Adapted from a Sermon by John Angell James
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
John Angell James was a congregational minister of the early eighteen hundreds. It was his book, The Anxious Inquirer, which Lloyd-Jones gave to his wife when she was seeking the Lord and which was also a great help to Charles Spurgeon.
And now, mostly in his own words, I would like to speak to you this morning about Self-Renunciation.
The apostle Paul teaches this important duty, by the following awakening and impressive appeal: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
What is intended in these words is, that through the sufferings and death of Christ in our place, as an atonement to the justice of God for human transgressions—all who believe in him are freed from the curse of the law, and the dominion of sin, and are both justified and sanctified.
The Christian is therefore a bought man, a captive redeemed by price. And likewise the church is bought, redeemed by a price as we see in the words of the apostle Paul instructing the Ephesian elders “to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28)
What an arresting idea this is! Think about it—a believer is a purchased man! And at what price has he been bought! All the jewels which adorn and enrich the crown and scepter of the British monarchy; with all the others that compose the regalia of all the sovereigns of the Eastern or Western world, are of no more worth in the redemption of the poorest widow in the church of God, than the dust of the street. Nothing but the blood of the Son of God could purchase a single soul. What then must be the value of the soul; and therefore, what must be the worth of its salvation!
How obvious is the inference! "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price!" How is it possible you should be your own—if you have been bought? In what sense a Christian is not his own, is explained to us by another portion of Scripture—"None of us lives to himself." (Rom. 14:7) Do enter very seriously, and solemnly, and deeply, into these two impressive passages—
"You are not your own."
"None of us lives to himself."
If you are a believer, it is important to remember that the renunciation of self, as well as of sin, was one of the solemn transactions of that scene, and that time, when you bowed by faith at the foot of the cross, received mercy through Jesus Christ, and yielded yourselves to God. You then gave up—not only self-righteousness, but self-seeking, self-pleasing, self-living. Self, as a supreme object, was in every view of it renounced. Self, until then, had been your loftiest aim; self-love your highest affection; but then you transferred your aim and your affection to another object. The Christian has no right to ask what he will do with himself; or to what he will give himself; or how he will occupy himself. He is no longer free to ask how he will spend his energies, his time, his property, his labor, and his influence; for he is not his own, he is bought with a price.
He is not to live for fame—and please himself with the applause of his fellow creatures. Nor is he to live for riches—and please himself with increasing wealth. Nor is he to live for health—and please himself with the glowing energies of a sound body. Nor is he to live for taste—and please himself with the pursuit of literature, science, or the arts. Nor is he to live for social enjoyment—and please himself with an agreeable circle of friends. Nor is he to live for ease—and please himself with unmolested quiet. In short, he is not to consider himself as his own master to please himself supremely in any way, nor his own property to employ himself on his own account, and for his own benefit. He is not to imagine that personal gratification is to be his end and aim, for the accomplishment of which he may lay down his own schemes, select his own course, and pursue his own methods, as if he had an independent and sovereign right over himself.
Self is "the old man" to be crucified with Christ; the body of sin to be destroyed; the corrupt nature to be put away; the law in our members to be resisted; the lusts of the mind to be subdued. Self is the enemy of God to be fought against; Self is the rival interest with Christ in our soul to be put down; Self is the means by which the devil would hold us in alienation from holiness to be opposed. Self is the most subtle, the most stubborn, the most tenacious foe with which grace has to contend in the soul of the believer. It lives, and works, and fights, when many other corruptions have been suppressed. Self is the last stronghold, the very citadel of Satan in the heart, which is finally brought to the obedience of faith.
Why do believers murmur at the painful dispensations of Providence, and find submission so hard an achievement? Because self is disturbed in its enjoyment! Why are they so easily offended, and experience such difficulty in showing forgiveness? Because self-esteem has been wounded! Why are they covetous? Because self is gratified by its increasing stores.
What is vanity—but the indulgence of self-love? What is ambition—but the exultation of self? What is pride—but the worship of self? Why are they so reluctant to give their time and labor for the good of others, for the church, and for the glory of God? Because they want it for ease, and the enjoyment of self! Why are they peevish, quarrelsome, and discontented with the little annoyances of life, which are everywhere and continually occurring? Because they want to settle down in unmolested ease, and undisturbed quiet, to enjoy themselves!
