John 17:6-12 | He Will Hold Me Fast | Andrew Gutierrez
Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: John 17:6–17:12
Please be seated, and once you’re seated, because it’s easier, I’d ask you to open your Bibles to John, chapter 17. John 17—our text for the morning is verses 6 through 12. As we’ve gone through this chapter, we’re calling it “The Greatest Prayer Ever Revealed,” and we get a window into the prayer life of Jesus. And we hear, because of the pen of John, we read what Jesus was asking for just hours before he would die and suffer the wrath of God.
And in verses 6 through 12, we continue on in the section where Jesus is praying for his disciples, the immediate 12 (or 11 at this point) that he was gathered with. Next week we’ll finish off Jesus’ portion of praying for the disciples. Then we’ll move on to Jesus actually praying for us. But I think in this morning’s passage you’ll find lots of encouragement for your soul if you are in Christ.
I’ve entitled this message “He Will Hold Me Fast.” Please follow along as I read John 17:6-12, Jesus speaking to the Father:
I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
It’s no contest actually, the song—the number one song—that you, our body at Canyon Bible Church of Prescott, talks most about is the song we sung last week, “He Will Hold Me Fast.” Is that just some sort of coincidence? No. Because in the heart of a believer, a believer needs to know what they started out doing, believing in Christ, will be true until the end. And the believer knows that their heart, their faith, their will is all too often weak. And a believer knows that they need to put their trust in something stronger than themselves. And that song speaks to that reality.
That song was actually written by a lady. You see, her husband had a friend. This friend was talking to a young man in Canada after a Bible conference, and the young man in Canada told him that he was scared because he was unsure that what he started he couldn’t continue. As he started in Christ that he would not be able to go forward with Christ. He was very concerned about the security of his salvation.
So the man who this young man was speaking to wrote to this friend who was a hymnwriter and said it would be great if there was a song about the assurance of salvation. Well, that hymnwriter’s wife took up her pen and wrote the song, “He Will Hold Me Fast.”
When I fear my faith will fail
He will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail
He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold
through life’s fearful path
for my love is often cold
He must hold me fast
That song resonates in the heart of a believer. That song gives strength and encouragement. We need that song because we need to know that we’ll be held fast. Well, it’s one thing for a song to say that. What if that song didn’t reflect Scripture at all? Well, then big deal about the encouragement of the song.
But the words of that song, the truths of that song are reflected in this passage that we have this morning. So this morning I want you to be encouraged. My prayer has been that you, Christian, whether your faith is strong today as I speak or weak as I speak, that you would find encouragement this morning in the assurance of your salvation.
This morning I want to divide this text into two reasons your salvation is eternally secure. From this passage, two reasons your salvation is eternally secure. Now, I did a lot of reading on this this week, and I actually found 101 biblical reasons that your faith is secure. But for this morning two, two from this passage.
1. Your Salvation is Secure Because the Father’s Plan Has Been Accomplished
First, in verses 6 through 8. The first reason that you can be assured of your salvation, the security of your salvation, is that the Father’s plan has been accomplished. The Father’s plan has been accomplished. Prior to the Son’s prayer request, which we’ll actually get to in verse 11, his actual petition for us will actually come in verse 11, but all the information that he prays before that is important.
Prior to that petition in verse 11, he rehearses the fact that he’s done the work his Father sent him to do; and the people whom the Father has given him have responded to the work that he came to do. Now, I’m going to read through verses 6 through 8 a few times, and each time I want to pull out what is true in those verses about the Father and then the Son and then the disciples, and I want you to see this.
First, notice the truths about the Father. He is the ultimate sender. He is the source of this salvation. Verse 6: “I have manifested your name to the people whom [notice] you gave me out of the world.” The Father gives to the Son a people out of the world. “Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me …” You see a theme here? Three times so far. “… is from you.” Verse 8: “For I have given them the words that you gave me …” That’s the fourth time. “… and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”
The Father is the originator. The Father gave the message of salvation to the Son, gave the work of salvation for the Son to do, to accomplish. He sent the Son. He gave the Son the words, the message, the task. That’s the Father.
