Surrender


The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

John 4: 25, 26

It is very likely that you have known someone who acted as if they did truly know it all. This is the sort of claim that is very hard to sustain. Most people who act as if this were true for themselves are portraying a form of arrogance that is often mixed with some strong internal doubts. I would guess that this Samaritan woman had encountered a few people during her life-time who had acted in this manner, but this encounter with the Jewish stranger was different. He knew things about her that were not His to know, and He spoke with a form of authority that pierced through her protective outer shields in a way that allowed His words to penetrate to the center of her heart. This man knew her in a way that was both terrifying and exhilarating. A simple and routine action of going out to the community well to draw water had become the point at which her entire life was being transformed.

This woman had encountered a very practical and direct form of knowledge that Jesus had regarding her, for He knew all about the rather sordid and difficult life that she had lived up until this time. He both knew and understood why she was out at that well when no one else from her community was there. Jesus understood the hurt and the pain that filled her days as He also recognized her heart’s yearning for salvation from the burden that she carried with her every moment of her life. Jesus was fully aware of the woman’s story without her needing to say anything, and He had answers for the real questions that her heart was asking. This Jesus who just happened to be waiting at a particular well at a time of day when most people would have been indoors was seeking after this individual because He was attuned to the deep longing of her spirit. The Christ came to her just as He is continually seeking after all people.

Jesus does know all. He, as God, sees everything that we think, say, and do, and in an even more powerful demonstration of His complete knowledge and understanding, Christ is aware of the condition and the intentions of our hearts. He comprehends the pain and the hurt that we experience deep inside of our being, and He has the answers for us that will bring about true and lasting healing for those wounds and for the struggles that come about in life because of them. Most importantly, Jesus is the answer to the greatest questions that exists in all people’s lives, which are those of my own identity, my value and worth, and my purpose in being here. Jesus takes everyone who responds to His offer of answers into the presence of our Creator, God Himself, and Christ then opens our minds and our hearts to hearing the truth about all of these vital questions. Jesus comes seeking after everyone on earth, He waits for us at our own well of questioning, and He answers all of the doubts and fears that we may possess with His unfailing comprehension, grace, and love.     

Advertisements

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways”, declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55: 8, 9

The term transcendence is used in the world of theology to try to describe the way that God is above all else. It helps our minds to grasp the fact that our God is often unknowable and that His way of viewing life does not always seem clear to us. This is the characteristic of God that Isaiah is attempting describe here. He has heard the voice of God call to people to leave behind that which comes so naturally to us, as the country preacher would have put it, “Leave your sinful ways and follow Jesus.” Yet, if God is so unknowable, and it seems that with the wisdom of our humanity He is absolutely unknowable, then how can we even begin to hope to leave what is our native bent and follow that which is beyond our understanding?

Well, let’s go back to that country preacher, for he said it all. Follow Jesus. I could just stop right there, let that thought sink in, and call it all good; but, I am writing this and I’m not finished. Jesus is the game changer in our ability to actually know this transcendent God. He traveled in the opposite direction. Jesus came into our world and joined us in life in order that we could know God and experience relationship with Him. He made God truly immanent, this is, Jesus Christ brought God in total into our world and is absolutely present with us in it. For even as He was departing from this life Jesus made the promise that His Spirit would be with us in and through it all and for the rest of time.

Christ grants us the ability to know God. He gives the way and the means to start to grasp the otherwise impenetrable truths of the transcendent God. Christ in our world leads His followers into a new way of viewing life that places the highest priority on entering into an ever growing and deepening relationship with God. Then it is this relationship with God that should compel us to live with the same values and priorities as God holds. As Christ takes His followers into the realm of the transcendent we learn to love others and to seek their well being above our own. The transcendent God sacrificed all for us, and Christ shows us how to lay down all that we hold as dear in this life in order to bring others into the presence of that same holy God.  

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

1 Thessalonians 2: 13

All of us are subject to various types of authority. It comes in the form of people who have power over our livelihoods or at least our success and advancement within a chosen occupation. Most of us live in communities within countries where there are laws of the land that rule over us and that direct and define what actions are acceptable and what ones will result in censure or worse. Sometimes we accept the rule of authority and at other times we struggle with it or even fight against its presence in the course of our days. Paul is immensely thankful that these people to whom he had communicated God’s Word had accepted it and its author’s authority so readily. They had not only accepted it, but they also knew and acknowledged the fact that there was a supernatural aspect to what they had received from Paul as this word from God.

Thus, the Gospel of Christ and the rest of the divine truth that was given to them has a sort of power that is far superior to any other form of wisdom, logic, or law that they may have heard or have access to. This word of truth and life comes out of eternity and into our world bringing with it the lasting wisdom of the Lord and providing guidance for all aspects of life. Now God has called people into service to Him by means of gifting them with deep comprehension of His Word and by granting to them the ability to explain both its meaning and its application to the various situations and circumstances that are encountered in living out our days. Yet, unlike any other form of instruction that we may receive, when we are taught from God’s Word we hear words that are spoken by humans, but we are listening to and assimilating concepts, ideas, and precepts that come from the mouth of God.

