Saturday, September 27, 2014

Consecration: Vessels to Honor or Dishonor?

Have you ever been in a place where you couldn't figure out what God was calling you to do?  Where you prayed and prayed, but just couldn't seem to get HIS answer? Well if so, I can relate! A lot of times it seems like when I'm searching for a specific answer from God, He gives me principles! What's up with that? But I have decided the best thing to do in situations like these is consecrate myself before Him.

You may not be able to remember the last time you used the word 'consecrate' in a normal every day conversation.  (I guess I can't either, come to think of it!)  But that's because this isn't a normal every-day word. 

About a year ago when I was seeking God over some pretty big decisions in my life the Lord gave me a word from Him. He simply said "Have I not already commanded thee? Consecrate yourself before Me and I will direct your steps." 

And that was it. I was looking for a specific direction and that's what I got. Talk about frustrating! But the more I seek the Lord, the more He reveals this simple concept to me.

Since that's what He told me and I wasn't exactly sure what consecration meant, I decided to look up the word. Like I said before, it is not an everyday sort of word.  It's a holy word, and it means to make or pronounce clean or holy.  To dedicate.  To set apart.

The word is used a lot in connection with the tabernacle in the book of Exodus. The priests and the instruments and furniture in the Tabernacle associated with them were to be consecrated for the Lord.
So what did that look like practically? Well, an example is the vessels that were consecrated to be used in the temple.  Once they were sanctified and consecrated they were ONLY to be used for the LORD's service. So whenever the Lord needed them for some sacred duty they were ready and available to be used but otherwise they sat there waiting. They weren't able to do double duty as flower vases or drinking cups or trash bins. They belonged to God so He could use them however He wanted but only He could use them. They belonged to Him and were set apart for His special use.  In the book of Daniel, you can read in chapter 5 about the Babylonian king Belshazzar, who used the holy, sacred, consecrated vessels from the temple as common drinking goblets for his party.

 Immediately after he made that idiotic decision, a hand appears and writes on the wall that he has been weighed in the balance and found wanting, and that very night his kingdom is turned over to the Medes and Persians.  God is serious about what is consecrated to Him.

Consecrated, sanctified vessels, only to be used in service of the LORD.  And that's what we're supposed to be.  Unlike ordinary vessels made out of earth, though, we were made in the image of God and we have a say in whether or not we're purified to be used by Him.  Don't believe me?  Check out these Scriptures from the book of 2 Timothy.  Paul is encouraging and instructing his young protege Timothy, and warns him about a couple individuals who were teaching false doctrine and were spreading their word throughout the church.  But as a word of encouragement, Paul gives these admonitions and reminders immediately after discussing it:

2 Timothy 2:19-22 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.  (20)  But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour.  (21)  If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.  (22)  Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. KJV 

We have to "purge ourselves from these" to be a vessel unto honor!  There's a part we play!  Now because we are all God's creations, God has a right to use us however He wants to based on what kind of vessel we are prepared as.

Romans 9:20-24 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?  (21)  Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?  (22)  What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:  (23)  And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,  (24)  Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? KJV 

But whether we're a vessel that's made for the purpose of honor or dishonor depends largely upon whether or not our heart is repentant or not.  God can change and remake ANY vessel He wants to to be used by Him, as is clearly shown in Jeremiah after Jeremiah goes to the potter's house.

Jeremiah 18:6-11 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.  (7)  At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it;  (8)  If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.  (9)  And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it;  (10)  If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.  (11)  Now therefore go to, speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I frame evil against you, and devise a device against you: return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good. KJV 

He shows this graphically in many situations with many nations and cities including, Nineveh, Judah, and Sodom and Gomorrah.  A chance is given, good or evil is determined, but based on whether or not they are repentant, God gives the vessels a plan.

So here's the important part: how can we consecrate ourselves for God's service as the children of Levi did in Exodus 32?  Biblically, as in 2 Timothy 2 and Exodus 32, it might require a severing from people.  I didn't want to write that, but it's clear Biblically.  Those whom we make our "companions" is very important because, as the Bible says, "evil communications corrupt good manners." 1 Corinthians 15:33.  The below verses bear this out plainly:

Psalm 119:63  I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts. 
Proverbs 13:20  He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. 
Proverbs 28:7  Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father. 

Does that mean we become like the Pharisees, and sweep by in our long robes with hankerchiefs over our mouths, fearful that we will be contaminated by even the briefest contact with the filth of sinners?  No, of course not.  Jesus touched lepers, allowed sinful women to wash his feet, dined with publicans, and was called a friend of publicans and sinners.  We welcome those who come to God.  "Whosoever will, let him come."  But here's the catch--as God's vessels, we go where God goes.  I noticed something significant when my sister was quoting a memory verse out of the book of John to me:

John 12:26  If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour. 

