- Overcomer Literature Trust
Magazine - Holiness - November 2017
THE OUT-WORKINGS OF THE TRANSFORMED LIFE (Rom. 12 v9-21).
By Mrs Jessie Penn-Lewis.
“Love must be sincere” (v9). Let your love be genuine.
“Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (v9). Hate sin, don’t trifle with it.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another” (v10). Give others the first place; be kind and courteous.
“Never be lacking in zeal . . . serving the Lord”(v11). “Be ready to do what is good” (Titus 3 v1) said Paul, and he did not hesitate, apostle though he was, to work with his own hands that he might not be a burden to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11 v9). This dignifies honest occupations and shows that the Lord may be served fervently in the work place, as well as by preaching the gospel.
“Be joyful in hope; patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (v12). This is applicable to life at work as well as all other circumstances, and is to be the spirit in which all trials are met. Hopeful, patient, prayerful.
“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (v13). Caring for others in the household of faith (1 John 3 v17) and generous in hospitality (3 John v5-7).
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another” (v14-16). Do not retaliate, but conquer with love. Be sympathetic, glad to see others happy, and tender with their griefs. Seek the unity of the Spirit with all.
“Do not be proud” (v16). The transformed life is self- effacement. Be willing to be a nobody. Be thankful for everything that comes - Psalm 34 v13.
“Do not be conceited” (v16). Don’t think you know everything. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (v17). Don’t pay back.
“Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone” (v17). Think of how things look to others.
“If it is possible, as far as depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (v18). Be peace-makers, not peace-breakers, at home and in the church.
“Do not take revenge . . . leave room for God’s wrath” (vl9).
Beware of self-defence. Hush, not a word, remember Luke 18 v7.
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. . . . Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (v20-21). Do most for those who hate you, and melt all opposition with the fire of heavenly love. (Matt. 5 v44-45).
From: ‘Fruitful Living’ now published by C.L.C.
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THE EDITOR’S LETTER.
Greetings in the wonderful Name of our Lord and Saviour, in whose righteousness we are clothed.
I have found this edition of the magazine particularly difficult as again and again as I have prepared the articles I have been convicted of a lack of holiness in my own life. I trust that as you study these pages you will find that the Lord is indeed your All in All and that it is through Him alone that we can be made and kept right with God.
Yours in the Saviour’s holy Name,
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“Without holiness no-one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12 v14).
This statement concerns us all. Some are rich and some are poor, some learned and some unlearned, some masters and some servants, but there is no rank or condition in life in which we are not to be holy.
What sort of persons are those whom God calls holy?
Holiness is the habit of being of one mind with God as we find His mind described in Scripture. It is the habit of agreeing with God’s judgment, hating what He hates, loving what He loves and measuring everything in this world by the standard of His Word.
A holy person will strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ. We will not only live the life of faith in Him, and draw from Him all our daily peace and strength, but we will labour to be “conformed to the likeness of His Son” (Rom. 8 v29). It will be our aim to bear with and forgive others, even as Christ forgave us, to be unselfish, even as Christ did not please Himself. To walk in love, even as Christ loved us, to be lowly-minded and humble, even as Christ made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself. We will remember that Christ was a faithful witness for the truth, that He came not to do His own will, but it was His meat and drink to do His Father’s will. He would continually deny Himself in order to minister to others, He was meek and patient under undeserved insults, and that He thought more of the godly poor than of kings. He was full of love and compassion to sinners, was bold and uncompromising in denouncing sin. He never sought the praise of others. He went about doing good and continued instant in prayer. He would not let even His nearest relations stand in His way when God’s work was to be done. These things a holy person will try to remember. By them we will endeavour to shape our lives. We will lay to heart the saying of John, “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2 v6), and the saying of Peter, that “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2 v21). Happy is the one who has learned to make Christ his all, both for salvation and example.
Holy people will seek to be meek, long-suffering, gentle, patient, kind and keep a guard on their tongues. We will bear much, overlook much, and be slow to demand our rights.
The holy will practice self-denial. The Lord Jesus warned His disciples, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life” (Luke 21 v34), and that of Paul, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize” (1 Cor. 9 v27).
