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Description: What is the difference between consecration or giving your life to God - and desperation, frustration or exasperation with the mess your life is in?
What Is Consecration?
Sermon Transcript by Pastor Ernest O’Neill
What is consecration? “Man’s response to God’s action.” That is the commonly-accepted theological
definition. But what is it in our own practical, personal experience? Here is what thousands of
people say consecration is. “I was trying to carve out a career for myself, but finally I ended up
in a kind of dead-end job. My second marriage was on the rocks, my finances were on the very edge of
bankruptcy, and my social life was non-existent. I was so filled with worry and strain at night that
I simply could not get to sleep, and so I got into a murderous combination of alcohol and
barbiturates that had me on the edge of nervous and physical exhaustion and breakdown. At last I
just decided I had to give the whole thing up to God, so I said to him, “Lord, I don’t know how to
handle this anymore. I’m just going to give up the whole mess to you.”
You would probably agree that many people in our society have had that experience and many of them
quote that as consecration. Because of the loose way we use the English language, perhaps for many
people that is consecration, or it expresses real consecration, but actually if you take those words
strictly according to their meaning, that isn’t consecration at all; that is desperation or
frustration or exasperation with the mess your life is in. It is really just another variation of
the old foxhole prayer that a soldier cries out when he is in the foxhole and the bombs are falling
upon him. He cries out in desperation because of the absolute hopelessness of his situation. It
isn’t actually very different from the swear words “My God” that is cried out repeatedly in our
society to express an awareness of something that is outside your control. But it isn’t
consecration, loved ones.
The language of consecration is very different to the language used by that person when he said, “I
just decided I would give the whole mess up to God.” The language of consecration is not a kind of
desperation or exasperation to get the thing somehow off my hands; it is not a pre-occupation with a
hopeless circumstance in which I find myself. The words of consecration are the words that express a
carefully considered presentation of your own, ordered life to God for his use.
I think you will see that, if you look at this verse that we will study for the last time today. I
think you will see how it contrasts with the kind of expression that is so often used in our society
and called consecration. Romans 12:1: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God,
to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual
Now, you can see that that is the language of a carefully considered presentation of an ordered life
to God. It is not the desperate, exasperated cry, “I don’t know what to do; the whole thing is on
top of me. Lord, you take it.”
Now you might say, “But haven’t you found what I found and what thousands of us have found, that
often when we have cried out in desperation or exasperation or frustration that actually God has
answered us.” Yes. That is how God initiates anything with so many of us who don’t know him. Of
course God answers us. He answers us because of Matthew 5:45: “So that you may be sons of your
Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on
the just and on the unjust.” God answers foxhole prayers because God extends common grace to all of
us in order to preserve our lives–those of us who want to live like him and those of us who don’t
care about him.
For instance, you don’t find that a Christian walks along and the sun shines on him, and a
non-Christian walks beside him and is soaking wet from the pouring rain. No, they both get wet. God
rains his rain on the just and on the unjust and he extends his providence to all people, both those
who know him and want to live like him AND those who don’t know him and don’t want to live like him.
He has promised that he hears all who call upon him, and he does that so that he may have a chance
of drawing them deeper to himself. I’m not saying that a foxhole prayer or a cry of desperation may
not lead on into real consecration, but it itself is not real consecration.
You notice, for instance, that in people who have had this experience, God’s help is only extended
as long as the person expresses dependence on God. After they get themselves out of the mess, the
independence that has never really been dealt with reasserts itself, and they actually go on their
own merry way and God’s grace ceases to come upon them. That is one difference between consecration
and desperation. The desperation prayer usually sees only a temporary lifting in the life.
Eventually the people get back into their own weary, selfish way.
Another distinction between real consecration and that wild expression of desperation is that the
desperation prayer is preoccupied with the hopelessness of the circumstances. A person who says,
“The whole thing fell upon me and I couldn’t do anything, so I thought, ‘Well, I can’t lose. I’ll
give it all over to God”–that person is preoccupied with the hopelessness of his circumstances.
But, do you see that consecration is man’s response to God’s action, and God’s action doesn’t
concentrate on the circumstances? God’s action concentrates on the perverted, twisted self that
produced the circumstances. In other words, God is not in the business of flying down from heaven
every time you get yourself into a predicament, and then he delivers you from the predicament and
flies back up to heaven. God isn’t in that business because that would destroy free will on the
earth and it would fill the sky. You couldn’t have any planes landing anywhere! God doesn’t do that
kind of thing. God’s action dealt with the self that produced the mess of the circumstances.
