Mar 7th 2008

 

Intercessory Consecration: Sanctification and the Work of Christ

 

 

Recently, I have been thinking a lot about the idea of “consecration” in relation to my walk with Christ.
There are a million things to say about the idea of “Consecration” and a billion people standing ready to tell you about them. Not all of them are sound, nor are they worthwhile; and truthfully – some of them are downright dangerous.

The church has always struggled with the idea of Consecration. In my History of Christian Thought Class at UTC, we are reading about Augustines’ role in the Donatist Heresy; of how the church once struggled with persecution and what to do to with priests who forsook the faith in some degree, when faced with the choice of a brutal death. The more pious stalwarts of the church, a few of who may have actually survived the onslaught, decided that any priest who had had any shortcomings as a result of their persecution, not just could they not be priests anymore, but any ritual or ordinance performed by them was invalid. So – basically – it was not uncommon, during the Donatist heresy, that you might be told by a priest that the priest who had married you and your new bride was ‘backslidden’ and therefore the marriage rite that he had performed at your wedding was bogus; therefore you, were not really living in marital bliss with the bride of your youth – rather you were a fornicator and living in terrible sin – because you had never really gotten married.

Saint Augustine is well known for fighting against this heresy – and not doubt – guarding the hearts and the marriages of many a young couple who were no doubt aghast at the fact that they had done everything right but somehow not really been ever married because their priest who performed the marriage was somehow bogus.

As time passed, the church matured ‘theologically,’ generally in response to such question or a problems as these; and this problem was addressed and eventually put to sleep. Eventually those who had no grace for failures were made to understand their own theological confusion, and it was taken as an understanding that the church might forbid a priest to perform a ritual, but they could never say that the ritual was invalid. The deciding factor was, as Augustine pointed out – that while the Priest my have performed the ritual – it was always Christ who did the work.

Today, we still struggle with the idea of Consecration and the work of Christ within it.

Once I had a close friend, who had a severe gynecological problem. Each month brought her tremendous pain. The church she attended at the time gave her a very simple answer- being that they were adherents to the ‘Word of Faith’ doctrine. Her pastor informed her that there was “only 1 of 2 reasons that she had not been healed” – she either did not “have enough faith,” or she “had sin in her life.” It was at this point that my friend entered a seemingly spiritual death spiral, that I am not sure if she ever really pulled out of. She felt like she did not have enough faith, so she would ‘build that up’ and then she would conclude she was ‘in sin about something’ and then she repent for something and then would revert back the faith issue again. Back and forth, back and forth she went; each cycle bringing more radicalism, self-effacement, and eventual frustration. She essentially, eventually – became literally – spiritually insane.

It took a very, very long time before I could even look at a person with such doctrinal persuasions and not want to just grab them by the ears and shake them till they rattled. Once – a fellow like this, told a friend of mine; “well, L___, I guess your mom just did not have enough faith, I know if she had – she would not have died of Breast Cancer…” The gentleman should have considered himself lucky that he did not speak that to her in front of me, or I know, in certain times and seasons of my life – I would certainly have relieved him of his front teeth.

Other doctrines get on my nerves too – such as that of my Church of Christ friends who are convinced that you are not really saved (as in you can still die in your sins and go to hell) until you are officially water Baptized. A friend – who is Church of Christ – actually got quite insistent with me; ‘so what is it that washes your sins away? It’s the water!’ Such a believe is flawed, not just in the belief that there has to be something physical to wash your spiritual sins away, but more so – that there is a crucial difference to be made between “Sanctification” and “Justification.” Justification is the moment of being Justified in Christ – it is the point that you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Christ in your savior. Sanctification is the process that begins at that moment – and, literally, lasts as lifetime.

Baptism is ‘towards repentance/sanctification” and not ‘to salvation;’ though what you do ‘towards repentance’ is itself ‘towards salvation.’ Does that sound confusing? It might be – so let me explain it this way. If you have a desire for or are following after the orders for water baptism – then you are doing so, so that you can follow through with and engage yourself in the business of ‘being Sanctified.’ If you have no desire to do this – then chances are – you are not saved, which is another way of saying – you were never Justified. When you break this necessarily linear dynamic up and confuse the process of Sanctification with the act of Justification you allow for the potential of individuals to profess Justification outside of any desire for Sanctification or vice versa; and the general result of this is either extreme legalism or inappropriate liberties: both of which we see in the church today.

But getting baptized – as a rite of the church towards Sanctification – is only one small step of this life-time process of Sanctification. How then does it proceed? What are the factors that would keep one from becoming trapped in a lie – that you could be healed from anything or get anything you want (i.e. a Pink Cadillac) if you just have enough faith and get all the sin out of your life? How does this move forward in our lives?

Recently – I felt a call to Consecrate myself. How could I do this? What could I do that I was not already doing? Do I need to be doing something else? Something I am doing now, just differently? Something new? I sat and prayed and all these things went through my mind. I though of the clip I had listened to of Mark Driscoll speaking to a woman who came to the altar at his church, asking him the question – “does God really love me – can he really forgive the absolutely terrible and horrible things I’ve done?” (http://www.challies.com/archives/articles/driscoll-piper-mahaney.php) For a moment – I felt what may have been the enemy saying to me; ‘you’ve done this and this and that and that – how can you ever be sanctified?’ I knew in my heart that that was a lie. I knew in my heart – that I was potentially embarking on a process of personal renewal and that God was no doubt digging my wells deeper – but that that process, for as long as it had been going on in my own life, and as long as it would go on – was not something I would ever do alone. And herein is my heretofore unmentioned point: Sanctification in one’s life – shares a commonality with Justification; in that both are acts perpetrated by Christ, enabled by us, accomplished solely by His capability, manifest fully in our lives. The consecration that we experience in our lives is always an Intercessory Consecration – it is an act of Christ, in our lives on our behalf. We cannot Consecrated ourselves just as we cannot Justify outselves. If we think that we are – we are deluded. Any Consecration that takes place outside of Christ – is bogus and worthless. Much goes on and is taught as being Consecrative; but it is – at best – protective moderation enacted for young saints or potentially weaker brothers – who need certain “baby cribs” in parts of their lives for certain permanent or temporary reasons. Otherwise – it is mere ‘will worship’ as Paul says – and it is of no benefit.

So – in beginning a process of Concescration; the question should always formost be – has Christ authentically called me to this? And two – how can I be transformed by Him and not by myself?

It is not an oversimplification to say that if we get these questions right – then it very well may be – that everything else is just details, details, details.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donatist)
(http://cnview.com/on_line_resources/baptismal_regeneration.htm)