I so appreciated a sermon I heard this week from Andrew Jewell at Struthers August Church Camp at Gartmore House. He contrasted two kings we read about in the bible, namely, Hezekiah and David. Hezekiah, though he did much good in terms of spiritual reformation of the nation seemed to have no concern beyond his own times. When he heard judgement was coming, he was simply relieved it was not going to happen in his life time. He seemed to show little concern that even his own sons were going to be directly affected. David on the other hand thought beyond his own life time. He gathered resources which would enable his son, Solomon, to build the temple. Andrew then went on to talk about the treasures we have gathered in the Lord being not only for ourselves but for the next generation.
For a few days before hearing that sermon I had been thinking about Jesus saying in John 17 verse 19: “For their sake I consecrate myself…” Jesus was praying about the disciples who would still be in the world after His dying and rising as He prayed these words. I know there is an application that is unique to Jesus – and thank God that is so. However, I had been thinking over these words as a helpful principle for my own self: for whose sake do I consecrate myself?
The alternative translations would be “for their sake I sanctify (set apart) myself” or “for their sake I sacrifice myself…” I guess many of us who are married or are parents or grandparents could identify with that principle. But single folk can surely identify with this too in the area of deep and committed friendships. There is nothing we would not do for the sake of those we love who are concerned.
How about going wider than that circle of intimacy as we think about these words? I was challenged for example by Andrew’s emphasis in his sermon. How much do I think about the younger generations in the on going story of the Kingdom of God? Is there any thought in our hearts about consecrating ourselves for their sake? What about the lost with regard to the same question. What about our place in the fellowship of believers? “For whose sake do I consecrate myself” is the question I guess I am asking us to think about. Jesus did not only look after his own interests. Collectively of course the church should be thinking of the up and coming generations. It may interest you to know that the spiritual education of up and coming generations is one of the main entrustments to the Kirk Session in the Church of Scotland set up. It may seem obvious that should be so. What are we sacrificing, in what ways are we consecrating ourselves on their behalf?
However, this morning, as I write, I am thinking more about us as individual beleivers within the setting of the life and witness of the church: have we got a clear idea about who the “they” are for whom I consecrate myself this day and each day? It may indeed be the young; it may be the lost, it may be the elderly, it may be the abused, the lonely, those weakened in some way in body soul or spirit; it may be a country overseas, a people group, a minority of some sort, the persecuted church; it may be your neighbours, your work colleagues. I suppose for me, in this more individual sense of calling, I am still trying to work out who the “they” are in this phase of life with its opportunities and limitations.* It was easy to see who they were when I was a parish minister. It was the congregation and parish primarily. It was easy to see when I was part of the leadership of CLAN Gathering. It was the hundreds of churches and church leaders who looked upon that as a time of refreshing and encouraging and even equipping for many years. But what or who now? That is beginning to become a bit clearer but it is not as clear as I hope it will be as time passes.
So will you give thought to how these words of Jesus might apply to you? “Father, for their sake, I consecrate myself…” ?
*” Limitations” is not a negative concept. Limitations are like the banks of a river that give it force and direction and stop it meandering all over the place like the real Meander River actually does! Try and see your limitations as part of the guiding hand of God into His good will for you; they are part of the answer to the “What” and “Who” questions.