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02- How to Live a Consecrated Life

Mark Finley
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Our second podcast features Mark Finley in conversation with Shauna Chung and Esther Louw. In this inspiring interview, Mark Finley shares insights, gleaned from a life of ministry and evangelism, on how to live a consecrated Christian life. He answers questions such as: How do I know if my Christianity is genuine? What does surrender look like? What role do emotions play in my conversion experience? We encourage you to tune in and learn answers to some of life’s biggest problems.


Mark Finley

Assistant to President for Evangelism at the General Conference


  • January 28, 2018
    10:00 AM


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Mark Finley in conversation with Shauna Chung and Esther Louw


(Elder Finely) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble; Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and.


(Shauna Chung) This familiar voice doing a sound check for us belongs to Pastor Mark Finley. He's the former speaker director in It Is Written, the author of over 70 books, an international evangelist, the assistant to the President of the General Conference, and currently serves at the Living Hope Seventh Day Adventist Church. Quite a resume, but looking beyond this, what's palpable and even simple conversation with the down to earth Elder Finley is that he has a relationship with God and this partnership guides every aspect of his life. We asked him to share his thoughts on consecration. In this episode, my co-host Esther Lowe and I explore various angles of this concept with Elder Finley. What is a consecrated life? How do I know if I'm “consecrated”? What’s surrender? How do you emotions factor into all of this? This is a blessing to record and I hope you're as blessed in listening.


(Host) Thank you so much Elder Finley for being here and being willing to answer these questions about consecration. One of our first questions is: What does consecration and what does it look like for you in your life?


(Elder Finley) You know, for me, there is one issue in the Christian life that if you settle, you can settle most other questions, and I think you find that in the life of Christ. When you go to Gethsemane, Jesus prays three times, “Not My will, but Thy will be done.” If you solve the question of whose will you will follow, you solve many other problems of the Christian life. You know, Jesus says in John 8:29, “I do always those things that please Him.” So Christ made a bedrock fundamental decision that He was going to do the Father's will. If you do that, you don't have to argue with God over everything that comes up. God reveals to you something, say in dressing, diet or something, you're watching on T.V. or some attitude you have. If you're not fully consecrated to God, but you're playing fake Christianity, then you're going to argue with God everything He brings up. But if you're truly consecrated to God, consecration to me means that I've come to the place of my life where I know that God's way is best. I know His will is best. And all I want to do is please Him.


(Host) I like how you brought the idea of fake Christianity, that reminds me like of a question I've always had that, you know, a lot of the times you can meet people who are not Christian who are kind, unselfish people but then you meet Christians who are unkind and selfish. So how do we deal with that cognitive dissonance and recognize true consecration from that fake Christianity?


(Elder Finley) You know, that’s really a good question. And it's kind of like I was telling somebody earlier today we were raising that question, you know. Why is God so good and the church so bad at times? That people ask you that question and I said, you know, if I run through a patch of roses, I'm gonna rip. My legs may be cut, there are some thorns in those roses. But, I can stand back on a gentle summer night with the sun setting in the gentle breeze blowing and smell the beautiful aroma of the roses. Roses have thorns and so when you look at the church, there are some thorny people in it. They're gonna cut you up a little bit times; but yet there is the beauty that is there in the church as well.


And when you think about that, how do you deal with that? Well, Jesus talked about that. He said, “The wheat and the tares are going to grow together in the harvest.” So often, it depends too on what you're looking for.


If God gives me a consecrated heart, I wanna see the best in every other human being. So the person that treats me quite abruptly, the person that gets caustic and critical of me, I would say, “God, where are they hurting? What can I do to minister to them?” The person that is selfish in a local church really is jockeying for position and wants a church office. I might ask myself the question, “LORD, what insecurity is there in their life that makes them want to dominate?” The person who comes in and doesn't say, “Hi” to anybody, how have they been repressed in childhood so those feelings are bottled up inside? So rather than looking at the church as a group of perfect saints, you can look at it from the opportunity of two aspects: (1) to minister to others and try to figure out, I think one of the great joys of life is trying to figure out why other people respond the way they do, when they respond even negatively to you. You say, that's kind of a dissonance, you know, joy and negativity; but I think for a Christian, you're always thinking, “God, help me to be able to minister to that person even if they are not responsible, [even if they're not, the greatest joy is to minister to] even if it's tough. I think that's one aspect of the question. One aspect of the question is to me, I don't ask what's bad about the church, but what's good about it. And I see people working from 8 to 5, in what some would call secular employments, and then participating with us in a soup kitchen at night. I see people working 40, 50 hours a week and yet participating with us in health programs, going on give Bible studies, ministering to the needy and the poor and the disadvantaged and taking people into their homes. I see people with medical degrees that are giving up a week of their time when they could be making money going on mission trips.


