Consecration of the body
One of the highlights of the Vitality Pathway is the Service of Consecration. In this excerpt from Renovation of the Heart, by Dallas Willard pgs. 172 – 175 are some practical steps as to consecrating our bodies for God's use and glory. I thought this might be a helpful spark in thinking about consecration of our local church bodies to the use and glory of God...
1. We must actually release our body to God. This is what Paul means when he tells us, “to present your body to God as a living sacrifice.” (Romans 12:1) It needs to be a definite action, renewed as appropriate, perhaps on a yearly basis. You will not drift into this position before God, and you not, without decisive action, stay there.
Perhaps you could do it like this. Decide to give your body to God on the basis of understanding how important it is and that scriptural teaching requires it. Know therefore that it is a good and indispensible thing to do. Then take a day in quiet and solitary retreat. Quiet your soul and your body and let them get clear of the fog of your daily burdens and preoccupations. Meditatively pray some central scriptures before the Lord, especially those dealing directly with the body.
I recommend that you lie on the floor, face down or face up, and explicitly and formally surrender your body to God. Then take time to go over the main parts of you're your body and do the same for each one. What you want to do is ask God to take charge of your body and each part, to fill it with his life and use it for his purposes. Accentuate the positive; don’t just think of not sinning with your body. You will find this following naturally from active consecration of it to God’s power and his purpose. Remember a sacrifice is something taken up to God.
Give plenty of time to this ritual or sacrifice. Do not rush. When you realize it is done, give God thanks, arise, and spend some time in praise. An ecstatic reading (chant, walk or dance) of Psalms 145-150 would be an excellent exercise in this context. Put your body into it. Later, share what you have done with a spiritual friend or pastor and ask him or her to bless it. Renew your ritual of sacrifice in thought and prayer from time to time over the following weeks and plan to renew the same ritual surrender year by year.
2. No longer idolize your body. What does that mean? It means you no longer make it an object of ultimate concern. You have, after all, now given it up to God and he can do with it as he wishes. You have taken your hands off of all outcomes with respect to it, and you care for it only as it serves God’s purposes in your life and the lives of others. You don’t worry about what will happen to it- sickness, repulsiveness, aging, death- for you have placed God in charge of all that, and any issues that arise in this area you freely take up with him in prayer. You take good care of your body, but only within the framework of values clearly laid down by God and exemplified in Jesus Christ. You don’t live in fear of your body and what it might “do to you”.
3. Closely allied with the above is that you do not misuse your body. This means primarily two things: First, you do not use it as a source of sensual gratification, and you do not use it to dominate and manipulate others. Addictions of various kinds are cases where sensual gratification is seen as a necessity. These are, whatever else may be said of them, misuses of the body. Bodily pleasure in itself is not a bad thing. But when it is exalted to a necessity and we become dependent upon it, we are slaves of our body and its feelings. Only misery lies ahead.
The second thing is that this means we do not use our bodies to dominate or control others. This means different things to different people. For example, we do not present our bodies in ways that elicit sexual thoughts, feelings and actions from others. We do not try to be “sexy”. We can be naturally attractive without that. This would of course be a fatal blow to the fashion industry and large segments of the economy, but we have to let them look after themselves.
Another example on this point has to do with intimidation by means of our body. There are aspects of this, up to and including brute force. The most common forms if it are social: for example, “power dressing”, sarcasm, and “knowing” looks and remarks. Having given up our body to God, we do not them use it or its parts in these ways.
A final example, for now, is overwork. In our current world, this is a primary misuse of the body. It is now said that work is the new “drug of choice”. Often this is associated with excessive competition and trying to beat others out in some area of our common life. Sometimes this is just a matter of wearing our body out in order to succeed- often in circumstances that we regard (perhaps rightly) as imposed upon us by others. It is still a misuse of the body and a failure to work things out with God. God never gives us too much to do. He long ago gave us these words: “it is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep (Ps 127:2 KJV)
4. The positive counterpart of the remarks just made is that the body is to be properly honored and cared for. The first step in this direction follows from what has already been said. That is, the body is to be regarded as holy, because it is owned and inhabited by God.
Of course that means it will be withheld from engagement in what is wrong. “The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord; and the Lord is for the body. (1 Cor. 6:13) That being so, “Do you not know that your bodies are members (mela – that is, in organic, living communion) of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members (mela – that is, in organic, living communion) of a harlot? (Vs. 15) The answer is obvious, as obvious as whether or not one should kick a sleeping baby. Of course not! “May it never be!” is Paul’s response. But it is equally true of theft, murder, or lying, once you think of it. Any part of the body of Christ is too holy for that.
But because it is holy (separated to God) we will also properly care for it: nourish, exercise, and rest it.
The practical center of proper care for the body is Sabbath.
Sabbath: Sabbath fulfilled in human life is really a celebration of God. The body must be weaned away from its tendency to always take control, to run the world, to achieve and produce, to attain gratification. These are tendencies learned in a fallen world.
Rest is one primary mark of the condition of Sabbath in the body, as unrest is a primary mark of its absence. If we are not rested the body moves to the center or our focus and makes its presence more strongly felt, and the tendencies of its parts call out more strongly for gratification. The sensual desires and ego demands will have greater power over us through our desperate body and its parts. In addition, our awareness of what it is doing – it is very subtle – and what is happening around us will be less sharp and decisive. Confusion is the enemy of spiritual orientation. Rest, properly taken, gives clarity to mind. Weariness, by contrast, can make us seek gratification and energy from food or drugs, or from various illicit relationships, or egotistical postures that…pull us away from reliance on God and from his living power.
A full discussion would include the importance of exercise and diet
Be sure about this – God has made every provision for the body we actually have to serve us and serve him well for his purposes in putting us here on earth.
There may be severe problems with our bodies, from a human point of view. We do not deny or disregard that. But the real power of life does not reside in our looks, or physical abilities – The real power of life lies in who we are as redeemed people and how our behavior is caught up in that