On Tuesday night of this past week seventeen of our leaders gathered here in the presence of Almighty God to consecrate themselves to the Lord. As we spent time praising God for His hand that is so at work in our midst, lifting our hearts to the Father in prayer, and taking a look at God’s Word, we talked about the word “consecration” and its powerful implications for our lives. What does “consecration” mean after all? Consecration is not a word that we hear while we stand in line at the grocery store. When was the last time you went to a ball game and heard someone extolling the virtues of consecration? We have lost the meaning and power of the biblical word used to mark us as God’s property, God’s people, set apart for His service.

The loss of consecration has had a devastating impact on the Body of Christ and the local church. When God’s people have a strong sense of the totality of their lives, every facet of their life, being set apart not for their own pleasure but for the purposes of God, then the Body of Christ can function in a powerful and effective way. When God’s people fail to consecrate themselves to the work of God then the Body is ineffective and ungodly attitudines have a negative impact on the entire Body. Let me give you an example of what I am talking about.

Connie took a tape recorder with her to Brooklyn. While she was there she taped many of their meetings together. The Lord has blessed me beyond measure as I have listened to the tapes over and over again over the past two weeks. One of the tapes I have listened to more than any other is a tape of Pastor Jim Cymbala speaking to the 800 music leaders who gathered for the conference. Pastor Cymbala said, “We have seen a tragic change take place in the Body of Christ. Instead of your choir seeing themselves as ministers called by God to touch of the lives of others, they come to choir practice and act like they are doing you a favor — like they are doing you a favor.” The plague that Pastor Cymbala is speaking about is the loss of a sense of consecration.

I was so encouraged this past Tuesday night during our Board meeting when we were talking about the new Elders and Deacons that God has raised up as our leaders. We were also discussing the great need we have to have consecrated leaders at our church who count it an honor and a blessing to serve the Lord instead of grumbling if it is not their “time” to serve. One of our Elders said, “I’m getting ready to complete my time as an Elder, but I want you to know that if you need me to be a Greeter, Deacon, Elder, or anything else just let me know.” That is consecration! His statement sparked a conversation that was marked by a general attitude of humility and service. It is an honor and a privilege to serve the Father. If you are a teacher — you are not teaching for the people who sit in your class — you are serving the Lord! If you are sitting up tables in the gym or a classroom — you are not sitting up tables for the people who will sit at them — you are serving the Lord. If you are sorting clothes in the King’s Kloset, stocking the shelves at Britvil, taking blood pressure at the Klinic, singing in the choir, preparing food in the kitchen, filling Easter eggs for the children to hunt, picking up trash on the lawn, filling communion cups on Sunday morning, greeting people who come to worship, praying for the sick, playing an instrument for worship, or doing any of the 10,000 tasks of ministry that take place here each week — you are not performing a job — you are serving the Lord.

We have lost our sense of calling, the deep commitment of consecration, and as a result we have grumbling and bellyaching and complaining about God giving us an opportunity to bring glory to His name by serving with a willing heart and a joyous spirit. Because we have lost the meaning of consecration we now have people who are coming to church without giving a thought to glorifying the Father or ministering to those around them, but only to be blessed and fed.

I was listening to a tape series this past week by Rick Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Community Church, a dynamic church in California that has 20,000 people in worship each week. Rick wasn’t talking about consecration directly, but his words left a deep impression on me. Rick told about a pastor friend who had a lady call the church after hours inquiring about their ministry. The woman said, “We are looking for a church where we can be blessed.” The pastor said, “Well that’s fine, but we are looking for members who will be a blessing.” The lady said, “We are looking for a church where we can be fed.” The pastor said, “We are looking for members who will feed others.” The lady said, “What kind of church is that?”

I don’t believe that she is out of the mainstream of the majority of those who have made their way to church all over the country this morning. The tragedy is that we have lost the sense of awe and reverence and wonder of our Holy, Consecrated God who calls us to be consecrated to His service. In Leviticus God spoke to His people and said, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.'” (Leviticus 19:2 NIV) We are called to be in His majesty’s service!

