Lord, we do place our hearts before you and we trust that you have a word for us today from the Scriptures. And we pray, Father, that we would all be open and willing to not just hear, but then to do what we are told by your Spirit through the words of Scripture. Thank you for hungry hearts. And thank you for this time set aside for your honor, in Jesus' name. Amen.
I read something that was quite humorous somebody gave me, I think, sometime back. And as funny as it was-- and I'll read it to you in a minute-- it caused me to write down a rather serious observation. I'm going to give you this serious observation. And then I'll read this to you.
The serious observation is that church can become a place, not necessarily is a place, but church can become a place where participation is minimal, where perceptions are unreasonable, and where worship is invisible. I'll say it again. Church can become a place where participation is minimal, where perceptions are unreasonable, and where worship is invisible.
So I'm going to read this to you. This is a perceived job description of five people on a church staff, beginning with the pastor. Pastor-- able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, more powerful than a locomotive, faster than a speeding bullet, walks on water, gives counsel to God.
Assistant pastor-- able to leap short buildings in a single bound, as powerful as a switch engine, just as fast as a speeding bullet, walks on water when the sea is calm, talks with God. Minister of music-- leaps short buildings with a running start, almost as powerful as a switch engine, faster than a speeding BB, is occasionally addressed by God, walks on water if he knows where the tree stumps are.
Youth minister-- runs into small buildings--
No offense Nate-- recognizes locomotives two out of three times, uses a squirt gun-- that's accurate-- knows how to use the water fountain, mumbles to himself.
Church secretary-- lifts buildings to walk under them, kicks locomotives off the tracks, catches speeding bullets in her teeth, freezes water with a single glance, and when God speaks, she says, may I ask who's calling? See what I mean by unreasonable perceptions?
Now this church is not like that, not like that. But there's a sufficient number of organizations that can become like that, and all of us are susceptible, so that people are asking this question. Church, what good is it?
That's what we covered in our very first week in this series. And we answered it by saying, who needs it? I need it. You need it. We all need it. We need it because here is where God's people gather, and we need that accountability. Here's where God's principles are conveyed, and I need to grow. Here's where God's purpose is revealed for my life. And here is where God's presence is in a very, very unique way.
I got a letter not too long ago from a gentleman who informed me that he doesn't go to any church at all. And he used to go to church, but he, for the last three years, is at home. He just reads his Bible. He's not a part of a church. And he's discovered things about the Church and about God and about life.
So here he is, isolated, not accountable to anyone, answerable to no one, has turned a personal relationship with God into a private relationship with God. And it's sort of like the Elijah complex, I alone am the only one who knows these things and discovers the truth. That's not good.
In our second week, we discovered that Jesus said He was going to build a church. "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it." So we discovered, He gets to name it. Not only does He name it, He builds it. He owns it. And He keeps it.
But what does that look like? What kind of group-- church-- did He have in mind when He said, I am going to build my church. Now that's a very fundamental question, because if it is His church, we want to know what He thinks that should look like.
It's interesting that many organizations want to go back to the New Testament and say things like, well, we want to be a New Testament church, which I applaud, incidentally. We want to go back to the book of Acts, which I applaud. But be careful.
When you say you want to be a New Testament church, the church at Corinth was a New Testament church. You don't want to be like that. In fact, as you're going back, keep going back past the book of Acts, all the way to the words of the founder. What does Jesus say about it?
Well, here, He says a lot about it in John 17, the longest recorded prayer of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. He is praying for and anticipating characteristics that would mark His followers.
There are four. I'm going to give you two today. We're going to cover in the next two next week. But there are four characteristics that help answer the question, what kind of church would Jesus attend? What kind of church would Jesus attend? And there's four characteristics.
Number one, it's a church that radiates the glory of God. Jesus would attend that church. Number two, it's a church that reveals the truth of God. Jesus would attend that church. Number three, it's a church that rescues the enemies of God. And number four, it's a church that rallies around the love of God.
Now we're just going to cover the first two this week and the second two next week. Let's begin at the beginning.
In verse one it gets us started on the first characteristic, and that is a church that radiates the glory of God. Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come. Glorify your son that your son may also glorify you."
Verse 4-- "I have glorified you on the earth, I have finished the work which you have given me to do, and now, O Father, glorify me together with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was."
Verse 9-- "I pray for them." That's His followers. "I do not pray for the world, but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours, and all mine are yours and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them."
