The online Bible teaching ministry of John Brand

The Real Lord’s Prayer – John 17:10

John 17:9-10  “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.  All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 

We are now in our twelfth study in this great prayer and we have still not actually come to the first of Jesus’ specific requests for his disciples, and will probably do that next time.

We are deliberately taking these studies very slowly because I don’t want us to miss any of the many nuggets of truth that are contained in this prayer, and there is one more statement I want us to reflect on for a moment before we dig into the actual content of the Saviour’s prayer for his disciples.

It is what Jesus says in verse 10 – “I am glorified in them”.

This is a really strong and remarkable statement and, believe it or not, it is true of us as believers, just as it was of those first disciples who were with Jesus as he prays.

Let’s say the same thing in a slightly different way which will, I hope, help us see more clearly exactly what Jesus is saying.   Jesus is saying that ‘glory has come to me through them’.  By the disciples’ lives of faith and trust and obedience, the Saviour is glorified.

Now, that is remarkable because we know something of the nature of the faith and trust of that first group of disciples.  We know that they frequently displayed spiritual immaturity and a slowness to believe.  We know that they sometimes bickered among themselves and didn’t share the Saviour’s compassionate and tender heart.

And yet, despite all of that and all that was lacking in these men, Jesus can still say, “I am glorified in them”; glory has come to me through them.  In some senses, I find this one of the most encouraging statements in the New Testament.  Jesus is saying that even the immature, incomplete and inconsistent faith and trust and obedience of the disciples does bring glory to him.

Now, given that our “chief end”, according to the Westminster Divines, the main purpose of our existence, is “to glorify God”, it seems to me that this statement of Jesus provides us with an opportunity to analyse how we can glorify God.   In some way, albeit imperfectly, that group of spiritually immature, at times unbelieving and squabbling, disciples had managed to achieve that for which they had been created – they brought glory to God in the person of Christ.

The question is, how did they do it and how can we emulate them?

Let me try and explain it by way of an analogy involving the moon and the sun.  The moon is, in reality, just a large piece of rock.  It has no light capacity in and of itself.  The only reason you and I can ever see it is when it is the right position in the heavens and reflects back the light of the sun shining on us.

So, just as the moon is lit up, not by its own light, but rather reflects the brightness of the sun, so you and I, when we live lives of faith and trust in, and obedience to God, reflect back the light of the glory of God that is shining on us.

By nature we are, spiritually speaking, as darkened as a piece of moon rock.  We have no light within ourselves; everything is dark.  With Paul we can freely admit that, “nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:17).

So anything that is truly good, however small and imperfect, must be a reflection of the light of the glory of God shining on us and in us.  Our “good deeds” therefore are not a light shining from within us but a reflection of the glory of God, and as we reflect back to him his own glory, he is glorified in and through us.

William Hendricksen expresses the dynamics of all of this very helpfully.

“The graces which adorn those who have been drawn out of the darkness and into the light reflect his redeeming love and power.” [1]

Remember the words of Jesus? 

“…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”Matthew 5:16

That was happening even in the imperfect and immature faith of those first disciples, and it is also true of us, with all our imperfections and immaturity.

Let’s briefly consider three other texts that address this issue of glorifying God.

1 Peter 4:8-10 teaches that we are to use the spiritual gifts that God has given to us, not to draw attention to ourselves or to gain a good reputation, but so that, “in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ”.    Others will observe our faithfulness in serving, or whatever other gift we have been given, and will realise that the only explanation as to how a naturally dark piece of spiritual rock can do such things must be by the power of God, and so glory is reflected back from the human to God himself, through Christ.

Romans 15:5-6.  It is important to bear in mind that the opening verses of chapter 15 draw on the content of chapter 14 where Paul deals with the issue of how believers are to agreeably disagree with one another over secondary spiritual matters; things the Puritans used to call “matters of indifference”.  The only way we can do such a thing is by the enabling grace of God, and as, by his grace, we are enabled to live in “such harmony” with one another, again, the only explanation must be the light of God shining on the naturally dark surface of the rocks that are our human nature and reflecting back on the source of that light – not ourselves but God.

2 Corinthians 9:13 is set in the context of Paul’s encouragement to the Corinthian believers to give generously to help their Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ in Jerusalem who are suffering hardship because of famine.   As they respond, which Paul describes as “their approval of this service”, the “saints”, the believers in Jerusalem will “glorify God”, because they will recognise in the Corinthians’ generosity the reflected glory of God, also described here as “the surpassing grace of God upon you.”

All these texts, and others we could have referred to, stress the fact that any good that is seen in us is not natural but supernatural and is a reflection of God’s own glory which, when reflected back to him, brings glory to him.

Our prayer needs to be, day by day, “In my life, Lord, be glorified”

[1] William Hendriksen John Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1954 p356

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