In our previous discussion, we examined why we should want to deny ourselves for the purpose of following Jesus, as well as why it is necessary to do so. In our modern western society, we are taught to believe that we have control and power over the outcome of almost any situation. (Remember Satan’s words: You will be like God.) To elevate ourselves to the status of God, and even above him, we take all matters into our own hands. The danger of this approach is that we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and we create a culture of fear – fear that we will fail. We will fail sometimes – it is inevitable because we are human and we actually have very little control over our lives and the world around us. Relying on oneself creates anxiety and stress which explains the state of the world we find ourselves in. Satan wants our lives to be ruled by fear because where there is fear there is no room for faith.
Self-denial stands in complete contrast with the trend of self-reliance we encounter in our real and virtual world. Surrendering oneself to God means to reject the sinful self with all its lusts and worldly yearnings as well as the corrupt influence from others that surround us. We refuse the pleasures and profits of this earth when they contest the teachings of Christ. (Source)
This article by Cindi McMenamin inspired me to examine what it looks like to surrender our sinful nature in an era where we are encouraged to celebrate the self.
Surrender the competition
From our first school days, we are motivated to work harder than the next person to win. We are taught to beat the competition because there can be only one winner and the rest are all losers. The older we get the more stringent this competition becomes and the more debilitating the fear of being beaten, and by insinuation, being unworthy of love and belonging. Our western culture encourages us to fight for our rights and wrestle our way to the top. But this stands in stark contrast to what God teaches us in his Word.
In some translations the “be still” is translated from the original Greek as “cease striving”. If someone advised the Steve Jobs’s and Elon Musks of this world to cease striving, they would have that person declared insane. Yet that is what our Father encourages us to do daily. I am not advising that we become lazy couch potatoes and neither does Apostle Paul.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.Colossians 3:23-24
Whatever we do, whether it is work or play, we do it to honour our Lord and to please him. But we do not do it at the expense of our relationship with Jesus and our neighbours.
When we stand in front of a sea of uncertainty, instead of panicking and scurrying to find solutions, we should remember how the Lord, through Moses, encouraged the Israelite on the beach of the Red Sea with the words “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14)
Surrender your stuff
In this dog-eat-dog world, we hear sayings such as “The one with the most toys wins.” But Jesus taught “But many who are first will be last, and the last first,” (Matthew 19:30). Our culture measures success by the amount and the quality of the stuff we surround ourselves with. Most people work to buy more expensive stuff, so they can work more to buy even more expensive and impressive houses to put all the stuff.
We know that Jesus advised us not to store up treasures of the earth, “where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,” but that we instead accrue treasures in heaven. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21) Let us not skip over this last part: if we become obsessed with what we have then that will be where our heart is and there will be no place for the “treasures of heaven.”
Surrender your thoughts and opinions
The Lord asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, his only son, after promising Abraham to make him the father of many nations. (Genesis 22:1-18) Yet Abraham obeyed God and his obedience was not only blessed by saving Isaac’s life but also by fulfilling the promise God made to Abraham and his descendants.
Sometimes God can ask us to surmount impossible obstacles, but he honours our complete obedience. Jesus promised “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:21) Some of us will see the blessing for our obedience in this life, but most of us will only be exalted in the next life.
Surrender your plans
We live in the information age where anything you could want to know about any topic can be found at the touch of a button or click on a screen. It is no wonder that we believe we know what is best for us because we have done all the necessary research. However, no amount of studying can give any of us a view into the future – whether it is a few minutes from now or the years and centuries to come. Fortunately, we do not need to worry because God knows everything – he is omniscient and omnipresent.
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!Matthew 7:11
The more we get to know our Heavenly Father the more we understand that he is a good Father. In Psalm 84:11 we read “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Sometimes God’s biggest gifts are the ones he withholds from us for our own protection. This can be awfully hard to see if we know his character and trust in his goodness, we can find rest in his plans for our lives.
Surrender your time
Busyness and exhaustion have become badges of honour in our time. We must guard against adopting the philosophy of the busier we are the more God will bless us. God wants to spend time with us rather than having us spend time doing stuff for him. Remember God wants a relationship with us.
Prince Charlie and I have vastly different love languages – his love language is quality time and mine is a mixed bag between acts of service and gifts. As a result, I show love by being busy cleaning the house or cooking up something delicious, while all he wants is for me to sit down and enjoy some time with him. Even if we are both quiet and do not say a word, he feels more loved in that togetherness than all the hustle and bustle around him could ever conjure up.
Similarly, Jesus wants us to sit at his feet like Mary instead of hurrying about trying to earn his love and his blessings as Martha did. This can be a fine balance.
Let us remind ourselves that God created us for his glory and to enjoy eternal fellowship with him. At the core, our thankfulness for this love should motivate our service to him, whether it is in his work or out in the world.
We are our own worst enemy in this battle of life. Our human weakness, sinfulness and short-sightedness are the most dangerous obstacles on our way to heaven. All our hopes, habits, intentions, and plans are commanded by our will. We must decide whether this will is our own sinful nature of being served, or the desire to serve God above all with faith in his sovereign power.
Dr Richard J. Krejcir teaches that surrendering to God means we trust Jesus “in all things without doubt or fault in our faith. We let go our hold on our perceived rights, agendas, and opinions that are not lined up to His.” As a result, we embrace God’s will for our lives, becoming sanctified and living to benefit others. This is completely contrary to the self-help teachings we are assaulted with daily.
When “we cast all our anxieties or cares on Him” (1 Peter 5:7), we humble ourselves and fully trust in God’s direction for our lives. Life is not about circumstances, ambitions, and success, but “it is about how we learn and grow in Him by our trust, faith, and obedience”. It is about being repentant of our behaviours that do not align with God’s will and being completely dependent on him. Surrender liberates us from fear of the future.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:8-10
We must be careful why we surrender to God. Are we surrendering for the gifts or for The Giver? This is a tough temptation to navigate. Oswald Chambers warns against mistaken reasons for surrender.
Our motive for surrender should not be for any personal gain at all. We have become so self-centred that we go to God only for something from Him, and not for God Himself. Gaining heaven, being delivered from sin, and being made useful to God are things that should never even be a consideration in real surrender. Genuine total surrender is a personal sovereign preference for Jesus Christ Himself.Oswald Chambers
God wants us to love him above all else, with our whole mind, heart and soul. That is all.
Forgiveness of sin, everlasting life, gifts of the Spirit, are all gifts that will flow from the Giver if our heart is truly surrendered to his love. Surrender is not about bondage, oppression, or defeat. God is not manipulating us to surrender. True surrender stems from our love of God and our understanding of his unending love for us which shows he is completely trustworthy.
Although the idea of surrendering all we have and dream to be to someone else can be frightening, the truth is that we are not nearly as in control as we think. If we had to choose someone to rule our lives, wouldn’t it be wonderful to surrender to One who loves us so much He died for us and only wants the best for our eternal future? Denying all of ourselves means submitting our time, prestige, possessions and plans to our Saviour. We lay all of ourselves at his feet and trust that he will take care of us, as only a loving Father can. Truthfully the only way to a life of peace and joy is to leave it all in the hands of our Saviour.
Will you surrender all of yourself to God?