So, you know, when I look at the church, it is a mixed bag, you do have this cognitive dissonance; but you look at it from, in the questions, where do you focus? You know, what do you really focusing on and how can I minister?


(Host) Maybe we should take a couple steps back, just for the quickly and, meaning, is it even possible define consecration? I think a lot of people see consecration and surrender as these very abstract nebulous concepts. How might we bring them down to earth just a little bit?


(Elder Finley) Okay, I see consecration and we'll go back to something we said earlier that I kinda  flash that out. I see consecration as a commitment. So, who/where is your commitment? Is sports my major commitment? So, I spend hours every week on it? Can I say, I'm consecrated, if I'm obsessed with the Sports? Is fashion my major commitment? So who has my thoughts? Who I love to talk about? Genuine authentic Christianity, Christ is at the center. I love to talk about Jesus. I love to share Jesus. When you're in love, everybody knows. And, you know, my wife and I have been married for 50 years. Nobody has to ask if I love her or she loves me. When you love somebody, you want to talk about them joyfully, it's natural. When you love somebody you want to spend time with them. Spending time with them is not a burden, it's a delight. I love to spend time with my wife, we walk together, we fellowship together. I wanna share with her the joys of my heart. So what is consecration? It's a loving to spend time with Jesus. It’s loves to pray. It's the desire to spend time in His word. What is consecration? It is loving to share the depths of my heart with the Christ who means so much to me.


Now, how can I know that I'm really consecrated? I think there are a number of ways. (1) Do I love to spend time with Jesus? Do I love to talk about Jesus? Do I love to share Jesus? Do I see witnessing as something that I do only if I have time, after my regular work or is witness somebody I am all through my day, witnessing of His love, His grace, verbally and nonverbally? I think also, the other aspect, the other two aspects of this consecration, is who I love to talk about? Who I love to spend time with?


Secondly, what and where are my thoughts? In my private, inmost thoughts and what dominates my thinking? I like very much Philippians 2:5 that says that “Let this mind be in you that is in Christ Jesus.” Who dominates my thoughts? Does Christ dominates my thinking process?


And thirdly, in the area of consecration, what do I do with my spare time? When I have downtime, where does my heart naturally go? If I am a genuine Christian, I love to spend time with Jesus, my deepest affections and thoughts of Him and when I have a few moments, I want to take it with my Best Friend. That's consecration.

(Host) What if, maybe, you know, I want to be more connected God but I don’t have the desire to spend time with Jesus. What if don’t have that feeling? How do I get to that point?


(Elder Finley) Begin where you are. Don't wish that you were somebody else. Don't feel that you have to be a super saint and that you're not consecrated to God, unless you spend three hours a day studying your Bible and praying. Start right where you are and start by simply, when you get up in the morning, before you get out of bed, put your Bible right next to your bed and just before you get out of bed, read a Psalm, even if it's just 5 minutes or 10 minutes. That will energize your spiritual life. So start small with those incremental steps and God will take you where you are. So, Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, so you start where you are. There's no other place to start.


And next, you know, I love what scripture says in the book of Romans, it says that “God has given to every one of us a measure of faith.” So that faith maybe like, maybe like a mustard seed faith, but God's gonna grow that faith in your heart. He's gonna grow that love.


When I first began dating my wife, I did not spend five hours a day with her. If I could get a casual conversation among all those other guys that were vying for her time, I was really lucky, see. So you start incrementally, says and the more you know Jesus, the more you want to know Jesus, and the more you spend time with Jesus, the more you want to spend time with Jesus, the more you study the Word, something is gonna happen in your life where you hunger and thirst after the Word like David says, my heart pans for the deer, my heart is like a deer panting for the water broke.


So there is that desire that God creates in you. So build on the desire you have. Just start right where you are. Don't be too hard on yourself. Don't whip yourself and flagellate yourself like Martin Luther did, but start where you are, and as you read more and you study more, and you expose your mind for to Christ, you'll fall in love with Him more deeply.


(Host) Speaking of falling in love, I think that a commonality of the Christian experience is just experiencing the super high, high, that being completely in love and then that's followed by really low, low, down or something like that and just this, this range of emotions or somebody might just fit it in a completely different way, just totally logical, the emotion on it, how do I integrate, I guess, natural human characteristics in this journey of leading towards consecration?


