CHAPTER XII. CONSECRATION: WHAT IS IT?
The second step that must needs be taken by those of us who have been living without the Fullness, before it can be obtained, is Consecration, a word that is very common and popular; much more common and popular, it is feared, than the thing itself. In order to be filled with the Holy Ghost one must first be "cleansed," and then one must be "consecrated". Consecration follows cleansing, and not vice versa. Intelligent apprehension of what consecration is, and of what it involves, is necessary to an intelligent consecration of oneself.
Consecration is another word for sanctification. Many people have a confused idea as to what sanctification really is. It must be borne in mind that we are not considering the theological term sanctification, but the use of the New Testament word "sanctify," "sanctification." No one would confound "consecration" with "cleansing," and yet many confound "sanctification" with "cleansing." To "sanctify" is to purify, to cleanse, to make holy, they tell us. But the idea of purification, of cleansing, of separating from sin, is not in the N. T. word "sanctify" at all. "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly" (1 Thessalonians 5:23). That does not mean "purify" you, separate you from sin, as a glance at two other passages, in which the same word occurs, will show. "For their sakes I sanctify Myself" (John 17:19). "Sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord" (1 Peter 3:15, R. V.), where it cannot mean purify, separate from sin. In these passages its true meaning is very apparent—to "set apart for a holy use," to "separate to God," to "consecrate." To "cleanse" is to separate from sin, but to "sanctify" is to separate to God, to set apart for God that which has already been separated from sin. We cannot set apart to a holy use (consecrate) that which is not cleansed. Hence we see why it is that "cleansing" must precede sanctification or consecration, "that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it" (Ephesians 5:26, R. V.). "Sanctification" is not identical with "cleansing," but it is its complement. "We have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Hebrews 10:10). "Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered without the gate" (Hebrews 13:12). From these passages we gather that it is by the Blood of Jesus we are sanctified, set apart to God. This is another function of the precious Blood, in addition to the one we have already been considering, viz., cleansing from the guilt of sin.
"In conversion," says Dr. Chalmers, "God gives to me, but in consecration I give to God." Every one knows that conversion should have experimental acquaintance with consecration.
"In full and glad surrender,
Consecration, then, involves surrender—total, absolute, unconditional, irreversible. This is Paul's teaching in Romans: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). These people had already given their souls to God, and now the apostle insists on their giving their "bodies" too. "Yield (R. V., Present) yourselves unto God as those that are alive from the dead" (Romans 6:13). Life first, then sacrifice. Have we life in Christ? Then it is imperative that we "yield," "present" ourselves unto God. It is not a matter of individual choice or taste or convenience; but every one that has been quickened from the death in trespasses and sins is commanded, yes, commanded, to "present himself to God." Have you obeyed this command? If not, why not? God excuses no one. Had it not better be attended to now? Yes, before you read another line!
It follows as a corollary that if we yield ourselves, we yield everything else to God; nothing is withheld. What loss we suffer because we will hold back some little thing! A little child was one day playing with a very valuable vase, when he put his hand into it and could not withdraw it. His father, too, tried his best to get it out, but all in vain. They were talking of breaking the vase, when the father said, "Now, my son, make one more try; open your hand and hold your fingers out straight, as you see me doing, and then pull." To their astonishment the little fellow said, "Oh no, pa; I couldn't put out my fingers like that, for if I did, I would drop my penny." He had been holding on to a penny all the time! No wonder he could not withdraw his hand. How many of us are like him! Drop the copper, surrender, let go, and God will give you gold.
Now let us note that the verb translated "yield" (Romans 6:13) and "present" (Romans 12.I) is not in the present tense in the original, as if Paul said "be yielding," "keep presenting," but it is in the aorist tense, the general force of which is a definite act, something done and finished with. So that when the command, "Present yourself to God," is complied with as far as one's light goes, the person is entitled to regard the transaction as a completed act, and to say, "Yes, I have presented myself to God." Then Faith presses on the heels of that statement and says, "God has accepted what I have thus presented." It is absolutely necessary that Faith be in lively exercise on this point, for what will be the practical outcome of all my presenting if I do not believe that God takes what I give? "Him that cometh unto Me I will in nowise cast out" is just as appropriate to the saint seeking full salvation as to the sinner seeking pardon. It is failure here, failure to apprehend by faith the fact that God receives what I present, that has blocked progress for so many of God's people who are truly desirous of living consecrated lives. From this it will be seen that consecration is a crisis in the life of the believer, just as cleansing is, and not a process; but it, too, "is a crisis in order to a process."
