From Grief to Glory,
From Consecration to Consummation
At the climax of months of helping to guide a 700-member East Coast congregation into the initial phases of a God-given “Christ Awakening,” he interpreted the impact of their journey by speaking from a written manuscript. This allows members to go back to the document later to study its high points.
What David shared with them can help you interpret where things stand spiritually in the Christian group to which you belong.
In his message, David captures the true essence of any Christ Awakening unleashed by the Holy Spirit among God’s people. He also clarifies for all of us how to nourish such a spiritual transformation into a permanent and penetrating spiritual revolution for any congregation.
Backstory: To learn what David has been up to the past few months with New Providence Presbyterian Church (NPPC), read his blog post from last week HERE.
It is David’s conviction that what has begun to happen with this typical evangelical body waits to unfold for every church in America!
See if you agree. Read below the unique message he delivered on September 24, 2023.
Since Palm Sunday, we’ve been on quite a journey together these past few months.
It reminds me of the funny story of the teenage mosquito that got permission to explore the whole neighborhood for the first time. He flitted from yard to yard, porch to porch, barbeque to barbeque. That evening, when he came back home, his father asked what he had learned. He replied, “I didn’t know I was so popular. Everywhere I went, people were always clapping for me!”
In the same way, for 27 Sundays, I’ve taken our church on a tour of Scripture to focus on who Christ is today as the ultimate fulfillment of our lives. We have found ourselves, as a congregation, applauding for our Lord and Savior over and over—as we’ve discovered so much more of the wonders of who he is and who he is for us.
This is why I believe we can title this totally unexpected but extraordinary journey we’ve traveled with these four simple words: “From Grief to Glory.”
To be sure, as our church was hit with one setback after another last April, we underwent an extended season of grieving over what had been lost. This was only natural. But it was not fatal.
That’s because, for Christians, grief is always mixed with hope—as Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 4. Therefore, starting on Palm Sunday, we set our sights on what Scripture describes as “Christ in you, your hope for all the glorious things to come.”
We discovered the true power of Jesus’ promise in John 12—when he cried out: “And if I am exalted, I will draw everyone to myself.” And so, we lifted him up week after week—until finally, we created what we called a “Photo Album of the Heart” with 97 separate biblical snapshots of Christ today. We uncovered a vast variety of insights into the greatness and grace of our Redeemer and King, along with the amazing hope we have in him.
Increasingly, what happened to us is what 2 Corinthians 3 promises, where we read:
As we all contemplate the glory of the Lord Jesus, we are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another degree of glory by the Holy Spirit.
From grief to glory—to glory.
As this magnificent journey unfolded this summer, however, this one curious experience marked virtually every Sunday morning:
No matter who was preaching, no matter what specific aspect of Jesus’ glory we were looking at, we seemed to come under what I would call “the weightiness of the manifest presence of Jesus.”
Did you notice how during the sermons in every worship service, in both traditional and contemporary, there came upon us a holy stillness, a motionlessness, almost a breathlessness?
It was as if the entire congregation became one eye, one ear, one mind, one heart. As someone put it to me, it was as if we, as one body, were glued—glued not to the preacher or the message or even the Scripture—but glued to Jesus himself.
This consistent experience over the months reminded me of an event that took place on October 4, almost 25 years ago.
That was the day I invited 1.5 million men, who had gathered from every part of the nation on the National Mall in DC, to prostrate themselves before our risen, ascended, reigning, victorious, saving Lord Jesus Christ—to worship him and focus on him as the ultimate answer to all of our thousands of prayers offered that day for a national spiritual awakening.
And they did. Flat, with their faces in the dirt. From one end of the Mall to the other.
Then, I had us spend a full three minutes in absolute silence before our Savior. As we did, the weightiness of the manifest presence of Jesus came down upon the Mall in a sacred stillness. Countless testimonies I’ve received over the years since then have verified how, during those three minutes of focus on God’s Son, the Spirit powerfully moved to permanently transform thousands of believers—as we did nothing that day but consecrate ourselves more fully to him.
During those moments, our Father spoke to me so clearly, saying: “David, what you are seeing before you is a picture of things to come.”
Immediately, I knew he was referring to a season just ahead of the Church when there will be a widespread awakening to the supremacy of Christ all across our nation of such a magnitude that for multitudes, the initial response will be nothing short of total consecration to him.