The source of these utterances is what matters when God’s Word is opened and taught. It is essential for people who teach from God’s Word to be humbly submitted to the Lord’s will as they are led by His Spirit into understanding its deeper meanings and its application in the lives of the specific audience at hand. As hearers of the Word of God we need to bear in mind the fact that it is something much greater than any literature that has come to us through human hands as these words are the utterances of God, Himself, that have been given to us through the hands of divinely inspired writers. Even that inspiration would have left us with nothing more than an exceptional work of history and philosophical wisdom if it were not for the connection that God makes with His people through the presence of the Spirit of Christ with and within us. The Spirit brings the written and the spoken Word of God to life, and He guides our minds and our hearts into forms of understanding that would not be otherwise possible. Thus, through the work of the Spirit within and upon us, we are continually transformed by God’s Word into people who more and more fully reflect the glory of the Lord.   

And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see the great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”

Mark 13: 1, 2

The temple in Jerusalem was impressive. There were beautiful finishes throughout its interior, and the outer walls were constructed by skilled stone masons and stood in proud relief against the surrounding city. As it was constructed upon a hill, it looked out over the city as a form of both guardian sentinel and also as a beacon to guide those who were seeking God into His presence. At least that was how it was supposed to function. In fact, the temple was just a building. Its impressive architecture and its grand furnishings did absolutely nothing to bring people any closer to knowing God. The leadership was too far gone along a path of corruption to care about what God wanted, and they were so consumed with the pursuit of personal gain that they failed to seek to truly serve His purposes on earth much less to aspire toward heavenly things. As regarded the temple that Jesus and His disciples were visiting that day, it would be gone in only a few dozen more years. Yet, Jesus is looking far beyond that moment, and He is speaking to an audience that was not contemplated by His hearers that day, either.

We, too, are builders. We plan and fabricate wonderful buildings with amazing details and with feats of engineering that would amaze those earlier workers in stone. We also put together plans and ideas in ways that bring into existence entities and organizations to provide order and structure to our worldly and sacred endeavors. As was true of the temple when Jesus was looking upon it, so it is still true today; there is nothing inherently wrong with putting up buildings or with developing systems and structures to operate our businesses, governments, and ministries. When Jesus was looking upon the temple, the problem was not in the structures; rather, it was in the hearts of the people. In our times, the same thing is true. We can also become worshipers of stone and brick idols that are in name alone places where God is to be found. We can craft governance systems and leadership models that make everything work smoothly and that contemplate every possible contingency or issue that might arise, but if these rules and regulations do not direct us to the foot of the cross, then they are worth nothing beyond the ashes that will remain at the end of days.

God desires that everything that we do, each thought that we have, and all of the plans that we devise be focused upon and committed to Him. He does not leave permission or allowance for there to be anything held out or reserved for our personal or secular lives. As we go about our business enterprises, they should operate as if Christ were the final authority in all of the decisions that are made. When we dwell among our neighbors, Christ wants us to place Him fully and clearly on display in that community. The government that we permit and the one that we encourage is to be run out of righteousness, with justice as its great concern, and in a holy fear of the Lord and with regard for the way of the cross. Finally, Christ calls upon us to gather in the fellowship of His Word with grace, love, and peacemaking as our unbreakable bond and with service to Christ as our greatest mission. When these things are true, the temple that is constructed is built up out of eternal materials as it is formed in the hearts of people and is held up for all time by the spiritual bond that is created by the hands of the Master Builder.   

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

2 Corinthians 3: 17

Freedom is not always easy to accept, and living in its fullest expression is even more challenging for most people. The challenge of freedom might be found, in part, in the fact that everyone is born into its opposite state. That is, we all come into this world enslaved to sin and owned by Satan. That is hard to envision when a baby is new born, but after a few months and certainly by the age of two or so, the self-centered and often uncontrollably angry person that is inside the cute beauty of the baby begins to demonstrate itself in mighty outbursts and unceasing demands for her or his way. As adults we care for and love these little ones regardless of how they might be acting, and in time, they mature and learn to control and to moderate their expressions of want and need. They also grow into people who can give love and provide guidance to others who are not as far along in their developmental journey.

The Lord does much the same sort of thing with us. We are born sinners, and we stay in that state of deadness and remain separated from God’s full presence until we relent to Christ’s unceasing pursuit of us and surrender our being to Him. When this happens, something far greater than simple membership is given to us, for we are not just granted access to an eternal existence with Christ in Heaven, great as that gift is, in fact, but we are also given the gift of the presence of the Spirit within us from that moment of acceptance onward. We are set free from that state of enslavement to Satan that was our form of being from birth. However, most of us are challenged by what it actually means to live in the complete and total expression of that freedom. It is a state of being that we do not know how to enjoy and that we are not yet mature enough in Christ to grasp onto and to live out in all aspects of our lives.

