The Hope of Holiness
John 17:17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
John 17:18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.
John 17:19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.
Jesus' beautiful prayer found in John 17 includes his desire for his followers to be sanctified. He uses that very word, praying that the Father would "Sanctify them in the truth." The word "sanctify" brings with it a dual meaning here; it means that Jesus' desire is that his disciples would be made holy and this is an act of God. But it is also a prayer that they be consecrated or set-aside for the special calling they have received from Jesus. He knows that he is about to die for them and that they will be set-aside to be his representatives in the world until the day they die. His prayer is for them to be a people who have consecrated themselves wholeheartedly to God, made holy by God and sent into the world, again -- by God, to do his work. Jesus knew that none of this would be possible without his action, for the disciples could only be a reflection of him and his holiness. Therefore he sanctified himself; he set himself aside and was consecrating himself, ready to enter the Holy of Holies as the sacrificial lamb so that the hope of holiness would be possible for all of those who would become a reflection of him. And this was truth -- Jesus was truth, the one who shone light on all previous deception and provided a pathway to holiness for you and for me.
Too often we shy away from words like "holiness" and "sanctification" because they make us uncomfortable. We have made these words become all about us, and we have discovered that on our own we cannot measure up. That is true! If we think that we can make ourselves holy by following a list of do's and don'ts then we are wrong. But there is some action required on our parts in terms of our sanctification. There is a purposeful desire to participate in the holiness of Jesus Christ. That is what Jesus was putting out there for his disciples on that last night. Jesus' prayer for them and for us is that we be sanctified. Holiness and sanctification are not optional, part two benefits, of being a follower of Jesus Christ. This is God's original plan for all of his children -- to be his holy children! Why? Because we are to be a reflection of Jesus -- and Jesus is holy.
Jesus makes clear to us his sanctification. This is the prayer he is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, just a few hours before he will die on a cross. Jesus is preparing to become the ultimate sacrifice -- and by this sacrifice he is sanctifying himself. He will forever become the sacrificial lamb on the altar in the presence of God. This makes possible our sanctification -- for we are to be a reflection of him. But just as Jesus had to wrestle with his entire consecration to the task before him, could it be possible that we, too, wrestle with our entire consecration? Jesus prayed and asked his father to take the cup from him. He didn't want to have to go through the day ahead -- it was going to be awful! But as he prayed and sweat drops of blood, he got to the place where he was able to give it all up in obedience to his father. And so, it may be with great tears and sweat that we must come to an altar where we struggle with giving up all of our future to God. But just as Jesus had to go through this moment in his own life, so we must go through this time in our lives where we must determine whether or not we move forward in the truth.
To be a reflection of Jesus Christ we must be willing to take this step, to move forward in truth, for we are to follow the example of Jesus Christ. We are created to be God's holy people. Jesus has created a pathway for each of us, making it possible for us to be sanctified -- to be God's holy people -- but we must be willing to follow him to that place. And when we submit to him, submit to his sanctifying work -- then it is his holiness which is reflected in us. He is the sacrifice laid upon the altar, forever creating a pathway for our holiness.
We are cutting ourselves short if we don't realize that holiness is not only available for all of us, but is God's desire for each of us. What usually stands in the way of our sanctification is us! We want to hold on and keep control, not selling out to all that God has for us. Jesus wasn't just praying for the disciples who were present in the garden over 2000 years ago, he was praying for you and for me. There is the hope of holiness for us today as well. The question is whether we are willing to go on to that deeper walk with him, letting go of the things that tie us to this world. Then, we allow his sanctifying grace to wash over us and make us as clean as a mirror with no streaks that can perfectly reflect his holiness.
Lord, thank you for what you've done to make our holiness possible. Amen.