Rev. Haak is pastor of Georgetown Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan and radio pastor for the Reformed Witness Hour, on which this message was aired.
What do you want in the coming year? Take time to search your heart. The heart of man (yours and mine) is always focused on something. What is it? If you could be given one thing, what would you want it to be?
Is it in terms of the earthly: money, things, advance in business? Is it in terms of pleasure: good times, friends, excitement? Is it in terms of personal satisfaction: weight-loss, beauty? Is it in terms of the alleviation of burdens, difficulties (mental and physical), which have become so wearisome and you are tired of carrying them?
Or is it holiness? Is it to be like Jesus? Do you want to be separate from sin and the wicked world, its obscenities and pornography? Do you want to grow in your life of obedience to God? Do you want to be more devoted, not to yourself, but to God—to have the Holy Spirit cut out your pride and humble you, show you your sins, and make you more sincere, pure, and clean of heart?
This is the Lord Jesus’ prayer for His children in 2010. We read of it in John 17:17, in the prayer of Jesus Christ to His Father: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ looks at the coming year and all of its purposes in terms of one thing: that we might be partakers of His holiness. He has one desire, one reason for giving you another day: that you might grow in the gift of holiness. He prays, “Father, make them holy. Make them like Me.” Is that your desire for the coming year?
As we enter this year and we ask the question: Why am I on this earth in the year 2010? our God says, there is one reason. That reason is the work of God in conforming His children to Jesus Christ, separating them from this world and its sins. That goal, that purpose, is sanctification, which means to grow in holiness. Is this what you want desperately in 2010?
In John 17 we have the most beautiful prayer that was ever spoken on earth. It was Jesus’ prayer before the cross, His prayer for His own, for those who were given to Him by His Father out of the world. Although Jesus prayed this prayer a few hours before the cross, He prays already from the point of view of the victory of the cross and all that that victory would mean. He realizes that soon He will leave us in an evil world, a world that seeks, under the leadership of Satan, to destroy the very work of God if it could. Although His disciples (you and I, His church) would be in this world and be subject to severe dangers, to deep hatred, to powerful temptations, He does not pray that we be taken out of the world. No. He says that we have a task. In John 15:27 He said, “And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.”
So the Savior prays: “Father, do not take them out of the world but keep them in the world. Sanctify them, make them holy by means of Thy word as they are now in this world. Set them apart from the world by holy living. Do not whisk them away from the world, but cause that, in heart and in mind, in thoughts and in deeds, in words and in actions, they may live more and more in obedience unto Thee in holiness.”
The Savior adds other petitions in the verses that follow in John 17, petitions that throb with His love, revealing the great things of His heart for you and me. He prays that we might be united and be one as His people. He prays that we might be with Him and behold His glory. But, you see, all of this is dependent upon a basic petition: Father, make them holy.
People of God, we cannot love and dwell in unity unless we are committed to holiness, mortifying our pride. We cannot desire to be with Jesus and see His beauty in heaven if His beauty does not dominate our hearts now. Thus Jesus prays, “Father, here is My request for those whom Thou hast given to Me, for those whom I have redeemed with My own blood: Make them more and more holy. Bring them into the realm of Thy truth.”
When Jesus prays, “Sanctify them,” He means, “Make them holy.” This is a work of God in which He conforms us to the pattern or image of His Son. It involves two things: it means that you are set apart for God, for God’s service, for God’s use. Is that not marvelous? Holiness of life means that you say from your heart, “I have been set aside for my Master’s use and service. I am on this earth, not for my enjoyment, but to give pleasure to the living and the true God.”
But it means also another thing. Not only to be set apart for God, but also to be separated from all that contaminates and perverts spiritually, all that would spiritually separate you from God. The world of sin and the devil come along and they say: “Your body is for pleasure. Your eyes are for lust. Your dates are for sex. Your work is for greed.” And God says, “No! Your life, in all of its being, is for holiness.” God says to the world, “Hands off! This one belongs to Me, in soul and in mind.”
“Father, sanctify them. Father, set them apart for Thy service. Separate them from the world of sin. Dress them, in their body and in their soul, with My holiness. Do Thy work in them. Grant them conformity to My image, that they may walk as children of the King in this world.” That is Christ’s prayer for His children in . Do you pray it with Him?
What does your heart whisper in prayer as you look forward to the coming year? Do you pray: “Let me go my way. Grant me my passions. Make my way smooth. Remove hardships.” Or do you pray, “Make me more spiritual. Make me more holy. Make me more pure in my imaginations. Make me like Christ in deed and in word. Father, one thing I desire, no matter the cost in terms of my own ease and comfort: Carry on Thy work of grace in my heart and in my life. Cause it to go farther and higher. Make me holy in body, soul, and spirit. Make me like Jesus.”
