- [I was called to preach in a dramatic set of events about 3-4 months after I was saved. Never intended to be a vocational minister, but God had other plans. (Explain how the call manifested itself.)
- For a Nazarene at that time, there were numerous expectations. The most challenging was a willingness to navigate a prescribed course of study or training that led to ordination.
- There were various stops of examination along the way as you initially received a local preachers license, then a district ministers license, and finally after 2 years of vocational ministry you could be ordained. It had rigor to it. In fact, it weeded out the flakey, the fakey, and the lazy. You had to want it. And candidly, if you weren’t totally committed to that end of becoming endorsed as a minister, you simply wouldn’t make it.
- And so, the concept of consecration was ever before the aspiring minister. Consecrated in your studies. Consecrated in your lifestyle choices. Consecrated in your devotional and spiritual life.
- Friends in school testified of the struggle with God’s calling. Why? I soon learned. Ministry is a great promise, but it will take you out if you don’t find a place and consecrate yourself. (Whatever your PROMISE may be it will demand CONSECRATION)
- (JOSHUA 3:5) Before Joshua led the children of Israel into promised land he told them to “CONSECRATE” themselves.
- Coming into the renewal movement, I ceased hearing about consecration. And It made me ask the question:
TITLE: WHATEVER BECAME OF CONSECRATION?
TEXT: ROMANS 12:1-2
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
- Tracie and I both have our spiritual roots and foundations in the American Holiness Movement. It actually started in Southern California in the late 19th Century and has a connection to early Pentecostalism in the 20th century. (Although there was a split over the use of tongues)
- For anyone having experience in those circles, there is an emphasis on the sanctified life. A life that is separated and consecrated to God.
- In most instances, this life of entire devotement and commitment to God and His purposes, has a moment after one is born-again where the Christian’s heart is wholly or completely yielded to the Lord’s Will.
- And whether one sees this moment as instantaneous or a process, whether you think it happens at the moment of conversion or somewhere later down the road, every believer will come to the crossroads of consecration.
- [I can remember clearly in my old denomination, that there would be services dedicated to the purpose for people to consecrate their lives unto the Lord. Maybe it was a missionary preaching to people and the invitation was to missionary service. I remember there were services to surrender to the call of full time Christian service or the calling to preach the Gospel. If you grew up or know anything about the Holiness movement, we were challenged to consecrate ourselves so God might sanctify us for His purposes.]
- It could be presented in numerous ways, but it had something to do with next step Christian living or next step Christian service.
- But looking at the landscape of church life and preaching across America, from my vantage point the question arises:
- WHATEVER BECAME OF CONSECRATION? Whatever became of challenging God’s people, as Paul would do all through the book of Romans and particularly here in chapter 12, “to put it all on the altar”?
- We are living in what has been called an “antinomian” age. (Antinomianism is the fancy term for lawless. Our age, even in church life, rejects any aspect of conforming ourselves to any standard. We are “free” we say, but apparently not from sin and selfishness, as we also run around saying, “Nobody’s perfect and we all sin and all sin is the same, ya-dee-da.” I think it’s important we are careful about how we submit to our nature, because for most people they believe sin wins. In fact, there are theologies designed to defend your ability to sin and be selfish.)
- It was so in Rome. In chapter 6, there was a group maintaining they could continue in their sin to magnify the grace of God.
- This is where the ancient Gnostic, grace heresy begins. Gnostics taught that sin and evil were so hardwired into the human condition that there was no escape. Therefore, grace excused you in your sin, rather than empowered you over your sin.
- Paul addresses this multiple times in chapters 6, 7, 8, and here in 12.
- This is the question to no small degree in the 21st century: TO WHAT EXTENT CAN WE PREVAIL? TO WHAT EXTENT IS VICTORY APPREHENDIBLE? IS THERE A PLACE THIS SIDE OF HEAVEN WHERE I CAN PERSONALLY BE WHOLE BEFORE GOD? BE JOYFUL? BE AT PEACE? BE IN HIS PURPOSE? FULFILL HIS CALLING? (or are we genuinely stuck in our inherited malady? Does sin really win?)
- Hey, if sin is so hardwired into us, then maybe we should dial back any expectations of holiness. Maybe the grace heretics are right. Maybe we should lower the bar of righteous living and simply go with it. If this is true, why keep your eyes on your own wife? Why care about your anger issues? Why care about your drunkenness, envy, jealousy, idolatry, revelry, and the rest? If grace excuses it all, then why even preach the LAW stuff?
- Because to get to the place of true and lasting victory demands: CONSECRATION. (And few really want to do what consecration entails.)
WHAT IS CONSECRATION?
- Consecration, simply defined, is the dedication, the offering, the yielding of something to God and His usage.
- Consecrate means to make holy or to dedicate to a higher purpose. “To set apart for a special and often higher end,”
- Everything from inanimate objects like Temple utensils, buildings, altars, furniture, to actual people could be consecrated to God.
- It’s a word and a concept you just don’t hear much anymore. It’s because we live in a day where people want to know the lowest common denominator they can live at and still be okay with God; and consecration is about finding the highest possible dedication one can offer to be used exclusively for the plans and purposes of God.
- In short, consecration is an act of unconditional surrender. AND, Comprehensive Christianity is all about… CONSECRATION.
