By Hannah Whitall Smith
It is very important that Christians not be ignorant of the temptations that seem to stand ready to oppose every step of their progress. These temptations are especially active when the soul hungers and thirsts after righteousness and begins to reach out after the fullness of life in Christ.
One of the greatest of these temptations concerns consecration. One who desires holiness is told that he must consecrate himself and he strives to do so. But he meets with difficulty at once. He has done what he thinks is necessary to be consecrated, yet he finds nothing different in his experience. Nothing seems changed as he has been led to expect it would be. He is completely baffled and desperately asks the question, "How am I to know when I am consecrated?"
The chief temptation that assaults the soul at this point and at every step of its progress concerns feelings. We can't believe we are consecrated until we feel that we are. And because we don't feel that God has taken charge of us, we can't really believe that He has. As usual, we put feeling first, faith second, and His promise last of all. Now God's rule in everything is, His promise (His Word) first, faith second, and feeling last of all. We cannot change this order.
Put Faith Before Feeling
The way to meet this temptation concerning concentration is simply to take God's side in the matter. We must follow His way by putting faith before feeling. Give yourself completely to the Lord. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you all that is not of Him in your heart and life. If the Holy Spirit reveals anything to you, give it to the Lord immediately, and say "Thy will be done." If the Holy Spirit reveals nothing to you, you must believe that there is nothing, and must conclude that you have given Him all. Then, recognize the fact that when you give yourself to God He accepts you. Let your faith take hold of this fact at once. Firmly believe that He has taken all that you have surrendered to Him. You must not wait to feel that you have given yourself, or that God has taken you. You must simply believe it to be the case. If you are steadfast in believing, you will realize it is a blessed fact that you are completely the Lord's.
If you were to give an estate to a friend, you would have to give it, and he would have to receive it by faith. An estate is not a thing that can be picked up and handed over to another. The giving of it and the receiving of it must be a transaction of word and paper and, therefore, one of faith. Now, suppose you give an estate one day to a friend, and then doubt whether you had really given it, and whether he had actually taken it and considered it his own. Suppose you feel it necessary to go day after day and renew the gift. What would your friend think? What would be the condition of your own mind concerning it? Your friend would certainly begin to doubt whether you ever intended to give it to him at all. You yourself would be so confused about it, that you would not know whether the estate was yours or his.
Now, isn't this the same way you have been acting toward God concerning consecration? You have daily given yourself to Him over and over, perhaps for months, but you still wonder whether you really gave yourself to Him and whether He has taken you. Because you felt no change, you have concluded that it is not done. This confusion will last forever, unless you stop it by putting faith to work. You must get to the point of believing the matter to be an accomplished and settled thing.
The Levitical law of offerings to the Lord clearly states that everything which is given to Him becomes, by the very act of giving, something holy. Set apart from all other things, it is something that cannot be put to any other uses, unless sacrilege is committed. "Notwithstanding no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the Lord of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the Lord" (Leviticus 27:28). Having given it once to the Lord, the devoted thing from that time on was believed by all Israel as being the Lord's. No one dared to retake it.
The giver might have grudgingly and halfheartedly made his offering, but, having made the offer, the matter was taken out of his hands altogether. The devoted thing, by God's own law, became "most holy unto the Lord." It was not made holy by the state of mind of the giver, but by the holiness of the divine receiver. "The altar sanctifieth the gift" (Matthew 23:19). An offering, once laid upon the altar, belonged to the Lord from that very moment. I can imagine someone offering a gift and then begin to question his sincerity and honesty in doing it. I can imagine his coming back to the priest to say that he was afraid because he did not give it correctly or was not perfectly sincere in giving it. I feel sure the priest would have silenced him at once, saying, "I don't know how you gave your offering, or what your motives were in giving it. The facts are that you did give it, and that it's the Lord's. For every devoted thing is most holy unto Him. It's too late to change the transaction now." Not only the priest, but all Israel, would have been aghast at the man, who, having once given his offering, would reach out his hand to take it back. Yet, day after day, sincere Christians, with no thought of the sacrilege they are committing, are guilty of a similar act. They give themselves to the Lord in solemn consecration, and then through unbelief, take back that which they have given.
Believing Brings Assurance
Because God is not visibly present to the eye, it is difficult to feel that a transaction with Him is real. If we could actually see Him when we made our acts of consecration we would feel it to be a very real thing. We would realize that we had given our word to Him and could not dare to take it back, no matter how much we might wish to do so. Such a transaction would have the same power for us as a spoken promise to an earthly friend always has to a man of honor. We need to see that God's presence is always a fact. We need to see that every act of our soul is done before Him. A word spoken in prayer is spoken to Him just as if our eyes could see Him and our hands could touch Him. We will then stop having such vague conceptions of our relations with Him and will feel the binding force of every word we say in His presence.
