They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. – John 17:16-19 ESV
As followers of Christ, we don’t belong here – on earth, that is. Yes, we have been required by God to remain here and He has assigned us a task to perform until He calls us home or His Son returns, whichever comes first. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation, telling others about the good news concerning Jesus Christ and His desire to restore men to a right relationship with God the Father. But our very presence and our God-given assignment do not sit well with the world in which we live. In fact, Jesus said the world hates us, just as it hated Him. They prefer darkness over the light. They are not particularly open to the message of the Gospel. And because the world is under the influence of Satan, the prince of this world, it is an atmosphere filled with lies, because Satan is the father of lies. Deception and deceit are common place. Falsehood masquerades as truth. And we are tasked with living within this less-than-friendly environment as salt and light, sharing the truth regarding Jesus Christ and salvation.
So Jesus, knowing that things would not be easy for us, asked His Father to set us apart in the truth, the truth as found in the Word of God. In the Scriptures, we have a big picture portrait of what is really going on in the world. We have a sin problem. It has been that way from the beginning. Well, almost from the beginning. Adam and Eve were created by God and placed in a perfect environment, free from sin, disease, and death. But because they had free will, they were capable of either loving God and serving Him faithfully or rejecting Him and deciding instead to serve themselves. They chose the latter. Rather than accept God’s authority and trust His will for them, they decided that they knew best. Rather than worship God, they listened to the lies of the enemy and decided to be like God. God had told them the truth regarding the one tree of the garden from which they could not eat. But Satan got them to doubt God’s word. He tempted them to question God’s authority. And they sinned. From that point forward, sin has had a dramatic impact on the lives of men. Sin separated man from God, creating an unsurpassable barrier through which man could not pass. Access to God was denied. Fellowship with God was broken. And the penalty for sin was death, both physical and spiritual, including eternal separation from God.
But God stepped in and provided a solution to man’s sin problem: His Son. Sin came with a price tag. The penalty for man’s rebellion against God was death. Either man must die or come up with a way to do the impossible and live a sinless life. Man couldn’t live up to God’s standard of perfection. Sin became unavoidable and, as a result, death was inevitable. But God sent His Son to pay the penalty for man’s sin. He became the means by which men might be restored to a right relationship with God. His death, because He was sinless, satisfied the righteous demands of a holy God. And all those who believe in Him as their Savior receive forgiveness of sin and freedom from condemnation – forever. But there’s still a sin problem. Because we have been left in this world, we find ourselves surrounded by sin, and we still find ourselves susceptible to our own sin natures. The lies of the enemy resound in our ears every day. He attacks us relentlessly. He seeks to destroy us. So Jesus prayed that we would be set apart in the truth. The truth of God’s love. The truth of our forgiveness. The truth of the reality of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. The truth of our redemption. The truth of our new nature and our capacity to sin less. The truth of our future glorification. The truth is, we need to be set apart each and every day to the amazing truth of all that God has done for us in Christ Jesus. Jesus died so that we might live. He gave His life so that we might never fear death again. The world would have us doubt all of that. The enemy would have us question everything we have been promised by God. Which is why we need to be set apart in the truth. We must immerse ourselves in the confidence-building, strength-producing, soul-fortifying truth of God’s Word. It tells us of the reality of sin. It reminds us of the impossibility of ever living righteously on our own. It teaches us of the holiness of God and the rebellion of man. It graciously reveals to us the wonderful solution God provided in His Son. It encourages us to place our trust in Christ’s righteousness and not our own. It provides us with the exciting news that holiness is not only possible, but normal for all those who place their faith in Jesus as their Savior. It is the truth that sets us apart. It is the truth that sets us free. It is the truth as found in Jesus, the way, the truth and the life.