stop fighting God.

Surrender To God

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Christian Spirituality > Holiness > Surrender


Surrender's cost doesn't hit until the accusations come. Ask Peter.

TURNING OVER

"If you have really handed yourself over to Him it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you."
---- C.S. Lewis, *Christian Behavior* (Macmillan, 1943), p.66

A key lesson about living in the Spirit is learned from the experience of the Twelve Step groups (like Alcoholics Anonymous). Step Three is about turning your will and life over to God. It's one of the hardest things for an alcoholic to do. It's also something said far too glibly and easily by those raised in churches. To those who claim a Christian spiritual rebirth, the first reaction (and too often the only reaction) is to say "well, didn't I already do that when I accepted Christ, or when I was baptized, or confirmed? Aren't you really talking to the unbeliever?" NO. NOT IN THE LEAST. Those who don't believe usually have a hard time grasping the idea of self-surrender. The believer has no problem with the idea. The believer, however, often has two other obstacles:

  1. they don't see this 'turning over to God' as a 24/7, relentless, moment-by-moment, lifelong matter; or
  2. they want to do it, think they have done it already and think they are still doing it, but haven't really done it at all because they do not know how to do it.

The steps after Step Three in the Twelve Steps are a process of how to uncover -- and keep uncovering -- the matters of your life you have not let go to God, and how to discover where God wants you to go from there. Whatever processes you use, the aim must be to uncover and turn over.

The history of the Christian Church is full of good examples of those who made a devotional legacy for us to learn, from Polycarp and Irenaeus to Sts. Francis, Clare, Bernard, and Catherine, to Gregory of Nazianzos and Theresa of Avila, to Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster, and people in congregations near you, or perhaps next door, or even in your family. It goes beyond merely prayer, meditation, and fasting (as if those were in any way 'mere'). The disciplines help you to turn over as much of ourselves to God as possible, through God's own power. Building holiness takes repentance: recognizing how wrong you are, laying it before God and another person, and then setting about doing right in place of the wrong you did. With your choices comes accountability and responsibility: it really does matter how you live.

Why is this 'turning over' so important for living in the Spirit? Because the Spirit is not going to override you. The Spirit will not rape your will. God seeks to create love rather than exercise control. The Spirit works to inspire you and set you right through surrender to God, even if the surrender's just a small one. Whatever you hold back from God won't be used by the Spirit.

The legacy runs deep. The spiritual disciplines are not ways to be saved or made pure or whole. You can't become perfect or truly holy through them. They are tools for prying the self open to the Spirit, stripping away the barriers, surrendering to Jesus, and letting God mold you into the you that you are meant to be.

We must confess our sins in order to obtain pardon; but we must see our sins in order to confess. How few of those who think that they have confessed and been pardoned have ever seen their sin!
Coventry Patmore

rise like cream to the top

Reliance On the Spirit

Those with a high view of the Spirit believe that there is no option about what is key to making churches come alive : RELIANCE ON THE HOLY SPIRIT. Renewed Christians are not to worry whether what they do causes them to be resisted, rejected, even acted against. The outcome of renewed living is in the hands of the Spirit. Our task is to live in the Spirit, and what comes out of it is left in the Spirit's hands.

Thought and Deed

"If a tenet of faith has no behavioral implications, it is not worth the trouble to write it down."
Henry Mitchell & Nicholas Lewter, *Soul Theology* (Harper & Row, 1986), p.162

In the Epistles, there is a clear link between your thoughts (or more precisely, your overall framework of mind) and your deeds. It's expressed in both the positive and the negative: a godly mind leads to godly deeds, while a foolish and 'fleshly' mind leads to evil deeds.

Romans 8:5) "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit the things of the Spirit. ... Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be."

Romans 12:2) "do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may be evidence of the good and acceptable and perfect will of God."

Ephesians 5:10-20) "Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the Light is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth, finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. ... See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as the wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of God is. "

It's called 'walking the walk'. In both Testaments, in a patently Hebrew turn of thought, 'walk' is a word that describes the act of doing as God wills. Obedience to God is not a destination, but a journey. Holiness is the journey's character. You 'walk' one step at a time, you (to use more 'walk' terms) 'follow' the 'path/way/road' that Jesus has made ready for you. Get on your walking shoes! And don't let life's blisters stop you.

More stuff to check out:


Surrender or submission is about making God's purposes yours.

I Surrender My Quotes To God

"You may as well quit reading and hearing the Word of God, and give it to the devil,
if you do not desire to live according to it."
-------- Martin Luther

"At the back of it there lies the central citadel of obstinacy:
I will not give up my right to myself - the thing God intends you to give up if ever you are going to be a disciple of Jesus Christ."
-------- Oswald Chambers, in *My Utmost for His Highest*

"The devil sees nothing more abominable than a truly humble christian, for [that Christian] is just the opposite of [the devil's] own image."
-------- Hans Nielsen Hauge

No pain, no palm;
no thorns, no throne;
no gall, no glory;
no cross, no crown.
-------- William Penn, *No Cross, No Crown* (1669)

"Vouchsafe, O Lord, to keep us this day without being found out."
-------- Samuel Butler

Have thine own way, Lord,
have thine own way!
hold o'er my being
absolute sway
Fill with thy Spirit
till all shall see
Christ only, always,
living in me.
-- "Have Thine Own Way", last verse, by Adelaide Pollard (© Hope Publishing Co.)

Breathe on me, Breath of God
Till I am wholly thine;
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with thy fire divine
----- "Breathe On Me, Breath Of God", v.3, by Edwin Hatch

"The Holy Spirit also teaches the difference between asceticism and sacrifice, and shows us that for a Christian, asceticism is not enough. Asceticism is content systematically to mortify and control our nature. Sacrifice does something more : it offers our nature and all its faculties to God. A self-denial that is truly supernatural must aspire to offer God what we have renounced ourselves."
----- Thomas Merton, as in *No Man Is An Island* (Octagon Press, 1983), p.173

"Sweet Spirit, grant us the faith to resist our resistance to Thee!"
James Melvin Washington, *Conversations With God* (HarperCollins, 1994), p.285


Questions

(1) In Scripture, it's said that Christians are 'in the world, but not of it'. In what ways are you not "of" the world or "of" the culture, lifestyle, or worldview around you? How does that reflect your beliefs?

(2) How are you taking part "in", adding to, building up, or shaping the world around you? Count the ways. How do these actions reflect your faith?


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ver.: 18 February 2011
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