John 17:14-23 ESV
I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
821393. Do you know what that number is? No, it’s not my cellphone number. It is the patent number for a “flying machine” granted to Orville and Wilbur Wright on May 22nd, 1906. When we see and hear jets flying overhead today it is a monument to the ingenuity of the Wright brothers and aviation pioneers like them. But those jets also remind us that human flight has changed a lot in 104 years. The attitude has always been “how can we make a good thing better?” The Church of Jesus Christ also has that attitude. It is spelled out in the Latin phrase Ecclesia semper reformanda est. It means the church must always be reforming
Jesus prayed a high-priestly prayer for us which is recorded in John 17. In that prayer, he anticipated all the challenges that we would face as a church while he is physically away at the father’s side in heaven. Today’s text is taken from that prayer. It highlights four particular challenges that will always be ours until our Lord comes back. These challenges are also reasons why the church of Jesus Christ must always keep trying to improve ourselves. We cannot afford to believe that we have “finally got it right.”
Jesus prayed that his church would be sanctified in truth. Not just any truth – the truth of God’s word. One of the reasons the church has to be semper reformanda is that the word of God is not simple. It is very complicated. Sometimes in our zeal to proclaim on part of God’s truth we wind up rejecting another part of the same truth. We have a responsibility to compare texts and debate issues until what we are proclaiming is the whole counsel of God.
Jesus prayed that his church would be one. He wanted our unity to be such that it reflected the same kind of unity he has with the Father. Reformation is not complete if all it does is separate us from one another. We need to keep striving to be both doctrinally correct, and united in that correctness. Disunity among ourselves can be just as dangerous as false teaching. The reason for this is that unity is supposed to support our testimony. Disunity is a reason for the world to ignore us.
Jesus prayed that the Father would keep the church from the evil one (15). The evil one is the devil. The devil wants to turn the church into something that does not promote God’s kingdom or preach the Gospel. He has four means by which he attempts this: temptation, deception, accusation, and intimidation. These are all means that Satan uses to distract the church so that we fail to do what we were called to do. We have to take this aspect of God’s truth seriously, because if you do not realize you are at war, you will become a casualty of war.
Jesus prayed for the church so that the world may know the truth of the Gospel (21,23). We are not doing what God has called us to do if the world around us is not hearing the Gospel in words that they can understand. We are not being faithful to God unless our efforts are resulting in a world which understands God’s grace and has an opportunity to accept that grace. Semper Reformanda in terms of evangelism means that we need to keep trying new ways of getting the Gospel out of the four walls of the church and into the lives of the people in our community. It also means missions is a priority because our responsibility goes beyond our community to the world.
The church must always be reforming. We must keep nailing our problems to the door so that people notice. We must have the courage to stand for the truth when the truth is the minority position. We must have the will to change even when it means getting out of our comfort zone. We owe it to ourselves to seek what Jesus wants for us. He wants us to stand for the truth, to be one with one another, to be free from Satan’s control, to reach the world with the Gospel.