Now notice the Son. Verse 6: “I have manifested your name …” He did the work. The Father gave him words; the Son gave the words to his people. “I have manifested your name,” your character. Verse 8: “For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you …” So the Son comes from the Father in order to give words about the Father’s salvation to a people the Father has given to him.
So the Father is the giver and the sender. The Son is the one who’s relayed the message of salvation and pointed to the work of salvation. Now, notice the disciples. Verse 6, the end of verse 6: “[A]nd they have kept your word.” So the disciples have kept the word of God as relayed through the Son of God.
Verse 8, second part of verse 8: “[A]nd they have received them …” The words—they have kept the words, they’ve actually obeyed the words, and they’ve received them, they’ve embraced them, they’ve taken them in. “[A]nd have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.”
So the disciples here are known for keeping the word, knowing Christ came from the Father. They’ve received the word. They know in truth, and they have believed that the Father sent the Son. These are the actors in verses 6 through 8.
Jesus is saying to the Father in his prayer, the plan that you’ve sent me to do has been done. What was the plan? The Father had a message to preach to a certain group of people in the world, a group of people that he gave to the Son. The Son came and preached that message, accomplished salvation for those people. Jesus is speaking about his work, even his death, burial, resurrection and ascension as if it’s already done.
Jesus came to bring the message of salvation, the one who brings salvation by his blood; and he tells a group of people, and that group of people, as planned by the Father, will respond and have responded. The work has been done.
Now, if you are ever summoned by your government to go and bring a message about potential judgment or a potential salvation to another country, you would go and you would get to that country and you would say, you need to respond to what my government says; and if you don’t, there will be judgment. So, your choice: grace or judgment.
And you go and your government says, I want you to go specifically to a certain group of people, and they will believe. I promise you. So you go, you proclaim that message, and every single one that you were supposed to preach to and who would believe has heard and believed. Your work is done. You come home.
That’s Jesus. That’s what he’s doing. He’s come to preach a message of salvation, and the people whom the Father has given him, according to verses 6 through 8, have responded. That’s the context here. Now, why is this a comfort to Christians? Why is this a comfort to you if you have not done the things you think you should have this week? Why is this a comfort to you if you feel like you have little faith right now? Why is this a comfort?
Well, a couple reasons. First, because our responding to Jesus was predicted and planned by the Father. If you have ever come to Christ and said, I believe in the message that you’ve preached. I believe that you’re the only Savior from heaven. I believe that. I abandon my life to you. I give my life to you. And then you’ve lived on as a disciple—sometimes with high points, sometimes with low points, but still as a disciple. That has been planned by the Father.
The Father comes to weak, needy people at the very beginning. They throw themselves on the mercy of God. It doesn’t mean they become perfect right then, but they become accounted as perfect. This is an encouragement. What do we know about the disciples? When you think of the disciples, at this point in John, if I said give me a list of what the disciples were like, most of your answers would be negative.
They bicker. They’re selfish. They need to be taught things over and over and over and over again. They’re slow to learn. They don’t think about the glory of Christ; they only think about what this means for them. They don’t serve each other. They blast other people. There’s all sorts of errors in the disciple’s lives.
But notice what Jesus says about them. Notice what Jesus says: They kept your word. They know that Jesus is from God. They have received the words. They’ve believed in Jesus. Jesus does not point out the failures of the disciples to the Father. I don’t know about you, but that is greatly encouraging to me. The Son doesn’t point out the failures of the disciples to the Father as he prays for them. This is the work he came to do. He came to preach a message and people would respond.
The Father’s not sitting up in heaven as Jesus is preaching to people on earth going, man, I hope this works. I hope that someone believes. The Father’s not like me when I was in college sitting in a Von’s grocery store in Southern California trying to sell newspaper subscriptions and entice people with stuffed animals if they signed up. I went into those days thinking, oh, man, I hope this works with one person at least.
That’s not the Father. The Father knows when his Son goes to declare a message, a particular group of people are going to respond. That’s a comfort to us. If you’ve responded to the gospel message, that’s been the plan of the Father.
