Jesus prayed to the Father:
I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth (John 17:14-19).
The Lord said several important things about His followers in His prayer that we need to know and remember. First, He said that those that follow Him are not of this world (John 17:16). Of course, He did not mean that His disciples were aliens or that they should charter a flight with SpaceX and leave this earth. Rather, he was highlighting the fact that as Christians we should live on a higher moral plane than the rest of the world. We have a higher standard by which to live and a higher goal to obtain.
Paul, quoting Isaiah regarding Israel’s need to separate from ancient Babylon, said that as Christians we need to “come out from among them, and be separate and touch not the unclean thing” (II Cor. 6:17; cf. Is. 52:11). If we are risen with Christ, we need to seek those things that are above and set our affections on things above and not on things on this earth (Col. 3:1-10). We are to be set apart from the world.
The second thing He said about His followers was that, while we are not of this world, we cannot remove ourselves from it. He said “I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world” (John 17:15). Our obligation as Christians keeps us from separating ourselves from the rest of the world because we have a responsibility to go into all the world and preach to them the gospel (Matt. 28:18-20). We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13-16). We have work to do and we must work while we can (II Tim. 2:21).
As Christians then, we must maintain a balance between living in this world and keeping it from living in us. God created man as a part of this physical world. He created man with a physical body that has certain physical attributes and desires. Our senses are very powerful forces in our lives that can either be harnessed and used for good or unbridled and lead us into great temptations and sin.
The third thing that Jesus said about His disciples is that they are separated from the world by means of the truth. Jesus said “sanctify them through Thy truth, Thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Jesus said “I have given them Thy word” (John 17:14). God’s word is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (II Tim. 3:16,17). We purify our souls through this truth (I Pet. 1:22,23).
The fourth thing that Jesus said is that world hates those who follow the Lord just because they follow the Lord. The world hates those that are not of the world. The reason the world hates those who follow the Lord is that the devil is the god of this world (I Cor. 4:4). The god of this world has nothing to do with Jesus (John 14:30). We should not be surprised, then, if the world hates us because it first hated the Lord (John 15:18).
As Christians, then, we fight a constant battle of keeping the world out of our lives while living in the world. We know that the whole world lieth in darkness (I John 5:19). Our job is to reflect the light of Jesus Christ and the glory of God into a world steeped in darkness.
Eric L. Padgett