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Sanctification is in one sense the act of a moment, and in another the work of a lifetime; a completed act and then a continuous progression. Whenever the great transaction of the new birth takes place, from that moment we are set apart for divine Service. From then begins the practical development of sanctification. In its outworking it is a continuous conflict, the carnal and the spiritual striving for the mastery. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh " (Galatians 5. 17). These two powers are ever claiming us for themselves.
The Word of God clearly sets forth how in the body we can live a God-glorifying life, in contrast to a God dishonouring life. We do well to consider how we can produce those traits which, in some measure at least, reveal to those with whom we come in contact, that we have been truly born of God and are consequently " new creatures in Christ Jesus."
In the epistle to the Romans, Paul analyses this duality, of which he himself is conscious
"I find then the law, that, to me who would do good, evil is present. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see a different law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity under the law of sin which is in my members. 0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me out of the body of this death?" (Romans 7.21-24).
Whatever may be our understanding of this passage, it does reflect the experience of the Lord's dear children, many of whom deeply deplore their own failure to overcome evil.
It should be stated here and now that the experience stated in this passage is not God's purpose for His dear children. Thanks be to God, we can be more than conquerors through Him that loved us! However much we may have failed in the past, let it be said in joyous tones, by the grace of God, triumph we will and triumph we must. There need be no concession, no yielding to the flesh, but a true sanctification of all our powers to the service of our sovereign Lord and Master. "The body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body." Sanctification is the true purpose for every child of God; to be "sanctified and meet for the Master's use.
A great conception of this truth, though not by any means an exhaustive one, is set forth in the Opening verses of Romans 12. There are two expressions used which I want us to notice. Conformed and transformed." There we have a contrast. Conformation to the world's standard and habits, or transformation to God's purpose for us. " I beseech you," now notice the ground, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed."
The appeal here is not to some supreme effort on our part, but to simple surrender " present your bodies." Our loyalty to the Lord, our love to him, our devotion to Him, can only find expression in divine service through the body. How necessary therefore that these bodies should be sanctified for that service! Many of the fiercest assaults that the adversary makes on the believer is through the passions of the body, and possibly he gains more victories through this sphere of temptation than through any other.
Conformed or transformed " ! We would do well to ask ourselves, what effect has the miracle of this New creation had on me ? Am I becoming more Christlike day by day, or am I being conformed to the world ? Is it impossible to distinguish us from the worldling, because we have so far accepted the world's standards? That old misleading adage, When in Rome, do as Rome does," has, alas, found some acceptance among professing believers. But I am fully convinced that if we are going to have the Lord's well-done and His blessing, then there must be a very clean and clear cut with everything that would bring us into conformity to the world's low and unworthy levels. To accept the standards of this world will mean disaster to the child of God. Do not allow them to shape your opinions, or your ideals, or your course of action. If you are to live a life the Master wants you to live, you must not be fashioned by it, or conformed to it. The world is the sworn, relentless foe of all true holiness, and to compromise with such a world is fatal.
Long ago, in the days of that great monarch Nebuchadnezzar, three Hebrew youths refused to bow to the world's demands. "Bow or burn," was the enemy's mandate, and who ... shall deliver you if ye bow not? The world is hard and relentless, and piety will ever meet with persecution. Those young men chose the fire of persecution rather than the favour of a pagan power. The king's" most mighty men" seize and bind them in their hosen, and their tunics,
and cast them into the fire. The enemy " full of fury" and with "the form of his visage changed," cried in blatant tones, "Who is that god that shall deliver you? " These young men were transformed in a truly wonderful way as they resolved to be loyal to the One of whom they said, "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us." Surely they proved what is that good, and acceptable and perfect will of God, and when they were tried they came forth as silver refined in the crucible. Nebuchadnezzar's eyesight was not at fault when looking, he saw, instead of" three men bound," "four men loose, walking," " and the aspect of the fourth is like a son of the gods."
Let the Word of God be our unfailing standard, in life and practice, amidst weal or woe. That Word is still insistent in its claims, and some day we must needs face it again. And so surely as we put God first, we shall never find Him to fail. For He is faithful that promised.