But listen to this: This same kind of encounter is what I’ve witnessed with the company of Jesus followers here at NPPC these past months. Sunday after Sunday, our Redeemer has been manifestly at work among us, clearly and directly, moving us, individually and together, from grief to glory.
That’s why this month, we’ve been focusing on the biblical concept of “Consecration.” This word is my answer to the question many of you have: “Where do we go from here? What do we do with the grander, more glorious vision of Jesus that God has given us during this journey?”
And that brings me to today’s key passage on consecration in 2 Corinthians 11:2-4 (NET), where we read these words:
I am jealous for you with godly jealousy because I promised you in marriage to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. But I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus different from the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you accepted, you put up with it well enough!
My goal in this message is this: That from this day forward, you will never think of the word “consecration” without also thinking, at the same time, of another similarly sounding word—“consummation.” Actually, they are inseparable. Let me show you why.
Briefly, here’s the backstory of this passage.
The Corinthian church had divided itself into competing factions around various individuals, whom Paul called in this chapter “super-apostles.” In other words, the Christians there had become personality-driven (as are so many in our churches today) rather than Person-driven (that is, united in a common consecration to Christ alone). As a result, the church was struggling with all kinds of moral and theological strivings and detours.
In the thick of this drama, Paul saw himself as a father and the Christian community in Corinth (which he had founded) as his daughter, whom he had promised to Christ as a bride. As father of the bride, therefore, Paul was determined to present her to Christ as “pure.” No promiscuity. No rivals. He was fighting for her spiritual virginity—to keep this congregation wholly, totally, sincerely, wholeheartedly devoted to Christ alone.
However, competing agendas were at play in their church. Paul calls those agendas “another” or a “different” Christ, gospel, and Spirit. Technically, he’s not referring to blatant heresy. Rather, he sees these various “super-apostles” bringing teachings and approaches that were diminishing, diluting, defacing, and altogether diverting their vision about Christ from him to themselves as spiritual gurus. These so-called apostles were attempting to capture the allegiance of Corinthian Christians for themselves, for their own purposes. Unfortunately, as we read, the believers appeared to be predisposed to follow.
This is why, in this 2 Corinthians 11 passage, Paul likens any effort that pulls believers away from a laser-focused devotion to Christ as duplicating the strategy Satan used when he tempted Eve toward the good fruit God had created but in a way that would pull her away from God himself.
And let’s remember: Satan did his work on the inside; he was a resident in Eden when he led our parents to compromise obedience to their Creator. In the same way, the challenge to the Corinthians’ unwavering commitment to Christ was coming from teachers inside the fellowship of believers.
Note as well: This can happen inside any church today. Even here.
For example, we see this today, especially when the trappings of Christianity and churchianity begin to clutter, encumber, clog up, and compete with our discovering more about Christ, experiencing more of Christ, becoming more like Christ, and giving more of ourselves for Christ.
For example, leaders like Tim Keller warn: Even with a Bible study, our top priority approach must be to come to Scripture to let it enlarge our vision of Christ and increase our hope and passion toward him. Otherwise, even after hearing years of sermons, believers still can end up with “another christ” or “another gospel.”
In the same way, a church community can have all its ducks in order. It can have a well-oiled organization, productive committees, as well as fully staffed and funded programs to meet every age and every need and still find itself (to paraphrase Romans 10) with a knowledge of Christian-related issues but little encounter with the power and person of Christ himself.
This is why Paul calls himself a jealous father regarding this Corinthian congregation—not jealous of them but jealous for them with a jealousy, he says, that comes from the heart of God. Paul sought to ensure that the bride-to-be would stay faithful to the one she was about to wed. Jesus was to be her singular concern and her magnificent obsession.
In other words, what Paul wrote in Galatians 2, he wanted for the Corinthian Christians as well: “You have no life of your own. Now Christ lives in you. And the life you now live in the flesh, you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave himself for you.”
Or I can hear Paul calling the body of Christ in Corinth to follow his example in the same way he did in Philippians 3: “Count everything else in your life as a loss in comparison to knowing Christ Jesus your Lord and being found in him.”
