By Asst Ps Lai Keet Keong
“And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.” (John 17:19)
Lent is the annual period of Christian observance in preparation of the arrival of Easter. The preparation usually involved the dual disciplines of abstinence and fasting. This includes giving up of certain foods, habits or luxuries for a season to tame the body, sharpen the spirit for prayer and reflection, and sanctify our hearts to live in holiness and obedience.
Sanctification is often a mysterious concept to Christians who are either drawn to or who dread it, often at the same time! We are drawn when we are touched by God’s love and grace even though we are wretched sinners. Yet we dread the exposure of inner struggles and vulnerabilities manifested through hidden sinful thoughts and behaviors that we have yet to overcome. These become stumbling blocks to pursue a consistent life of holiness.
John 17:19 gives us an encouraging perspective. It says that it is for our sake that Christ sanctified Himself! Christ’s sanctification must not be understood as the same with believers, for He is already perfect. However, He did so nevertheless, through His blood and sacrifice, to pave the way for us to live a life of holiness. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 tells us about the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. We are not alone in this journey, with God’s enablement and the Holy Spirit helping and guiding us through His Word every step of the way, as we choose to believe in the truth.
H.D.M. Spence wrote in the Pulpit Commentary: “The consecration effected in the disciples must correspond with Christ's consecration in self-sacrificial love, in abandonment to the power of the Word which has revolutionized their whole being, in entire equipment for their calling. They are indeed to drink of His cup and be baptized with His baptism. They must be crucified with Him and buried with Him, and rise again with Him, in the activity of their faith.”
Recently, I had lunch with a group of Christian friends and one of them shared that he does not go to church anymore. He prefers to attend a weekly Bible Study group which is now his source of Christian fellowship, prayer and the Word. On most weekends, he volunteers regularly with an organization that deploys help for various functions and events in town. He even served at a prestigious racing event and was so elated to be given a free ticket for the event, which could have set him back hundreds of dollars!
While part of me was glad that he enjoyed what he is doing, I could not help but also feel troubled with his perspective. Was his motivation called of God, or was it driven by negative experiences, such as disappointments with church establishment? If it was the latter, he is not alone. Yet very often, this is how spiritual apathy and compromise set in.
How about me? Are there areas of my life that perhaps I have become indifferent and are compromised? I recall in my early Christian days, I was filled with expectation and excitement to attend church prayer meetings. I remembered a classmate who called me late one night after I reached home from a church prayer meeting. He was puzzled as to why I sounded so awake and refreshed! I replied without hesitation, “Because I just got back from my church’s prayer meeting!” I must confess that my prayer life is not how it used to be. I need to be sanctified in my heart, return to my first love for God, and rebuild my personal altar of prayer.
My friends, do not be discouraged by setbacks in your life. Instead, God’s divine power has given you everything you need for a godly life in Him (2 Peter 1:3) and will also give you hope and strength to find victory in your spiritual journey. May this season of Lent be the beginning of a personal revival for your spiritual life.