What Does Holiness Look Like?

John 17:19 “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.”

I don’t know how many times I preached on Jesus’ words in this verse of His prayer before He was arrested, beaten and nailed to a cross. I spoke of how necessary it was for us to be made one with Christ and the Father, our natures changed to their natures. I spoke of how He prayed for our hearts to be filled with God’s actual love, and what effect that would have on the world. But Dan Bohi, an evangelist for the Nazarene Church, opened it up even wider than I had been able to see up to that point. Thanks, Dan.

What do we think are the characteristics of a human being made holy by the fullness of God, the Holy Spirit, indwelling him or her completely? Let’s look at what Jesus said about His disciples in these verses.

Here are some of the fine things that Jesus said of His disciples and says of us in verses 6-16:

– He has revealed Himself to them

– They were the Father’s and now are Christ’s

– They keep His Word

– They know all that Jesus has been given is from the Father

– They received and believed Jesus’ words which were from the Father

– They knew He came from the Father and was sent by Him

– Twice, Jesus says they are not of the world

We normally describe holiness/ sanctification by all Jesus said up to verses 17 and 19. The clincher is that they are not of the world – that’s certainly a description of someone who is holy, isn’t it? Not according to Jesus. Despite all of these wonderful truths about the status of the disciples’ faith and walk, Jesus prays for them to be sanctified. If they were already holy, He wouldn’t have needed to pray for them to be made holy.

Think about the disciples’ behavior up to this point. On the very night He prayed this prayer, they had entered the upper room for the Passover meal, arguing about who was the greatest. They’d been with Him for more than three years, yet John and James sent their mother to see if Jesus would let them sit on His right and left on His throne. Didn’t they understand that His kingdom was not an earthly one? Nope. They were still thinking in the natural. Set apart? They surely were. Holy as in sanctified, filled with the Spirit? Not yet.

Why did they (and we) need to be sanctified, filled with the Spirit? “So they may all be one,” Jesus prayed in verse 21. What does that mean? The disciples argued with one another, and they didn’t understand Jesus’ words. They needed Christ’s nature to replace their human, sinful natures and to open their eyes to the Word. His nature would give them oneness, the unity of nature among themselves, all of them having Christ’s nature, just as Christ has the Father’s nature. It’s a selfless nature, a self-giving nature, a nature that takes no thought of itself or its needs but dies to its self-interest so others may live. We must all be united in nature with the Father and the Son, Them in us and us in Them, but it won’t happen unless we actually become doers of the Word the Spirit-inspired Paul writes in Romans 12:1-2.

Why isn’t “somewhat holiness” (an impossibility anyway, but one which I hear from many Christians) enough? In the Word, something is either holy or it is profane and unclean. What are the consequences of people thinking they can be holy sometimes, or partly holy, or a little holy? Strife, division, angry meetings, political power plays. In the corporate world, those things are to be expected. But in Jesus’ church, His bride? No, never! They are to be the church glorious, filled with the glory, the love and the power of God.

Church, we have far too many “Jesus clubs” where Jesus is the mascot (poor Jesus!) and everyone gathers to hear the latest gossip and to take pot shots at the preacher. I’ve actually heard one church member say of a new pastor, “I think he’s going to fit in quite well here.” Do you see what’s wrong with that statement? If he plays by the club rules, he can stay. If not, out he goes! Folks, that’s not holiness, not in the least!

Out of Christ’s love for us, He prays to the Father for all of us who have all the fine attributes He described. He asks the Father to sanctify us, to make us perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. Glory! Does that mean I will execute everything He asks of me perfectly? No way. I’m human. But that’s not an excuse to disobey God.

If I am perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect, it will require that He remove from me my soulish wants, my pride, my self will, my orneriness. If I will yield to His will and His command, He will take out my stony heart and give me a new one. The motive for all I do will be His love in my heart, filling it to overflowing. I won’t willfully disobey Him (I won’t willfully sin) any more. In verse 19, He says that’s why He was now going to set Himself apart on the cross.

What effect will we have on the world if we obey Jesus and ask the Father for the good gift of the Holy Spirit (see Luke 11:13)? The outcome, in the last section of Jesus’ prayer, is that the world will believe that the Father sent the Son, and that the Father loves us even as He loves His Son. The world will know us by the perfect love the Father pours in our hearts til they overflow with it. And when we are filled with the Spirit, we will intimately know (ginosko 1097) the Father and Son, “by the operation of the Holy Spirit,” per Vine’s Expository Dictionary. And that is Jesus’ definition of eternal life!

Yield to God, my brothers and sisters. In view of God’s great grace toward you, expressed in Romans chapters 1-11, offer yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. It is your spiritual act of worship. The Father is seeking those who will worship Him in Spirit and in truth. Put away all your selfishness. Empty yourself of your glory, as Christ did. You must — He commands it!


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