Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I Surrender All

And He was saying to them all, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

I’ve been studying what it means to surrender. As Christians, we are called to surrender to God’s will – to die to ourselves and to live for Christ and fulfill His purposes for us. We may not know what those purposes are, and we often do not see the “big picture” until God reveals it to us; but regardless, we are called to live in submission to Him, in every part of our lives.

This sounds agreeable enough when read, said, or even typed. Of course I want to submit to God; of course I want to surrender myself to the Creator of the Universe who paid the price for my sin and made it possible for me to be reconciled to Him, and to be able to approach the throne of grace. Yes, I surrender!

But do I???

Do I let God have His way, or do I repeatedly get mine?

Do I try to fix things myself, or do I rely wholly on His work in my life?

While singing a similar song in church last week, I was watching the sign language interpreters. “I surrender all to you” is the chorus. At the word surrender, their arms flew up over their heads as if to open their whole bodies up to God’s use, or to take their hands “off the wheel.” Am I willing to open up my whole self, to take my hands off the wheel, to let God use me, change me, mold me and make me?

Or do I only “partly” surrender?

There’s an old story about how we, as sinful humans, should really change the words to some of the hymns we sing. This hymn is often a target. It would be more accurate for the words to be “I surrender some.” I know I am guilty of this as much as anyone, probably more so. I should sing “I surrender some.” Maybe not even some. Maybe it would be more accurate for me to sing “I surrender what’s easy to surrender.”

Surrender my desire to listen to un-edifying rock music? No problem. Surrender my desire to eat candy? Harder. Surrender my desire to nag and belittle? Harder yet. Surrender my desire to be in control? Hardest.

We are called to give all of ourselves. To surrender every part: not only our physical bodies for God’s use, but our attitudes, habits, desires, long term plans, hopes and dreams. This is what it means to present ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice.

Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. Romans 12:1 NASB

I like this translation: we give ourselves to God because of all He has done for us.

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Romans 12:1 NLT

As the King James version translates, this sacrifice is our reasonable service.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Romans 12:1 KJV

It’s reasonable service to the Sovereign God who knows what’s best for us and who saved us through the blood of His son. As Isaac Watts so eloquently wrote,

Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

Dear Father, I pray that I would live my life in submission to Your will. I pray that I would willingly surrender my desires for Yours. Show me Your way and Your will and bend my heart to match Yours. Show me where I have not been willing to surrender, and give me grace to trust You more. Amen.

I Surrender All
Words by Judson W. Van DeVenter

All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus, I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
O the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Have Thine Own Way, Lord!

The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying, "Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will announce My words to you."

Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, "Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it.
Jeremiah 18:1-10

The sermon on Sunday, based on this text, really spoke to my heart about the Potter and the clay. God is the Potter. He is Sovereign, in control of everything in our lives, from the mundane to the extraordinary. And He uses both extremes to mold us and shape us and make us into the vessels that He has intended, ultimately into the image of His own Son.

Here’s the thing about clay: the clay doesn’t decide what it’s going to be. The clay isn’t the one who gets to choose to be a bowl or a pitcher or a vase or a goblet, or even a doorstop! The clay has no power to make itself into any of those things. It is the Potter who chooses and the Potter who does the making. As Jeremiah saw at the potter’s house, the potter made the clay into a vessel as it pleased the potter to make.

God is the one who chooses how to make and re-make us after His will, into a vessel as it pleases Him to make. As the clay, we are to be yielded and still, awaiting the Potter’s work, and not trying on our own to become the vessel we think we should be.

I don’t write this from a great, vast experience of being yielded and still, awaiting the Potter’s work. I am the first to admit that I think I know what I should be and I will try to get there myself. Submission is difficult. In the process of trying to “make” myself, I have probably done more harm than if I would have waited patiently on the Potter to do His work.

After watching a brief video of a real-life potter make and re-make the clay into one vessel and then another and then another before settling on the final one, I have a new appreciation for the work of the Potter in my life, and a new resolve to be yielded and still to His work. It is only in His strength and by His grace that I will be able to be in complete submission. It is my prayer, as this hymn says, that through His work in my life, all would see Christ only, always, living in me.

Have Thine Own Way, Lord!
Words by Adelaide Pollard

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me, I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine.

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.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Power of the Holy Ghost

"But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7

Today is Pentecost, the day we remember the Holy Spirit being given to believers. It is certainly something we should celebrate – as believers we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

In the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit wasn’t part of the everyday lives of those who believed in God. He only came to a specific person at a specific time for a specific reason. When His work was done, He left the scene.

Then Jesus came, and He promised that when He went away, He would send us a Helper.

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” John 16:13

The Holy Spirit does not speak on His own initiative, but hears from God, and then speaks. And if you have confessed your sin and accepted Christ as your Savior, you have the Holy Spirit as your guide. The Spirit is given at the moment of salvation, and He guides us into all truth. We can be assured that He will not depart from us.

He has incredible power – power to heal our heart, remove the dross of sin, and transform us into the image of God’s son, Jesus. If we have open ears, and a receiving heart, we can hear the Holy Spirit speak to us.

