Meditations on Christian Devotedness

Romans 12  •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 9
While many in the present day are teaching and writing much on the important subjects of consecration, devotedness, and holiness of heart and life; and while many are more or less affected by the general interest which these inquiries are creating; it may be well for thee, my soul, to retire for a little into the sanctuary of thy Lord's presence, and there learn what has been long written on those and kindred subjects. Be assured there is nothing new under the sun. These various aspects of christian character, with the motives and objects by which they are created and sustained, are fully revealed in the word of God. The time ground also on which they rest, thou wilt find there. Oneness with Christ as the last Adam, the exalted Man in the glory, must be thy stand-point, otherwise thou wilt " see men as trees walking"—thou wilt be confounding that which has its roots in nature with that which is of the grace of God in truth.
Know then, and assuredly believe, 0 my soul, that thou art one with Him who bore thy sins on the cross, who rules on the throne, and who is coming again to take thee up to be with Himself in His home of love and glory. Wrong ground—a mistaken point of view -leads to great confusion and self-contradiction, to the mixing up of law and gospel, faith and experience, self and Christ. No matter how good our eye-sight may be, we cannot see without light. Thou must be in the sunlight of thy Lord's presence to see the true foundation and the divine course of all things. And there, O wondrous truth! O privilege infinite! O blessedness unspeakable, thou art at home—at home, as thou art nowhere else—in the concentrated light of heaven's noon-day brightness. He is thy righteousness, absolute and complete, in the presence of God; He is thy eternal life, thy peace, thy joy, thy rest, thy glory. Thus arrayed in the moral glories of thy Lord, and basking in the beams of His complaisant love, what hast thou to fear? And know also, O my soul, that all this is true now—true to faith, though not to experience, and always true in the sight of God.
In proof of this, take the two highest notes in the New Testament as to the Christian's position; one is sounded by the apostle Paul and the other by the apostle John 1 " But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Hero pause for a moment and meditate, not only on thy place in Christ, but on the " rich mercy" and the "great love" of God, which set thee there. What can be sweeter to thy thoughts than this precious truth? And there it is, believe it fully. 2. "Herein is our love [or love with us] made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." This is a plain statement and must be received in the simplicity of faith. It surely means, that as He—Christ—is, in God's sight, so are we, though still in this world and encompassed with many infirmities. And this should teach thee never to look to self or experience if thou wouldst know thy place and acceptance in the presence of God; but always to Christ as the measure and expression of thy portion there. There is only one other passage that I will bring before thee at present, and this we will call, the dowry of the bride. "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." Here thou wilt see, that by the will and wondrous grace of God, Christ Jesus is made unto the Christian—every Christian -wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.
We will now turn to our beautiful chapter, where we shall meet with similar truths, though not in the character of a distinct subject, but as the native result of our union with Christ, and of looking to Him as our one and only object in our journey through this world.
Verse 1. 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. The first lesson here to be learned is a very important one—the apostle's style of address. How graciously and tenderly he entreats the saints at Rome as brethren! Great apostle as lie was, he places them all on the same level with himself. This, of course, is true of all Christians as regards their pardon and acceptance in Christ, however varied their condition may be as to the manifestation of the divine nature. " One is your master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren." (Matt. 23:88But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. (Matthew 23:8).) But how endearing is the apostle's manner, compared with the high, imperious style of many who profess to be his successors, or at least to be ministers of Christ! "I beseech you therefore, brethren;" this is true humility though accompanied with divine authority. Only nearness to the Lord can give both. But what an example for all Christians, for thee, my soul, when having to do with the poorest of the flock! We will now notice the foundation on which the exhortation rests-
" The mercies of God." True Christian devotedness evidently flows from the devout consideration of the mercies or compassions of God to the poor outcast sinner. The apostle appeals to the hearts of the brethren as being happily acquainted with the riches of divine mercy to lost and ruined souls. The effect of meditating on this aspect of God's character is transformation to His image, and devotedness to His glory, as our holy, acceptable, and reasonable service. Most blessed, precious privilege! And this holy imitation of the divine character, be it observed, is not the result of our own efforts, but flows naturally from the blessed truth that we are made partakers of the divine nature, as taught more fully by the apostle elsewhere. "Be ye therefore followers of God," or, literally, imitators of God, " as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also bath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor." Here pause for a moment and meditate deeply; the subject is vast and most practical. Talking of devotedness, of holiness, of consecration, what is thy standard? Is it thine own possible attainments by unwearied watchings, fastings, diligence, or what? Self in a thousand ways may be thy governing object, but wrong in all. Could God present a lesser or lower object to His children than Himself, as morally displayed in the person and work of His beloved Son? Impossible! " It would dishonor Himself and the grace He has shown as; and it would be the most grievous loss to His children beloved, whom He would train and bless yet more and more even in this scene of evil and sorrow, turning the most adverse circumstances into an occasion of teaching us what He is in the depths of His grace, and filling ourselves with the sense of it, so as to form our hearts and fashion our ways.... Neither law nor even promise ever opened such a field as this. The very call so to imitate God supposes the perfect grace in which we stand: indeed it would be insupportable otherwise."*
