1 Thessalonians 4:1-8
Furthermore then we beseech you, brothers, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus…
I. THE IDEA OF A DEEPER CONSECRATION IS A FAMILIAR ONE. Moses was set apart for special work. Aaron and his brother priests were consecrated. Paul as an apostle, and others, were separated by the Holy Spirit. That is the Old Testament idea of consecration — "setting apart a person or thing for sacred uses." The person might not at first be holy in himself; but because of his daily association with sacred things, holiness was required of him. In New Testament times holiness of person and holiness of service move along together. Conversion is the dedication of oneself for the first time to God. A revival of religion is a rededication to more faithful service. The discipline of sorrow, meditation, the work of faith and labour of love, etc., still further deepen its spiritual life, and strengthen its activities.
II. THERE ARE OCCASIONS WHEN THE CALL FOR DEEPER CONSECRATION IS CLEAR AND LOUD. Such was the preaching of the Baptist, and of Peter and Paul, summoning to repentance. A great popular excitement that moves deeply a people is providential preparation. An exigency in life when one is hurled from his self-dependence down upon his dependence upon God; a responsibility that compels one to put up new bulwarks to faith and a new criticism upon life; a calamity that opens all the doors and windows of life — those things teach you of your exposure and of your need that some pavilion drop its curtains around you. These indeed are felt to be Divine exhortations to higher, closer walk with God.
III. THIS DEEPER CONSECRATION IS NOT NECESSARILY THE DOING OF NEW THINGS, BUT DOING THE OLD THINGS BETTER. The advice of Paul to the Thessalonians was to abound more and more in the very things in which they had been active. We can fritter away strength in variety. We can make the moral nature nervous by seeking continually a new excitement. Perfection and finish are not gained in trying new things, but by repetition. We become perfect penmen by making the same letters over and over again. Skill in the mechanic arts, in sculpture and in painting, is gained by repetition of the fundamentals of each. Wear the channels of the old religious routine deeper then. Lean with more entire self-abandonment upon the tried methods of Church activity. The Christian teacher will find the occasion of deeper consecration in the deeper work along the old lines of fidelity, study, and prayer. The officers of the Church will find their open door into more satisfactory life along the tried ways of tender consideration, faithful regard to vows, bearing still better responsibilities. The Christian father and mother will find their life growing less troubled and worldly if they make the family altar a place of greater regard, and the religious oversight of the family a matter of more constant attention. "Which things also ye do, but I beseech you, abound more and more." Depth comes in running constantly in the old curriculum.
IV. YOU ARE TO BE LED TO THIS DEEPER CONSECRATION BY AN OLD MOTIVE. "I beseech and exhort you by Jesus Christ." It was the love of God in Jesus Christ that first broke your heart from the ways of sin, and it is this same love that must lift the life to higher and finer activity.
V. THE DANGER TO WHICH THIS CONSECRATION IS EXPOSED. The danger of routine, of system, of familiar acquaintance with Biblical truths, the very thing the worth of which we have been advocating.
1. Simply because consecration must run in the old channels and be drawn on by the same motive, there is danger that we miss the vital contact with the Lord Jesus, that the spirit dies out while the system goes on. Church and prayer meeting attendance may degenerate into a profitless habit. Your soul may be satisfied with the form and die for want of sustenance. Class teaching may become as spiritless as school teaching — the mere teaching of the lesson. Great alarm about our own spiritual condition should smite us when we find ourselves doing Christian duties for the sake of getting rid of them and of appeasing the conscience.
2. Then, again, the performance of Christian duties leads us into expressions of faith and desire that they may become stereotyped. Biblical language is the fittest medium by which to express our prayer and our faith. And the quickened soul can find comfort and relief for itself in repeating the same form. But let the fire die out, and living contact with Jesus shrink, and the form of words will remain, and we will have the startling inconsistency of devout expression enveloping a shrivelled and dead heart.
3. There may be movement in Christian life but no progress. Like the water wheel that turns round in the same place that it did ten years ago, may be the Christian life that runs the weekly round of Church services. Like the door that swings on the same hinge, but never moves from the door post, may be the Christian life excessively busy, continually in and out, but never advancing into the interior truths of God's Word. Christian life is not a treadmill round; Christianity is not meant to teach us how to talk, but to teach us how to walk, and walking is orderly, constant progress towards a terminus, a glory. The path of the just shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
VI. THE PRACTICAL METHODS BY WHICH THE DEEPER CONSECRATION CAN BE MAINTAINED WITHOUT FALLING INTO SPIRITLESS FORM.
1. Let there be an act of consecration; a holy hour when we surrender ourselves anew to God. We know that specious argument of the evil one about "resolving and re-resolving, and doing the same." We know that timidity of the honest mind that shrinks from a new self-dedication where it has so often failed; and yet how is life to be lifted up to finer issues unless there is the strong desire and resolve of the spirit? We do not drift into consecration and holy life?
2. Assist the memory. We fail in our consecration because we forget. Business engrosses the mind. A multitude of cares drives out the one special thought of the heart. Time slips along, weaving into the web of life new things with bright or dark colours. The very success of the first efforts of consecrated days has a subtle danger. Against this flood of insidious attack we must rear a defence that shall remain with us. I have known a book, for instance, selected because its contents and aim were along the line of the consecrated purpose, to be to the memory a continual reminder. I have known a text of Scripture chosen for its appropriateness to some individual weakness or to fill up the gaps of failure, or to string the soul to its best music hung as a motto on the wall, that every time you looked you were reminded of the weakness, the failure, the hope of your life. I have known men who have sat down and drawn up for themselves rules of life, meeting their deficiencies and aspirations by specific regulations, making their daily activity run along these prescribed channels, and their biographies have proved how good, how conscientious, how holy they were. I need only mention the names of Jeremy Taylor and Jonathan Edwards. I have known a voluntary service given to some spiritual meeting whose regular recurrence was continual reminder, or to some charity whose blessed work was constant call for service, or to some personal visitation of the poor and the sick.
3. Assist the spiritual nature by renewed study of the character of Jesus. The sculptor who is to make a model of your face and head, the painter who is to paint your portrait, asks of you many sittings, and the more sittings you can give him the more perfect will be bust or portrait. The daily study of Jesus will fashion the life after the glorious model.
(S. B. Bossiter.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.