Overcoming Bad Habits
It is claimed by some that the sacrifice which the church is invited to make is a sacrifice of sinful practices and thoughts in which we formerly took delight, and that thus we are to follow in the Master's footprints as he set us an example.
This is a great mistake. Renouncing sin is in no sense a sacrifice, and in so doing we are not following our Lord's footprints; for he had no sins to renounce. He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners;" he was "the Lamb of God without spot or blemish;" he knew no sin; he was the "holy one," the "just one." We cannot begin, therefore, to follow in his footsteps until we have been first cleansed from our sins through faith in his blood as the price of our redemption. Then, through his merit imputed to us, we are holy (pure), and therefore, if we offer ourselves to God as sacrifices, we are acceptable as sharers together with our Lord in his sufferings for the sins of the world. This is clearly expressed in Paul's words to those already justified by faith in Christ—"Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God."
Not only do the apostles thus present it, but the types which prefigured the sacrifice taught the same thing. The animal presented for the typical sacrifice must be the most choice of its kind—"without blemish." (Exod. 12:5; Lev. 9:3; Exod. 29:1; Lev. 1:3.) Had our Lord not been absolutely free from sin, he never could have redeemed us. It was because there was not one such spotless one among men, that no man could by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him.—Psa. 49:7.
Instead, therefore, of insulting God by offering our sins as a sacrifice upon his altar, and claiming therefor the exceeding great reward of exaltation to the divine nature, we should forsake our sins because they are sinful, because we have no right to them and should take no pleasure in them. We are not to claim a reward for simply doing our duty. When we simply pay a debt, do we expect the creditor to reward us handsomely for it? Do we not rather pay the creditor a reward (interest) for not compelling us to pay it sooner? What would he think, if the debtor should demand the reward, or interest? And what must our heavenly Father think of poor bankrupts who have not a farthing to pay their past indebtedness, and who are daily plunging deeper into debt and at best can only make a feeble effort to resist sin, coming to him with nothing to cancel the sins of the past and with mere promises of reformation which they cannot fulfill, and then claiming therefor the exceeding great reward of being made sharers and joint-heirs with his Son who never knew sin? Think you, would not such presumption justly merit deep abasement? especially, where the spotless robe of the imputed righteousness of Christ has been offered and recognized and spurned? Will such a one be accounted worthy to be the bride of the King's Son, or as meriting the divine favor in any way? Far from it. Well did the Psalmist put the prayer in our mouths—"Keep back thy servant from presumptuous sins, let them not have dominion over me."—Psa. 19:13.
The sacrifice which we are privileged, not compelled, to make, is a sacrifice of things to which we have a right through Christ, and things which in themselves are lawful and right. As condemned sinners we had no rights; all our rights were forfeited and therefore we must die. But when our life was redeemed from destruction by the payment of our ransom price, and we gratefully accepted of the favor of life through faith in the precious blood of Christ, then, all the rights and privileges of perfect men are reckoned as restored to us. As believers these rights are now ours, though we have not yet come into actual possession of the things thus secured to us. And these rights are what we are now privileged to sacrifice; and if completely sacrificed, then we may be sure "it is the Father's good pleasure to give us the kingdom," and to make us joint-heirs with his Son in all his glory.
The sacrifice of all our rights implies the sacrifice of life itself as human beings, trusting to the power of God to raise us from death, not to human being, but to being in a higher nature, according to his promise. And what we cannot understand of the philosophy of so great a work we must simply trust to God's promise.
The actual experience of the great restitution, in which all the rest of mankind shall be so greatly blessed, shall never come to the body of Christ, since they sacrifice this purchased right for the privilege of sharing with Christ in the higher nature and glory. They give up all hope of that, and make no claims on God's bounty or favor for the life that now is. All that remains of our humanity is to be spent in the divine service—in active cooperation with the Lord's plan, sacrificing all earthly interests for that great cause, and expecting no reward of an earthly kind.
Such being the conditions on which we may obtain the exceeding great reward offered to us, how necessary that we should keep our eye fixed on the glory of the exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we may gain strength as new creatures, to keep the old nature, the human, continually subject to the will of God; that we carry out our covenant faithfully unto death, being daily crucified with Christ and sharers in his sufferings.