Paul's Ponderings

Spiritual Formation. Discipleship. Christian Living.

Tag: Surrender (page 1 of 2)

3 Steps to Experience God’s Power

What is the central truth of Christianity?

If I asked this question to American Christians the answer I would hear would be; “Jesus died on the cross for our sins.”

While this is a tremendous reality and a vital truth of the Christian faith, it is not the foundation on which Christianity is built.

The central truth of Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every other truth is validated by this reality.

The Apostle Paul wrote; “For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.” (1 Corinthians 15:13-14; NLT)

Paul declared that everything else that Christians believe is based on the reality of Jesus’ resurrection. If there is no resurrection then our faith is useless. This includes our belief that Jesus death secured forgiveness for our sins.

I believe many of us miss out on the power that is available to us because we focus on the cross rather than on the resurrection.

We have settled for a faith of forgiveness, when we have been promised a faith of transformation.

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17; NLT)

The promise of the Gospel is not only that God will forgive our sins, but that He will make us into new people.

God intends to make us into new people right now, not some distant point in the future. We can be certain of this because of the power that is available to us.

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. (Romans 8:11; NLT)

What an amazing thought!

You and I can have our lives transformed because of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit raised Jesus to life and transformed his dead physical body into a new resurrected body. This is the power that is at work in our transformation.

In his book Absolute Surrender Andrew Murray wrote:

The cause of the weakness of your Christian life is that you you want to work it our partly, and to let God help you. And that cannot be. You must come to be utterly helpless, to let God work, and God will work gloriously. It is this that we need if we are indeed to be workers for God (p. 113; Humility and Absolute Surrender).

For a long time in my walk with Jesus I walked in weakness. I thought it was my job to overcome sin, to break the chains of addictions, and to work up the courage to face my fears.

The result was discouragement, condemnation, and isolation. I felt like I was a poser, trying to convince others I had it more together than I did.

There was a part of me that believed if I truly loved God then I would naturally want to read the Bible, pray, and serve. Not only would those things come naturally, but it would take little effort to overcome my sins, even the sins that had become addiction.

Since my reality did not match my belief, the only explanation I had was that I did not love God.

This line of thinking is a death sentence for a person’s faith.

Thank God my perception of reality was wrong!

Jesus didn’t die to make up for our shortcomings. Jesus died to give us a brand new way to live life.

This new way of life begins and ends by surrendering our lives to God. It is only through God’s power that we are able to live the life that He created us to live.

This is what the apostle Paul wrote about God’s power:

14 When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, 15 the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth.16 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21; NLT)

If we are going to experience God’s power we need to take 3 steps.

  1.  We need to surrender our lives to God. Paul wrote; I fall to my knees and pray to the Father. The image of falling on our knees is an image of surrender. It is an acknowledgement that God is the Lord and we are the servants. In prayer we need to lay down our agendas and ask for God’s will to be done. Too often we operate on our schedule, only asking God to bless our day. To truly surrender our lives, each day, we need to lay down our expectations and ask God for His direction and strength. What matters is for God’s will to be done.
  2. We need to invite the Holy Spirit into our hearts. It is the Spirit working in our hearts that enables us to experience God’s power in our lives. This power roots us in love, helps us understand the amazing love of God, and allows us to experience the full and abundant life Jesus promised his followers.
  3. We need to ask God to work in our lives. God is able accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. He has the power to help us overcome the addictions that hold us in bondage, to forgive the people who have deeply and significantly hurt us, and to live in courage rather than to be controlled by fear. Many times we don’t experience this power in our lives because we don’t ask God to help us. Step out in faith and ask God to help you, to heal you, and to bind up your broken heart. He has the power to do more than you can even imagine.

God is interested in you having victory over sin, in living with courage, and experiencing true joy.

Don’t believe these things rest on your shoulders to achieve. Trust in God’s love and power to grant these things to you.

Surrender your life to Him and ask for Him for the strength to live the life He created you to live.

The Proper Response to God’s Will

responding-to-gods-will

Wednesday June 1, 2011

This morning in my devotional reading I read this from Oswald Chambers:

“It is much easier to do something than to trust in God; we mistake panic for inspiration. That is why there are so few fellow workers with God and so many workers for Him. We would far rather work for God than believe in Him” (My Utmost for His Highest, p. 153)

There are opposite extremes that Christians make in their relationship with God. The first extreme is that we sit and do nothing and call it waiting on God. I know that this is the extreme I am most guilty of doing. I will fill my life with reading, meditating, and praying to avoid what I know God has called me to do. Why do I do this? This is my response to the fear I experience in the face of obedience. I justify my lack of obedience and trust in God on my dedication to hearing His voice.

