them. You don’t hate them.
Our heart breaks over their situation. Our heart breaks over their sin. Our heart breaks over their alienation they experience from God. Our heart breaks for that. There’s a love. But it doesn’t mean when we say, we love you, they’re gonna say, oh, actually we love you too. No, they hate Christ, and they hate his followers.
Jesus says to the Father (verse 16): “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” So they’re gonna be in the world, but they’re not of it. They’re not one of them. They’re in a unique situation. They’re in a country that they don’t belong in. They’re in a country that’s foreign to them. They’re not just in a country where they don’t belong and it’s foreign; they’re in a country that hates them, until we get to our heavenly kingdom. We’re like Jesus in this sense. We’re in the world but not of it.
Now here’s what you don’t do while you’re in the world as a representative of Christ. You don’t compromise. Well, maybe if I just kind of soften some truths and don’t say certain things that Jesus says and I just say the nice things but not the hard things, maybe the world will like me. Jesus never planned for the world to like you. He actually prophesied that they wouldn’t. That’s not a good option. So don’t try to soften or change the message.
But there’s another thing you don’t do while in the world: You don’t retreat. Well, maybe if I just don’t say anything, no one will hate me. Well, then the question is, what’s your god? Approval? Or the God who sent you into the world?
So compromise isn’t an option. Retreat isn’t an option. There’s only one option for the believer. Go in and serve your Lord as a witness to the world, knowing that you’ll be protected. He prays for that. He intends for that.
Don Carson said this: “Neither the luxury of compromise nor the safety of disengagement is an option.” Neither the luxury of compromise nor the safety of disengagement is an option. Suffering is our lot. We’re just going to suffer. It’s our lot. But protection and victory are our lot too. That’s what Jesus teaches.
It’s as if you go into a foreign land. You’re from another nation, but you go into a foreign land, and the land that you’re in hates the nation that you’re from. And they find out that you’re from your nation. And the people in the land that you’re currently in hate you because you’re from that nation. That’s kind of where we find ourselves today.
And we’re not going to improve things by getting the right legislation passed. We still believe and follow who we believe, and they hate him. Politics isn’t our ultimate hope. Changing the message isn’t our ultimate hope. Our ultimate hope is that we’re gonna be protected by Christ as we do what he calls us to do. Our ultimate hope is in the fact that he will protect us, and guess what? Those people that hate us in that foreign land? He’s going to save some of them and change some of them by using us.
God’s design is not to remove us from all trials, not to remove us from the world, but to protect us while inside of them. That’s oftentimes why those people who suffer the most for Christ experience the protection of Christ much different than people who are off and disengaged. Because when you’re in the heat of the battle and you know that Christ is protecting you, that’s a special understanding.
So I would say this: As you think about your Christian life, please, Canyon Bible Church of Prescott, don’t live this life trying to avoid trials. Don’t make that the number one goal. Don’t live this life just trying to be comfortable, and I don’t want to upset anyone, so I’m not gonna say anything that needs to be said.
Don’t live this life just trying to avoid trials. I’ve got good news for ya. That’s heaven, and it’s coming. And you don’t even have to try for that. Just no more suffering, no more tears. But right now he’s determined that we would do a work and that trials will come, but that we’ll be protected in that. We’ll be cared for. We’ll be comforted.
In sports, if you’re coaching a team, you don’t want a team to go out there to try to not make mistakes. Then they’re gonna be tentative in everything they do. You want a team that goes out there and tries to win. Just go. Be aggressive. We’re on the offense.
Christians are on the offense in this world. We don’t hunker down and try to avoid them. We engage. And when we engage, there’s risk. And it might not come with popularity, but listen to your Lord pray that his disciples would be protected as he leaves them in the world.
2 Thessalonians 3:1-3. Paul writes this to the church. He says, “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored.” That sounds like offense to me. Pray that the word of the Lord would speed ahead and be honored. I want to get this message out! Pray that it would happen.
“[A]s has happened among you”—you know what that means. It sped ahead to you, and you were converted. It changed you. Pray that it would keep speeding ahead. “[A]nd that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men.”
Paul doesn’t say, guys, you were saved; we’re gonna shut down this operation because there’s threats, and so we’re just gonna go hide in our bunker. No, he’s saying, pray that the word of the Lord would speed ahead and be honored, and in the middle of all that, pray that we’d be delivered from wicked and evil men. “For not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one” (2 Thessalonians 3:2-3).
The understanding of the New Testament is that Jesus’ disciples take his message out even into a hostile world, and they are protected from the evil one. Jesus wants this for us.
