Now or later?

Remember that song, "I surrender all"?  Often those who profess Christ  haven’t surrendered anything to Him, nothing tangible that is.  They want their sins forgiven, or rather their guilt eased, but have the tragic notion that they can access His resurrection power without surrender.  It just doesn’t make sense how one can claim to be a part of the body of Christ, without surrendering their own.  The ratio of professing Christians to authentic Christians today is as lopsided as a New England Patriots contest!  Those who sing "I surrender All" would rather sing "I surrender this" or "I surrender that".  Worse yet, they could just as well sing "I surrender nothing". 
One of the dictionary definitions for surrender is "to yield (something) to the possession or power of another".  I Corinthians 6 tells us Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy
Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20
you were bought at a price.

This verse reinforces the fact that Biblical Christianity is one closely associated with surrender.   After all, how can one be bought at a price without first surrendering the body (the self) which was paid for? If something is purchased, isn’t there usually an exchange of something? The fact is, salvation is conditional on surrender!  That sounds like something we have to do doesn’t it?  You ask, "but isn’t it grace through faith alone?"   Sure it is, as long as we identify the meaning of faith.  Faith is not mere intellectual assent, otherwise Satan is a Christ follower.  James spelled it out clearly.  Faith Works!  Thankfully, it doesn’t require an abandonment of the doctrine of grace when we marry faith to obedience.  As author Dallas Willard profoundly states, "grace is not opposed to effort, it’s opposed to earning."  That simply means that while I can’t save myself and need God’s help, I am still expected to participate in the process.  What about 1 John 1:9?  "If we confess with our mouths".  The last time I checked, confession with the mouth takes an effort on our part.  It takes faith in Christ’s love and acceptance before we can even think of admitting our sin to Him.  "To Surrender" is a profound and intentional "act of faith".  It’s the complete opposite of works based religion, yet ironically requires effort and action on our part.

If God didn’t require surrender, than He would just zap us with some kind of grace laser gun!  BZZTTT! SAVED!  Then we could resume our zombie like existence in this world "that’s not my home, I’m just a passin’ thruu"!

The denomination that I’ve spent my life in, generally speaking,  has often watered down the gospel of Christ to the effect of producing a "church" of passivity consumed with "the later".  Jesus’ promise of abundant life, living water, and new birth, has been put on hold.  Consequently, "eternal Life" has been redefined as "later-life" instead of the present reality flowing out of a knowledge (relational) of God. ( "This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ,
    whom you have sent" (John 17:3))

What is the Gospel?

Firstly, realize what it’s not. The gospel of Christ is not that He died for our sins so we can go to heaven.  His gospel, the one He preached, was the availability of the Kingdom of God. "The Kingdom of God  or the "accessibility of "is at hand "or near".  The best way to think about is this:  "Good News!  I’m here!! I’m available, even to those who have been shut out".  God’s Kingdom from Christ’s perspective was a now-reality. It is a now-reality today as well.  Kingdom was/is not limited to a realm of time and space. The Kingdom of God is not something that comes into existence later down the road.  His kingdom has always existed, exists now, and will always exist.    Psalm 90:1 says "from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 

Once we root our minds in this, Christ’s words move from cliches to lifeblood!  We begin to realize that Jesus is the Word of God, and the scriptures are a revelation of this truth. We realize the "Word" was spoken before it was written down. Teachings such as "The sermon on the mount" begin to make supreme sense when you read it in the context of Jesus’ stated gospel.  His model prayer becomes crystal clear as we realize that "your kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" is not a yearning for an apocrypha, but a desire to surrender to Christ in this now-life the way that unfettered surrender currently exists in heaven!


In light of the gospel of the Kingdom, we realize that when He talks to Nicodemus about "new birth", it’s not because Nicodemus was worried about what might happen to him if he got run over by a donkey that night.  Prior to visiting Jesus, Nicodemus had already assented to more than enough truth about God to be an "American" Christian, as a matter of fact, His accumulation of theology would probably make most of us look like grade schoolers.  In actuality, Nicodemus was missing something bigger than the Torah.  He was missing God in a very relational way!  No wonder he sneaked out at night to see if this Christ was the one!

The Woman at the Well

When Jesus talks with the Samaritan woman, he’s simply dealing with her where she is at.  It’s not her after-life that he’s concerned about, it’s her now-life!  Remember, the Kingdom is at hand.  She had too much going against her.  First, she was a woman, then a Samaritan woman, and then an immoral woman.  1 of those strikes was an out in those times, much less 3.  Her conversion experience at the well was not based on her intellectual assent, although she certainly did observe and comprehend the facts before her.  It was based on her realization of Christ’s acceptance of her in that now-life moment!  In response to God’s grace, she surrendered all in that moment.

The American church is adept at surrendering the afterlife, it’s the now-life that she chooses not to relinquish.  Why?  Because the after-life is the one mystery people are willing to concede their understanding to.  They figure they might as well nod their head to a few intellectual assents, say a scripted prayer, and hope for the best. They realize the fact that after death, one doesn’t have much control over the situation. (of course, there are some crazy enough to try to affect their post-death outcomes….we call them cults)  But when it comes to surrendering the now-life, a resistance takes place because we feel like we are more suited to run our lives than the One who created us.

I probably sound like the biggest cynic right now!  Maybe it’s because I’ve learned some hard lessons on surrendering lately.  Maybe it’s because that I’ve only been willing to let God be God over the religious areas of my life and not the ordinariness of moment to moment life!

In my life I’ve told God that He can be in charge of my after-life, after all, I’ve thought about it and come to the conclusion that I don’t know how I am going to solve that problem.  (by the way, it is good that we realize that only God can secure us in that way)

My problem as one who professes Christ is almost always a problem of surrender, specifically surrender of the now-life!  Take a look at the side-by side surrender comparison that I can rattle off the top of my head:

GOD is God of……                                                         

my eternal destiny                                                                  
my stated doctrinal beliefs                                                      
10% of my gross income   

I am God of……   

my body   
my plans
the rest of my money and possessions
my career
my family
my recreation
my time
my happiness
my mind and what I let in
my attitudes
my mouth and what I let out

Okay, you get the picture.  If I’m going to preach in this blog, I should preach to me most of all. 

Let me finish by saying that when I mentioned the hard lessons of surrendering all, I discovered that the secret to "Surrendering All" is paradoxical.  It’s not surrendering all at once! All is a big word.  It’s surrendering each moment as they come.  It is a lifelong process that requires patience. Our Christianity should be one that sees that 2nd list get smaller and the 1st one get bigger.  Ideally, God is God of..ALL and I am God of nothing.

It is also a process that is enabled primarily by God’s grace.  God’s grace is not a get out jail card, rather it is ongoing activity by God in our lives that begins with forgiveness. It doesn’t stop at forgiveness,but it begins there!  Grace is best described as the jet fuel that allows our lives to soar upwards from the runway! (Most Christians are stuck at the jet way)  St.Peter prayed that he would "grow in grace".  He wasn’t one to accept God’s grace as a one-time-get-your-sins-forgiven-and go to heaven gift card.  He was a faithful and willing participant in the working out of his salvation.  It was a concerted effort to act in God’s grace enabled now-life!    

By His Grace, Peter surrendered, and by His Grace so will I!                                                                                           

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