My grandmother used to say, “Too old too soon, too late smart.” I’m finally beginning to understand her humor with less humor and more seriousness. There are some things that make more sense after a few dozen birthdays.
Chambers says today that as God sanctifies me, He is taking from me all that is not ‘myself.’ He says this is the ‘place of death’ and asks if I am willing to be ‘myself’ and nothing more — no friends, no father, no brother, no self-interest, simply ready for death?
Most young people do not think about death, never mind ready themselves for it. But we are older and attending funerals for friends and relatives our age. We are considering ‘interment or cremation’ and related issues about our own death. With advancing years, I better understand what Chambers means about being ready for death. All those things he lists will not go to the grave with me. My interests have changed.
Chambers says ‘dying’ is the first part of sanctification. Just as a dead person is non-responsive to the things of life, a Christian is to be non-responsive to the sins of their former life. He uses the first verse in the following passage to illustrate. This verse describes only one area of life that God asks His people to put to death.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–8)
Sanctification is about dying to the old life, to sinful ways, even to what the world might call ‘normal’ living. It is being called apart from all else to live for God only. It sounds noble and wonderful, but there is always a battle with it. Jesus said, “If any man come to Me, and hate not … his own life, he cannot be My disciple.” Our problem is that most of us love ourselves.
The Bible is not talking about abstinence from sex or anything else that is God-given. Sanctification is about being set apart from sin and living for the Lord. His will is holiness and He calls me to die to my sinfulness and live in the power and grace of His Spirit. This demonstrates Him to a sin-filled, ungodly world.
Chambers’ remarks about willing to be ‘myself’ seem to sit better as I grow older. I’m far less concerned about being something other than ‘me,’ less concerned about what others think of me, and even of what I think of myself. I’m less afraid to say what I think and more interested in transparency and absolute dependency on God.
This death is also identifying with Jesus in His death. He yielded all to the Father and that put Him in a place where most of us do not want to go — to a literal, physical death. Yet dying to self and being like Jesus is my destiny, even if being crucified is unlikely . . .
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2)
Sanctification is not as scary when considered in terms of becoming one with Christ, of having His life in charge of my life. I cannot make it happen, nor can I even make the surrender part happen, but I can trust the Savior —He is the one who sanctifies me.