In other words, God’s action which demands our response of consecration does not actually deal so
much with the second marriage that is on the rocks as it deals with the self that wanted some human
being to provide the friendship that God alone could give. God deals with the self that produced
those failed marriages. God does not deal so much with the dead-end job as he deals with the
insecure self that was so determined to establish its own security independently of God, that it
works its way into a life of boredom and dead-end jobs. God does not deal so much with the
non-existent social life that you face at the moment as he deals with the self-centered personality
that saw people as somebody to be used for company and friendship and security in the place of God.
Consecration as a response to God’s action is concerned with something entirely different from the
person who is involved in a foxhole prayer.
I would lovingly say to those of you who have got yourselves into that foxhole prayer kind of stuff,
“Loved ones, that isn’t consecration.” I say it kindly and respectfully, “That isn’t consecration.”
I know in our day it is presented as a very holy thing to say. It is not holy; it is just downright
sensible. “I’m in trouble; I need help.” But it isn’t consecration. It may lead on to consecration,
but consecration is our response to God’s action, and God’s action is that act that we have talked
about as the greatest recall in history. It is that great moment in eternity when God took you and
me and did away with us in his Son Jesus and untied all the knots that we have tied in our
personalities and straightened us up by allowing his Son to rise inside us and stand up and live his
life over again in us. That is God’s action.
Maybe it would be good to look at the verse just to see it. II Corinthians 5:14: “For the love of
Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died.”
That is what God’s action was. In other words, God once did come upon the world in a time of chaos,
when the circumstances were absolutely chaotic, and his action was recorded in Genesis 6:11: “Now
the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth,
and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. And God said to
Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through
them; behold I will destroy them with the earth.”
That is God’s answer. He destroys the “them” that created the chaotic circumstances. I sympathize
with you. I think it is miserable when we get ourselves into financial difficulties or we get
ourselves into these emotional, personal relationships. I agree with you, your heart just breaks.
But do you see that God always goes to the heart of the problem, the cause, the “them” that brought
that about, the “you” and “me” that brought that about, and deals with us. He puts us in his Son,
wipes us out and resurrects us new and clean and changed.
You may say, “Then consecration is presenting this miserable, twisted, insecure self of mine to God,
is that it? We present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God?” How can you
present to God something that he has destroyed in Jesus? How can you present to God your old, angry
selfish, petty self that he has already destroyed in Jesus? Do you see that that has been destroyed?
Consecration is not presenting that old, twisted, perverted self to God. No! Consecration is a real
belief that that self has been destroyed in Jesus, crucified and done away with; consecration is not
presenting that to God. You can’t present to God something that he declares he has destroyed in his
Loved ones, consecration is a great faith and conviction that what I used to be–the me that caused
all my problems in the first place–has been done away with and no longer exists. God could not bear
the sight of it in his creation any more than he could bear the sight of those people in the time of
the flood. He could not bear the sight of my miserable, twisted self and he destroyed it in his son.
You remember what the verse says,–“the Lamb that was slain from before the foundation of the
world”–He destroyed that; it no longer exists. You say, “Why does it still have effect in my life?”
It is because you believe Satan’s lie that it was not destroyed. The effects of it in your life and
mine–the fearfulness that we have, the sense of envy that we have, the sense of jealousy, the sense
of wanting our own way, exist because we believe Satan’s lie that we were not changed and
transformed and destroyed and raised again in Jesus. But consecration has nothing to do with that.
Consecration is assuming and accepting that that old self has been destroyed in Jesus, and that
Jesus’ Spirit has come into me and lives inside me, and I now present to God that new, resurrected
That is what consecration is. Consecration believes that the old self is dead and gone and
presenting that new created being that you now are in Christ. That is what faith is.
This makes sense of a phrase in Romans 12:1. “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of
God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” That is it. It is
not to present yourself–the miserable old self, twisted and envious and jealous and proud and
angry. It is not that self. It is the new self, hid with Christ in God. It is Christ in us, the hope
of glory. It is a holy and acceptable self as you now exist in Jesus.
Loved ones, I know it is hard to grasp, but do you see that God as he looks at each one of us sees
what we are in his Son? That is reality. The way our Creator sees things is the way things are! He
is the one that can determine the way things are. When he sees you and me this morning he sees us in
his Son, destroyed and raised up new and clean. He sees his Son inside you; that is the self that he
sees. That is the self that he wants you in faith to present to him, holy and acceptable to him.
The word “holy” is from the Greek word hagios, and it means first of all what God implies when he
says, “Be ye holy as I am holy.” It means all that God is. How can you present yourself to God just
like he is himself if that is the old self you are talking about? You couldn’t! There is no way. But
if Jesus has come inside you and lives and rises up and wears you as an overcoat and then presents
his life to God to live again the kind of life that he lived here on earth in a physical body, then
you can see how you can present yourself to God as God himself is. Because it is actually Jesus in
you–God himself in you–presenting yourself to God. But that can only be if you really do accept
that you have been crucified and raised with Christ and that this is a new self inside you, a new
Christ inside you that can do all that Christ did himself on Calvary and afterwards.