- In the late 1970’s, I used to hear talk of consecration a lot. That’s probably because a lot of the people I knew then were Pentecostals, Bapticostals, Charismatics, and the like. And to their credit, these people took holiness seriously. I don’t mean they were narrow and legalistic, or that they had a superficial idea of holiness. I mean they genuinely wanted to be “laid aside” or “set apart” for God’s use. They taught me to pray for and to seek to be consecrated unto the Lord. Looking back, I think this was really formative.
- But over the years, to be honest, I don’t hear many people in my circles speak this way. Sometimes it’s because my circle is “garden variety” evangelical. There’s more talk about “engagement with the culture” and “culture wars” than there is talk about being “set apart.” Some of my friends are just plain pragmatists; they want to “do something that works” and maybe aren’t all that concerned about the interior life.
- Some in my circle of friendships have really great theology, but they are condescending at less precise understandings of holiness. Maybe the idea of consecration suffers from its association with Pentecostalism because many people historically have held condescending views of Pentecostals.
- The reason many people throw in the towel with regards to their relationship with the Lord or His call, or His will, is because they have never consecrated themselves to that end.
- American Christians now believe they abound when they are “comfortable and life is convenient”. That is simply not true.
HOW ARE WE CONSECRATED?
Paul will spell it out for the Roman Church in this 12th chapter.
- YOU must do the consecrating.
- Paul writes in Romans 12:1: I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies…
- Paul is writing to “brethren” (believers), not the lost.
- He is saying that this consecration is in YOUR hands.
- Therefore, since these [great] promises are ours, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates and defiles body and spirit, and bring [our] consecration to completeness in the [reverential] fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1 AMP)
- Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do miracles among you.” (Joshua 3:5 NASB)
- So consecration is something that YOU must do for yourself:
— no one else is going to clean up your television and movie watching.
— no one else is going to change your bad attitude.
— no one else is going to forgive that person for you.
— no one else is going to make you more faithful to your church.
— no one else is going to make you stop being different at home than you are at church.
YOU must do it. “Consecrate YOURSELVES”. No one can do it for you.
- “Consecrate YOURSELVES”: notice the personal focus on this command. The focus of your consecration is to be on YOURSELF, not OTHER PEOPLE!
This is important, because our tendency is to say: “yeah, our country really needs to change”; or “our church people really need revival”; or “the church leadership really needs to get on fire”; or “if those deacons would just get consecrated” or “if my spouse would just start doing what they should do …”
God reminds us here that all of those other people are not your responsibility! You are to focus on YOURSELF: “Consecrate yourself.” You are not responsible for what everyone else does. You are responsible for yourself.
— not the other church members
— not the leadership
— not your neighbor
— not your spouses
— not the church staff
— not those “other groups” in the church …
— Consecrate YOURSELF! Your focus should be on what YOU need to do to consecrate yourself so that you don’t hinder what God is up to tomorrow.
- YOU must die to self.
- Back to Romans 12:1, I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
- Your consecration involves a death to self. You become a living sacrifice.
- Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave His life for me.”
- Galatians 5:24, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with it’s passions and desires.”
- Colossians 3:5, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth; fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
- Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
- HOW DO I DO THAT? (How do I present myself as a living sacrifice?)
- Romans 6:11, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- RECKON = “I decide, I think, I suppose, I conclude, I visualize”. (When it comes to sin, I see myself as a cadaver in a casket.)
- [POEM by Bill Britton, “Dying to Self”]
When you are forgotten or neglected or purposely set at naught, and you sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ-that is dying to self.
When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take all in patient loving silence-that is dying to self.
When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, or any annoyance, when you can stand face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility, and endure it as Jesus endured it-that is dying to self.
When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, any society, any attitude, any interruption by the will of God-that is dying to self.
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to be unknown-that is dying to self.
When you see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances-that is dying to self.
Are you dead yet?
- YOU must discipline yourself from the world and to the Word.
- Romans 12:2, And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…
- The flesh always exploits an undisciplined and unconsecrated life. We separate ourselves from the things that partake in the life of sin, so that we may live unto God and His purposes.
- A part of consecration is the decision that I am going to practice the ways of God. (That is not works. That is not legalism. That is devotion.)
- [My wife grew up and I was in it for a short time in crazy legalism. I understand that there is a legalism which brings spiritual death and creates raw duty. But is there also not a place that we ask ourselves exactly how much of the world can I assimilate into my life and still be devoted? Am I ever led by the Spirit to prioritize and live by a different standard than the rest of the world? Do I ever walk out of a movie? Do I ever change the TV channel? Do I ever ask the Holy Spirit is there a standard you might ask of me?]
- I have spent a lot of time in charismatic circles listening to pastors and Christians laugh at the Old Time Holiness and Pentecostal legalisms (and some of it indeed was that), but is there never a time when the Spirit asks something more of you?
- That’s consecration. (It’s not that I can’t or don’t get to do something, but rather I am consecrated for something greater and that doesn’t fit into the plan.)
- YOU must embrace the Will of God.
- The key to consecration is the apprehension of the Will (or the promise) of God. This is a missing key in our circles. Lots of promise teaching, destiny teaching, laying hold of purpose, etc. And there is a key component that is overlooked.
- Joshua 3:5 (Give Context), “Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do miracles among you.”
- [Personal Call to Preach was easy to say yes to because I had no context of sacrifice.]
- It was easy for me to say yes, because I had no idea what it involved.
- [The “Blank Contract”]
CONCLUSION: [Custodial Story]
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