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Sanctify Them by the Truth by Rev. Youngjae Jee

posted Jun 2, 2015, 9:33 AM by Bowmansville UMC

John 17:6-22, Acts 1:1-11                                                                                                           

As we approach Pentecost let us be reminded of what Jesus prayed for his disciples before the crucifixion.  He denoted his disciples as those who the Father gave him out of the world.  Jesus spent 3 years with them and gave God’s word to them, and they obeyed the word.  Jesus was about to send them back into the world.  We find an order here: first, getting them out of the world, second, giving them the word and having them obeyed, and then finally sending them back into the world. 

            Receiving and obeying the word of God is a crucial process because that is where transformation occurs.  Look at this interesting bible verse: “Then he said to me, "Son of man, eat this scroll I am giving you and fill your stomach with it." So I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey in my mouth.”(Ezekiel 3:3)  Do you taste the word of God as sweet as honey too?  Consuming the word with sweet taste means the same as keeping and obeying the word of God.  Obedience is not a passive but very active resolution and motion.  It means stopping my own direction but following God’s direction.

             However, we are all as stubborn as a bull.  We don’t want to listen to God.  We don’t want to yield our way to God’s.  Guess who is going to suffer?  That would be Prophets or preachers, those who have to deliver the word of God intending to lead people to the way of God.  They must have some serious troubles.  However, see what God said to Ezekiel, “But I will make you as unyielding and hardened as they are.  I will make your forehead like the hardest stone, harder than flint. Do not be afraid of them or terrified by them, though they are a rebellious house.”(Ezekiel  3:8-9) 

Oh Lord, I don’t want to be like the hardest stone.  They say that a pastor should function as a shepherd who takes care of sheep, as a priest who is responsible for all the rites, and as a prophet who delivers the word of God besides everything else she or he does.  When a pastor functions as a prophet, I guess she or he might have to wear suitable gear to do the job that God assigns.   

I actually like the stubborn people.  Though not in his own way, but in God’s way! Nowadays we can hardly see people who stick with God’s word and keep it that way all the time.  Well, I am very blessed because I think I have some of those in my church.  I admire them.  I consider them as my mentors.                                                                                              

          If you are stubborn with God’s word, let’s say, if you have to go to church every Sunday because God said so, if you have to give tithes accordingly because God said so, or if you have to read the Bible and pray every day because God said so, etc. you are like my mentor.  However, the world would not like you because you are not of the world. (John 17:14)  Jesus prayed for them because he knew that it was not easy to live by the word of God.  His prayer for them was very simple.  First and foremost, he prayed that God protected them from the evil one. (John 17:15)  “Test everything. Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)  This is another way of saying that they need help in obeying the word of God.

            Jesus further prayed that God sanctify them by the truth of the word.   Sanctification means setting apart or declaring holy.  Jesus prayed for them that they would be set apart from the world.  He sent his disciples into the world.  When he did that, he prayed their life was distinct from the worldly life and that distinction would be made by obedience to the word of God.  Being stubborn with the truth of the word of God would make them live distinctively in the world, and that is how Jesus transforms the world.  He calls ordinary people like us out of the world, and gives word of God and has them obey the word of God, and sends them back into the world to transform the world by living a sanctified life in accordance with the word.  What is our mission statement in the United Methodist Church?  It is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ to transform the world.” 

            Do you live a distinct life as a Christian?  Long ago, Elijah went before the people and said, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him."(1 Kings 18:21)  But the people said nothing. (1 Kings 18:21)   They must have not made up their mind.  The question is: Do you?

            Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew6:24)  Christian life is not about serving two or three gods.  It is not about success in the world, but about setting yourself apart from the world according to the truth of God’s word.  It is about being stubborn with God’s way of life.

            In order to help you out to be stubborn in this way Jesus prayed for you and promised the Holy Spirit.  When the Holy Spirit is on you, you will receive power to be stubborn in God’s way, and you will be witnesses of Jesus Christ in everywhere you go.    This was Jesus’ prayer and that prayer goes not only for disciples in his time but also for all of us in this 21c:  "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

            He prayed this and let them know what he prayed so that they may have the full measure of his joy within them. (John 17:13)  We are called by God out of the world and sent back into the world with the word of God to live out.  If we keep the word of God then the word of God will keep us from any evil and empower us to live as witnesses of Jesus Christ.  As this is Jesus’ prayer for us, we pray the same everyday as our prayer for ourselves.   Lord, sanctify us by the truth so that the world may be transformed and believe that God have sent you.  The full measure of joy would be within us as it was to you.  Amen.