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BEING FASHIONED

1 Peter i. 13-16

Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is being brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as children of obedience, not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance: but like as He which called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy.

Wherefore!” [Verse 13] The word gathers up all the wealthy results of the previous reasonings. The present appeal is based on the introductory evangel. The inspiration of tasks is found in the recesses of profound truths. Spiritual impulse is created by the momentum of superlative facts. The dynamic of duty is born in the heart of the Gospel. “Wherefore,” says the apostle, if these be your prospects and dynamics, if you have been “begotten again into a living hope,” if you are heirs to “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled,” if even apparent hostilities may be converted 35into wealthy helpmeets, and “manifold trials” into the ministers of salvation, “girding up the loins of your mind, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that is being brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The “wherefore” is thus suggestive of the bases of this urgent and practical appeal. Our life is purposed to shine in Divine dignity. Our prospects are glorious. Our resources are abounding. We should therefore lay aside our laxity. Life should not be spent in idle reverie. Our movement should not be a careless sauntering. Our rest should not be a thought less lounging. Life should be characterised by clear sight, definite thought, eager purpose, and decided ends.

Wherefore girding up the loins of your mind.” [Verse 13] The figure of the passage is taken from the flowing garments of the Oriental dress. The flapping robes catch the wind and wrap themselves about the legs, and become serious hindrances to easy and progressive movement. The wearer therefore lays hold of the entangling garments and tucks them into a girdle, which discharges the ministry of a belt. He gathers together the disorderly robes and binds them into a compact and serviceable vesture. Now, the apostle declares that a similar disorder 36may prevail in the realm of thought and affection. Our life may be characterised by mental slovenliness. Our thoughts may trail in loose disorder. We may give little or no care to the beauty and firmness of the mind. How much loose thinking there is concerning the profoundest and most vital concerns of our life! And the loose thinking does not end with itself. A loose garment may trip a man up and cause him to stumble. Loose thinking is equally perilous, and may lead to moral entanglement and perdition. Loose thinking is creative of loose living; mental slovenliness issues in moral disorder. Therefore “gird up the loins of your mind.” Put some strenuousness into your thinking. Do not let your thought drift along on the stream of reverie. Steer your thought and strongly guide it into wealthy havens. How do I think about God? Loosely and unworthily, or with firm and fruitful conception? “God is great,” and greatly to be thought about; and if I think about Him loosely my sonship will be a stumbling and an offence. How do I think about grace? Is my thinking sluggish and unworthy, and so do I “despise the riches of his goodness”? How do I think about my spiritual call and prospects and destiny? Am I stumbling over my own thinking? Are my own garments my most 37immediate snares? Is my spiritual confusion the result of my mental indolence? “My people do not consider.” In my want of strong and strenuous thinking may be found some explanation of my moral and spiritual disasters.

As it is with the element of thought, so it is with the power of affection; for perhaps in the spiritual term “mind” both thought and affection are included. We speak of “wandering affections,” and truly affection may become an appalling vagrant. Affection is easily allured, easily entangled, easily snared by the worldly glitter which gleams by the side of the common way. Or, if we recur to the apostle’s figure, our loose affections, like flowing garments that are blown about by the wind, entangle our faculties and make havoc of our moral and spiritual progress. We must “gird up the loins” of our affection. It will not be child’s play, but he who wants a religion of child’s play must not seek the companionship of Christ. The Master spake of cutting off the right hand and plucking out the right eye, and the bleeding figure has reference to the severing of relationships and the disentangling of well-established affections. To free a flowing garment which has been caught in a thorn hedge may necessitate rents, and to disentangle 38an unworthy affection may necessitate pain, but even at the cost of rent and pain the deliverance must be effected. We must gird up the loins of our trailing affections. We must not hold them so cheaply. We must not permit them to sweep the broad road and to expose themselves to the entanglement of every obtruding thorn. We must “set” our “affections upon things above,” and for that sublime purpose we must gather them together in strenuous concentration. This exhortation is therefore an appeal for collectedness both of thought and of feeling. It is a warning against mental and affectional looseness, and with loving urgency the apostle pleads with his readers to pull themselves together, to gird up their loins, and with full energy of thought and feeling devote themselves to the worship and service of God.

Be sober.” [Verse 13] This is more than an injunction against intemperance in diet. Intemperance is productive of stupor. It is the enemy of a refined sensitiveness. It is creative of heaviness and sleep. And it is this closing of the senses, by whatever agency it may be induced, against which the apostle raises his voice in clamant warning. “Be sober.” Be on your guard against everything which is creative of heaviness, and which may put your senses into a 39perilous sleep. At all costs keep awake and vigilant! Just as excessive drinking drugs the flesh and sinks the body into a heavy sleep, so there are other conditions which create a similar stupor in the soul and by which the moral and spiritual senses are burdened and benumbed. There are opiates and narcotics which may make us spiritually drunk, and render us unconscious of the Divine voices that peal from the heights. “Not a few sleep.” The sleep is induced by opiates. There is the opiate of pleasure; there is the opiate of prosperity; there is the opiate of self-satisfaction; there is the depressing drug of disappointment. Against all these we are to be on our guard. “Be sober,” and amid all the narcotising atmospheres of enchanted grounds preserve a wakeful spirit by a ceaseless fellowship with God.