A holy person will seek to be loving and kind. We will be full of affection towards others, their property, their characters, their feelings and their souls. “He who loves his fellow-men” says Paul, “has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13 v8.) We will not lie, slander, cheat, or be dishonest. We will seek to proclaim our faith by our daily behaviour.
The holy will show mercy towards others. We will try to do good and not be content with doing no harm. We will strive to be useful and to lessen the needs and misery around us. Dorcas was always doing good, not merely purposed and talked about but done. So was Paul, “I will very gladly spend for you everything I have” he said (Acts 9 v36, 2 Cor. 12 v15).
A holy person will seek purity of heart. We know our own hearts are like tinder, and will keep clear of the sparks of temptation. Who dares to talk of strength when David can fall? But few are careful about this.
Holy ones will seek to know the fear of the Lord. I do not mean the fear of a slave, who only works because they are afraid of punishment, and would be idle if they did not dread discovery. I mean rather the respect of a child, who wishes to live and move as if always in their fathers’ presence, because they love him. What a noble example Nehemiah gives us of this. When he became Governor at Jerusalem he might have demanded money from the Jews for his support. The former Governors had done so. There was none to blame him if he did. But he said, “Out of reverence for God I did not act like this” (Neh. 5 v15).
A holy person will live in humility. We will desire, in lowliness of mind, to esteem all others better than ourselves. We will see more evil in our own hearts than in any others. We will understand something of Abraham’s feeling, when he said, "I am dust and ashes” and of Job’s, when he said, "I am vile”. Paul will be understood when he said, “I am chief of sinners”.
Holy people will seek to be faithful in all the duties and relationships in life. The words of Paul should never be forgotten, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord” (Col. 3 v23). Holy persons should aim at doing everything well and should be ashamed of allowing themselves to do anything badly. Like Daniel, we should seek to give no occasion against ourselves, except “it has something to do with the law of his God” (Dan. 6 v5). We should strive to be good husbands and good wives, good parent and good children, good masters and good servants, good neighbours, friends and subjects. Good in private and in public, good in the place of work and good at home. Holiness is worth little indeed if it does not bear this kind of fruit.
Last, but not least, a holy person will be spiritually minded. We will endeavour to set our affections on things above and to hold things on earth with a very loose hand. We will not neglect the business of the present life, but the prime place in our mind and thoughts will be given to the life to come. We will aim to live like one whose treasure is in heaven, and to pass through this world like a stranger and pilgrim, to commune with God in prayer, in the Bible and with God’s people.
Why is holiness so important?
Can holiness save us? Can holiness put away sin or pay our debt to God? No, not at all. Holiness can do none of these things. The brightest saints are all “unprofitable servants”. Our purest works are no better than filthy rags when tried by the light of God’s holy law. The white robe which Jesus offers, and faith puts on, must be our only righteousness, the name of Christ our only confidence, the Lamb’s book of life our only title to heaven. With all our holiness we are still sinners. Our best things are stained and tainted with imperfection. They are all more or less incomplete, wrong in the motive and defective in the performance. By the deeds of the law shall no child of Adam ever be justified, “for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not of works, so that no-one can boast” (Eph. 2 v8-9).
Why does the Apostle say that without it no one shall see the Lord? For one thing, we must be holy, because the voice of God, in scripture, plainly commands it. The Lord Jesus says to His people, “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5 v20). “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5 v48). Paul told the Thessalonians, “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thess. 4 v3), and Peter said, “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1 v15-16).
We must be holy, because this is the purpose for which Christ came into the world. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5 v15). And to the Ephesians, “Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy” (Ephes. 5 v25-26). And to Titus, “He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness, and purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2 v14). In short, to talk of people being saved from the guilt of sin, without being at the same time saved from its dominion in their hearts, is to contradict the witness of Scripture. We are said to be elect “through sanctification of the Spirit”. We are predestinated “to be conformed to the image of God’s Son”. We are chosen that we may be holy. We are called “with a holy calling”.
