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Letting God be God
By David A. DePra
Have you ever wondered what would happen if we actually let God BE God? Of course, He already IS God. But Iím speaking in a practical way. Iím talking about US personally. What would happen in our personal lives if WE, personally, let God BE God?
Well, if we let God BE God, God would get glory, and we would benefit. Pretty simple. But often we make it so complicated.
Now, I do realize that most of us SAY we want God to be God in our lives. Thatís easy to do. We just say, "Have your will in my life, Lord." Or we pray, "Thy will be done." That is good. And hopefully, as far as we know it, we mean it.
I think it is a fact that we really donít have a clue as to what it would mean to LET GOD BE GOD of us. How could we know what that is like? We are born on the throne of our own lives. We donít know anything else. This is exactly why you must be born again a new creation in Christ Jesus to so much as SEE the kingdom of God. It takes a new creation to even begin to know. This gives us a bit of an idea of the magnitude of letting God be God.
Initial Surrender to God
Every Christian IS a Christian through surrender to God through Christ. In effect, you became a Christian by wanting God to be God OF YOU. Sure. If you are a Christian, you didnít become one by asking God to give you salvation, but at the same time refusing Jesus as your Lord. Indeed, if we really understood it, the very sin we must repent of in order to be saved is self-rule. Thus, by definition, salvation is the result of relinquishing the throne by repenting of the sin of sitting on the throne! And then Jesus takes the throne. In other words, I stop being my own god, and God begins to be God of me through Christ.
Of course, many Christians are not taught much of this. They are taught that all you need to do to be saved is say to Jesus, "Come into my heart." Now, Iím not putting that down, if it is all you know to do. But think about it. By definition, if you ask Jesus to come into your heart, you are asking Him to be your Lord. What? Do we think Jesus comes into our heart and affirms us as our own lord? No way. You can see the point.
This is why those who accept Jesus as, "fire insurance," have conversions that are suspect. It is why accepting Jesus without the slightest shred of repentance is not real salvation. Jesus Christ did not die for our sin so that we could continue in sin because grace abounds! No. He died for our sin so that we could be delivered from, yes, the penalty for sin, but delivered from sin itself. If you could be saved without repenting of sin, it would mean Jesus died for nothing Ė He died a death for sin you donít even have to acknowledge.
I say again Ė Jesus did not die to merely release you from the penalty FOR sin. If that is all He did, then you would remain a sinner, but released from the penalty. No. Jesus died to deliver you from sin itself. But the root of all sin is self-rule. So this is THE sin from which you need deliverance the most through the death of Jesus. Thus, how can you be saved if you donít repent of the sin of self-rule? If Jesus died to save you from the sin of self-rule, and you donít repent of the sin of self-rule, well, you can see the contradiction. You cannot be saved.
This issue of self rule is vital to understand. Self-rule isnít merely a sin unto itself. It is sin against GOD. Therefore, how could we continue to sin against God AS God, and at the same time say we want God to BE God of us?
Unless you and I repent of self-rule we cannot be saved. For the bottom line is that we are being saved from self-rule by Jesus Christ. That is THE sin, which brings THE death. In short, we must decide who will be God of us Ė ourselves or God.
Much misunderstanding exists over this issue because we are not taught what salvation really IS. So many think that when you are saved you receive a THING called, "eternal life." No. Eternal life is not a THING. Eternal life is a Person. Jesus Christ is OUR LIFE -- Christ in us is LIFE. Thus, the notion that eternal life is one thing, and Jesus as Lord of us is another, isnít the Truth. No. If you have Christ in you the result is life eternal. But Jesus isnít in you as a bystander or casual observer. He is there to be your personal Lord. Life in Christ IS Jesus as your Lord Ė you cannot divorce the two.
So what we see in all of this is that right from the start, God wants to be God OF YOU Ė through Jesus Christ, who is in you. Really, everything that God is doing comes down to that in the end. God being God, and Jesus being Lord of all, constitutes the full restoration of all things. It brings all of creation back to where it belongs because at that point, God is back where He belongs. He receives full glory, and of course, the creation receives full benefit. But as we are seeing, this is not something that is merely an intellectual concept, or a doctrine. If it is to be real, it must begin in US. Jesus must be Lord of US. God must be God of us.
If you and I are to be redeemed and restored, then Jesus must be Lord of us. It is just that simple. There is no other salvation the Bible talks about.
The gospel message, in a nutshell is, "repent and believe." In other words, we REPENT BY BELIEVING. And we essentially believe BY repenting. The two go together. You cannot repent without believing Ė because you are repenting of NOT believing. And if you repent of NOT believing, you WILL BELIEVE! And you cannot believe without repenting, because by definition, if you are believing, it is because you ARE repenting of UNBELIEF! You are now surrendering to God as God, and relinquishing the throne of your life.
Life From Death
If God is to be God of ME Ė then I must surrender to Him. That ought to go without saying. But we need to understand what this really means. For real surrender is NOT Ė I say, it is NOT Ė something we do because we have, "been cornered into it." It is NOT a matter of us giving into God because He is bigger than us. It is NOT a religious exercise we perform because we hope it pleases God. It is NOT a, "button we push," in order to get God to spring forth and help us. And above all, surrender to God is not a negative thing. It is the death that leads to LIFE.
