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United in Truth: Why Doctrine Matters

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 

17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 

18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

(John 17:14-21)

To listen to this sermon, follow this link: Logos Church – United in Truth: Why Doctrine Matters

Intro

We’re gathered in this building today on the Sabbath but not merely as individuals or as a collection of people who’ve decided to spend a few hours together, but rather as an intricate part of a holy body, a communal tapestry woven together through faith in Christ. This community that we form is more than just the sum of its parts. It is the Church, the body of Christ, and its vitality and life is found in something more substantial than shared interests or communal activities. Our unity and identity are rooted deeply in the beliefs we hold, the doctrine that we affirm, and the truth that we uphold.

You might have heard the term ‘doctrine’ casually thrown around in religious circles, or perhaps discussed with a certain level of wariness in today’s increasingly pluralistic society. After all, the word ‘doctrine’ can feel somewhat outmoded in a world where personal experience and subjective reality are often given precedence over absolute truths. But let’s be clear: doctrine is not an antiquated concept, nor is it a dry, lifeless set of rules. No, doctrine is vital; it’s alive and dynamic. It’s the set of beliefs that defines us as Christians, guides our conduct, and shapes our understanding of the world and our place within it.

Doctrine is at the very heart of our faith, and today, we’re going to explore why it’s so critical and how it affects us both individually and as a community. And in the coming weeks, we are going to explore the 10 articles of the First Pronomian Statement—a document outlining ten essential beliefs held by Pronomian Christians. Here at Logos Church, we wholeheartedly endorse and affirm this statement as an accurate representation of biblical truth.

The apostle Paul, in his first letter to young Timothy, underscored the importance of doctrine in these profound words: “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16). Paul didn’t view doctrine as a rigid construct or a burdensome obligation. Instead, he recognized it as a lifeline, a preserver of spiritual health and vitality. The phrase ‘keep a close watch’ in the original Greek is ‘épécho’, which can also be translated as ‘pay attention to’ or ‘be absorbed in’. It’s a picture of being so thoroughly immersed in something that it becomes inseparable from who you are.

Yet doctrine is more than just a tool for self-preservation. It’s a beacon that we are called to shine forth into a world shrouded in spiritual darkness. We live in a world that is increasingly skeptical, even hostile, towards the idea of absolute truth. A world that says, “What’s true for you might not be true for me.” It’s a world where the lines between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, are constantly being blurred and reshaped.

But, as bearers of God’s Word, we hold fast to a different narrative. We affirm that there is absolute truth, and this truth is found in the Word of God. It is through this Word, through the teachings and life of Jesus Christ, that we can navigate the murky waters of moral relativism and societal disillusionment.

The importance of doctrine extends beyond individual salvation and spiritual growth. It also shapes how we function as a community of believers. Theologian A.W. Tozer put it succinctly when he wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” This is as true for us as a collective body as it is for us as individuals. Our doctrine, our understanding of God, shapes our identity as a church. It influences how we relate to one another, how we serve our community, and how we engage with the world at large.

I’ve heard it said, and perhaps you have too, “Don’t give me doctrine; just give me Jesus.” It sounds compelling, doesn’t it? A call to focus on a personal relationship with Jesus rather than getting lost in theological debates. But the moment we ask, “Why Jesus?” or “What’s so good about Jesus that we need him?” we’ve ventured into the territory of doctrine. Doctrine, you see, is not an abstract concept removed from our walk with Christ; rather it is intertwined with the very foundation of our faith.

Doctrine is, in essence, our understanding of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. The doctrines we hold illuminate our comprehension of God, His love for us, His plan for salvation, and our purpose in life. Far from being an obstruction, doctrine serves as the guideposts on our journey of faith, helping us navigate our way towards a deeper relationship with Christ.

It’s been noted that doctrine can be divisive. This is an unavoidable reality, but not necessarily a negative one. The Epistles of the New Testament, authored by the Apostle Paul and others, provide a vivid demonstration of this. Nearly every letter was written to correct errant doctrine and, in doing so, distinguish between genuine believers and those spreading falsehoods. Doctrine, in this sense, serves as a protective mechanism, preserving the integrity of the Church and the purity of the Gospel message.

Let’s consider the Church in Corinth. They were dealing with division, immorality, and misunderstanding about spiritual gifts among other issues. Paul wrote to them to correct their doctrine. He didn’t avoid division, he pursued it. Because unity in falsehood is worse than division in truth. In other words, it’s not about creating disunity, but about preserving the purity and integrity of the Church, as it’s the pillar and foundation of the truth according to 1 Timothy 3:15.