Would you be holy? Would you become a new creature? Then you must begin with Christ. You will make no progress till you become aware of your sin and weakness and flee to Him. He is the root and beginning of all holiness, and the way to be holy is to come to Him by faith and be joined to Him. Christ is not only wisdom and righteousness to His people, but sanctification also. We sometimes try to make ourselves holy and sad work we make of it. We toil and labour, turn over new leaves and make many changes, and yet we are no better and often worse. Other foundation of holiness can no man lay than that which Paul laid, even Christ Jesus. “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15 v5). Do you feel a real desire to be holy? Would you be a partaker of the Divine nature? Then go to Christ. Go and say to Him in the words of that beautiful hymn:
“Nothing, in my hand I bring, Simply to Thy cross I cling; Naked , flee to Thee for dress; Helpless, look to Thee for grace.”
There is not a brick nor stone laid in the work of our sanctification till we go to Christ. Holiness is His special gift to His believing people. Holiness is the work He carries on in our hearts, by the Spirit whom He puts within us. He is appointed a “Prince and Saviour that He might give repentance” as well as remission of sins, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God” (Acts 5 v31, John 1 v12-13). Holiness is not inherited, parents cannot give it to their children. Ministers cannot give it to you by baptism. Holiness comes from Christ. It is the result of vital union with Him and is the fruit of being a living branch of the True Vine. Go to Christ and say, ‘Lord, do not only save me from the guilt of sin, but send the Spirit, whom You promised, and save me from its power. Make me holy. Teach me to do Your will’.
Would you continue to be holy? Then abide in Christ. He says, “Remain in Me and I will remain in you, . . . If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit” (John 15 v4-5). He is the Physician to whom you must go daily if you would keep well. He is the Manna which you must eat, and the Rock of which you must drink. His is the arm on whom you must lean. You must not only be rooted, you must also be built up in Him. Paul was a man of God, he was one to whom Christ was “all in all”. He was ever looking to Jesus. “I can do everything”, he said, “through Him who gives me strength”. “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God” (Phil. 4 v13, Gal. 2 v20).
Let us go and do likewise that we may we be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.
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CHRIST OUR LIFE.
By Ruth Paxton.
Christ Jesus was made like us that we might be made like Him. In the incarnation there was the union of Deity with humanity that in regeneration there might be the union of humanity with Deity. When the Holy Spirit formed in the believer a new nature He opened the door to a living, organic union between Christ and the Christian which will exist through the ages to come. Christ and the Christian are eternally one. The exalted Christ lives now to bestow upon us in all of its fulness His own triumphant, joyous, holy life.
To be a Christian is nothing less than to have the glorified Christ living in us in actual presence, possession and power. It is to have Him as the Life of our life in such a way and to such a degree that we can say with Paul, “To me to live is Christ”. To be a Christian is to grow up into Christ in all things: it is to have that divine seed which was planted in our innermost spirit blossom out into a growing conformity to His perfect life. To be a Christian is to have Christ the life of our minds, our hearts and our wills, so that it is Christ thinking through us, loving through us, willing through us. It is increasingly to have no life but the life of Christ within us filling us with ever increasing measure.
But I can hear some modern Nicodemus say, “How can these things be?” How can I live such a life in my home where I receive no sympathy or help, but rather ridicule and scoffing, and where I have for so long lived a sinful and a defeated life? How can I live a truly consistent Christ-life in my social circle where there is scarcely a person who ever gives Him a thought and where His name is never mentioned? How can I live “in the Spirit” in the place of work where I am surrounded by those living altogether in the world and where the very atmosphere seems surcharged with evil? How can I even learn to live the life more abundant when my membership is in a thoroughly worldly church where little is given to feed and strengthen my spiritual life?
As we are in Christ in heaven so is He in us on earth. CHRIST IN US can live this life anywhere, and that is what He longs to do. This truth our Lord gave in His last conversation with His disciples on earth. He had told them that He was going away and they were wondering how they could ever be true disciples apart from Him. This last conversation was to assure them He would be with them in a spiritual presence far more real and vital than the relationship they had with Him up to that time. The same Life that was in Him as the Vine would flow through them as branches.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15 v5).
It was also the message of our Lord’s High Priestly prayer on the night before his crucifixion.
“I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me . . . I have made you known, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (John 17 v23 - 26).
“I in them”, these three simple but significant words close the prayer in which He breathed forth the passionate desire of His heart for His own on down through the centuries. Now as then, it is the desire of Jesus Christ to live in His people.