After having served with you for eight years now, I am convinced that Britton Christian Church has a desire to be a consecrated church to Almighty God. I’ve seen your heart, I’ve heard you pour out your soul in prayer asking the Lord to shape you, fill you with His Spirit, and use you for His glory. I know that there is a desire present, but I still get the sense that, for many of us including me, there is a discrepancy between our heart’s desire and our life’s activities. I see the glaring discrepancies in my own life and they gnaw at my soul. I want to live a consecrated life. I want the abilities that God has placed in me to be used for His glory, I want the time He gives me each day to be used to bring glory to His name, and I want to use the finances He has entrusted to me and my family to be used to build and bless the Kingdom work going on in the here and now.

Why are my desires and my actions sometimes miles apart? What is the key to living a consecrated life? This past week I have been asking myself that important question. I have been searching God’s Word to seek out an answer. God has led me to an important section of Scripture that I would like for us to focus on this morning.

The people of Macedonia led a consecrated life of service to the Lord. Their situation was difficult and yet they continually laid themselves at the altar of their King for His service and glory. Let’s take a look at 2 Corinthians 8:1-11.

And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. {2} Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. {3} For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, {4} they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. {5} And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. {6} So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. {7} But just as you excel in everything–in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us –see that you also excel in this grace of giving. {8} I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. {9} For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. {10} And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. {11} Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. (2 Corinthians 8:1-11 NIV)

This is a powerful little section of Scripture that few folks have taken the time to pray through. Before we look at some practical ways to fully consecrate our lives to the Lord, I want us to take a look at the situation in Macedonia.

When we examine our lives in the light of the lives of the Macedonian believers, we can’t stand back and say, “Well, if I didn’t have things so difficult, if I weren’t so busy, or if I had some talent — then I would offer them to the Lord.” The Macedonian believers were living in abject poverty, none of their skills are mentioned in the Scripture, and they had the same amount of time that you and I have. What is mentioned of the Macedonians that set them apart is this: “They gave themselves first to the Lord.” There lies the key to living a consecrated life.

Paul says of the Macedonian believers, {2} Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. {3} For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, {4} they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. These brothers and sisters were going through severe trials, their lives were being pummeled by hardships. They were experiencing extreme poverty. Yet, they were characterized by joy and rich generosity. I don’t think Paul is simply talking about their generosity in regards to money — I am convinced that he was speaking about the generosity that characterized their entire lives.

Their consecration led to a complete redefinition of life for the Macedonians. They believed that their lives were not theirs to do as they pleased. Their lives were given to them to do what pleased the Father. The believed that their time was not their own to do as they pleased. Their time was given to by the Father to use to bring Him glory. Their finances were not theirs to spend on their every desire and want, but it was given to them by God to build and bless the Kingdom work going on around them. I don’t know about you, but I truly desire that when I go home to be with the Lord that someone would be able to say, “Mike Hays lived a consecrated life. He gave of his best to the Master.” For that to take place I must follow in the footsteps in my Macedonian brothers and sisters who gave themselves first to the Lord.

Have you surrendered your heart to the Lord? “Why of course, I go to church don’t I.” I didn’t ask you if you go to church — I asked if you had totally surrendered your heart to the Lord? That is something altogether different than attending church. Can you say that no matter your lack or abundance, no matter your circumstances or situation, no matter whether you feel adequate or inadequate to do the task at hand that your heart is totally surrendered to the Lord?

Maybe this morning the Lord is calling you to surrender your heart to Him. Maybe you have surrendered many of the rooms of your heart to the King, but there is still one room that you have kept for yourself. You’ll let the Lord in to the public areas of your life, but there is still one room that is off limits even to Him. Maybe the Lord is calling you to unlock that door that holds in everything you have kept from Him in the past and surrender that room of your heart to Him right now.

Once we have surrendered our hearts totally to the Lord, then He can begin to use us to bring Him glory, honor, and praise in every aspect of our lives. That is our heart’s desire isn’t it?

If you have surrendered your heart to the Lord, but you say, “Mike, I just don’t see any way possible for me to fit anything else into my schedule, there is no possible way for me to begin to tithe 10% of my income, and I don’t feel confident enough about any ability I have to use it in public.” I appreciate your honesty and it is at the place of genuine honesty that God can really begin to make some changes in our lives. You need to know that regardless of the area of your life that you are struggling in seeking to consecrate to the Lord — you will have to make some hard decisions. To say “Yes” to the Lord means that you will have to say “No” to others who are vying for your time, talents, and finances. Let’s take a look at each area of our life and examine our commitments.

Time

Every person in this sanctuary and throughout the world has the exact same amount of time. It is the only resource, except for His grace, that God has distributed equally to His people. The question is not “How can I find more time?” The question is “How am I presently using my time?” Am I using my time to do what is most important to God or am I using my time to fulfill my own desires?

