The Believer's Consecration to Christ
'But first gave their own selves to the Lord." -2 Cor. 8:5
It is not only the design, but it is the effect of the gospel of Christ in the heart of man to diffuse itself. Implanting a new principle of love, and subjugating the renewed powers of the soul to the glory of God, the believer from that moment ceases to be his own. If our professed religion has not done this, it has done but little for us. There was this great distinguishing characteristic in the religion of these Corinthians, notwithstanding the many defects of some, and the unholy walk of others, for, though the most gifted, they were the least sanctified of all the apostolic churches; it is recorded that, before they gave themselves to one another in church-fellowship, "they first gave themselves to the Lord."
Let us consider this ACT of consecration to Christ- the MOTIVES which urge it- and some of the BLESSINGS which are its holy result. A casual survey of the world will convince any reflecting mind, that the great mass devote and lend themselves to any and every thing but to Christ. The world consecrates itself to itself, to mammon, to the creature, to ambition, to pleasure. Each individual weaves a garland for himself, that fades even while the hand entwines it on the brow. Such is the nature and such the end of all worldly honor! What an awful world! How ought we to look upon it with a tearful eye, with a compassionate, prayerful mind! Although beyond our power, except instrumentally, to convert, yet ought we not to regard it with that spiritual sensibility with which the Savior wept over Jerusalem?
But there are those who devote themselves to a higher and nobler object. We are to speak, in this chapter, of a few who are consecrated to the Lord- "They first gave their own selves." I must assume, and rightly too, that the subjects of this holy consecration have received Jesus as made unto them of God "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." Upon this foundation they dedicate their lives by an act of unreserved consecration unto the Lord. Mark what they consecrate- "their own selves." An individual may give a portion of his property, and a measure of his time, and yet withhold that from God which alone is acceptable- himself. Will God accept any other offering while the sacrifice of the heart is withheld? Impossible! "My son, give me your heart."
"God is love," and God has attached an importance and prominence to love that He has not done to anything else. "You shall LOVE the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind, and with all your soul, and with all your strength." This is God's first and great commandment. A man may stud the land with synagogues, and yet retain a heart of deadly and unsubdued enmity against God. But this is not the case with the true Christian; he has brought himself to the Lord. "Lord, this is all that I can do- I cast my own self on You. Splendid gifts I have none, gold and silver I have none; but I have a heart to love you; and now, Lord, I take that heart, just as it is, and I consecrate it to You."
Beloved reader, this is the sacrifice- this the homage of a true Christian. This is what God looks at, even the consecration of a man's self. Oh, lay that heart on His altar just as it is! It may be a broken heart; it may be a bleeding heart; a heart still conscious of infirmity and sin; yet you cannot lay a more precious or acceptable offering upon God's altar. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Oh, what a lovely spectacle is it to behold a young believer just emerging from the world, and traveling to Calvary with a trembling yet decided step, and there consecrating himself to the Lord to be no longer is own, but Christ's. He consecrates his soul to the Lord, that the Lord may sanctify and mold it to His own image. He consecrates himself to Christ, that Christ may instruct, counsel, and guide him; and thus, by that act of consecration, he acknowledges and crowns Christ as his Prophet, Priest, and King.
Observe the priority of this consecration: "They first gave themselves to the Lord." What right has an individual to dispose of himself to any one before he gives himself to the Lord? My dear reader, your first act must be a personal, voluntary, and solemn dedication to the Savior. With what justice can you unite yourself, either to an individual or to the Church of God, before you have given yourself personally to Jesus?
Glance, now, at some of the motives which should move us to this self-consecration to the Lord. Christ will not receive a reluctant, an unwilling heart. It must, be a voluntary and loving surrender- a heart wrought upon by grace, and constrained by love. The right of priority which Christ has, weighs powerfully upon a renewed heart- "All souls are mine." Ah! it is a solemn thought, my unconverted reader, that God has a right of proprietorship in you, a and will not forego that right for any individual in the universe. He has a right to your faculties, to your property, to your influence, to all you possess, and to all you are; nor will He release you from your obligation to glorify Him through all eternity. But oh, with what holy delight does a believing soul recognize the obligation- "Lord, I acknowledge Your right; I yield to it obedience, and henceforth I dedicate myself to You."
