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Sunday, May 3, 2015

12. Spiritual Ascension Step #5: Consecrate (Part 3 of 3)

Note: This is one of a series of posts devoted to the study of D&C 93:1, and the 12th examining the phrase "keepeth my commandments".

As we discovered in my past two posts,
"Consecration is thus both a principle and a process, and it is not tied to a single moment. Instead, it is freely given, drop by drop, until the cup of consecration brims and finally runs over." (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father", October 1995 General Conference)
In doing so, you "yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit" and
"through the atonement of Christ...becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father" (Mosiah 3:19).
Your daily acts of consecration change and elevate you to a point where you are prepared to make the ultimate consecration:

You give or dedicate all you have, or will ever have, to the Lord.
"...the submission of one's will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God's altar. The many other things we 'give,' brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God's will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!" (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Swallowed Up in the Will of the Father", October 1995 General Conference) 

Consecrate the Only Thing That's Truly Yours

The greatest act of consecration is found in the Lord's prayer in Gethsemene:
"And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39)
"And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt." (Mark 14:36)
Imagine integrating the Master's example in your own life, and personalizing this approach!

Should you do this? Definitely! As Brother Joseph said,
"Let us here observe, that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation; for, from the first existence of man, the faith necessary unto the enjoyment of life and salvation never could be obtained without the sacrifice of all earthly things. It was through this sacrifice, and this only, that God has ordained that men should enjoy eternal life; and it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth's sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and that he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain. Under these circumstances, then, he can obtain the faith necessary for him to lay hold on eternal life. (The Prophet Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith 6:7)
Now read this following quote carefully. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland tells you how to do it:

"We must be willing to place all that we have -- not just our possessions (they may be the easiest things of all to give up), but also our ambition and pride and stubbornness and vanity -- we must place it all on the altar of God, kneel there in silent submission, and willingly walk away." ("The Will of the Father", emphasis mine)

Avoiding the Temptation to Hold Back

Your kneeling in silent submission, placing all you ever have or will have on the altar of God, and willingly walking away, is a moment of profound, unparalleled discipleship.

It is an act of faith which entices Satan to knock you off of this course, by convincing you to be fearful at what the Lord may require of you. When these doubts emerge, you may be temporarily or permanently inclined to NOT consecrate and dedicate everything to God:
"In pondering and pursuing consecration, understandably we tremble inwardly at what may be required. Yet the Lord has said consolingly, 'My grace is sufficient for you' (D&C 17:8). Do we really believe Him? He has also promised to make weak things strong (see Ether 12:27). Are we really willing to submit to that process? Yet if we desire fulness, we cannot hold back part!" (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Consecrate Thy Performance", April 2002 General Conference)
In consecrating all we have, are and ever will be to the Lord, we may tremble at what the Lord may require of us, and be tempted to "hold back" a part of us.
"There’s an almost infinite variety in the number of ways you and I can hold back a portion. One, for instance, might be very giving as to money, or in even serving as to time, and yet hold back a portion of himself or herself. One might share many talents, but hold back, for instance, a pet grievance, keeping himself from surrendering that grievance where resolution might occur. A few may hold back a portion of themselves so as to please a particular gallery of peers. Some might hold back a spiritual insight through which many could profit, simply because they wish to have their ownership established. Some may even hold back by not allowing themselves to appear totally and fully committed to the Kingdom, lest they incur the disapproval of a particular group wherein their consecration might be disdained. So it is in the Church that some give of themselves significantly, but not fully and unreservedly." (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, transcription of remarks given at a banquet on October 5, 1991; also see here).
The Prophet Joseph said, "We ought to...keep nothing back." (The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980, p. 7)