In the following discourse, we’ll explore these concepts more deeply, drawing from the rich well of wisdom found in John’s Gospel, particularly Jesus’s high priestly prayer in John 17. As we do so, let’s not just seek to expand our knowledge, but let’s also open our hearts and minds to be transformed by the renewing power of God’s Word. It is my prayer that by the end of this discourse, we’ll have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the central role of doctrine in our lives, our church, and our witness to the world.

Distinctiveness Through Doctrine

14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.

As we delve into the first section of our text, it’s crucial to grasp the significance of Jesus’ words in John 17:14, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

This statement that Jesus makes about giving us His Father’s Word is not a trivial one. The Word Jesus has given us is nothing less than God’s self-revelation, the Scriptures. It is through the Bible that we come to understand the nature of God, the story of salvation, and the essence of Christian life. Deuteronomy 32:47 reminds us, “For it is no empty word for you, but your very life…”

The Word that Jesus has given us serves to distinguish us from the world, creating a stark boundary, a hard line. This Word informs our doctrines, which are the fundamental beliefs that shape our worldview and guide our actions.

When we talk about doctrine, we’re talking about eternal truths given to us by God Himself. The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The doctrines we glean from God’s Word are, therefore, divinely breathed instructions that should shape our understanding and guide our lives.

The importance of sound doctrine is underscored in numerous places in Scripture. Paul instructed Titus to “teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). To Timothy, he emphasized, “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Timothy 4:16).

This doctrine that is so crucial for our faith is a divisive thing, though. Jesus acknowledges this reality when He says that the world has hated His followers because they are not of the world. The Greek word used here for “world” is “kosmos,” which, in this context, refers to human society that is alienated from God. It’s the world system that lies under the sway of the evil one, as we read in 1 John 5:19, “We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.”

As we hold onto God’s Word and the doctrines it reveals, we find ourselves increasingly at odds with this kosmos. We become aliens and strangers, as Peter says in 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.”

In verses 15 and 16 of our main text, Jesus elaborates, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”

Despite this stark contrast between us and the world, Jesus does not pray for our removal from it but for our protection within it. We are to be in the world, but not of it, bearing witness to the truth of God’s Word. This is akin to Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 5:14-16, where He calls us the light of the world and encourages us to let our light shine before others.

In all of this, we see that the Word of God serves to set us apart from the world, making us distinctive. This distinction is essential for it forms the basis of our identity, not as conformers to the world but transformers through the Word, as Romans 12:2 reminds us.

So, what does this mean for us today? How do we apply this principle of being distinctive through doctrine in our daily lives?

First, we need to immerse ourselves in the Scriptures. This is not a mere occasional reading, but a diligent, prayerful study, seeking to understand God’s Word and its doctrines deeply. The psalmist speaks to this in Psalm 119:105, saying, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”

Second, we must strive to live out these doctrines, letting them shape our thoughts, words, and actions. James 1:22 exhorts us, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

Third, we are called to be unashamed of our distinctiveness. In a world that prizes conformity, standing firm on Biblical doctrine may invite ridicule or rejection. Yet, we are reminded in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…”

Lastly, we must remember our calling to engage with the world, not escape from it. As Jesus prayed, we are in the world, bearing witness to God’s truth and love. This doesn’t mean blending in, but rather standing out, reflecting Christ in our lives, as Philippians 2:15 encourages us, “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

As we move forward, may we embrace our distinctiveness through sound doctrine, letting it shape our identity, guide our actions, and illuminate our witness in this world. In doing so, we not only honor God, but we also invite others into the transformative power of His Word. Let us resolve to be a people marked by the Word, distinctively set apart for His glory.

Sanctification by Truth

17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:14-17)

In this verse, Jesus makes a powerful and unambiguous statement: “Your word is truth.” This statement is foundational for us because it affirms the absolute truthfulness and authority of God’s Word. This phrase isn’t a comparison. Jesus isn’t saying God’s Word is ‘like’ the truth. He’s declaring it ‘is’ the truth.

This isn’t just about individual statements within the Bible being true; it’s a declaration of the reliability, the consistency, the inerrancy, and the infallibility of Scripture as a whole. We can find comfort and assurance in this because it means that God’s Word is our steady, unchanging guide amidst the shifting sands of human wisdom and cultural trends. As the psalmist writes in Psalm 119:89, “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.”

Before we delve into the sanctifying power of this truth, let’s consider the implications of not affirming absolute truth. We live in a culture that often encourages a relative view of truth, where each individual can have their own version of ‘truth’. While this may seem liberating and inclusive on the surface, it quickly leads to contradictions, inconsistencies, and a breakdown of meaningful communication. After all, if truth is subjective and varies from person to person, how can we effectively discuss, debate, or make sense of our world? In such a framework, the concepts of right and wrong, justice and fairness, good and evil become distorted, fluctuating with personal feelings or popular opinion.

