Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Importance of Consecration

Numbers 7:1 Now on the day that Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed it and consecrated it with all its furnishings and the altar and all its utensils; he anointed them and consecrated them also.

Defining consecration
Today we begin a new blog series on a subject of extreme importance in the Christian life - consecration.  Oswald Chambers in his landmark devotional classic: "My Utmost for His Highest" writes the following definition of consecration: "Consecration is our part, sanctification is God's part.  Consecration is when we have deliberately determined to be interested in that which only God is interested." 

Admittedly we don't hear much today about the word nor the subject.  Whenever I see the word "consecration", it reminds me of another English word with a similar sound: "concentration".  As Chambers points out, consecration is an act of the Christian's will resolving to make God's interests their own.  This of course can only occur in proportion to the Holy Spirit's ongoing work of sanctification, whereby He is working forth and imparting to us the affections, desires and life of Christ. Thus concecration is the "human side" of the cooperation we daily have with God's Holy Spirit following conversion.  In consecration, I simply aim to have greater concentration on Jesus Christ.

The Pattern of consecration in the Bible
As God was calling the nation of Israel to be a God centered congregation (Numbers 1-4) composed of Godly servants (Numbers 3-4), God prescribed an ever increasing pattern of consecration (Numbers 5-7).  The Law of God sets forth the patterns of Godly living, requiring and pointing God's people to reliance upon Grace to have power for Godly living.  

Like a series of ripples in a pond, Numbers 5-7 gives us a series of ever-increasing concentric circles of consecration that we aim to explore over the next several blogs.  This pattern, spelled out in the Old Testament, is repeated in a fuller way in the New Testament.  The pattern requires the grace of God working in the human heart to both desire it and carry it out.  The pattern we will be looking at this week involves consecration of the following:

1. Consecration of the Heart (Numbers 5:1-10)
2. Consecration of your marriage (Numbers 5:11-31)
3. Consecration of your life (Numbers 6)
4. Consecration as a Church (Numbers 7)

The Ever increasing nature of consecration in the faith-walk
Consecration of the heart. Numbers 5:1-10; 1 Peter 3:15
The Apostle Peter writes these words in 1 Peter 3:15 - "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."   That underlined word, which we could also translate "consecrate, set apart", has virtually the identicle meaning as the Hebrew word underlined above in Numbers 7:1.  To "set apart, dedicate, consecrate" as refer to the same thing.  The New Testament reinforces the grace-motivate pattern of consecration outlined in passages such as Numbers 5-7.  The place to begin is with your heart.

The heart in the Hebrew Old Testament scriptures was the causal, emotional control tower of the person.  The camp of Israel in a physical way was to picture the interior of the person: with God at the center in the human spirit - as so pictured by the tabernacle.  On the outer perimeter of the tabernacle was encamped the Levites, who stood between God and the people.  We could say that the conscience, that part of the soul which interracts most with the heart/human spirit, is what reminds the people of God's law and condemns us when we have done wrong.  The remainder of the people camped around the Levites pictures for us the remainder of my soulish realm - mind, emotions and will, as I live out the Godly life through my human body. 

When God was telling these people to send away the lepers and diseased from the camp, He was not being mean nor unreasonable.  A reading of Leviticus 13-15 explains how leprosy and infectious diseases needed to be quarantined, to both protect the people and to reinforce the danger of the infection of sin in their hearts.  Consecration has me separate from something keeping me from fellowship with God, in order to draw closer to God. 

In Numbers 5:5-10 we see instructions on restoring stolen or damaged property.  The people needed to treat one another with love, since their regard for one another revealed how they regarded the Lord.  Jesus even comments in passages such as Matthew 26:40 and Acts 9:4 that "whatever is done to the least of these little ones, so have you done unto me."   If we begin consecrating our hearts, we will be ready to consecrate our emotions, thoughts and attitudes towards how we treat people and respond to situations. 

In tomorrow's blog we will take a look at another area of consecration that leads out logically from the heart - namely consecration of our relationships and marriages.