3. Transference of Ownership.
Consecration implies and involves transference of ownership. Many a Christian is living to-day as if he were his own; but the consecrated heart endorses the statement of the Divine Word: "Ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20). The consecrated man looks upon himself as the absolute property of the Lord who bought him, and his whole life is lived in the light of this fact.
4. Enthroning Christ.
Consecration involves the "glorifying" of Christ, the "enthroning" Him, the crowning of Jesus "Lord of all" in our own heart and life. "Crown Him, crown Him, Lord of all;" "and," says Dr. Hudson Taylor, "if you do not crown Him Lord of all, you do not crown Him Lord at all." This view of consecration, with its accompanying results, is beautifully illustrated for us in John 7:38, 39, "He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him were to receive: for the Spirit was not yet given; because Jesus was not yet glorified." The flowing forth of the rivers—just the outflow, the overflow of the infilling Spirit—was dependent on Jesus being "glorified." Jesus had not yet reached the throne, and so the Spirit had not yet been given. The reason why they had not come to Pentecost was that as yet there was no Ascension. Ascension preceded Pentecost. Let us learn it by root of heart, that every Pentecost since the first has, in like manner, been preceded by an Ascension. Do we know Pentecost experimentally for ourselves? If not the reason is close at hand. Jesus has not been "glorified" by us, not enthroned in our hearts. He may be in the heart, He may even be in the throne room, but He has not been placed upon the throne! There has never been a coronation day in our lives, when "in full and glad surrender" we placed the crown on the many-crowned Head, crying, "Crown Him, crown Him, Lord of all!" "And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb" (Revelation 22:1). When Christ reached the throne at the Father's right hand, from underneath His throne the river began to flow, the Holy Ghost was given, His Church received her Pentecost. "Being by the right hand of God exalted ... he hath poured forth this" (Acts 2:33). So when Christ is "exalted," "enthroned," "glorified" in the believer's heart, from underneath His throne will the rivers begin to flow according to promise; but, no Ascension, no Pentecost; and let us remember, as has been already stated, that though life begins at the Cross, service does not begin till Pentecost. No Pentecost, no service worthy of the name!
We need not be concerned as to how the rivers are flowing from us, or troubled as to what channels they are flowing in. They flowed from Peter in one way, and from Paul in quite another, and from Barnabas in yet another; there are infinite "diversities" of ways. We need not trouble at all about the rivers, and the direction of their flow; our concern is to "glorify Jesus," to see that He is on the throne; and it becomes His business then to see that the rivers are flowing; and there is not the slightest danger that the blessed business with which He charges Himself will be neglected!
There are other aspects of consecration in the Divine Word which have not been touched upon, but enough has been said for our purpose to show what it is, and what its blessed results will be. Our life and service will be enriched beyond telling by enthroning Christ. This, of course, involves the breaking of all our idols, for He will not share His throne with any. When Mahmoud, the conqueror of India, had taken the city of Gujarat he proceeded, as was his custom, to destroy the idols. There was one, fifteen feet high, which its priests and devotees begged him to spare. He was deaf to their entreaties, and seizing a hammer he struck it one blow when, to his amazement, from the shattered image there rained down at his feet a shower of gems, pearls and diamonds—treasure of fabulous value, which had been hidden within it! Had he spared the idol he would have lost all this wealth. Let us not spare our idols. It is to our interest to demolish them. If we shatter them there will rain about our hearts the very treasures of Heaven, the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit; but if we spare our idol we will miss riches unsearchable.
The consecrated life is a Christ-centered life, the only truly-centered life; every other life is eccentric: yet how often do we hear worldly people or worldly-minded Christians (what a contradiction in terms!) criticising some devoted Spirit-filled man or woman as "so eccentric," simply because of their loyalty to Christ their King! when all the while it is the critics that are "eccentric,"—off the true center. Indeed, so eccentric did the first Spirit-filled band appear, that "others mocking said, they are filled with new wine;" so they were "full of new wine," the "new wine" of the kingdom. And in God's sight these drunken, eccentric men were the only truly-centered spiritually-adjusted men in the throng.