The Power of the Holy Ghost
Words by Fanny Crosby

Come, Spirit, come in mighty power,
As on the bless├Ęd day of old
When fell the pentecostal shower
That gathered thousands to the fold.

Nothing but the power of the Holy Ghost
Can sanctify and keep through a Savior’s love,
And light within our souls the flame
That burns on the altar of Heav’n above.

O for a mighty rushing wind
To fill this consecrated place,
That sinners lost might seek and find
The gate of hope, the door of grace.

O for a power that heals the heart,
That takes away the dross of sin,
That we may, like the world, depart,
And let the King of Glory in.

Dear Savior, from Thy throne on high
Now grant the power for which we call,
Till shouts of rapture fill the sky,
And Thou, O Lord, art all in all.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

How Sure the Scriptures Are

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.
II Timothy 3:16-17

In studying the gospel of John, I have become increasingly thankful that we have the word of God in written form. We have a record of Jesus’ time here on Earth, and the things He said and taught. The Bible is more than that, though. Although as Christians we tend to focus on the New Testament, the Old Testament is equally important. The Old Testament shows us time and time again how God kept His covenant with His people and it points to the coming of Jesus – the ultimate gift that reconciles us to God.

We can be assured that the Scriptures are God’s infallible Word: Jesus himself used the Scriptures to teach and show how the prophecy about Him was being fulfilled.

Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.
Luke 24:27

Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” Luke 27:44-48

Paul had a very dramatic conversion experience. Paul previously spoke against Jesus, and then God met him on the road to Damascus. Most of us know “the rest of the story.” The dramatic change in Paul shocked those who knew him.

Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, "He is the Son of God." All those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, "Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?" But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.Acts 9:19-22

How did he prove it? By teaching from the Scriptures.

Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." Acts 17:1-3

Even early in his ministry, Paul knew the value of the Scriptures and their importance in pointing to the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus. He reminded the Romans of this great truth:

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

The Scriptures do provide everlasting hope: God kept His promise. And He still keeps His promises today. His word is clear, as this hymn reminds us, so let us hear and do His will.

How Sure the Scriptures Are
Words by Christopher Idle

How sure the Scriptures are! God’ vital, urgent word,
As true as steel and far more sharp than any sword!
So deep and fine, at His control they pierce where soul and spirit join.

They test each human thought, refining like a fire;
They measure what we ought to do and to desire:
For God knows all – exposed it lies before His eyes to whom we call.

Let those who hear His voice confronting them today,
Reject the tempting choice of doubting or delay:
For God speaks still – His word is clear, so let us hear and do His will.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise

So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. Mark 16:19

Yesterday, May 1, was the Day of Ascension – the day we remember Jesus being taken up into heaven to take His place at the right hand of the Father. After His resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days with His apostles and then went back to His Father.

The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up to heaven, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen. To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.

Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, "Which," He said, "you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now." So when they had come together, they were asking Him, saying, "Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth."

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven." Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away.
Acts 1:1-12

This Jesus will come AGAIN in just the same way as you watched Him go into heaven! We look forward to that day in anticipation!

Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise
Words by Charles Wesley

Hail the day that sees Him rise, Alleluia!
To His throne above the skies, Alleluia!
Christ, awhile to mortals given, Alleluia!
Reascends His native heaven, Alleluia!

There the glorious triumph waits, Alleluia!
Lift your heads, eternal gates, Alleluia!
Christ hath conquered death and sin, Alleluia!
Take the King of glory in, Alleluia!

Circled round with angel powers, Alleluia!
Their triumphant Lord, and ours, Alleluia!
Conqueror over death and sin, Alleluia!
“Take the King of glory in! Alleluia!”

Him though highest Heav’n receives, Alleluia!
Still He loves the earth He leaves, Alleluia!
Though returning to His throne, Alleluia!
Still He calls mankind His own, Alleluia!

See! He lifts His hands above, Alleluia!
See! He shows the prints of love, Alleluia!
Hark! His gracious lips bestow, Alleluia!
Blessings on His church below, Alleluia!

Still for us His death He pleads, Alleluia!
Prevalent He intercedes, Alleluia!
Near Himself prepares our place, Alleluia!
Harbinger of human race, Alleluia!

Master, (will we ever say), Alleluia!
Taken from our head to day, Alleluia!
See Thy faithful servants, see, Alleluia!
Ever gazing up to Thee, Alleluia!

Grant, though parted from our sight, Alleluia!
Far above yon azure height, Alleluia!
Grant our hearts may thither rise, Alleluia!
Seeking Thee beyond the skies, Alleluia!

Ever upward let us move, Alleluia!
Wafted on the wings of love, Alleluia!
Looking when our Lord shall come, Alleluia!
Longing, gasping after home, Alleluia!

There we shall with Thee remain, Alleluia!
Partners of Thy endless reign, Alleluia!
There Thy face unclouded see, Alleluia!
Find our heaven of heavens in Thee, Alleluia!