LIVING A CONSECRATED LIFE
Sermon Preached by Wang Shuaiyong in the Far Eastern Bible College Homiletics Class on 19 October 2016
(Edited and republished from The Burning Bush, January 2017, Volume 23 Number 1)
Text: Romans 12:1-2
As Christians, our duty is not just to give our tithes unto God. If you think this is all God wants you to offer, you are wrong. As God’s people, our duty is not just to offer our tithes but also consecrate our entire life to God. Are you willing to live a consecrated life?
The Beseeching to Live a Consecrated Life
First, let us consider to whom Paul is beseeching. The text says, “I beseech you”. Who is this “you”? It refers to the brethren, that is, all the believers and Christians in the city of Rome. This word “brethren” also points to every one of us, because we are also believers, we are also Christians. I want you to take note that in these two verses, the second person pronoun is used a total of seven times: “I beseech you”, “ye present your bodies”, “your reasonable service”, “be ye transformed”, “your mind”, “that ye may prove”. Seven times! And they are all referring to you, because you are a brother in Christ. Paul did not say, “I beseech you therefore, pastors” or “deacons” or “full-time workers”, but “brethren”. These verses are directed at you!
Paul says, “I beseech you.” The word “beseech” means to admonish or exhort. Why does the Apostle Paul say, “I beseech you” and not “I command you”? Does he lack the authority to give a command on behalf of God? Of course not! Being an Apostle of Jesus Christ, he is used by God to write the very words of Scripture. He has the right to give a command. But why does he say, “I beseech you” with a fatherly, loving, gentle heart? It is because he wants to say that no one can force you to live a consecrated life. No one can make this decision for you. It is between you and God. You must make this decision to live a consecrated life for God willingly.
Second, let us consider why Paul is beseeching the brethren. The word “therefore” points us to the previous verses. Romans 11:36 says, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” This verse is quoted in Question 1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. “Question: What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.” Good! So dear friends, you should likewise respond to the beseeching of Paul by fulfilling God’s plan for your life. God’s Word must not only be for head-knowledge, but is meant to be obeyed. Just as the heavens declare the glory of God, may your life also declare the glory of God, because your chief end is to glorify Him!
Third, let us look at how Paul is beseeching the brethren. He beseeched all believers “by the mercies of God”. He reminds us that we have now obtained God’s mercy because we are no longer unbelievers. We are called brethren – brothers and sisters in Christ. As brethren in Christ, we are justified through faith alone. Our identity change has nothing to do with our own goodness. It is all by the mercies of God. We are the manifestation of God’s pity for sinners.
The first part of Romans 11:30 says, “For as ye in times past have believed God, yet have now obtained mercy.” So you are a Christian not by chance, but only because God was merciful to you. As totally depraved men, we deserve to be cast into the lake of fire and stay there forever. But God is so good. Although we are not worthy, He mercifully saved us by sending His only begotten Son to die for us and rise again from the dead. Jesus gave His life for us. Should we therefore not gratefully answer this strong beseeching which reminds us of how we have obtained God’s saving mercy abundantly?
The Meaning of Living a Consecrated Life
What then is the meaning of living a consecrated life? The second part of verse 1 says, “that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” “Present your bodies” does not mean that you should take a shower, and then commit suicide. Rather it refers to our entire life, because this sacrifice is to be a living sacrifice and not a dead sacrifice. The members of our body are instruments which we use to execute or carry out our purposes. When you do something, you must either use one part, a few parts, or the whole of the body. Even when lying down to think, you are still utilising your brain. Therefore, “your body” in verse 1 refers to every aspect of your life. By presenting our bodies to God, we are consecrating our entire life unto Him.
In the Old Testament, when the Israelites present their animal offerings to God, these sacrifices must be killed. But the sacrifice in verse 1 is not killed. It is a special sacrifice – a living sacrifice and not one which is dead. Moreover, when the Israelites offered their sacrifices unto God, their sacrifices must also be without blemish. They cannot offer their sacrifices carelessly, but they must do so according to the stipulations in God’s Word. Similarly, the living sacrifice in verse 1 is also a “holy” and unblemished sacrifice. Our entire life must be morally clean and in accordance with God’s Word.
