Do you remember the last time you felt close to God, assured that you were held in the comforting embrace of the creator of the universe? If you’ve ever had a moment like this, try to remember where you were, who was with you, what you felt on the outside and on the inside. Now, imagine this! God’s desire is for you to feel the closeness I just described as often as possible.
In this post, we’re moving from a place of knowing that we are loved and that God is trustworthy…to allowing our will and our desires to be fully surrendered to God. Step Two is being able to surrender our will so that God’s will can direct our lives. And this is a place of freedom! You’ll know you’ve moved through step two when you experience the peace and assurance that true surrender brings. Even though it might seem surrender is a decision we must make, I would encourage us to see it as ceasing to insist on our own way. Rather than surrender being a “forced” response, it is much more of a catharsis, a release, a letting go.
Surrender, in the spiritual life, is much like those “Before/After” pictures. What you see on this side of surrender is much different than what you will see on the other side. Surrender casts such a different light on all of life. If you are on the front side of surrender, it is natural to wonder, “What gets in the way?” If surrender is so beautiful and good, why does it feel like such a tall barrier? Another way to ask it, “If it is so good, why doesn’t everyone do it?” We’ll come back to this answer, but first we must examine the words of scripture.
17 Now this I affirm and insist on in the Lord: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of their ignorance and hardness of heart. 19 They have lost all sensitivity and have abandoned themselves to licentiousness, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 That is not the way you learned Christ! 21 For surely you have heard about him and were taught in him, as truth is in Jesus. 22 You were taught to put away your former way of life, your old self, corrupt and deluded by its lusts, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
Notice the phrase: you must no longer live as the Gentiles live, in the futility of their minds. In this context, the word, “Gentile” calls to mind a former way of life. It would be like us saying, “Remember what you believed about Santa when you were five? It was good when you were 5, but you aren’t five anymore.” The writer then paints a painful picture of what returning to our former way of life does to us:
• Darkened understanding
• Alienated from God
• Hard hearts
• Futility, we stop trying
• Letting our selfish desires be in charge
In a previous post, I defined sin from the biblical perspective. In Hebrew, it means to “stray from the path.” In Greek, it means to “miss the mark.” Sin is not measured by a behavior or an outcome. Sin is measured by the intention upon our hearts. Sin has long-term effects in our lives when we allow it to operate unexamined and unchecked. Using the scripture, let’s get out the magnifying glass for our own hearts. Are we experiencing any of these chronic conditions?
• Dullness, numbness — an inability to feel either joy or pain
• Obstinance — a hardness of heart, a protective coating that keeps us in place
• Fatigue — being too tired to care, or worn out by despair
• Repeat offending — feeling like no matter how hard we try, we can’t get it right
The writer of the text speaks clearly to this in verse 20, That is not the way you learned Christ! It feels like someone trying to wake us, to jolt us from sleep to awareness, a reminder that God has more for us than this. Pay careful attention this moment of waking up (being roused) because it contains the power to lead us to surrender.
This wakefulness – wiping the sleep from our eyes to see clearly where sin is holding us back – creates a hunger that leads/draws us to surrender. When we feel safe to see the effects of sin in our lives, then acknowledging our need for healing comes naturally. Rather than “giving up,” which is our typical understanding of surrender, we now see it as the only path to real freedom.
Ah, freedom! I can be honest and vulnerable with God. I can admit where I most need grace to cover my inadequacies. Then, I can accept who I am (the amazing parts and the terrifying parts) as God’s creation within me. I can let go of control and trust God to smooth out the rough places, while polishing the beautiful places so they shine. Surrender is the way to freedom, and freedom is the only way we will be able to receive God’s forgiveness legitimately. That will be the next post.