The word “holy” means that you are set apart for God. So you present yourself to God: “Lord, I’m
here to do whatever you want with me. I’m here not to marry whom I want to marry or get the job I
want to get or manage my way through this life. Lord, here I am for your use. I’m setting myself
apart from what I used to be for your use, to do whatever you want. Do you want me to go to France,
to India, to China? Do you want me here in Minneapolis? Do you want me to work at this or work at
that? For your use.” That is what it means to set yourself apart to God and to set yourself apart
from ordinary uses.
Loved ones, that is where we get into such a mess. We are down here scrabbling. C.S. Lewis said we
spend our days making mud pies because we will not lift our eyes and see the beautiful beach with
the breakers breaking on the sand. Do you see that we are miserable building our little mud pies?
“I’ll get this stock piled onto this share and this debenture piled on that share, and this
insurance policy piled on that insurance policy. I’ll get this wife and this child and this car and
this garage and I’ll get this job nailed down.” We spend our lives as little moles finding our way
through the darkness of the underground, instead of accepting that the old self that had to make its
own way was crucified with Christ.
Jesus, the great public figure who made the universe, is within us and he can do everything through
us. As he stretches out his hand, we stretch out ours. That is what it means to set yourself apart
from those miserable, petty uses of the old self to God himself.
The Hebrew word for holiness is kadosh and it has the meaning of “healthiness.” It means to present
yourself as a healthy person to God, seeing yourself objectively from above, looking down on your
own life and seeing it from a distance. That is the healthy life; it is a life that transcends
pettiness and self–centeredness.
The word “acceptable” is a Greek word, euarestos, and it means “fully agreeable” or “well–pleasing”
to God. It means you set yourself before God, not just to tread a thin line next to immorality, not
just to walk along the edge of unlawful things. It means to walk as Jesus walks, right in the center
of the road of God’s will, right in the center of his heart and will, doing not only the things that
avoid sin but the things that are well–pleasing to his Father. That is what brings joy.
Joy doesn’t come from “I got through the day without losing my temper; that is good!” Joy does not
come from “I got through the office day without telling a lie. Good, I am glad.” No, it is not that.
Joy is letting Jesus have his own life in your life and going to God at the end of the day and doing
things that please the Father. What kind of marriage is it if you just avoid shooting each other
each day? You know it is no marriage. The fun of the marriage is when you get passed that; you get
the guns put away and you start pleasing each other. You think of flowers to buy for each other,
presents to give each other or doing little things that will give the other person delight. That is
the extra, isn’t it? That is the plus.
Now that is what life is meant to be like with our dear Creator, clear away from that old self that
could barely keep itself above sin and into the new self that Christ is filling with himself, and
presenting that new self to God for his uses. That is what consecration is. It is the only action
(you remember we translated it “spiritual worship”) it is the only appropriate worship, the only
reasonable service in the light of what God has done for us. That is the only reasonable thing.
Loved ones, it is a lot easier to fly at thirty thousand feet than to fly at six or seven thousand
feet, just missing the tops of the mountains. It is a lot more peaceful and it is a lot more
exciting and you can see a lot more.
I would say to you today, this is a grand sacrifice that Jesus has made on Calvary for us, it is a
grand work that he has done to destroy you and remake you in his image. It demands a grand response,
not a petty response, but a grand acceptance. “Lord, I thank you that I am a changed person this day
and that you are in me.”
Let us pray.
Dear Father, we see that you do things with a mighty sweep. We see that the Atlantic and Pacific
oceans are extravagant in their fullness. We see, Lord, that the mountains, Everest and the
Himalayas, are massive and generous. We see the Mississippi river is great sweeps of water. Lord,
we see that you do all things on a grand scale. We see, Father, that you did not deal with us in
Jesus for our little social problems or our marital problems. You dealt mightily with the miserable
self that produced those problems. We thank you that you did.
We thank you that we are crucified with Christ. If Christ died for all, then we did die. That old
self is finished and we know longer think of it and you don’t want us to bring it before you.
Instead you want us to believe we have a new self hid with Christ in God, filled with Jesus. That
is the self we present to you today.
Lord, we present our bodies to you as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God which is our
reasonable service. Father we ask you to enable Jesus to live his life in us again. No longer will
we think of ourselves as us but only as him. Because I have been crucified with Christ, I live, yet
not I, but Christ lives within me. This life I live by the faith of the Son of God. Thank you,
Now the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each
of us. Amen.