The Bare Soul
December 6, 2009
Consecrated to God
James 4:8 - Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
It is quite easy to confuse our responsibility in working out our salvation regarding God's promises in our lives as believers if we are viewing things in a carnal manner. Sanctification, or God setting us apart for His will and desire and empowering us to live a holy life on this earth has never been our task. We could no more make ourselves holy (even by an infinitesimal amount) then if we were able to justify ourselves before God the Father outside of the blood of Jesus and the work on Calvary. The spiritual work of justification, sanctification, and one day glorification when we will one day be like Jesus in all respects (I John 3:2), will always be the work of the Holy Spirit. However, there is an important distinction to understand regarding how God draws us to Himself while we are in these mortal bodies. He will not draw us if we have not invited him to do so. This is the act of consecration, to literally set oneself apart thereby denouncing the sins that so easily beset us and asking God to use us even in our imperfect state. We can never clean ourselves up. That is God's desire and He does it very effectively through the work of His Spirit. We can only come before Him, confessing our faults and giving ourselves to Him and his will.
Even as we may find ourselves in a place of initial humility to God, asking Him to take our lives and use it for His glory, we may later find that we have mistaken a consecrated life for a life of sanctification. As previously stated, God is the one who changes us, sometimes in an instant and other times over the course of days, weeks, months, or even years. For instance, God may have put His finger on an area of our lives, such as sloth. A believer that God has challenged in this area may with exuberance begin to attack the problem by rising an hour earlier and by placing more diligence on their work. After a few weeks or months if they gain some success in this area, it is quite easy to not give God the glory for these apparent victories and to believe that now they've gotten a lot "better" in this area of sloth. When one takes this attitude, they have withdrawn the sacrifice of their consecration from the altar, telling God that their improvement is all that is needed. In this sad reality, this man or woman has not allowed God to finish the work but has settled for a fleshly, carnal substitute. We often do a quick inventory of our seeming weaknesses and then work with a flurry on the obvious, when we should be waiting on the Lord for Him to put His finger on the root cause. Obvious character defects are easy to work on and often show quick results, so we are drawn to seek to please God by getting a supposed handle on these. However, God wants us to submit to him in areas that we KNOW we can't commandeer as easily as rising early or adding a bit more pep to our jobs. He wants to get to the heart of the sin of sloth within our hearts. A life of consecration means a life that is daily presented on the altar of sacrifice so God can speak to the heart and thereby change the heart. It is so much like the flesh to gain the victory in a couple of areas and to self-congratulate oneself with the "seeming" victory. In reality, these are the very things that Jesus accused the Pharisees regarding, that they were beautiful on the outside but inside they were full of dead men's bones (Matthew 23:27).
James the brother or our Lord gives us a concise, step-by-step plan to first consecrate ourselves and then to live in the sanctifying power of the Lord Jesus Christ (James 4:8). We have already discussed the importance of drawing near to God in humility, thus He will draw near to us. In order to not grieve the Holy Spirit once He has drawn close to our present need, we must acknowledge TWO important realities:
The unspeakable joyous reality that Jesus Christ has dealt sin a final blow on Calvary is forever an accomplished fact in heaven and a looming reality in hell for those who do not receive His sacrifice. However, there are still those areas of sin that we live out in the carnal flesh that God wants to deal with as we serve Him on this earth. As we acknowledge that we are indeed sinners, daily, in need of His grace, then we are "cleansing our hands" as James states or we are consecrating ourselves to God and submitting to His sanctifying power. There is no stronger position as a believer to daily come before the Lord and to know that we are consecrating ourselves for God to have His way with us. This is only a strengthened position as we approach the Lord with "single-mindedness", intent on His sanctifying work and all that He can do. If we will but focus on Him and wait for his grace to isolate the root cause of our "sinning", then we will understand that the purifying of heart that James speaks of is merely the work of the Holy Spirit as we consider ourselves as God does. When we see our sin as God sees it, with no excuses or denial, then He will bring the purifying work of His Spirit into our hearts. Paul stated what James said in a different but similarly compelling manner in Romans 12:2. For if we are "transformed by the renewing of our minds", then certainly we shall be purified by the work of the Holy Spirit as He fills our hearts with what we have agreed to with God in our minds.
Beloved, God does not desire any of us to change outward behaviors as the "end all" for what He desires. Those things that we seek to change should be getting at the heart of the matter -- the very root cause of the sin that would so easily beset us. If the changes we affect are not driving toward this final goal, then we are no better off then the Pharisees of Jesus' day. If, however, we allow these changes that we seek to be springboards, showing us how we can never clean up our own hearts, then the Holy Spirit has accomplished His desire by shining the light of understanding into our hearts and minds. Once we truly agree with God through our consecration, then He can and will in His magnificent power, begin to transform us more and more into the image of His Son through sanctification. Glory be to to God!
Heavenly Father, as we draw near to you and consecrate our lives to you once again, allow us not to work merely on the "outward" manifestations, but show us the heart of the matter. Take our lives and point out the roots of selfishness, fear, anger, and any other that might be the cause of our "stalled out" sanctification. Give us single minds and clean hands in humility to Your Divine plan for each and everyone one of us. Thank you Lord. In Jesus' Name, Amen!
Your Barefoot Servant,
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