I am intentionally altering my approach in this article by providing links to Scripture passages in one of the online Bible reference tools. This causes you to participate in the study of Truth, and allows you the opportunity to consider a variety of translations. My selected default is the Amplified Bible. You can vary this by utilizing the drop-down menu in the “Search” section.
The Church needs advancement from drive-thru-window, grab-and-go followers anticipating every nugget prepared by someone else, to those who develop and hone their own culinary skills; who get in the kitchen where the morsels are waiting to be marinated and seasoned. I would be doing a disservice to His Body and enabling mediocre Christianity if all I did was create an appetite for my cuisine. My goal is not to teach you, but to lead you to the Teacher by engaging you in the practice of following Him. So, I am inviting you to put on your apron and join me in the preparation of the meal.
When you hear that word, what does it incite in you? What mental images scurry to the forefront of your mind? In what situation(s) would your assessment compel you to raise and wave that “I give up,” white flag? Think about it for a moment; do not race past the opportunity to consider what it means to you.
Consider what God’s prophet, Isaiah, says about surrender. What are the results of surrender that are highlighted in these verses? I found five. What do you see?
I will share what I found, but do not be limited by my findings.
- Peace with God.
- Acceptance of the blessing.
- Revival of your soul.
- An everlasting covenant with God.
- God’s sure mercy.
How do those consequences compare to the white-flag scenarios you envisioned?
Let’s turn to the prophet Jeremiah. We discover in this passage the specific type of surrender that is acclaimed by God; it is both heartfelt and timely. Heartfelt surrender will always be timely in its response to God. It is the difference between feeling remorse and making restitution because you have been caught doing something wrong vs. experiencing that conscientious remorse that causes you to repent when that wrong has not been exposed. Or better yet, being obedient from the outset.
A perfect illustration of this is in Deuteronomy. Out of fear, the Israelites refused to adhere to the command of the Lord to go into the land He had given them. They are admonished with consequences. They immediately recant and determine that they will obey the next day in hopes of avoiding the consequences. But their “tomorrow” obedience was too late; the obedience had been for “that” day. They are warned that this “next day” disobedience would heap upon them a new serving of consequences; and it offered up defeat at their attempted takeover. The Lord had to do other things with them for forty years to compensate for their disobedience to get them back to the place of being able to go into the land. Their surrender was not heartfelt or timely.
Beware believing obedience became obsolete with the accomplishment of the Law and fulfillment of the old covenant through Jesus.
Consider these new covenant passages. It doesn’t get much clearer than Luke 14:33, does it? There are a few points we can highlight in the other passages. Acts tells us that we “learn” to believe from the power of the presence of the Lord, and in believing we turn (repent) and surrender. In Paul’s address to believers in Rome, we see it is precisely through faith-filled surrender, exhibited through obedience, that we grant God the opportunity to prove His faithfulness. This in turn cultivates and builds our faith. Continual surrender builds faith perpetually.Faith has always been the God-pleaser; it is what captivates Him. Read these Scripture passages and notice that emphasis.
Do you need to update your thoughts about surrender? What has changed?
What Is The Motive?
What is your motive for surrendering? What drives your posture before God? The thoughts and intentions of the heart are what God considers in all that we do. Our actions will be judged in light of the motives that spurred them. Don’t believe me? Read what Revelation says. So, why surrender? Fear is always a powerful motivator. Is it fear of punishment that causes your knees to buckle and bow? Reward is another inducement. Does the promise of His good gifts incentivize your obedience? Both of those are definitely behavioral drivers. God knows what persuades us, and He will utilize those mechanisms to engage us based on the level He finds us—for our benefit and because of His love.
But what is the highest motivator? What is the primary thing that can compel us beyond fear, reward, or even reason? It also happens to be the purest. Love. When driven to surrender out of sheer love for God’s character, change in our very nature occurs. It is the love of His nature, and desire to relate with that nature, that draws us to purely-motivated obedience. This obedience remains focused on Him; not to avoid punishment or gain reward, which are both self-focused. Filtering His instructions through His character, we grasp His thoughts and ways as we commune with Him in this daily seek-obey-learn dance. Our nature takes on His nature in increasing measures as our gaze remains on His holiness and love toward us.
