Sunday Morning | December 3, 2023 | John C. Majors | Louisville, KY
The sermon on John 17:20-26, titled "United We Stand," was delivered by John C. Majors on December 3, 2023. In this sermon, the focus is on the last part of Jesus' longest recorded prayer, where he prays for those who will believe. The sermon is divided into three parts, each corresponding to a prayer made by Jesus.
The first prayer is for unity, emphasizing the basis and byproduct of unity. The basis of unity, according to verses 20-21, is the eternal relationship within the Trinity—God the Father in Jesus and Jesus in the Father. The foundation of unity is rooted in this eternal relationship, and the byproduct is the belief in Jesus by the world.
The second basis for unity, as highlighted in verses 22-24, is the glory of Christ. The glory of Christ is explained as the manifestation of God's character or person in a revelatory context. Humans fall short of God's glory, and the byproduct of Christ's glory is that the world may know that He loves them.
The third basis, found in verses 25-26, is knowing the name of Jesus. Knowing His name refers to understanding His reputation and standard of truth. Truth is presented as a powerful basis for unity, and the byproduct is love. The sermon emphasizes the importance of unity, not uniformity, and warns against making personal preferences the basis of unity.
The conclusion of the sermon emphasizes the importance of imitating the love of Jesus. The ultimate response to knowing Him and being known by Him is to pour out that love on others. The sermon ends with a personal anecdote about reconciliation and the significance of maintaining unity in the Christian community.
At Valley View Church we are currently studying through the entire gospel of John, verse by verse. You can join us on Sunday mornings at 11 AM for worship. We are located at 8911 3rd Street Road, Louisville KY 40272.
Good morning Valley View. It's great to be gathered today as we continue in our study of the book of John. We've been working through the Book of John and we're going to wrap up John 17 today. And John 17, as we noted last week, is just one long prayer of Jesus. It wraps up his sermon, the upper room discourse that goes from Chapter 13 all the way through the end of 16, and then there's this long prayer of Jesus in chapter 17. It's the longest recorded prayer of his. So we should take note to the things he prays for. And last week, we noted the first two things he prayed for. The first was himself. Jesus prayed for himself. It's okay to pray for yourself. Jesus did. Then he prayed for the disciples in the room who were about to face some really challenging times. But then lastly, he prays for a third group, and we're going to look at that group that he prays for today. And if you turn to John, chapter 17, it's on page 849 in a church Bible. If you don't have a paper copy of the Bible, we'd love to put one in your hands. We have copies out in the connection corner. You can grab one of those any time and the page numbers on the screen tie into that. But here is who he reveals who he's praying for in his final moments of prayer just before his betrayal. Look at verse 20 with me in John Chapter 17. Jesus says, I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word... So I do not pray for those who are right here with me in the room. These. But I pray also for those who are going to believe in the word that the disciples bring to them. And who is that? That's us. That's the church. That's everybody who believes on the message that the disciples have brought to the world and then have been passed down from generation after generation after generation. And here Jesus in this moment is praying for us. He's praying for those who will come after them. Here are some of the things that the future church will face. And Jesus is beginning to pray for us even in this moment. Now, what does he pray? He's got one simple word that's going to really influence this entire six verse section that we're looking at today. It's just one word. And look back at verse 21 and we'll see. Here is the thing he is praying for everyone today. I don't ask for these only, but also for those who believe in me that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am you,... He's praying that we would be one just as the father and son are one. He's praying. And it's a word our church has used a lot in the past. He's praying for unity. It's a word we've heard a lot here. It's a word Kevin Hamm brought to the church when I was in college and we heard him say it a million times or so. Unity and humility. Unity and humility. Unity and humility over and over again. The church for a season, that was a key vision for our church. We need to be all about unity and humility. And here's the thing about unity that's interesting. Great in theory, difficult in practice. Just go to any kids basketball game down in our gym. The younger the better. And the coaches who have labored very diligently to communicate the essence