Most Christians long for victory in their spiritual lives, but most find their search to be an elusive quest. Perhaps you have been struggling with sin or discouragement, depression or addiction—or any of a number of other spiritual pathologies. Yet you have not had success in overcoming them. Traditionally, evangelicals have insisted on the importance of consecration in the Christian life. You will never be holy, they say, if you are not consecrated to God or Christ. Consecration is therefore the key to reaching spiritual maturity. But what is consecration?
By consecration, most Bible teachers mean something like “yielding,” or “commitment.” The word “surrender” is often used in this context. Preachers frequently appeal to their congregations to try harder to live the Christian life: read more Scripture, pray more, serve more, and so forth. In certain kinds of churches, you will hear weekly “rededication” invitations. But the reality is that no one can force anyone to surrender fully to Christ, and many who respond to rededication appeals will be found responding almost every week. Obviously, something is wrong. If it is so important that we yield ourselves fully to Christ, how can we go about it? How can we live the surrendered and victorious life? Think about these steps.
- Acknowledge your identification. The contrast here is between Romans 5 and Romans 6. Christ died for us, and we have been justified through faith in Him. That’s Romans 5. But in Romans 6, a chapter that discusses our baptism, we learn that we have died with Christ. In fact, our baptism reminds us that we have been buried with Him, a symbol of our death to sin; and we have been raised with Him to walk in newness of life, a symbol of our consecration. Paul writes to the Colossians, “you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3).
- Apply your appropriation. This identification must be a conscious act on our part. Paul writes: “Even so, consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:11). To the Galatians he testifies: “I am crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). So just as the blood of Christ dealt with our sins, so it takes the cross to deal with ourselves! This is why Paul tells the Philippians: “For me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:21).
- Admit your opposition. We cannot achieve perfection until we are glorified, and there are times when we will find ourselves with Paul in Romans 7—frustrated with the remnants of indwelling sin and our corresponding failures. The joy we find in identifying with Christ will often be tempered by the fact that we are plagued by a continual conflict with sin. That, however, is the time to return to our identification and appropriate the power and life of the crucified Christ.
The truth is that the uncrucified self refuses to be consecrated. In order to live for Christ, you must die with Him. This means, as Paul says to the Colossians, that you “consider the members of your earthly body as dead” (Col 3:5). Or as in Romans 6:13, “Do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.” The more you realize that in Christ you died, the more you will demonstrate that in Christ you live!
So remember this: your fallen human nature—your self-life—is not capable of improvement. You will never become holy by just trying harder! Instead, the cross of Christ means that “our old self [the old man] was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Rom 6:6). The daily process of presenting our bodies as living sacrifices to God is the secret of surrender, and as we appropriate our identification with Christ, it’s the secret of our victory.