Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments of unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from life to death, and your members to God as instruments of righteousness.
- Romans 6.12, 13
He averted his side’s softness.
His body’s desire, he destroyed it.
He destroyed his meanness:
truly the boy is a son of Conn’s offspring.
He destroyed the darkness of envy,
he destroyed the darkness of jealousy.
- Dallán Forgaill, Amra Choluimb Cille, Irish, 6th century
Sanctification is a mystery.
We don’t know exactly how the Word and Spirit of God bring us to higher stages of Christ-likeness (2 Cor. 3.12-18). It’s not necessary that we understand all the secret workings of God within our souls. We can trust God to do what He knows and intends, whether or not we understand His work perfectly.
But we can plainly understand what our part is in this ongoing struggle for holiness. We must discipline the members of our bodies to forsake all sin and sloth, and to engage in every good work of righteousness for Jesus’ sake. This is what Paul means when he instructs us to “work out” our salvation (Phil. 2.12). Just as you work out your body to strengthen its members for improved physical health, so you have to “work out” the members of your body for a richer, fuller spiritual life in Christ.
This requires clear understanding of what the Scriptures teach about the way of righteousness. It also demands that we hate sin (Ps. 97.10) and that we love the fellowship and presence of the Lord in prayer (Ps. 42.1, 2). And it entails prioritizing our time for shaping and employing soul and body in the moments of our lives (Ps. 90.12, 16, 17; Eph. 5.15-17).
Understanding, affections, priorities: The disciplining of our bodies begins with our souls – mind, heart, conscience. Get your soul in shape and your body will follow. As we discipline our bodies, they help to shape our souls for sanctification. Sanctified souls, in turn, submit readily and gladly to the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit within us.
In a nutshell, our sanctification requires daily, deliberate effort on our parts to engage our souls in taming the members of our bodies for righteousness: our tongues for praise, thanksgiving, grace, and edification (Ps. 71.8; 1 Thess. 5.18; Col. 4.6; Eph. 4.29); our eyes to discern true beauty and goodness, and to eschew all that is wicked or worthless (Ps. 27.4, 13; Ps. 101.3); our bodies to make ample time for spiritual disciplines, and to guard against the squalid and squandering ways of pop culture (Col. 3.1-3).
The taming of our bodies is our part in the work of sanctification. But we will not bring our bodies into line unless our souls are abiding in Christ and His Word (Jn. 15.4-11).
And we will do neither without a daily commitment for obedience. Will we “work out” our salvation?
If we will be faithful to work out our salvation in fear and trembling, the God Who is at work within us will show us His glory and grow us in His grace in new, exciting, wondrous, and glorious ways (Phil. 2.12, 13).
Colum Cille struggled to subdue his body all his life, and he was the holiest man of his day.
Should we strive for anything less, or expect any less of a struggle in realizing greater heights of sanctification, day by day?
Psalm 27.14 (Joanna: “Immortal, Invisible God Only Wise”)
Wait, wait on the Lord; persevere in His grace.
Hold fast to His Word; seek His radiant face.
Be strong, set your heart to abide in His Word;
His grace He imparts; therefore, wait on the Lord.
Teach me to be holy, O Lord, and give me the strength and focus to discipline my body for righteousness!
T. M. Moore, Principal