of the game. The key factor is to make sure the ball goes in the hoop and the team is completely unified around that reality. There is no doubt in their minds that is the main thing that we do. Dribbling is great. Passing’s great. All that's great, but the ball's got to go in the hoop, complete unity around that, and then watch them struggle and struggle to make that happen for the longest 20 minutes in sports. But eventually one kid does break off and makes a beeline for the goal and has a clear opening and takes the perfect shot and it goes in to the wrong goal, to the opposite one. And you want to cheer, but also you want to scream. Unity. Great in concept, not always easy to execute. How do we move towards unity? We're going to see in this passage today three key concepts around unity. In fact, we're going to see this dance between the basis of unity and the byproduct. The basis and the byproduct. Three times back and forth, you'll see the basis, you'll see the outcome, you'll see the essential idea, the idea that unifies us. There's got to be something we unify around. But then what is the byproduct of ideas have consequences, beliefs have fallout. What's the basis and the byproduct of unity? Three key ideas in this passage that govern the way we should view unity. He's praying for us in the midst of this. So let's look back at verse 20 and get this first basis, this first foundational element for unity in verse 20 and verse 21. Look back here again.Verse 20:
He says, I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us,... Here he reveals what I think is the foundational element for unity. And it's just one simple word. It's relationship. Not just any relationship, though. It's the eternal relationship within the Trinity, within the Godhead, because the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are eternally in perfect harmony, in perfect unity, in relationship. Because of that, we can understand what unity and relationship are. And this is absolutely crucial for us to get our mind around. There is no other reason why we would even know what it is to be in a relationship with anyone if there was not some preexisting relationship upon which that is built. It's not like the first time that you encountered those tickly feelings for someone special. That's something inside of you you had never felt before. And you thought, I am the first person to discover this type of love. Where did that come from? You didn't create it, you didn't discover it. It has existed not only for thousands and thousands of years within humanity, but when the Bible says we are made in God's image, that's not just talking about our physical form. We were made in his image. We are made with the capacity to be in relationship, to love one another. It's rooted in who he is first and foremost. And so that's our first basis for identity is relationship and the relationship of the Trinity first and foremost. One of the challenges with this, though, in a fallen world, we have the problem of talking about relationship. We always have to add adjectives to that, qualifiers. We want a real relationship, authentic relationship, a true relationship. I love the verse,Romans 12:9:
Let love be genuine. We can't just talk about love. We’ve got to say, Oh no, no, genuine love. Because our views of love relationship are just are distorted by sin. So we live in a world where we've got to fight for-- in fact, we got to strive for putting aside the wrong views of love and moving towards genuine, authentic, true love. But that's what everybody wants. That's what we're all searching for when we see it. It's amazing when it happens, right? It's unbelievable. I've mentioned the group a few times now and message in various settings, different stories from the book Band of Brothers, which chronicles the story of Easy Company. Part of that paratroopers who were some of the first in for D-Day of the landing of the continent of Europe, the invasion in June 1944. And the guy who wrote that book, his name is Stephen Ambrose. In fact, I’m gonna throw up a picture of Stephen Ambrose and Major Winters. Major Winters was the main character in that story in many ways. And Stephen Ambrose was looking to write a book. He was a well-known war historian in particular, he was looking to write a book specifically about D-Day, and unbeknownst to him, Easy Company had wanted a book written about them. They felt like their story was spectacular in some sense, and they approached him at the same time he was wanting to write a book on it. And as you can imagine, there were lots of D-Day stories that were written and could have been written. Many, many stories that could have been featured. There was something like 150,000 people in that one landing, one invasion, tons of stories that could be told. But here's what he said about why he chose to focus on Easy Company. I'm just going to read his own description, Stephen Ambrose, the author, about why he focused on them. Here's what he said. One thing that was appealing