When we deny the existence of absolute truth, we undermine the very foundation of logic, reason, and intellectual inquiry. For instance, atheism, which denies the existence of God and absolute truth, results in an inconsistent worldview. It cannot provide satisfactory answers to our deepest questions about life, morality, and purpose. Atheism borrows from a theistic worldview to make sense of the world, for it has to assume certain immaterial, universal, and unchanging entities like laws of logic, moral values, and scientific laws to live practically and engage in any meaningful discussion.

By contrast, a worldview grounded in the absolute truth of God’s Word provides a consistent, logical, and cohesive understanding of the world. God’s Word is not just ‘a’ truth among many. It’s not a truth that we as a church decided to rally around simply because we find it agreeable or because it gives us a sense of community. God’s Word is ‘the’ truth that defines reality. It’s the standard against which every other claim to truth is measured, for “the sum of Your word is truth,” as the psalmist declares in Psalm 119:160.

Jesus’s prayer is that God would sanctify His people in this truth. The Greek word for ‘sanctify’ here, ‘hagiazo’, means to set apart for sacred use, to consecrate, to make holy. It’s a process of transformation that aligns us more closely with God’s character, His ways, and His will.

Sanctification, then, is a work of God, in which we are active participants, not passive bystanders. It’s through His Word that this process takes shape. As we delve into the Scriptures, understanding its teachings, and living by its instructions, we are transformed. We are made holy. This process is essential to our Christian walk. As Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

Abiding in the truth of God’s Word may make us countercultural, increasingly distinct from the world. This is not a call to cultural withdrawal but rather a call to engage the world around us from the solid foundation of God’s Word. It’s a call to be a light in the darkness, as Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:14-16, “You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

So, let’s make it our mission to be more rooted in God’s Word. Let’s be intentional about reading, studying, meditating upon, and applying the Scriptures in our daily lives. As Joshua 1:8 reminds us, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Let’s anchor our conversations, our decisions, and our actions in the truth of God’s Word. Let’s be a community not merely united by common interests, but by a shared commitment to the truth of God’s Word. In doing so, we’re not just being sanctified individually, but also as a community. We’re being set apart, made holy, for God’s glory.

Togetherness Realized

18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. 20 I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Sanctification through truth is not merely an individual journey but one that is deeply intertwined within the community of believers, the Church. The profound truth is, God’s Word doesn’t just shape us as individuals; it shapes us as a community, a people bound together by the shared commitment to God’s revealed truth.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:15-16, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” We see here that Paul sees the truth of God’s Word as the underpinning of the community’s growth in Christ.

We live out the implications of this truth together, being honest with each other, holding each other accountable, and edifying each other. Our shared commitment to God’s Word isn’t just about agreeing on a set of beliefs, it’s about living out those beliefs in community. As we do this, we reflect the unity that is in the Triune God—distinct persons, yet one in essence, unified by the truth and love of God.

So, what does this look like in the life of the Church?

It means gathering as a community to study God’s Word. As we see in Acts 2:42, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” The early church was marked by a deep devotion to the teaching of God’s Word. They didn’t just listen to it passively. They devoted themselves to it, committing to the serious work of understanding and applying it.

Living out this truth also means speaking the truth in love. We are to build each other up, not tear each other down. We’re to correct each other with gentleness and patience, remembering that we’re all works in progress. This is underscored by Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 2:25, “Correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.”

Moreover, being a community of truth means having our corporate worship rooted in God’s Word. This is not just about having sermons that are biblically sound, although that is crucial. It also means having prayers, songs, and liturgy that are saturated with Scripture, as we do here at Logos Church. In Colossians 3:16, Paul exhorts us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

Finally, being a community shaped by God’s Word means sharing this truth with the world. It’s proclaiming the Gospel message with boldness and love, inviting others to experience the transforming power of God’s Word. As Peter reminds us in 1 Peter 3:15, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

The practical application for us today, then, is to make a commitment to living out this shared commitment to truth. It’s about learning together, growing together, worshiping together, and serving together, all in the light of God’s Word. It’s about being a community marked not just by shared activities or shared interests, but by a shared dedication to the truth of God’s Word. This shared commitment, this shared dedication, is what sanctifies us, sets us apart, and enables us to reflect God’s glory in a world desperate for truth.

As a church, let us strive to be such a community of truth. A community rooted in God’s Word, shaped by God’s Word, and living out God’s Word in our lives. As we do this, we not only experience the transformative power of God’s Word in our lives, but we also become a beacon of truth, a beacon of God’s love, in a world marked by confusion and darkness.

In the quest to foster togetherness rooted in truth and doctrine, it’s imperative for us as a church to put into practice certain strategies that reinforce this unity. Our togetherness must not be an abstract concept but should be clearly seen and experienced in our fellowship and interactions. Here are some practical ways we can make this happen.