Another reason this is a comfort to us, because while imperfect the disciples are actually known for their faith. While imperfect the disciples are actually known for their faith. Listen to what J. C. Ryle says:
Christ tells all the good he can of his disciples and covers their failings. How poorly had they received Christ’s word. How weak and staggering was their faith. How often had Christ reproved them sharply for their unbelief and other faults. Yet not a word of all of this in Christ’s representing them to the Father. This is the constant gracious way of the High Priest.
Ryle goes on to say:
Believers make a better appearance in heaven than they do on earth.
Ponder that. You and I make a better appearance in heaven than we do here on earth. You know what that’s called? Grace. That’s grace. And we swim in grace. This is what the Father knows about us. We’ve kept his word. We’ve received his word. We’ve believed in his Son because we know he’s been sent by the Father. And that’s what he thinks about his own.
We are secure because it was the plan of the Father that the people he gave to the Son would believe and keep the word. We can take confidence in this security because this is the plan of the Father.
When you are struggling in your faith, when you wonder and have those thoughts about where do I stand with Christ, I want you to go back to John 17:6-8 and notice what’s true of the disciples. Weak as though they were, drag your heart, drag your experiences through these words. Remind yourself of when you believed, even with weak faith, you believed in the Son of God as the source of salvation. Remind yourself of that. That comes from somewhere, and it’s not your own doing.
Ephesians 2 tells us that belief is actually a gift. You’ve been granted to believe. Remind yourself of the belief. Remind yourself that you received the word of God, the message of salvation. Remind yourself that you’ve kept the word of God. Perfectly? No, but have you kept it? Yes, that’s what believers are known for doing as a pattern of life—keeping his word. You believe in the Son.
I want you to turn, if you will, to Ephesians 1. Paul starts off this letter to the Ephesians in one giant run-on sentence of praise. Ephesians 1, verses 3 through 14, is actually in the Greek a sentence. And he praises God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit for the work of salvation. And when you read this, Ephesians 1:3-14, you come out knowing the Father had a plan; he’s made it happen, and those who have embraced that gospel message, that plan, do endure until the end. That’s why Paul praises the Godhead in Ephesians 1:3-14. Just listen to it:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world,
That should give you some confidence in your salvation. You’ve been chosen before the foundation of the world.
that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Those last two verses have a lot of definite statements in them, don’t they? “In him you also, when you heard the worth of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit …” Sealed. When God seals something, the seal doesn’t break. Verse 14: “[W]ho is the guarantee …” When God guarantees something, he’s not like some shady used car salesman who doesn’t mean it. God is a God of truth. Jesus—I am the way, the truth.
So when the Father and Son say you are sealed, your salvation is guaranteed, they don’t lie. “[W]ho is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it …” Sounds like it’s going to happen. “[To] the praise of his glory.”
Back in John 17. The Father’s plan is not just that a people would be saved by the work of his Son, but that a people would be secured by the work of the Son. So these disciples have responded to the Son like the Father planned, but what about when the Son leaves?
Listen, the disciples weren’t pillars of the faith when Jesus was even with them, and now he’s going to leave. Surely quite a few of them are probably going to reject him ultimately. Surely quite a few of them who started out with him, and it was kind of a little easy when he was there; when he leaves, they’ll probably abandon him. Right? Wrong. Wrong.
2. Your Salvation is Secure Because the Father’s Plan Will Be Accomplished
Here’s the second reason you can be assured of the security of your salvation. Not only was the Father’s plan accomplished, the Father’s plan will be accomplished. The Father’s plan was accomplished when the disciples came to him in faith. The Father’s plan will continue to be accomplished as he secures them, even though Jesus is physically absent from the world.
So the Father’s plan was accomplished and will continue to be, is the idea in verses 9 through 12. As Jesus goes out of the world, he leaves the disciples in the world and requests his Father to keep them secure.
Verse 9: Jesus says to the Father, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them.” Jesus is not praying for the entire world. He’s praying for those whom the Father has given him. Namely, in these verses, the eleven disciples that are with him, and perhaps by extension he means the 70-plus, or by this time maybe the hundreds-plus, that were his disciples throughout Jerusalem at this time.
