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John 17:15-20 Study Guide: Secure, Sanctified and Sent

Community Group Study Guide — Secure, Sanctified and Sent
John 17:15-20

Study Information:
It is hypothetically possible that God could just remove his people from the world once they’re saved. Think about it, once you put your faith and trust in Jesus God could just take you out of this world and into heaven. You’d be spared of a lot of pain and you would experience immediate freedom from sin in his presence, and joy unimaginable. But that is not part of God’s plan… Why not? This part of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples gives us some answers to why we’re here and what our purpose is on earth as followers of Jesus today. Jesus prayed that his people would be secure, sanctified (holy and set apart for a purpose), and sent out.

John 17:15
Throughout Jesus’ prayer he had been praying for his disciples to be “kept” or guarded in him. In John 17:15 Jesus made it all clear, keep them in the world and keep them from the evil one. Jesus did not ask that we’d be kept out of the world or guarded from affliction, persecution, challenge, difficulty or opposition. The prayer promises something greater than any of those things, that we’d be kept from giving into evil or belonging to the evil one. This theme shows up throughout the gospel of John, most notably when Jesus told his disciples that he himself came from the Father and had come into the world and that they could take heart because in the world there would be tribulation but he has overcome the world (John 16:29-33). This security that Jesus offered his disciples meant that evil is not in control and can never separate us from God. As we face trial and tribulation and difficulty in this world we can be secure that nothing can separate us from Christ Jesus and that the power of the evil one against us is limited. In many ways this is seen in Jesus’ own relationship with the world. Jesus faced trials and tribulations and sufferings but was never at risk of being separated from God the Father and as we will learn in the coming weeks, the enemy’s power against him was limited. 

Some of us really wish that God would just remove us from the world and spare us all the challenges that come with living here and now. “God just get us out of all the hard stuff!” Likewise, pain and persecution has the unique effect of creating some doubt in us about God’s purpose and power. This prayer is meant to give us some assurance that this is not a surprise to God and he has a reason or us to be in the world still. 

John 17:16-17
Followers of Jesus are secure and more than that, they are sanctified. If you’re in Christ you are simultaneously a new creation and being changed by God to be more like Jesus in your thoughts, attitudes and actions. To be sanctified also means to be set apart for a purpose, so all this change in holiness is meant to give us greater freedom from sin and a greater witness to the world as we are sent out by Jesus (John 17:18). 

Being in the world will pull you towards being like it, but notice what Jesus says about his people; his people are in the world but are not “of the world” just like he is not of the world. Your identity as a follower of Jesus is “other-worldly” which means the things you hold dear and the values and character traits that shape your life are rooted in heaven. How does that happen? Followers of Jesus experience sanctification as they are set apart in the truth (John 17:17). Earlier in the gospel of John Jesus told us that he himself was “the truth” (John 14:6), likewise the Spirit’s role is to lead us into truth (John 16:7) and finally the word of God is truth (John 17:17). We are sanctified more and more as we are drawn closer to Jesus and our thoughts, attitudes and actions are more in line with who he is and one of the major ways the Father accomplishes this is through his word. This sanctification has a benefit to us and Jesus also says it is something he has done so that we can be sent out. 

John 17:18-20
We are secure and sanctified and sent out. Being protected from the evil one by Christ and a growth in our holiness lead to being sent out into the world just as Jesus was sent into the world. God responded to sin and brokenness in this world by sending his Son. This plan of redemption started in Genesis 3:15 with a promise that the serpent would be crushed, and we read of how God worked throughout the Old Testament through his people, but the story of scripture over and over again shows us how we need God himself to redeem the world from sin. So at the fullness of time God sent forth his Son (Gal 4:4). And as Jesus prepares to leave the world through the events of the cross, resurrection and ascension, he was commissioning his disciples to be like him in his mission to the world. He prayed that they’d be sent out. 

God’ desire is that we'd be secure, sanctified and sent and that through those three things that the mission of Jesus would continue through the people of God. Your ability to make lasting change and to be part of God’s redemptive mission in the world is really really small if you’re not secure in Christ and sanctified. Likewise, if you’re secure in Christ and sanctified but are not sent out then you’re missing out on part of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. At West Hills we have our values of worship, community and mission and regularly we talk about how worship and community flow into mission. As we love God and one another it naturally follows that we would want to be part of what God is doing in the world to make disciples so that people can hear the good news of what Christ has done and grow in freedom from sin. Jesus communicates something really similar here in this prayer, that we’d be secure in Christ, different and distinct because of being formed by God’s truth and sent out to the world. 

The temptations that many of us face are to either isolate from the world or conform to the world. We take the idea of being sanctified in a direction that God never intended and isolate away from the world. Some of us are tempted to take the idea of being sent to the world in a direction that God would never affirm and become indistinguishable from the world. Jesus called his followers to be in the world but not of the world. We are of no good to the world if we are just like it, and likewise we are of no good to the world if we never interact with people who don’t know and follow God. Is your life arranged in such a way where your interaction with people who do not follow Jesus is as little as possible? On the other side, are there places in your life where you have genuine Christian community and growth in knowing Christ so that when you do interact with the world that you are distinct and different?

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 17:15-20

What are some reasons that Jesus didn’t pray that God would take his people out of the world? 

How are God’s people sanctified? 

The study guide talked about how there is a temptation to isolate from the world or to conform to the world. Which one is the greater challenge in your life? What places has God sent you out into the world to continue his ongoing mission of redemption?