“The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” That shows that the flesh is still there (Ro 7:17, 20—NC), and they are “contrary one to the other”; but the Spirit obtains the upper hand, “that you may not do the things you would” (Gal 5:17). As the Spirit acts, as the Lord Jesus the holy One is maintained in me, the principles and desires of the old man are superseded.”

From Innocence to Holiness

Innocence in itself is not holiness. Adam in the Garden of Eden was innocent, he had no idea of what evil was; but as soon as he partook of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he knew and became evil, because he had committed it. Evil governed him and innocence was forever lost.

Now the separation from evil by the introduction or maintenance of what is of God is holiness. Practically is it to hate that which is evil, and to love that which is holy. Mere suppression of vice is not holiness. Where evil is regnant—since “in me dwelleth (that is, in my flesh – or nature—NC) no good thing”—a vice may be suppressed in order to attain more reputation for oneself, or to secure more self-satisfaction; but this exertion of the natural powers only increases the sense and strength of one’s own independence from God. It is not holiness, because it is not God who is ruling, but man’s natural power is exerted to improve himself.

To understand what holiness is, the first thing is a standard. Everything depends on the standard; and the standard is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Scripture says, “Be holy, for I am holy.” If the standard be man, then the holiness must necessarily be defined by whatever renders a man commendable, and anything which would not compromise one’s character in the eye of man, nor offend against man’s sensibilities, would be considered holiness.

In all theological systems, the great defect on the subject of holiness is that the thing to be effected is the great problem before the mind, and not the standard to which we are to be transformed. There may be true and earnest desire to be holy, but the mind is occupied with the attainment, and not with the One who alone can effect it, and whose influence and power alone can suppress the evil and express what is of God.

The “body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1Co 6:19; also 1Co 3:16; Jhn 14:16; Eph 2:22). It is bought with a price, and I am to glorify God in my body, which is His. The saint is set here with a new life, the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. He has no conscience of sins, because he is brought to God through the sacrifice of Christ, and is “by one offering perfected forever” (Heb 10:14); and therefore he is not debtor to the flesh (old man; sin nature—NC), to live after the flesh, for he has died in Christ to that wherein he was held (Rom 7:6).

Now this is the great aim of the believer here, that the life of the Lord Jesus might be manifest in his body. The flesh is in the body (spiritual sin nature is in the physical body—NC), but the Holy Spirit makes it His temple (Spirit in the physical body—NC); having first built, as it were, a house for Himself in the new creation, He then lives in it, and He mortifies the working of the flesh (sin nature—NC) by means of the finished work of the Cross (Ro 6:6), and brings forth divine fruit. This is the continued action of the Spirit, because there is a new and peculiar demand at every turn. There is never the same thing occurring again as to every particular; and every occurrence and change of scene act in one way or another on the flesh.

There is no such thing as holiness in the flesh (old man—NC). The flesh is repressed, held in the place of death, by the Spirit (Gal 5:17); and in its place He manifests the Life of the Lord Jesus; but there is the ever-recurring sense of the existence of the flesh and its readiness to rise up and act, as well as the conviction that there is no power to reduce or control it but by the Holy Spirit. This promotes, as we grow, earnest diligence of soul in waiting on the Lord that the flesh may be as dead and Christ magnified. For the more we are in the Spirit, the more we detect the flesh in its incipient and secret workings. Our senses are “exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb 5:14).

Two things mark growth in holiness; one is a deeper sense of the old man’s corruption, the other a greater appreciation of and longing after the Lord Jesus only. The corruption is discovered and felt as the power of the Spirit increases; for many a thought and act passes without pain to the conscience where He is less before the soul, which will be refused and condemned as the knowledge of the Lord Jesus increases. Thus the Word of God penetrates “even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joint and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (He 4:14).

