(Adapted from Balancing the Christian Life by Charles Ryrie)
Some present dedication as the entire answer to all the problems of the Christian life; others give it little place; and most do not understand the place of rededication in the whole matter. To be confused at this point is to do damage to the entire biblical teaching on Christian living.
Throughout Scripture the call to dedication is always based on blessings already granted. In other words, God appeals to His children to dedicate their lives on the basis of the fact that He has richly blessed them. Although there are many “mercies of God” which should motivate the believer to dedication, probably the chief one in the background of dedication is redemption. Since redemption is so basic to dedication, one needs to consider three words, which are used to convey the concept.
The first is a simple word that means to buy or purchase or pay a price for something. In relation to our salvation, the word means to pay the price that our sin demands so that we can be redeemed (Rev. 5:9; 2 Peter 2:1). And it is only by the blood of Christ that the price can be paid.
The second word for redemption conveys the idea that the death of Christ not only paid the price for our salvation but also removed us from the marketplace of sin in order to give assurance to us that we will never be returned to the bondage and penalties of sin. Christ’s coming was in order “to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal. 4:5). The use of this compound word in this verse assures us that we can never lose that adoption as sons and be returned to bondage.
The third word signifies that the purchased person is also released and set free in the fullest sense. Redemption in its fullest connotation means that because of the shedding of the blood of Christ believers have been purchased, removed, and liberated. Since redemption includes this idea of freedom, this means that the child of God is not automatically a servant of the new Master who bought him. If that were so, then the sinner’s bondage would only have been transferred from one master (sin) to another (Christ). The truth is that Christ has purchased us in order that we might be free, and He does not take unwilling servants or slaves into captivity. That accounts for the exhortations, rather than commands, which we read in the New Testament to offer ourselves willingly to the Lord in dedication of life. Or to put it another way, those who have been set free from the slavery of sin are asked to enter voluntarily into a new servitude, and the request is made on the basis of the very act that set them free. The awesome purchase price of the very life of the Son of God should be more than ample motivation to make every child of God eagerly want to yield back to the Lord the very freedom that His death bought.
What is it that the Christian is to dedicate? The answer is himself. “Present yourselves to God” (Rom. 6:13), “present your bodies” (Rom. 12:1), “glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20), “submit yourselves…to God” (James 4:7) – this is the uniform appeal of Scripture, and it concerns our bodies. If this is so, then it follows that dedication concerns the years of one’s life, since that is the only period in which the body functions. Dedication concerns the present life, not the life hereafter.
Very often dedication is mixed up with salvation. Salvation concerns my personal relationship to Jesus Christ as my Substitute for sin that unless paid for would bring me into eternal condemnation. Dedication concerns the subjection of my life to Jesus Christ as long as I live. Salvation involves the sin question; dedication, subjection. But too often some make dedication a condition of salvation and this is nothing less than adding works to the grace of God.
If dedication concerns the years of one’s life, it is directed primarily to the question of the control of that life. Simply stated, dedication concerns whether I will direct my life or whether Christ will. Dedication does not pose the question of whether one will go to the mission field; nor does it ask whether one will turn over his business to the Lord. It faces the Christian with the question of who will be the master of the years of his life. Once that is decided then the question of every other detail of life has automatically been involved in that basic decision. Dedication should never be presented as a matter of yielding to some thing or in some area; it should always be directed toward someone, the Lord Himself.
To dedicate in some area or in relation to some thing will, of course, mean that only that area or thing has been yielded to the Lord’s control. Then in the course of time another problem or decision will face the person, and he will have to decide whether or not to yield to the Lord’s will in that respect. Then another choice will arise. Then a crossroad will appear, and so on and on through life. Each time the believer will be faced with deciding his basic relationship to the will of God. It will be like weeding a garden. This year you pull up one weed; another year, another. In the meantime more weeds grow, and there is never any basic settledness toward the will of God. But if one dedicates his life with all of its problems, decisions, situations, and circumstances – both known and unknown – as decisions arise they can always be faced in light of the fact that there has been a basic, total and lifelong commitment to the will of God. Thus the area of dedication is one’s whole life. This will involve the details of life, but it involves them not as means to dedication but as results of dedication.
The dedicated life (the initial act of dedication plus continuous commitment to it) involves at least three component features and are delineated in Romans 12:1-2.
1) The dedicated life must be initiated by the believer by presenting himself as a living sacrifice. The presentation of body is reasonable or rational or logical in view of the greatness of the mercies of God in salvation. Too, it is a sacrificial thing since we are asked to live for Christ in the daily routine as well as in the more unusual occurrences of life. We are to be living sacrifices, not dead ones. And of course, this presentation is to be a complete one. This means clearly a total presentation, not a partial one, and it includes all that we know about ourselves at the time of presentation and all the unknown future. It includes the good that we possess as well as the bad. We do not give over to the Lord just those aspects of our lives, which we cannot control or that we wish to rid ourselves of, but we give Him, everything including the good traits and talents. And all is for Him to use or not us use as He sees fit. This is the logical, sacrificial, total, and decisive presentation of dedication.
