Summary: God saves our lives by conforming us to his Word by his Spirit.
“The only way to keep a broken vessel full is by keeping the faucet turned on.” We are broken people. We may dress nicely to be seen by others, but the cracks remain even when plastered over. So Jesus asks God the Father to continue to sanctify us in the truth.
The beginning of the Christian life, which the Bible calls “justification,” is a once-for-all event, “an act of God’s free grace, whereby he pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in his sight…” (Westminster Shorter Catechism #33). Those who have been justified are kept by God forever, “they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of [Jesus’] hand” (John 10.28). Sanctification, on the other hand, remains incomplete until we reach heaven. It is the ongoing “work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole [person] after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die to sin and live to righteousness” (Westminster Shorter Catechism #35).
In John 17, Jesus “keeps the faucet open” by praying for our continued sanctification. May we be so convinced of the goodness of God’s will and ways, that you joyfully plunge beneath these living waters and find yourself (broken though we remain) filled to overflowing by his life-giving stream.
[Read John 17.13-19. Pray.]
The prophet Hosea preached to Israel a sermon about their “divided heart” (Hosea 10.2, NKJ). Rather than be fully devoted to Jehovah God, they toyed with pleasures offered by pagan religions. Their hearts were divided – their passions were not singularly focused. They wanted many things – success, comfort, wealth, fun, pleasure. They wanted to know the true and living God, yes; but they also feared missing out on what the world offered.
We probably need that same warning as Jesus prays for our sanctification. I find my desires divided. Yes, I want to know God’s will, but I also want to enjoy life. Yes, I want to be holy, but I also want to be wealthy. Yes, I want to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, but I do not want to miss the pleasures which make life tolerable.
So it is a sharp sword indeed that Christ drives into my divided heart when he pleads with God for our practical holiness. The great Head of the church asks the Holy Father in heaven that his people be more like him – more holy, more godly, more faithful to the Word. Here is the desire that should course through the veins of every Christian – do we want to be godly?
This is David’s prayer in Psalm 86.11-13: “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”
David gives a positive example of a heart united in pursuit of holiness. The Apostle John, the same man who recorded this prayer from Jesus, provides the negative warning: 1John 2.15-17: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
You need to know that holiness cannot be equated with harshness or somberness – both of which are signs of self-righteousness. True, Biblical, God-centered holiness is marked by happiness – otherwise Jesus would not have asked God to make us joyful! So the call of faith is to believe that holiness is happiness. Do you believe that promise?
Maybe an example would help. Most Christian parents desperately want their children to be godly. But in our enthusiasm for outward conformity, we may skip the hard work of healing the divided heart. One day we plead with our children: “Here is a spiritual book I bought you,” or “I will reward you if you act well.” The next day we threaten: “You will lose privileges if you talk to your mother that way again.” Of course, the law provides the standard for godly character and must be taught. But the law has no power for change – for that we must go to the Gospel. Christ has made a new covenant, one where the heart is healed, the passions are drawn Godward, the desires themselves are renewed. The heart of faith believes there is no greater reward than holiness.