(*Lectures on Ephesians, W. K., p. 240)
But one word of inspired authority settles the whole question to faith for over: " Be ye therefore imitators of God, as dear children." This is thy standard and the measure of thy devotedness. Being the children of God we are partakers of His nature, and ought never to admit a standard lower than the nature of which we are partakers. God was manifested in Christ Jesus, the express image of His Person. It is in Him that we see our new nature presented in all its perfection, and in all its fullness, but in Him as man, and as it ought to be developed in us here below, in the circumstances through which we are passing. It is indeed humbling to think that we have answered so little to the call of God to be imitators of Himself as His children. But He has given us an object in which He manifests Himself that He may lead and attract our hearts to follow Him: and this object we know as the one who loves us and gave Himself for us, and the only object the Christian should ever have. "There is a sense," says one, " in which God is, morally, the measure of other beings—a consideration which brings out the immense privilege of the child of God. It is the effect of grace, in that being born of Him, and partaking of His nature, the child of God is called to be an imitator of God, to be perfect as his Father is perfect. He makes us partakers of His holiness; consequently we are called to be imitators of God, as His dear children. This shows the immense privilege on grace. It is the love of God in the midst of evil, and which, superior to all evil, walks in holiness, and rejoices, also, together in a divine way, in the unity of the same joys, and the same sentiments."*
( * Sym.p4:, vol. iv. p, 439.)
We now return for a moment to the subject of mercy after this rather long digression, but the one passage throws much light on the other and gives greater breadth of truth to the mind.
The word " mercies " is here used in the plural, because it signifies, not mercy as an attribute of God simply, but the compassions of God which have been fully developed in the different instances already enumerated. At the same time, it may have a special reference to verse 31 of the previous chapter, where we find Jews as well as Gentiles concluded in unbelief that God may have mercy upon all. "Even so these [the Jews] have now been unbelieving with regard to your mercy [the Gentiles] in order that they should receive mercy." Thus the Jews having forfeited all right to the promises through unbelief, must be brought in at the end on the ground of mercy. And this God will do when he has brought in the fullness of the Gentiles. But it is the privilege of the Christian to meditate on the mercies of God as displayed in redemption, as well as in His dispensational ways. It was pure mercy that thought of him in the counsels of eternity, that gave him a place in the purposes of God, that wrote his name in the Lamb's book of life, that watched over him in the days of his unbelief, that called him by Iris gospel, that gave him deliverance from sin and condemnation; that gave him the Holy Spirit, union with Christ, and the hope of His coming; and thereby communion with God the Father, and the enjoyment of all the unspeakable blessings of His grace and love.
When all Thy mercies,
O my God, My ransomed soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I'm lost
In wonder, love, and praise."
This is a great subject. Hurry not over it in thy meditations, 0 my soul. It is highly practical and may go far to form and consolidate thy thoughts of practical Christianity. Strange to say, the interests of religion are supposed by some Christians to be better secured when the soul is under law and occupied with its feelings and doings, than when it is under grace and feeding on the truth of the divine compassions towards it from first to last. But heed not this false alarm, it is the old cry of this world's wisdom, " The grace of the gospel leads to licentiousness;" but what is it that the fleshly mind will no pervert? Even " the mercies of God" are used as a refuge for living in sin. " God is merciful," we hear people say, " and if we do our best, and live a God, moral, sober life, and show kindness to our neighbor, He will not condemn us with the openly wicked." After this style many speak, but it is always the language of those who are careless about their souls, and who have no heart for Jesus.
True, most true, God is indeed merciful and gracious, but the boundless mercies of God are no refuge to the soul apart from the work of Christ. God has shown His mercy to the guilty in giving the precious blood of His own Son as a safe refuge for the chief of sinners. But if this shelter be neglected the whole universe cannot provide another. The testimony of God Himself is, that " The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin." The blood is the sure token of judgment passed, of holiness, righteousness, and justice satisfied; of the forgiveness, cleansing, and complete salvation of the sinner. But we must now turn to the latter half of our verse.