The Apostle Paul, in the revelation given him, laid hold upon this precious, glorious truth and it is woven into his experience, preaching and missionary service. “Christ lives in me” was the very centre of his personal spiritual life.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2 v20). “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil. 1 v21).
“Christ lives in me” so that “to me to live is Christ” was the centre of everything for Paul. Having the glorified Christ as his very life was all-inclusive in Paul’s spiritual experience. For him this was life on the highest plane.
“Christ in you” was the heart of his message to the churches. It rang out with clarion clearness in all Paul’s teaching and preaching. A cross section from any of Paul’s Epistles would reveal this truth written in capital letters.
“To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1 v27).
“Christ in you” was the very passion of his missionary service. Paul might employ different methods in his service for God, he might be all things to all men, but the end, the aim, the goal of it all was just one thing, that Christ Jesus Himself might be formed in each one who heard the Gospel message.
“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4 v19).
To be a Christian is to accept Christ as Saviour and to crown Him as Lord. But there is one more step, it is to accept Him as Life. As the works inside a watch are the real life of the watch so the Lord Jesus within the believer is the real life of the believer. The Christian life is not merely a converted life, not even a consecrated life, but it is a Christ-life. Christ is the Christian’s centre, Christ is the Christian’s circumference, Christ is all in between. As Paul has put it “Christ IS all and IN all”.
“When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Col. 3 v4).
The spiritual history of a believer could be written in two phrases, “You in Me” and “I in you”. In God’s reckoning Christ and the believer have become one in such a way that Christ is both in heaven and upon earth, and the believer is both on earth and in heaven. The Church without Christ is a body without a Head, Christ without the church is a Head without a body. The fulness of the Head is for the body and the body is the fulness of Him who fills all in all.
“For in Christ all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fulness in Christ, who is the Head over every power and authority” (Col. 2 v9-10).
“And God placed all things under his feet, and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills everything in every way” (Eph. 1 v22-23).
Could God tell us more clearly that in His divine purpose He means for the fulness of Christ to be the fulness of the Christian? It is a staggering thought. Its plain meaning is that we are to bring Christ down from Heaven to earth and to let others see, even in us, who He is, what He has done and what He can do in a human life. It is to have Christ’s life in us in all its perfection that others see Him in us and are drawn to Him in faith and love. It is to be such a oneness of life that our personality is but the vessel in which the beauty, holiness and glory of the Lord Jesus shine forth undimmed.
Is He the Life of your life? Could this be said of you? “Not I, but Christ be honoured, loved, exalted, Not I, but Christ be seen, be known, be heard;
Not I, but Christ in every thought and action, Not I, but Christ in every look and word.”
The thought of living such a Christ-life could well make us tremble and fear if God did not make it so clear that He does not expect us to live it in our own strength and power. In the gift of the Holy Spirit He has made ample provision for our growing conformity into the image of His Son and for a continuous renewal of Christ’s life within us. It is the Holy Spirit who brings the fulness of Christ’s life in heaven into our life on earth.
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3 v18).
“That out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith . . . that you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God” (Eph. 3 v16 - 19).
From: ‘Life on the Highest Plane’.
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HUMILITY: THE BEAUTY OF HOLINESS.
By Andrew Murray.
The blessed truth of holiness in Christ, holiness by faith, is being emphasised as never before. The great test of whether the holiness we profess to seek or to attain is truth and life will be whether it is demonstrated in the increasing humility it produces. Humility is the one thing needed to allow God’s holiness to dwell in us and shine through us. In Jesus, the Holy One of God who makes us holy, a divine humility was the secret of His life, death and exaltation, and the one test of our holiness will be the humility before God and others which marks us. Humility is the bloom and the beauty of holiness.
The chief mark of counterfeit holiness is its lack of humility. As we seek after holiness we need to be on our guard, lest unconsciously what was begun in the spirit is invaded by pride, where its presence is least expected. Two men went up to the temple to pray: the one a Pharisee, the other a tax-collector. There is no place or position so sacred but the attitude of the Pharisee can enter. Pride can lift its head in the very temple of God and make His worship the scene of its self-exaltation. Just when we are most anxious to have our heart the temple of God, we shall find the two attitudes coming to pray. And the tax-collector will find that his danger is not from the Pharisee beside him, who despises him, but the attitude of the pharisee within which commends and exalts. In God’s temple, when we think we are in the holiest of all, in the presence of His holiness, let us beware of pride.