There are opportunities every day to go to ball games, attend concerts, visit interesting sights, and do any number of other things, but that means you will have to say “No” to other opportunities if you elect to go. I don’t know about your life, but most of the time the choice that I have to make is not between “good” and “bad” — they are choices between “good” and “best.”

A few weeks ago I received a phone call explaining that the Christian community of Oklahoma City was going to have an all-city worship service to welcome and pray for our new Mayor Kirk Humphreys. The lady who called invited me to participate in the service by saying a prayer or reading some Scripture. I would have loved to have participated and prayed with others from our city for our new Mayor, but Nate had a ball game that night at the same time. The choice was not between good and evil, but between good and best. I chose to say “Yes” to my son.

There have been many times in my life that I have not made the right choice. I have chosen to use my time to fulfill my own selfish desires rather than to serve the Lord. I want my time to be consecrated to His service, but I need to be in constant prayer, and I need to be in constant fellowship with other brothers and sisters who can help me to remain true to my commitment.

I would invite you to keep track of your daily use of time for one week. See where you are investing your time. At the end of the week sit down and examine the time commitments you have made that you could alleviate so that you could give that time to the Lord’s work.

Abilities

I have been listening to Rick Warren teach about spiritual gifts this past week and it dawned on me that there is not one person at attends Britton Christian Church who has not been given at least one spiritual gift by God. The real question is “Are we using them to minister to the needs of others, to bring glory to God?”

I have an opportunity to spend time with many of you and observe your personalities. This church is so blessed by God with so many gifted people. Yet, I know many of you are hesitant to step up and take on a position of leadership because you don’t feel comfortable with your abilities. I want to encourage you to consecrate your abilities to the Lord and allow Him to develop your abilities and give you the courage to use those gifts to bless His name and His people.

Someone may say, “Mike, I really don’t know of anything I do very well.” Those of us who hold to that opinion need to realize that it is not our ability that God is concerned with — it is our availability that God desires. Some of you are so outgoing. I see you visiting with people and exchanging conversation so easily. You would be an awesome Greeter. We need folks who can smile and make our visitors feel welcome when they arrive at worship. Others of you pray the most beautiful prayers I have ever heard. We need you to be intentional intercessors for the Body of believers at Britton Christian Church. You need to come and see me so that we can get together others like you who have the gift of prayer. There are so many gifts present in this sanctuary, but will you consecrate those gifts for His service? Only you can answer that question.

Finances

“How can I tithe when I’m already spending all of the money I get each payday on my family?” “I have figured up how much 10% of my income is — do you know what I could do with that money other than give it away to the church?” These are statements that I have heard over and over again and I understand the predicament. I need to ask you, “Do you honestly believe that your financial situation is unknown to God?” “Do you really believe that God is powerless to enable you to tithe and make ends meet?”

God’s desire is to birth within each and every one of us the discipline necessary to live within our means trusting in Him to provide us with our “daily bread.” God is desiring for you and me to examine our finances and, regardless of our present situation, trust Him to provide for what we need. I hope you noticed that I said, “need” and not what we “want.” There is a great difference. I know what I want, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is what God wants for me.

I read not too long ago that we in America are experiencing the greatest period of economic growth that our nation has ever experienced in its history. At the same time, there were more filings for bankruptcy in our country last year than in any year since our nation began. Something is wrong and what is wrong is that we are not disciplined in being good stewards of all that God has entrusted to our care.

I don’t need the latest fad to come down the pipe. I would love to have a new truck, but for me to be faithful to the commitment my family has made to tithe and to live within our means — means that I need to drive the truck I have. I would like to have a lot of things, but I don’t really need them. What I do need is to trust God to supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory. He has never failed so I will continue to trust Him.

Each of these categories can all be traced back to where we began — it is a matter of the heart. I asked you earlier if you had fully surrendered your heart to the Lord? Before you answer that question I need to explain what “surrender” means. Surrender means to fully turn over every aspect of your life to become the man, woman, boy, or girl that God desires for you to become. It means that you no longer have the final say about your future, your decisions, your commitments — you surrender the final word to the Father. Have you surrendered your heart to the King? If not, why not? What is holding you back? Won’t you give Him your heart today?

Applied Stewardship 101
2 Corinthians 8:1-11