One is shocked at the once unnoticed motive which had governed one (wasn’t aware of having the wrong intention—NC), or at least which has sought to do so; but the very inclination to act selfishly is unholy. If I desire what I have no right to appropriate I am unholy, even though I do not attempt to appropriate it. “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.” That shows that the flesh is still there (Ro 7:17, 20—NC), and they are “contrary one to the other”; but the Spirit obtains the upper hand, “that you may not do the things you would” (Gal 5:17). As the Spirit acts, as the Lord Jesus the holy One is maintained in me, the principles and desires of the old man are superseded. The one is repressed in order that the other may be expressed; and hence the greater my knowledge of the Lord Jesus—“that I may know Him”—the more I detect the contrast, and discern through the Spirit what is contrary to the Lord Jesus.

I am daily more humbled and broken—“delivered unto death”—because of my own corruption and while rejoicing that I have been crucified with Christ, I always bear about in my body the dying of Jesus, that His life may be made manifest in my body. I have no remedy for the old man but death; and not only this, but the life of the Lord Jesus is to be manifested in my mortal body (Rom 6:12; sin won’t rule, for it’s something we never desire—NC). There is therefore more real brokenness about the one who begins in the light to see himself as he is in the flesh—he abhors himself (hates the old man—NC); and at the same time there is a more intense desire and seeking after the beauty of the Lord Jesus, so that brokenness of spirit and earnest of heart characterize the one in whom the Spirit of Christ is unhindered. I cannot understand the beauty of the Lord Jesus but as I am in His presence, and the better I understand it, the more clearly I see and detect that which is of the flesh, because whatever is not of the Lord is sin.

When a saint declines, things once feared and rejected are first tolerated and then promoted; and the earnest cleaving to the Lord with purpose of heart gives place to a sort of complacency and a recounting of how much one has gained and advanced (looking to much at what we have done—NC). As I understand the ways and motive of the Holy One, I must be increasingly abashed in myself (aware of my short comings—NC), and intensely more eager, because of the Spirit—who shows me what I am in contrast to the Lord Jesus—to “walk as He walked” (1Jo 2:6).

Sanctification is a subject of great interest. The truth sanctifies; that is, it controls the heart or mind, through the Spirit of God, making it instrumental for the manifestation of the Lord Jesus. The measure of this sanctification, this holiness, is Christ’s own. “For their sakes I sanctify Myself that they also might be sanctified through the truth” (Jhn 17:19). That is, that His sanctification, and the nature or extent of it, might be produced is us; the same character, no lower order, no lesser quality (not to sinlessness of course—NC). The more consistently and definitely one is governed by the Spirit of God, the more the dominion of the Spirit increases. When I grow in sanctification (learn from how it has got us separated from the old man—NC), it is not that there is any improvement in the soil of my heart (sanctification is only in one degree, like holiness—NC), but that it is more monopolized by the Lord Jesus now. In the pursuit of holiness to which we are called, may the Lord keep before us these three points: the standard, the power and the marks of it; so that we may not be deceived.

—J B Stoney

MJS devotional excerpt for Aug 16

“Regret for a sinful past will remain until we truly believe that for us in the Lord Jesus that sinful past no longer exists. The man in Christ has only His past and that is perfect and acceptable to the Father. In the Lord Jesus he died, and in Him he rose, and he is now seated in Him within the circle of the Father’s favored ones. He is no longer angry with himself because he is no longer self-regarding, but Christ-regarding: hence there is no place for regret.

“The knowledge of our union with the Lord Jesus is what will deliver the believer from all that is low and feeble, and will lift him to a life of joy and peace. To gaze upon our risen Lord in the Father’s presence, to whom all things are subject, will transform us into heavenly Christians, dwelling all the day in the Father’s presence.” -A.M.

“The believer shares the Lord Jesus’ Cross (minus the efficacy of course—NC - ‘knowing this, that our old man was crucified with him’ Rom. 6:6); His death (‘ye died and your life is hid with Christ in God’ Col. 3:3); His burial (‘we were buried with him by baptism into death’ Rom. 6:4); His resurrection (‘as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we’ Rom. 6:4); His ascension (‘made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus’ Eph. 2:6).” -F.J.H.

The Christian life is not our living a life like Christ, or our trying to be Christ-like, nor is it Christ giving us the power to live a life like His; but it is Christ Himself living His own life through us; 'no longer I, but Christ.’” -MJS