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Posts Tagged ‘surrender’

Be Perfect

November 15th, 2017

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)

The only moral standard given in the Bible is one of absolute perfection, the perfection found in God Himself.

Only the righteousness of Christ saves us from sin: Seeking to be perfect in our personal morality has never been God’s path for our salvation. At no time in salvation history do we find an era or a dispensation wherein God accepts us as righteous based merely on our personal performance. The ancients went to God through burnt offerings. From Abel on there was the understanding that only through the shedding of blood could we be saved, could we be acceptable to God. All of the sacrifices of animals pre-figured Christ, who is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

None of us is able to obey perfectly. Our problem is our old Adamic nature, the fallen nature of all humans, that drags us down. Not even the Old Testament Law made us perfect. We may know the commands of God, but we do not live by them all the time. This was God’s plan in sending Christ. We need saving and Christ is God’s Savior for us, as we read: “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose” (Gal. 2:21 ESV). We are only acceptable through the grace of God in Christ, and not through our personal moral efforts.

Only the pure in heart see God: We would do well in this passage to examine the context and remember that Christ placed this statement in the Sermon on the Mount, which began with the Beatitudes. Among them He said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). The Pharisees taught that the heart did not matter, all the mattered was being outwardly obedient. “Better to watch your mouth than your heart” was their thinking. Christ reversed this thinking and said that heart is where life is lived, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a person (Matt. 15:18).

So the great need we have to be holy is answered not by our personal efforts, but by our heart’s obedience first. Then God calls us to choose to obey Him.

But God still calls us to be perfect: We are given a new way to live in Christ, the way of life in the Spirit. Romans 8 is the great chapter of the Bible that explains this principle.

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. (Romans 8:5-6 KJV)

These two verses have given rise to many interpretations. I have often sat in the presence of someone seeking to make sense of this – and doing a rather poor job, I might add – by saying such things as “we just need to let go and let God” or “God will do it, we just need to get out of the way.” I suppose on some level those words could make sense, but, more often than not, they tend to lead to a lot of confusion. They suggest that we have no part in this matter, but that God will do it separately from our own choice.

Whatever we may believe about predestination, election, and the foreknowledge of God, whatever position we take in this matter – and there are many to choose from – no place does the Word of God remove from us our responsibility to choose to follow Christ. Repeatedly, the opposite is stressed in scripture, that we are to subject ourselves to the Lordship of Christ. Even the act of surrender is seen as a personal choice. Paul wrote, for example:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)

There is no point to “urge” anyone to submit to God if it all happens automatically. And there is likewise no point to speak of testing and approving if all it takes is surrender. Looking back to Romans 8:6, the emphasis is on being “spiritually minded,” meaning that thought, understanding, concentration, emotions, and decisions are placed under the authority of the Spirit of God – not that they are separate from our own choice.

The 1984 NIV chose the words originally “the mind controlled by the Spirit” and later changed the wording to “the mind governed by the Spirit.” “Controlled” seemed to suggest some hypnotic state, where as “governed” put the emphasis on conscience obedience to God’s authority, a translation much truer to the original intent of the passage.

The original Greek, however, is most accurately represented by the King James which just says “spiritually minded” and does not use “controlled” or “governed” or any other word, simply because they were not there in the original. They are added for clarification.

Albert Barnes explained this phrase “spiritually minded” means:

That is, making it the object of the mind, the end and aim of the actions, to cultivate the graces of the Spirit, and to submit to his influence. To be spiritually minded is to seek those feelings and views which the Holy Spirit produces, and to follow his leadings.

I recall a young worship leader a few years ago, who would regularly stumble over these words. He would say things like, “God, I know you are going to do it, but I pray that you would make us holy.” He never could seem to balance this matter in his mind. I found out later that he had a pornography problem, and had simply not taken responsibility for his thoughts and his actions. He somehow thought that holiness would happen in his choices automatically.

Surrender is the word we should use to speak of our commitment to Christ. But once one surrenders he must then choose to obey God, and choose to live his life responsibly.

Daily Devotions , , , ,

Dying to Sin

June 2nd, 2017

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin… (Romans 6:6 NIV)

The hardest thing for any human to give up is his claim to his own life. This is precisely where the inner spiritual battle is fought, for once we surrender ourselves to God and removed our own hands from trying to control our destiny, we enter into a wonderful freedom. But in trying to hang on to our own rights, our control over our own destiny in opposition to God, we find ourselves blinded, vulnerable to satanic deception and temptation, ripe for the picking.

The scripture says:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 14:12 ESV)

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Matthew 16:25 NLT)

Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15 NIV)

Miles Stanford wrote:

It was on the cross of Calvary that God, in Christ, dealt fully and finally with self, the nature from which all our sins flow. “We know that our old (unrenewed) self was nailed to the cross with Him in order that [our] body, [which is the instrument] of sin, might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be the slaves of sin” (Rom. 6:6, Amplified). The reason there is no other way for self to be denied is that God has done the work in this way: our identification with Christ Jesus in His death and resurrection! It is done; now it is ours to believe.

The battle is down in our hearts where we hold on to our selfishness like a prize. What we must do is to let go of it and give it to Christ. This cannot happen in a vacuum, void of details and circumstances. The battle always will have something specific attached to it. We must let go of our pride like Namaan and humble ourselves and apologize, or let go of our greed like the Rich Young Ruler and give something away, or let go of our strong will like Paul and say, “What do you want, Lord?”

And we must do this every day. Every day we will be tested in someway on how surrendered we are to Christ. To hold anything back from Christ is to not be fully surrendered.

A simple inventory will help us:

  • What things do you possess that are unsurrendered to God? Pray through them all and each.
  • Are you withholding your children from Him?
  • Are you too proud to apologize to someone?
  • Are you bitter because you have not gotten the attention you think you deserve?
  • Are you jealous over someone else’s life or position?
  • Are you unforgiving toward someone who has hurt you?
  • Are you afraid of the cost of leadership? Fearful of rejection or being criticized?
  • Are you selfish with your time and entertainments?
  • Are you proud of your reputation and unwilling to risk losing it for the sake of Christ?

There are many other things that God might put on our minds. All we can do is to confess our weaknesses and sins and surrender them fully and wholly to God. This is the only path of victory over sin for as long as there is one part of our lives unsurrendered, the devil can use that to tempt us and lure us into sin.

The Deeper Christian Life