“One day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also with them” (Job 1 v6). “God, I thank you that I am not like other men . . . or even like this tax collector” (Luke 18 v11). It can be for what we are giving thanks, in the very thanksgiving which we are giving to God, in the acknowledgement that God has done it all, that self finds cause for complacency. Even when we are using the language of penitence and trust in God's mercy alone, the attitude of the pharisee may take up the note of praise and in thanking God we may be congratulating ourselves. Pride can clothe itself in the garments of praise. Even though the words, “I am not like other men” are rejected and condemned, their spirit may too often be found in our feelings and language towards others. How little of the meekness and gentleness of Jesus is to be seen. It is so often forgotten that humility must be the keynote of what the servants of Jesus say of themselves and each other. Are there not many assemblies of the saints, many a mission or convention, or many a committee, where the harmony has been disturbed and the work of God hindered because those who are counted saints have shown in touchiness and impatience, in self-assertion and sharp and unkind words, that their holiness has little in it of the meekness of the saints? In our spiritual history we may have had times of great humbling and brokenness, but this is very different from being clothed with humility, from having an humble spirit, from having that lowliness of mind in which we count ourselves the servants of others, and so show forth the very mind which was also in Jesus Christ.
Jesus the Holy One is the humble One. There is none holy but God, and our real humility will be what we have of God, because humility is nothing but the disappearance of self in the vision that God is all. The holiest will be the humblest. Though the boasting Pharisee of the parable is not often found, his spirit is still seen in our treatment of others. In the way in which opinions are given, work is undertaken and faults are exposed, how often the voice is still that of the Pharisee, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men”, though the appearance may be that of the tax-collector.
Where is such humility to be found, that we will count ourselves to be less than the least of all saints, the servants of all? “Love is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered” (1 Cor. 13 v5). Where the spirit of love is shed abroad in the heart, where the divine nature comes to full birth, where Christ the meek and lowly Lamb of God is truly formed within us, there is given the power of a perfect love that forgets itself and finds its blessedness in blessing others, in bearing with them and honouring them, however feeble they may be. Where this love enters, there God enters.
Where God has entered in His power, and reveals Himself as “All in all”, there we become nothing. And where we become nothing before God we must be humble towards others. The presence of God becomes not a thing of times and seasons, but the covering under which the soul dwells, and its deep abasement before God becomes the holy place of His presence from which all our words and works proceed.
May God teach us that our thoughts, words and feelings towards others are His test of our humility towards Him, and that our humility before Him is the only power that can enable us to be always humble with others. Our humility must be the life of Christ, the Lamb of God, within us.
Let us all take warning. There is no pride so dangerous as the pride of holiness. It is not that we ever say, or think, ‘I am holier than you’. No, the thought would be regarded with horror. But there can grow up, all unconsciously, a hidden attitude which feels satisfied with our attainments, and cannot help seeing how far we are in advance of others. It can be recognised, not always in any special self-assertion but simply in the absence of that deep self-abasement which cannot but be the mark of the soul that has seen the glory of God (Job 42 v5-6; Isa. 6 v5). It reveals itself, not only in words or thoughts, but in the tone and way we speak of others that the pride of self is seen. Others will notice it, and point to it as a proof that the profession of a heavenly life does not bear any heavenly fruit. Let us beware lest we make the study of humility our aim. We may find that we have been delighting in beautiful thoughts and feelings, in solemn acts of consecration and faith, while the only sure mark of the presence of God, the disappearance of self, is lacking all the time. Let us flee to Jesus and hide ourselves in Him until we are clothed with His humility. That alone is our holiness.
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SANCTIFICATION, THE WILL OF GOD.
By Henry Drummond.
"It is God’s will that you should be sanctified" (1 Thess. 4 v3). “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy’ “ (1 Peter 1 v15-16).
In the Bible there are two great meanings to the word sanctification. The first, in the Old Testament, has a more general meaning. It was not necessarily applied to hearts at all, but to things. A field could be sanctified, a house, an altar in the tabernacle, gold and silver vessels, the garments of the priest, the cities of refuge. Anything that was set apart for sacred use was said to be sanctified.