In summary, if you are a child of God, you should give your entire life unto God, and your life must also be holy and blameless. You must use every part of your body according to God’s Word. This does not mean that we will live a sinlessly perfect life, but the holy and perfect life must always be our goal. As the days go by, we must be more and more holy, coming closer and closer to achieving this goal until Jesus returns. This is why my title of the sermon is “living a consecrated life” and not “live a consecrated life”. It is something that must be always present in our lives!
The Bible also says when we live a consecrated life, it is “acceptable” or well-pleasing unto God. If you do your best to live a holy life six days in a week, but excuse yourself to do evil for the remaining day, it is not well-pleasing to God because you are not living a consecrated life. If you keep yourself holy in many aspects of your life, but are careless in others, allowing habitual sin or weaknesses to reign in your life, it is not a consecrated life, and is thus displeasing to God. Living a consecrated life is to do your best to live a holy life every day, seven days a week! It involves not just some aspects, but every aspect of your life.
The Bible also says that living a consecrated life is “your reasonable service”. Here the word “service” means divine service and can be rendered as “worship”. This divine service or worship requires a holy life every day and everywhere. Even in your home or workplace, you should keep yourself away from sin and do everything with a worshipful heart. This is your reasonable service unto God. You and I have no reason to live a sinful life. So dear friends, in your daily life, do not allow your eyes to watch anything unholy. Do not allow your mouth to commit murder or say unwholesome words. Do not allow your hands to sin against God. Do not allow your foot to bring you to places which are full of evil temptations. Use every part of your body in a holy manner according to God’s Word.
The Danger Hindering us from Living a Consecrated Life
Now we come to the dangers hindering us from living a consecrated life. By saying there is danger, I am not saying that it is dangerous to live a consecrated life. What I am saying is that in the process of living a consecrated life, there are dangers in this present evil age which hinders us from living a consecrated life. Romans 12:2 warns, “be not conformed to this world”. This is a command. Why did God give this command to us? It is because the world is always trying to influence us and we are also easily influenced by the world! The social and mainstream media are spreading ungodly things every day. When you leave your homes, there are so many people donning revealing clothing that incites lust. Provocative images are also found in many advertisements on board the MRT or near bus-stops. The world tells you that sex before marriage and drinking alcohol are not wrong. All these things attempt to confuse us and change our thinking and conduct to displease God. And many Christians have been influenced by such things, and are already conformed to this world.
I am not saying that we must practise isolation by staying in a monastery and never going out. But I want you to realise that this world is the danger, and is preventing us from living a consecrated life. If we are to live a consecrated life, then we must know how to overcome this danger.
The second part of verse 2 tells us how – “but be ye transformed by the renewing of you mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” The way to overcome the world is not to embrace it, but to let our minds be transformed and renewed. The word “renewing” means “to renovate”. Who is doing the renewing? It is the Holy Spirit, and He does it through the Word of God. You must submit yourself to the renewing of the Holy Spirit and let your understanding be changed more and more by God’s Word, then you will be able to discern what God wants for you in your daily life, and live a consecrated life to the glory of God. You should have a biblical mind, and be more and more like Christ.
So dear brothers and sisters in Christ, come to church and hear God’s Word every Sunday. Join fellowship groups or church camps to learn God’s Word. Attend prayer meetings. Attend the FEBC night classes. Take the classes for credit so that you can learn more from God’s Word. And when the Holy Spirit convicts you and shows that your understanding from God’s Word is wrong, you should quickly repent and submit to the work of the Holy Spirit. Let your understanding and life be renewed by God.
In conclusion, let us willingly and thankfully do our best to pursue holiness daily in every aspect of our lives. We must overcome the worldly danger that prevents us from living a consecrated life. Let us study God’s Word diligently and submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. May the words of the hymn “I Surrender All” be true in our lives.
Preacher’s Note: Wang Shuaiyong is currently a BTh student in the Far Eastern Bible College. He comes from Henan, China. Tabernacle BPC is supporting his theological studies. Do labour in your prayers for him.