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John 17 Study Guide 3: Sharing in Mission

Community Group Study Guide — Sharing in Mission 
John 17:12-18, 26. 

Main idea:
Jesus prays for his disciples that they would glorify him and reflect him to the world. Christians can often seek to remove themselves from places and spaces that are uncomfortable or alleviate that discomfort by fitting in and conforming. Instead what we see is that we have an opportunity to reflect the glory of God, the love of God and truth to the world. 
Study Information:
The temptation to withdraw from the world has always existed for people across a variety of religions. Often society thinks of people as being “holy” or “spiritual” based on how much they remove themselves from the world, both in terms of things that are unholy but also things we’d consider mundane. So the buddhist monk you pass walking on the bike trail in town, the medieval “saints”, and the 1st century Pharisee could all be considered holy based on their denial of worldly things. Christians should renounce ungodliness and pursue living holy lives; but what makes Jesus’ prayer unique is how he connects our sanctification to our being sent as witnesses. What if God wants to form you in truth and use your engagement with the world and even with everyday things like work, school and your neighborhood to bring him glory and people into his kingdom? When Jesus ascended into heaven after his resurrection, he could have brought his disciples with him! Instead he sends them out as witnesses to the gospel. God has you here, in this place and time, so that you’d share in his mission. 

How separated from the world is your life right now? Do a quick inventory in your life, what primary space do you interact meaningfully with people who do not know Jesus? Christians can quickly find themselves in the Christian bubble where all their friends are Christian, they attend a few bible studies where everyone is a Christian and they only read or listen to things that are “Christian.” These habits may not be intentional, but they can limit your effectiveness in being a witness to Jesus and create an isolated life where you’re in a bubble and you wonder why it is that you’ve been unable to share the gospel or develop a relationship with someone who does not know Jesus. 

The desire of Jesus is that his followers would be equipped to stand in the world as a witness to the love of God and the gospel. 

Here are three attitudes and actions that Jesus prays for:

First, Neither Withdraw nor Conform (John 17:14-16)
The two dangers we face would first be to withdraw from the world, as we already discussed, but also to conform to the world. Simultaneously, if you follow Jesus, you are in the world but not of the world. This is the balance beam we must walk; being in the world but not conforming to the ways of the word. To be “in but not of the world” can be a Christian cliche, but it is true. Just as he is not of the world, so too you are no longer of the world (John 17:16). To be “of” something means to be all about it; this is an identity statement. To be “of the world” is to look like those who do not follow Jesus. Paul tells us in Romans 12:2 that the world desires to press and mold us into its image, but we are to be transformed (changed) by the renewal of our minds. This is the stance Christians should take with their interactions with the world; neither withdraw nor conform and instead transform the world. You can have meaningful relationships and interaction with people who do not yet follow Christ without becoming like the world. Jesus often spent time with people the Pharisees separated from like tax collectors, prostitutes and “sinners.” He was not afraid of guilt by association or becoming tainted by their reputations or actions. Instead of becoming dirty by their uncleanliness, often his time with them led to them to become redeemed and new through faith. Jesus prays for us to have a vision here for meaningful friendships and relationships with people in the world who do not yet know him. This will lead to discomfort and temptation to withdraw or conform, and at the same time God gives more grace to enable us to endure and to be sanctified in truth as we are sent. 

Second, Protected from the Evil One (John 17:15)
Jesus recognizes the risk associated with being “in the world.” The devil is described in the scripture as “the prince of the power of the air” and as a lion prowling around seeking people to devour (Ephesians 2:2, 1 Peter 5:8). When Jesus announces to Peter that Satan had asked to “sift him like wheat” he also tells Peter that he prayed for him. It should give us great comfort that Jesus prays for his followers to withstand the evil one (John 17:15). This also reminds us that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). It is easy to see other people as the enemy especially when the world is hostile (John 17:14). We should not be surprised when the world acts like the world. We think it would be great if the world thought and acted like Christians, but those who are “of the world” act like it. Instead of developing a hostile stance, remember Jesus’ words that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Fight the temptation to see people who hold a different worldview or lifestyle as the enemy, and remember they’re made in the image of God and are in need of redemption and reconciliation to God and that it is the kindness of God that leads to repentance (Romans 2:4). 

Formed by Truth to Reflect His Love (John 17:26).
Finally, Jesus prays that wed be formed by the truth as we are sent out to the world. God has given us his word as truth and Jesus calls himself “the truth” (John 14:6). To be formed in the truth is to grow in your relationship with Jesus and knowledge of how God has revealed himself in the word. Look at John 17:17-19, Jesus prays  that his followers would be sanctified as we are sent. To be sanctified means to be set apart for a purpose and to be holy. Jesus says in verse 19 that he consecrated himself so that we may be sanctified in the truth. Jesus’ life, death and resurrection leads to our sanctification. To be of use to the world we need to be formed by the truth and know deeply the love of God (John 17:26). Jesus does not send us out helpless, but with his world and the Holy Spirit to be our helper and guide (John 14, 16). God has purposed for you to be distinct and different as you’re formed by his ways so that you can reflect his glory to the world (John 17:10). This is why Jesus tells us that we are a light to the world and salt to the earth, the value we bring to the world is in our ability to lovingly reflect Jesus to it. Jesus makes this possible in the gospel. His very life, death and resurrection is the basis for us being reconciled to God and different. Know the truth, embrace the life that God calls us to in scripture and open up your life to others so they can see and know God through what you say and how you live. 

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 does it mean to be “in the world, but not of the world?” Look at John 17:15-16. 

Why is it tempting to either conform or withdraw from the world?

What specific parts of this prayer show us how God has equipped followers of Jesus to share in his mission?

How can you put into practice what you’ve learned this week?

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