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Funny thing about us humans: we will protect ourselves by default.

Our sense of self-preservation is programmed into us by the Lord.  It keeps us alive.  It’s a good thing.

But like anything, sin mars it.  Our self-preservation tempts us to not live as faithfully for Jesus as we should.  After all, we might be mocked, ridiculed, or disowned.  But what, exactly, does Jesus expect us to do?

Jesus’ last meal with His disciples before His crucifixion was filled with confusion, sadness, doubt, and emerging faith.  Jesus is about to go through the most challenging part of His mission from Heaven to Earth.  And while He has taught the disciples so much, their sadness remained in the room.  They understood that He was going away, but they didn’t know why—even though He told them.

He prays there at the table (starting in John 17), and this is not the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane but a different, intimate prayer the disciples would have heard.  We continue this prayer of Jesus in John 17:13-19

 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

John 17:13-19
New International Version

As disciples of Jesus, we don’t belong to this world.  We are not a part of this world any more than Jesus was.  This world really isn’t our home; Heaven is our home.  Yet, we must notice: we are still in the world, and our only goal here is not just survival.

Of all the things Jesus could have prayed, He specifically did NOT pray for us to be removed (like He was about to be) but that we would be protected.  Verse 15 teaches Jesus’ desire was for our protection “from the evil one,” not escape from this world.

Yes, it’s easy to focus on Heaven and our home and getting out of here, but dear one in Jesus—please read this carefully—while you draw breath on this planet, you are here for a reason, and that reason is not to get out.  Instead, Jesus calls on His Father to sanctify us “by the truth; your word is truth” (verse 17).  

What does it mean to be “sanctified by the truth?”  This is yet another example of why understanding the Old Testament is needed to understand the New Testament fully.  When an object (or person) was sanctified, it was set apart or reserved for the Lord’s use.  Whether it was a censer for an altar, a basin, or a person, it was “made holy” or “sanctified” for God’s purposes alone.   As followers of Jesus, we are reserved for the Lord’s use.

Make no mistake, this process of being made holy (or sanctified) is not for our purpose alone.  It is for the mission of the Father: spreading the Gospel and then discipling the redeemed.  There is a constant “outward trajectory” to our faith.  We’re not in a bubble, nor are we supposed to be.

Not only are we not in a bubble, but we are also intentionally sent into the world (verse 18).  Disciples of Jesus are sent into the same foxholes Jesus went to.  We are in the same battle for the souls of people.  Our role isn’t condemnation but introducing people to salvation in Jesus (see John 3:16-18).

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Interestingly, the word Jesus uses here for “sent” (in Greek) is the same word we translate (in English) as “apostle.”  When you click “send” for an email or text, you are “apostling” it. That means not only are the men in that room “apostled” to the world, but we are also.  Read that sentence again…it’ll change your outlook on work, play, family, and friends.

Jesus was sanctifying Himself the way a priest did in the Old Testament before making a sacrifice for the sins of others.  Our Great High Priest would not only obey the Father and give Himself completely to inaugurate the New Covenant, but He was also setting Himself apart as our High Priest to make the sacrifice possible.

Steeped in the rich theology of the Old Testament, Jesus consecrates Himself to this purpose: to fulfill the mission of the Father so He can continue this mission through us.

Are you serving our Lord well as you are “apostled” to your world?