Summary: Everyone has something beautiful about them, and here Jesus highlights what ought to be beautiful about His Church
John 17: 18 - 23
They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder - but some of us may have to travel a very long way before we find the right eye!!! Most people have something about them which someone would view as beautiful (Eyes, Mouth, Hair, Inner beauty - best of all - good sense of humour, kindness, friendliness, thoughtfulness). The question is, Are we beautiful in the eyes of God? - in the eyes of believers? - in the eyes of the world?
Last week we were looking at what should distinguish us as members of the true church - Joy, Holiness and Truth. This week we look at 3 more such distinguishing marks, or perhaps we should view them as Beauty Spots, Mission, Unity and Love. When we exhibit these, then as the Church we will be beautiful in the eyes of God and our fellow believers, and we will have a drastic influence on the world, even though they may resent us because of the way we live and the things we do.
I can remember very distinctly just after I became a Christian when I was 8. I recall a number of times when I sinned, thinking to myself how much better it would have been for me to die just after I had become a Christian. Somehow, in my mind I had this feeling that I would have had a better spot in Heaven the day I became a Christian, than a week or two later after I had failed the Lord many times. We had been looking at Joy, Holiness and Truth, and we could be forgiven for thinking that we could better show these distinguishing marks when we are in Glory. Then our Joy would be complete, we would be totally sanctified and we would be with the one who is The Truth. However, here we find Christ showing us why we can’t immediately be transported to glory - we have a work to do here for Him, since one of the Beauty Spots for the Church is Mission. The fact is, we still have too much work to do!!
Stuck In - Going Into the World - v18 - "... I also have sent them into the world ..." - Where does Jesus want to send us as Christian missionaries? - Into the world! So often Christians seem to be afraid of our culture today and we separate ourselves from the people of this world. It is possible for someone to be born into a Christian family, to attend church and all its organisations, to keep only Christian friends and eventually to receive a Christian funeral - but they have little or no contact with unbelievers. Now to be in the world does not mean to be like the world, but it surely does mean we get to know non-Christians and befriend them, so that instead of them infecting us with worldliness, we begin to infect them with the Gospel.
Stick Out - Being Different to the World - v19 - "... that they also may be sanctified ..." - It is a mistake for Christians not to go into the world, but an equally serious mistake is to go into the world and be just like the world! We are to be like Christ in the world and we must never forget our mission. Sometimes Christians are like someone trying to sell Weight Watchers when they are massively overweight. They are a poor example of the product they are trying to sell. There is no point telling people Christ can change their lives if there is no change in our lives. How do we stick out? We must exhibit Joy, Holiness & Truth.
Stick at It - Keeping on Going - There is a sense in Jesus prayer where He is praying that God would give the disciples perseverance in their missionary activities. There will be many discouragements along the way, but they must remember it is God’ work they’re involved in, and although they persuade and witness, Salvation is of the Lord. Has He saved you?
One of the greatest criticisms levelled at the church today is that it is not united, but sometimes I wonder if people really know what sort of unity there should be within the church. Is it Organisational Unity they so much desire? In the Middle Ages there was distinct unity in the church but it had lost its way. There is good reason why they were called the Dark Ages - this sort of unity invariably means following heresy. Is the answer then, Conformed Unity? So often what we want to see in Reformed Evangelical community is everyone believing exactly the same as us. Is this really what’s best? Surely the great wealth of the church is its diversity of personality, interests, lifestyles & even methods of Christian work. Surely what is better is a spiritual unity involving orientation & desires, and fundamental theology. This would be a unity like the Trinity where the different members have different functions, yet they are one in ethos and desire.