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Newsletter  -  Friday, June 12, 2009

The Answer To a Prayer

This newsletter is the last in the series from John 15-17. If you have not read the other newsletters from 2009, please do, as they have been a part of an incredible series.

We’ve all done it or been witnesses to it, conversations between two people spoken loudly in attempts to catch the attention of all those around. “So, I was at the restaurant and ‘insert celebrity name here’ sat at the table next to me! We actually talked throughout dinner and…” Why do people speak with such volume when sharing information in a personal conversation? Usually they do it to get attention and feel important. The response they get from all within earshot is predictable; everyone stops what they are doing or saying and listens to the one speaking. Though not for His own exaltation but for the benefit of those around, Jesus does this very act in John 17. He is praying to the Heavenly Father but He intends all around to stop what they are doing and listen in on His conversation. Please take a moment to read that chapter.

If this were a military discussion, Jesus’ statement about revealing God’s glory would probably be: “Mission accomplished, commander. I am now heading back to base.”  There is the lingering question of what will happen once the physical presence of the leader is gone. Here, in Jesus’ prayer, we see the culmination of all He has shared in the past two chapters come to a final plea: dwell and find yourself in Me, build relationships and love each other enough to lay down your personal schedule and preferences, know who you are, you are in Me and I am in you – you are in My name.

After a prayer for protection over the believers on earth at that time, Jesus prays through the generations to come. He is literally praying at this point in time, 2000 years ago, with us in mind. We will listen in to what He was saying about you and me beginning at verse 20:

“I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. (That is perfect love and unity!) May they also be in Us (now that is being in the “in crowd”) so that the world may believe that You have sent Me." (NIV)

The Message puts it like this: “I’m praying…for those who will believe in Me because of them and their witness about Me. The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind – just as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, so they might be one heart and mind with Us. Then the world might believe that You, in fact, sent Me. The same glory You gave Me, I gave them (He’s talking about you having His glory!), so they’ll be as unified and together as we are- I in them and You in Me. Then they’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that You’ve sent Me and loved them in the same way You’ve loved Me.”

Last summer there was an international, interdenominational project that was put together with the determination to bring the Church, God’s people across the globe, into unity. The foundational statement was based on Jesus’ prayer in John 17 of “all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.” The question put forth in the project was this, “What if we, the believers, actually endeavored to answer Jesus’ prayer?” God won’t forcibly unify His bride; it has to be our choice. What if we chose to be an answer to Jesus’ prayer? Us, answer Jesus’ prayer? Does that sound over the top? No more than a family in financial straits who are praying for food when you get the sudden urge to take a bag of groceries over to their home. Recently our family took a vacation in the snow-covered mountains of Utah. On a Sunday evening as we drove our van up the slope, one of our tires had a sudden blowout. While getting the jack out of the back, we realized the lug wrench was missing. Without the wrench we could not change the tire or get the spare out of its compartment. It was cold, dark and our cell phones were out of range so we could not call for help. After some time on this lonely slope, an SUV stopped next to us and a man dressed in a suit and tie got out to ask if we needed help. He found his lug wrench, it fit, and then, disregarding his dress clothes, he knelt at our flat tire and changed it. He was an answer to our prayer. I’m sure that at some time in your life you too have been an answer to someone’s prayer.

We all have the complete capability of being the answer to Jesus’ prayer for unity. The precious early years of the church are revealed in Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-36. The believers, thousands of them, were united as they devoted themselves to learning about the true love of God. They did everything possible to cultivate relationships with each other through continual fellowship, shared meals, and spent time together in prayer. Imagine the crowd of thousands, meeting as one in a single place. Scripture says that they took care of each other’s financial, physical, and emotional needs. Daily they would gather in the temple (there was only one temple) to worship together. They met in each other’s homes regularly for the Lord’s Supper. The scriptures state that they shared their meals with great joy and sincere hearts…all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all people.

Now to the question of “what happened?” Why are we believers not availing ourselves to this kind of unity as an answer to Jesus’ prayer? Why are we not seeing floods of new believers everyday as they did in the early church? In fact, many who are not believers shun the message of Christ because of the lack of unity they see in body of Christ. Over the years the church has become very quick to point out the differences within God’s people, forcing them to conform to what is controllable so as to make a particular group comfortable or face the consequences of having one’s gift shut down and potentially kicked out as an infidel. This action, though masked as an attempt at unity, only serves to make the Body of Christ wounded and disjointed. The definition of a healthy body is one of having all its various parts connected and functioning in their own unique capacity so as to have a complete whole.

What if we chose to speak blessings over people or hold our tongue rather than enter into gossip, judgment and complaints? If we understand the fact that we Christians are God’s physical representatives on earth and that He is in us and we are the temples of His Holy Spirit, then we begin to see each other in a new light. We, those who truly love Jesus Christ, are all His Body regardless of the denomination one attends, regardless of the inward or outward expressions of worship and devotion given, regardless of one’s age or ability, regardless of race, gender or political views. Jesus prayed that we would all be one so that we could be His living testimony to the world.

1 John 4 cements this word of truth for us. Turn to that chapter and read over it. Here are a few statements from the chapter: Christ’s Spirit lives in us. We are to love one another for love comes from God. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. We love each other because He loved us first. If someone says, “I love God,” but hates a Christian brother or sister, that person is a liar; for if we don’t love people we can see, how can we love God, whom we cannot see? And He has given us this command: Those who love God must also love their Christian brothers and sisters.

As we draw this series to a conclusion, I am challenged to dwell in God’s presence throughout my daily life. I want and realize the need to put my personal agenda aside and cultivate real friendships with those God has placed around me. I want to embrace the fullness of being in Jesus’ name, walking in His power, bringing His glory and kingdom here on earth. And finally, I long to be the answer to my Lord’s prayer. I need to know Jesus and love Him enough that I recognize Him in others who are called by His name. I see that I must lay aside my preferences, past doctrines, and feelings so that I can walk in a loving relationship those Christian brothers and sisters who are different from me. I want to learn how to bless them and work along side of them in unity so that; “we’ll be as unified and together as the Godhead are- Jesus’ Holy Spirit in us and the Father in Jesus. Then we’ll be mature in this oneness, and give the godless world evidence that Jesus was sent from God and loves all people in the same way the Father loves the Son (my paraphrase). Want to join me in this life long endeavor?


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