But is this right? Is not this living as if we were our own? Is not this living for ourselves? Is not this forgetting that we are purchased property, belonging to another? Do take a moment to carefully consider this subject. Weigh well the meaning of the condition of Christian discipleship, as laid down by our Lord: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself." (Matt 18:24) Self-denial, not self-pleasing, is your business; and the evidence of our being disciples is in exact proportion to our disposition to take up our cross. If we are coveting ease, quiet, soft indulgence, luxurious gratification; and are dissatisfied, and discontented, and contentious, and peevish, because we cannot please ourselves, nor get others to please us, as the supreme end of life, how can we dream that we are the disciples of Him, of whom it is declared, he "did not please himself" (Rom 15:3) especially since it is said, "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus?" (Phil 2:4)
For whom then are we to live, and whom are we to please, if not ourselves? Who is to come in the place of self? God! And for this obvious reason: We are God's! God's servants! God's property!
In business, employers draws up contracts with employees for so much wages given to have so much work done in return. To their bodily labor, to their time, in short to their whole energies of body and mind, up to the stipulated amount of work, they have therefore an undoubted and equitable right and if instead of working for them, they work for themselves; if instead of seeking to please them, they seek to please themselves; if instead of making it their aim and business to serve their employers, they make it their aim and business to enjoy and gratify themselves—they are considered dishonest, and are defrauding the employer of what is rightly his.
Apply this to God. You are his, not only by the right of creation, and preservation; but by the more sacred right of redemption. You, your body, soul, time, talents, property, influence—are all his—bought and paid for by the price of his Son's most precious blood. He is forever following you with his demand, and pressing it upon you. He does not allow it to lie dormant so to speak. He does not permit it to sleep and be forgotten, but is ever saying, "You are not your own—you are mine!" He says to you in his word, "You are mine." He charges his ministers to enforce the claim every Sunday. He gathers you around the table of the Lord, where the symbols of the body and blood of the Lord, with silent yet impressive emphasis, say to you, "you are bought with a price—you are therefore not your own—you are God's."
Nor are you left to guess in what way the claim of God is to be acknowledged and met, for this is specified: "Glorify God in your body." You cannot of course add to his glory: the firefly might as well think of adding to the radiance of the sun. A worthless bit of tin, or glass, cannot increase the rays of the sun, but even these insignificant substances can 'reflect' them. So the believer, though he cannot increase the glory of Jehovah—can manifest it. God is glorified, when he is acknowledged, loved, served, imitated. The glory of God consists of his attributes, especially his moral perfections of holiness, justice, truth, love, and mercy. Therefore the imitation of these in the conduct of the believer glorifies God, for these attributes in him are the same in kind as, though infinitely less in degree than, in God, and therefore they are the rays of God's glory falling upon the spirit, and reflected by him before the eyes of mankind.
The apostle, speaking of the great spiritual change wrought in the soul of a real Christian, calls it a participation of the "Divine nature," 2 Pet. 1:4. Now as God is always glorified when he is seen, the very manifestation of him being to his own praise, he is glorified by his people, because he is seen, very imperfectly for certain, but in measure, in their holy character. And so man was said to be created in the image of God, and is now re-created in that same image, in conversion. A Christian is God's witness, image, representative in the world; and his great business is, by an imitation of God's attributes, to remind men of God; and to teach them who and what he is.
But the apostle specifies how this is to be done. "Glorify God in your body."—by all its limbs, organs, and senses—for all are his. Glorify God by purity and modesty; by temperance; by diligence in your calling; by reverence in worship; by giving up your whole being to the service of piety and charity; and by resigning it, without murmuring, to the attacks of disease, the stroke of death, and, if called to it, to chains, imprisonment, and martyrdom for the cause of Christ.
And so even the body can be used by the soul which animates it, as an instrument for glorifying God. Even the physical frame, inhabited, sustained, and directed as it is, by a rational mind, may be employed to the praise and honor of its Creator. Dust though it be, in its origin and destiny, it may rise to the dignity of glorifying God. From it, as an instrument of many strings, the renewed and sanctified spirit may bring out sweet music to God, such as he will accept, and be well pleased to hear.
Christians, give your bodies to God, to magnify his name, and greatly honor him. Do not consider them as a mere collection of organs, appetites, and senses to be gratified and pleased for their own sakes; as stately forms to be adorned, decorated, and admired; but as part of yourselves, to be yielded to God, and as members to be instruments of righteousness to him.