about these men, there was a closeness among the veterans sitting at our dinner table when they came to meet with him and share why he should write a book about them. There was a closeness that is not unique in my quarter century of interviewing veterans. It certainly was unusual as they talked about other members of the company about various reunions over the decades. It became obvious that they continued to be a band of brothers. And although they were scattered all across North America and overseas, listen to this intimacy. They knew each other's wives, children, grandchildren, knew their names. They knew each other's problems and successes. They visited regularly, kept in close contact, by mail or by phone. They helped each other in emergencies, in times of troubles, and the only thing they had in common was their three year experience in World War Two, thrown together quite by chance by the U.S. Army. This kind of closeness is something that all armies everywhere throughout history strive to create, but seldom do. And it was never better than with Easy Company. Who doesn't want that? Everybody wants that. And that's why we come here. We're longing for that kind of closeness, that group of people who will be there for you no matter what. And it's hard to find. Even in a church, it can be hard to find. But it's the call of unity, is relationship moving toward one another? Not easy, but it's the call and it's the mark of a Christian. Now, that relational unity, what is the byproduct of that kind of overwhelming intimate relational unity? Well, let's keep reading. Look back at verse 21, verse 21 where he said that they may all be one. That's his prayer. Just as you Father, are in me and I and you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The byproduct of that relational unity is that the world may believe. It's a byproduct. It's part of the reason why we move towards unity. You know, if if we're not moving towards unity, the evangelism tactics don't matter. It don't matter. Now, I say that, and I hope I'm not offending my deeply committed apologetics friends and those who I know are very faithful to hand out tracts and visiting homes. And I'm not against evangelism at all. We served in a evangelistic centered ministry for a very long time. But you can have the best tactics in the world. You could have been personally trained by Kirk Cameron himself in the way of the master. You could have Billy Graham visit you in your dreams every night, mentoring you into how to do evangelism just like he did. You could have every track, all the best ones memorized word for word and in your back pocket, ready to go. But here's the thing. When people, when you are sharing your message with people, they're sizing you up too. You can't separate the message from the person. We want to do that at times. They're sizing you up too. And if you're preaching a message of hope, life change, being made new by Christ, purpose, joy, and yet they see you can't get along with people at church. Divisive, difficult, unteachable, maybe a little self-righteous. Not a good listener. I don't have anyone in mind as I use those. But you understand what I'm saying. They don't care. They won't care a bit what you have to say. It won't matter how great your tactics are at all. Have great tactics, yes, but move towards unity because the byproduct, what's at stake is the message of evangelism. What's at stake is how effective will be in telling people about Jesus. The two are intimately connected. Unity, evangelism, telling others about Christ. There is a direct connection. That the world may know is at stake. All right. So that's the first basis, the first byproduct. The two are critically important. Second, let's look at the second basis for unity, Verse 22.Here it is:
The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you love me before the foundation of the world. This three verse section, verse 22 through verse 24, twice we see the phrase, same phrase, and it begins this section and ends this three verse section. The glory that you have given me-- look at verse 22, starts that way, and then the end of verse 24, the glory that you have given me. The basis for unity for us here is just the idea of the glory of Christ. The basis of unity for us, the glory of Christ. Now what do we mean by the glory of Christ? That word glory can mean a lot of different things in different contexts. I might say something’s glorious. I might just mean you added whipped cream to it, right? Glorious. You might say he was resplendent in all his glory, which means he had a nice suit on. I mean, we use glory in a lot of different ways, but when we're referring to the glory of Christ, I found this quote. It's kind of a mouthful, but I think it helps elevate the meaning of the word glory. It's by D.A. Carson. It's in his commentary on the Book of John. Here it is on the screen. The glory of Christ is the manifestation of God's character or person in a revelatory context, meaning His character, His person who he