With a new year stretching out before us, we would gladly and earnestly endorse the sentiments of C. H. Spurgeon when he told his congregation one Lord’s Day morning at the start of the new year: “This first Sabbath of a new year, what time more suitable for beginning aright!” Because they want their walk with God to be better than it was last year—more consistent, more holy—many Christians have already made various New Year’s resolutions. They have resolved to pray more, to read their Bibles more, to be more faithful in witnessing, and, in short, to live a life of greater consecration to God.
In and of itself, the making of holy resolutions is a good thing. The Scriptures give numerous examples of believers who did that very thing. Daniel “purposed in his heart” not to eat the king’s food. Paul resolved that his one great aim in life was to “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” We’re not surprised, therefore, when reading through the diaries and writings of men such as John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, C. H. Spurgeon, Robert Murray McCheyne, and Andrew Bonar to find them making holy resolutions as they entered a new year.
But we should never forget that Satan isn’t the least bit troubled by our resolves for renewed consecration to God. It’s the follow through that he fears. It’s when the Lord’s people not only resolve to live a life consecrated to God, but when they actually do it, that his kingdom suffers and Christ’s kingdom prospers. So whatever you have resolved to do differently or better in some area or areas of your Christian life this incoming year, remember that consecration is more than a resolution. It is a way of life that is lived out one day at a time.
The Scripture not only encourages Christians to consecrate their lives to God by giving them examples of those who did, but it directly calls upon them to live such a life. One of the clearest and most familiar examples of this is found in Romans 12:1–2: “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. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” These two verses show what it is to consecrate ourselves unto God. What does that look like in practice?
Presenting our bodies
First, consecration means that we dedicate our bodies to God. Romans 12 is the beginning of Paul’s application of the gospel doctrine he’s been teaching for the last eleven chapters. In basic terms Paul says because God has blessed you so abundantly through the gospel, He calls on you to live entirely for Him. It is noteworthy that he begins this call to consecration with our bodies, which are to be presented to the Lord as a “living sacrifice.” Remember that back in chapter six he exhorted us to “yield … [our] members as instruments of righteousness unto God” and not “as members of unrighteousness unto sin” (6:13). The word yield is the same Greek word translated “present” here in 12:1. The word speaks of anything but passivity, or, as some have framed it, of “letting go and letting God.” When we dedicate ourselves to the Lord, we actively present our entire bodies to Him as living-slain sacrifices in which we view the members of our bodies as alive to God but dead to sin.
That means we are telling God that our eyes, our ears, our tongues, our hands, our feet, our whole bodies are completely and unreservedly His. It’s not surprising that Paul begins with the consecration of our bodies in light of what he said about it back in chapter seven. He wrote of “a law of sin” that lived in his “members,” that fought against anything and everything that was pleasing to God. Therefore the best thing we can do with our bodies is to consecrate them entirely to the Lord.
If our eyes are devoted to Him then we won’t deliberately set them on that which God’s Word has forbidden. There’s precious little put out by the movie and television industry that is fit for human (let alone) Christian consumption. How dim the believer’s spiritual vision becomes when he’s watched or read that which God detests. The sad reality is that it hinders his ability to see Christ, to know Him, and hold close fellowship with Him.
If our ears are consecrated to the Lord then we will want, as much as we are able, to listen only to that which He approves. The message of Satan—whether it comes through the medium of music, vile and violent language, false teachers of the Word of God, etc.,—must be rejected outright. God’s people are not to listen to any voice or anything that would grieve the Holy Spirit and draw them away from the Lord. Consecrated ears will be deaf to the cries of the world as it calls believers to pursue its ambitions and pleasures. They will, on the other hand, listen for the voice of their Master because listening to Him—and rendering unstinting obedience to His commands—is the mark of a true servant. We will spare our churches, our homes, and our families a great deal of grief if we are “all ears” when it comes to listening for and doing His will.