The body, however, is only a part, and that the inferior part of our compound nature, with which we are to glorify God: the spirit, the immaterial and immortal spirit, must also be thus employed as the Apostle Paul writes in Romans chapter 1: “God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit.” (Rom 1:9) Our understanding, in the contemplation of his glory. Our will, in choosing him as our chief good. Our affections, in loving what he loves, and hating what he hates. Our memory, in retaining his doctrines and precepts. Our conscience, in directing, warning, and reproving us for him.
It is the soul, the immortal soul, that receives his image. Then, indeed, we glorify him, when a holy mind is evidenced in all the beauties of a holy character; when there is that in us and about us, which reminds men of God; when everything about us seems to say, "Come, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!"
We cannot be acting up to our obligations, unless we are compelling those who observe us to say, either to themselves or others, "That man, I see, fears God, and is aiming to please him. When I forget God, he reminds me of him; what I am ignorant of the things concerning God, he teaches me by his character; when I sin against God, his conduct rebukes me. I secretly admire his conduct; and yet I do not feel easy and happy in his presence. There is something solemn about the goodness of his actions."
To produce such an impression, what unvarying sanctity, what rigid morality, what deep humility, what profound submission, what gentleness and meekness, what holy cheerfulness, what tender piety, what great generosity—must there be in our conduct! Consider what kind of people we ought to be, and must we be—to remind men of God—and give them some idea of what he is! What exemplary holiness should there be in that character, which we presume to hold up to the world, and say: "See, this is the image of God!"
Now, believer in Christ, you are to glorify God. All your purposes, aims, objects, plans, wishes, and prayers, must be gathered up in that one petition, "Father, glorify your name." But does it occur to you, what a prayer that is, as presented not only by you, but in reference to you! He must have great grace, who, with a clear understanding of its meaning, can present it in sincerity. Are you then willing that God should glorify himself in you, and by you? If so, you must impose no conditions; dictate no terms; lay down no plans; make no exceptions—but leave all this to him.
Such a prayer means, "Lord, how you will, what you will, when you will—only let me glorify you!" You must be prepared to do it, either by sickness, or health—by success, or failure in business—by settling down in ease and quiet by your fire-side, or striking your tent, and becoming a wanderer to the ends of the earth—by the world's smile, or its frown—by the soft and silent flow of your history, or by the roaring torrent and crashing waterfall—by the society, or bereavement of your friends—by a long life, or an early death.
Are you prepared for this? Will you, now that you understand it, present the prayer, "Father! glorify your name?" Can you, will you, do you put yourself in God's hands, saying, "O God, I am not my own! I am yours! Serve yourself in me, and by me. Provided you grant me grace to bear, as well as do, your will, I am content to do it in any situation, and any circumstances."
This is obviously your duty—for you are not your own, but God's. Think, I entreat you, of the sacred and tender obligation which falls on you by the manner of your redemption, to live in this way. How many claims are contained in that one, "You are bought with a price!" Justice demands it of you, for he has purchased you, and at how immense a price! To take what belongs to man, is robbery; but to take what belongs to God, is sacrilege.
Gratitude demands it of you. What blessedness has God poured out upon you by redeeming you! From what degradation, misery, and eternal woe, has he saved you? And to what honor, happiness, and eternal glory, he has advanced you!
Personal interest demands it of you. How can you be so highly honored, so happily for yourself employed—as in glorifying God? What losses would we not willingly sustain; what sufferings endure; what labor would we not willingly maintain; what self-denial would we not willingly exercise; what enjoyment would we not willingly forego; what mortification would we not willingly inflict—in order that we may glorify God?
Imagine that some unconcerned, unreflecting individual, who had passed all his days without ever contemplating the glory of the sun, were, upon seeing its rays reflected from the glossy wing of some insect floating in its radiance, to turn with delighted admiration to the great luminary as the source of what he now beheld, and he were ever and always, from that time, to gaze with new pleasure and astonishment on our closest star; what an honor would seem to have been conferred on that little creature, to have led one rational mind to an appreciation of one of the most glorious of all of God's works.