(Elder Finley) You know, I was a pastor in and worked in the Lake Union Suwan Institute, Chicago for many years. And in Chicago, we had the Sears Tower and at that time the Sears Tower was the largest building in the world, the tallest building in the world, and it is no longer has been, built one in Dubai that’s taller. And it had a hundred some floors, I forget the number of floors, and one of my friends said once, he said this to me and I've always remembered it, he said, “My emotions are like the elevator in Sears Tower, sometimes I'm on a hundred and whatever it is 31st floor, but sometimes I'm in the basement. If I'm 131st floor, I can see great, this great view, I'm in ecstasy, I'm feeling great;” but he said, “sometime in the basement.” Then he said, “But God is like the elevator man, whether I'm on the 130 some floor, whether I'm in the basement, the elevator man is still operating the elevator.”


And I think one thing particular that young people need to recognize is that God is not dependent on their emotions. My relationship with God is not dependent on how I feel about God on that particular day. There are gonna be many things that affect your emotions. There are gonna be times that you don't pass an exam and you're gonna be really down and out about it. You're gonna really discouraged about it. There can be times that you get a phone call that your brother is, been in a car accident, you're gonna be down about it. There be times that you just get up in the morning and you feel the blue funk. You were studying a lot or you were working 60 hours a week, 50 hours a week, you didn't have a good diet, you didn't get much exercise, and you just feel lousy. That has nothing to do with where God is in your life.


And so, I think, it's really important for young people, particularly, to recognize that their feelings about God do not dictate God's feelings about them, that God is there even when I don't see Him. God is there, even when I don't feel it. God is there. God is committed to me. When I make a commitment to Christ and I become a son of God and daughter of the King, He is there and He promises that He's gonna be the author and finisher of my faith. He promises that what He started, He's gonna finish. So my faith or my trust in God; and I like to define faith this way, faith is a relationship with God as a friend well-known that believes He'll never harm me and that He will never leave me or forsake me that leads me to trust Him in every aspect of my life. So faith is basically trust, that I can trust that He's there and so what I would say is that is that when you don't have feelings of closeness to God that has nothing to do with how God feels about you.


And recognizing that our feelings don't dictate what God's feelings are, does that mean that we should ignore the feelings that we might have and just if I feel distant to God it doesn't mean anything?


(Elder Finley) It doesn't mean, I should ignore them, it means I should recognize them.




(Elder Finley) So, I don't ignore my feelings, I recognize them, and I acknowledge them. See if you ignore them and you and you repress your feelings that can be harmful to you both emotionally, relationally, it can be harm to you physically; but if I acknowledge my feelings, if I say, you know what, “God, today, I'm not feeling close to you but I know that that does not dictate Your feeling toward me. I know that no matter how I feel [I love], You love me and you care for me. And I'm living; I'm choosing to live, not in harmony with the way I feel, but the way I know You feel about me.”


So we don't repress our feelings; but we recognize them. And we recognize too that life has its seasons and there are times you gonna feel a little bit down; there are gonna be times you feel blunt. There can be times you feel up. Life has it's seasons. And so you recognize your feelings. You acknowledge your feelings. And you, beyond your feelings, live a life of trust in God.


(Host) I think when we are experiencing these feelings of doubt or, or intense faith, a lot of times, the inner motivation is not how do I feel about God or how do I perceive God but it's ‘am I save,’ you know. The focus is always on this salvation I’m having. How would you respond to something like that? What do you think is the focus, I guess, of the consecrated in Christian?


(Elder Finley) Yeah, my and I want to go back a minute or two because a statement from Desire of Ages came to my mind that says this: “Jesus was neither elated by applause nor dejected by censure.” I love it, you know. Jesus had this very stable relationship with the Father. And there were times that the crowds wanted to make Him King and the other times they wanted to crucify Him; but He had this steady confidence. And I, and I think that's has to do with consecration of faith. It's this steady confidence that God is there.


Back to your other question about salvation, the problem with the very question is its focus. So when I begin to think, in my own mind, “you know, I'm not good enough to be saved.” The focus is on me rather on Jesus.


George Vandeman was a mentor of mine. When I first came to It Is Written and one of the famous statements that he always made in his sermons was this: “If I look at myself, I don't see any possibility for me to be saved; if I look at Jesus, I don't see any possibility for me to be lost.”

And I think what I would say to young people about the issue of salvation is where is your focus. Is your focus on the Christ that lived a perfect life that you should have live? Is your focus on the Christ that died the death you should have died? When you feel insecure and uncertain and filled with doubt regarding your salvation, it's because you are looking within the weakness of your own heart. And you know, Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked…”


So, remember the apostle Paul says, he's looking, he says, “looking for forward to the things that are before, looking onto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” So, if I work within, I'm gonna see weakness. If I will without, I'm gonna see other people and I'm either going to feel proud or I’m gonna feel disappointed I'm not like them, so if I look at other people, I’ll either become critical or arrogant. If I’ll look within, I'll either become depressed or discouraged. If I look behind it all, my fault, I’ll feel guilty and if I look to the future, I may feel worried; but if I’ll look for Jesus, I feel confident.