Verse 22-- "And the glory which you gave me, I have given them, that they may be one just as we are one."
And finally, verse 24-- "Father, I desire that they also, whom you gave me, may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world."
So eight times, in this prayer alone, glorify or glorified or glory is used by Jesus Christ. What does that mean? It's important to know what it means, because this is the heart of which motivated Jesus every day of His life, was the glory of God. So what does that mean?
Well, glory or glorified or glorification means two different things, and both are in this passage. Number one, the glory of God speaks of the visible expression of God, the visible expression of God. It's the presence of God turned up to ten, unfiltered, full strength, not decaffeinated, it's the full expression of the presence of God that one day we will see when we're in His presence. That's one sense of it.
You might look at it as, it's the outward "wow!" that brings the inward "woe!" if a human being is ever in contact with it. Like Isaiah, remember Isaiah's vision of the glory of God. "In the year the King Uzziah died I saw"-- this is Isaiah 6, "the Lord lifted up and the train of his robe filled the temple, and the angels were crying out, Holy, Holy, Holy, the whole earth is full of His glory." That's the outward wow!
What does Isaiah say? Woe is me. Like, uh-oh, that's me next to holy God, not a good picture. It's what Moses cried for. Show me your glory. And one day, we will see His glory, the full expression of the presence of God.
But it means something else. And this is to our application now. It means to make renown, or to make famous, or to have a good opinion of. It's the word "doxazo." Look at verse 4. "I have glorified you."
And then I think that's expanded on in verse 6-- "I have manifested your name to them." That is I've pointed to you. I put the focus on you. I've placed you, Father, on center stage and turned the spotlight on you. And-- and that's been not only what I have done, I've given that to them, my followers, as the goal for their lives.
So what is the goal of the church? What should be our goal as a church? Simply that God is pointed to, given attention to, made renown. Or you might say, so that people's opinions about God are made better by our lifestyle-- people's opinions of God are made better by our lifestyle.
You say, well, that's kind of a tall calling. How do we do that? How do we do that? Two ways Jesus gives here in our text. Number one is by declaration-- declaration. Verse 6-- "I have manifested your name." It simply means, I made your name great. I've made your name great.
Have you noticed that wherever in the New Testament Jesus was with a group of people He would always honor His Father? He would say things like, the words that I speak aren't my words. These are the words the Father has given me to say. I and my Father were one. Or I always do those things that please the Father. Or in John 8, "I honor my Father."
He is always declaring verbally honor, focus, attention, and renown to God. This is how great the Father is. So let's do that. Let us do that. Let's go out and make Jesus famous in this community by the way we live, so that people's opinions about God are made better.
And we do that by our witness, that is, with the world. Now when we're together like this, we do it by worship. We make declarations in our worship about God. And here's what's so great about worship. There's a lot of great things, but worship is one of those exercises that, if it's done right, it's completely selfless, because all the focus and attention isn't on me or how I feel about it, but all the focus, all the attention, all of it is on Him.
That's if it's done right, if it's true worship. Now if it's not true worship, then it becomes about me. and my taste and what I like. I like that song. I didn't like that song. I like guitar. I don't like guitar. I like drums. I don't like drums. I wish we had a choir. I wish we didn't have a choir. Who cares?
That's making it all about us, our tastes, what we like about it, instead of about God. I love the story about President Johnson, Lyndon Johnson. When he was in the White House he had a special aide to the White House, Bill somebody, he invited over to the White House for dinner, and asked Bill to open the meal up in prayer. So he began.
Bowing his head and in just sort of a normal quiet voice started praying to the Lord thanking Him for the meal. President Johnson was at the other end of the table and quite couldn't hear everything that was being said. So President Johnson interrupted the prayer, speak up, Bill.
Without looking up, Bill said, I wasn't addressing you, Mr President.
Wouldn't that be cool to say to the president? Any president. This isn't a White House briefing, Mr. President. I'm talking to God, now. And worship, true worship, isn't about how it made us feel, but how did it make God feel?
In 1928, Evelyn Underhill wrote to the Church of England and said, we are drifting toward a religion which keeps its eye on humanity rather than on deity. I want you to hear that. That's 1928. We are drifting-- 1928-- toward a religion that keeps its eye on humanity rather than on deity. May I say, we've arrived. We've arrived.
Most times and places and activities that are spiritual, it's about us. It's not about us, it's about making Him renowned and declaring Him. So declaration.
