The Consecrated Life
By J. Stuart Holden
“I wholly followed the Lord my God” (Josh. 14:8).
One of the greatest needs of our modern Christian life is that of recovering the sense of obligation to wholeheartedness which seems to be so largely lost. Men are content to know Christ as Savior in a general sort of way, but there is no compelling constraint, with serious purpose and endeavor. There are many who are Christ’s in the sense that they trust Him for salvation, receive His gifts, and are numbered among His followers, but who are in no wise wholly His. There are realms in their lives that Christ has never been allowed to invade. Christ may be their Savior but He is far from being their Sovereign, hence their weakness and ineffectiveness as Christ’s witnesses. For it is only those who wholly follow Him who make any impression for Him upon the life of the world.
Compare such half-hearted lives with this testimony of Caleb, a testimony that has nothing of egotism about it, but is just the plain declaration of an undeflected aim. “I wholly followed the Lord” is the witness of a man who has never neglected to measure his life by the line of God’s standards, and who has lived out his life before men blamelessly. As he sought to follow the Lord the light became clearer; but he met increasing light with increasing consecration. Such a man stands alone for the most part, caring nothing for unpopularity. For to be single-minded almost always means being single-handed in a world where men do not fear the Lord but worship their own idols. But he had learned the secret of endurance, which is to see “Him who is invisible.” He had caught and kept the vision that always comes to the pure in heart. As he wholly followed the Lord, he saw Him in ever-increasing certainty. Thus his heart was made constant as his path was made clear.
And if, when we see the way of the Lord, we, too, set ourselves to the happiness of walking in it, cost what it may, most of the perplexities of life will disappear. Despite the clamorous voices all around us, there is always a plain path for willing feet. It is the way of the Cross.
Positive Consequences of Consecration
When a man wholly follows the Lord inevitable consequences of his consecration are seen in his life, and are easily recognized by those who are looking on. In the first place, such an one is delivered from the bondage of self. As we know by hard-won experience, we never really enjoy liberty until we submit to the law of God. This is true in every realm and sphere of our lives. Self-pleasing ends in utter captivity. The man who lives only to do his own will, without any reference to God, soon finds himself held in strong fetters of his own forging. It becomes morally impossible for him to break the chains with which he has bound himself.
Every costly obedience strengthens and increases moral vigor for further obedience and conflict; while the converse is warningly true also. For every disobedience hinders the ministry of Christ’s grace in our hearts. One known disobedience allowed, one condemned habit persisted in, one wrong relationship maintained, one unchecked indulgence which conscience has begun to question, and the ministry of Christ’s grace is hindered. Yes! Our entire spiritual and moral well-being depends on just this wholehearted following of the Lord, in which Caleb is our example.
Then also the man who wholly follows the Lord will certainly become like Him. This is the open secret of all transformation of disposition and character. Habitual fidelity to His commands is a purifying stream that enriches and fertilizes the whole of life’s area, for unworthy ideals are replaced by His pure and lofty purposes. Imperfect powers are reinforced by His gifts. Feeble efforts are made effective by His co-operation. When Christ is uncontested King He makes those who follow Him unquestioned conquerors.
Furthermore, there are spiritual inheritances that are only possessed as we wholly follow the Lord. Hebron was promised to Caleb because of his faithfulness. There are Hebrons that are ours under the promises of God. There are possessions in Christ, unsearchable riches, abundance of grace, and all things that pertain to life and godliness. But they only become ours in actual experience as we follow Him wholly. We impoverish ourselves if we allow anything to contest Christ’s sovereignty in life. All things are ours when we are wholly His. But every such spiritual inheritance brings with it new conflict. The Anakims still lived in Hebron. Caleb knew that the land was his, but he had to drive out the invaders. And so it is with us. Every new step in the spiritual life means new contests. Every new blessing claimed becomes a battlefield – but in the battle we do not fight alone. The enemy must be dislodged again and again. Hebron is God’s gift to us; and if we are in earnest about possessing it we shall find, as Caleb found, that “He has made us mighty, and stronger than the strong.” Only, we must not shirk the battle; if we do we shall lose the blessing. To follow Christ wholly is to share in His victory, but not without ourselves being bruised.
One other aspect of Christ’s uncontested sovereignty remains to be noticed, that of His definite and clear call to service. To follow Him wholly means for each believer the joy of giving as well as of getting, the privilege of doing his work in the world. For some it means the mission field. For others it means the search for His lost ones here at home. But for all it means a life lived out for the salvation of the lost; and a self-sacrifice by which alone the blessings of His redeeming sacrifice can ever be brought near to men. But this is the life of unalloyed happiness and unclouded peace. The choice is left to us. “Follow thou Me,” says Christ. And when the heavenly Hebron is ours, and all life’s battles are over and done with, it shall be our eternal joy to be numbered among the Calebs who wholly followed the Lord.