So I'm not looking within or without, behind or before; but when you focus, and I think the issue of the Christian life, is where’s your focus. Am I focusing on Jesus? Because if I am, He is my salvation.


(Host) Just thinking about wrapping up some of the conversation that we've had is you’ve talked about consecration. Our focus is not really on me and my problems but on God. So what is a life that's focused on God looked like?


(Elder Finley) Okay. Un-consecration to, you know, you asked earlier, how do you know if you’re consecrated to God. How do you know if you're a make-believe Christian? And there's, there's many ways, you know. We talked about who has your thoughts. We talked about, where you spend your time; but there is something else that has come to my mind and it's this: one way, I know whether I'm doing my will or God's, if every time in my life, the things I want to do or the things that God wants me to do, that's not much of a test is it. I'll give you an example; have either of you ladies ever smoked cigarettes?


(Hosts) No.


(Elder Finley) Do you want to?


(Host) No.


(Elder Finley) That's the indication you're converted, right?


(Hosts) No.


(Elder Finley) You see my point. See. But what if I were a smoker, I'm not and I never have; but what if I were a smoker of two packs a day, and I was addicted to that and I came to the point in my life where God convicted me of it. Would be giving up smoking be a test for me? If I were a smoker, it would be.


(Hosts) Yeah


(Elder Finley) See. So it's not a test for you to be in harmony with God's will when you want to be. The greatest test is when God shows you something in your life that's not in harmony with His will; that tests whether or not my heart is converted. So, conversion comes at a point of a test. So God reveals some attitude toward me; it might be criticism, it might be an attitude of unkindness, and so forth. God reveals that attitude for me. Maybe it's out of selfishness and I say, “God, I'm not gonna battle with you on this thing, I'm gonna, I'm gonna surrender that.” God reveals something to you that you're watching on the Internet or television and you say, “God I'm gonna surrender this.” God reveals in inordinate desire for position or pride and you say, “God I wanna surrender this.


So, conversion comes at the point in which our will and God's will conflicts and we choose God's will and that deepens our experience. Conversion doesn't come at the point when I'm doing everything that I wanna do anyway and it just happens to be God's will. Come back and ask me rather question you ask before.


(Host) Basically, what does it look like to be consecrated? What would my life be? How would it be changed? How they changed? How they'd be different? You know, this is kind of that a tricky question to answer because to say, you need to look like this in a way to look like you're consecrated. I think that kinda putting the cart before the horse. You're dictating the behaviors before actually… Is it external or internal?


(Elder Finley) I think its both. You know, if you have an internal relationship with Christ, its going to be manifest in external behavior; but I don't think you focus on the behavior. I think you focus on the internal relationship with Christ and people are gonna be growing in their experience with Jesus and we all come from different genetic backgrounds, we come from different family backgrounds.


I was telling someone the day, a life consecrated to Christ, because, in our class, a lady raised this question. She said, “you know, I'm naturally very aggressive” and she said, “you know, I'm quite forward, quite aggressive” and she said, “sometimes I come across really strongly and I and I really want Jesus to change me.” And I said to her, “Accept who you are. Jesus is not gonna change your DNA. He's not gonna have you be a little meek person in the corner. That's not your DNA. But what He will do is change like He did Peter that aggressive nature to a positive influence for Christ in witness.” And so I think that there often Christians think that God's gonna just come down in some way change your DNA and change your basic personality. What I see Him doing rather is shaping and molding who He has made us. God loves you the way He made you. He made you that way. He formed the genes and chromosomes that came together to form the unique biological structure, your personality; so that's the way God made you. But what is He gonna do? He's gonna mold and shape that personality so that you still will be you to direct you into the areas of life where you can be most service for Him.


What does a consecrated Christian life look like? It looks like a person who says, “Jesus, I trust you in every area of my life and I wanna reveal you to others; but I am weak and I'm growing. I'm going to fall at times, I'm going to make mistakes at times, but that doesn't mean that I'm less dear to the heart of God. It means that the Christian life is a process; sometimes we're gonna be on the mountain, sometimes, you’re gonna be in the valley; but it's a living a life of trust in God with an attempt to share what He's done in my life with other people.


(Host) Many thanks to Elder Finley for sharing his perspective. In this conversation, I was personally reminded of the obvious; but often forgotten fact - God loves us. God wants us. He's desirous of a relationship with us. And as we've heard in this episode, consecration doesn't involve chasing after His favor or living in a constant state of policing ourselves and others; rather it simply involves answering the question, “Will I choose Him back?”


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