Let me be candid with you: It is at this point that the Church in our nation finds itself enveloped in a sobering crisis. I’ve observed it in my decades of travel into every stream of the church and for years have called it a “crisis of Christology.”
This crisis consists of the significant shortfall among a host of Christians in how we see, seek, savor, and speak of Christ for all he is, in the fullness of his supremacy.
For sure, this crisis lies at the root of an ominous phenomenon that new research, just out this month, calls “The Great Dechurching.” Historically, America has known great awakenings. But currently, we are undergoing the very opposite: the “great dechurching.” We’re told on the first page of a key book bearing that very title:
America is currently experiencing the largest and fastest religious shift in the history of our country, as tens of millions of formerly regular Christian worshipers nationwide have decided they no longer desire to attend church at all. These are what we now call the dechurched. Over the past 20 years, 40 million adults in America today who used to go to church no longer do. This is not a gradual shift; it is a jolting one.
The call to consecration to Christ for all he is as reigning Lord and glorious King over everything in this world and the next has never been more critical than it is at this very hour. How desperately we need to experience a strong dose of Paul’s godly jealousy right now!
That brings me back to the synonym for “consecration” I referenced at the beginning. That word is “CONSUMMATION.”
You’ve probably heard the word before because it is often used to define the end of history when the redemptive purposes of God are consummated and Jesus reigns 0n the day of our resurrection over a new heaven and earth. You might call that our eternal wedding day, or as Revelation 19 describes it, “the marriage supper of the Lamb.” At that point, the engagement, our betrothal to Jesus, reaches fulfillment in its entirety.
But before that hour, there are two major approximations of that consummation that the betrothed—that’s all of us Jesus followers—are invited to enjoy.
And both are about consecration.
The first form is a consecration to Christ, where we are constantly consuming more and more of him and the fullness of life in him. As Jesus put it in John 6, we are invited to feast on him—not in some grotesque, cannibalistic way but rather as we open ourselves to the Spirit of God for him to nourish our souls daily so that we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3). Day after day, our intentional prayer must remain, to paraphrase Psalm 42:
Father, as the deer pants for water, so I thirst for your Son, my reigning Savior. I long to know all that you have for me in him, for in him is life ever new. By your Spirit, help me find more of him so I might abide more deeply in him, drawing on the riches of your promises to us in him.
We’ve done a lot of this in the past few months, haven’t we?
However, secondly, even more true is that consecration happens to us as increasingly we are consumed by Christ. As Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 5: “Christ died for us; therefore, we were all dead. And he died so that those who live should no longer live for ourselves but for him who died and rose again on our behalf.”
Jesus put it quite succinctly in Mark 8: To experience what real life is all about, we must lose our lives for—that is, become consumed by—everything that revolves around the person and cause of Christ.
You see, it is not so much that the joy of following Jesus is to have him at the center of who we are, where we’re headed, what we’re doing, and how we get blessed. Rather, the joy of following Jesus is for us to live daily at the center of who HE is, where HE is headed, what HE is doing, and how HE gets blessed.
The bottom line is that this is a Trinitarian transaction. It involves the three persons of the Godhead. The Father gives the Son to us and all that comes with him. The Spirit gives us to the Son and all that comes with us. And then, we give the Son the supremacy in everything—with heart, mind, soul, and strength—consumed by him to the glory of the Triune God!
Thus, you see, consecration consisting of pure, undistracted devotion to Christ becomes consummation—we consume him, and he consumes us.
And remember this: One day, all creation will join us and all the redeemed in a glorious celebration that will be THE consummation—when everything is consuming Christ, and everything is consumed by him as Lord of all, for all ages to come.
So, how do we keep moving in this direction, individually and as a congregation of God’s people? There’s only one proper answer for all of us:
We must keep doing what we’ve been doing all these months—but not just in our Sunday services. In our Sunday schools, with our youth groups, at committee meetings, in our deacons’ ministries, around our dinner tables, in your own private prayer times—we must keep making much of Jesus to one another all the time.
Remember how he commended one disciple for choosing to sit at his feet in order to know him better. He said it should not be taken from her. It’s the same for us. This must not be taken away from us either. Scripture proclaims to all believers: “Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Scripture is clear: All of life—true life—is all about HIM. “For me to live is Christ” (Philippians 1).
