Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 6/3/07.
"In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:33).
I "heard" this title a few days ago, and immediately wondered what graphic I could possibly use to illustrate such a dire concept as unconditional surrender. The cartoon I ended up with depicts a woman in a pool of water, screaming for help as the sharks swim circles around her. Swimming in shark infested waters is a pretty good approximation of how I feel about total surrender, even to the Lord. In fact, when I heard the title, the first thought that came to mind was, "Haven't I given all I have already?" Apparently not.
The next thing that came to mind was a story Watchman Nee told in one of his inspiring books, which I read so long ago I can no longer remember the title. In the narrative, a Chinese farmer whose rice paddy was on top of a mountain, was being cheated by the farmer whose land lay below his. The unbeliever below would siphon off the Christian farmer's water ration for his rice paddies leaving the Christian farmer high and dry. This went on and on, leaving the Christian angry and frustrated. Just when he was on the verge of taking some retaliatory action against the rogue below him, the love of Christ overwhelmed him with compassion for the water thief, and instead of fighting for his rights, he willingly released his daily water ration to the man below, even though it meant certain crop failure for him. His surrender brought the man to repentance and to Christ as well, a marvelous outcome.
At the time I read this moving account, I hadn't been baptized in the Spirit long, but I was eager to learn more about the committed Christian life. Truthfully, about all the story did for me was to show me how far short I fell from being a faithful disciple of Christ. I concluded, "If this is what it means to be a Christian, then I might as well quit now." I didn't share that ignoble thought with anyone, of course, but I felt it deep in my soul. I eventually quit reading Nee's books because I realized that I could never measure up to his standards no matter how hard I tried, and that, of course, is very true. No one can meet God's high standards in their own strength, though my opinion is that churches today, like synagogues in Jesus' day have members who are able to GIVE THE APPEARANCE of righteousness, though, Jesus said they really are "whitewashed tombs," which look good, "but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness" (Matt. 23:27).
Years later, after I had met Lenny, he shared an experience with me about an incident in which he had let a man and his wife live in his house rent free while Lenny and his wife went to Florida. When they came back, Lenny asked the man to sweep out the flooded basement of his house for him because his arthritis was bothering him. The man said he would do it, but never did. Lenny went down there and was sweeping it out himself, getting angrier and angrier with each swipe of the broom, until he decided to go upstairs and have it out with the worthless moocher who had lived in his home for free and then did nothing to help out. Lenny reported that as he was storming up the stairs, God poured a bucket of love over him for the man, and instead of "throwing the bum out," as he had planned to do, he ended up telling him in tears what had happened, that his hate and anger had been transformed into unconditional love. The man was overcome with emotion as well and apologized in tears. Lenny's take on it was the Spirit showing him that at his worst moment, God controlled everything.
Listening to the story, I didn't doubt a word of it, but remained unconvinced about what it meant for me. In that case, I was like the disciples Jesus encountered after His resurrection, who didn't recognize Him until He broke bread with them. Luke relates, "Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:53). How many times have I read that passage and longed to have Him explain the scriptures to me? In many ways, we are as dense about who He is and what He is about as the disciples were, but when the Spirit reveals what Scripture actually tells us about the Christ, we can stop worrying and rejoice that He has sent us the Holy Spirit, who He said would, "... guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you" (John 16:13-15). When I forget this part about the Spirit taking from what is Christ's and making it known to me, I am plunged into the hell of thinking I have to do something on my own, knowing full well, that I am incapable of doing it.
In that way God has of illuminating all He wants me to share, a friend sent us an e-mail this week containing "The Secret of Forgiveness," by Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Christian Holocaust survivor who helped many Jews escape the Nazis during World War II. The story comes from her book The Hiding Place:
The Secret of Forgiveness
"If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God'' (Col. 3:1-3).
"It was a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there, the room full of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie's pain-blanched face.
"He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. ''How grateful I am for your message, Fraeulein,'' he said. ''To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!''
"His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side. Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.
"I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness. As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
"And so I discovered that it depends not on our forgiveness nor on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself." End Quote.
Like everything else about the Christian life, forgiving someone who has hurt us, loving the unlovable, or surrendering all we have, are tasks impossible to do without Christ, our indwelling source of God's help in time of need.
We occasionally hear from folks who assure us that they have "laid it all" on the altar, sacrificed everything for Christ. I look at those claims with a jaundiced eye because if it sounds too good to be true, I figure it probably is. This is as good a time as any to admit that surrender is just not in my nature. I'm a fighter, a doer, a power broker. Or maybe I'm just a Don Quixote tilting at windmills and deceiving myself first of all, but when I see a wrong, I don't slink away quietly, but usually confront the person. I'm opinionated and verbal about what I see that's amiss with the world and what needs to be done about it.
