Dear radio friends,
What do you want in the coming year? Take time to search your heart today. God has created us as wanting, yearning creatures. It is impossible that you are not aspiring after something. Should God be pleased to give you life in the coming year, what would be the thing that you would really desire to have? Is it in terms of earthly: money, things, advance in your business? Is it in terms of pleasure: good times, friends, excitement? Is it in terms of personal satisfaction: weight loss, beauty, strength? Is it in terms of the alleviation of your burdens, the difficulties, the mental and physical trials that you bear upon your soul, marital problems, burdens of your soul that have become wearisome and you are very tired of carrying them? What do you want for yourself in the year 2003?
Is it holiness? Is it to be like Jesus Christ; to be separate from the world of sin; to grow in obedience to the living God; to be devoted not to yourself but to God; to have the Holy Spirit cut out of you your pride, humble you and show you your sin and make you more sincere, more pure, more clean of heart, closer in your walk and fellowship with the living God? Is that what you want?
This is the prayer of Jesus Christ for His children in the coming year. He makes the prayer in John 17:17. He says, “Father, sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” Our Lord Jesus Christ looks at the year 2003 and its purposes for you and me in terms of one thing: that we might be partakers of His holiness. He does not look at it in terms of the earthly, in terms of mere earthly pleasure, our own personal goals, and not even in terms of the ease of our sufferings and difficulties.
But He has one desire, one goal for us in the coming year, should He grant us life according to His will: that we might grow in holiness, that we might be given the great gift of a holy life. “Father,” He prays from heaven, “Father, in this coming year, make them holy. Make them like Me.” Is that your desire?
We have begun a new year. We have begun this year as those who confess that their life is in Christ, as those who belong not to themselves but to their faithful Savior Jesus Christ. On this day, we would choose out a verse to remember throughout the coming year, a verse to serve as a pilgrim’s staff to be our support in time of trouble, or as a pilgrim’s map to be our guide when we become perplexed and confused.
We want to answer one simple question. Why am I on this earth in the year 2003? The Lord will give the one reason: that the work of God in conforming us unto the pattern of Jesus Christ might be further accomplished, that He might separate us from the world and from our own sin and give us to grow in personal holiness. Is this what you want desperately in the year 2003?
The verse that I am considering with you today, John 17:17, is found in a chapter where we have the most beautiful prayer ever spoken on the earth. We call it the high priestly prayer of Jesus Christ. It was uttered on the night in which He was betrayed to death. In this prayer Jesus prays for His own, for those who were given to Him of the heavenly Father out of the world.
Although Jesus is praying this prayer just a few hours before His death on the cross, nevertheless, He prays from the point of view of the victory of that cross and of what that victory would mean for you and me. He realizes that soon He will leave us in an evil world, a world that is devoted, under the leadership of Satan, to destroy everything that He desires to accomplish within our lives. So He prays to His Father repeatedly that the Father would keep us. Listen to verse 11: “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” He comes back to it in verse 15, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.” Although we, His disciples, will be in this world and subject to severe danger, to the deep hatred of the forces of sin and subject to powerful temptation, Jesus does not pray that we should be taken out of the world. No, the Lord says we have a task in this world. He comes to that in verse 27 of chapter 15 of John. He says there that we are on the earth to bear witness, because we have been with Him from the beginning.
So the Lord knows that we have a task in this present world. And He does not pray that the Father take us out. Rather He prays that the Father will keep us from the evil. He says that we do not belong to this present world of sin and death (v. 16): “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Jesus says, “My children, redeemed in My blood, do not belong anymore to a world of sin and death. I have brought them out of the darkness, the darkness of sin and pride, the darkness of emptiness and the bondage of sin in this world. Father,” says Jesus, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world but that Thou wilt keep them in the world and sanctify them through the truth of Thy Word.”
This is the prayer of Jesus, then. This is how He prays for us right now. This is His request before God’s very throne: “Father, make them holy through the truth of Thy Word. Set them apart from the world by actual, sanctified (that is, holy) living so that in their heart and mind, in their thoughts and deeds, in their words and actions they begin to live more and more and more in obedience to Me and to Thy Word.”