The fact is, if we surrender to God, we GET GOD. And God GETS US. Iím not sure what could be more positive. But the problem is that we donít start with a positive perspective. So when God begins to try to pry us loose from our control over our lives, it will appear to us like God is trying to take away from us. It will appear as if He is doing us wrong, rather than keeping His promises. But to the contrary, God is trying to deliver us from ourselves.
Right here is a big answer as to why it sometimes seems as if God is indifferent to us, or as if God is actually against us, rather than for us. The problem is that we are taking the promises of God and applying them to the WRONG CREATION. We are trying to, "save our lives," and trying to get God to help us. He wonít. He wants us to LOSE it.
We must get this. Jesus said, "Lose your life to find it." So this means that God will be working towards that end! God will be working toward the end that we LOSE OUR LIVES! But if we ignore that, or donít understand it, we wonít discern that God is trying to bring us to where we will voluntarily LOSE our lives. Instead we will think that He taking away our life Ė perhaps even our life in Christ Ė we will think He isnít giving us life. Or we will say that what is happening to us is of the Devil. Or, we will simply not understand how God, on the one hand, can promise us LIFE, but on the other, seem to be unwilling to give us life. The problem is not with God. It is with US. God cannot give us NEWNESS of life on any level, until there comes a DEATH to us on that level. Life comes only from death. But if we wonít die the death, or donít know to die the death, we will think that God is unfair.
Every one of us wants LIFE. The worst atheist, and the worst sinner in the world wants LIFE. If God offered a terrible sinner life, he would take it Ė if life were a THING. And what you would end up with is a sinner who would live AS a sinner forever. This cannot be. God offers every one of us LIFE. But the way to life in Christ is through death in Him. I must die to SELF in order to live to Him. The problem with the human race, however, and the problem with the false gospel of self-esteem, is the offer of LIFE without DEATH. In effect, life is offered completely OUTSIDE of God. It is life FROM God, without God AS God.
This is the gospel of Satan Ė an offer of life without the need for death; without the need for accountability to God. But not necessarily a bad or evil life, mind you. No. Perhaps a religious, respectable life Ė but one where YOU are firmly on the throne. Your best life now. Yep. That title, "Your Best Life Now," would make a good title for a handbook Ė a handbook which teaches how to live for yourself now to the expense of eternity Ė and how to praise God all the way down the path to perdition.
If God seems to be taking away from you, perhaps it is because He wants you to LOSE what you are trying to SAVE. He is trying to set you free from self-rule and self-ownership. God never takes anything away from us that is good for us in Christ. So let go and let God be God. In the end, it will come down to that anyways.
Real surrender to God is a matter of us falling into His hands because we trust Him. It is a matter of us running to God for deliverance and help. You cannot really surrender to God unless you trust Him. And you cannot trust Him unless you know Him. Furthermore, all surrender to God is unconditional. Indeed, unconditional surrender to God is the only kind of surrender there is!
It is possible to surrender to God in word only. We surrender Ė because we know that it is what God wants to hear. Perhaps we want to be on His good side, in a sort of religious way. So we surrender because we feel guilty for not surrendering. We want to appease our guilt. Thus, our, "surrender," becomes nothing more than a LAW we have created, and are now obeying. It is a duty we perform. But this is NOT real surrender.
It is likewise possible to surrender to God because we are working a, "deal." In other words, we give God the surrender He wants, so that He will give us what we want. Or so we think. This is really what we are doing when we surrender to God FOR what we think we will get in return. For example, if I am in a big trial, it is easy to surrender to God because I think that doing so will get me OUT of the trial. But this is NOT real surrender either.
This one is subtle because we know that surrender to God will always result in GOOD. But our hearts are deceitful. It is easy to surrender to God to get from Him. We forget that by definition, surrender is an act whereby we GIVE to God Ė we give to God ourselves.
One other possibility is to surrender to God as merely a religious exercise. It is a position we take, not an actual surrender. It is entirely possible to walk around bragging about myself to myself about how surrendered I am to God. But in fact, none of my so-called faith may have ever been tested. What if God actually TAKES what we give to Him? It is then that our surrender is exposed for what it is.
The reality is, if I surrender to God, there is nothing but GOOD that will come of it. But what does that mean? And what is REAL surrender?
Real surrender to God means that I let God be God Ė over me. Now, thatís pretty simple. But to put it in perspective, letís talk more about what this DOES NOT mean. First, it does NOT mean that I try to do Godís will FOR Him. And second, it means that I donít demand that God do His own will Ė which is really much the same thing. In short, surrender means that I trust God enough to take the initiative to do His will in my life.
Ok. But now letís get more specific. First, we said surrender is NOT when I try to do Godís will for Him. But this matter of trying to do Godís will for Him can be a confusing issue for some of us, because it isnít like we are supposed to be continually passive, just sitting there doing nothing. But neither are we to take the ball and run. So what is the difference between God doing His will THROUGH me, and me doing Godís will for Him?