Bible Studies and Doctrinal Classes: One of the ways we can foster unity rooted in the truth is by establishing a robust Bible study program. This is an opportunity to dive deep into the Word of God, uncover its truths, and build a shared understanding of key Christian doctrines. The book of Acts gives us a model for this, as the early Christians were devoted to the apostles’ teaching. We can also offer classes that focus specifically on doctrine, providing in-depth instruction on core Christian beliefs. Through these classes, we can equip our church members with a sound understanding of the faith that will unify us and make us steadfast in the face of false teachings.

Sermons that Emphasize Doctrine: As a church, we need to ensure that our preaching is rooted in sound doctrine, and it is my goal and duty as the pastor of this church to ensure that this happens each and every week, even if not from my own mouth. The Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy, a pastor that Paul trained, in 2 Timothy 4:2 to “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” Sermons should not be merely motivational speeches but should be deeply rooted in Scripture and draw out key doctrinal truths that reinforce our shared beliefs and values.

Regular Fellowship and Communal Worship: Togetherness in truth and doctrine is also nurtured through regular fellowship and communal worship. As we gather together in worship, prayer, and fellowship, we are reminded of our shared faith and commitment to God’s truth. These moments of corporate worship serve to strengthen our unity and foster a spirit of togetherness. Our gatherings are not merely social events; they are profound spiritual exercises where we collectively express our adherence to the truth we have received in Christ.

Service and Outreach: Our unity in doctrine also fuels our service and outreach. As we serve together, we demonstrate in practical ways the truth of the Gospel and our shared commitment to it. Our shared service is not just about meeting needs; it is a testament to the unity we share in Christ. Through our service, we live out the truth of the Gospel, shining as lights in the world and demonstrating the power of the Gospel to bring diverse individuals together in service to God and humanity.

Open Discussions and Conversations: Another way to cultivate unity in doctrine is to encourage open discussions and conversations about our faith. Such conversations should be conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect and humility, recognizing that we are all learners in God’s school. Such dialogues can help us clarify our beliefs, correct misunderstandings, and strengthen our shared commitment to Biblical truth.

Mutual Accountability: Togetherness in doctrine also involves mutual accountability. As a community of believers, we are responsible for each other. If a brother or sister strays from the truth, it is our collective responsibility to gently and lovingly restore them, as Galatians 6:1 encourages. This accountability underscores the fact that our commitment to the truth is not merely individual; it is a collective commitment that we all share and uphold.

In conclusion, our togetherness in doctrine and truth should be more than just a theological concept; it should be a lived reality. Through these practical steps, we can reinforce our unity, deepen our understanding of God’s truth, and shine as a beacon of Christ’s love in a divided world. We are a body, unified by our shared commitment to Christ and His truth, and together, we can bear witness to His transforming power in our lives. Let us, therefore, be diligent to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Conclusion

The truth revealed in John 17:14-21 is incredibly powerful; it carries implications that should transform our lives and the life of our church.

Let’s turn our gaze once more upon the heart of Jesus as we find it revealed in His prayer. Jesus’ primary concern is for our sanctification by the truth of God’s Word, a sanctification that has a profound effect on our relationship with the world and our unity as believers. We are marked as different, distinctive by our allegiance to the Word of God, living out its truths in a world that rejects it. Yet we are not to be removed from the world but rather protected in it as we bear witness to the truth.

Through the truth, we are sanctified, set apart, made holy. But we must not miss the corporate dimension of this sanctification – it leads to unity, a togetherness in truth. Our unity is not based on mere human agreement or on suppressing our differences but on the objective truth of God’s Word. As we individually and collectively abide in the Word, we are drawn together in a unity that mirrors the perfect unity of the Father and the Son.

This unity rooted in truth has profound implications for the way we live as a church community. It calls us to a commitment to sound doctrine, to teaching, learning, and living out the truths of Scripture in a consistent and committed way. It also requires from us a willingness to stand out, to be distinctive, to risk being misunderstood, or even rejected, for the sake of the Gospel.

But more than that, our unity in the truth requires active engagement. We are called to be involved in the life of our church community, participating in Bible studies, doctrinal classes, serving together, and holding one another accountable to the truth. We are also called to engage with the world around us, not conforming to it, but shining as lights, bearing witness to the truth of God’s Word.

May we heed this call with all seriousness, immersing ourselves in the Scriptures, allowing them to shape our lives, and living out their truths in tangible ways. May we be a church that models unity rooted in truth, shining as a beacon of God’s love in a world that so desperately needs it.

May God grant us the grace and the strength to live out these truths for His glory and for our good. Let us be a people distinguished by our adherence to the Word, sanctified by the truth, and unified in our commitment to it.

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