We must submit our lives completely to the Lord, taking on a spirit of holiness, in order to participate in His mission.
John 17 is a prayer of God the Son to God the Father. It is Jesus’ longest recorded prayer and has been called the High Priestly prayer because Jesus is mere hours away from going to the cross, and He is praying for His disciples. Jesus prays for the disciples who were listening to Him that day, as well as for His disciples for all time. Along with courage, protection, and unity in the church, Jesus specifically prays for the mission of the church, which makes this Scripture one of the classic texts for missions.
The word mission, from the Latin word missio, means “to send.” Thus, to be on mission simply means to be sent by someone. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus talks about His mission this way: “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). Therefore, Jesus’ mission involves seeking (going out) and saving (bringing in) lost people.
Following Jesus means being involved in His mission!
I was talking to a friend not long ago who thinks that despite being a believer in Jesus, it is not any of his business to share his beliefs with someone else. However, the biblical text indicates that while our faith in Christ must be personal, it can never be private. Jesus says, “As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21).
In what manner, then, does Jesus send us into the world? What is the most important condition for effective mission? It is found here in Jesus’ prayer. Look closely at His words: “Sanctify them by your truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” (John 17:17-19).
Why would Jesus sandwich a verse on mission between two verses on how committed He is to our holiness? It is because they absolutely go together. We are called to be holy. We are called to be like Jesus. We are supposed to have His character. But for what reason are we to be like Jesus?
Why are we to grow into His likeness? Why are we to grow in personal holiness? The answer: for the sake of the world—for the sake of His mission!
The sanctifying work of Jesus in us is absolutely essential if the world is really going to be changed. Nothing else can take the place of that condition.
When Jesus sent those first Christians out on His mission to change the world, what did He send with them? Training manuals on evangelism? Guidelines on sales and marketing? Instructions on using social media? Those can be valuable resources, but they are not what makes the mission credible.
Jesus sent the first Christians out with His personal presence—the purity and power of His holiness in them—which changed the world. The Christian gospel has always been spread in this way. You can see it in the Gospels, in the early church, and even in many parts of the world today where resources and knowledge are limited. Despite these limitations, the church is growing rapidly, because they have the essential condition for mission: holy lives. When it comes to those outside the faith, a person may not believe Christianity’s claims. But they cannot dismiss a holy life that looks like Jesus.
People’s lives will be changed through Christ in us. Jesus’ sanctification of us will, in turn, sanctify the world. Would we see more fruit in the mission if there were something different about our holiness? Let us start with a sanctified life that looks like Jesus. There is no mission without holiness.
David A. Busic is a general superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene
Holiness Today, Mar/Apr 2019