Summary: God’s Word Leads to a Paradoxical Lifestyle 1) It separates us from the world 2) It sends us to the world
I’ve always been fascinated with paradoxes. You know, seemingly contrary statements that are nevertheless true. For example the statement, “Standing is more tiring than walking.” is a paradox. Sarah and I were reminded of how true that statement is just a few weeks ago when we had to stand for close to an hour on a crowded train while traveling through Japan. Standing for that hour took more out of me than all the walking we had done that morning and afternoon.
The Bible is full of paradoxes. Just think of how Jesus taught that the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Or how he said that if you want to become the greatest in the kingdom of God you must become the least. With truths like that we aren’t surprised to learn that following God’s Word leads to a paradoxical lifestyle. Our text this morning informs us that following God’s Word both separates us from the world, and sends us to the world.
Jesus spoke the paradoxical words of our text as a prayer the same night he was betrayed. In his prayer he asked to receive strength for his upcoming crucifixion, and protection for his disciples who would soon find themselves carrying on without Jesus visibly at their side. Jesus wanted his Father to protect his disciples through the “power of his name” (vs. 11, 12). What do you think that meant by that? Was Jesus praying that God would protect the disciples through some sort of magical incantation such as hocus-pocus or abracadabra? Of course not! He was asking God to protect his disciples through the Word. You see God’s name is not just his titles but everything that he has revealed to us about himself – all of which you can find in the Bible.
Just how can God’s Word protect us from the world? It protects us by separating us from it. It does that by giving us an accurate perspective on sin and its consequences. For example the world wants us to believe that sleeping around is OK as long as you practice safe sex, or that sex before marriage is OK as long as you are in a committed relationship. Isn’t that what many movies portray? They make it seem as if such affairs are hot and exciting and that the relationships of married couples are boring and stagnant. But movies aren’t real are they? If you want a dose of reality of what happens when you disregard God’s Word about sex and marriage just watch any daytime talk show. Jerry Springer can’t seem to get through a show without his guests yelling and often taking swings at each other because their sinful lifestyles have caused jealousy and dissension, not exhilaration and passion.
Only through God’s Word can we see sin and temptation for what it really is – nothing more than an enticing picture. Let me explain what I mean. Hanging in my office is a picture I took years ago while hiking in the mountains. When I get distracted I often find myself looking at the picture thinking of how great it would be to be hiking in those mountains again. What do you think would happen if I tried to jump into that picture thinking it was real? I would end up with a sore shoulder and a bump on my head because on the other side of the picture is a solid wall, not a mountain vista. In the same way temptation beckons and entices. It promises wonderful things but when we fall for it we find out that there nothing on the other side except pain and guilt.
Isn’t that what Judas found out? His love for money lead him to believe that if only he could have lots of cash he would find happiness. But where did his greed lead him? It lead him to betray his Lord and Saviour and then to become so grieved at what he had done that he went out and committed suicide. Brothers and sisters listen to God’s Word because it can and will protect us from falling for the Devil’s traps. Don’t believe what the world has to say about what is fun and what isn’t. What does the world know? Look at the mess it has gotten itself into. Only God’s Word can keep us safe by separating us from the world’s way of thinking and from buying into the Devil’s lies.
Before we go on I want to tackle a difficult verse in our text concerning Judas. When Jesus says that Judas was “doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled” (v. 12) he’s not saying that Judas had been destined to betray Jesus and there was nothing that he could have done to change it. In interpreting this passage we need to be careful to distinguish between God’s foreordaining and his foreknowledge. Just because God knows something is going to happen doesn’t mean that he wants it to happen that way. Take the fall into sin by Adam and Eve for example. God knew that Adam and Eve would eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil before he created them (Eph. 1:3-10) but this doesn’t mean that God wanted Adam and Eve to fall into sin or that he had programmed them to do so. That would make God the author of evil and James says that that is not so (James 1:13).