really is, has been revealed to us in a moment. You read scripture, you know the stories. If you've been in church any amount of time, it's easy to just kind of be very comfortable with who Jesus is. To have him kind of in that box you want to keep him in. But when he's revealed in all his glory, you see the fullness of his character in person. You see the power of God manifest in him in a way that we tend to not have at the forefront of our mind. That is part of the basis of our unity, the glory of Christ, who He is, the standard of His perfection. Now, one of the challenges we face with that is understanding the glory of Christ. If you've read the book of Romans, you've read Paul, he talks about the fact that we have all fallen short of the glory of God. We want His glory, but we're far short of it.In fact, that's Romans 3:
23. But there's another passage that's helpful, that helps us understand then how do we have his glory in our lives? It’s in Ephesians Chapter 4. You can look it up later, but it's this whole contrast of put off the old man and put on the new. And it really and some of the wording there even speaks of the same words you used to talking about taking off old clothes and putting on new. I got done working in the yard and I strip off all those old nasty yard work clothes and I put on clean, fresh clothes to go out in. Put off the old man, put on the new; put off what we thought was glorious, put on Christ’s glory. His foreign glory, his supernatural glory. I remember one time I was at Fort Knox with my dad. I was probably like, late elementary school, middle school, you know. And we would go-- he, he retired National Guard, also an attorney, retired National Guard, retired Major Majors, isn’t that great? That's the best. And we're walking around on the post. And every other time we had been there, we--he'd just been in regular civilian clothes, just normal, everyday clothes. We were there shopping or checking out the Patton Museum or-- but this time he's in his military outfit, got on his rank, major, officer, and we're walking along casually and all of a sudden a group of guys are coming towards him and they see him coming towards them and they're lowly privates and they stiffen up and come to attention and salute. And I'm looking around going, What is happening here? What is this magic? They're saluting my dad, they’d never done this before. But in that moment he had on another glory. He had on the uniform that represented a power far beyond just himself. And they paid respect to that in that moment. The glory of Christ. When we put on His glory, It's not about us. He is on us, working through us and with the hope is to represent him well. That's the hope. We don't do it perfectly. You won't do it perfectly, but that's the hope. That's what we're striving for. Now, the byproduct of that, if we have his glory, if we've clothed ourself in his glory, not our own. Here's the byproduct of that. Look back at verse 22, the glory that you have given me, I have given to them that they may be one, even as we are one-- that's part of the result of the glory is unity-- Isn't that an interesting dance, unity? Moves towards evangelism, but also being in the glory of Christ leads to unity. That is what unites us. But then look at the byproduct here that he goes into. I in them, you in me, That they may become perfectly one. Here's why. So that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. So we want the world to believe in Christ. That was what we talked about, the byproduct of the previous one. But now we also want them to be known by him, to know his love. You know, there's a drastic difference between-- Jesus was a great guy, had some good things to say, definitely influenced the world to intellectually agreeing to that. But then Jesus knows me and loves me personally. Huge difference. It's all the difference in the world. And everyone wants to be known and loved. We're all striving for that every day. Most of what we do underneath that is this desire to be known and loved. This week I heard a story from a church member she shared. I was in a difficult season. Single mom, young kids, struggling, and rightfully so, understandably so. I've not been there, but I can't imagine a weekend without Mom around. Man, that's hard enough. I knew I needed to be in church, she said. I knew I needed to, but yet part of me didn't want to. Fair enough. That's a big step. It's hard to do. New crowd, new experience. Overwhelming. But friends had been inviting her. She came and she walks in the door of the children's ministry area and there's Eddie Lee, and immediately, It's so great to see you. Thanks so much for coming. Tell me more about you. So grateful you brought your kids. It's great to have you here. And she said, I felt so loved, felt so welcomed. And I went home thinking about that. And next week, when it came time to come again and I was overwhelmed with all the same feelings of I want to go, but I don't want to go. And I'm crying in the car on the way