It would seem that among all the distinctives between the two, there is one that always stands out. When I try to do Godís will for Him it is always because I really donít believe He will do it. Sure. This is fear. Or perhaps just unbelief. So at some point, I reason myself into taking the initiative Ė and most often I will convince myself that this is exactly what God wants me to do. I will say, "I know God promised to do this, but He hasnít done it, so I guess what He really meant is that I should do it for Him." Bad idea.
Donít misunderstand. We are here talking about Godís will, not sin. We are talking about me bringing to pass, not sin, but something God has promised. THAT is what I want, yes, but I want it MY way and in MY time.
What we fail to understand in these matters is that part of the will of God Ė indeed, the central part of it Ė is that I BECOME the will of God. The THING God has promised is important. But God wants to use the time of trial and waiting to bring me into conformity with His mind. Then the THING can happen. ME being Godís will is just as much Godís will as the THING that is Godís will. It is ALL the will of God. So if I donít wait, and try to bring Godís will to pass, it will end in failure.
What we need to understand is that when I want Godís will MY way and in MY time, it is no longer Godís will! It is MY will. Can we see this? And if I were to succeed to doing Godís will my way Ė through the power of the flesh Ė what would be birthed would always BE flesh. Flesh can birth only flesh, and unbelief cannot do Godís will. So we would be off the track before we were even out of the gate.
The Bible is filled with stories of those who tried to bring to pass Godís will in their own strength. Abraham, David, Moses, and many others tried. Thankfully, God got His will anyway, in the end. But there are always unnecessary consequences when we donít let God be God.
If you believe God has promised something, and it doesnít seem to be happening, you are in good company. This is the way it ALWAYS goes. At that point, the call upon you is to present yourself to God that He might MAKE you His will. Then, if you are mistaken about Godís will, you will find out. And if you arenít, then you are simply part of the process. God wonít fail to get His will and His glory.
There is something more subtle that we tend to do as Christians Ė more subtle then trying to do Godís will for Him. Often we DEMAND that God Himself do His will. So often we read verses in the Bible and shape them into a gun we hold to Godís head. We say, "God, You had better keep your promise to me, or You are unfaithful!" Of course, we donít actually say those words, or even express that attitude. But itís there. Or we say to God, "God, I believed You. And in Your word You have said that if I believe You, You will do it. So now you have better do it, or Iím not going to ever believe again." Again Ė an attitude we often have, but clothe beneath religiosity.
Ask yourself: If God has a will, do we really need to demand He do it? Such thinking is really nonsense. I mean, if it is Godís will, then He already wants to do it Ė that is why it is His will! So if we are demanding it, the reason must be that WE donít believe. We are afraid. So the demand is there for God to do what He already wants to do.
Believe and obey God, but never compromise with Truth or holiness in order to protect the promise of God. Never compromise in order to make sure Godís will comes to pass. Abraham did this. But the moment you compromise to ensure Godís will, you are OUT of Godís will. So you are, at that point, hindering His will, not ensuring it. Again Ė this is not just about a THING that is supposed to happen. It is more about what is going on between yourself and God.
We could save ourselves a lot of trouble if we would realize that most of the situations in which we find ourselves are tools in the hand of God to do in work in us. God wants to shape a relationship between Himself and us. The situation will be worked out in time. But right now, it is about you and God. God wants us to let Him be God TO US through the situation.
So the key here is never to try to do what only God can do. And we must never demand that God do His will. Rather, we must surrender OURSELVES to God that He might cause us to BECOME His will. The outworking of everything else will follow.
Seeking God First
There is no way God is going to do things FOR us to the disregard of our relationship with Him, or to the disregard of Christ in us. Forget it. The fact that He might occasionally please us with a thing or two is simply His mercy. But if you are asking God for THINGS, and you arenít getting them, this is why: Those THINGS cannot be given unto you except they come in as part of Godís purpose for you in Christ.
Jesus told us to, "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." If we do, Jesus said, "all these THINGS will be added to you." So what does that tell us that GOD HIMSELF is seeking first in our lives? The kingdom and His righteousness. Or, to put it another way, God is seeking first JESUS AS LORD in us, and the righteousness of Christ through us. And then, as THINGS fit in, or are needed, they will be added. That is the way God works. And so if we want to work WITH Him, it is the way we must walk with God.
So if you want to surrender to God, you must say, "Lord, I surrender to You, that you may take me and form Christ in me. Do this no matter what it takes, and no matter what the cost." But if we do surrender that way, God will not only answer that prayer, but He will add to us all of the material necessities that we need along the way.
Of course, this is nothing more than saying the Lordís Prayer and meaning it. We are saying, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth Ė IN MY LIFE Ė as it is in heaven." And then, if we mean it, we might add, "Give us this day our daily bread."
If you want to come into the knowledge of the Truth, this is the prayer God will answer. I promise you He will answer. In fact, I promise you that you will discover that you did not have a clue as to what you were really asking for.