So, it behooves you to deeply contemplate anything and everything you may be tempted to hold back and not devote to God.
"Remember the rich, righteous young man who was told by Jesus, 'One thing thou lackest'? (Mark 10:21) Ananias and Sapphira, otherwise good members of the Church, 'kept back' a portion instead of consecrating their all. (Acts 5:1–11) Some would never sell Jesus for thirty pieces, but they would not give Him their all either!
Unfortunately, we tend to think of consecration only in terms of property and money. But there are so many ways of keeping back part. One might be giving of money and time and yet hold back a significant portion of himself. One might share talents publicly yet privately retain a particular pride. One might hold back from kneeling before God’s throne and yet bow to a particular gallery of peers. One might accept a Church calling but have his heart more set on maintaining a certain role in the world." (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Settle This in Your Hearts", October 1992 General Conference)
"Increased consecration is not so much a demand for more hours of Church work as it is for more awareness of Whose work this really is! For now, consecration may not require giving up worldly possessions so much as being less possessed by them." (ibid)
Consequently, if you shrink from deeper consecration, then you are not worthy of Him who, for your sake, refused to "shrink" in the midst of His deepening agony during the glorious Atonement! (D&C 19:18)

Progressing Beyond Your Altar 

In consecrating your ALL to God, God is only asking you to lose your old self in order to introduce you to a new -- and better -- you.
"Men and women who turn their lives over to God will find out that he can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life to God will find he has eternal life." (President Ezra Taft Benson, New Era, May 1975, p. 20)
As you experience these tremendous outpourings of grace from God, you will develop a spiritual confidence which
"increases when you are truly striving, for the right reasons, to live a consecrated life in spite of your imperfections." (Elder Jörg Klebingat, "Approaching the Throne of God with Confidence," Ensign, Nov. 2014, 36.)

I Testify

Here's a verse I'd like you to mark in your scriptures and remember in your noggin:
"Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" (Ephesians 3:20)
  • I am convinced that when the Brother of Jared went up on the mount, he had no idea that a short while later, he would not only be seeing the Lord in bodily form, but also be told that "And never have I (God) showed myself unto man whom I have created, for never has man believed in me as thou hast." (Ether 3:15)
  • I am convinced that when Moses went up on the mount, he had no idea that he would end up performing a great work as the long-awaited lawgiver who would lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage and into the Promised Land.
  • I am convinced that young Joseph Smith had no idea that when he entered the grove that spring morning, that he would not only meet God face-to-face, but also be called as one of a few in the history of the world to lead a dispensation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
These three men approached God expecting something was going to happen -- probably not what they anticipated, but they did expect something nonetheless.

It's a proven fact: when we turn something over to God, He not only resolves the problem, but also does so in a way that's truly awe-inspiring. God delights in exceeding our expectations and abundantly delivering blessings, not a few, above and beyond what you could even ask or think.

So it is with me.

Several years ago, I took Elder Maxwell's and Elder Holland's invitations to heart. Yet for the longest time, I feared what God would require of me if I consecrated all that I have, all that I am, and all that I ever will be, to God. It took years for me to develop the faith to proceed, and even then, only after the Lord told me that "everything will be okay" on three different occasions in a week.

Not long afterwards, in the quiet solitude of prayer, I followed through on my commitment.

Since then, I have found that God is not some punitive, punishing being. Sure, I've had to trudge through some very difficult circumstances.  Yet I believe that God has blessed me, and even my spouse, with even more generous tender mercies because of my consecrated life to Him. Truly, as I have tried to draw closer to Him, He has drawn closer to me. MUCH closer. God has truly over-delivered on the promises just elaborated in the section above.

I can unequivocally testify that God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. Here's a hint at what I'm trying to say:
"If one is obedient to a lower covenant [like daily consecration], more light and power is given. Then comes a higher covenant [at the altar], until eventually a person is taught how he can return to the presence of God and how he can commune with him here and now." (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, "Consecrate Thy Performance", April 2002 General Conference; bracketed comments are mine)
Thus, I second Elder Maxwell's invitation:
"Don't wait too long to find the altar or to begin to place the gift of your wills upon it! No need to wait for a receipt; the Lord has His own special ways of acknowledging." (Neal A. Maxwell, "Remember How Merciful the Lord Hath Been," General Conference, April 2004)

"O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me;
let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.
Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy:
yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God." (Psalms 43:3-4) 

1 comment:

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