I cannot remember the last time I had such difficulty preparing our monthly TargetPoint article. As I was praying the other day I felt the Lord prompting me to call my friend, Pastor and mentor, Danny Carroll. I told him of my struggle and that I wanted to write something that would encourage my readers as we enter this new, and very challenging season.
Danny told me that the Lord had directed him to John 17:11-12. He said, Vinnie, (he has always called me that), it is interesting that Jesus was always protecting the twelve and none of them knew it at the time. Pastor Dan’s words that morning have become the inspiration for what you are about to read. Here is the extended reading of this text for greater context:
I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect themby the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. John 17:11-19
What is Jesus saying here? I believe it is profound—follow me here. First He was acknowledging His departure and asks the Father to protect them (the Disciples). We are reminded that while He was with them He provided all the protection they needed. Then, He reminds the Father that He has given them His word and asks again that they be protected and kept from the evil one. Then finally He asks the Father to Sanctify them by the truth.
Dear one, you and I are included in Jesus’ prayer here. We are the 2023 version of His disciples and Jesus is still praying for you and me. As we enter this new year I want us to consider three powerful ideas from all of this. First, and of utmost importance to so many in this season, you are protected—He has your back (Prov 2:6-8). No matter how tough things may seem to be, God is wanting us to be at peace in the knowledge that He is in control and will never allow anything to happen that we cannot handle.
1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV) No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Second, we have been given His word. Obviously we know that Jesus Himself is the Word, the embodiment of God’s eternal truth. The disciples had that truth available to them in human form. You and I, by the power of His Holy Spirit and the written word, have access to all truth which takes us to the third and most incredible thing Jesus says in conclusion… Sanctify them by the truth. To sanctify means to be made holy, set apart. How does sanctification happen? Through and by His truth—the Word of God.
I want to encourage you to commit 2023 to be the year of the word. To enter this season with the understanding that the past has no power over us and that Jesus has you. Then, to understand His incredible desire for you and me to be made holy…set apart. But also to realize that there is no way for that to happen apart from His word. Let this be a year where we surrender once and for all from our old self and determine to discover a more intimate relationship with our Lord through His word.
You have heard this from me before but it is worth repeating, you will never know who you are until you first discover Whose you are. Intimacy precedes destiny. But please don’t forget the second part of what sanctification means…to be set apart. This is the cool part—God wants us to be set apart and that begs the question, for what? Answer, for His purpose. He has a great plan for you and wants you to discover what it is.
In closing let me suggest that that plan is your destiny. I have never met anyone who does not have a deep desire to discover their destiny. But remember that it has to begin with intimacy. Intimacy—identity—destiny.
As you consider beginning this process by committing to His word this year let me close with perhaps the most profound verse in the Bible about the Bible:
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
All of us are too inexperienced to try to make it through life without a guide. God’s Word is that guide. Psalm 119 unfolds many of the features of God’s Word, showing how dynamically and practically it will assist us in all of life’s circumstances. However, no single verse clearly illustrates this more than verse 105, which shows how God’s Word lights the way, giving direction for each step (“to my feet”) and giving wisdom for long-range plans (“to my path”). –Jack Hayford
As you enter this new season please know that no matter who you are, what you have done or where you may find yourself right now…God is crazy in love with you. Jesus’ prayer is for you. He wants to set you apart. His destiny for you is real and He wants you to know that you are being prepared for such a time as this.