Friday, April 16, 2010

R12: What does a surrendered life look like?

Now the rubber meets the road. It's been nice to share parables and theories on what surrendering to God is about. But what does it look like? How do you actually do it? That's the subject of Chapter 4 of LOTE: The Book. Before digging into the Biblical example Chip gives though, I want to share with you a few real life examples.

Please read Kevin Martineau's post on "You can't steal second with your foot on first", Peter Pollock's "Stepping out without looking", and Bonnie Gray's "What If Challenge". It seems the Holy Spirit has put this subject on each of our hearts. Thanks too for Lalyne, Sam, and Jay for their comments thus far!

The book If You Want To Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat covers a lot of this ground, addressing the fears that hold us back and the underlying desire to hold on to our own will. That book challenged me and still does. I assume Max Lucado's most recent, Fearless, is similar and I must also recommend Gordon Ferguson's Victory of Surrender.

Obviously based on the popularity of this topic for books and blogs this is a subject we can all relate to. Either we've mastered surrender (yeah right, what an oxymoron!) or we struggle frequently against it. We all have a story we could share that demonstrates the risks taken and the rewards God has blessed us with. But I want to look at the example Chip gives in his book, because there's a lot there to take away.

Chip's example is of Abraham and Isaac. Cliche maybe, and I'm sure you've heard a dozen sermons on "what's your Isaac?" But I want to point out a couple of things that were recently pointed out to me. Usually the sermon points out that because Isaac was so loved, it was that much more a powerful testament of Abraham's faith to offer him in sacrifice. You might also hear that because Abraham loved him so much, he had become an idol. But you don't often hear why. Have you ever wondered that? Why was Isaac an idol to Abraham? Isaac represented God's promise. He was a visible demonstration of God's faithfulness. So Isaac represented God's goodness to Abraham. But he wasn't God. Think about the irony of that for a moment. Abraham worshiped Isaac because he represented the goodness of God, but was an idol since he wasn't God. Some Christian denominations consider the crucifix and idol. We can worship a symbol of God's sacrifice without worshiping God Himself. You might also see this as resting on your laurels; "Wow! Look what God's done for me! That is now going to be my object of worship!" Our health, our families, our careers can all be blessed by God and the temptation is for those to turn into our idols. Not because they demand all our time or all our attention, but because they represent to us God's goodness though they are not God. We fall into the same trap worshiping our church. We see God do a great thing and suddenly think our church is blessed above the rest.
So what does Abraham do? We often hear about how he obeys without questioning. He left "early the next morning." He didn't put it off. What a great example of submission and obedience, right! But what is the first thing he says to his servants? "Stay here. We're going over there. And we're going to worship." Abraham's willingness wasn't an act of obedience or submission, it was an act of worship. We get this order mixed up. We obey and say that is our worship. It should be we worship and it is demonstrated by our obedience. Worship comes first.

So now let's look at Romans 12:1-"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship." Our "living sacrifice" or surrender to God is our worship! Note that "spiritual" can also be translated "reasonable" or "appropriate". So Paul is telling us here that this is what we should be doing. It's what is reasonable, appropriate, and therefore spiritual.

But why? "In view of God's mercy..." I mentioned this in the introduction, but we have to start with a "therefore". We need to look back and see all that God has done for us. It may be personally after already stepping out on faith to follow Jesus. Or as a new believer it may only be the Biblical examples of God's faithfulness to his chosen people and the fulfilment of his promise through the sacrifice of Jesus. In fact, this is the outline of Chapters 1-11 of Romans. So Chapter 12 begins, "Therefore..." Abraham knew what God has done in his life- he gave his barren wife a son. Therefore... he worshiped.

What better example can there be of surrender? What better example can there be of worship?

Think: What or who might be your Isaac?
Reflect: What do you fear most about sacrificing your Isaac? Can you see that sacrifice as an act of worship?
Understand: What past experiences make it hard for you to trust God? For example, past abandonment neglect, abuse, or divorce will often cloud your view of God as a Father.
Surrender: Tell God how you are feeling and what you are thinking in prayer. Ask him to direct your next steps.
Take action: Write out what might be Isaacs in your life.
Motivation: Download and listen to the full audio message: How to Give God What He Wants Most at R12 online (found by clicking the button on the right, going to the Surrender tab, and finding it under Free Resources).
Encourage someone: Tell someone you care about to check out R12 online, the book, or this blog. Introduce to them God's dream for their life.

Today continues our "virtual small group" covering the book Living On The Edge. For how this group is going to work, read this entry. For an introduction with disclaimers, click here. For some numbers from Barna to motivate you to continue reading, go here. For the R12 videos, click the R12 button on the sidebar to the right. Finally, as we move forward through the book you can always catch up by clicking the R12 label at the end of each post.

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