He wants us to be joy-filled, he wants us to be protected, and third, he wants us to be sanctified, or made holy. Set apart. Choose whichever synonym you’d like. He wants us to be sanctified.
Verse 17: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Sanctify—to set something apart. To set something apart to be useful. That’s what he wants for us. “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”
What Jesus is saying here is as we know and have a knowledge of his truth, we will be more useful to him. That’s the idea. As we not only know the truth more but are changed by the truth, we will be useful to him. This is the idea. Sanctify them. Set them apart by your truth. Your word is the truth that will set them apart and make them useful to you.
Being useful to God will not happen apart from your being changed by the word of God. Don’t expect to be used by God if you’re not changed by his truth, by his word. That’s what he intends to do.
And by the way, this doesn’t happen quickly. There are no quick fixes. So if you’re a new believer out there, don’t think that I’m gonna know all I need to know about the Bible, it’s gonna change me in a week, and I’m ready to go. It’s a long process. We’re always learning things about our Lord, always getting insights, always understanding what he says more and more. And as we learn more and more, we grow more and more. That’s why sanctification is actually a process.
And let me say this to our church: Sanctification is a process. You can write that down if you want. Now, you don’t think it’s important, but I’m gonna explain why it is. You’re like, yeah, of course. Because sometimes we don’t treat others as though sanctification is a process. We expect them to be completely sanctified today, just like I am, the preacher says with sarcasm. Sanctification is a process.
Now, we want to be a local church that preaches truth and preaches sound doctrine, and so we don’t compromise on the truth, on sound doctrine. But while we don’t compromise on the truth and on sound doctrine, we are very patient—we want to be very patient—with people who might not hold to all those truths today.
Sanctification’s a process. Understanding who God is and what he teaches is a process. That’s why Paul tells Timothy, listen, you preach the word. You’re gonna have to reprove people, you’re gonna have to exhort them, you’re gonna have to rebuke them. Do so with all patience (2 Timothy 4:2). You can’t leave the last part of that sentence off. Sanctification’s a process, and it comes by understanding the word of God.
Leaders in this church, if you lead a Bible study table, a small group, a youth ministry group—whatever it may be—if you lead anything, declare the truth and do so with patience. Sanctify them in your truth; your word is truth.
Listen to Psalm 119:97-101. Psalm 119 is all about the word of the Lord. Specifically, verses 97-101 say this:
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts. I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.
The reason I read that passage to you is because that’s how I want us going into Bible study, going into small group, going into youth ministry, going into Sunday morning. We start with that idea. Oh how I love your law. The idea that God has spoken a specific message to us when he didn’t have to is amazing. It’s his grace that we have these. Oh how I love the fact that you communicate to me, specifically, clearly, authoritatively, inerrantly. Oh how I love your law.
And then as we know it, we’re gonna gain more and more understanding. Does that passage end there? No it doesn’t. Because so far, you’ve just been qualified to be a Pharisee. I love the law. I know more and more. I know more than all my teachers. But there’s more than that. “I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word.”
You not only appreciate it and love it; as you meditate on it, you know more of it, but that’s not the end. It also changes you. It also changes you to be more holy, more sanctified, more useful to the Lord. So as you know the word because you delight in it and it changes you, you’re more useful in the mission in which he has you to work.
Some of you know of, or maybe have even seen, a Stradivarius violin. Many of them created about 250 years ago. There are only 512 of those violins left in the world today. They’re highly valuable. There are instructions for how to clean a Stradivarius violin. And no, you don’t just take a paper towel and some soap and clean it. You have to use the right grease, use the right cloth; you take very good care of how you clean that instrument.
This is what it means to be sanctified. It’s only the word of God that can rightly sanctify us. Not a political party, not some ancient philosopher, not your neighbor with all this great wisdom that contradicts the Bible. None of those change us to be useful to God like the word of God does. The word of God changes us, cleanses us, makes us useful. And the Stradivarius doesn’t just get stuck on the shelf. It gets used. And it’s meant to play something, to be beautiful for the one who’s playing it.
So that’s the idea. The word of God must change us. The word of God is the only thing that can truthfully change us. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 is a place to go in your time of reviewing this message. 2 Timothy 3:16-17. The Scripture is what changes us so that we can be equipped for every good work. It’s the word of God.
I would say by way of implication to us, let the word of God sanctify you. Whether you’re studying for women’s ministry Bible study or studying to prepare a lesson for the youth or me studying for Sunday morning—whatever it may be—as we’re studying our word, think of this: You’re studying to know more to be changed to be useful.
