Most of us like our doctrine pretty well. But we should ask ourselves from time to time, “What does Jesus think of how I’m living?” because that is the real test of what we actually believe. We can say anything.
If we claim to be followers of Jesus Christ then we should concern ourselves with the things He cares about.
And, there’s one thing Jesus cares about far more than the nuances in Protestant Doctrine – those beliefs within Christianity that define “Us & Them”. So, what is it that Jesus places a priority on . . . prior to his death?
Just before He went to be tortured and crucified, Jesus prayed a prayer over two groups of people: The 11 apostles (Judas had already deserted to betray him) and all those who, throughout history, would come to repent of their sins and believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God.
Simply put, he prayed for the apostles and for you and me.
But, what did Jesus pray? What was his concern just prior to his death?
What did Jesus want from his followers, then? What does Jesus want from you and me, today? And, why does he want it?
In his prayer to the Father, Jesus’ overarching concern is that his followers walk, talk, and live in . . . unity. He wanted them to know and to understand that they are one, single unified whole – in the same way that he was ‘one’ with the Father. Perfect unity. That’s what Jesus wants from his first followers and from everyone who believes . . . that’s what he wants from you and from me.
So little unity characterizes institutional church organizations today that one can only conclude John Chapter 17, “The High Priestly Prayer” as it is called, just isn’t that important. People committed to defending institutions and organizations have a hard time getting along (not to mention you and me!).
But, the true Church – the true Body of Christ – isn’t an institution or an organization. The true Church is an organism – a living, breathing, spirit-filled entity directed by it’s Head, Jesus Christ. That’s why true believers are described in the New Testament as “The Body of Christ”.
Jesus wants his followers unified – to walk in fellowship and shared purpose with each other.
Why was this so important to Jesus? He tells us as he prays. He says, essentially, ‘May they be one (as you, Father, and I are one) so the world will believe I came from you.’
That is stunning! Actually, it should be disturbing, given the present state of the Church. Did you catch it?
Jesus is saying/praying that the unity of his followers – is evidence to the world that he is legitimate – that what he said was true . . . is evidence that he came from God.
The unity of the true Church (his body, that living breathing organism made up of his true followers) is of great concern to Jesus. Do we love Jesus? Do we aspire to follow Him? Are we concerned about accurately representing Him to a watching world? Then we are responsible to pursue and walk in this reality – unity and fellowship with fellow believers.
Jesus’ Prayer for You and Me Just Prior to the Cross . . .
The Gospel of John, Chapter 17
(MLJV – KJV with archaic language updated)
1 These words spoke Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify your Son, that your Son also may glorify you:
2 As you have given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as you have given him.
3 And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
4 I have glorified you on the earth: I have finished the work which you gave me to do.
5 And now, O Father, glorify me with your own self with the glory I had with you before the world was.
6 I have manifested your name unto the men which you gave me out of the world: yours they were, and you gave them to me; and they have kept your word.
7 Now they have known that all things whatsoever you have given me are of you.
8 For I have given to them the words which you gave to me; and they have received them, and have known certainly that I came out from you, and they have believed that you sent me.
9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which you have given me; for they are yours.
10 And all mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I am glorified in them.
11 And now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to you. Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom you hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
12 While I was with them in the world, I kept them in your name: those that you gave me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.
13 And now I come to you; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
14 I have given them your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
15 I don’t pray that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil.
16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
17 Sanctify them through your truth: your word is truth.
18 As you have sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
20 I don’t pray for these alone, but for them also which will believe on me through their word;
21 That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me.
22 And the glory which you gavest 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 be made perfect (complete) in one; and that the world may know that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me.
24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which you have given me: for you loved me before the foundation of the world.
25 O righteous Father, the world has not known you: but I have known you, and these have known that you have sent me.
26 And I have declared unto them you name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.
Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Are you walking in unity, starting in your home, and then in your local Church? Do we truly love Jesus or do we love our doctrine . . . our beliefs that prevent true unity of Spirit and fellowship with other believers?
Will we allow the words of Jesus to penetrate the stoney places of our hearts that keep us from each other and impede the Gospel message?
And, let’s not lightly consider the words of our Lord, “You are my friends . . . if you do whatever I command you.” John 15:14-16.
Jesus wants his entire Church the world over to be ‘one’, to have the communion and fellowship He and the Father enjoy – not institutions and organizations but individuals . . . you and me . . . the true Body of Christ . A tall order? Yes, it is but Jesus never asks His followers to go where He doesn’t lead.
The only question is, “Will we follow the One we so readily call ‘Lord and Master’?”
The unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is always a reality where Jesus is worshipped and obeyed.
Matt Jacobson is a biblical marriage coach and founder of FaithfulMan.com a biblical marriage, parenting, and discipleship ministry providing written and audio teaching, as well as couples marriage coaching. He is the co-host (with his wife, Lisa) of Faithful Life Podcast and is author of the bestseller, 100 Ways to Love Your Wife. Matt is pastor of Tumalo Bible Fellowship and is married to Lisa, founder of Club31Women.com (they have 8 kids!).