In the New Testament the word has a deeper meaning. It meant not only outward consecration, but inward holiness. It meant an internal purification of the heart from all uncleanness, and an enduing of it with the mind of Christ. It is the coming in of God’s Spirit from above to impart holiness that is to work an inward likeness to the character of God.
The practical object of the first meaning was to put the thing into a position where God could use it. A golden candlestick was sanctified so that it might be of some use to God. A house was sanctified so that it might be exclusively His, to do what He liked with. In like manner a person is consecrated so that God can use them.
But there is something more in sanctification than a person merely being a tool in the hands of God, for if there were not, automatons could do the work far better than people, and they would never oppose God’s will. If a person does God’s will, God’s will is not only done, but the person is affected. God never keeps anything all to Himself. He who loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son, does He not with Him also freely give us all things? His Son is for us, His love is for us, His will is for us. How do we know that it is for us? Because sanctification, holiness, is the the will of God for us.
Do you think God needs your body when He asks you to present it to Him? Do you think it is for His sake that He asks it, that He might be enriched by it? God could make a thousand better. It is for your sake He asks it. He wants your gift, to give you His gift. He wants your will out of the way, to make room for His will. You give everything to God and God gives it all back again, and more. You present your body a living sacrifice that you may get it back, a glorified body. You loose the world that you may gain heaven This is the will of God that you should gain holiness, for holiness is heaven.
It is God’s will for all of us that we should become holy, but how are we to become holy? We have probably asked this question many times. We have thought, read and prayed about it, but have never reached an answer.
With the Divine obligation before us, it is no longer optional that we should be holy. We must be holy. God’s one desire for the whole earth is that it should be holy, just because He is holy. And the best He can do with us is to make us like Himself. The whole earth is His, and He would have it all in harmony with Him. God has a right to demand that we should be holy, that every one and everything should be holy, just because He is holy Himself.
But God lays this high obligation upon us for our own sake. For this we were born. For this, strange things have happened in our lives, strange disciplines have disturbed our lives, strange troubles. It is not necessary that we should be prosperous or famous, or happy, but it is necessary that we should be holy. The deepest moments of our lives sometimes give us glimpses of a more tender reason still why God says, “Be holy”, it is for our sakes.
Be holy, as He is holy. As He is holy, as He who has called you is ho1y, so you are to be holy. This is the standard of holiness we are asked to aim at, “As He is”. Think for a moment of the difference between these pronouns, ‘He and you’. “He who has called you”. Jesus Christ, “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth. When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats”. He who was without spot, in whom even His enemies found no fault. You, the fallen children of a fallen race. You with “hearts deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”. You are to become like Him. Here is a motive as high as the holiness of God. It makes us feel as if we had our life-work before us still.
High human motives and human aims may make a noble human life, but they can never make a holy life. A holy life is a life like Christ’s, or rather, the spirit like Christ’s. For the life like Christ’s can only come from Christ, and the spirit of Christ can only be given by Christ.
Christ came to do God’s will, to make holiness possible for us. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thess. 4 v3). In Hebrews 10 v 10 we read, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”. Our sanctification is not in books, or in noble enthusiasm, or in personal struggles after a better life. It is in the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Justification is through the blood of Jesus Christ once for all. Sanctification is through the body of Jesus Christ once for all. It is not a thing to be generated, but to be received. It is not to be generated in fragments of experience at one time and another, it is already complete in Christ. We have only to put on Christ. And though it may take a lifetime of experience to make it ours, our sanctification can only come from Christ. Our holiness is not what morality gives, not even what the Bible gives, not even what Christ gives, it is what Christ lives. It is Christ Himself. The reason why we resort to lower standards in a Christian life is because of our imperfect union with Christ. We take our doctrines from the Bible and our assurance from Christ, but because of the lack of the living bright reality of His presence in our hearts we search the world for other sources of holiness. We search religious books, tracts and sermons, but in vain. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” “Christ is all and in all.” The beginning of all things is the will of God. The end of all things is holiness through faith in Jesus Christ. “By that will, we have been made holy.” Between these two all spiritual life and Christian experience run. And no motive outside Christ can lead a man to Christ.