But what is this, to the honor conferred upon a redeemed and sanctified man, a child of dust, an heir of sin, and woe, and death—so to live as to reflect from his character the rays of Divine glory as they fall from the great Fountain of life, and light, and beauty—and in so doing causes eyes to see, and hearts to love, and tongues to praise Jehovah, which, in regard to his excellence, had, up until then, been blind, and cold, and silent!
But we move on to consider what is the strongest of all claims upon us to glorify God: Love demands it. That you should glorify God, is the very end of your redemption. We read in Titus of Christ "who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works," Titus 2:14. And in second Corinthians that "the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised," 2 Cor. 5:14, 15.
I am not now drawing your attention to the vast field of creation of which you form a part, and remind you of the claim He who Created all things has on you. I am not drawing the eyes of your imagination to the edge of the precipice of hell, from which there is no redemption, and from which the howlings of lost souls, and the smoke of their torment, ascend up forever and ever: the dreadful effects of justice upon those who will not glorify God.
But, rather, I am drawing your attention to Golgotha at the hour of crucifixion, and as you gaze upon the Son of God, hanging on the cross, while the blood is flowing from his wounds, and he is exclaiming, as from the lowest depth of his agony, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matt 27:46) I ask you what is the true meaning and propose of that amazing scene? It is Jesus Christ paying, in groans, and tears, and blood—the price of your redemption! It is Jesus Christ in this way and forever establishing his right to your whole self, your whole life, and your whole possession. It is Jesus Christ setting down the sum of your deliverances, and passing his claim to your entire temporal and eternal existence!
What a robbery of God, what a criminal act against heaven, is it to attempt, or even to wish to live for ourselves! Which of us can make the daring attempt, or cherish the unjust, ungrateful wish? And yet how prone are we to do this! How much of this wicked sacrilege is going on! How many professors, in opposition to claims so sacred, so kind, and so strong—are living for their own ease, enjoyment, and advancement! How few do we see who seem to be aware of the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ! How few, who enter as they should do into that admonition, "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God!" (1 Cor 10:31) How few, who connect the glory of God with the whole range of their conduct, as the end of every action, the ultimate object of all they do! How few, to whom it is matter of plan, forethought, purpose, and calculation—to lay out themselves to be holy, useful, and successful in leading others to think of God, and search for him!
What hard work, and constant scheming, and ingenious striving after success and wealth, do we see! What aspirations after that which is elegant, fashionable, and refined! What consultations and calculations about ease, comfort, and enjoyment! How intent are parents to amass wealth for their children, to form advantageous friendships for them, often without due regard to their spiritual and eternal welfare! And when, through the good providence of God, tradesmen have been successful in business, and are about to retire upon their means, how eager are they to select a pleasant place, a respectable community, a popular minister—instead of a situation where they might do good, and strengthen the hands of some faithful preacher of the word laboring amidst great discouragement! Sadly, how applicable are the words of the apostle to the present generation, "they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ!" (Phil 2:21)
And so I urge you: study afresh your obligations. Rise each morning, planning to glorify God by all the varying circumstances of the day; and each night, as you lay your head upon your pillow, ask the question, "Have I glorified God today?" Enter every new situation—meet every new trial—engage in every new effort, saying, “Father, help me to glorify you!" Consider every place a scene for this duty—the shop, the house, the market; as well as the house of God. When sinking down from this high purpose, and you are in danger of becoming self-indulgent, worldly-minded, and intent upon ease and gratification—cast a look at the cross, and listen to the reproving words which come from it: "You are not your own!"
Act so as to give sincerity, meaning, and emphasis to an expression, the truth and reality of which have been questioned by the ignorant and profane, and the whole resolved into lip service and hypocrisy; I mean, the phrase, "glorifying God." How has this sublime expression been abused; to what low and selfish, secular and sectarian ends has it been prostituted; how has it been used to sanction deeds, and to cover motives, which the Scripture condemns, and the mind of God abhors!
Rescue it from degradation; roll away reproach from it; and convince those who never utter it but with a sneer and a taunt, that amidst many to whom it is mere religious talk, there are some who feel the claim of redeeming mercy, and who, by a life of obedience to the word of God, and conformity to his image, are seeking to glorify their Father who is in heaven; and who, feeling their utter insufficiency in themselves for a work so difficult and so high—are engaged in fervent, constant, and believing prayer for the necessary aid of the Holy Spirit.
Remember and meditate on the words of the Apostle:
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
You are not your own.