But he’s saying, I’m specifically praying for my disciples; and he’s saying, you gave them to me. Everyone I have is actually yours and everyone you have is actually mine. Shows the unity between the Father and the Son. And Jesus said, notice another encouraging thing, and I’m glorified in them. Jesus is saying that he is made much of, known to be wonderful by weak Peter, foot-in-his-mouth Peter. Peter, who often looks like you and me. Jesus is saying I am glorified in them.
Verse 11: “And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father [uniquely set-apart, no one like him Father], keep them in your name [keep them according to your character], which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” Here’s the request as Jesus goes back to heaven. The request Jesus makes to the Father for the disciples is keep them secure. That’s what Jesus prays.
He doesn’t say, Lord, heal all of their physical infirmities. Lord, give them beautiful houses by the Sea of Galilee. Jesus doesn’t pray those things. He prays to the Father to keep them as he goes out of the world and they remain in it. Keep them. Keep them in your name, on the basis of your character. Keep them, protect them from harm.
Not only keep them from harm, but unify them. Earlier in the evening they were boasting about which one was greatest. They were trying to predict which one would betray him. Well, it’s probably you. Remember that time he said something and you didn’t do it? It’s probably going to be you.
This is the disciples—bickering, selfish, asking him for privilege above the others. This is them. And he prays that they be kept and unified as they are kept. Now, why would God, why would the Son of God bring about the whole concept of unity here? Because you have to remember his mission for the disciples once he left. Jesus didn’t say to them, I’m going to heaven; just wait around for me. Just go enjoy your homes; wait around.
He launched them into the world to be the mouthpieces for salvation. Go declare salvation. Tell everyone I’m coming back. Tell everyone they can be right with the Father. Go tell everyone. So he wants them unified because if you’re going to turn the world upside down as a group, a small group of Jesus’ disciples, you’d better be unified.
You take soldiers before a great mission. The worst thing that they can do prior to the mission, right before the mission, is start to divide. That’s the worst thing they can do. Good luck winning the mission. Some of you have been on athletic teams and you’ve had a big game or big competition coming up, and the team starts to bicker with each other. And you’re like, not now. No, we’re going to be united so that we can win.
That’s why Jesus is asking for unity, because they’ve got a mission to be on. They better do it together.
Later on, Jesus will actually pray this for us. Look at verse 20, chapter 17. “I do not ask for these only [the disciples], but also those who will believe in me through their word … “That’s us. We believed in Christ based on the testimony of the apostles. “… that they may all be one …” You know what Jesus Christ prays for Canyon Bible Church of Prescott? That we would all be one. “… just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you.”
So Jesus Christ prays for Canyon Bible Church of Prescott that we would be united because the Father and the Son are united. Sometimes we think, well, if I’m not united with another believer, big deal; I’m good with God. Yeah, but you’re also lying about God and the Son. The Father and the Son are united, and the Father expects that his church would be united or else the church is lying about the Father and the Son.
“[T]hat they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that …” Here’s the reason Jesus wants us united—one, to reflect his character, but also so that “the world may believe that you have sent me.” One of the biggest reasons people do not believe the gospel of Christ is because they see factions in the body of Christ.
But when you unite as the body of Christ, that’s when your testimony to the world becomes strong. Jesus is praying for this. He’s praying the disciples would be kept and unified as they are kept.
Verse 12: “While I was with them, I kept them in your name.” Now, did Jesus ever do something that the Father doesn’t want him to do? Audience participation. No. Good. Does Jesus always do what the Father wants him to do? Audience participation. Yes. Good. I like this. We’ll do it more often. I know you’re awake.
Jesus is in lockstep with the Father. He does what the Father asks. He doesn’t do what the Father doesn’t want him to do. Jesus says, when I was with them, I kept them according to your character, according to who you are and what you determined. I have kept them. When I was here, I kept them. I’ve kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them.
So I’ve kept them secure privately, but I’ve also guarded them from outside forces, is the idea. “I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” I’ll explain that in a moment, but for now I want you to understand Jesus is implying that, because he’s kept them, he knows it’s the Father’s will that the Father would keep them. This is the plan of the Godhead, for someone who comes to Christ to continue in Christ and to finish and end in Christ. Secure.