Is that what you want in the coming year?
This prayer of Jesus Christ was very urgent. The whole prayer in John 17 is filled with divine intensity. It is uttered out of the infinite love of Jesus Christ and in a complete understanding of our need. He sees us in this world which is evil. We do not see the world for what it is. We have rose-colored glasses. We do not see the world filled with devils and snares and pits and brimstone. But He does. He sees that we who are His impressionable, foolish, arrogant children must live in that world. And Satan will be after us. So He prays for holiness, personal holiness, for a tender heart toward God and a zeal for God’s honor as the only thing of necessity for us in this coming year.
Still more, we have been assigned a task in . That task is to witness to His name, to His truth, in our personal lives, before our neighbors, and as a congregation of Jesus Christ. But vital for our witness in this world is holiness of life. We cannot bring forth that witness unless we who do that witnessing are conformed more and more unto Christ. The proof of Christianity is not your arguments, not your intellectual talk. We carry the message of the truth to an unbelieving world in our living. We must be a special people to the Lord our God. Men may haggle about what you say to them. But there is no one who can dispute the evidence of a holy and God-centered life.
The heart of our Savior desires our good. And so He prays: Sanctify them. We do not know what we need to be happy. Most often when we get what we thought would make us happy, we end up more miserable. Holiness, however, is happiness. That sounds strange, does it not? So far from the experience of a sinner! To be holy in desires, to be loving and forgiving and close to the heart of God—this is happiness. Holiness is the key to the enjoyment of spiritual things. The pure in heart—they shall see God.
How then shall we be holy? Father, sanctify them through Thy truth. Thy Word is truth.
God’s method of working holiness is through the Scriptures—the word of truth, God’s infallible word. The holy Scriptures are God’s tool for the sanctification of His children in . Would you be like Jesus? Would you walk with the Lord? Then, take up and read the Scriptures. The Bible.
The truth of the Scriptures, the doctrines set forth in the Bible—there is the power unto godliness and unto holiness. Holiness is a process worked by God through knowledge of the truth of the word of God.
Thy word, says Jesus, is truth. The root meaning of the word “truth” is reality. God is true. He is a God of truth. Reality is the living and the true God revealed in the Bible. The God who speaks in the Bible is reality. Apart from Him there is no truth. And God has made known His truth in the Scriptures. The written and inspired Bible is the truth. Oh, what a word to us in this world of darkness and confusion, in this world in which men are at sea without a compass, and without a paddle, prating about their wisdom. This is the truth—the living and abiding word of God. God’s word is truth.
And it is the power to transform us unto holiness. Through the truth, God produces holiness. Did you get that? Leaving the ones whom He has saved in this world; leaving them as a flock of sheep in a dog pen; leaving them as sinners with their foolish and corrupt nature; leaving them in a world filled with devils and their own flesh teaming up against them—the Savior prays that they be a holy people, separated to God. The Savior prays that we may endure unto the end, that we may witness to His name, that we may remain unspotted from the world, that we may confess the name of our Savior.
How is this going to be accomplished? Does He pray, “Father, if this is going to be, You had better surround them with a legion of angels with flaming swords”? No, He does not pray that. Does He pray, “Father, remove them into a separate colony, that they may escape the influences of the world”? No, He does not pray that! He prays, “Father, make them holy in this world through thy truth. Thy word is truth.” The word of God is the power, invincible power, unto holiness of life.
But that word must be applied by the Holy Spirit. It must be applied to our heart and to our life. You must read the Holy Scriptures yourself, personally. As you read the Scriptures, you will come to a deeper understanding of God. You will come to a deeper understanding of yourself and your sin. The reading of the Bible will humble you. The reading of the Bible, if it is effective in your life, will cause you to bend your proud knee. The reading of the Bible will give your eye to catch the shafts of light that come from the throne of God. Read also sound theological books. Attend to the solid, sound preaching of the word of God. Do not let your seat be vacant on Sunday. Meditate, come apart, rest in the holy Scriptures.
In  the world will run at a faster pace than ever before. For the end draws near. And the maddening pace increases. Do not allow the world to govern your time. Bring yourselves to the Scriptures daily, repeatedly, time after time. Hide God’s word in your heart.
What do you want in ?
What will the record concerning you that is kept in God’s book in heaven reveal of your days in this coming year?
What are you after? Are you after the holiness of Jesus? Do you want to be a child of the King? Do you want to be like Jesus? Is that your desire? Do you pray, “Lord, give me holiness”?
God will hear that prayer. You will have it. For Jesus prayed this, and the Father will never deny the petition of His Son.