I mean that in two ways. First, the negative. The fact is, if you want Godís will, your will must be crucified. If you want Godís kingdom in you, yours must be torn down. If you want Christ formed in you, then all that is in you that does not work in harmony with Christ must be put to death, set aside, or transformed to fit the Truth. This wonít be fun. But it will absolutely SET YOU FREE. This brings us to the positive. As God answers your prayer, you will have your eyes opened to God, and a living Christ, who satisfy everything in you. You will find that God is MORE than you expected, to the point where you cannot fathom it. You will begin to understand just HOW TRUE the Bible is, and just HOW FAITHFUL God is. Any reluctance you may have had to surrender to God, because you were afraid, will be transformed into a longing for MORE. In short, if you surrender to God, YOU GET GOD, and GOD GETS YOU.
This is really the whole purpose of God Ė to MAKE us His will. But we think the purpose is that He merely DO His will, and if we reckon that His will is going to benefit us, then we want to focus on that. This accounts for much of our confusion and inability to understand God.
The Truth is, if God merely DID His will FOR us, without MAKING His will IN US, it would ultimately destroy us. For how could a person have Godís will as a THING, but be completely at odds with God Himself? Do we want to have a THING called, "Godís will," and yet not be in a relationship with God Himself? By nature, we are at enmity with God. For God to by-pass that fact and DO His will FOR us Ė well, you can see the danger. And yet, listen to the preaching that is on TV today. Most of it states, as truth, exactly what we now see cannot be the Truth.
In reality, the suggestion that God would do His will FOR us, to the disregard of whether we have BECOME His will, is a rather moot point. Why? Because it is never Godís will for God to do His will to the disregard of whether we have BECOME His will! Can we see this? This suggestion would be equal to saying that it is Godís will to do what is not His will!
Losing to Find
One other way to say all of this: Jesus said, "He that loses his life for My sake will find it." Well, what we do is demand, or at least expect, that God will give us our life. No. He isnít going to give us our life. He wants us to LOSE it. Then, if we will lose it, He will give us HIS life. But included in that will be all that we really want Ė even if we donít know it beforehand.
I donít know if we catch the Truth in this. God doesnít promise that He is going to give back to us the life we surrender to Him Ė only sort of better, happier, and dressed up with blessings. No Ė although that is taught everywhere today. Today Joel Osteen tells us that we can have our best life now. In using him as an example, Iím not being unfair and playing with words. Read his book and listen to him preach. He really means that we can have our best life now. And his book is geared to telling us how. Sure, He calls it, "the Christian life," and he refers to it as, "Godís blessing." But in the end, he preaches the modern gospel of self-esteem. It is a gospel that promises that if we turn to God and become Christians, God will reward us by filling our lives with favor, wealth, and many blessings.
The Truth is, if you are in Christ, HIS life is the only life you have. You relinquished YOUR life when you came to Him. There is NO other kind of Christianity in the Bible. And unless we get that straight, and see that the Christian life is a matter of working this one Truth out on many levels, we are going to miss Godís purpose. The fact is, we are NOT our own. We donít have a life once we relinquish it. We actually donít have anything to say about our life. God isnít here to service our life. He isnít here to bless our life. He is here to glorify Himself and to edify the life of Christ in us. Thus, if you want, "your best life now," relinquish it fully into the hands of God. What will emerge, however, isnít YOUR best life now. What will be raised His His life IN YOU, and through Him, you will have abundant life Ė and everything that aligns with Godís will for you in Christ.
Again, Iím not playing with words, or being petty for the sake of criticizing. The distinction between the Truth and what is taught today is the difference between the gospel of Satan, and the Truth of God in Jesus Christ. From the day that the serpent said, "You shall not die," to his temptation of Christ in the wilderness, right down to todayís neglect and denial of the Cross of Jesus Christ, the gospel of Satan has offered LIFE without the necessity of DEATH. He has offered a good, religious, prosperous life Ė all attributed to GOD Ė but one which merely dresses up the OLD creation, and maintains the SELF of man.
The SELF of man, in each one of us, makes US the center of our universe. But not just in an overtly demanding or openly prideful way. No. You are the center of your universe when you view all things through SELF Ė through how they affect YOU. You are the center of your universe when your glory, pride, and interests, are what drive you. You are also the center of your universe when fear, guilt, and depression govern you Ė itís just that the self principle, for you, is being presently frustrated. But it is what drives you. And you are the center of your universe when your faith is in your works, when your faith is in your faith, and when your faith is in what you perceive to be your value to God. You are the center when your religion ABOUT God blinds you to God Himself. And guess what? The gospel of Satan wants to satisfy all of those things for you. The gospel of Satan will absolutely give you a sense of confidence, happiness, and peace. It will make you feel good about yourself, and convince you that this is a blessing from God.
Thus, we have the reason for the millions of dollars and the big ministries today Ė they preach a message that absolutely gives SELF what it wants. They preach a message that tells us that we can have everything we want Ė FROM GOD, and with His blessing Ė but without the necessity of the Cross. And that makes us feel real good.
Just as important to the success of the gospel of Satan is the fact that the true gospel is rarely preached. There are therefore few standards being raised against it for Christ. Instead, we usually find messages that condemn, demean, control, and manipulate people through fire and brimstone.
