ME, SURRENDER?

During these weeks leading up to Easter the senior pastor of our church is preaching a message series about surrender. For many of us our first thought when we hear the word is that it is not an attractive idea. We think of surrender as something negative in which we lose or have to give up. For the most part we don’t want or like to surrender.

Since I have the opportunity to continue the series the next two weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about surrender.

To surrender is not always something bad; it is not always about losing or being defeated. Sometimes to surrender is a good thing. And while we may associate surrendering with weakness and losing, that is not always the case. There are times when to surrender calls for great strength; and in those times of surrender we don’t lose – we win.

If you’ve read this far I’m sure you know in this series we are talking about surrendering to the Lord. As I listened to the preaching a couple of weeks ago it occurred to me that while God wants us to surrender to  him, he does not want to beat us or defeat us; he wants what is best for us.

For example, God wants us to acknowledge him and worship him. God doesn’t need our worship – he is not insecure. But he does want us to worship him; and he wants us to worship him because he knows that when we worship him it does us good.

Perhaps the clearest teaching from Jesus about this matter is in Luke 9:23 and 24 where he says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever want to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” Although I don’t completely understand it, to me that sounds like a pretty clear call to surrender.

To stimulate my thinking about surrender I looked up some definitions of the word. The first and primary definition was “to yield to power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand.” When it comes to surrendering to the Lord that definition is only party correct. It is about yielding one’s life to him, but it is not upon compulsion. We may wish he would force us, but he doesn’t. He lets us decide whether or not we will surrender and how much we will surrender.

In my experience, when it comes to surrendering to God, it is not just a one-time thing. We surrender to him at the beginning of our Christian life, but living the Christian life is usually a series of surrenders. After over 55 years I am still making progress.

This weekend I’m preaching about “Some Roadblocks to Surrender.” I think the biggest one, and probably the most common one, is pride or ego. Sometimes we think we know more than we do. Sometimes we are prideful and our ego gets in the way of yielding. Sometimes our ego makes us just too stubborn to surrender.

Whether you agree or not with what I’ve suggested in this post, I do hope I have given you something to think about. Feel free to leave a comment below and/or share this article on Facebook or other social media.

 

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WHO ARE YOU FOLLOWING?

Are there people you follow on Twitter? How about on Facebook? Are there one or more blogs you follow? Do you have a favorite baseball team you follow? Are you excited about the beginning of another football season because you have a favorite college or pro team you follow? Is there a favorite TV show you follow? We have many options when it comes to who and what we want to follow, don’t we?

The person I am most interested in following is Jesus. There is nothing wrong with any of the other options mentioned in the first paragraph; it’s just that the most important person to follow is Jesus. And to follow Jesus does not mean we cannot follow someone on Twitter or have a favorite team we follow.

During His ministry Jesus called people to follow Him and explained what that meant. Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23 all record Jesus as saying, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” There is additional important teaching from Jesus that follows this verse, but this verse is the essence of it.

To be Jesus’ disciple is to follow Him—that’s what it means to be a disciple. His first disciples literally followed Him from place to place, but today we do not have that privilege. New Testament and Greek scholar William Barclay suggests a number of ways follow was used in classical Greek that adds to the meaning of following Jesus: among other associations it was used of a soldier following his commander, it was used of slave attending his master, it was used of following or obeying someone’s advice or opinion, and it was used of obeying the law.

In His own words Jesus said to be His disciple requires the denial of oneself. When He adds a follower must “take up one’s cross” He deepens the qualification of denying oneself. Those who first heard Jesus offer this challenge would have understood that taking up one’s cross meant to carry a crossbar to the place of one’s execution by crucifixion. While crucifixion was a reality for some early Christians, taking up the cross for us has to do with self-denial. It means we must completely give ourselves to the Lord and surrender to Him. Only Luke has the added word daily in connection with taking up one’s cross, which tells us it is not something that is done only once but is to be a way of life. The reality is that to follow Jesus often calls us to sacrifice.

Those first disciples who followed Jesus gave up something to follow Him. Peter, Andrew, James, and John gave up their work as fisherman (Mark 1:18 and Luke 5:11). Matthew gave up his lucrative career as a tax collector to follow Jesus (Matthew 9:9). We don’t know about the others, but we can be sure they too gave something up. And it seems consistent to conclude that those who follow Jesus today will be expected to give something up in order to do so.

Let’s ask again what we did in the title of this post: who are you following? Or, even more direct, are you following Jesus? Simply appreciating and admiring Jesus will never be enough. We are called to follow Him; and that means a denial of self and a taking up of our cross to do so. How a person responds to Jesus is the most important decision they will ever make.

Feel free to leave a reply below and/or share this post.

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