The other extreme is what Oswald Chambers talks about. It is being so fearful about what is happening around us that we decide that doing something is better than doing nothing. Rather than waiting on God’s timing we try to create our own perfect opportunity. The classic example of this is Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. Abraham and Sarah’s fear of being childless overtook their trust in God’s timing and so they decided to give God a hand rather than to wait on His plan.

So how can we find the balance in the midst of these two extremes? I am not really sure I have an answer for that question, but I think it would begin with daily surrendering our lives to God. One of the passages I that I have kept coming back to is Romans 12:1-2. In this passage the apostle Paul writes:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (ESV).

I think part of our daily prayer needs to be a time when we surrender our lives, our bodies, as living sacrifices to God, to be used as He sees fit. In this act of surrendering we open ourselves up to discovering God’s will. Once we understand what God’s will is it will still require us to act in faith to do it according to His plan, but it does help us understand the type of response God desires us to have.

Love Asks for All

Asks for AllWe were created for love. Everyone has a craving to be loved and know that they are cherished no matter what happens.

This is the type of love that can only be found in God. The apostle Paul wrote; “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8; ESV). Even though we rebelled against Him, God still loved us enough to rescue us from Satan, sin, and death. Our soul craving to be loved can only truly be satisfied in God.

One part of God’s love is seen in His generosity. God gave all in order to express His love to us, which climaxed in the death of Jesus on the cross. He continues to be generous towards us through His constant blessings and provisions for our lives.

A second part of God’s love is seen in His expectation that we will love Him back. Love not only freely gives, but it also expects love in return. Andrew Murray wrote:

That love is not only the motive, but also the measure, of our surrender to abide in it. Love gives all, but it asks all. It does so, not because it grudges us aught, but because without this it cannot get possession of us to fill us with itself.

Andrew Murray, The Best of Andrew Murray, p. 76.

This expectation does not put conditions on God’s love, but it does hamper us from experiencing the fullness of love God wants to share. If we do not surrender all to God and love Him in return, we will not be in the right place to receive the generosity of His love.

A husband loves his wife, and that love is shown to her in multiple ways: affection, provision, surprises, and encouragement. For his wife to experience the full extent of his love for her, she must give herself to him and be where he is. If she decided she loved shopping, food, or another man more than her husband, then she would never be able to experience the fullness of love he has for her.

It is not selfish for God to demand that we love Him in return. He knows that the only way for us to fully experience His love, is for us to surrender entirely to Him. We need to give all in order to experience all the love God has for us.

 

A Gift of Grace

A Gift of GraceThere are many things that we can do to bring change into our lives.  All these things center around our actions. We know that our actions are a good indicator of what we believe.  We also have to remember that following Jesus not only involves the things that we do, but it also involves our hearts.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said; “‘You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, You fool! will be liable to the hell of fire‘” (Matthew 5:21-22; ESV).  According to Jesus, it is not enough not to murder a person, but we also must not hate.  Hatred and anger are heart issues.

Self control and obedience are essential components to spiritual formation, but they are not enough.  We need divine help to truly transform our lives.

The instrumentalities of Christian spiritual formation therefore involve much more than human effort and actions under our control.  Well-informed human effort certainly is indispensable, for spiritual formation is no passive process.  But Christlikeness of the inner being is not a human attainment.  It is, finally, a gift of grace.

Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart, p. 19

How do we receive the gift of spiritual formation?  It happens through our surrender to God.  If we do not surrender our lives to God, then we will not experience this wonderful gift of grace God has for us.

The apostle Paul wrote:

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2; ESV)

Did you notice how the transformation of our minds follows our surrender as a living sacrifice?

Yes, we need to put effort into changing our thoughts and actions, but only God can change our hearts.  This is because our hearts have been wounded and are in need of healing.  You and I are powerless to provide the type of healing that we need.  This healing is only available in our surrender to God.

Surrendering to God requires repentance and prayer.  Repentance is the declaration that we are leaving behind the life and legacy of sin, and declaring our loyalty to God.  This is done, not only through our words, but also through our actions.  Through prayer weask God to bring healing to our hearts and guide us on His path of righteousness.  Prayer and repentance are both daily activities that we must do.

Spiritual formation is a gift of grace.  Thank You God for being generous with this gift!

Sunday Prayer: Build Your Kingdom Here

{Hebrews 12:28-29; ESV}

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

Heavenly Father, I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the Good News that Your reign is breaking into this world. Through Jesus, You invaded this land which was held in the grip of Satan, sin, and death. By the resurrection of Jesus, You opened the way for me to become a citizen of Your Kingdom and enjoy the benefits of Your loving and gracious reign.

Lord, I want to see Your Kingdom come. I want Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. May that reality begin with me. Build Your Kingdom in my heart so I am empowered to help build Your Kingdom here.

I surrender my life to Your reign and rule. Heavenly Father, You have my life. It is in the powerful name of Jesus that I pray, amen.

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