Also we glorify God by demonstration-- by demonstration. Look at verse 4. Jesus said, "I have glorified you on the earth." How did he do that? He tells us. "I have finished the work which you have given me to do."
So how do you glorify God? By finishing the work that He gave you to do. Now listen, all of you have a task. Do you know that? You have a God-given directive. I don't know what that is. It's unique to you.
You have a particular place that you fit and a job and a task that only you can accomplish. And I say, find out what that is so that you can say, I know why I'm here. This is what God made me to do. And pursue that with all of your heart.
And you might think, well, what do you mean? I don't quite get that. Because I always thought God's whole goal from my life was to get me to heaven. Well, you're wrong. That's just part b. That's taken care of. You will go to heaven if you trust Christ with all of your heart.
But that's not the only goal God has for you. Because, now follow me, if heaven were the only goal God had for you, it would mean the very moment you received Christ-- you know what would happen?
[WHISTLING THROUGH TEETH]
You'd just keel over dead. So you'd come forward at an altar call. We'd pray for you. The undertakers drag you out.
Go to heaven. Go directly to heaven. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Just, you're there. But that's not the only goal.
You and I have a God-given task that, until we get to heaven, we need to find out what that is so we can say, I finished the work that you gave me to do. So we glorify God by declaration. We glorify God by demonstration. So the church Jesus would attend is the church that has that focus, that radiates the glory of God.
Second, it's one that reveals the truth of God. Verse 6-- "I have manifested," or made great, "your name to the men whom you have given me out of the world. They were yours, you gave them to me and they have kept your word. Now they have known all things which you have given me are from you, for I have given to them the words which you have given me and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from you. And they believed that you sent me."
So you follow what he's saying? Jesus received from His Father words of truth. Jesus passed those words of truth onto his followers who received them, wrote them down, and passed them on down to us.
I have received your words. I have declared your words. They have received them. Any church that Jesus would attend must be a church where the word of God is spoken, the word of God is preached, and not the opinions of men.
It's interesting to me how high on the list the word of God is to Jesus. It's up there. On the list of important things about those who claim to follow Christ and gather together as a church, it is the word of God. And you know why? Because it's the source of all truth. That's why. It's the source of all truth.
I say it's amazing, because it's not always what people place on their list of the most important things when they look for a church. They might say, well, it depends how close it is to my house. Or depends on what kind of programs they have for my kids or for the arts or for whatever.
But high on Jesus' list is the word being preached, because the word is the source of all truth. Verse 17, notice, "Sanctify them," he continues, "by your truth, your word is truth." Well, now that explains a lot.
That explains why we do what we do. You might say, Skip, every time I come here it's like always the same-- sing a few songs, do an announcement, a few more songs, and then you talk. And you keep talking and teaching and preaching. Why don't you have a raffle one Sunday? Or--
--interpretive dancing? That's just a frightening thought, right there. I found an article in the Albuquerque Journal. I'm not going to read the article, just listen to the title of the article. Church; a Trendy Place For Singles Seeking Dates. Talk about a far cry from what Jesus originally intended!
Jesus commissioned his disciples, "Go make disciples of all nations," listen, "teaching them to observe whatever I have commanded." So here's Jesus praying for the future church. Praying for it.
And what He prayed for, what He wants, what's high on the list is to radiate the glory of God and to reveal the truth of God. And, incidentally, you turn to the book of Acts, which is the playbook of the church, you turn to the book of Acts and we find out His prayer is answered.
Acts Chapter 2, verse 42, a text will look at more in-depth later. It says, "And they gave themselves continually to the Apostles' doctrine," number one, breaking of bread, fellowship, and prayer. Those four things. First on the list, Apostles' doctrine. Why?
Why didn't it say, and they gave themselves continually to loving each other? Why isn't that number one? Why isn't it, and they gave themselves continually to singing? They gave themselves continually to community improvement.
Here's why. Because it is the word of God that teaches us how to do all of those things. You want to know how to love people? The Bible tells you exactly how to do that. You want to know how to be involved in the community? The Bible tells us exactly how to do that. How to pray? The Bible gives us those parameters. Raise a family? The Bible does that. It is the source of all things we do.
So a church that Jesus would attend would be one that radiates the glory of God, reveals the truth of God. And there's two more we'll uncover next time. But let me just give you the benefits of those first two.
