Summary: We all have marks that distinguish us from others, and Christ says His church should exhibit things which will distinguish them from the world
John 17: 13 - 17
Mikael Gorbachev had a very obvious distinguishing mark on his forehead. This prompted many to make fun of him. He was always and instantly recognisable. I suppose we all have something which distinguishes us from other people - even twins have certain differences, no matter how much alike they are. However, it is interesting to see in our world today, how keen people are to alter themselves so as to remove those distinguishing marks. They will have plastic surgery; hair styling; speech coaching; fashion makeovers and many other treatments to alter or enhance their appearance, and make them more acceptable and aesthetically pleasing in the eyes of others. Jesus, in this prayer, asks that the Father preserve those things which distinguish those who are His. Sadly many Christians today are opting for spiritual plastic surgery so that they do not stand out in the world. They want to be the same - to fit in, so bit by bit they have their distinguishing marks removed. There are six marks which Jesus here refers to that distinguish the true church, and we will only look at three today. Check your own life and make sure these distinguishing marks are apparent.
May McFetridge used to say, in the middle of her performance, to some unsuspecting member of the audience, "Are you enjoying yourself? Well, tell your face!!" It is interesting that the first characteristic Christ here mentions for the Christian church is joy. Sadly it seems to be the case that when we first trust in the Lord we are filled with joy, but as we walk down the Christian way, that joy diminishes step by step, until there seems to be little joy left. Yet if anything characterised the early church it was joy. The verb, "to rejoice" occurs 72 times and the noun, "joy" occurs 60 times in Scripture - so obviously joy is important in the believer’s life. By joy, we are not talking about some stupid big grin from ear to ear all the time - but a glow which comes from a contentment and peace that is within us. How do we make sure we have this joy? Certain things are needed:
The Basis for Joy - Sound Doctrine - v13 - "... these things I speak in the world ..." - Jesus has been expressing deep and essential doctrine, and now He shows the purpose for that doctrine and it is the joy of His followers. Today, many seem to suggest, if you want joy don’t spend time learning sound doctrine because doctrine only divides - if you want joy all you have to do is live in the Spirit. However, if we are truly living in the Spirit, He will help us understand the doctrine of Scripture, and then we will have true joy. [Check out Ps. 19:8; Ps. 119:14; Jn. 15:10,11].
Encouragement in Joy - Fellowship - There are clearly two dimensions of fellowship reflected in this passage and in Scripture as a whole - fellowship with God, and then with man. Christ here wants us to have "My joy" - so what was His joy? It could refer to His future joy in the completion of His work on the cross (Heb. 12:2); But surely here it is more the joy of constant contact and fellowship with the Father. Do we have this? If you are not joyful it is probably because your fellowship is not right with God and your fellow Christian.
Completeness of Joy - Holiness - There is one final part which shows why there seems to be so little joy in the Christian church today, and it is down to a lack of holiness, for sin will keep us from God. Are you lacking in joy, simply because you can’t be bothered striving to be holy?
Holiness is the characteristic of God mentioned the most in the pages of Scripture, and therefore it makes perfect sense that this is an essential quality within the life of the church and believer. What does the term "holiness" mean? It comes from the greek word agios which we translate as "saint". This term literally means "the called-out one", and means that Christians are those who are called out from this world, not that they do not live in it, but so that they do not live like it. The problem is we tend to adopt:
The World’s Agenda - we allow the world’s values to be our values, even if they are wrong. If the primary concern of the world becomes hunger in the 3rd world, then the church makes that it’s primary concern, the same could be said for racism, alcoholism or ecology. These are all good concerns, but should not be the primary concern of the church. The church’s priority must be to speak about the probelm of sin and it’s solution.