Notice what is going on here: On the one hand we have a gospel that promotes SELF. On the other hand, we have a gospel that condemns and crushes SELF. What is the common denominator? Self. Can we see that both of these gospels focus on SELF? That both make us the center of our universe Ė one in a positive way, and one in a negative way? And so what we have are two, "kinds of Christianity" Ė one that gives SELF what it wants, and one that threatens SELF with what it fears. Neither is the Truth.
The true gospel of Jesus Christ does NOT promote SELF. But neither does it condemn SELF. Rather, the true gospel delivers us from SELF. This is what happens when a person begins to receive a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Get that statement I just made: The true gospel delivers us from SELF. Do you and I have any clue what that means? Or how it would be to live delivered from self? We cannot have any idea about it if SELF is all we know Ė for we could have no frame of reference for anything but SELF as the center of the universe. But in Christ, it is NORMAL to be free of SELF. Why? Because Jesus Christ is the center of our universe.
You and I could memorize this concept until we are blue in the face Ė as merely a principle or doctrine Ė and never really experience it. But the Truth Ė the real Truth Ė will set us free ACTUALLY. That is because there will come a knowledge of Jesus Christ that will change our perspective completely. What should that be strange? Arenít we supposed to be NEW creations, with renewed minds? Do we think those promises are on-paper only? No. They are REAL because God is real, and Christ is real.
I am not suggesting that in this life we are ever going to be totally free of the potentialities of SELF. I am not saying that we are to achieve some higher consciousness or some state of perfection. But what I am saying is that if we truly surrender to Christ there is going to come a change in our spiritual center of gravity. There is going to come a consciousness of Him that will alter, indeed govern, how we think, and how we view life. Iím not talking here about us memorizing Bible verses and through that compiling doctrinal INFORMATION. No. Iím talking about REVELATION.
Jesus said, "You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free." Does that mean ANYTHING? Well, it ought to tell us that we donít know Truth to begin with. And it ought to tell us that God is going to reveal Truth to us. Furthermore, it ought to tell us that the impact will be revolutionary.
So the TRUE gospel is not a handy message of, "how to fell good about yourself." But neither is it a message that leaves us in a relationship with a God that wants to keep us in line with threats of punishment. Indeed, the true gospel isnít really a message about us at all. It is the good news about HIM. And it is intended, among other things, to set us free from SELF, and to get us focused on Jesus Christ.
Do you suppose that if we even began to get a glimpse of Jesus Christ Ė God Himself Ė that maybe, just maybe, this would begin to set us free from our petty focus on ourselves? Do you suppose that perhaps if this happened, that we would begin to see that our focus on SELF was not the solution to our problems Ė but really much of the problem itself? Surrender to God and youíll find out.
Christian people need to see that the gospel of self-esteem is nothing more than Satanís way of denying the Cross and forging Godís stamp of approval on it. It is a Christianity that gives man what he wants Ė the blessings of God, but with SELF still on the throne. In the end, this is exactly what it is the gospel of Satan. It is really the opposite of everything God has done in Christ Ė and that makes it antichrist.
One of the contrasts I often give to explain the true gospel is this: The message of the gospel is NOT, "If you believe in Jesus God will reward you with your best life now." But neither is the message of the gospel, "You had better believe in Jesus or God will send you to hell!" Nope. The true gospel states, "You are already dead in sin and on your way to hell. Jesus came to give you NEW LIFE Ė but not YOUR best life now. Jesus came to put your best life to death, and raise you up IN HIM." In effect, surrender your life to God, and what you will get is everything real life Ė as defined by God in Christ Ė carries.
As I mentioned, Jesus tells us we must LOSE our lives to FIND them. He is not talking about becoming a physical martyr. He is talking about relinquishing the right to be our own boss Ė the right to own ourselves, and to live life on our own terms. He is saying that we must not only stop DOING that, but we must BECOME those whose nature does not WANT to do that.
Get that. This is not about keeping laws, giving money, or doing good things. Good works will emerge from what Jesus is really talking about Ė but He isnít talking about good works when He tells us we must lose our lives to find them. He is telling us that everything about us must come to the Cross. It is there that our SIN must take its place in the death of Christ. But it is also there that our SELF must take its place in death.
The sin of Adam was that he put SELF ahead of God, and in doing so, rejected God as God, and made himself his own god. He chose to decide for himself good and evil and become as God. Wasnít that what Satan offered them? Sure. And it happened. Only it resulted in death, not life. Consequently, we are all born void of the life of God, and completely SELF centered. Everything we do, everything we perceive, and indeed everything we ARE, centers around SELF, is filtered through SELF, and naturally tends to serve SELF. Jesus said we have to LOSE all of that Ė by coming to the Cross. If we do, He says we will find real life Ė His life in us.
Right away you can see that this wonít be easy. We are talking about going through a lifelong process that clashes with how we function naturally. If we are born as creatures whose nature it is to be SELF oriented, and God gives us a life within that is structured to draw us out of that and make us CHRIST oriented, there is going to be much conflict. But it is the calling of a Christian.
