The Experience of Holiness
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing f your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” — Romans 12:1, 2. In this epistle to the Roman Christians from the inspired pen of Paul we have a reasoned discussion of the framework of the Christian faith. The Apostle tells us that sin is a race-wide fact, and that grace is a heaven-born cure for the deepest need of sinful humanity. He says that the cross is God’s judgment of sin, and His great love for the sinner. To him holiness and heaven are glorious possibilities. At the close of the eleventh chapter there occurs a break; the transition is from the theoretical to the practical, from logical deductions to personal exhortation. The distinction is a very important one, for we should be sound in doctrine, but it is equally as important to possess the experience for which the doctrine stands. What can be more cold and metallic than logic unless it issues in life and practice? It is highly important to be sound in the doctrine of holiness, and yet what is the use of being sound doctrinally and not enjoy the bliss of the glorious experience? Let me call your attention to three things:
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I. THE PRESENTATION
That ye present your bodies a living sacrifice. Look for a few moments at the ground of the appeal. The entreaty is based on the mercy of God in granting to the Gentiles a grafted-in place in His program, following the judicial casting aside of Israel as a people. In the closing verse of the eleventh chapter the apostle tells us that we are God’s creatively, since that He is the great source and center of life. Then, we are His preservatively, since that He sustains our lives and upholds the world of which we are a part. We are also His ideally, since He is the only worthy goal of life. Paul means to say, That since God has such claims upon us we should recognize His ownership. And in view of these facts, we should yield ourselves wholly to Him. Notice the character of this presentation. It is a voluntary presentation to Christ. A military surrender is forced — a spiritual consecration is free. A sinner’s surrender is not compelled, for it is the act of a rebel grounding his arms in the presence of Christ his conqueror. On the other hand, the consecration of the believer is the loving act of a royal subject intelligently and deliberately committing himself and all his resources to the God of his salvation. This is also a sacred consecration. The little qualifying word “holy” describes the blessed objective and character of the consecration. Aimless consecration has given rise to endless reconsecrations that are seen in church circles today. What is needed is a searching experience of the soul in which, under the light and leading of the Holy Spirit, we yield ourselves entirely and eternally to the cleansing blood of Christ and the doing of God’s blessed will. Paul informs us that this is a sacrificial presentation. Our offering is described as a “living sacrifice,” in contrast with the dead sacrifices of the Jewish altars. It should be the living body as the tool and vehicle of the living soul — God wants it. He wants people who will sacrificially live for Him. It is conceivable that death might be courted as an escape. Are we willing to live for Him the poured-out life? This is the real test of our consecration — it means obedience at any cost –and how few of us know its full meaning! Finally, the apostle tells us that it is a reasonable presentation. Self-dedication to the wondrous work of Christ in redeeming us from all sin with His own blood is an act that conforms to the highest reason. It is as rational as it is warmly affectionate and beautifully appropriate. Anything less than complete commitment to God is at once unreasonable and ungrateful.
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II. THE TRANSFORMATION
Be ye transformed. The word transformed means an inner change of disposition by the incoming of the Holy Spirit. Here we are struck with the change from the active to the passive voice. We are urged to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, but we are not bidden to transform ourselves into that inward conformity to the perfect will of God. Here emerges the secret of a holy life. It is the work of divine grace wrought in the heart by the Spirit of God. To confine the thought of entire sanctification within the limits of dedication is to remove God from the picture. The Lord cannot consecrate for the believer any more than He can repent for the sinner. Consecration means the presenting of oneself to the surgeon; sanctification means the “ether” and the “knife.” In the former we may be active, but in the latter we are being acted upon. In one place this gracious transformation is related to the putting off the “old man” (Eph.4:22, 23). In another place it is related to the reception of the Holy Ghost (Titus 3:5). The one thought is complementary to the other. The renewing of the Holy Ghost” is begun in regeneration, but is not finished until “indwelling sin” has been purged away, thus completing the moral renovation of the soul. In regeneration there is renewal to the life of God; in full sanctification there is renewal to the likeness of God. Both experiences are by faith and therefore come to the soul in the nature of a crisis. When the heart is transformed by the coming of the Holy Spirit to the believer, verses nine to twenty-one of the context become an accurate description of the life of holiness. Love is pure –evil is loathsome — kindness is natural — modesty is unaffected — hospitality is spontaneous –patience is enduring — prayer is constant — hope is a flame — peace is abiding — victory is continuous. Thank God for this mighty work of grace in the soul of the believer! It is radical, thorough, universal, both inwardly and outwardly.
