The Anchor of our Identity is a Simple “Yes”


John chapter seventeen is a fascinating portion of scripture, that in twenty six verses paints a three dimensional picture God’s hope for each of us and what our position with Him is if we indulge Him in that hope.  That place for us in the verses of this chapter, is found in the detailed prayer that Jesus makes to the Father, in a frank and conversational tone, wherein He asks for very specific things.  That alone is interesting.  As the Son of God who knew He was about to be betrayed and murdered at the hands of men, He demonstrates His own self-assurance in His relationship with the Father in this prayer and yet does not assume that God was so familiar with the intentions of His heart, that He didn’t ask for them specifically.  Though He and the Father were One, Jesus laid out His desire in very specific words.

This is a great lesson in and of itself to the point I want to get across here, because I have had a tendency to do the very opposite.  I assume that God knows, understands and therefore grants me the intentions of my heart, without specifically talking with Him about them.  It’s a presumptuous and diminishing way to handle a relationship that can create confusion (in me, because God is never confused) and stall forward progress.  Jesus had complete confidence.  Not in a presumptuous way, but a fearless way, knowing that His Father was completely approachable.  I know that I’ve been blessed and elevated in pursuing my relationship with God, but there’s still higher ground to be had in the blessings and it’s up to me to understand that, get to it and stay there.  If you want to consider that point more completely right now, measure these words against the most important earthly relationships in your life.  Whoever they’re with, for all of us they could probably be richer in different ways, bringing them more in line with ideals we know are better, but end up compromising by not giving them the proper attention or doing the required work.

In verse three of chapter seventeen, Jesus makes the statement, to His Father that the secret to eternal life is to know Him.   Jesus knew the Father and the Father knew Jesus.  He knows us, but do we know Him?  We endeavor to pursue a form of relationship in part and parcel, but too few of us do this vigorously enough, or in a sacrificially enough, to take and hold the higher ground.  A little further on, in verse six, Jesus makes another statement to God, acknowledging back to Him something that God already did.  He said; “I have manifested Your name to those you have given me out of the world.”  Recently, I read that verse again and it struck me differently.

As we get to know, and as I got to know, the disciples throughout Jesus’ ministry and well into their New Covenant writings, we can quickly understand that they are genuinely human and largely just “regular guys” in their culture.  But before Jesus even knew who they were God had prepared each one of them, in all their human fault and frailty, to install His kingdom in the earth beyond the murder of His Son.  Jesus didn’t choose His disciples, God did.  Then at the appropriate time, He revealed them to Jesus, who simply extended to them an invitation.

Later Jesus declares something incredible, recorded in verse sixteen.  That because of what He had deposited into these men during His time with them, by teaching about the very Father that He intimately knew had chosen them, that they were no longer of this world.

Think about that.

Imperceptibly these twelve disciples, without even knowing it, had emigrated in citizenship from earth to heaven and would retain that privilege, on that much higher ground so to speak, through their remaining life’s trials on earth, their physical deaths and thus to this very day.

If that isn’t fascinating enough, Jesus continued to pray saying; “not only these do I pray for (meaning the twelve), but for ALL those who would come to believe in me, based on their teaching and that they ALL would be one, just as You and I are one.”  As Christianity has grown like a vine over the face of the earth to what it is today, it’s important to remember that God has “chosen” and prepared each of us to receive the same invitation Jesus extended to the twelve.  We’ve been hand-picked.

None of them had to change who they were, they just had to say “Yes” to the invitation.

And so like them, we, regardless of our struggles and the way we sometimes feel detached or even dirty because of wrong things we’ve done, said, or had done and said to us. Regardless of the confusion or isolation we feel deep within, because of unanswered prayers, or receiving things we feel we didn’t deserve.  Regardless of the realizations that we were ultimately powerless to keep the things we wanted more than anything, but lost them anyway.  These kinds of things are endless, all them indigenous to the fallen human nature.  But the only sure way to overcome them is to remember that we are never “un”-chosen, that is unless we choose to be.  Say ‘Yes” and begin the journey.

A Readily Achievable Aspect of Complete Yieldedness


How many times have we earnestly and fervently prayed for something only to not receive it?  Or how many times have we held back that kind of prayer, to settle for whatever happens because we’re uncomfortably aware that we have  kept the God of answered prayers, to whom we should be praying, at a “safe distance” from ourselves.  This has probably happened to all of us if we’re honest, maybe more than once or twice, but if in those moments we don’t stop and re-consider the totality of those happenings, we can create the less than desirable effect of widening the gap of that “safe distance”.

To begin with, the grace that we all have experienced in our lives, to the point of sometimes taking it for granted, as well as our past prayers that have been magnificently answered, can become diminished and somehow insignificant.

I have found that many times my unanswered prayers have been for people who have succumbed to illness or injury and passed away, in spite of our great faith that God could heal and raise them up and our offering of those very prayers has seemingly come to nothing. That hurts.  Imperceptibly, those unanswered prayers can quietly usher in a false sense of unfulfilled promises.  The very promises that we know exist and may have been taught to us from our youth.

Could it be true that we just plain abhor investing ourselves into something like fervent prayer, settling for cursory topical ones?  How then do we become offended at not receiving the answer we desire.  Meager investments yield meager returns, no matter what the currency.  More on that in a moment.

Recently, while with some friends in a time of prayer together, one of them stepped up to lead us in a slightly different manner, suggesting a time worship followed by an invitation for us to pray freely afterward.   Her instructions for our worship were this though:  Take ourselves COMPLETELY out of it.  Even to the point of not including our thanksgiving in it, because that thanksgiving would have some aspect of “self” attached to it.  Just purpose to make declarations to God, purely and solely acknowledging who He is.

No mine. No my. No I, we, ours, theirs, them, us, etc.  Just… Him.

It was surprisingly hard to do this at first and I immediately realized that I had never, ever purposed to do it, always adding a little (or a lot) of myself whenever I worshiped God.  Within a few moments though, I began to detect a change.  I sensed that worshiping Him in this way took me to a place of wider spaces of peace that seemed fresh, new and unfamiliar, because I had never purposed to go there in that way before.  In that space EVERYTHING was okay, past, present and future. Gone.  Gone were the voices and callings of the world and my life, that beckoned for the attention due to them, which is never truly satisfied, by the way.  It was amazing.

Scripture is full of covenantal promises for us, some of them very direct and specific, but how are we to respond when our hope in them evaporates, sometimes in a single moment, because a heart’s desire would go unfulfilled?  Difficult as it may be, we must pry our clenched fists off of the doubt that invites itself into our very lap in those moments and grasp for the truth that no longer seems available because of those moments.  A traveling preacher, named Tom Skinner, began a series of teachings years ago which he started and ended with these statements:

I spent a long time trying to come to grips with my doubts, and suddenly realized that I had better come to grips with what I believe.  I have since moved from the agony of questions that I cannot answer, to the reality of answers that I cannot escape, and it’s a great relief.”

            I believe that somehow grace… is as big as the universe and has the characteristics of a liquid, always seeping to the lowest place it can go.  That’s where people live, unfortunately.  It’s the smallish definitions we’ve given to grace, that just don’t contain the revelation to give us recognition of it’s presence with us at all times. As a result, disappointment finds its way into our human lives more often than it should.

But in going to a place of pure selfless worship, even for a few fleeting moments, I found that it had no choice but to stay behind.  Standing in a very small part of that, away from my “self” became bigger and more secure than anything I’ve ever experienced.