“See to it that no-one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human traditions and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fulness in Christ, who is the Head over every power and authority” (Col. 2 v8-10). “Who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Cor. 1 v30). “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him” (Col. 2 v6).
From: ‘The Ideal Life’.
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“I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified”
(1 Cor. 2 v2).
The centrality of the Cross is the ground upon which we must stand firm in the midst of the swirling currents of modern compromise. There is no Christianity which is not rooted deep in Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and reconciliation is at the heart of any valid preaching of the Gospel.
But what is reconciliation? We can find an answer to this question only in the plain statements of Scripture, and the broad principles laid down from first to last in its pages. The primary meaning is the restoration of the favour of God to sinners who repent and put their trust in the death of Christ.
Turn to the letter to the Romans. The early verses of the fifth chapter are occupied with the results of justification by faith, and merge naturally into a clear statement of the work of Christ on our behalf, “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly . . . God demonstrates His own love for us, in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us . . . For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life” (Rom. 5 v6-10). The terms ‘still powerless’, ‘ungodly’, ‘sinners’, ‘enemies’, provide a clear picture of human need and describe the condition of the unconverted person. Our natural lack is expressed in terms that all can understand and recognise in their own experience. We none of us have strength to reach the standards which God requires of us, we have an innate absence of any true awe of, or confidence in Him, we are never able to aim the arrows of right desires accurately, but are sinners, who invariably miss the mark and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3 v23). Worse than all, we are aligned with His enemies, “the sinful mind is hostile to God“ (Rom. 8 v7). There is a need for us to be reconciled to God. We could not bridge the gap between His holiness and our sinfulness, so He bridged it Himself. He provided a ransom. I am always grateful that I do not have to fully understand what God has done, but can rest in His loving offer of mercy and find how safe it is to trust Him.
The Gateway to Favour.
Reconciliation is only the beginning. There are many spiritual tragedies because this God-secured reconciliation has not been made the foundation stone of basic Christian experience. We speak much of the stresses and strains of Christian living, and waste much time trying to deal with symptoms, when the root cause of the trouble is that the Cross has been by-passed, and we have attempted to build our new life on the sand of our self-effort, understanding and working. The one rock-foundation for us has been laid once for all, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ Himself. “ ‘See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.’ Now to you who believe, this stone is precious” (1 Peter 2 v6/7). The word translated precious is a noun in the Greek and means, an estimate of worth, real worth, dignity, a mark of favour. God’s estimate of our worth to Himself is measured by the self-giving of the Cross. The crucified King is the one evidence of God’s mercy and favour, the one crowning dignity and glory for time and eternity, and the one and only reason for the gift of the sealing, in-dwelling, enriching Spirit.
Reconciliation is the one gateway into favour with God and the reality of a new life. Where do we draw the power to walk as children of God? Romans 5 v10 tells us, “If, while we were His enemies, Christ reconciled us to God by dying for us, surely now that we are reconciled we may be perfectly certain of our salvation through His living in us” (J.B.Phillips’ paraphrase). Most of us are familiar with the teaching given in John 15 by the Saviour Himself, concerning the fact and necessity of our union with Him. The Cross is not only the means by which we are admitted to God’s presence, it is also the place of continual crucifixion. But although we have been reconciled to Him we are not any more capable of living according to His standards by our own effort. That is why, when He received us, God sealed us with His Spirit, that Christ may dwell in our hearts by faith (see Ephesians 3 v16/17). In one sense we never get further than the Cross, in another, ours is a daily progress to glory. Looking back on the teaching he has been giving on reconciliation and union with Christ, the apostle insists, “The death He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life He lives, He lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6 v10-11). This is being saved by His life.
The Entry to Life.
The great reconciliation passage of the New Testament is 2 Corinthians 5 v14-21. Verses 14-17 give us a glimpse of the range and outreach of the new life in Christ. There are phrases which demand humble, prayerful consideration by each of us. “If one died for all, then were all dead ”, “That they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again”, “All things are become new”.