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III. THE MANIFESTATION
That ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. Full consecration and entire sanctification result continuously and progressively in an unfolding of the divine will in terms of life, demeanor and service. The will of God! How important it becomes to the purified soul! How earnestly a clear apprehension of it is desired! How seriously a thorough doing of it is performed! It is safe to say that the experience of holiness has a twofold effect upon us in our relation to God’s will. First, it affects our discernment. When the Holy Spirit has full control of the heart He imparts a spiritual insight, by which we are enabled to discover and to discriminate God’s thought concerning us. The Word of God is illuminated; the Spirit’s voice becomes more articulate in the confusion of voices that often baffle and discourage the unsanctified; providences are more accurately interpreted. Second, the experience of sanctification has to do with our disposition. There comes with the experience of holiness an increased disposition to accept unmurmuringly all the dispensations of the will of God. Beloved, there is a place in God where resignation to His will becomes a delight. No longer do you merely endure His will — you embrace it with the confidence that in spite of its pain or mystery now, nevertheless you will understand it better in the bright light of His “more excellent glory.” Then every misunderstanding and baffling situation will become radiant and bright! My friend, it is only when our life is fully committed to and harmonized with the perfect will of God that it will yield its best. We squander ourselves and lay waste our powers unless we have found ourselves in the purpose of the Eternal. If the Lord can have our all — none would dare to say what the consequences for good might be. Here is where we face the plus of Deity; our all –and God! Only a dream in a youth’s throbbing heart, but God was in it, and the dreamer became Prime Minister of a vast empire! Only a rod in Moses’ hand, but plus God, and he smote a threatening sea and led a nation from bondage to freedom! Only a sling and a stone from the brook, but plus God, and it felled the swearing and cursing foe and turned the tide of battle! Only a widow and two tiny coins, but Christ was there, and the angel of immortality crowned the anonymous giver with a glory that fadeth not away! Only an alabaster box broken and emptied, but it was for the Galilean, and its fragrance was caught on the breezes of the centuries, and still sweetens the gardens of life! In the operating room of a great surgeon, a frail woman lay upon a table. Her husband stood by her side, holding her delicate hands, which clung to him as never before. They had talked it allover — it was her only hope for life. She had put her home in order, and said farewell to friends and relatives. She said, “Husband, you will stay with me, and hold my hand.” “Yes, wife,” said he, “I will not leave you a moment.” The surgeon adjusted his apron, and arranged his instruments conveniently; the attendant stood ready for service. “Now,” said the surgeon, “we are ready, but you must let your husband step into the other room, and close the door. He is liable to faint, he can do you no good, and will be in our way.” She hesitated a moment, and with one long, fond look, she sighed and answered, “Just as you say, doctor.” The husband stooped silently and pressed a kiss upon her forehead, and with a heavy heart stepped quietly away, and closed the door behind him. A trembling voice said, “Now, doctor, I trust all to you, save my life if possible.” The attendant applied the anesthetic, the pallor of death spread over the patient’s face, she breathed more quietly, and then dropped into unconsciousness. The surgeon used the knife. “It is just as I expected,” said he, as he laid open the diseased part. The knife was sharp, the hand was strong and steady, the delicate `task was soon performed, and the wound was closed. The effects of the anesthetic wore away, the patient opened her eyes, tears of gratitude rolled down her face, and she said, “Thank you, doctor.” Health and vigor soon returned, and she was hale and strong again. Will any one say `that she should not testify to the skill of her physician? Would you be circumcised in heart? Would you have the depravity entirely removed? Would you have the “old man” forever crucified? Then, come to the Great Physician. Bid all the world farewell, and shut yourself up with Jesus only; take the anesthetic of a full surrender; lose all consciousness to your surroundings and die to self. Fear not, trust the Almighty Christ! Now believe — believe with all thy consecrated heart! Continue to pray and to believe until the day is dawning — the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings — and floods of glory will burst upon your soul!