“The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as we are one; I in them and you in me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you have loved me.” (John 17:22-23 NASB)
These verses are part of a larger prayer Jesus prayed just before he was arrested and crucified. He knew he had done what was expected of him and he was longing for his disciples to be one in him. He wanted them to awaken to their role in his plan for his world. He said, “I pray that they may be one…” In a sense this has taken place for all that are willing to receive it. When you repent of your sins and receive Christ you are brought into a oneness with God through his Spirit. This means all that are in Christ are one, not only with Christ, but with each other.
Oneness in the Spirit is the only way we can move on to the next part of Jesus’ prayer which is for us to be perfected in unity. Being perfected in unity means we are brought to completion and implies maturity or being full grown. Once we receive Christ we must come to a fuller understanding of unity in the Spirit and the goal as stated here is “So that the world may know that (God) sent Jesus, and loved them (us), even as he loved Jesus.” In other words unity or oneness among Spirit filled, Christ lovers and followers is the way in which the world will become convinced Christ was sent by God and God loves them.
As you look through the writings of the Apostle Paul you will see he too was greatly concerned with Christians growing up and becoming one in Christ. He told the Corinthians “I could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ…” He went on to tell them “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it.” He told them why by saying, “Since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not mere men?” You see a sure sign to those looking on that we aren’t yet perfect, or mature, is division among followers of Jesus Christ.
In Galatians Paul said, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you…” He longed for them to grow up in Christ. In the Ephesian letter he told us God gave the church “Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.” He gave the church these various offices and gifting’s “For the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature (perfect) man to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” In Paul’s Philippians letter he said, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” The Colossians letter Paul came right out with it, saying “Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete (perfect) in Christ.”
There is just something about a group of people that love each other and live in union with one another. We can tell others about how God loves them and wants to save them, but according to Jesus’ prayer in John 17 there is one way others will really know it. That’s when they see us Christians living in oneness with each other.
Temptation seems to be a valuable tool in the hand of the enemy. The good news is God has his way of manipulating the manipulator. What I mean is even though the enemy tempts us in various ways our God is a God of redemption and he works things out for our good and his glory even when it is initially meant for harm.
There have been several times I have said to others “God means for us to be tempted” and some have responded saying, “But what about when Jesus taught his disciples to pray ‘lead us not into temptation?” Thinking about this the other day a few scriptures came to me for clarification.
While it is true Jesus taught the disciples to pray “lead us not into temptation” I would suggest it was only because they were still immature. You see God knows exactly what it’s going to take to get us where he’s leading so he guides us accordingly.
In the early going of Israel’s journey from captivity to the Promised Land God provided for everything according to their specific need. At first he knew they weren’t ready for too much opposition so he led them around their enemies. In Exodus 13:17-18 we read “God did not lead them by the way of the land of the Philistines, even though it was near; for God said, “The people might change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.” This coincides with the immature state of the disciples when Jesus said, “lead us not into temptation.” When we are very young in the faith God seems to cover for us knowing how much we can and cannot handle.
However there is a time for maturing. At some point in our walk of faith God determines we have lived as children long enough and he pushes us out of the nest. We read in Matthew 4 after Jesus was baptized, which signifies him being placed in full son-ship; he is lead into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil. Whoa, God means for him to be tempted. Before anyone gets upset I know the Bible tells us God cannot be tempted with evil nor does he tempt anyone. The reality though is he does have a convenient agent we call the devil to do this task. You see even the devil is still God’s devil.
Finally we see in James 1 that the testing of our faith is a good thing. James says to us “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” After all without something coming against us how can we consider ourselves overcomers? God is developing fully tested sons for the work of the kingdom.
We see examples of testing in every aspect of life. For instance you would never want to purchase something without it being fully tested first would you? Like a car or piece of equipment. They will have a number saying, “inspected by #77”, and that is what gives us the assurance it can be trusted. God is the same way. A faith that isn’t tested isn’t much of a faith at all is it? This is why I’ve heard it said this way “Temptation is an opportunity for faith.” Without a test, or us being tempted, we’ll never know how the Spirit of God operates in and through us and we’ll never discover “Christ fully formed in us” as Paul proclaimed. What God is after is full-grown sons, and daughters, that have been tested and found “lacking in nothing.” This then is the value of temptation.
Written by Louie
God’s plan all along has been to have grown sons to take care of the family business. He created Adam in his likeness and told him to “be fruitful, multiply and have dominion over all the earth.” It seems to me that when Adam sinned it stunted his growth. It’s as if the whole human race had to grow up in order to be responsible, mature sons. A mature son is one in which the Spirit of God dwells. Adam ate from the wrong tree and started a race of humans that were incomplete. It isn’t until Christ came that we are enabled to mature or become complete in our humanity. He is the finishing touch.
If we look through the letters of the Apostle Paul we will discover he talked about us growing up into mature faith quite a bit. In fact I would say it is what is behind most, if not all, of his teaching. In Ephesians 4 he tells us God gave the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, for the very purpose of equipping the saints for maturity. That we might come to unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God until we grow into the “perfect” or full grown man. This is so we might finally take our rightful place as heirs.
In the 4th chapter of Galatians we read that even though the heir may be a child he may not yet be mature enough to handle all of what God has for him. It says, “But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Until we receive Christ we live under guardians and managers (The Law). Once we do receive him we have no need to be under such guardians.
If you are like me you may not have a clear understanding of what this word adoption really means. To us it usually refers to someone bringing a child into their family from another family. Here adoption is defined “son placement.” What this means is the son has come to maturity and is now responsible enough to take charge over the Father’s business. It isn’t until this stage that we are mature enough to handle it. For the Jew it was usually at the age of 30.