There is the feeling, too, of gratitude to Christ prompting the soul. When the believer considers what Christ has done for him- how the Savior went after him in the wilderness- drew him. to Himself- took all his sins- wept, suffered, and died for him; when he remembers what a fulness God has provided for him in Christ- "all fulness;"- when he thinks of all the glory He has laid up in heaven for him, his heart exclaims, "Lord, I am bound by the greatest obligations, the deepest gratitude, to dedicate myself to You."
But the greatest motive of all is, the love of Christ shed abroad in his heart. "The love of Christ constrains us," said the apostle; and the love of Christ forms the great, all-persuasive motive for a believer to yield himself to the Lord. Touched by the Savior's pardoning love- were it through fire or through water- he exclaims, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You lead- to service, to suffering, to death, if need be, for You have bought me with Your blood." " Here, Lord, I give myself away It is all that I can do." And if, my reader, these motives have been brought to bear, in any degree, upon your heart by the Holy Spirit, you can no longer refrain from giving yourself to Christ.
Trace some of the blessings which flow from this consecration to Christ. The first we quote is rest. The heart of the Christian, which has so long been a truant, wandering heart, at length finds rest, consequent upon this act of self-dedication to the Lord. After giving itself to God, the heart experiences a repose, a peace found nowhere else. Oh, the sweet repose the spirit is conscious of when it feels that the great question of possession is decided, and decided in favor of Jesus! It is a rest which must be felt to be understood. That peace passes all understanding- the peace of knowing that now Christ possesses His own, that I no longer live to myself. It might have been at the cost of plucking out the right eye, the severing of the right band; but oh, the peace it has brought! Now, Christ is loved supremely, and the heart is at rest from itself because at rest in Jesus.
Another blessing is safety. Speak of safety! There is no safety but that which is found in Christ. The individual who is consecrated to the Lord is safe. He has taken Christ as his counselor to guide him- as his shield to cover him- as his hiding-place to shelter him- as the Captain of his salvation to fight for him. Not a being in the universe so secure as he! He has become a subject of that kingdom which can never be moved.
In conclusion, let me ask, my reader, to whom are you consecrated? Think not that you occupy a position of neutrality. You are either consecrated to the Lord or you are antagonistic to the Lord. "He that is not with me is against me." Then, to whom have you consecrated your youth? your manhood? your hoary hairs? To whom have you consecrated yourself? Let the question haunt you until it has received a solemn and firm decision. But oh, let that decision be on the right side! "Henceforth I am the Lord's." The Lord loves an early consecration- a youthful consecration. He loves the young, the firstling of the flock. Let the young, then, ponder the question, "To whom shall I consecrate myself? to the creature or to Christ?" Descend, blessed Spirit, upon, the young, and constrain them to give themselves first to the Savior and then to His Church! Let the Christian give his whole heart to the Savior.
Are you so consecrated, saints of God? Then remember that all your concerns are the Lord's concerns. They more deeply concern Him than you. You have consecrated yourself to the Lord, and the Lord has accepted the offering, and has promised to take care of you, and at last will bring you to your eternal home. May we be enabled henceforth to renounce all our idol-rivals, and yield the throne supremely to Jesus. "For what agreement has the temple of God with idols? for you are the temple of the living God."
The vows of God are upon you. God give you grace to fulfil them! You have given yourself to the Lord; let nothing influence you to draw back. Oh, press onward! Christ's grace is sufficient for you. When tempted to stray, it will keep you; when you fall, it will raise you up; when weary and faint, it will restore and revive you. Distrust, yourself, abide in Christ; and if His chastening cleanses you from your idols, it will be but to reign Himself without a rival in your heart.