Don’t just think that your Bible study is meant for you. There are actually three entities that receive benefit from your Bible study—you, your God as you are sanctified and made useful to him, and the people you come in contact with. Your Bible study is for you, the Lord, and for the people that you’ll come in contact with. Sanctify them by your truth; your word is truth.
In my previous ministry position in Los Angeles, I had the privilege of getting to become friends with a well-known pastor. And we had many conversations throughout the years, and I’ve heard many of his sermons, and I look up to him for so many reasons in ministry. But I’ll never forget one conversation in my car where he just out of nowhere—we weren’t even talking about anything related to this—he said, you know, I’ve been reading my Bible lately, and I’m just convicted because I need to be more available to people. He had read the Good Samaritan passage. And he said, the Lord just taught me that I want to be more available. I want to be like that. I want to be useful and available to people.
I’ll never forget that. I was a young guy in ministry—like yesterday, you know. Kinda like now. Young guy in ministry. And this guy had preached things, and I looked up to him for that. He had taught things and written things. But when he said that the word of God changed him and that he was convicted by the word of God and wanted to honor the Lord by changing, that was the greatest sermon he ever preached to me. That one right there.
The world doesn’t need you and I to write books. The world doesn’t need you and I to be elected mayor to Prescott. The world doesn’t need you and I to get some sort of position. We will be so useful to the world around us if we would come to the word of God, meditate on it, be changed by it, and be useful to people who know us.
That draws people’s attention. I mean, you read your Bible and you actually humbly want to obey it and live for God? That’s not something people see every day. And God has designed that that type of thing would change the world. That’s what we can give to the people around us—a humble posture before the word so that it changes us so that we’re useful to him.
Jesus wants us to be joy-filled, protected, sanctified, and he wants a fourth thing for us. And really, those three things lead to the fourth thing. He wants us to be commissioned. He wants his disciples to be sent out. This is the reason that he gives us joy, protects us, and sanctifies us—to be useful, to be messengers for him.
Verse 18: “As you sent me into the world [Jesus praying to the Father], so I have sent them into the world.” You see the plan? The prophets testify about one coming that would bring salvation from heaven. The one coming actually comes in the first century and brings the offer of salvation to the world. And then he sends those he saves out into the world to keep bringing salvation to the world until he comes again. And that’s where we find ourselves.
He sent us out. He sent his disciples out, they then sent their disciples, they sent their disciples, they sent their disciples, and wham—we’re here. Disciples sent out to bring the message of salvation to the world.
There are so many similarities. If you go through the upper room, you find so many similarities between Jesus and us. Here are a few of them. The Father loves the Son. And Jesus told us in the upper room, the Father loves you also. The Father gives the Son his word. The Son gives us his word. The Father allows the Son to go through trials for various purposes. He allows us to go through trials for various purposes. The world hates the Son. The world hates us.
Now, the Father sends the Son. And we’re not allowed to say, well, that’s where the similarities end. I’m just gonna go sit at home. He’s gonna do his work in the world. No. The Father sends the Son, and the Son sends those who’ve been saved by the Son. That’s us. We’re called to continue the mission.
Verse 19: “And for their sake,” Jesus says, “And for their sake [the disciples’ sake] I consecrate myself”—that’s the same word as sanctify, by the way. Same Greek word. So, sanctify them by your truth; your word is truth. You’ve sent me into the world. For their sake I sanctify myself.
So Jesus is saying that the way he was set apart and made useful is for us. What does he mean by that? Well, he was set apart and useful to us by going and dying for our sin and taking what we deserve and receiving what he did not deserve—the wrath of God. He made himself, in that sense, useful for us. He sanctified himself for us. And so he’s saying, and for their sake I consecrate myself, so that they may be changed by truth, by the truth of the gospel.
So Jesus sets himself apart to be useful to us, namely in giving us salvation, and that salvation changes us. That’s the truth from heaven, and that changes us to go and be useful for him.
Listen to Titus 2:14: Speaking of Jesus, “who gave himself for us [there’s that setting apart; he gave himself for a particular reason] to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
Jesus came, set himself apart to go to the cross for us, so that we’d be changed by that reality, and we would then go and set ourselves apart for his good works. That’s the completion of this. It doesn’t end. Titus 2:14 doesn’t end by saying, Jesus set himself apart, redeemed us from all lawlessness, to purify us, for us to sit at home and enjoy it. He didn’t say that. He purified us so that we would be useful for good works. We do something now because of our salvation that he won for us.
Jesus didn’t just die to save you and I from sin and to purify us. He died so that we’d be zealous for good works—ultimately, the work of representing him to the world.