Now, Jesus says, “and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” At first reading this seems like, man, he kept everyone, and his hands are pretty strong to keep everyone. Ahh, but Judas slipped out. Ahh. Well, we know for many reasons that’s not actually the case. It’s not the case that Judas was one of the actual disciples who believed in Christ, had a faith in Christ, and then slipped finally.
We know that’s not the case, and I’ll tell you in a moment some reasons that that’s not the case, but first the language here. He says, except the son of destruction. I think this is a helpful way to think of this. Listen to what one writer says:
Judas is excepted and not without reason, for though he was not one of the elect and the true flock of God, yet dignity of his office gave him the appearance of it. And indeed no one would have formed a different opinion of him so long as he held that exalted rank.
So Jesus is saying, Judas looks like one of the rest. Not one of them was lost except for him. But then Jesus goes on to explain that Judas actually wasn’t one of them. Jesus calls him the son of destruction. That’s a term of destiny. Jesus knew who Judas was before Judas ever was.
That writer goes on to say:
But so that no one might think that the eternal election of God was overturned by the damnation of Judas, he immediately added that he was the son of destruction. By these words Christ means that his ruin, which took place suddenly before the eyes of men, had been known to God long before.
God knew all along that Judas was the one who would betray Christ. And by the way, God is not the one to blame for Judas’ destruction. Judas is, according to the Scriptures.
What are some other reasons we know that Judas was not a believer who was lost? I’m going to give you five, quickly. Five reasons we can know that Judas was not a believer who was lost.
First, Jesus calls him the son of destruction. I’ve covered that. This was a term of the future. This was known by God from the past about what would happen in the future. This is what the Father and Son know Judas as—the son of destruction.
Second, the point of this passage is the safekeeping of a true disciple. The point of this passage is the safekeeping of a true disciple. Jesus is trying to make a point here. He’s praying about security to the Father. So he’s not going to say there’s another reality that’s contrary to that point.
Third, one of John’s themes is to help us understand that there are true disciples and false disciples. We’ve gone through this as we’ve gone through John. Some of you have thought, yeah, I’ve heard this type of thing before. Yeah, because John keeps saying it. John 2:23-25. I’m not going to recite it. You can write it down. We’ve done that a few times. John 2:23-25, not all those who say they believe actually believe.
John 6:63-65, listen to what John writes, the Spirit writes. Jesus says, it is the Spirit who gives life. Now, as you hear that in John 6, remember back to John 3, Jesus telling Nicodemus—Nicodemus, I mean, Sunday school kid of the year, Nicodemus; knows all the answers, Nicodemus; teacher of Israel, Nicodemus. Jesus tells Nicodemus, you must be born again. You must be started over.
And by the way, Jesus goes on to teach that being born again doesn’t happen when you say, okay, fine, I’ll be born again. That happens by the Holy Spirit. Listen to John 6:63-65:
It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you [Jesus says] are spirit and life.
So the idea is you need to be born again by the Holy Spirit. You can’t do this on your own. The words I’ve spoken to you are Spirit and life. So by implication, when you believe those words, spiritual life. Jesus says:
But there are some of you who do not believe.
Jesus said this way before the upper room discourse that we’re in in John 17. Jesus said this way before Judas actually betrayed him. Jesus said this months and months before that. “But there are some of you who do not believe.” Now connect that with the previous verses. You need to be born again, you need to live by the Spirit. The words I give you are spiritual words, but you don’t believe the words. Therefore, no spirit. Haven’t been born again. Don’t believe. There are some of you who do not believe.
And then John says this:
(For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)
Judas did not believe.
And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
Fourth reason we know that Judas was not a believer who was lost. John, the apostle John later writes that one who departs was never of us. Evidently, this is a big deal to John, this subject. He wanted people to know in his day and our day that there is such a thing as people who look like disciples of Christ that actually aren’t.
And John says, and he can base this on John 6, but John says they never were. John’s words, not mine. 1 John 2:18-19: “Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come.” Many against Christ have come. Now, one thing we know about Judas, he was against Christ. We’ll see that in chapter 18 more clearly.