The Lord goes on to add other petitions for us in the verses that follow in John 17. Throbbing with all of His love and revealing the great things of His heart for us, He continues to pray. He prays for our unity and oneness as His people (v. 21): “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” He prays for the love and the unity of the church on earth and of believers in the church.
He goes on to pray that we might one day be with Him and behold Him in His glory (v. 24): “Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”
But you see, those petitions for our love and unity as His people and that petition that one day we might be with Him and see His glory, those petitions depend upon a more basic petition: “Father, make them holy. Sanctify them on the earth.” People of God, we cannot love and dwell in unity unless we are committed to holiness. People of God, we cannot desire to be with Jesus and see all of His beauty in that great day unless that beauty of holiness now captures our hearts.
So Jesus prays, “Father, here is My request for those whom Thou hast given to Me in the year 2003, for those whom I have loved and redeemed with My own blood out of the world. Father, I pray that Thou would make them more and more holy. Bring them more into the realm of Thy truth. Keep them right there in Thy truth so that the truth of Thy Word might work powerfully in their soul and produce in them a practical, daily, holy life. Father, sanctify them.”
We cannot desire to be with Jesus
and see all of His beauty in that great day
unless that beauty of holiness
now captures our hearts.
The word “sanctify” means to make holy. It is a work of God entirely, a work of His grace by His Spirit, a work in which God conforms us after the pattern or image of His own Son, in which work He begins to make us look like and be like Jesus.
It involves two things. It means, first of all, that we are set apart for God. We are set apart for a purpose. That purpose is God’s service, and for God’s use. Is that not marvelous? Holiness means that you say from your heart, “I have been set aside in this life for my Master’s use and service. I am not set aside for the service of sin or self or the world or fashions or fads. But I am set aside by the mighty love of God for God Himself. I have been set aside for the enjoyment and praise of God.” Is that not wonderful?
But holiness is more. If we are to be set aside for God, we must be separated from all that contaminates and perverts and is contrary to God. We must be spiritually separate from all profanity, all ungodliness as it would affect body or soul. The world of sin and the devil would come along to us today and say, “Your body is for pleasure. Your eyes are for pornography and lust. Your dates are for sex.” But God says, “Oh, no. These people have I purchased for myself. And, as being purchased for myself, they now belong to Me and not to those things.”
If we are to be set aside for God,
we must be separated from all that
contaminates and perverts and is contrary to God.
“Father,” says Jesus, “sanctify them. Dedicate them to Thyself. Separate them from the world of sin. Work in them, purge and scrub them from all sin within their heart, that they may be made like unto Me.” That is His prayer for the year 2003 for the church and for you as a child of God.
The question is this: Do you pray that prayer with Jesus today?
What whispers in your heart today? Is it, Give me my way, let me go my way, grant me my passions and pleasures, make my way smooth in this year, remove hardships and burdens from my heart? Is that what you are saying?
Or are you, by grace, saying, “Father, make me more holy, make me spiritual, make me pure in my thoughts, sanctify me in my words, make me Christ-like in my deeds, in my attitudes, in my thoughts and feelings. Father, no matter the cost in terms of my own earthly ease and comfort, Father, make me holy. Carry on Thy work of grace further and higher in my life. Make me conform to Thee in body, soul, and spirit. Make me like Him.” Is that your prayer?
This is a very urgent and heartfelt prayer of Jesus. If you read John 17 today you will find that the prayer is filled with divine intensity. It is uttered out of the infinite depth of the love of God. The Lord sees us in this world, which is evil. He sees it for what it is. We do not. We do not see the world for what it is. The Lord has to tell us. The Lord sees this world as filled with snares and pits and brimstone against His children. He knows that we, as His children, are impressionable, foolish, arrogant. And He knows that Satan will be at us.
He knows also that we have been set aside for a task in this coming year. That task, as we saw, is to witness of His name, to present the truth of His Word as church and in our own personal lives. And, therefore, out of great intensity, He prays: “Father, sanctify them. Keep them in a way of holiness to Thee. Father, on the basis of My own suffering and death, perform this good thing for them in 2003: make them holy.”