But you know, so often we think of this in such negative terms. Almost as if it is a big nuisance to be formed together with Christ. Some of us even think it is to our credit or merit that we lose our lives to find the life of Christ. And others of us try to take this whole principle and use it to work a deal with God. We volunteer to LOSE our lives for what we think we will get out of it. This might sound good, and Iím certainly not saying that it is wrong to want life. But Iím getting at our motives here. This isnít about cutting the best deal, or about me doing what I need to do to get from God what I want. Neither is it about following the right principle, or about doing the right thing so that God will respond the way I want. Rather, it is about TRUSTING GOD. It is about giving God His glory, His rights, and His place AS GOD. It is about surrendering to God by repenting of the fact that I have not surrendered. It is about coming to realize that unconditional surrender is not an option. It is the ONLY option Ė not because I will be punished if I donít, and not merely because I am forced to do so if I want life. It is the ONLY option because GOD IS GOD, and I belong to Him. That is the Truth. And it is GOOD. It is the best news possible. Of course, I will benefit if I surrender to God. I will receive all things! Yet it is all of His grace to me.
We seen that one of the reasons Christians often misunderstand God is that we are try to SAVE what He tells us to LOSE. And when God doesnít help us, we think He is being unfaithful. But God does not promise to bless our agenda for life. He does not promise to affirm us. He tells us to LOSE our life if we want to find HIS life. And if we will, then God has something to work with in Christ.
Now notice this possibility: If God wants us to lose our lives, and is working towards that end, but we are trying to save our lives, it will seem as if God is trying to TAKE AWAY from us. Well, He IS. But He is not taking away a good thing. He is taking away a bad thing. But it is all unto something better. And yet if we donít know this, it will seem as if God is unfaithful, cruel, and mean. It will seem as if God is ruining your life! But again Ė HE IS. In a manner of speaking. But there is a resurrection down the road.
We must see that when Jesus said, "You must LOSE your life to find true life," He was really holding out to us DELIVERANCE from our old life, our old nature, and our old ways of thinking. He is saying to us, "I have done everything there is to do in order that you might be saved and come into the knowledge of the Truth. You need not win those victories, indeed, you cannot win them. I have won them. But you cannot have MY LIFE as long as you have YOUR LIFE. You cannot have the TRUTH as long as you hold onto ERROR. Therefore, there is one thing Ė the only thing Ė that you must do. You must hand yourself over to Me. You must LOSE your life, lose your SELF, and if you do, the rest will come. You must die in order to live."
You will find, over and over again, not only illustrated in the Bible, but through Christian experience this principle: Life from death. You and I cannot birth ourselves anew. We cannot even take the first step towards God. And even when God does take the first step, we cannot do anything to take the ball and run. No. But what we can do, and what we must do, is give ourselves to Him. We must die in His hands. That is the only way to life.
If you have a free will, you have a SELF. Our SELF is what we have Ė at any point in our life. The worst sinner has a SELF, and so does the most faithful saint. And that SELF is what God wants. For if you have a SELF, you can either put SELF before God, or God before SELF. This will ultimately be your choice when God begins to bring light to you Ė either for salvation, or to set you free as a Christian. Who will be God Ė SELF or God. But if you examine that choice, it really boils down to FAITH. Real faith is surrender to God through Christ. It amounts to God before SELF. Unbelief amounts to SELF before God. There are other issues, to be sure. But in the end, it comes down to whether I will do the one thing I can do with the one thing I do have: Surrender SELF to Jesus Christ.
If we lose our life for Christís sake Ė if we lose our SELF for His glory and for His purpose Ė we are going to FIND HIM. We will not be losing anything of value. It is already DEAD anyways. But what we will find is life and Truth in Christ. And the fact is, there is NO OTHER way possible to find life, or to find Truth.
God in Our Image
One of the most amazing things I have discovered is that every problem we attribute to God is the product of US Ė we have the problem and our pasting it on God. Do you, for example, think that God plays games with people? Well, that bit of error is coming from somewhere, isnít it? It is coming from YOU. There is something IN YOU that has led to this accusation of God. Do you think God has NOT been faithful to meet your needs, hopes, and desires, in life? Are you mad at Him for this? Again, this is not an accusation that is of the Truth. So it is coming from some place other than God. It is coming from, or at least being affirmed, by YOU. And that point to YOU as having an unresolved issue. I could go on, but hopefully the point is made: We see God through OURSELVES. This does not necessarily mean we are directly guilty of the what we accuse God of doing. But it does mean that we have framed that accusation out of the spiritual materials found in US. And it is those materials that need to be dealt with if we are ever going to be set free.
We create God in OUR image. We really do Ė and will continue to do that until we are set free by the Truth. And we cannot be set free by the Truth until we surrender to God Himself. Let God be God. Youíll get set free.
But how do we do this? How do we surrender?
If we were to put this down into a formula, that formula would be DEATH = LIFE = LIGHT. If I will lose my life for Christís sake, I will find true life Ė His life enlarged in me. But if His life is enlarged in me, then everything that belongs to His life will also be enlarged and released, including a greater knowledge of the Truth.
But if you will notice, once I die, and am raised in Christ, I will carry both His life, and His light in me. And as I continue to yield to God, I will no longer create God in my image. He will create me IN HIS.
