Sanctification of John 17

Successful Meeting

I have honestly concluded that the recent Des Moines May 2001 Convention was one of the greatest I have ever attended.

Success was not due to the amount of people attending or the wonderful selection of music and songs used in the worship. It was not even the powerful preaching of the ministers, for I have heard them do better. Rather, I am convinced that it was the life- changing presence of the Holy Spirit that generated a unity and forbearance among everyone attending the meeting. The result was an unprecedented commitment and rededication, both in the pulpit as well as in the pews, that lasted over an hour beyond the dinner time on Sunday. Traditional custom and our religious norm were overpowered by a continuous wave of glory that overshadowed the entire building. It was awesome to behold even the kitchen and dining room staff, dressed in aprons, standing in line to be touched by the Master’s hand. More phenomenal than all was the sight of every minister kneeling in brokeness and dedication at the altar during the Sunday night service.

I thought this event was the closest to the fulfillment of a vision I had while sitting in a Des Moines convention some years ago. I am not a person given to many visions, but it happened suddenly while Brother Goodwin was preaching. I closed my eyes briefly and saw the entire congregation on its knees. There was a bright light that hovered about five feet above the saints and extended throughout the entire sanctuary. The sudden impact of this wonderful sight motivated me to quickly open my eyes. Since then, I have greatly desired to see the fulfillment of this vision, and this past Des Moines convention was heading in that direction.

This meeting was the ‘breath of fresh air’ we have so desperately longed for over the past few years, and we sincerely give God thanks for it.

Prayer As A Key

As we move ahead into the future, we will agree that the success of our conventions will greatly depend on the fervent prayers of God’s people. The example given in Acts 1 and 2 should be the guideline for ministers and their congregations. The disciples had prayed for ten days, and for this reason their preaching may have only lasted ten minutes. The end result however, was great. Doing the opposite will only result in us trying to substitute for the Spirit. May we never disregard the scriptural fact stating that it is not by might, nor by power (human genius), but by the Spirit of God. (Zech. 4:6). It is not a theatrical performance, but rather the anointing that will destroy the yoke. (Isa. 10:27).

Speaking to King Solomon God said, “if my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from Heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land”. (2 Chr. 7:14). This principle still applies to our day. A people that will not “seek”, “ask” or “knock” will obviously receive nothing from God. As long as we hold on to our “wicked ways” of sin and worldliness most of our prayers will remain unanswered. May this deep process of spiritual recovery never be taken for granted but rather be pursued by the entire Body of Christ.

Satan will endeavour to thwart and pervert every sincere effort made by the work of God. Failure to recognize Satanic subtlety could result in us becoming like the nation of Israel, as described in Isaiah 58. Isaiah was told by the Lord to lift up his voice like a trumpet and show a religiously astute people their transgression. Here was a nation that took “delight in approaching to God”. The Lord told Isaiah that “they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinances of their God…” (Isa. 58:2). From appearance there was absolutely no reason to question Israel’s dedication.

The people were more outwardly dedicated than most of the religious of our day. Think of it again for a moment. On a daily basis they were not only seeking God, but even found pleasure in understanding His word. They faithfully kept the ordinances of God, and praying and fasting were of paramount importance to them. Many of us in the ministry would accept such a committed people as a remarkable asset.

However, God saw the intent of the heart and did not respond to the fasting and prayers of His people. With great subtlety, Satan had perverted God’s people so that their motive for seeking after God was only for personal glory. As in our day, many fast and pray, not for the sole purpose of increasing dedication and godliness, but rather, to access the supernatural for public impression. It is tragic, that, unlike the brokeness and humility manifested by the Early Church apostles, many of our 21st Century preachers prefer to stand in the limelight of human recognition. It is no wonder we sing: “Standing somewhere in the shadows you’ll find Jesus…” The name of Jesus is oftentimes used as cheese is used on a mouse trap.

May God help us not to adopt the methods of Babylon’s elite, for in so doing we will eventually develop Babylon’s spirit. Let us not fast and pray to make our voices heard, but rather be able to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free. (Isa. 58:4,6-8). May the Lord purge our Fellowship and remove any attitude of overconfidence and pride.