Any church that makes it about God and makes it about His truth, two things will happen. Number one, joy. Truth produces joy. Verse 13-- Jesus is praying again. "Now I come to you and these things I speak in the world that they," they being, again, his followers, that's the antecedent, the disciples, "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."
So Jesus spoke truth. And His followers received the truth. And a result is they were joyful, even though the world hated them, hassled them, they were joyful, because they had the truth. So how can a person have joy in a world that really hates God and hates those who truly follow God? How can you have joy in that mess?
How can a person have joy when the world around them is falling apart? Answer-- the word, truth, that's how. That's how.
Let me kind of just take it down to its irreducible minimum. There's two kinds of people in the world. There's people of the world, of its values, of its system, thinks like the world value system thinks-- people of the world. And the other category-- people of the word.
Now people of the world may have a sense of happiness. But it's happiness based upon circumstances, it rises and falls depending on what's going on around them. So if it's a great day, they're happy. If tomorrow's a bad day, they're not happy. So they're always a prisoner of their circumstances that rise and fall.
But people of the word have that steady, fixed, contented, joy because it's in Jesus who's the same yesterday, today, and forever. He never changes. And sometimes, those kind of people in the worst of circumstances have an even more intense kind of a joy.
So people of the world, they're like thermometers. They go up, they go down, they go up, they go down. Economy is good, they're good. Economy is bad, they're bad. People of the word are like the thermostat, they set the temperature, because their trust is in the ever unchanging Jesus Christ.
So does joy mark your life? Well, if it's rooted in truth, it will. Because, when you're exposed to the truth, you'll read about what's happening after this life, what God has planned for us after this life, and that causes a whole lot of joy knowing that it's not always going to be like this.
And number two, you have all of the promises of God for right now, until you get to heaven, that will sustain you. Jesus said in John 16, "In the world you will have trouble." I wonder how many bibles have that underlined as a promise of Jesus? He has guaranteed, "In the world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."
Now let me just, for a minute, brag on you. One of the great things about you is your joy. I get this from guest speakers all the time. Oh, I love coming to your church. I love speaking to those people. There's such excitement.
You see, this is true about you. You're a bunch of fanatics.
I say that with the utmost respect. You know, the word fan is a shortened form of the word fanatic, you know that. You go to the pit and people make two points and people go, agh! Ooh! We call it a fan. It's a fanatic, that's what it is.
You do that when you worship and it's real. You do that over the word. People here clap for a Bible study. Now it could be that they're finally glad it's over, I don't know. But I think it's genuine joy. And you should have that joy.
Charles Spurgeon said, "Our happy God should be worshipped by a happy people. A cheerful people is in keeping with His nature." And it's all produced from truth. That's why it's genuine in you. That's why it's not fake, because you're exposed to the truth. And as you're exposed to the truth, the Bible reveals the love of God, the plan of God, the meaning of life, the future of the world, heaven, the promises, all that that causes a deep sense of joy.
As Psalm 119 says, "Happy are the people who follow the law of the Lord. Happy are those who obey His decrees and search for Him with all their hearts."
Hey, listen to this, Tyndale House Publishers, Christian publisher, did a poll and published the results. And they discovered after their research, and I quote, "90% of Bible readers," frequent Bible readers, "feel at peace all or most of the time, as compared to 58% who read it less than once a month." Interesting.
"92% of frequent Bible readers report knowing a clear purpose and meaning for their life, whereas, only 69% of infrequent Bible readers report the same." So let me tell you, the church that Jesus would attend would be one where there is joy producing truth that is declared as Jesus prayed for.
Finally, it will not only produce joy, it will produce holiness. And we'll close with this, verse 15-- verse 15-- "I do not pray that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by your truth, your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes, I sanctify myself that they also may be sanctified by the truth."
Now there's another religious sounding word, sanctified, sanctification. Don't lose that word. It's a good word. Understand what it means. It means be holy, to be different, to be separated from sin.
How different are you from the world? How different are you from the world? Well, you're very different, if you're people of the word. This is what Jesus is praying to His Father. Father, this world is deceptive. It's evil. So purify these followers. And you'll do it to the truth. Your word can keep them pure.
Now how does that work? How does truth, the word of God, produce holiness? Well, when you're exposed to it something happens. And when I tell you you'll go, oh, yeah. That's happened.