That is where the presence of the Spirit within us becomes especially important, for He provides love, care, support, guidance, and discipline to our still formative new selves in Christ. The Spirit takes us into God’s Word and provides us with understanding of its meaning and with the wisdom to apply those truths to the situations and circumstances that we encounter in life. The Spirit provides us with a form of strength that is deeper and more durable than anything that we have been able to develop on our own, and He also brings the power of eternity to bear upon the obstacles and challenges that we face as we seek to follow Christ’s calling for us. Over time we are grown up and matured by the Spirit in our ability to dwell more and more fully in the way of Christ. This growth process is accelerated as we yield to the Spirit and surrender ourselves ever more fully to His work within us. So, as we become ever more Christ-like in the ways that we think, speak, and act, we gain freedom, and freedom finds its expression in an increase in our faith in the working of Christ is our world and in the expressions of the presence of the Spirit through the full exercise of the spiritual gifts that we have been given by God. 

Only take care, and keep your soul diligently lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest you depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and to your children’s children.

Deuteronomy 4: 9

Does it seem as if everyone is in a giant hurry to get somewhere, but it is really hard to see what that destination might actually be? Thus, this world feels like a place that is filled with careless people who are continually crashing into each other without even realizing that there might be injury or damage left in the wake of their travels. Perhaps it is our accelerated pace of life that is the cause of the way that people interact so poorly with each other, or the harshness of our days just may be the result of a form of universal self-centeredness. Regardless of the source or the cause, the reality of life is that there are far too many of these collisions of the heart, mind, and body happening to people all around us. They may be people that we barely know or they might be the ones that we are closest to and most intimately involved with, but in the end, the pain is real and the harm can be catastrophic for relationships.

The same sort of thing is true when it comes to our relationship with God. We rush about and seldom, if ever, give a moment’s pause to consider the presence of God in our lives. He is there for that special hour on the prescribed day of gathering for attendance at a place we call church or some such name, and He is called upon when disaster or significant injury and illness strike. Yet, our careless hearts have generally pushed the Lord out of the schedule that we have so meticulously crafted for our days so that our time will be highly productive. So, I am led to wonder about that productivity and to look at the carelessness of my days in light of the way that God desires to be the One who sets the direction and establishes the tone for each and every hour of all of our days. If I do not have time to see the needs of others and to hear the pain in their hearts, am I really listening to Moses’ words of wisdom and keeping my soul diligently focused upon my Lord?

Moses make a point of reminding himself and the people that he was leading of the consistently powerful way that God had been with them and had provided for them in all situations, circumstances, and places. This same testimony is true in my life, for God has been present and active in it from its earliest days, and one of the most important aspects of the Lord’s involvement with me has been the way that He has opened my eyes to the hurt and the pain in the lives of others. I am not particularly good at responding to those promptings, but God does not allow me to ignore them for very long without bringing me back into His reality. I am reminded to take care of my relationship with Christ and to look intently upon His face as He leads me into meditation upon His Word. Christ’s Spirit takes care of my soul, and He calls me into regular, purposeful, and committed times of prayer and listening to His voice. It is during these times that the Lord reveals His heart of compassion and concern for others to me as He speaks healing and strength into my soul. 

And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all of those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything that she had, all she had to live on.”

Mark 12: 43, 44

Jesus is making a statement that is in the form of a parable; so, we need to consider the deeper or the hidden meanings in His words. For Jesus used parables as a means of both sifting out people who did not truly know God from those who were sincere in their desire to gain eternal truth and understanding, and He also utilized this obscured form of teaching so that His followers would be forced to dig deeper into God’s word and allow that those complex and mature ideas would be revealed to them in that process of seeking wisdom and truth. On the surface of it this is a story about the way that we hold our financial wealth and the relatively greater willingness to trust God with it that was held by the poor woman as opposed to those who we assume to be the far wealthier men that made up the group of Jewish religious leaders that were questioning Jesus.

Yet, I wonder if Jesus isn’t talking about something even more difficult to surrender than our money? We know that it was necessary in the world where Jesus lived to have some sort of income in order to live, and the same is even more true today, but there are other things that we hold, possess, and strive for that make up the full package of what we might consider to be necessities of life. These include our educations, homes, jobs, status in society, national identity, religious affiliations, and many other points of connection to our world that all work together to define who we are and to establish what we are worth in our culture. Perhaps there are aspects of all of this that we are holding onto tightly and so making only those show offerings of our deeper selves to the Lord while grasping with all of our might to what we consider to be essential for life?

Christ desires for us to trust Him to the point of fully emptying our pockets, wallets, purses, and vaults of everything that we might determine to be important or essential for us to live a meaningful and fulfilled life. He wants us to be widow-like in turning over tomorrow to God so that what we have and thus where we go are guided fully by His will and are provided by His hands of loving grace, mercy, and wisdom. We may think that we have a good plan for how we will live out our time on earth and even for the manner in which that plan will fulfill a calling that has come from the Lord. However, we just might be wrong, or God may have something far more significant to the purposes of His kingdom in mind for us. If we hold on rigidly out of our own strength and understanding to our plans and goals, we just might not be open to God’s greater plan. You see, the widow in this story was infinitely rich in spirit and in her relationship with the Lord, and we can be like her in these ways as well when we turn over every aspect of our lives to Him and trust in God’s goodness and grace to provide all that we will need to live today in the center of His will.

Next Page »