Be The New Person In Christ
1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
I have listened to brethren raise the issue that the process of sanctification is very difficult for those of faith, in Christ. There was a time when I would have completely agreed with such assessment of what sanctification means for those of faith, in Christ. While I do not “completely” agree anymore as the progression of sanctification has continued over the years, I do understand where the difficulty lies concerning sanctification.
Sanctification! I should start with defining the meaning of the term so we can begin on the same step in understanding. Basically, sanctification or to “be” sanctified is to be, separated to God or set apart for God’s use. This is a base meaning. To express this in a way that is easier to understand; sanctification is the separation of those in Christ from unrighteous living to living, righteously before God. This righteous living must be actively and earnestly pursued by those of faith, in Christ.
Did you notice that final portion of defining sanctification in a way that can be easier to understand? Those of faith, in Christ, are to actively pursue after righteous living. This will not come automatically when you have placed faith, in Christ. I am reminded of two letters to the Corinthians which Paul had sent off to the region of Corinth. Those of faith in Christ were not “living” righteously. They continued to bring the world into the church. Expressed in a better way of understanding, they continued to live life in a carnal (fleshly) manner both outside and inside, the church before God.
Point being, after Paul’s initial evangelizing where many entered into a relationship with Christ, their relationship with the ways of the world, did NOT change. They continued to live in an unrighteous manner. Paul had to send letters to them in effort to disciple them by informing them of what was unrighteous and spelling out examples to them.
Have you been discipled and informed in what is unrighteous and what is righteous living before Christ?
Conviction by the Holy Spirit is the “power” to turn away and STOP doing what is unrighteous and this becomes effectual through discipleship. In other words, by examples of applying knowledge, one is enabled to be as God has intended. When discipled, you not only learn what is righteous but will also be led in examples of righteousness by who is doing the discipling. Paul led by example and has even encouraged brethren to imitate him. This meant, activate the example he puts forth into one’s own life and you too, will be righteous before Christ.
In the past, at a time in my life when I felt that sanctification was difficult, I now realize that this “mindset” was due to a lack of discipleship in my life. My mind was not renewed. Sure, I was informed this or that is a sin and to stop sinning. In my thoughts, I was always asking, how because I continued to do unrighteousness.
Let me raise an analogy. You know a person who has never gardened at all in their lifetime. You speak to them about how gardening can supply any family with an abundance of food and this will save money concerning the monthly food bill. You inform them that by canning and preserving, the food that is grown can be stored and used throughout the winter and even over the entire next year. They want this and agree to become a gardener.
You then bring them to a field which is covered in grass that is two feet tall. In a box on the ground are various sized shovels, rakes, a power dirt tiller, a can of fuel, seeds of various sorts, a hose, a bunch of 4 foot tall sticks, a ball of white cotton string, a bunch of tongue depressors, 2 black Sharpe pens, etc. In another box are 24 mason jars, a pressure cooker, various packets of spices, 3 gallons of vinegar, etc. You smile and inform them that this is all they need to successfully reap from gardening and canning.
Do you think this person will be able to effectually utilize all the equipment and reap food that will be able to last them through the winter and into next year? I don’t think they will be able to reap anything, without something more than just information. By showing them HOW to garden, step by step however, will reap a bounty of food for canning and preserving.
While that example is helpful, I pray the example can point out that when informing a new Christian what sin is and to stop sinning, it takes more than just information. By showing and by BEING an example, one can teach (disciple) a new Christian. The result will be to know what is unrighteous before God and also, that sin can be resisted and escaped from. Information can sometimes be a box of tools that without example in use, cannot be utilized properly.
In looking at the scriptures from Romans 12, we find that a “key” in righteous living is through the renewal of the mind. This can be such an in-depth topic but you can begin by heeding what Paul is asking in verse 1:
1I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
You start by presenting yourself as a living sacrifice to God. Simple right? Or is this like the example where a person “wants” to garden and store food and is basically given supplies/tools, an open field and told to just, start?
What makes presenting yourself to God as a living sacrifice SO difficult is basically this – many of faith, in Christ ONLY do this for a couple hours on Sunday and that is ONLY if, they attend church for those couple hours.
The appeal that Paul is making to you is that you present yourself as a living sacrifice, ALWAYS! If you attempt this ONLY for a couple hours on a Sunday, what are you doing when alone or out in the world?
You put your faith in Christ, you are ALWAYS in Him and He is ALWAYS with you. Think of that fact in this manner. The moment you wake up in the morning, you are to present yourself as a living sacrifice before Him. All day long, each and every day, each and every year, for the rest of your life!
This is where the claim, that sanctification is so difficult, comes from. A life where one compromises righteous living, with unrighteousness. Renewal of the mind is effectual by this first action; you evaluate ALL that you do before God each day. What does this mean? For an example; you are at work and during a break you are speaking with a friend who asks if you heard the latest joke? You know that the joke will be vulgar or pornographic in nature. Before you can even answer, the friend begins to tell the joke. What do you do?
When you listen and laugh, put the joke to memory, tell the joke to others over the remainder of the week, then for a couple of hours on a Sunday you worship Jesus… you missed a VERY important opportunity to WORSHIP Jesus earlier during that day at work. When that friend began to tell the joke, that is WHEN your action of righteous living should have been executed. Inform your friend that by being a person of faith, in Christ, you do not want to hear such jokes. Inform them that you value their friendship but you do not want to be involved with “dirty” joke telling. If the opportunity presents itself, ask them instead if they have heard of Jesus and take this as an opportunity to witness.
A thought as I am proof reading this for the third time. Is a dirty joke that takes a full minute to recite, easier to put to memory just by hearing it once, than putting scripture to memory? Why is it easier to put a dirty song to memory after a few times hearing it when you can’t recall the words to a worship song after hearing it many, many times?
Back to the opportunity for witnessing Christ. YES, this is difficult but by ACTION, by standing up for Christ and by telling your friend at a minimum that you no longer desire to be involved in crude joke telling, you have stood firm with Christ. You CAN present yourself as a living sacrifice in that MOMENT, meaning that the sacrifice is REAL. By not stopping your friend and listening to the joke, laughing and reciting the joke during the week to others, then later attending church and think this is presenting yourself as being righteous before Jesus, you’re not.
This is what causes the sanctification that Jesus is to do in you, SO hard. You are not submitting to Jesus’ righteousness and evaluating ALL that you do with the righteousness of Christ. This means the worship on Sunday that you do, following a week of unrighteous living, every hallelujah, every amen, every praise the Lord during worship at church, is fake.
When you evaluate all parts of your life against the righteousness of Jesus, then hearing the conviction of the Holy Spirit can literally be FELT, when He convicts you of any unrighteousness that you are about to do. The Holy Spirit is attempting to STOP you from doing unrighteousness because by sinning, you CAN’T present yourself as a living sacrifice before Jesus. Even on Sunday, you will not be able to present yourself as a living sacrifice.
Sanctification is not done for a couple of hours on a Sunday. Sanctification is all about a “life-style” of change. A life-style that means you have to recognize that you ARE separated to Jesus. This means that “you” are to separate yourself FROM all unrighteousness. Sure, you have to “live” in the world but you do not have to live “as” the world lives. With each day, with each opportunity to “not live as the world,” then you will find that becoming Christ-like and living righteous daily, is not only possible but easier. This is reaping what the process of sanctification is all about.
Live “as” Christ would live in the world. When you find yourself in a position to be unrighteous or righteous, the action of choosing the righteous way means you ARE presenting yourself before Jesus as a true living sacrifice. Not a fake sacrifice.