The following verse explains the reason for all this. God is now able to show us things as they really are, as He sees them. We have been brought out onto new ground altogether, for He has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ (v18). God’s compassion has reached out to us in Christ. His heart did not need to be changed. It has always been full of love to sinners, while hating their sin. He Himself devised and carried through that sacrificial, atoning, reconciling work on our behalf. At Calvary, God alone is seen. His justice is vindicated and His love set free to reach down to us. We may simply and wonderingly enter that place where we are His own, His children by the adoption of His will and the power of a new birth. Our acceptance with God rests on the atoning, reconciling work of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in His Cross. Never forget the promise that the righteousness imputed to Abraham, when he believed God, is also for us. “The words ‘it was credited to him’ were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness - for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4 v23-25). God, who gave His Son to bear our sins, brought Him again from the dead as our representative in heaven, and we are accepted “in the One He loves” (Eph. 1 v6). This is not something to be talked about, but to be humbly received. It will then become the joy of our wondering hearts, the rock of our salvation and the driving force of all our living.
The Objective of Ministry.
Paul passes on naturally enough to Christian service, “And gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5 v18). Here is the clear objective of all Christian ministry, to bring people to God in Christ, and tell them of their great resources in Him. Paul continues, “we are therefore ambassadors for Christ” (v20). An ambassador is the representative of a monarch, or of a government. He is appointed to his office, for such an office is never a self-appointed one. He, therefore, speaks with delegated authority. The Gospel is the authoritative message from the Ruler of the Universe, the Sovereign Lord of the spirits of men, proclaimed by means of ambassadors to those who are living in rebellion against Him. It is a message of infinite mercy, but it demands implicit obedience to its claims. The preacher has this task entrusted to him, “as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” (v20).
Think of the amazing privilege. In spite of all our weakness and sinfulness, we are garbed in the royal robe of His righteousness, and commissioned to the post of ambassadors, that we may summon people home to the Father by virtue of the Cross. We are entrusted with the King's proclamation. By His grace, we are His representatives by whom His Gospel message in all its fulness, simplicity, and urgency may be passed on to our hearers. Once again it seems that the sheer wonder of the fact upon which his commission is founded sweeps over the apostle’s heart and mind; and he cries, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (v21).
The Ground of Unity.
In J. B. Phillips’ version of Ephesians 2 v13-18 the passage reads, “For Christ is our living Peace. He has made a unity of the conflicting elements of Jew and Gentile by breaking down the barrier which lay between us. By His sacrifice He removed the hostility of the Law, with all its commandments and rules, and made in Himself out of the two, Jew and Gentile, One New Man, thus producing peace. For He reconciled both to God by the sacrifice of one Body on the Cross, and by this act made utterly irrelevant the antagonism between them. Then He came and told both you who were far from God and us who were near that the war was over. And it is through Him that both of us can approach the Father in one Spirit”.
We are prone to represent the question of Christian unity as if we were responsible and also able to create such unity, which we regard as either non-existent or lapsed. But there is God-created union in the Cross, apart from which all talk of Christian unity is nonsense. Calvary breaks down all barriers, cuts through all human differences and ushers us into that realm, in Christ, where all are truly one (see Gal. 3 v26-28). We are together in the Kingdom as reconciled sinners, owing all to the substitutionary sacrifice of Him who “loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2 v20).
Colossians 1 v19-22 carries the story still further, “For God was pleased to have all His fulness dwell in Him (Christ), and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation”.
The Cross is the one key that unlocks the mystery of God’s dealings with us. It is the pivot on which all truth hinges. It is the meeting place between God and us. God has declared merciful intentions towards us at Calvary, and summons us to be reconciled to Himself, as the preliminary step in a life of obedience and usefulness, the objective of which is an embassy of love to a lost world. We cannot preach this good news unless we are sent, and it must be burning in hearts, alight with the peace and gladness that comes with that perfect reconciliation, if it is to win others from the paths of rebellion to a life of fellowship with Him.
“Reconciled . . . by . . . the death of His Son”, and “saved by His life”. ‘The death of Christ’, wrote Henry Drummond, ‘which is the atonement, reconciles us to God, puts us in the way of the power which is to come against our sin and deliver our life from destruction. But the Water of Life, which flows from the life of Christ, is the power itself. He redeems my life from destruction by His life. This is the power, Paul says, which redeemed his life from destruction. Christ’s life, not His death, living in his life, absorbing it, impregnating it, transforming it, “Christ in me” ‘.
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