It's a simple statement, but this verse says, that if anyone wants to serve Jesus they need to follow Him so that wherever He is, that's where the servant will be.  Now you might be thinking, "Well, duh, Michael!" but let me explain why this was a revelation to me.  I had this mentality in my mind when I was seeking God's will, of a master who told his servant where to go and what to do and sent him out to do something.  But this is a different picture.  The servant goes where the Master is working.  Wherever the Master is, that's also where the servant is to JOIN the Master in His work!

So if God wants to use His vessel to scoop up the grime and dirt in a dark alley, we're right there with Him in that alley and available to Him for that!  If He wants to transport the richest wine in the king's palace in a vessel, we're right there with Him and available for that.  We belong to Him, and if we truly serve Him, we follow Him to be wherever He is.  But that also means that if people don't want to be with Him, they're going to have a problem being with us, because we are consecrated to His service, and where our master is, that's where we want to be. They'll think it strange that we don't run to the same excess of riot, and are instead in the trenches of warfare, losing our life to save it.  We're not about pleasing ourselves anymore.  We're about living for Him.  And there's going to be a natural and necessary severing from people as a result.  (See Micah 7:5-7, 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Matthew 10:32-37 and Luke 12:51-53 for more information about that.) 

But okay, Michael, how does this work practically?  I'll be the first one to tell you, I really don't have that good of an idea, and I'm still trying to figure it out.  But I'll give you a quick Scriptural mentality of what our position is as servants and an example of one day in my life, which will hopefully help you.

Two psalms describe to me the posture we have as servants when we're 'waiting' on the Lord.

Psalm 123:1-2  A Song of degrees. Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens.  (2)  Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us. KJV 
Psalm 32:8-9 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.  (9)  Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. KJV 

The servants' eyes, according to the first passage, look to the hand of their masters, which is why we lift up our eyes to the One who dwells in the heavens.  A good servant notices every gesture, every movement of the hand of the master so that the servant can immediately come into position to serve.  Jesus commands us to abide in Him in John 15.  If we are staying in His presence and looking to what He's doing, we can be in the correct position to serve Him however He desires.  It is our joy to jump to His smallest whim because we love Him, not because He's barking out orders (because that's not the way He works anyway, regardless of how much we may want Him to).  The more time we spend getting to know Him and His gestures and moves, the more we'll be able to correctly interpret what He's going to want us to do next.  That takes time, of course.  The next passage gives an admonition not to be like the horse or mule who have to respond to the touch of a bridle constantly, because they lack understanding, and gives the promise that God will instruct and teach us in the way we should go and will guide us with His eye.  That's kind of a weird way to say it isn't it?  But it contrasts two different ways of guiding.  One is guiding with a bridle and reins, which forces the guider to be behind the one he's guiding.  The other way is guiding with His eye, which requires the one being guided to face the one who's guiding.  This allusion of the eye makes sense to anyone who's ever gotten "the eye" from a mother or father or wife or husband or brother or sister or good friend.  When we get to know a person so well that we can read their very facial expressions, then we can be guided by their 'eye'.  That's the position God wants us to come to with Him.

As I write this, I'm keenly aware of how far away I am from being this type of servant to my master.  But I want to be.  So desperately.

To finish up this already lengthy blog post (but they only come once a month, so I figure I can go a little longer ;) right?), I want to relate the tiniest of glimpses I got a few months ago into this attitude.  I mentioned that this is a companion post to my last post on Availability: On-Call for God because I really think that's at the heart of consecration.  To present yourself as available for God's service.  As I was learning about this concept a few months ago, I began praying in that way, and presenting myself to God every day.  The first day I did it, I saw what a difference it made immediately.  As I went to work, I would intermittently remind myself that I was presenting myself to God that day.  I had the opportunity to talk with someone about God and encourage someone, so I took it, because I was presenting myself for God to use me however He wanted.  Then later in the day, it hit me again, as I walked by something that would have been wrong for me to look at, though I was tempted to.  Suddenly I remembered I had presented myself to God that morning, and I knew I couldn't look.  Later, when I left, I was about to head to a friend's graduation party, when something stopped me and I decided not to go.  I had a little bit of time before a Bible study I was attending that night, and since I had presented myself to God for His service that morning, I asked God what He wanted me to do.  And the name of a friend I hadn't talked with for awhile popped into my head.  I decided to visit him, so I called him up and we met somewhere to talk.  He was going through some difficulty in his marriage which I had no idea about and had just come from a difficult conversation.  It was as if I could sense God trying to reach out through me.  I could see how God had orchestrated my day.  I went to the Bible study, had more conversations where I was able to listen to what people were going through and we learned about Philip, who was available to God.

I share that story simply to give a tiny glimpse into what God can do in your day when you give it and yourself over to Him!  He has been so good to us, I beseech you therefore, by the mercies of God to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. :)

Exodus 32:29  For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day. 

God bless you all!

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