Written by Pastor Eliot Velazquez
It’s a balmy April day while Jean is busy packing up her late mother’s belongings. Her mother A.J recently slipped into eternity a week ago. Hidden in the back of her mother’s closet she finds a stuffed shoebox. Wondering its contents, Jean opens and finds seventy-two handwritten letters written by her deceased father, Mitch. The letters held the pleasing scent of romance, the horrors of war, and the despair of separation.
May 8, 1943
Arrived safely somewhere in North Africa. When this messed up world settles down, I will be able to tell you in the fullest detail the episodes of my travels.
You see, these letters Mitch wrote were from the front lines of World War II, written to his beloved girlfriend, A.J., thousands a miles away. It was 60 years ago that Mitch captured Jean’s heart in these letters, and never let go, until death separated them.
“Sanctify them in Your truth; Your word is truth.” Jesus, on the cusp of death, in anguish, with his sweat becoming like drops of blood, utters these words of prayer about His followers. On this last night of His human earthly existence, Jesus is concerned with His beloved followers. He shows concern for their welfare in a world that will despise and reject them, as they have rejected Him, and in the case of His disciples, put to them death as they are about to do to Him. Yet, His care is for their sanctification. Just verses previously, in John 17:15, He makes clearer His desire: that they remain in the world, but have protection from the evil one, whose desire is to steal, kill, and destroy. And in praying for His followers, He asks the heavenly Father to “sanctify them.”
This word, sanctify, means set apart. Jesus’ concern is that they be protected from the evil one while remaining in the world- not in the sense of mere physical protection. He is referring to their spiritual protection from being exposed and entrenched in a world system that is lived counter to God. He is saying, “Father, set them apart from the world and unto me for MY purpose.” He is saying, “Use the truth of My words to keep them from being enveloped in the world’s system, and instead have My words reside in their hearts in such a way that they are separate from the world and be devoted only to Me.”
Jesus’ desire is that His words, much like Mitch’s words, would capture our hearts, leading to a full devotion to Him and a separation from others.
As Mitch was fighting various campaigns in Sicily, he also was still in the fight to win A.J’s heart.
October 23, 1943
I would love to be with you and prove to you that you aren’t suffering from any delusions. If my letters have failed to convey that I do miss you and are constantly thinking of you I am sorry.
A.J., understandably so, was struggling with the distance the war placed between her and her love. Yet, despite the attempt of other suitors to win her affections, Mitch’s letters were kept close to her heart to keep her attentions on Mitch and no one else. You see, the letters that Mitch sent kept her set apart from other potential boyfriends vying for her attention and focused on Mitch.
God’s truth to us is to be what captures our hearts and develops in us continued devotion to Him and separation from other people, ideas, or things that compete for our devotion.
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” (Deuteronomy 6:6) God’s words to Moses for Israel, God’s chosen people. God was not merely after His words to remain on tablets of stone. No, God intended His truth, His words, to be on our hearts. And the reason for this was their sanctification, their set-apartness, as a people unto God. He desired that His words on their hearts would govern their minds and motives, their desires and deeds, their actions and attitudes. They were to live a life saturated with His truth, as a means of their set apartness.
But this was no mere one-time only moment. The path toward growing in set apartness was growing in God’s truth. He tells Moses in Deuteronomy 6:7-9:
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Jesus also commands that His words continue to abide, or make residence in us. He knows that our hearts are the destination for God’s truth. We are to receive His truth in our hearts in such a way that they become the foundation of our thinking and living. It is this truth that God intends to separate us from other desires in the world unto Him. Yet we are aware of the struggle in other desires capturing our hearts and finding home to the extent that God’s word is displaced.
Much like A.J., we are apart in the body from our Lord and Savior. And what we have to hold onto is His truth. It is this truth that we remain in, that are written and stored in our hearts, with the goal of us becoming daily more and more set apart from the world, and more fully devoted to God. This is why the psalmist says, “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). And again in Psalm 40:8, “I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
PRAYER FOR THE SANCTIFICATION OF THE SAINTS THROUGH THE TRUTH
As we continue our fast, spend time praying for the truth to take its appropriate place in the lives of the saints at CityLights Church. Pray that His truth would be the fuel that the Spirit uses to transform hearts and lives. Pray that the saints are not running on “truth fumes” from Saturday’s sermons, but that it is a daily part of our lives through reading, thinking, meditating, memorizing, singing, and praying.