Sometimes you read the Bible, you'll read a verse and you'll go, oh! I needed to hear that. It's so comforting to hear that promise. Ah, I feel so good. It's so important that I heard that. It's comforting.
Other times you read it, it's not comforting. It's confronting. You read it and you go, why is that in there? I'm not going to underline that thing. I'm not going to memorize that verse, because it's not comforting. Sometimes you'll read it and it's confronting.
As one person put it, the word of God, sometimes it comforts the afflicted, and at other times it afflicts the comfortable. You go, yep, I've had that happen. In fact, and it's at least five, maybe seven times that I can remember in my years of pastoring where people have come up to me or written me and said-- they accuse me of following them around.
You followed me this week didn't you, because of the sermon on Sunday. Or my wife called you, didn't she? And they feel like I'm directing the sermon at them in particular. What's up with that?
I'll tell you what's up with that. It's exactly what Hebrews 4 tells us, "The word of God is living, powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the heart."
Now can I just say that I believe sermons are meant to do that. If they're good sermons I think they are meant to cut and confront. Not just for the sake of cutting and confronting and causing pain or causing guilt, not at all. But to cut away that which is displeasing to God in our lives.
And there's still some of that hanging around, isn't there, in all of our lives? And that's why sometimes it is comforting and at other times it's confronting, because God is trying to cut away the dross, cut away what doesn't belong there.
That's why Paul said to Timothy, his young protege, "Preach the word of God, be persistent, whether the time is favorable or not, patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching." Get the balance there? All of that is important-- encouraging, comforting, rebuking.
Can I just say, let that happen. Let that happen. And sometimes, the Holy Spirit's finger-- and that's what it is-- through His word starts touching some personal area of your life you don't like and you think, I don't want to hear that. Hear it.
Don't resist the Holy Spirit. Let him strip away and cleanse you. That's what Jesus meant when he said to his disciples in John 15, "Now you are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you"-- "katharidzo," we have stripping and cleaning and sanctifying through the word.
So in conclusion, the church that Jesus would attend is one where God is glorified, made great, made famous by praise and declaration. And also, one in which the congregation responds to truth by a holy lifestyle. It will produce joy and holiness.
True story, as I close-- it's a sad story, but it's true. I read it, I think it was in a Boston newspaper. It seems that a young couple who just had a baby were having a christening party at their home. So they were inviting their friends over in this baby's honor.
The baby was placed by the couple on the bed in the guest room, just for a moment. The people came in, there was a flurry of activity and they were throwing their coats on the guest room bed not knowing the baby was there. One coat, another coat, another coat, another coat, and the baby died. And the article, the next day in the newspaper, was that a baby was smothered at his own party. Very sad.
I feel it's possible sometimes that God gets smothered at His own party. It's lots of activity, lots of stuff going on. But if we don't make it about Him and it becomes about us, God can get lost.
So two challenging points to walk away with. Number one, learn to glorify God. Learn to glorify God. Declare it here. Listen, when we gathered together in worship and praise, it's acceptable to declare the greatness of God. You know what's not acceptable? Ready? This is not acceptable.
(LAZILY SINGING) Shout to the Lord. [SNORING]
Not acceptable! Not acceptable! This is God we're dealing with.
This is God. Last time I checked, Jesus is alive. And if He is who He said He is, let's declare that here. And then declare it out there, make Him famous out there by our lifestyle. That's challenge point number one.
Number two, learn to respond to the word of God-- all of it, not just part of it, all of it. It will produce joy. And it will produce holiness. And that's what Jesus wants from His church. Let's pray.
Our Father in Heaven, we have just been reading some of the most intimate communication words between Jesus and you, Father. Those things that we're so on His heart before He went to the cross, before His life ended temporarily on this earth, those things that He bore on His heart that were so important that He communicate with you. And it was about His followers. And it concerned the glory of God and the truth of God, in part.
I pray, Father, that those things would mark us as individuals, men and women, those of us who hold Christ dear. And we have a relationship with you that we would be all about your glory and we would allow none of it for ourselves, and we would magnify the truth, the revelation of God, the word of God, and take our cues from the word and give ourselves continually to the Apostles' doctrine and the truth that makes us joyful in the midst of a world that doesn't know you or want you. And makes us holy in the midst of a world that doesn't treasure you.
We pray for that, Lord. We pray your Spirit would continue His work in us. Thank you for such a wonderful, excited church. In Jesus' name. Amen.