That quirk in my nature has worried my mother since I could talk, but though she tried admirably and with all her might to whip me into shape, she really wasn't up to the task, as it is clearly a "God Job." I've come to see it as "His problem," not mine, since I've tried unsuccessfully to change who I am for as long as I've been on Planet Earth. If that seems like a cop out, so be it. What joy it was to learn at last, that it's not about what I have to do for Him, but what He has already done for me in Christ. It is Christ's responsibility to present us (the church) to Himself "in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish" (Eph. 5:27). A pastor friend told me recently that he advises his flock to just "ignore" their sins. Hopefully, he also tells them to reckon themselves dead in Christ, BECAUSE our death, burial and resurrection with Christ is the ONLY way to achieve victory over our sins.
The point is that if there were something we could do about our flaws, our shortcomings, and our failure to keep the Law, Christ wouldn't have had to come here, bleed and die for us. We could have just taken care of it all ourselves.
One morning early, I had a personal experience of His control of all things, including my emotions. Because of Lenny's arthritis and fibromyalgia, he is very sensitive to cold air moving over his body. He always wears long sleeve shirts, even in the hottest weather. We keep the furnace set at about 75 in the winter time, and never turn the A/C lower than about 80 degrees in the summer time.
I can tolerate the winter weather, but the heat and humidity of Missouri (otherwise know as Misery) in summer gets me down, makes me cross, and worse, often triggers a hot flash, which happened one morning last week at 5:00 AM.
We had bought a small fan last year for me to have by my side of the bed so I could have some cool air that wouldn't bother him. On this morning, apparently, the flow of air was hitting him in the face and he protested about it, telling me that I needed to shut off the fan. That made my psyche as hot as my body was at the time and I was ready to blast him with my irritation, when I heard the still small voice say, "unconditional surrender."
At first blush, that was like pouring gasoline on a lit match, but if I've learned anything from my walk with God, it is immediate obedience. So, I turned off the fan, and lay back down, prepared to fume at God. It didn't turn out that way, because before I could say, "I don't want to surrender; I want to turn on the fan," the thermostat in my body got turned down and I was comfortable once more. Only menopausal women who have experienced the feeling of being plunged into a pool of hot sweat can understand what a miracle this really was.
I've been intrigued by a scripture in Mark, since we lost our house. In the passage, Peter tells Christ, "We have left everything to follow you. Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields, and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first" (Mark 10:28-31). Of course, we can no more take this literally than we can so many other scriptures which tempt us down the road to a misinterpretation, but still, it speaks to God's intention toward us, which is not to hurt or wound us, persecutions, notwithstanding, but to bless us.
I suspect Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy will be done," because, it means we surrender our will to the Father's will. Fighting Him won't change the outcome of what He plans to do, but it will exhaust and depress us. It is far better to participate in His victory through us and in us.
"How much more can I stand?" is on the heart of many we hear from these days as God is burning off the dross at a faster rate with a hotter fire, it seems, but we take heart in Paul's declaration: "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the LIFE of Jesus may also be revealed in our body" (II Cor. 4:8-10). As I was pondering this topic today, I saw that unconditional surrender, like unconditional love, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness, is worked into us by the cross of Christ, for He carried us there with Him. When He opens our eyes to see that, we can then enter into God's promised "rest " (Heb. 4:3). It doesn't feel great when we are undergoing the process, but Paul says about that: "For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (II Cor. 5:17-18).
The music on The Glory Road today is "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." Martin Luther wrote the words to this magnificent hymn. God is our fortress, a bulwark never failing. We can trust Him for everything, and to remind us of that, he plunges us into the fiery furnace periodically that we may see Him as the "4th man walking," i.e., "the son of God" (Dan. 3:25). When we come out the other side, there will not be a hair on our head singed, nor the smell of smoke on our clothing. Glory to God.
Father, show us the glory underneath the gory circumstances which trouble and perplex us. We love You and praise You that You are transforming our stress and pain into the glory of walking with You, knowing You have called us to be Your children before the foundation of the world. Open our eyes to see You in all things. Amen. Jan Antonsson
To Be Continued.....
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Final Frontier, Unconditional Surrender II
Critical Mass, Unconditional Surrender III
Religious Addiction, Unconditional Surrender IV
Fear Factor, Unconditional Surrender V
The Glory Road
We're always happy to hear from you
This page was uploaded to the web on 05/28/07
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,