Takers vs. Partakers
There is a subtle, but powerful, difference between taking and partaking. To take something means you accept what someone has offered. We especially delight in taking what is beneficial to us. If something not offered is taken, that is actually transgressing, as in theft or rape.Partaking, however, is to be involved in the activity; to receive a share of, or to have some of the qualities or attributes of something. Thus, God’s holy measure of judgment is that we receive, in like manner, what we are also willing to give; forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Notice the word and principle of “partaking” in these Scripture passages. How does that fit with your current understanding of what it means to be a believer? Do you comprehend that believing is intended to include active obedience?
But what is the point of this obedience? Let’s be honest, we do not like adhering to someone else’s protocol for living. That goes against our perspectives on freedom. Well, obedience is faith on display, but it is more than that. It is the mechanism by which we take on the image and likeness of Christ. I have shared before how the Lord frequently utilizes an acronym to teach me. After six years of living this daily seek-obey-learn “YES” life, He recently gave me the following as an expression of Y-E-S: “Yeshua Exchanges Substance”. It is about the exchange of our human nature for His nature. We do not just take salvation. We partake of His life through surrender to Him as Lord. We are obedient to Him as He was obedient to the Father.
Listen to this song:
What do the lyrics stir in you?
The Balancing Act
Obedience to God requires equal parts vulnerability and discipline. That sounds like an oil-water mixture, so how does it work?
What does the idea of being vulnerable invoke in you? Discomfort? Terror? Either of those, or anything in between would be reasonable. Vulnerability means loss of control, and that is risky. Surrender and control are in opposition. A free-fall into Truth is the safest place to fall, but it still feels like a free-fall.
What does this loss of control look like?
- Complete, honest, bare nakedness before God. No deception or guile. Pure and raw transparency.
- Seeking guidance by the Holy Spirit. Prompt following when instructions are revealed, confirmed and understood (even when they do not seem logical to our reasoning).
- Relinquishing expectations of any outcome to your obedience. (More on this below.)
Where does discipline enter the equation (Disciples are disciplined ones)? Because of individual psychoemotional filters that have been constructed by our experiences and worldly upbringing, it is critical that we subject everything we sense we are receiving from the Holy Spirit to the litmus test of Truth. We must become disciplined in the study of God’s Word. Without this discipline, it is easy to be misled by our own pet preferences and imaginations. If it does not align with Scripture, it cannot be the Holy Spirit. As we grow in the balance of these disciplines, we perceive the voice of the Lord with increased clarity.
What to Expect
Reward. Because God is a rewarder. What does “reward” look like to you? Does it conjure thoughts of honor, recognition, wealth, fame, power? What would be an adequate reward for your obedience? What is the template you use, the world’s or God’s? It is imperative to have the right interpretation of what God considers meaningful in terms of reward. With the wrong expectation, we misunderstand the outcome(s) of our obedience. With the proper filter, we see our experiences in the correct light.
So, what do we risk opening ourselves up to by being obedient? The bottom-line answer is hurt and pain. But why is that the experience? We may be misunderstood, mocked, betrayed. People will doubt if we really hear the Lord or if we have heard accurately. We may lose relationships and/or reputation. The reality is, unless we are willing to lose relationships and/or reputation, we won’t surrender.
But the most common source of pain is the free will of others. This is why we cannot expect any specific result from our obedience, especially in terms of relationships. We can be perfectly obedient, and assume that obedience will mean a certain relational outcome—marriage, restoration, reconciliation, greater intimacy. However, God honors free will and we may get a heavy dose of what that really means through our own experience. The end result is not a measure of whether or not we have heard the Lord. We can perceive and cooperate with God, and the other person may not.
Does any of that sound like Jesus’ life? You see, these experiences are the incubator in which our intimacy with Him grows. Without them, we cannot understand His experience or His responses.
You will learn to hang in the balance of fear and not retreat or attack. You will learn to sit in pain and not judge the pain, God, yourself, the circumstance, or any other individuals in the circumstance. In all things you will wait in stillness until understanding comes. He reveals what is of Him (His ways, thoughts); what is of you (your pet preferences, patterns, psychoemotional filters that need to be realigned); and sometimes what is in others (their free will choices, their pet preferences, patterns, psychoemotional filters). However, figuring others out is not the focus. We commune with Him, learn about ourselves, and conform to His likeness.
So, back to reward as a motivator—He is our exceeding great reward. What greater reward is there than to become like Christ. God considers that the highest reward and His ultimate goal. Yeshua-Exchanges-Substance.