That is His prayer. Is it yours today?
How shall we be made holy? The Lord answers that, too. He says, “Sanctify them through thy truth. Thy word is truth.”
God’s method of working holiness in our lives is the Scriptures of truth, the Bible. Jesus points to the divine method of making you and me who are sinners holy. That method is the Word of truth, the infallible Word of God. The holy Scriptures are the tool of God for a sanctified or holy life in the year 2003. It was back in Jesus’ day, it is today, and it ever will be. Would you be like Jesus? Would you walk with the Lord? Would you learn why sin is such a horrible thing? Would you learn about your pride so that you loathe it? Would you be filled with praise for God and desire to live unto Him? Would you have all of these things? Well, then, take up the Bible and read it. The truth of the Bible, which is the Reformed, biblical faith, the doctrines set forth in the Bible, these will teach you holiness.
The Bible is the truth. That simply means that the Bible is reality. It contains the truth of the living God. All that God speaks in the Bible is the truth. It is the absolute truth, and there is no truth apart from God and His Word.
God’s truth is made known to us in the Scriptures — the written and infallible (that means without error, incapable of error) Bible. Oh, what a word to us in this world of darkness! In this world, where men are at sea spiritually, without a compass or paddle, in this world in which men prattle about their own wisdom, this is the truth. God’s Word is truth. And it is the power to transform us to a holy life.
Father, sanctify them through Thy truth. Thy word is truth.
Did you get that? He prays that we may be a holy people, and that we will endure even unto the end, to witness in His name and remain unspotted in this world. How will that happen? Does He pray, “Father, for this it will be necessary to surround them with a legion of angels with white and flaming swords”? Or, “Father, if they’re going to be holy in that world down there you had better have them move into a colony and put up concrete walls forty feet high to protect them from every influence and to cut off all transmissions of the world.” Is that what He prays? No. He says, “Father, sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
God will make us holy through His Word, especially through the preaching of that Word in church on Sunday. That is where you belong twice on the Lord’s Day.
Now, get the point. A holy life is not something that is, so to speak, automatic. It is not something that hits you like cupid’s arrow and suddenly you are this holy person. Oh, no. Jesus makes you holy through the Word of God. That means that you must read the Word. That means that you must be under the solid preaching of God’s Word of truth in this coming year. It means that you must familiarize yourself in the year 2003 with the doctrines of holy Scripture. It is possible to become familiar with the Bible and yet not know its doctrine. You must desire to come to a deeper knowledge of God, a deeper understanding of His will. The reading of your Bible must humble you, it must cause you to bend your knees, it must be as shafts of light from the throne of God conforming you after God’s own image. Meditate upon the Scripture. Take time to be holy. Rest in the Word.
2003, for the world, will be at a faster pace than ever before because the end draws near. As the end draws near, the maddening pace of the world increases. Do not allow the world to govern your time. Meditate upon spiritual things. That is a discipline that is largely extinct today. Meditate. Bring your thoughts under the eye of God. Clear your vision. Talk to yourself about God, and talk to yourself about yourself in the light of the Word of God. Do you know who you are? Do you know what you are? Do you know what you are supposed to be doing and where you are headed? You are not an animal evolved out of a pool of slime. You are God’s creature redeemed in the blood of the Lamb. You are seeking His kingdom. You are to walk in the light of His Word with God.
Now, what do you want in the year 2003? What will the record concerning you kept in God’s books in heaven reveal of your days in this coming year? What are you after? What are you pursuing? What are you living for? More of yourself? More of pleasures? More of money? More of the world? More of the things that charm men’s soul and vanish at last like a dream?
Oh, by the grace of God may we answer that emphatically: “Father, in this year I am after more holiness. I desire to be perfected after Christ’s own image. That is what I want. I want to be a child of the King. I want to be like Jesus. Lord, give me holiness in this year.”
And be assured that the Father will. For He answers the prayers of His Son.
Let us pray.
Father, sanctify us in this year through Thy truth. Thy word is truth. Amen.