to church and I want to turn around, but I know we need it and I walk in that door and Eddie Lee says, Jennifer, welcome back. It's great to see your kids here. Let's see. Annabelle, come on in. She said she knew my name. Someone on this earth remembered me. I felt known in that moment. Felt loved. Someone took the time to just simply remember my name. The by product of the glory of Christ is that the world will be known and know the love of the Father. That's a glorious thing. So that's the second pair, basis and byproduct. And now the third, these last couple of verses, look at verse 25 with me. In that day you will ask in my name. Sorry, back to the verse 25. I have said these things. I'm reading chapter 16. Y'all help me out, settle down. Verse 17, verse 25-- chapter 17, verse 25 Let's close in prayer. Gosh, it's getting worse. If somebody else read this chaptter 17 verse 25, O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them. Verse 25. The basis for his name we see at the beginning of verse 26, I'm sorry, the basis of unity, I made known to them your name. Our basis of unity is the name of Christ, the name of the Father. And by the name of him we mean his standard of excellence. His standard of truth. His name is the name against which all other names are judged and compared. And if we don't have a standard of truth that we agree upon, really going to struggle with unity. If we don't even agree that there is truth, we're going to struggle with unity. And there's a lot of things you can be unified around, but there's got to be some standard, some basis, some truth. That's why we over and over and over again talk about God's word. This is our basis, our standard of truth in which we see his name. This is representing his name, his character. That's why all the time I'm saying, be in God's word, read God's Word, get a copy of the Bible to have in your hands sitting in front of you, opening it yourself, turning there, reading yourself, not just having it read to you, knowing where the books of the Bible are. Over time, If you don't at first, that's fine. But over time, becoming familiar with God's Word, memorizing Scripture, we make that easy by just giving you songs each month that make it easy. You can't not memorize it by just listening to the songs. We have a Bible reading plan every year, get familiar with God's word, knows his word because here's why. And I heard a guy say this week, I saw an interview with a guy this week. He said, Part of me really wants to become a Christian because of how much money I could make. He says, I'm I'm so good at working a crowd. I know that I I'm looking at all these really big churches with these megachurch pastors. I'm not putting them all down, by the way. I'm not judging any particular church. But there are those out there that you got to wonder, are they just in it for the money? And he says, I know I could rake it in. He’s like, but I'm not going to do that. When we stand up here, myself, Andrew, Colby... Anybody else? My hope is that whatever we're saying, you'll see it right here. And if I'm saying it, and you're going, Uh, I don't know John. That's a bit of a stretch. Then you’ll call me out on it. Okay, not here right now. Maybe later. But, that we can have a conversation. I've had that happen. John, I'm not sure, you said that. I see what you're saying. Thank you. That's helpful. God's word is our standard, not my words, not Andrew's words, not the elders’ words, not Colby.. It's God's Word. We want you in it. We want you to know it. Now, here's the byproduct of that. It's not just head knowledge. It's not just that, Oh, I corrected the pastor. It's not just that I happen to know more than someone else. Here's the byproduct of that. Look back at verse 26. I made known to them your name and I will continue to make it known that the love with which you have loved me may be in them and I in them. Okay, This is a little different than the love of being known that we talked about earlier. Earlier, we're talked about feeling loved and we all want that. But this is different. The love of the father in which you have loved me may be in them that same outward love. Yes, we want to receive love, but we also want to pour out in the lives of others. And there are too many times, I got to tell you, I've been more focused on the receiving side than the giving side. No amens please from family members in the room. But you know what I'm talking about. We go through seasons and you go through seasons where you need more than you can give. I get that. But the more here's the connection, the more we get to know God's word and get to know him in his word, the more love we have to give. Now, here's the thing that struck me most about this passage, about this whole section on unity. Here's the overwhelming reality. As I studied each individual part and we had the basis and the byproduct, basis and the byproduct. But I step back and I go, Why does Jesus, at the end of his longest sermon, at the end of his time on Earth, right