There are three stages of growth in the life of a Jewish male. First he is born of course, and on the eight day he is to be circumcised. This makes him a covenant man; his first step. Next he has his “Bar-Mitzvah” which means “son accountable.” This means he has become an apprentice of his father in the family business. Lastly he is “adopted” or placed as a son. This is when he is mature. He is able to run the Father’s business.
Jesus went through all of these stages. He was born and circumcised and at the age of twelve (adolescence) he was found in the Temple asking the Rabbi’s questions. Finally he went to the Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist. Remember when he came up out of the water? The Spirit descended like a dove and the voice from Heaven said, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” This was the Father’s way of saying this is my fully mature son, listen to him he knows what he is doing. Jesus was approximately 30yrs of age at this time.
Throughout the Bible it becomes very apparent that God wants a full house. He wants there to be many mature sons. In Romans 8 we read that we have been predestined to be conformed into the image of his Son so he would be the firstborn among many brethren. So we discover Jesus is to be the firstborn of many. In Colossians 1 we read that Jesus Christ is the firstborn from among the dead. I love this because it is telling us we too, that are born of God, will rise from the dead one day. If he is the firstborn from among the dead we are sure to be the 2nd, 3rd, and so on. Hallelujah!
How does this maturing happen you might ask? You may not really want to know when you find out. If we look at Hebrews 5:8 we will see. It says, “Although He (Jesus) was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which he suffered.” If Jesus learned obedience through suffering that’s the way we will learn it also. It seems we all would like to be in charge of something, but most of us don’t want to go through the training. Suffering is the school of maturity. Jesus, even though he was God, humbled himself and was obedient. He was obedient to death, even death on a cross. But notice the result. “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” Jesus’ obedience was never half hearted; therefore he sits at the Father’s right hand co-ruling the family business. He is always there to intercede for us that still have some growing up to do.
Thank you Jesus!!
Written by Louie
In 1 John we find that John categorized believers in one of three stages little children, young men and Fathers. While thinking on these categories, I realized that this is a theme throughout the Old and New Testaments.
In 1 John 2:12-14 we find these three stages in the Christians life. John says that he writes to the little children and they know that their sins are forgiven in the name of the Lord. He writes to the young men and they are strong, the Word of God abides in them, and they have overcome the evil one. He writes to the Fathers because they know him who is from the beginning. There we have the three stages and a description of each one. Let’s see if we can dig a little deeper.
The little children stage is perfectly fine for those who are in that stage. These are they who are forgiven sinners, and that seems to be all they know and maybe even care to know at the moment. Everyone starts out in this stage and rightfully so, but there is a time to move on into stage number two. Jesus Christ didn’t come here just so you could be forgiven. His vicarious death on the cross accomplished much more than that. Let’s move on into the next stage.
The young men level is a little bit further along. The young men had also been forgiven of their sins but they had moved on and were living in victory. They were strong with the word of God dwelling in them. They had come to the place where they finally understood that the battle was in fact already won via the cross; therefore they had, in Christ, overcome the enemy already. They were fighting from the place of victory not fighting for victory.
Now we come to the father stage the stage where we are mature in our walk and we know him who is from the beginning. Knowing him who is from the beginning is an interesting phrase. In John 17:3 Jesus said “This is eternal life that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” This use of the word knowing is the same word used in the book of Genesis when it says Adam knew Eve. This is intimacy; this knowing goes further than just knowing about someone. John is telling us that the Father stage is the stage where we are identified with the Heavenly Father in such a way that we start to reproduce after our own kind. God the Father is concerned not about his own well being but the well being of others and this is the attitude of them that are at the father level. They are no longer preoccupied with their sins being forgiven or being strong and overcoming the evil one. While all of those things are great they are still focused on self.
The defining characteristic of those in the Father stage is they are no longer caught up with themselves, in fact they think of others first and how they can be of help to them. One other characteristic is they are at rest. While in the first two stages there is strife, frustration and just general conflict. While the little children and young men are striving to obtain things, even though they may be good things, the fathers have discovered that all they need is found in Christ.
With all of that said, on with the new light. While thinking of these things I realized that these stages of growth or development were on display throughout the Old Testament. The children of Israel and their journey out of bondage in Egypt, through the desert and on into the promise land is a perfect example. I mean we even call them the children of Israel.
The release of the Children of Israel from slavery in Egypt is a picture of their sins being forgiven. They were delivered and went through the Red Sea symbolic of baptism. In other words they were in the little children stage and they were forgiven but they were still very self-centered. They complained every chance they could about food, water or how hot it was which is typical of children. When they came to the entrance of the Promise land, they were frightened away because there were giants living there. Although God had already told them he would bring them victory, they would not go in; therefore God let all of them but two die in the wilderness. Forty years later God had Joshua lead them into the land. This is where the young men stage comes in.
Joshua was a warrior and he led the Children of Israel in many battles. While the land was theirs, they still had to overcome the enemy that was living in the land. In each of these first two stages, they had no rest; there was constant complaining in the children stage and never ending battle in the young men stage.
In the final stage, the father stage, we find rest. The Bible tells us that Jesus and the Father are one. When we receive Jesus, we also become one with the Father. He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit. After receiving the Spirit which is from the Father, we begin to think like him. The Bible tells us that we have the mind of Christ, and the mind of Christ always has a “put others first” mentality. In essence a father is one in whom “The Father” finds his perfect expression.
He is one that is into reproducing himself in others, and that means he is willing to suffer for the sake of others. He no longer is consumed with his own lusts and desires; rather, he is into giving of himself for others. No greater love has a man than he lay down his life for his friends. For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. Now that is the heart of the Father. When we get to this stage, we too will be givers and sacrificers for others.
Written by Louie