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Have you ever had one of those moments when you felt completely numb? Not comfortably numb as Pink Floyd famously sang, but a numbness of the heart.
A numbness of the soul
A feeling or paralysis.
Knowing what you should do but having absolutely no desire or will power to follow through.
I had one of those moments recently.
There I was… sitting alone in my office – with the weight of the world on my shoulders…and all its knowledge at my fingertips… yet completely lost to myself, hopeless, and depressed.
How could this be?
Pastors are supposed to have all the answers and there I was without a clue.
What would you have done?
I know what I wanted to do.
What I wanted to do was to avoid, escape, and deny. But I knew very well the roads they had had taken me in the past and it was not where I wanted to go.
So I was really only left with one choice.
Without feeling anything I acted in faith – I chose surrender.
I wish I could say that surrendering is something that I am good at. That after almost 20 years as a Christian and 16 years as a pastor that I am close to mastering the art of surrender. Unfortunately, while I do understand the science of it quite well the art of it still alludes me.
Why do I distinguish between science and art – between knowledge and application? Because Jesus did.
Once he asked,
“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?””
(Matthew 21:28–31 NKJV)
The answer to everyone listening was obvious. It was the first son.
So, what is Jesus actually trying to teach us with this story?
…That what you do is more important than what you say.
I am ashamed to admit it but too often in my own relationship with God I have been more like the 2nd son than the first – saying the right things and but not actually doing them.
But even though the first son did not say the right things he did the right things in the end and that was all that mattered to the father.
The fact that 2nd son never got around to surrendering his life to the Father is crystalized by the fact that never actually did what the father asked him to do.
You see…Surrender is not as mystical as many people would have you to believe – surrender is actually very simple. It is a willingness to be made willing to obey
Now why cant we just say surrender is obedience?
Because we cant always obey but we can always surrender.
Notice what Paul says about human nature in Romans 7:
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:18–24 NKJV)
As you can see obedience is not that simple.
He wants to obey but he can’t obey. The things we wants to do he doesn’t and the things he doesn’t want to do are the things that he does.
So we can see that according to Paul, we are born with a built in default mode that prevents us from doing the will of God.
Have you ever noticed that struggle happening in your own life?
This was the experience of the second son in Jesus story.
He may have on some level wanted to do what was right but he never got around to actually doing it. He never reached a point of desperation where he threw up his hands and cried out for deliverance? He was content to continue his life as a keyboard warrior on social media – but never actually doing anything.
Do you see that tendency in your own life?
It is a lot easier to be outraged then it is to surrender. To point the finger at the offender rather than picking up the cross of the victim by relieving their suffering and ministering to their pain.
But this is exactly what Jesus modeled through his life and offers to us through his death, burial and resurrection.
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”” (Matthew 11:28–30 NKJV)
Appealing as this sounds – what does it actually mean?
I think we can all understand what rest is. But the rest that Jesus offers is much greater than physical rest – it is emotional and spiritual rest. Rest for our souls can only be equated to the peace the passing all understanding.
It is a peace the world cannot give. It is a peace that we cannot earn through our achievements. It is peace that can only be received as a gift.
However according to Jesus this peace has a condition.
What is it?
It is only be surrendering to the yoke of Christ that we can experience the peace of Christ.
And this is the amazing thing – as we become yoked to him our burden is lifted and he begins to bare the weight of it for us. In essence we are freed from the numbness of our meaningless existence and are given a reason to live that far exceeds what we can even hope and dream of.
Thus the sin dwelling in us that has prevented us from seeing beyond ourselves, from climbing to heights of our human potential – from truly feeling alive – is now replaced with a new power Paul calls the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:2)
In other words surrendering to God invokes a power greater than ourselves into our hearts. It is both a miracle of grace and mystery we will never fully understand even in heaven as we study it throughout the ceaseless ages of eternity.
But while we may never fully understand there is nothing preventing us from experiencing it other than our own will.
Paul said it this way.
“work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12–13 NKJV)
What does this mean?
According to our study thus far what is our work?
Surrender – We must be willing to be made willing.
Once we are willing to be made willing what happens next?
He works in you both to will and to do what he has asked you to do.
The will of the father is actually carried out – not by us but through us.
Thus the art of surrender can only be learned through practice.
Just like learning to play piano or golf.
We can watch and listen to people play all day long. We can learn all the theory. Buy the best equipment and even dress in the proper attire and still know nothing about it.
We might be able to fool people who have never played before but put us around people who actually do it and we will be exposed as posers in a matter of minutes.
Christians who only understand the science of surrender but not the art are nothing but posers.
And Jesus saved his strongest condemnation for those like me who have tended to identify with the 2nd son more than the first.
““Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21–23 NKJV)
As you can see it call comes back to knowing God and God knowing us.
If we know him we will be saved by him.
If we dont know him we won’t.
And the only way we can know him is through surrender.
There is no substitute for it that will stand in the judgment.
To be ready for Jesus we have to be surrendered to him.
Its that simple.
In fact the book of Revelation describes this group of surrendered children of God in the last days as the 144,000.
Now dont get caught up in the argument whether this number is literal or symbolic. For all intensive purposes it doesn’t matter when we understand that it encompasses all the living faithful of the last generation.
What is important though is how the Revelation describes them:
“Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters, and like the voice of loud thunder. And I heard the sound of harpists playing their harps. They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth… These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. (Revelation 14:1–4 NKJV)
Think about it? All heaven is present in this picture but only the 144,000 are singing.
They are singing a song that cannot be taught or learned by anyone else.
It is a song of experience
It is a song sung from the depths of a knowledge of God that is unique only to them and the experience they went through as the world fell apart around them.
They alone stood up for God when the world was bowing down to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.
Their song was the finished product of learning the art of surrender here on earth.
And it is an art we can all learn – starting even today.
If you are willing to be made willing.
Dont let your past failings discourage you. Remember I am in the same boat you are.
That is why Adventology is here.
We are all on a journey together. None of us have arrived yet – but the destination is right before us if we would but keep our heads lifted high
Jesus is coming soon
I want to conclude this podcast today by sharing a quote from one of my favorite books; Steps to Christ written by Ellen G White. In chapter 5 starting on page 47 she writes:
Many are inquiring, “How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?” You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.
Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if you stop here, they will avail nothing. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.
Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. By yielding up your will to Christ, you ally yourself with the power that is above all principalities and powers. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast, and thus through constant surrender to God you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith.
Will you surrender your life to God, right now
Will you choose to be a Christian today?