2) The dedicated life also involves a separation or nonconformity to the evil age in which we live (Gal. 1:4). The meaning of nonconformity involves the idea of being unfashionable. This is a very vivid expression and throws the light of God’s Word on so many of our ambitions, activities, goals, standards, and programs which are too often geared to the methods of the day rather than to the glory of God. Separation from the world, or nonconformity, is being unfashionable, and this is a necessary characteristic of the dedicated.
3) The third feature of the dedicated life is transformation. Both separation and transformation are required. The positive transformation is done by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18), but the center of it is the mind. In this passage we find the mind is the center of the transforming activity of the Spirit in the life of the believer. Too often we think of total depravity as affecting man from his neck down, and we unconsciously exempt the head from the effects of sin. We conclude that what we think or the attitudes we have are free from the effects of the fall. That is not so, and the fact that the transformation of life centers in the mind demonstrates this. We need to think God’s standards in order to have our lives transformed into His likeness. He who is light, holiness, and truth is our standard, not the world with all of its counterfeits.
Does the act of dedication have to be repeated?
The scriptural picture is an initial act of dedication which includes all of oneself for all of one’s life. This should never be taken back; therefore, when a dedicated person comes to a crossroad in life or faces a decision, he is not faced with deciding again whether or not he will do the will of God. This has already and forever been decided in that initial act of dedication. He must only find what the will of God is in this situation; then he will gladly do it. This is the biblical picture of a dedicated life. But, of course, when Christians come to such crossroads and decisions they sometimes choose not to do what they know is the will of God. In such instances, sin enters and their dedication has been violated. They miss the will of God and substitute their own will in the particular situation. They may be out of the will of God in a major area or in a minor area of life, but in either case they have gone back on their dedication vow.
What is needed in such cases to remedy the situation? Is it a rededication? In a sense one might call it that, but it is a use of the basic word dedication with a different connotation. The rededication is not a doing again of the same thing that was done at the time of dedication; therefore, the rededication connotes something different from dedication. In such a usage, rededication means getting back on the track on which you started at the time of dedication. It would probably be better to call the remedy restoration, and this comes through confession of sin. Choosing to do your own will even though dedicated is a very real possibility since God does not remove from us the freedom of choice when we dedicate ourselves to Him. When we wish to recognize and admit that we have thus sinned, the remedy is not rededication but confession of the sin and restoration to the place of fellowship. Then we can go on living a dedicated life. It is not necessary to start over; and even though sin leaves its mark, it does not always mean that everything is lost. Confession and restoration may, therefore, be frequent in the dedicated Christian’s life. But a rededication (meaning doing again the same thing that was done in dedication) is really not an accurate way to express the remedy.
But if rededication is not really a wrong concept (if it means restoration), why quibble over the use of the word? This is why – in practice a rededication emphasis gives one the picture of needing to pluck out this sin, get rid of that wrong, change that fault, so that if you rededicate often enough you will eventually become dedicated. Rededication becomes a means of dedication, not a route to restoration.
Each believer stands on one side or the other of dedication. Either we have made this lifelong commitment or we have not. Either we have faced the issue of who is to be the master of our lives or we have been plucking up one sin at a time. If there has never been a dedication of life this is the next step each must take. If there has been, then it is always profitable to examine the present state of that dedicated life. If in any area one’s dedication has for any reason been violated, then the remedy is confession to God and restoration by God.
Dedication, first of all, relates to the will of God. Romans 12:2 says that the result of presentation, separation, and transformation is “that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (KJV). This means that dedication brings the knowledge, the doing, and the enjoying of God’s will for that life. A life lived in the light of the will of God is not a sinless life, but it is a life directed in the right path; it is a life that grows and matures day by day.
Dedication is also related to the filling of the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit. To dedicate one’s life to God is to yield control to Him. Thus dedication allows the Holy Spirit to fill the life of the believer. An undedicated life reserves control for self and thus prevents the Spirit’s filling that person. Of course, if dedication is violated, the filling ministry of the Spirit is hindered. Thus dedication is a prerequisite for being filled with the Spirit.
Lord, I know You as my personal Savior and nothing will ever change that. However, in obedience to Your command, I want You to be the Master of my entire life and being. In faith based on Your Goodness, Compassion and Righteousness, I give ALL ownership of myself to You. This includes all my rights, privileges, freedom, possessions, plans, dreams, hopes, longings, all my good and all my bad aspects….everything about me….no strings attached…both now and for all time. I desire to be enslaved only to You.