If our tongues are the Lord’s, then the words that come out of our mouths will be very pleasant to listen to. They will not be marked by anger, bitterness, meanness, cursing, blasphemy, off-color jokes, fault-finding, disrespect, gossip, unkindness, or arrogance, to name a few things that make the tongue the “unruly evil” James speaks of (3:8). But when God has our tongues, then “the words of [our] mouth” will be “acceptable in [His] sight” (Psalm 19:14). For an exercise, take each negative word in the list above and write down its antonym to find out what a consecrated tongue sounds like. Best of all, when our tongues are consecrated to the Lord we will use them to praise Him, to talk with Him, and to tell others about Him.
Presenting our bodies to God as a living sacrifice also means that we are consecrating our hands to Him. Clearly our hands are never to touch anything that God says is unclean and are not to be used to do anything that is sinful. But the hand in Scripture speaks primarily of a man’s labor or activity. So the psalmist asked God to “establish … the work of [his] hands” (Psalm 90:17). Our hands are to be devoted exclusively to working for the Lord. It doesn’t mean that every Christian is supposed to leave his or her job to enter into what is commonly called full-time service. But it does mean that the consecrated Christian will not categorize his labors into “secular and sacred.” Whether it’s working at the factory or laboring in teaching a Sunday school class, our chief aim is to glorify Christ. It is when we fail to do this that we begin laboring for the things of this world. Christians are never to labor in order to be rich (Proverbs 23:4). If God blesses you in your job with success and gives you wealth, thank Him for it, use it for His kingdom, and never forget the source of your wealth. But Christ said, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life” (John 6:27). Consecrated hands don’t see a division between the secular and the sacred. Whatever work they do their great aim is to manifest the glories of the Saviour.
Finally, the Word of God also speaks of our feet being set apart for God’s service. It’s interesting that when an Old Testament priest was consecrated to the Lord for service, the blood from the ram of consecration was applied to his great toe (Exodus 29:20). The truth being taught is that no pathway in life is to be followed, no goal is to be pursued, no place is to be visited, no advice is to be taken that would lead us to walk away from our Lord and our service to Him. He presented Himself as the sacrifice for our sin in order to set apart our walk for Him.
Repudiating the world
What else will this total consecration to God look like in a Christian’s life? The very next verse indicates that this consecration will lead a Christian to repudiate the world: “And be not conformed to this world.” If we have truly abandoned our lives to God, then we will steadfastly resist the urge to be like the world. Contrary to what the devil would have us believe, the world is not our friend, but our enemy, and so much so that the Holy Spirit states that “whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God” (James 4:4). The world and all of its riches, pleasures, fashions, and everything else in which it glories are passing away. But the pattern to which every believer is called to conform is that given us in the life of Christ Jesus.
Renewing our minds
That brings us to see finally that consecration brings about a transformation of our lives by the renewing of our minds: “But be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind.” This really gets to the heart of the matter because it deals with the renovation of our inner man, especially our minds. Which of us would not like to see a real and lasting change in our walk with God this incoming year? The only way that will happen is if our mind—our thinking—is renovated. It is as our thinking is conformed to the Word of God that our behavior is conformed to the Word of God. Solomon said this about man in Proverbs 23:7: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” It’s not what he professes to be that reveals what he really is, but what he thinks. Therefore, what better thing could we do at the start of this new year than to pray God to give us “the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16). It is then that we will think more and live more like Christ.
I would be remiss if I did not ask you this: Have you ever consecrated yourself to the Lord? Has there ever been a time when you said in so many words, “Lord, I consecrate my entire life to Thee and Thy service this day”? If not, would that not be the best way to begin this new year?
Perhaps you consecrated yourself to the Lord many years ago, but you’ve let the world come into your life and you’ve forgotten all about that day long ago. If that’s true, then now is the perfect time to renew your consecration to the Lord. Let not another year go by with you living at a distance from the Lord who has never stopped loving you. Heed Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:1–2 and what a truly happy new year it will be!
Rev. John Wagner is the minister of Covenant FPC in Columbia, South Carolina.