Being “Reserved” Doesn’t Mean What You Think it Means

The word “reserved” is used several different ways. When we go out to dinner, we can call ahead to make sure our table is reserved for us. (Dad Joke: And if we were given seconds, it would mean being “Re-served”.) There’s a great Seinfeld episode about a rental car reservation (“You know how to take the reservation. You just don’t know how to KEEP the reservation.”) We also use the word to refer to someone who is quiet, or keeps to themselves. “He’s a very reserved individual”. Do you thin of yourself as reserved? It’s a question you ought to consider, because from a Biblical perspective, you ARE reserved.

A Different Word with the Same Meaning

When Jesus used the word “sanctify” in John 17 he was actually talking about OUR being reserved, but not in the sense of being low-key. So, you don’t have to be “reserved” to actually BE “reserved”… In his prayer the night he was betrayed, Jesus said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:17-20, NKJV)

Jesus not only said He WAS the truth (John 14:6) and that the truth would set us free ((John 8:32), but he asked the Father to sanctify us by the truth. In a spiritual sense the word “sanctify” means to set apart for sacred use, and that is the most common application of the word. But because it is kind of churchy word, I don’t think we use it as practically as we should. It actually means RESERVED.

When you make a reservation at a restaurant, there should be a table reserved for your use. So, would you call that table sanctified, since it has been set apart for your use? In the summer of 1972 I worked at the Navigators Eagle Lake boys camp. The Navigators Vice President Leroy Eims taught us that a Jeep parked outside headquarters and designated with Four stars is reserved. That means it is “sanctified” (set apart) for the General, and woe to any Second Lieutenant who takes it for a spin!


Baker’s Dictionary says that the generic meaning is “the state of proper functioning. To sanctify someone or something is to set that person or thing apart for the use intended by its designer. A pen is “sanctified” when used to write. Eyeglasses are “sanctified” when used to improve sight.” Obviously things work better when we use them for what they were designed for. You use eyeglasses to see, but not to scramble eggs or unlock the door; you use God’s word not just as an interesting old book, but also to change the very state of your existence. So when Jesus prayed for us in the garden, and asked his Father to sanctify us, what did He mean by that?

First of all, he acknowledges that we are set apart. As his followers, we have stepped outside of the previous boundaries of our existence and into a spiritual journey of obedience and transformation. As a believer, you live in a sanctified state and are set apart for God’s use. To me, that’s set apart from not only culture but also religion. We are set apart to be in a RELATIONSHIP with God, not to be self-righteous or merely religious.

The End Result

It’s interesting that in this short snippet of Jesus’ prayer, he answers a big theological question—why the cross? He said, “I set myself apart” so that we could be “truly sanctified”, and our sanctification involves being set apart so that the life of Jesus could be manifested in us. That’s why Paul says (in Galatians 2:20), “I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” It was only by Jesus’ crucifixion that we could be “truly sanctified”.

Second, Jesus said that each of us has a purpose for which we were specifically made. Just as He was being sanctified for his journey to the cross, he prayed for every one of us to be used the way our Designer intended us to be used.

Do you think the Designer intended for us to live consumed with our own selfish fleshly desires? Or, did He create us with a spiritual nature that can lift us out of our carnal selfishness to love and service? That’s why the rest of Galatians 2:20 says “And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The life that Jesus lived empowers the life the Father wants us to live.

Two questions: What do you think your Designer intended for you to do? And,

2) are you allowing Truth to sanctify you and set you apart so that you are equipped to do it?

Reserved for One

In the garden, Jesus prayed the night before he died;
He prayed on our behalf and asked that we be sanctified.
He prayed for us, and asked that you and I be set apart
To feel the Father’s love for us, to know the Father’s heart.
When his work was finished, would he ask of me and you,
Tell me, children, what have you been sanctified to DO?

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