John says, continues on, 1 John 2:18-19: “Therefore we know that it is the last hour. They [speaking of these against Christ] went out from us [yes, that’s Judas, yep, he went out from us], but they were not of us [that’s right, he wasn’t one of us]; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” If they had been one of the true disciples, they would have continued. “But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”
Judas was not a true disciple. An outward one. Did he look like one? Did people think he was? Yes, yes, yes. Was he? No.
Number five. Final reason I’m going to give you this morning that Judas was not a believer who was lost. Here’s the reason: Jesus repeatedly teaches that the opposite is true. Jesus repeatedly teaches that the opposite is true. John 6:37-40:
All that the Father gives me will come to me.
Now, bring in your minds five minutes ago to John 6. Remember John 6? This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it’s granted to him by the Father. Now hear Jesus also in John 6.
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.”
All the Father gives will come—definite statements—and whoever comes I will never cast out. He doesn’t say, I will never—except for that one little time. Doesn’t say that. I will never cast out.
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me.
This is the will of God who sent me. Again, audience participation. Does Jesus do the will of God? Yes.
And this is the will of God who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
Jesus just teaches the opposite. You might say you can fall away where you once were a disciple. Jesus teaches the opposite.
John 10:27-28. Jesus actually connects this into his gracious character. John 10:27-28:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life,
How long’s eternal life? Five years maybe. Eternal.
and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
Jesus says, no one’s taking them out of my hand. The Father gave them to me. No one’s taking them out of his hand.
Hear Jesus in John 17 praying for you, Lord, do not let anyone snatch them out of your hand. Lord, keep them. Keep them.
Charles Spurgeon said this:
If one dear saint of God had perished, so might all. If one of the covenant ones be lost, so may all be. And then there is no gospel promise that is true, but the Bible is a lie, and there is nothing in it worth my acceptance. I will be an infidel at once when I can believe that a saint of God can ever fall finally. If God hath loved me once, then he will love me forever.
Now, I’ve got a warning from this text and some encouragements from this text to take away. A warning from this text: Do not base your salvation on what you look like outwardly or what you did in the past. We wouldn’t advise Judas to do that because he looked pretty good outwardly, so good evidently they trusted him to keep the money. And at one point in the past he said, I’ll follow you, and started following Jesus evidently.
Do not base your salvation on what you look like outwardly or in what you did in the past. Time and truth go hand in hand. The question I have for you is, have you ever truly denied yourself and trusted your entire life—and by entire life I mean every corner of every room—to Christ?
I didn’t ask if you’ve been perfect. I didn’t ask if you’ve done a bunch of good deeds that would please God and let you into heaven. I said, have you ever entrusted him into every corner of your life? You’re willing to follow his lead? Doesn’t mean you will perfectly, but you said at the beginning, I will follow you. All of it’s yours. Every room, every closet, under every bed—it’s all yours. Have you ever done that?
Let me give you an illustration. The weak disciple who is a true disciple, the true and weak disciple let’s Christ into his home and may embarrassingly open the door and say, you’re not going to like what you see in there. The false disciple tries to keep Christ from going into certain rooms and thinks he can fool Christ. Look, everything is clean. Look, everything’s clean. Look, I’m at church. Look, I’m leading a Bible study. Look, I’m in charge of the money. Look. That’s a false disciple.
Those of you who have entrusted your life to Christ and are willing to lose everything for the sake of following him, even while you’re weak, be encouraged. So first a warning to those who might be the hypocrite. And by the way, I’ve found that it’s bad, if you feel convicted by the Spirit about something, don’t just go to lunch. Deal with what the Lord is preaching to you. We started at the beginning of this sermon asking the Lord to preach to our hearts.
If that’s you and you think, I’ve been in church all my life, but I look more like a Judas than I do a disciple, come to Christ. Judas sinned, went away, hanged himself. Peter sinned, denied Christ, and, when he saw Christ, jumped in the water and swam to him. Reconciliation. Christ saves hypocrites who repent. Please—it’s gotta be true of someone here—please go to Christ today. Let him in every room.
But for those of you who are disciples—you said I believed, I’ve opened every room of the house to him, and I’m still weak, I’m still sinful—I’ve got some encouragements for you. First, you are saved by the object of your faith, not the perfection of it. You are saved by the object of your faith. Who is the object of your faith? Jesus Christ. Not the perfection of it.