Healing of God’s Work

In our 1996 May convention, Brother Goodwin was touched by God and prophesied that, “The healing of the Beast of Revelation 13 necessitates the healing of the Body of Christ”. Many of us have concluded this to mean a restoration or a re-gathering of the divided work of Brother William Sowders. And so, we have used every opportunity to re-unite our separated brethren without further consideration. In spite of this being a noble thing, is it exactly what God wants?

To heal the Body would imply that the Body must first be sick. Brother Goodwin’s prophecy was not suggesting a re-gathering, but rather a healing. Let the scripture be a safeguard to better equip us in making the right conclusion. We will again look at Isaiah and the nation of Israel as an example.

Isaiah commenced his ministry by exposing the spiritually sick state of Israel. He bluntly declared that an ox and an ass had more awareness of their master than God’s people had of Him. (Isa. 1:3). He further described Israel as a “sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters…” They had forsaken the Lord, provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, and were gone away backward. (Isa. 1:4). In verses 5-10 the prophet describes the Israelites and their leaders as being sick with spiritual wounds, bruises and putrifying sores. Strangers and enemies were plundering their land, and in the eyes of God, the rulers in Israel were no better than the rulers of Sodom and Gomorrah. Careful note should be taken to the fact that the backslidden state of Israel did not impede normal religious activities. Sacrifices, burnt offerings, attendance, and even mechanical worship and praise continued normally. Israel was spiritually sick and desperately needed a healing yet they did not realize it.

Our Sanctification

Reflecting on this example set forth in scripture, we should seriously consider our spiritual condition. It is a fact that we are upholding many of the traditional formalities handed down to us. We pay our tithes, worship vibrantly, attend church and conventions, preach and testify powerfully, and manifest a strong traditional appearance of modesty and order. Yet, the past few years have revealed a continuous decline in the sanctification and holiness we once cherished. We are seemingly caught in the subtle snare of sin, worldliness, and apostate religion. Without recognizing our gradual drifting, many of our assemblies have taken on the spirit of pagan societies in our dressing and lifestyle. Our women paint themselves like Egyptians and foolishly clothe themselves with the immodest attire of the ungodly, while our men are caught in the net of 21st Century idolatry. Our jobs, houses, cars, and scores of other expensive idols hold priority in our lives. God, the Church, and the ministry are secondary.

In addition, there are those of us who desire God as priority, yet endeavour to adopt the methodology and concepts of apostate religion. We are influenced by the religious stars of Babylon and, by using their methods, we have developed their spirit of arrogance and perverted ambition. As a result, truth and holiness are abandoned in preference for growth and fellowship. Ministers are obsessed with fame and glory while the saints ignorantly submit to the spirit of the age. If ever there was a time that the Body of Christ needed a spiritual healing it is now!

In John 17, our Lord prayed for the sanctification, or ‘setting apart’, of His disciples from the world. He did not pray for an ecumenical bonding or a charismatic renewal. Jesus’ request to the Father emphatically stated that He had sanctified Himself from the world because He was not a part of the world. (vs. 14 -19).

It is of absolute importance to note that it was the teachings of our Lord that resulted in His lack of popularity. To Jesus, truth had priority to fellowship and growth. It was truth that almost got Him killed in John 8:30-59. This was the sanctification our Lord desired for His disciples. He prayed, “sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth”. (Jn. 17:17).

The sanctification of the disciples must not be interpreted as a physical isolation. They were to remain in the world but were never to come under its evil influence, whether it be religious, materialistic, or immoral. In verse 20, Jesus went on to pray even for us, “them also which shall believe on me through their word”.

In conclusion, I am fully aware that my thoughts on sanctification may not please those seeking unconditional fellowship, growth, and popularity. I therefore entreat you to give little attention to 21st Century, ministries and rather choose the examples of men recorded in scripture as our role models.

May the Spirit of God quicken our minds to allow truth to sanctify and set us free.