Trial of Faith
I used to think that the big call upon me in a trial of faith was to generate the faith God wanted. Almost as if I had to reach up to God with my faith and drag down His help. And once I did, I reasoned, I would pass the trial, get out of the trial, and grow in faith. But this was really all wrong.
In reality, if Christ is in me, the faith of Christ is in me Ė as a potential. So the goal in the trial of faith is NOT for me to muster up faith from myself and generate it up to heaven. No. The goal is to reveal Christ in me. As I surrender myself to God, the Cross will crucify all aspects of me that would hinder the faith of Jesus Christ from working through me. Thus, in the end, as the life of Christ is uncovered and released in me, the faith of Christ is there. Every time.
This is why if God really wants to do this work in you, you must be brought to the place where you see you do not have the faith you need. Only Jesus has it Ė and He is in you. So to release this, all you need is a trial that is beyond you Ė beyond your ability to understand, handle, or abide in. It is in such a trial that you will find that there must be released in you something that is not OF YOU.
Paul said he faced such a trial. He said, of a trial:
For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raises the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; (2 Cor 1:8-10)
Notice his words carefully. He was, "pressed out of measure." The, "measure," of what? Well, clearly pressed out, or beyond, the measure of his faith! What else would Paul be talking about as a Christian leader? He also said he was pressed, "above strength." In other words, he was tried to the point where there was nothing in himself Ė as a mature Christian walking with Christ for YEARS Ė that could meet the suffering. Indeed, Paul said that they, "despaired even of life." Imagine that. To many of us, that sounds like unbelief. But no Ė even though it COULD have turned that way had Paul chosen. But rather, Paul says that all of that was allowed by God for one purpose: That they should not trust in themselves, but in God.
The point is this: Paul faced a trial for which he had NO spiritual equipment. None. It is one thing to face a trial for which you have no strength in your natural self. Rather, this was a trial that was beyond Paulís spiritual abilities Ė if you know what I mean. There was something about it that called from Paul more than he had to give in the way of faith, or spiritual strength. And yet this was exactly WHAT GOD WANTED. It is how we get to the point of true spiritual strength, and the faith of Jesus Christ.
The fact is, it is impossible to become strong in Christ unless you are made weak. You can talk about it all you want, and preach the doctrine of it, but this is about more than teaching. This is about being brought to total depletion in your own spiritual abilities in a way that enables Christ to freely operate through you.
How many of US have ever been pressed beyond our own measure Ė I mean of what we believed was a strong faith in God? How many of US have ever needed a spiritual strength that was above what we had Ė to the point where we would despair of life itself unless God did SOMETHING? This is what Paul faced. And it is what we will, at some point, have to face if we want to know the faith of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps many of us donít realize what things can come to in trials. I am talking here about the kind of trial that brings into question everything you have believed! It is a trial that challenges with REAL FACTS Ė as you know them -- the very basis of your faith, and the very foundation upon which you have lived.
I know this sounds scary, and perhaps many Christians donít think this is possible, or even necessary. But it is. Indeed, it MUST be. For it is only if everything we believe about God is tested that our faith in a doctrine about God becomes a real faith in God. It is only if everything we believe is challenged that every wrong motive for believing and surrendering to God is exposed. And it is only if everything we believe is brought into question that those questions can be answered with the Truth Ė and if they are, we will be set free.
Do you really want to know the Truth Ė I mean really? Then this is the way. You can know the Truth in doctrine. You can memorize the Bible. And if you do, you will have the facts. You will be right. But God wants more. He wants to enlarge Christ in us. And wants the Truth in us to become a living thing that not only governs our lives, but which will anchor us to the point where NOTHING will move us. Theory wonít do this. A degree in theology wonít do it. Information wonít do it. Only revelation of Christ to us, and in us, will do it. But we will never EVEN KNOW that there is such a thing until God brings us into the possibility.
No one volunteers for his or her trial. We donít know what we need. And certainly we donít like suffering. So God has to pick our Cross for us. Usually, He used practical circumstances of some type, such as relationships, money, health, or other circumstances. He uses SOMETHING that calls upon us more than we have to give. It is then that we decide where to turn. And if we turn to God, it wonít mean things get better right away. In fact, it might mean they seem to get worse. This is where the testing and trial BEGINS Ė not with the trouble, but with Godís seeming indifference over it.
The trial for a Christian isnít the situation. It is not, "a trial of circumstances." No. It is a TRIAL OF FAITH. A trail of faith centers on what is going on between yourself and God. In the end, it comes down to that. And God intends the trial to do TWO things. First, to bring you to the complete end of yourself. That is the tearing down of the old. But second, God wants to reveal Himself to you and set you free in a greater relationship with Him. That is the building up of the new.
What is our part? I said it earlier. To surrender the one thing to God we have: SELF. To surrender ourselves to Him. To lose our lives into His hands Ė and leave it to Him to raise us up.
If you pay close attention to what goes on in your life with Christ, you will find out that time and time again God creates or allows situations to arise where you must turn to Him. It may not always be a crisis. Perhaps just a need for direction. But in the end, you will find yourself needing to turn to God. And when you do, you will usually find out Ė what? That God comes down and solves your problem in ten minutes? No. Usually what you find in a time of need is that God doesnít seem to do ANYTHING.
