"Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth." (John 17:17)

What does 'sanctify them' mean?

Jesus is continuing his open prayer to the Supreme Being. He is speaking of his followers.

"Sanctify" is being translated from the Greek word ἁγιάζω (hagiazō), which means, in this context, "to purify - to purify internally by renewing of the soul" according to Thayer's lexicon. This means that Jesus is talking about purification here.

Many speak of purification as being cleansed of sins. And many seek such purification by going to church and participating in the various rituals of that particular sect.

While there is certainly no problem with participating in congregational prayers, the problem with the quest for cleansing is that such a desire for self-purification in itself contradicts the essence of purification that Jesus is speaking of.

Jesus is talking about the "truth" purifying his disciples. How is that?

What Jesus is speaking of is a purification of one's heart. This means one's intentions, motives and objectives in life.

Jesus was focused on pleasing God and serving the Supreme Being. And his teachings focused on doing God's will and loving God.

Is love of God sanctifying?

Yes, Jesus confirms that love of God is sanctifying. This is because as Jesus taught, loving God is the goal of life. Loving God is being born again. Therefore, love of God is sanctifying.

This also means that loving God is purifying. Purification occurs when our hearts become purified - which means they become increasingly pure. Pureness is a state of love. Loving God and loving others. 

Love means being concerned about those we love - wanting the best for them and caring for them more than we care about ourselves.

On the other hand, wanting to be purified of sins (or saved) is a self-concern. It is a concern centered around ourselves. We want to be purified because we don't want to go to hell. We want to be purified so we don't have to suffer the responsibilities of our sinful (self-centered) activities.

In fact, the two self-related concerns - material desires and the desire to be cleansed of the consequences of those desires - are two sides of the same self-centered coin.

And notice here that Jesus is not concerned about his own sanctification. He is concerned about the purification of his disciples. This is a loving attitude: Jesus loves his students and wants to see them become purified.

In other words, he wants them to become lovers of God. This is the real purification that can come from "truth". Why?

When one hears the Truth about God - being spoken or written by God's representative, making it God's "word" - it has the effect, assuming the person hears or reads that Truth with a sincere heart - it has the effect of purifying our consciousness. Hearing the Truth can change our consciousness from self-centeredness to wanting to come to know God and wanting to love and please God.

As this desire manifests and blossoms within our heart, our goals and objectives in life change. In such a state, purification of our consciousness takes place simultaneously.

Can God sanctify us directly?

The Supreme Being can sanctify or purify us directly by revealing Himself directly or revealing the Truth about Himself to us.

God can see within our hearts and understand our desires. And as we have a sincere desire to know Him, the Supreme Being begins to show Himself to us.

As God shows Himself, we may have a change of heart regarding our purpose and direction in life.

This is a very subtle event that takes place within the depth of our being and must not be confused with "seeing" with the physical eyes. This type of "seeing" takes place at the spiritual level - not at the physical level. It does, however, manifest through our activities.

But as soon as we begin to see the Supreme Being from this spiritual level, we begin to fall in love - because the Supreme Being is the most lovable, beautiful person.

And as this gradually takes place our heart and consciousness become purified because we become focused on the Supreme Being.

And such a contact with the Supreme Being - whether it takes place through direct contact with Him or His representative - also has the effect of cleansing our consciousness as well as cleansing the responsibilities of our previous sinful existence. Why? Because God is all-purifying, and He is paving our path to return to Him.

Let's say that a baby is just beginning to walk, and the father calls the baby to walk across the living room floor to him. But as the baby begins her amble, the father notices that there is a big coffee table in the middle of the room that will block the baby's ability to walk over to the father. What does the father do?

The father will move the coffee table out of the way so the baby won't collide with the table. The father clears the way for the baby to walk over.

This is comparable to the Supreme Being's activities of cleansing sins as we begin to change our consciousness - desiring to love Him and return to Him. He in effect "clears the way" for us to return to Him.

Is a change of heart the same as being sanctified?

Yes, if that change of heart is loving God and loving others.

Yet the paradox is that we cannot receive this benediction if we are concerned about receiving it. If we are focused on being cleansed so we don't suffer, we completely miss the change of consciousness that comes with a focus towards coming to know, love and then please the Supreme Being. If our focus is self-centered - upon our own cleansing - our focus cannot be upon the Supreme Being. It is one or the other.

This also applies to the use of the instrument of Jesus' persecution - the cross - to purify or cleanse our sins. Some teachings utilize the cross in an effort to become purified of their sins.

With this prayer Jesus confirms that the Supreme Being can purify us directly, with the Truth. We do not need to meditate on Jesus being tortured on a cross to be purified.

Besides, this in effect uses Jesus' crucifixion for our own purposes. Is this what a person does when they love someone? Use their persecution for their own purposes?

And there is little value in purifying sins if a person is simply going to return to the same self-centered activities after the so-called purification ceremony.

This would be akin to following a bath by rolling around in the dirt - as elephants typically do. What value is the bath if we are just going outside to get dirty again? None.

But can the cross purify our consciousness? It can if we are sincerely seeing the sacrifice that Jesus is making in his loving service to the Supreme Being.

In the same way that Jesus' focus was upon doing God's will, our focus should not be upon cleansing our sins - it should be upon cleansing our consciousness. This means changing our consciousness from being focused on me to be focused on the Supreme Being.

Jesus confirmed this as he prayed just before his persecution:
“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt. 26:39)
He also confirmed it in his teachings:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matt. 7:21)
Someone who does the will of the Supreme Being has changed their consciousness from being self-centered to being God-centered. This requires a change of heart. A change from a focus on achieving our own desires, to wanting to please the Supreme Being.

But how can we do this? Only with love. Just consider how "falling in love" changes a person. They suddenly become focused on pleasing the one they love. But this "falling in love" is usually a temporary phase when it is directed at another human. Why?

Because other humans do not have the unlimited capacity of attraction that the Supreme Being has. The Supreme Being is so unlimitedly attractive that should one focus their lives upon Him we can never get enough of Him.

For this reason, Jesus asked his students to fall in love with the Supreme Being. This is confirmed by the word "all" with his most important instruction:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)

*Here is the translation of this verse of Jesus' prayer from the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
"Purify them in the Truth; Your Teachings are Truth.” (John 17:17)