January 1, 2012

It's All Yours, Lord!

Serving God always costs something. Consecration carries a price tag. We promised God everything the day we received salvation, but as we go through life, we discover that God asks for consecrations and sacrifices from us that will cost even more.

In 2 Samuel 24, we read of an offering King David made that came with a price. He had taken a census of the Children of Israel—an action contrary to the will of God. As judgment, he was offered a choice: the people would have to endure seven years of famine, three months of fleeing before their enemies, or three days of pestilence. King David chose the pestilence. The Bible tells us that seventy thousand people died before God stayed the plague beside the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.

The prophet of God directed King David to set up an altar on that spot, and Araunah offered him the threshing floor as a gift. He told the king that he could even use the oxen as a sacrifice and their implements for the fire. However, the king declined, saying, “Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the Lord my God of that which doth cost me nothing.” David bought the threshing floor and oxen from Araunah for fifty shekels of silver, and built an altar unto the Lord, where he offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. As a result, we read, “The Lord was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel” (2 Samuel 24:25).

We cannot earn answers to prayer, nor pay monetarily for the blessings God sends on our lives. But we do have to pay—we must give to the Lord what He asks of us in order to receive—and we refer to that as “consecration.”

Consecration is not a popular concept today. Even in religious circles, people seem to have an attitude of “What’s in it for me?” We do not find any place in Scripture where that is an appropriate question. The Christian life is a way of sacrifice, of giving to God, of letting go of our desires. Jesus said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). However, the blessings we receive in return for consecrations cannot be measured! They are beyond earthly value. The principle is that if we want God’s best, we must give God our best. That is the way it works.

The word consecrate means “to set apart as holy, to devote to sacred or serious use.” We could also say that consecrations are the promises we make to God. Consecration is part of our Christian walk from the beginning, because we committed our lives to the Lord when we were saved. We may not have fully realized what we were promising at the time. However, God accepted us “on credit,” knowing that as time went by, specific consecrations would come up, and we would need to continually yield ourselves to Him.

The burnt offering established under the Law of Moses is a type of consecration. In Leviticus 1:2-3 we read that God commanded Moses to tell the Children of Israel, “If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord.”

We can draw a number of parallels between the burnt offering and the consecrations we offer in our day. First, this passage tells us that what was offered to God had to be without blemish. We do not offer to God something that is used, damaged, or that we no longer need. In fact, our consecrations often will involve something close to our hearts or very precious to us.

Under the Law, the priests performed many of the sacrifices. However, when a burnt offering was made, the offerer himself killed the animal. We must make our own consecrations. I cannot consecrate for my wife or my children, no matter how much I might wish to. They cannot consecrate for me. Making the consecrations God requires of us is our personal responsibility.

Leviticus 1:9 establishes that all of the burnt offering was consumed upon the altar; it was completely destroyed. In other sacrifices, such as the trespass or sin offerings, only part was destroyed while certain portions went to the priests. But in the burnt offering, everything was consumed in the flames. What a picture of complete consecration! Just as the individual making an offering in Old Testament times could not go back to the altar and retrieve part of his sacrifice, we must not take back part of our consecration.

We read more about the burnt offering in Leviticus 6. Verses 10 and 11 of that chapter tell us that even the ashes of the sacrifice were holy to God. The priest could not tend to the residue while wearing street clothes—he had to put on his holy garments. He was instructed to gather the ashes of the burnt offering and take them to a special place. What a picture of the fact that no part of our sacrifice is overlooked or without value to God! No part of it will be lost. Even the residue, the memory of the consecration we made to God, is important to Him.

In Genesis 15, the account of Abram keeping the fowls away from his sacrifice gives us another insight about consecration. The ceremony in this chapter was a sealing of the covenant between Abram and God. However, God did not instantly come down and consume the sacrifice. Abram had to watch and wait for a time, keeping the birds away from his offering.

Sometimes a consecration we make to God must stay on the altar for a long time before He requires it. It is up to us to keep that sacrifice in place even if God has not asked for it specifically. This can be a challenge if “fowls” assail the commitments and promises we have made to God. We need to make sure that our consecration is not withdrawn even if one or two months go by, or one or two years, or one or two decades. Circumstances may change, but the sacrifice is still there. God has not consumed it—He has not required it of us yet—but we continue to live our lives so that if God called for that consecration today, we would be ready to fulfill it.

This means that when we make plans to marry, we should make sure our consecrations are known to the other individual. We must guard against getting into a position in any relationship where our consecrations are not possible anymore. If we have made consecrations to God, we must make sure that thirty years from now, if the Lord tarries, we can still fulfill those consecrations. Like Abram, we have to keep the fowls away. We have to make sure our commitments to God stay intact and in place on the altar.

Further on in the Book of Genesis, we read how God called for another consecration from Abraham, commanding him, “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Genesis 22:2). How did Abraham react to this astonishing command? The next verse goes on, “And Abraham rose up early in the morning . . .” What a wonderful spirit! When the Lord asks something of us, we want to “get up early” and respond.

I am sure Abraham did not understand what God was reaching for in this situation. He knew God did not endorse human sacrifice, so no doubt the command was perplexing, but he obeyed. Often when God calls for a consecration from us, we do not understand. We may not know how we can follow through. However, in our hearts we can say yes. We have a purpose to take care of it, even if we do not know exactly how it will transpire.