Second, all disciples of Jesus are imperfect. Don’t think you’re the only one. Well, man, no one struggles with what I’m going through. Yes, they do! We do! Until heaven. We struggle with it. You’re not alone. You’re not alone. Welcome to the club. All disciples of Jesus are imperfect. Don’t think you’re the only one.
Third, all disciples of Christ grow, learn, respond to God’s word. So embrace the path of growth, because while you have weak faith and your salvation’s not based on the strength of your faith but on the strength of the object of your faith—Jesus Christ—while that is true, what God does in a heart when someone believes in Christ, God has shown that he regenerates them. He changes their heart and they will respond.
We actually believe in the power of the Holy Spirit here. When you say you’re a Christian, you start to look different—look more like Jesus Christ. That’s the Holy Spirit. So an encouragement is, if you’ve grown in any bit, if you’ve responded to the word, if you’ve confessed sin and you strive to be like Christ, even while it’s imperfect, you can look back and go, man, look where I was three years ago. Praise God.
We often think of our failings today. I failed today. Look back a few years. That’s why I read 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 in our Scripture reading this morning. Paul is thanking God for the evidences of grace in the Corinthians. Not the Thessalonians; the Corinthians. There’s evidence of grace in the life of even a weak believer if they’re a true believer.
Fourth encouragement, the Father and the Son want you to know that you are kept, so know that you are kept. The Holy Spirit of Christ, Christ himself wanted us to hear this prayer; and in this prayer he says, Lord, it’s your plan that they would respond to you. And Lord, you’ve given them to me to keep, and I’ve kept them. Now you keep them.
The Father and the Son don’t want you going out of here going, I wonder if I’ll be kept. Don’t do that! The character of God is, know you’re kept. The Son accomplished it, the Father planned it, the Son prays for it and wants you to believe it.
Listen to Jude, Jesus’ half-brother, writing to the church of God. Listen to what Jude says. “Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James, to those who are called [Christians, okay], beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ.” Jude expects that every believer is called and kept.
You know what Jude says at the end of his letter? You probably do, but I’ll read it anyway. Jude 24 and 25:
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time now and forever more.
To him who’s able to keep you. At the beginning of the letter, he said to you who are called and kept. It’s a reality. This passage shows us that our salvation is secure. It was accomplished when you believed in Christ and will continue to be accomplished as you are secured by God himself.
I entitled the message “He Will Hold Me Fast,” and indeed he will. About 500 years ago or so Martin Luther wrote what really became the hymn that’s most well known in the Protestant Reformation, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Luther struggled with knowing whether or not his salvation was secure, and he struggled with that before he was actually saved. And it was good that he struggled with that.
But then he got a moment when he understood Romans 1. He understood the righteousness of God is not something I’ve got to achieve. The righteousness of God is given to me; and because I have God’s righteousness, I am always secure with him. And Luther wrote these words:
If we in our own strength confide
our striving would be losing
Don’t count on your own strength.
Were not the right Man on our side
the Man of God’s own choosing
You ask who that may be
Christ Jesus, it is he
The Lord of Hosts his name
Speaks of his power.
From age to age the same
Listen, friends, you cannot lose what you did not earn. You cannot lose what God never intended you to keep. You cannot lose what Christ Jesus earned for you.
Father, how can we live with the flesh, the devil, against the forces of the world without knowing that we stand secure in you? Put steel into our bones today, Lord. Give us trust and faith that when we are weak, you are strong. And Father, I’d ask that that would motivate us to obey you all the more, knowing that we’re secure.
Father, if there’s one in here who is pierced to the heart, thinking that they’ve looked more like a Christian than they’ve shown themselves to be one, they’ve fooled lots of people, maybe even themselves for a while, but have never truly abandoned themselves to you, Lord, may this be the day where they openly and honestly for the very first time go before you about that matter. Grant them salvation today. May today be the happiest day of their life, knowing that they are at peace with God the Creator, God the Judge, God the Good Shepherd, God the victor.
Lord, thank you for your word. Thank you that we can know you and how you work. We pray all these things in your Son’s name. Amen.
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