before he's about to be betrayed at the end of his final prayer, his longest recorded prayer in Scripture, why is it that the last thing he prays for, for the church, for us of all the things he can pray, the final things he prays is for unity? I think we know why. Our tendency, our natural tendency is division, is to push each other apart, is to fight with one another. That comes naturally. That's easy, but no one had to coaches on that. We don't have classes here on how to be divided. No, Instead, we've got to move towards unity. We've got to fight for unity. We've got to struggle for it. And you know what's at stake according to this passage? Evangelism, people knowing Christ, people believing in him, people knowing his love. And at the end of the day, our ability to love others is all rooted, it’s rooted in our-- our unity, our love for one another, our ability to get along here. It's too important. It's too important. And so if you feel like evangelism is what I'm all about, and yet I got issues with people at church, but I'm--forget them. I got this mission. I don't have time to mess with them. You got it upside down. It truly is upside down at that point. And I don't have anybody-- I'm not, this isn't-- I'm not trying to preach at any one individual person. This is for me too. Had a guy call me recently and he said, John, I got to tell you, I need to apologize to you. Okay? What for? What happened? I need to apologize to you because I've been harboring bitterness towards you. You have? Why? What happened? What did I do? Well, you said something that caught me the wrong way, and it upset me, and I've been hanging on to that. And instead of coming to you and dealing with it, I chose to hang on to it and become more bitter and to go inward. And it led it turned into grumbling within me. Like, man, what was it? Let's talk about it. He shared it -- oh, that is not how I meant that at all. I can see how you took it that way. I'm so sorry. Let me clarify. Here's what I meant. Oh, I see what you're saying. John. I'm so sorry. I couldn't tell you how much I appreciated him taking the risk to come to me. Our relationships are worth the risk. It's worth the risk to move towards one another and have the hard conversation. In fact, I would say the more we love one another, the more willing we are to come toward one another. I got to tell you, I was so grateful that he took that time that he came to me, that he modeled the practice of unity. It doesn't come easy. It doesn't come automatically, but it's necessary because we will have divisions. We will have things that push us apart. It's inevitable. Let's take a minute and just pray and pray for unity. God, I thank you that we could come together today and study your word and watch you pray for us. I pray we'd be overwhelmed by that. The beauty of the prayer for unity. Lord, help us help break our natural tendency to move towards division, to want to divide and separate; To want to look at another person and judge their motives and assume they had something against us. And I do it, too. I do it too. That person cut me off in traffic. They must hate me and the whole world. It's just our tendency to go there. Lord, help us to move towards unity, help our hearts to long for unity. And when someone approaches us, help us to be approachable. And when we struggle with that, help us to turn to your word, turn to one another, to lean on one another, to keep pressing towards unity. Now, here's something as as I'm closing in prayer, but also I have sensed this week, stronger than normal-- and part of me felt like this message isn't really an evangelistic message. I just really have had the sense that today is a day to just put before you the importance of knowing Christ. You're someone who has never taken the step to believe in him and follow him. The Joy to the World song doesn't mean anything. Know him, trust him, follow him. Here's what I want to do today. We're going to sing again and Andrew's going to lead us in a time of singing. If you don't know Christ, now is the time to talk about following him and knowing him. And I'll be down front and I want to do this in a way that won't embarrass you. Maybe you're like, I don't even quite know what to ask, but I know I need Christ. Just come down front, talk with me, and here's what I'll do. I'll pair you up with one of our elders or one of our key leaders in the church, and they'll actually go with you over to the chapel and just talk more about it. We're not going to put you on the spot down front right now. We're going to make you kneel and pray and make some big decision in front of everyone. No, listen, now's the time, though, If you don't know him and maybe you've had this sense, I need to follow him. We're going to sing. We're not going to go on forever. If God doesn’t move in anyone, if everyone here knows Christ, that’s great. We're just going to sing for a few minutes. Come as you are. We'd love to talk with you more about knowing Christ. Andrew, will you lead us?