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John 17 Study Guide Part 1: Enjoying God

Community Group Study Guide — Enjoying God
John 17:1-6, 10-13

Main idea:
Jesus prays for his followers that they may know God, glorify God and enjoy him. This is the kind of life that the Son shares with the Father and we are invited into that same kind of relationship with God through faith in Jesus (John 17:26). 

Study Information:
John 17 is often called “the high priestly prayer.” It is one extended prayer that Jesus prays the night he is betrayed. This prayer is given for his followers and those who will believe on account of their testimony which means this prayer is for you if you follow Jesus. Jesus prays for his followers to have the same kind of fellowship with God that he shares with the Father, to be unified in their lives, to go out to the world on mission and to grow in those three areas as they walk with God. Over the next four study guides we will break down those themes: enjoying God, sharing in community, sharing in mission and growing as we walk with God. 

First: God makes it possible for his followers to glorify him and enjoy him.

God Glorified
This prayer gives us a window into the Triune nature of God. There is one God that we worship, who exists in three person: Father, Son and Spirit. The Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God; but the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit, and so forth… For some that is new and for others we grew up wrestling with the concept of the Trinity. The beauty of John 17 is that it is a hotspot in scripture showing us how the Father and Son interact out of a relationship of mutual glory and love. This prayer paints a picture for us of God’s complete fellowship in himself, the love that exists for eternity past and future, and the nature of these different persons to make the other persons known. 

Jesus uses the word “glorify” to describe this process of how the Son points to the Father and the Father points to the Son. To glorify something is to call attention to its beauty and extravagant worth. It is a mixture of praise, enjoyment and wonder. 

This prayer is prayed on the eve of Jesus’ death on the cross. Jesus goes to the cross for the “joy set before him” knowing it will accomplish salvation for the people of God. When Jesus thinks of this event he specifically prays that God would glorify the Son in order that the Son may glorify the Father. Jesus is praying that his death would highlight who he is, what he came to do and character and glory of the Father (John 17:1). You see both of theses persons of the trinity seek to glorify the other; some think that God is arrogant and demands sacrifice and worship and yet we see the persons of the trinity glorifying one another and the central act of our faith in God the Son, Jesus Christ sacrificing his life for those who sinned against him. It may be odd for you to think of it this way but there is an inherent selflessness among the Triune persons. The Father is not trying to get glory at the expense of the Son, he delights to make the Son known. Jesus likewise lives to do the will of the Father and to manifest his name (John 17:6). Jesus glorifies the Father by accomplishing the work that the Father gave him to do, so that in every action of Jesus’s life we see a glimpse of who God is (John 17:4). This work that the Father gave him to do is highlighted on the cross which looms in Jesus mind during this prayer. The cross is where God made a way for our sin to be forgiven and relationship with God to be restored and this showed God’s character and love in a unique way that can be summarized as “his glory.”

Some theologians refer to this mutual glorifying of one another as the “dance of the trinity.” The Father pointing to the Son, the Son pointing to the Father, the Spirit pointing to the Son, and so forth. Each person acting in a way to make the other known so that we can see love, fellowship and holiness magnified. 

As if this was not enough, the joyful and shocking truth of John 17 is that God also wants to be glorified in you. God does not immediately remove us from this world once we’re saved because we have a part to play in his story as a way to reflect his character in our words and actions as we enjoy God and bring him glory. 

Look at John 17:10. “All mine are yours and all yours are mine.” You cannot truly follow God unless you are following Jesus and you cannot truly follow Jesus unless you follow God. Jesus is more than a nice teacher and a good man. God is more than some distant force and impersonal actor. God is revealed in the person of Jesus and Jesus is God in the flesh. As we follow Jesus we can show who he is through how we live out our faith. 

In this prayer we read that Jesus prays for your faith and commands that you put into practice all that he taught because by doing so you can truly enjoy God and make him known.  Our lives can be about something much bigger than ourselves, they can be about God. 

Enjoying God
More than glorifying God, we’re invite to enjoy God. Jesus prays, in John 17:2-3, that the point of his coming and having authority over all flesh was to give eternal life. This is not just a promise that you’d be able to enjoy in the future, but something you can experience right now. Note in verse 3 how Jesus defines eternal life, it is “to know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” This kind of life can begin here and now, and it will only be a fraction of what we will experience for eternity, but so worth it! This knowledge is not just intellectual understanding, but personal relationship and the enjoyment of God. Look at John 17:23, the height of this prayer is that we may be one with Christ, know that Jesus was sent by the Father and experience the kind of love the Father has for the Son. John 17:23 tells us that Jesus was sent by the Father, for our redemption, because of his great love for us and you are invited into that kind of relationship with God and not just some day in the future but here and now and everyday after on this earth and through eternity. 

You were created because of the overflow of God’s love for the purpose to glorify him and to enjoy him. Jesus cares about your experience of joy. Look at John 17:13, he prays that his joy would be fulfilled in his people. Glorifying God, knowing him and being loved by God all lead to our enjoyment of God. This is great news because it means that our salvation is about our fellowship with God being restored and our ongoing joy. Could it be that we glorify God when we are obedient to his word and when we experience happiness in him? C.S. Lewis wrote that “Joy is the serious business of heaven.” I think the play on ideas of joy and serious were intentional there, we should take our joy in Christ seriously and pursue it as an outflow of knowing God and having fellowship with him. Psalm 16:9-11 paint a picture for us of our hearts being glad in God and that in his presence there is joy and pleasure. Church, Jesus is praying for your joy and we’re told that this is possible because of the nature of the Trinity being one of complete fellowship and selfless love where each person seeks to glorify the other and then invites us to enjoy that same love as we follow Christ and glorify him. It could be that you struggle to feel happiness and joy and that is a normal part of living in a sin-soaked world, and yet, we have Jesus praying for us to experience it and we can teach and train our hearts to look to God for it. But the one thing we cannot do is say that it is of no concern for the Christian life or think of God as stoic, selfish and unhappy. He is a God who delights to redeem and calls us to delight in him and Jesus makes that known to us in this prayer.

At your community group:

Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:

Read John 17:1-26

What surprises your or stands out in this prayer? As a group think through 4-5 things you see in the text.

What does it mean to glorify something? How does the Son glorify the Father? How can we glorify God? (look at John 17:1-6, 10).

How would you define eternal life based on John 17:2-3? How can that be experienced now and what will it look like in eternity? How does this point to the idea that we are created to enjoy God?

Jesus desires that his joy would be fulfilled in his followers as they glorify him. What are some steps we take to experience this joy? How does it make you feel to know that Jesus prayed this for you and currently intercedes for you right now so you’d experience this?