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Cleansing and Conformity

This entry is part 42 of 54 in the series

"One Thing Have I Desired"

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Thou shouldest also know that the more a man sets himself to be receptive of divine influence, the happier he is: who most sets himself so, is the happiest. Now no man can reach this condition of receptivity except by conformity with God, which comes from submission to God. – Meister Eckhardt

The soul that agrees with God’s judgements will not drift any further. The moment we align our judgements with God’s, calling evil what he calls evil, our loves have again been aligned. The result of confession is cleansing and conformity.

The cleansing which takes place here is not the cleansing of our judicial guilt before God. That cleansing takes place the day we trust Christ for salvation and we are justified. Instead, we are practically cleansed in two ways.

First, we are cleansed of the defilement in our consciences, knowing that we grieved the Spirit, disobeyed our Lord, and displeased our Father. Our consciences sense the Fatherly displeasure at our sin, and when we confess it, we know that the ongoing cleansing power of Christ’s blood is true of us, and that God is pleased that we have recognised and owned up to our sin. What immediately returns upon cleansing is boldness. David speaks in Psalm 51 of the boldness that comes with such cleansing of the conscience:

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise. (Psalm 51:12-15)

Second, we are cleansed in practice.

Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor 7:1)

As we admit that sin is sinful, we have believed God and yielded to the Spirit’s work. With that will come a stronger desire to separate ourselves from the sin that we admit is evil. We will want to forsake the sin altogether.

Paul calls this process putting off the old man, or mortifying the flesh. When we confess a sin as sinful, we know better that such a sin no longer ‘fits’ in a life lived in God’s presence and so put it off. We increasingly nullify the power of sin in our lives. We weaken its influence over us, freeing us to see and obey Christ. Sin must be killed, or it will kill us. This is part of the life of faith. If we confess and forsake sin, the Spirit will cleanse us of its defiling effects, and lead us away from further indulgences in the flesh.

I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16 )

If we confess and are cleansed of what is unChristlike, we must then pursue what is Christlike. The ‘putting off’ that is cleansing must be accompanied by the ‘putting on’ that is conformity. This is the final stage of the process of exposure to God’s glory.

Conformity: Loving What He Loves

To whom or what are to be conformed? Colossians 3:10 tells us we put on the image of the One who made us new creations: Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us that the process of sanctification results in our being changed into His image. We conform to the image of Christ. And the more we resemble Christ, the more we reach the grand priority of the Christian life. If we become like him, we will increasingly know and love God. This is because Christlikeness is essentially the same as loving God ultimately.

Only one man has ever known and loved God perfectly: Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ always had God as his ultimate need-love and gift-love. Jesus is the only Man who perfectly obeyed the commands to love God with all the heart, soul and mind, and love neighbour as self. It is not hard to find examples of Christ’s ultimate dependence and delight.

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. (John 4:34)

Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. “For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel. (John 5:19-20)

“I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. (John 5:30)

Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. “And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.” (John 8:28-29)

“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. (John 14:10)

The action of conformity to Christ is one of obeying the call to love what God loves, and hate what he hates, and expressing that in myriads of obeyed commands, precepts and principles. As we see God’s beauty, and turn away from the ugliness of sin, we are embracing what he calls good. We are changing from the heart, setting our affections entirely on what God loves. Our actions will flow out of a mind and heart that believes God and chooses to love what he loves. Through this encounter, we are being changed:

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)

The more consistent the obedience, the more like Christ we are becoming. Our characters are being conformed to His. Some Scriptures give us extended lists of Christlike character. Some examples are 2 Peter 1:5- 8, Galatians 5:22-23, Romans 12:9-21, Colossians 3:12-17, James 3:17 and the Sermon on the Mount itself.

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David de Bruyn

About David de Bruyn

David de Bruyn pastors New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a graduate of Central Baptist Theological Seminary (M.A.T.) and the University of South Africa (D.Th.). Since 1999, he has presented a weekly radio program that is heard throughout much of central South Africa. He also blogs at Churches Without Chests.

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