I know some will say, 'Ah, yes. But if He would only speak to me and say that He took me when l gave myself to Him, I would have no trouble then in believing it." No, of course you wouldn't. But then, where would the room for faith be? Sight is not faith. Hearing is not faith. Neither is feeling faith. But believing when we can neither see, hear, nor feel, is faith. The Bible tells us our salvation is to be by faith. Therefore, we must believe before we feel, often against our feelings, if we would command. He receives us then and there, and from that moment we are His. A real transaction has taken place. It cannot be violated without dishonor on our part, and we know it will not be violated by Him.
In Deuteronomy 26:1719 we see God's way of working under these circumstances. "Thou hast avouched the Lord this day to be thy God, and to walk in His ways, and to keep His statutes and His commandments, and His judgments, and to hearken unto His voice. And the Lord hath avouched thee this day to be His peculiar people, as He hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all His commandments, and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the Lord thy God, as He hath spoken."
When we confess the Lord to be our God, and express the desire to walk in His ways and keep His commandments, He affirms that we are His, and that we shall keep all His commandments. And from that moment He takes possession of us. This always has been and continues to be His principle of working. "Every devoted thing is most holy to the Lord." This is stated clearly. There should be no question about it!
According To His Will
However, if you need further assurance of this, let me refer you to a New Testament verse which approaches the subject from a different angle, but which also definitely settles it. It is in 1 John 5:14-15, and reads, "And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: And if we know that He hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him." Is it according to His will that you should be entirely surrendered to Him? There is only one answer to this. He has commanded it! Is it not also according to His will that He should work in you to will and to do of His good pleasure? This question also can have only one answer, for He has declared it to be His purpose.
You know, then, that these things are according to His will. Therefore, God's own Word tells you that He hears you. Knowing this much, you are motivated to go farther and know that you have the petitions that you have desired of Him. That you have, I say, not that you will have, or may have, but have now in actual possession. It is thus that we "obtain promises" by faith. It is thus that we have "access by faith" into the grace that is given us in our Lord Jesus Christ. It is thus, and thus only, that we come to know our hearts "purified by faith," and are enabled to live by faith, to stand by faith, to walk by faith.
I wish to make this subject so clear and practical that no one need be confused about it again. I will again repeat exactly what must be done to get rid of your confusion about consecration.
I suppose that you have trusted the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins. I suppose you know something of what it means to belong to the family of God and to be made an heir of God through faith in Christ. And now you feel springing up in your heart the longing to be conformed to the image of your Lord. In order for this to happen, you must surrender yourself entirely to Him so that He may work in you all the good pleasure of His will. You have tried over and over to do it, but up to now you have not been successful. It is at this point that I desire to help you.
What you must do now is to come to Him once more in a surrender of your whole self to His will, as completely as you know how. You must ask Him to reveal to you, by His Spirit, any hidden rebellion. And if He reveals nothing, then you must believe that there is nothing, and that the surrender is complete. This must then be considered a settled matter. You have totally yielded yourself to the Lord, and from now on you do not in any way belong to yourself. You must never even so much as listen to a suggestion to the contrary. If you are tempted to doubt whether you really have completely surrendered yourself, face it with the assurance that you have. Don't even debate the matter. Get rid of any such idea instantly. Get rid of it firmly. You meant it then and you mean it now You have really done it. Your emotions may question the surrender, but your will must hold firm. It is your purpose God looks at, not your feelings about that purpose. And your purpose, or will, is therefore the only thing you need to consider.
God Works In You
Once the surrender has been made, it never needs to be questioned. The next point is to believe that God takes what you have surrendered and accepts it as His. He does not accept it at some future time. He accepts it at that moment. From that point on He will begin to work in you to will and to do of His good pleasure. It is in this that you must be content. There is nothing more for you to do, except to be an obedient child. For you are the Lord's. You are entirely in His hands, and He has taken over the complete care and management and forming of you. He will, according to His word, work "in you that which is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ" (Hebrews 13:21). But you must be firmly resolved here. If you begin to question your surrender, or God's acceptance of it, then your wavering faith will produce a wavering experience, and He cannot work in you to do His will. But while you trust, He works. And the result of His working is always to change you into the image of Christ by His mighty Spirit.
Do you completely surrender yourself to Him at this moment? If you answer "yes," begin at once to believe that you are His, that He has taken you, and that He is working in you to will and to do of His good pleasure. Keep on believing this. You will find it a great help to put your reckoning into words, and say over and over to yourself and to your God, "Lord I am Yours. I give myself entirely to You. I believe that You take me. I leave myself with You. Work in me all the good pleasure of Your will, and I will only lie still in Your hands and trust You."
Make this a daily, definite act of your will, and many times a day remember it as your continual attitude before the Lord. Confess it to yourself. Confess it to your God. Confess it to your friends. Continually confess the Lord to be your God. Declare your purpose of walking in His ways and keeping His statutes. And sooner or later. you will find in practical experience that He has taken you to be one of His peculiar people, enabling you to keep all His commandments and assuring you that you are being made into "an holy people unto the Lord, as He hath spoken" (Deuteronomy 7:6).