You know, pastors often remember the day that they were ordained into pastoral ministry, where other elders put their hands on them and said, yes, you are ordained to pastoral ministry. Well, in a sense, every Christian is ordained to ministry. And you know when it happened? Well, when they went to Bible college. Nope. Well, when they memorized the book of John. Nope. Well, when they went through the systematic theology course their church offered. Nope. You were ordained to ministry the day that you were converted.
Remember Jesus telling Peter, follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men. He didn’t say follow me; I’ll change your life; I’ll give you your best life now. He didn’t say any of that. Follow me; I’ll make you fishers of men. This is what’s gonna be the new norm for you, Peter. I’m gonna change you, and I’m gonna change other people through you.
Well, that was just Peter. That’s just the apostles. Okay. Peter wrote to the church these words: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9; NASB). Peter doesn’t think that being a witness for Christ ended with the apostles. Peter expects that the people he was writing to would carry that truth on.
Oftentimes I think you can find a lot of man-centered ministries. A man-centered ministry is one that aims at just making the man in the pew or the woman in the pew happy. That’s it. So a man-centered ministry would preach this message: You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people for God’s own possession, a holy nation. Period. Have a good day. That ends on you.
The beauty of the gospel is meant to end on glory to him. A God-centered ministry says this: You are a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you would proclaim the excellencies of him.
Any ministry, any Christian’s life is, yes, one of great benefit to us. Yes it is, but it’s meant to end for the sake of his great name. We have not been given joy, the joy of Jesus, the protection of Jesus; we have not been given the ability to be changed by the word of God from Jesus to just wait. We’ve been equipped to be sent. His glory is at stake.
We don’t ever want to make much of ourselves. This whole thing, all this church, everything, the children’s ministry—everything is about me and my family. No. It’s all to make God known. It’s for the glory of God.
I pray that your life, I pray that this church is always—even way after we’re gone—that this place is a place where God receives glory, and it’s not focused on man. We’ve been given privileges to be useful for him.
A lot of news about hurricanes. Texas, Florida. And our hearts break with seeing some pictures and things that are going on. It’s a difficult time for many people in our nation.
I’ve got a friend who’s a pastor in Austin who, in the midst of Hurricane Harvey, went to buy a boat. He went and bought a boat and joined another friend that I had back in seminary. The two of these men together went to Houston to try to rescue people with the new boat that they found. And—I’m sure you heard this—people started calling themselves “the Texas Navy.” It’s something to be applauded in that regard, certainly something to be commended for those types of things, and even for their families who stayed home while they did that. There are so many ways that people were wonderful examples during all that.
But if you think about it, in a sense, we’re like that boat to a world that is drowning. That’s us. We’re a boat that can be a means of rescue to people, and that should fire us up. That should bring joy. I know I’m gonna have trials, sleepless nights, difficulty, high storm waters, flood waters. I know that, but I’m made for something. Joy-filled boat.
We’re also a boat that is protected, because don’t forget who the captain of our boat is. It’s the God who controls the sea and the waves and the rain and the wind and everything, controls every atom in the universe. Our God is the captain of it. He will see to it that this boat is protected as it’s on its rescue mission. He knows where to go. He knows where to steer away from. He knows how to protect his boat.
We’re also the boat that’s sanctified, set apart. See, I’m sure there are some boats that are battered and torn and broken have holes in them and things like that. So to put the proper motor on it, patch up the holes, put the paint on it—to equip the boat, to be changed, to change the boat by the direction of the captain for a useful purpose. That’s us.
We’re joy-filled, protected, sanctified. Boats don’t belong in a boat house. Boats don’t belong in a garage when there’s a flood and people are suffering and trapped. Christians don’t just belong in Bible study and at home. Christians belong out, being a means of rescue, because their captain is steering them to places and to people that need help. And the need that they have is not one that’s temporary. The need that they have is one that’s eternal.
Brothers and sisters, you’ve been given joy by the heavenly Father. You’ve been protected by the heavenly Father. You’re being sanctified by the heavenly Father. So that you would be commissioned to proclaim his excellencies. He is worthy of that, is he not? He is. Let’s pray.
Father, we often sing the song that all we have is Christ. And we often sing the words, “Father, use my ransomed life in any way you choose.” And Lord, by looking at these verses today, we know how you choose to use us. We know that you choose to fill us with your joy. We know that you choose to protect us. We know that you choose to sanctify us.
And Father, I pray that as you do that work in us—this beautiful body of believers, this wonderful body of believers—as you do that work in each of us, may we be so filled up and satisfied in what you’ve done for us that we need other people to know about it. Continue your great commission work through your disciples today. We pray this in your Son’s name. Amen.