There may be times when the pastor or someone in a leadership role in the church asks us to do a certain task in the Lord’s work. Saying yes may involve arranging other parts of our schedule so we can fill that role adequately. We can still say yes in our hearts, and then go about taking care of the issues that must be adjusted. Look again at the example of Abraham. Although he got up early, the place where he was instructed to make the sacrifice was some distance away. Abraham had to make preparations and travel to the designated spot, but in his heart, Isaac was as good as sacrificed. He had given his son to the Lord, even though steps had to be taken before he could make the sacrifice.

That is the spirit we want to have. When the Lord asks for a consecration, or we are asked to do something for the Lord, we want to say yes in our hearts immediately. Sometimes we feel inadequate to fulfill the call that God puts on our lives, but as we make the consecration, God will provide what we need to fulfill it.

This incident also reveals that our consecrations can affect others, and others can affect our consecrations. Abraham was an old man at this point, and Isaac was in the strength of his youth. It would have been easy for Isaac to resist, but he did not. He seemingly had confidence that if God laid something on his father’s heart, his part was to consent. It is important that we follow Isaac’s example and make sure that we never hinder another individual’s consecration.

I was raised in a pastor’s home and learned early in life that the pastor’s family moves when the pastor is transferred. We relocated four times before I graduated from high school because my dad served in four different churches during that period. It never crossed my mind to rebel against those moves. We do not ever want to become an impediment. There is a blessing in being willing!

At times we may make a consecration in our hearts that is never required of us physically. For example, we may tell God we are willing to be a missionary, but are never called to leave our homeland. We will still get a missionary’s reward because in our hearts, that sacrifice was made. We find an example of this in 1 Samuel 30, when David instructed some of his warriors to stay by the stuff and the rest to go out and fight a battle. When those who fought came back with the spoils of war, David ordered that everything was to be divided equally between the ones who went to battle and the ones who stayed behind to protect the home camp.

Sometimes simply enabling another to serve is a consecration in itself. Those who labor on a foreign field depend upon a support network back home. Many willing people are taking care of things at home so the missionary can venture out to a distant land and reach souls who are lost. Those of us who stay home share in the blessing!

In addition to being willing to do what God calls us to do, sometimes we must be willing to endure what God calls us to endure.

In addition to being willing to do what God calls us to do, sometimes we must be willing to endure what God calls us to endure. We must consecrate our feelings. Painful circumstances come to Christians just as they do to unbelievers, but there comes a point where we simply give our feelings and emotions to God. That is a consecration. I have gone to the Lord at times and told Him, “This has occupied my thoughts long enough. I offer it to You; You take care of it.” The situation did not necessarily change overnight, but I felt much better. I had placed my emotions in God’s hands.

Sometimes we may have to consecrate what we perceive as a failure. Perhaps we have come to a spiritual roadblock that we cannot seem to get past. Maybe we cannot pray through to an experience, or something of that nature. Satan comes with his accusations and discouragement sets in. We can consecrate even that to the Lord. We should not allow our focus to be on the past. We must believe for today! Many times when we look back a year or two later on what we thought of as failure, we see that the Lord was leading us step by step. We may not have jumped from “start” to “finish” in one leap, but God was leading us. Those intermediate steps were not failures—they were blessings! The devil will come along and say we did not receive because of some lack on our part. Trust the Lord. Just say, “I am not the same person I was a year ago. I am growing in the Lord.” Consecrate those things to the Lord and He will help you to move forward.

At times we have to consecrate to let go of positions. When my wife and I were still living in Portland, we had the privilege of leading the Primary Department in our Sunday school for one year–the first graders through third graders. We loved it! But there came a day when the Superintendent asked us to make a change and teach a different age group. We had enjoyed what we were doing and we did not feel our work was finished, but it came down to doing God’s will—to consecrating to fit in wherever God wanted us.

Romans 12:1 exhorts us, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice.” The word “living” implies change. Yesterday’s consecrations are still in place, but today there may be new consecrations required of us. When God asks for a new commitment from us, we want to say yes and step into whatever role He has for us.

My mind goes back to when I was seeking to receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost. It was a time I treasure because I would pray and the Lord would bless. The Lord would ask me to consecrate something and I would respond, “Yes, I will give that to You,” or, “By Your grace, I will do that.” Some of what God put before me seemed far beyond my ability, but I trusted that He would help me. Almost daily I would go before God and say, “What else can I give You? What is it today?” and He would show me. Finally that precious moment came when the Lord said, “You are done. You have laid your life out as a sacrifice before Me. I’m happy with that.” All that was left for me to do was to tarry before the Lord. Within a week or two of receiving that assurance of being fully consecrated, God came down and filled me with His Holy Spirit as I was praying during my lunch hour.

Today, are your consecrations up to date? Remember, this is a never-ending process. Go over the promises you have made to God and be sure they are current. Ask God if there are new consecrations He would have you make. Do not be afraid to say yes to God! He has promised to give us the grit and the grace we need. Remind yourself, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13), and see what God will do! Walking with God requires consecration, but what we receive for our sacrifices far outweighs what we give.

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