BLOG: Praying for Distinction, Part 2


Praying for Distinction, Part 2
Companion blog to “When He Prays for His Church

Last week’s blog looked at “joy” which is the first of five distinguishing marks of the church[1], that Jesus directly asks God for in John 17:13-23.  This joy is a very different kind of joy.  It is not a higher level of joy, or a temporary – for appearances on Sunday morning – joy; so our visitors see fake-Stepford-family smiles.  It is a Christian’s inability to hide, true, and inexplicable joy during the worst trials of earthly-life, all with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus could have stopped there as far as I am concerned but I’m thankful He didn’t.  Next, He asked God to grant us holiness[2].  This is the next distinguishing mark of the church.

The 2nd Distinguishing Mark of the Church: Holiness

In John 17:17, Jesus asks that God “sanctify” us.  He is asking that we (believers) be set apart from unbelievers for a particular purpose.  In 1 Peter 2:9, it says that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.  What does it mean to be “holy”?  Society (aka the world) says that it is an established pattern of behavior that you must strive to attain and be committed to.  Biblically understood, the word “holy” means “set them apart – sanctify”.  It is also the same Greek word for “saint”.  We are the saints; set apart from the world by God and for God.  Holiness is not about our striving to a behavior that resembles holy.  That’s just called “fake”.

If we (the church) see holiness as ‘behavior’ then we will tend toward legalism and hypocrisy.  If we (the church) tend toward ignoring or playing-down ‘holiness’, then we tend to look more like the world and begin to lose this distinguishing mark of the church and this threatens all of the other distinguishing marks.

In Romans 10:3, the Jews sought holiness through behavior instead of holiness through identity.  They missed holiness completely.

“Holiness is about submitting to a righteousness that is not your own.  It is about surrendering to a perfect life, the only perfect life, that was lived on your behalf.”  Pastor Steve Wilson

A saint is not one who achieves behavioral perfection.  A saint is simply a Christian who submits to a righteousness on their behalf.  So, when we read in Exodus 40 that God tells Moses[3] to go and make various inanimate objects (furniture, oil, etc.) holy, He is telling him to set it apart for God’s usefulness alone.  We also are made holy for His useful purposes alone.  We are instruments in the Redeemer’s plan for His good purpose.  Jesus even sought this holiness in His prayer for Himself (John 17:19).

How is a person set apart for God’s intentional purposes?

“Much is lost when the church turns holiness into personal effort toward ethical or righteous behavior.  Much is gained when the church becomes holy as she surrenders herself to God’s purpose and power.”  Pastor Steve Wilson

The 3rd Distinguishing Mark of the Church: Truth

In John 17:17-19, we see that “truth” is our sanctifying agent.  It is what sets us apart for God’s intentional purposes.  Truth (His word) is also the energy for the sanctifying work.  To be holy, the church must be committed to TRUTH.  If you disconnect the church from truth you will cease any possibility of the church (you) being set apart for the purpose and power that God intends.

So, what is the purpose and plan for which we are sanctified, toward which the truth moves us?  It’s Christ’s purpose.  It’s why He came … redemption!

It’s all about the redemption of God’s people for His kingdom.

You have been saved to do something. Get to it!

“The Christian church has lost much here because we have talked so much about getting saved from the mess you’re in and we’ve forgotten to tell them what they are saved to do.  We’ve forgotten to tell them that they are saved to something, and not just from something.  You’re saved for the purpose and plan of God.  It is what you have been set apart for.”  Pastor Steve Wilson

The Bible is about the fall and redemption of man.  All Christians have been set apart not only for their own sake but for that of all others yet to come to Christ.

The Word is Truth

The study of Scripture isn’t theological information for information’s sake; it’s theological information for holiness’ sake.

  • Truth is intended to sanctify us.
  • Truth is intended to shape us for our God-ordained purpose.
  • Truth is always targeting the mission of the church.

If any Bible study, small group, book, blog or church that claims to be biblically based and doesn’t have these things as its mission, then it is creating a new purpose for God’s Word and you should run from it.  Sermons or lessons that target your personal success, your personal happiness (unlike Christ’s joy), or any other thing other than the above purposes, is an abuse of God’s Word.  No sanctification will happen for the saints sitting under that kind of preaching.  Truth only exists to fulfill God’s strategy and plan of redemption and He gave it to the saints for sanctification.


Next week we will look at more of the distinguishing marks of the church.  I hope you will subscribe to this blog and keep learning all God has for you through these lessons taught by Pastor Steve Wilson of Grace Community Church.

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[1] Joy, Holiness, Truth, Mission, Unity

[2] Minute 18:07-33:49 of the video embedded below.

[3] Exodus 40