Last week we looked at Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17 that we be “in the world but not of the world” as we, His disciples, fulfill God’s mission for us on the earth. This is the method we will use to attack our job with confidence—being regularly involved right in the middle of Satan’s world system, but never partaking of it. We don’t have to “be one to win one.” We are different, not because we try to be or even know that we are, but we are—because Jesus is making us that way. He expresses Himself through us as we learn to live by faith.
The three verses in John 17 we investigated were 16-18: “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world (vs.16). Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (vs. 17). As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world)” (vs. 18).
Verse 16 is the “we are not ‘of’ the world” verse; verse 18 is the “but we are ‘in’ the world” verse. What about verse 17?
Verse 17 is the means that Jesus prays His Father will use to equip us. He uses the term “sanctify” or “set apart” for the battle we will face as we enter the family business. God is busy, right now, as you read this, sanctifying you—setting you apart, opening your eyes, changing your desires, getting you ready—to join Him in ruling over the earth. Resist Him if you can, fight Him if you must, but it will ultimately be to no avail. He will win by capturing your heart with His love and grace.
Jesus says in verse 17 that this setting apart-for-battle process occurs as we are exposed to truth—the Word of God as preserved in the Bible. In a culture increasingly influenced by postmodern Marxism, that claims every man has his own truth that lies within himself and there is no permanent, universal truth for everyone, this is a shocking concept.
But Jesus leaves no doubt in His prayer to his Father: “Your word is Truth!” The Reformers claimed in the Westminster Confession that the Bible is the only “infallible rule of faith and practice,” the only ultimate truth by which all is measured, and it lies outside of us, independent of us, in the Bible.
How will I walk this out in today’s culture? What will I do on a daily basis as I live “in the world but not of it?”
In Acts 4, Jesus’ disciples, Peter and John, give us the first taste of what that will entail. They show us that there are two aspects to our rule: first, to STAND for and then, if the opportunity arises, to PROCLAIM truth.
Peter and John had just healed a man lame since birth in Acts 3. The resultant excitement among the people attracted the attention of the Jewish rulers—the priests, elders and scribes—and they detained and quizzed Peter and John about what happened.
In essence, Peter answered, “If you are judging us for doing a good deed for a helpless man, let there be no mistake who gets the credit. It was Jesus who did it. Yes, the same Jesus you crucified, and whom God has raised from the dead.” Peter and John are standing for truth, as well as proclaiming it.
The rulers could not deny the miracle, because the man whom they knew to be lame, they now saw running around. However, they hated the truth and did not care if there was abundant evidence of that truth. They had to stop the truth from spreading.
“’What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But so that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name.’ So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus” (Acts 4:16-16).
The following response by Peter and John is the classic model for how we stand and proclaim as we are in the world but not of it. “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19, 20).
Their hands were tied. They were helpless. They had no choice. They couldn’t decide to obey or decide not to. They were God’s puppets (slaves is the biblical word). They had no “free will.”
They discovered that they could do nothing but stand for what they saw as God’s “truth,” and then proclaim that truth.
I could not refer to a boy by a feminine pronoun in the public school, or in any way go along with the transgender charade. I had decided, just as Peter and John did that I would take the consequences (losing my job as a substitute teacher). I think I retired just in time!
This is how we lose our culture—one word, one phrase, one seemingly insignificant new taboo at a time left unchallenged. I remember distinctly when “gay” was a positive state of mind having nothing to do with sodomy, and “civics,” was a study of the Constitution and a required core subject in high school.
If you are not naturally standing for and spontaneously proclaiming God’s truth, the answer is not to try to do so. The answer is to face the fact that your river of life isn’t flowing. “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Ask the Lord to show you what dammed up the flow, repent, and then ask Him to change your heart. He promises to do so (Philippians 2:13), and living by faith is believing that promise. Peter and John at one time were quaking cowards. Hide and watch what God does in you!