And set your hope perfectly on the grace that is being brought unto you in the revelation of Jesus Christ.” [Verse 13] Here is the spiritual attitude by which the girded and sober life may be attained. My resources are to be found in the grace that is brought unto me in Christ. In Christ is my reservoir of power. The grace of the Lord Jesus is my dynamic. The resource will never fail me. The supply is never exhausted. It is “being brought” unto me continually—a 40“river of water of life.” Grace is just a full river of heavenly favour, carrying all needful equipment and rich with the potencies of eternal life. Upon this grace I am to find the basis of my hope. I am to “set my hope perfectly” upon this as the all-sufficient energy for lifting me to the unveiled heights and enabling me to dwell there in undisturbed serenity. I am to release my thought from hindering entanglements, and I am to deliver my affection from enslaving fellowships, and I am to preserve a vigilant sobriety amid all the sleep-inducing atmospheres of the world; and for the accomplishment of this glorious emancipation I am bidden to “set my hope perfectly on the grace that is being brought unto me at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The apostle now probes more deeply into the mode of godly living, and unveils a little more clearly the principle by which the holy life is fashioned. Life is formed by conformity. There is always a something towards which we tend and approximate, and “we take hue from that to which we cling.” There is always a something “according to” which we are being shaped. “According to Thy word,” “according to this world,” “according to the former lusts.” We are for ever coming into accord with some thing, and that something determines the fashion 41of our lives. Now, this principle of “forming by conforming” is proclaimed by the apostle in the succeeding words of this great passage; and as “children of obedience” we are called to a manner of life which at once demands a stern nonconformity and a strong and fervent conformity.

Not fashioning yourselves according to your former lusts in the time of your ignorance.” [Verse 14] “Not fashioning . . . according to lusts.” That conformity must be broken. That “accordance” must be destroyed. Our lusts must not be our formatives, giving shape and fashion to our lives. If our lust raise its feverish and imperious demand, we must be stern and relentless nonconformists. Are we imagining that the imperiousness of lust moves in very circumscribed ways, and that perhaps we escape from its fierce and burning tyranny? The New Testament conception of lust covers a very spacious area, and includes elements to which perhaps we should not give the appalling name. You may have the same element in different guises, now appearing as a solid, and now as a liquid, and now as a gas. And you may have the same essential vice in some tangible loathsomeness and in some hidden and impalpable temper. The Master told us that we have the same essential thing in anger and 42in murder, only one is gross and solid, while the other is gaseous and comparatively refined. But the trouble is that, when vice is gaseous, we conceive it as proportionately harmless; when it solidifies into open crime, it ensures our reprobation. Now, when the Master speaks of lust, He speaks of it in its gaseous state, as a condition of thought, as a state of temper, as a mode of spirit; and in this interpretation “lust” is just the essentially carnal, the itching after the world, the feverish desire for selfish pleasure, to the utter ignoring of the supremacy of the truth.

In many lives this lust is the determining and formative force; everything is made to bow to it; all the affairs of life are fashioned by it. It occupies the throne and moulds all life’s concerns into its own accord. The apostle vehemently counsels his readers against this conformity. He pleads that the children of liberty should not retain the governing powers of their servitude. The night should not provide the patterns for the day. The season of “ignorance” should not create the ruling powers for the season of knowledge and revelation. He urges them to revolt against the old forces, to become spiritual nonconformists, not fashioning themselves after their former lusts.

But like as He which called you is holy, be 43ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living.” [Verse 15] The holy God is to be the formative force in our life, and to Him are we to be devoted in close and intimate conformity. “As He which called you.” The call is a Divine pledge. The acceptance of the call implies a human obligation. There is the pledge on the side of God, and the obligation on the side of man. The call, given and received, creates an intimate fellowship. The One who calls is holy, and by the mighty ministry of the Spirit he who shares the fellowship is transformed into the same holiness. AH fellowship with God is productive of spiritual likeness. If we gaze into His face, we shall be illumined with the light of His countenance. “Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into the same image.” We absorb the glory of the Lord. We become transfigured by it. Let us mark the breadth of the transforming process. We are to be holy “in all manner of living.” The pervasive power of the Spirit is to influence every walk of life and every part of the walk. The transfiguring energy is to inhabit even trifles, and the commonplaces of life are to be illumined by the indwelling of the eternal light. We shall grow in grace, putting on more and more of the beauty of Him in whose fellowship we dwell.

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Because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy.” [Verse 16] That is more than an imperative; it is an evangel. It is a command which en shrines a promise. Because God is holy we have the promise of holiness. Therefore we may sing with the psalmist, in words which at the first hearing may appear strange, “We give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness.” Wherefore, with this glorious provision for our life, with resources more than adequate for our tasks, with power that even surpasses the grandeur of our calling, let us “gird up the loins of our mind, be sober, and set our hope perfectly on the grace that is being brought unto us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

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