Why does it seem like this? I said, "seem," because in truth, God is doing plenty. But to us it almost always seems like He is doing NOTHING. In fact, there are times when it seems like He might be making things worse.
When that happens, it is so easy to feel guilty. I mean, letís face it, God does promise to help us. Indeed, He promises to do even more than help us, "just get by." So if I have trouble, and turn to God in it, and nothing happens, it is so easy to assume that I am condemned, being punished, or cut off. And then fear will usually set in because I wonít know where to correct course.
The answer is that God has used the situation to get me to turn to Him! And He has not immediately down anything so that my resolve Ė my faith Ė in turning to Him might be tested. Have I turned to God merely for the help I want? Or have I turned to God for GOD HIMSELF?
Every thing that God does in our lives is geared to establishing us in a relationship with Him. It is geared to bringing us into a knowledge of God and to giving God glory in and through us. God wants US. And He is trying to set us free to want HIM.
Christians need to stop seeking God for THINGS. We need to seek God for Himself. This is exactly what Jesus meant when He said, "Seek you first His kingdom and His righteousness." And guess what? If we would do that, Jesus also promised that, "all these things," would be added to us.
I said earlier that one of the reasons we donít understand what God is doing is that we are often trying to SAVE what God wants us to LOSE. God wants us to LOSE our lives for His sake. But we often think Ė promoted by some terrible teaching Ė that God wants us to try to SAVE them. Worse, many teach that God will actually HELP US do so!
But herein we see another reason why we often get confused about what God is doing. We are seeking things FROM God, instead of God Himself. Sometimes this can be subtle. As I mentioned, God wants us to turn to Him for help. We ought to seek God for help. But do we want ONLY Godís help? Or do we want GOD HIMSELF? The real Truth is, if we seek God Himself, and find Him, the help will be there. How could it not?
If you notice what Iím really saying, it comes right back to total surrender to God. It comes right back to LOSING your life to find HIS. It comes right back to relinquishing the throne and letting God be God Ė of you. If you seek GOD HIMSELF you will find out that you must do all of those things to FIND HIM! These things are actually the way you find God through Jesus Christ.
But so many Christian people continue to believe that God will bless them to the complete disregard to CHRIST IN THEM. We think that the goal of the Christian life is OUT HERE Ė what happens in our outward lives. But this is NOT the goal. The goal is more INWARD. God wants to form Christ in us. But if He does, then the outward will manifest it.
Look at it this way. Suppose you died today. What would you take with you? Well, you would take only YOU with you. Isnít that right? Everything else that you call, "your life," would be left behind. Or, to put it another way, the only thing that is going to pass from this life to be with God forever is the REAL PERSON YOU ARE IN JESUS CHRIST. Who you are to Christ is the real you. You are absolutely defined solely by your relationship to HIM.
This is why Jesus said that a personís life does not consist of possessions. And really, when He said that He had come to give us LIFE, and that more ABUNDANTLY, He was talking, not about material abundance, but about the abundance of HIS LIFE IN US. Some people donít want to hear that, but it is true. God will take care of all of our material needs. But Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom and His righteousness. He told US to seek that FIRST. So ask: What do we suppose GOD is seeking first FOR US? I rest my case. God is seeking to form Christ in us Ė the kingdom personified Ė and as He does, He is free to add to us materially. There isnít any other order.
God cannot bring our problems under His kingdom until He brings us under His kingdom. Of course, many Christians think that being born again into the kingdom is all there is to this. But think about it. The kingdom of God means Jesus Christ is Lord Ė of us. But not just in the sense of being, "our boss." No. Jesus is Lord IN US Ė reigning in every capacity of our being. This takes a lifetime to learn. It is what it means to be set free by the Truth.
Anyone can say, "Jesus is Lord." Anyone can give assent to the fact that Jesus is Lord of his or her life. But is it true functionally? Or is it a fact that God cannot trust me with much because I will Ė even without thinking Ė begin to use the things of God for my own devices? Do I use the things of God for my own glory? Do I use them to promote myself?
You Get God
What do you get when you surrender to God? Well, you get GOD. And you get everything that comes with His will. And what does GOD get when you surrender to Him? Well, God gets YOU. And He gets glory.
God uses all of the problems of our lives to achieve this relationship. God can solve problems in a minute. But He wants US. So often He will allow the problems to linger so that we will continue turning to Him.
We simply do not know Ė nor can we know Ė what is on the other side of death and resurrection in Christ Jesus. But God does know. On THIS side of death and resurrection Ė before we go through it Ė all we have is our present perspective and dilemma. But this is exactly what God wants us to give Him Ė He wants what we DO have. He doesnít expect us to know what is on the other side, but does expect us to surrender this side. In short, we cannot do anything except surrender to the death Ė lose our lives. It is then up to Him to RAISE US.
God is THE God of all things. He is MY God Ė whether I like it or not, or whether I believe it or not. The question is whether I will open my eyes and surrender to the fact. The question is whether I will seek God for Himself and find life. But in the final analysis, the biggest question of all is whether I will, in fact, let God be God Ė OF ME. He has provided THE WAY into this relationship through Jesus Christ.
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