Christ's Disciples in the World
I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil. - John xviii:15
This language constitutes a part of the intercessory prayer of Christ for his disciples. He was about to leave them. He said, "Father, the hour is come." It was the most important of ail the hours of time. The Messiah was to die. The garden and the cross were at hand. Who would have thought it strange if the Redeemer's personal sufferings had engrossed all his thoughts? But he remembered his disciples and prayed for them. He prayed not only for his apostles, but for all in every age who should believe on him through their word. What a comprehensive petition! a petition that scatters blessings along the pathway of the redeemed to the end of the world. Let us learn the lessons the text teaches.
I. IT IS THE PLEASURE OF THE SAVIOR THAT HIS DISCIPLES REMAIN FOR A TIME IN THE WORLD.
I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, etc. There is a purpose to be accomplished by their temporary sojourn on earth. It is better for them to stay awhile on God's footstool
before they go up to his throne. But why is it the Savior's will, that his disciples remain for a time in the world? I answer:
1. That their piety may be put to the test. - This could not be done if they were taken at once to heaven. When they remain on earth long enough to show the power of religion on their hearts and lives, the fact is settled that they are what they profess to be. This fact redounds, too, to the credit of Christianity. It demonstrates its vitality and energy. Some of the Christian graces can be exemplified only in this life - faith, hope, patience, etc. When we reach heaven we shall no longer walk by faith. Faith is like the staff of the traveler, indispensable while he pursues his journey, but laid aside when he reaches the end of it. When the Christian pilgrim ascends the mount of God, faith is changed into sight. Hope anticipates future good. It does not refer to the present: "for what a man sees why does he yet hope for?" When, therefore, the saints enter heaven, their hope is lost, absorbed in a joyous realization of what they hoped for on earth. Hope is exchanged for enjoyment. In order to an illustration of the grace of patience, there must be trials. There are, however, no trials in heaven. The exercise of patience is, therefore, confined to this life. No exigency will occur through the endless ages of eternity demanding an exemplification of patience. Thus does it appear that some of the Christian graces can be exercised and illustrated only in this life.
But their exercise and illustration are essential to the symmetry and perfection of Christian character. And then, again, some difficult Christian duties are confined to this world. Such are love of enemies, forgiveness of injuries, etc. There will be no enemies to love in heaven, and no injuries to forgive. The performance of these duties here has much to do in testing the piety of the saints.
2. That they may benefit the impenitent. - Christians are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Blessings are conferred on the world through the people of God. This is seen in the fact that Sodom would have been spared if a certain number of righteous men had been found in it, and was actually spared till Lot made his escape from it. "He that winneth souls is wise," and it is the duty of Christians to win souls. They are debtors to the impenitent, even as Paul was a debtor to the Greeks and the barbarians. They are under untransferable obligations to do what they can to promote the salvation of sinners. Is there an impenitent sinner should be allowed to say: "No man cared for my soul." It is the delightful duty of every Christian, as he prosecutes his journey heavenward, to induce as many as possible to accompany him. Professed followers of Christ! what are you doing for the salvation of the impenitent? It is the pleasure of your Savior, that you remain for a time in the world, that you may benefit the impenitent. Are you doing his pleasure? Are you obeying his
will? Are you carrying his purpose into effect? What souls will have reason to rejoice forever in the arrangement which secures your temporary sojourn on earth?
3. The Redeemer's cause is intrusted, in a very important sense, to his disciples. - The Holy Spirit is the great agent in promoting this cause. Christians are agents in an inferior sense. Who, except them, are to see that the gospel is preached at home and abroad? Who are to translate the Bible into all languages, and circulate it among all people? Who are to put into operation the influences necessary to the world's conversion? Christians are needed to do all this. They should consider the cause of Christ their cause, and esteem it a high privilege to consecrate their influence, their time, their talents and their property to its advancement. Remember, Christians, you do not live in this world that you may amass its wealth, secure its honors, or enjoy its pleasures, but that you may promote the cause of Christ. This is the object at which you are to aim. All objects at variance with this are too insignificant to live for.
II. THE DISCIPLES OF CHRIST ARE EXPOSED TO THE EVIL THAT IS IN THE WORLD.
"I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil." The world is full of evil. Satan, has so much influence in it, the subjects of his rule are so numerous, that he is termed "the
god of this world." We see evil everywhere, all around us. It is in unsanctified prosperity and in unsanctified adversity. It is in boasting wealth and complaining poverty. Nor is a competency a shield from it. No situation in life protects from the incursions of evil. Christians are in danger from "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." Alas I how easy it is for them to yield to the influence of evil, and bring dishonor on the Christian name!
III. THE SAVIOR CONSIDERS DIVINE PRESERVATION NECESSARY TO THE SAFETY OF HIS FOLLOWERS, AND PRAYS FOR IT.
"I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil." Christians can not preserve themselves from evil. Their strength is weakness. But "they that trust in the Lord shall be as Mount Zion, which can not be removed, but abideth forever." "They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength." Paul said, "Having obtained help of God, I continue to this day." "And the Lord will deliver me from all evil, and preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom." "The Lord hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee; so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper. I will not fear what man can do unto me." Peter teaches us that the saints are "kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." Truly, the Christian's strength is in
the Lord and in the power of his might. They that trust in the Lord shall not be confounded; for "the name of the Lord is a strong tower, into which the righteous run and are safe." While Christians cultivate a sense of their entire dependence on God, when they are weak then are they strong. How much comfort there is in the fact that there is help in the Lord - not in themselves. In their days of deepest trouble and sorrow they hear the voice of inspiration, saying, "Cast thy burden on the Lord and he shall sustain thee. Or, as the Welsh version has it, "Roll thy burden" etc.; conveying the idea that the burden may be too heavy to cast, and can only be managed by rolling, etc. But Jesus prays for the preservation of his disciples from evil. "I pray," etc. He prayed on earth and he intercedes in heaven. Yes, the heart that throbbed and bled with anguish for our salvation on Gal vary, still feels for us and loves us. He sympathizes with us, for he was tempted in all points as we are. He lives to make intercession. We shall be saved by his life - by his life in heaven; for he lives to save those who trust in him. He is our compassionate Advocate, who ever pleads our cause. As he' intercedes for us we should pray for ourselves. Our prayers should harmonize with his intercessions.
IV. GOD OUR FATHER WILL, AT THE PROPER TIME, TAKE US OUT OF THE WOKLD.
I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of
the world, etc. - Here it is implied that it is God's prerogative to take out of the world. He presides over the death of his saints. Their death is precious in his sight. .Christians should rejoice that divine wisdom, which never errs, will decide how long they shall live, and when they shall die. Their gracious Father in heaven will determine in what circumstances they shall die - whether at home or abroad; on the land or on the sea; among friends or enemies. They will die at the right, time, and God will be glorified in them. How delightful, after our work is done, to go out of the world at our Father's bidding, with his smile to cheer and enrapture the departing spirit! "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth! Yea, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works do follow them."
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC; via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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