Have you ever wondered about this? How did the New Testament church explode upon the Roman empire so powerfully in its first few decades, as recorded in the book of Acts? They had no Bibles as we do. They had no trained seminarians to teach them. They had no Sunday school classes, no mid-week Bible studies, and no religious television shows or YouTube worship videos to encourage them.
What they did have, however, is precisely what we have, as well. To paraphrase Colossians 3:16, they made sure the truths about the glories of God’s Son saturated their life together as they taught and encouraged one another with all they were discovering as they walked with Christ day by day.
You see, Paul really believed what he prayed to the Father in Ephesians 3—that the Holy Spirit would work directly in believers anywhere, helping them swim deeply, as it were, into the depths of Christ and his powerful love, being filled with more and more of life in Christ, beyond what one might ask or think.
Do we believe what New Testament saints believed?
Maybe more to the point: Do we want this kind of relationship with God’s Son—where our consecration to him becomes our consummation in him?
For sure, in these past months, we’ve gone from grief to glory. Now, are we ready to go from glory into more glory? Are we ready to pursue more of Christ—more of who he is to us, and for us, and over us, and before us, and within us, and through us, and upon us?
Brothers and sisters: This is not a work of the flesh; this is a work of the Spirit—and it is a foretaste of all that waits for us just ahead.
Let me close by opening one more window to my soul.
A week ago, I was hiking through the woods and open fields at the Somerset Environmental Center, reflecting on all we’ve discovered about Christ this summer and praying for all of you. Suddenly, unexpectedly, I was overtaken by—almost swallowed up by—the presence of Jesus. And standing there alone among the trees, I heard myself cry out, to my utter shock: “Lord Jesus, I want to be totally consumed with you and by you.” The fact is, it seemed that this was what was happening to me. It was such a holy moment. To be honest, I wept uncontrollably for a few minutes.
However, soon after I got back to my office, I recalled reading years ago an entry by Jonathan Edwards in his diary in 1737. At the time, he was pastor of the second-largest church in all of New England, a biblical scholar, and a leader in what historians call the First Great Awakening. If anyone knew about Jesus, Edwards knew about Jesus.
But even so, he recorded an amazing event in his diary that took place one afternoon when he took a break to enjoy a horseback ride into the woods near Northampton. There, he experienced something similar to what I did last week. Using Google, I was able to quickly locate the famous paragraph. Now, I want to close by sharing it with you.
Why? Because in essence and in principle, this describes what I believe the Father wants for every Jesus follower—for us, for our congregation, and for God’s people all across our land in this dark hour.
Once, as I rode out into the woods for my health, in 1737, having alighted from my horse in a retired place, as my manner commonly has been, I had a view that was for me extraordinary . . . I saw the glory of the Son of God, as Mediator between God and man . . . The person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent, with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thought and conception. This continued, as near as I can judge, for about an hour.
I felt an ardency of soul to be, what I know not otherwise how to express, emptied and annihilated. I wanted to lie in the dust and to be full of Christ alone; to love him with a holy and pure love; to trust in him, to live upon him, to serve and follow him, and to be perfectly consecrated with a divine and heavenly purity.
Consecration. Consummation. Full of Christ alone.
May this become increasingly, for all of us, our testimony too.
In view of all we’ve uncovered in the past months about who Jesus is today, how could any of us ever settle for anything less?
Postscript: After David delivered his message, he concluded by gently singing this prayer over the congregation (based on a gospel song):
Not I, but Christ be honored, loved, exalted,
Not I, but Christ be seen, be known and heard;
Not I, but Christ in every look and action,
Not I, but Christ in every thought and word.
Oh, to be saved from myself, dear Lord,
Oh, to be lost in Thee.
Oh, that it may be no more I
But Christ that lives in me.
Follow up: You can view the video of David’s message HERE.
About the Author
Over the past 50 years, David Bryant has been defined by many as a “messenger of hope” and a “Christ proclaimer” to the Church throughout the world. Formerly a minister-at-large with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, president of Concerts of Prayer International (COPI), and chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee, David now provides leadership to ChristNow.com and Proclaim Hope!, whose mission is to foster and serve Christ Awakening movements. Order his widely read books at DavidBryantBooks.com. Enjoy his regular Daily CHRIST TODAY Podcast.