A Surrendered Life
Did you ever in your childhood have a time that you actually wondered what in the world God was like? Sometimes children will have a moment of realization that there is something or someone out there greater and bigger than they are.
What would happen if your grandchild or a child that looks up to you crawled up on your lap and ask you what God was like? Would you try to get them to understand Jesus and what He was like? You would try to get it down on their level. But what if they asked the next question: What does He want from me? What would you say?
This is the start of a series on authentic or godly worship. We are starting on a journey that over the next six weeks will allow us to come to understand the answers to these two questions.
How we think about and answer those two questions will impact every area of our lives. Who God is and what He really wants from you will impact every relationship and every decision, every expenditure, every commitment, every circumstance and every act of worship.
When we ask Him in sincerity what are You like and what do You want from me it will determine if our worship is acceptable or rejected.
Early on in the Bible God declared that we should have no other Gods before us and that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength.
Worship is really important to God. If we don’t know who He is and what He really wants from us chances are that our worship will be totally unacceptable.
Worship is about giving worth and value to something or someone. It is about giving someone who is worthy what they deem to be acceptable.
For most of us we will need to be open to God reprogramming what we have learned over the years about worship. What we have learned is not necessarily wrong but it may very well be limited and not really what God is looking for.
What do you think of when I say the word worship? (praise, Sundays, singing, offerings, devotional time)
This concept limits worship because worship is not about activities. Worship is about understanding who God really is and giving Him what He really wants. Worship is more than a song!
Today we are going to discover what private worship is all about. Next week it will be about public worship.
To understand who God is and what He wants we will look together at Romans 12:1-2
Here is what you need to know. You could sit down and read the first 11 chapters of the book of Romans and you would discover basic theology about what God is like. You would find an accurate and practical portrayal of who God is. You would read that we all are desperately and hopelessly lost but that God is a Savior who wants to save us from our sinful selves. He is a God of grace and compassion. He is a God of mercy and redemption.
In chapter eight we find out that God willing to indwell our lives with His presence. He is our friend, life giver and the Holy Spirit.
Paul explodes at the end of chapter 11 by asking a series of questions or a doxology:
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
"Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
"Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?"
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36
In the first part of the book we get the snapshot of God. The photo album if you will. After writing these words Paul launches into chapter 12 with these words:
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. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2 NIV
What does God really want?
What does “my spiritual act of worship” look like?
It looks like you. All God wants is you.
It is not about your song, your church attendance, your private devotions and study time. What He really wants more than anything else is you! Many of those things will be a part of how you show Him you love Him but they are only the symptoms of a much deeper work that is inside of you.
What does God want? He wants you. Your mind, your heart, your will, your agenda, your future, your money, your thinking your relationships and anything else that involves you He wants to be in the middle of it. He wants your schedules, and decisions and He wants rights to your children and grandchildren. He wants you.
What God wants from you and me is total commitment.
In the Old Testament the Priests would make a sacrifice to God on behalf of each individual. You would place your hands on the animal and the priest would come along and slit the throat of the animal. It wasn’t pretty. It was graphic but it was a symbol of what God is looking for from each of us. This sacrifice cost them something. It was like taking a part of the 401K and blowing it up as a gift to God! For them that is what this bull represented.
He wants all of us. He doesn’t want to be tipped He wants it all.
The Bible talks about the fact that when these animals were burnt in sacrifice it rose before God as a sweet smell. Why? Because it represented everything the animal had to give on behalf of the person. God wants it all.
We sometimes live in a world torn between church and the rest of our life. If that is the way you are living you need to come back to God for an experience of full surrender.
Every follower of Jesus Christ will face a crossroads some where in their experience with God where they decide I am all in 100 percent or I am just going to try to do enough to limp along until I get to heaven some day and then I will be fully surrendered. You may miss the greatest part of the Christian life because God wants all of you.
Anything less than all of you is not acceptable worship.
What does it mean to be a living sacrifice?
1. This is about a point in time
“. . .to offer your bodies”
We are not talking about salvation. This is about dedication and total commitment. The tense of the verb in these verses suggests that it is at a certain time on a certain day when you know that you surrendered your life to God. Have you ever been at this crossroads with God?
Personal story of full surrender.
Abraham had a point and a time when he sold out completely to God. Gen. 22
Do you remember this story from the Old Testament. Abraham was given a son by God and it was a miracle. He was around a hundred and his wife was in her nineties. When the boy was about 10 or twelve years old God told Abraham to take him to the top of a mountain and sacrifice him as an offering to God.
Abraham never wavered from this command. He obeyed and was ready to plunge the knife into his own son and the angel of God stopped him. Do you realize that everything about Abraham’s life was wrapped up in this kid? The bible teaches that Abraham never doubted God. He knew and trusted that God was good and merciful, yet he obeyed. When God stopped him Abraham was told two things by God. First God said, “Now I know that you fear me” and then He said, “because you obeyed me and have not withheld your son, your only son . . .” and God went on to make him a promise of blessing.
You will never understand or experience worship if there are things in your life that you are withholding from God.
There are a lot of Christians who have experienced John 3:16 but have never traveled on to Romans 12:1-2
You’ve given God everything but your kids or you’ve given Him everything but your money. You’ve never given God your mind. You have times for the sports page and the Wall Street journal or romance novels or three hours of TV but you’re just to busy to read the scriptures. You’ve given Him everything but the secret places and the desires of your heart.
Have you ever done this? Have you ever fully surrendered to God? Can you back to a time in your life when you can say “lock stock and barrel” I have given my live to God?
Private worship begins at full surrender. You can sing songs and not be surrendered and it won’t be acceptable. You can give a little money and tip God on Sundays and you will still be missing the point. You can help out around the church but where God wants to begin is in your heart and mine.
Bruce Larson tells how he helped people struggling to surrender their lives to Christ: "For many years I worked in New York City and counseled at my office any number of people who were wrestling with this yes-or-no decision. Often I would suggest they walk with me from my office down to the RCA Building on Fifth Avenue. In the entrance of that building is a gigantic statue of Atlas, a beautifully proportioned man who, with all his muscles straining, is holding the world upon his shoulders. There he is, the most powerfully built man in the world, and he can barely stand up under this burden. ’Now that’s one way to live,’ I would point out to my companion, ’trying to carry the world on your shoulders. But now come across the street with me.’ On the other side of Fifth Avenue is Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, and there behind the high altar is a little shrine of the boy Jesus, perhaps eight or nine years old, and with no effort he is holding the world in one hand. My point was illustrated graphically. We have a choice. We can carry the world on our shoulders, or we can say, ’I give up, Lord; here’s my life. I give you my world, the whole world.’" Bruce Larson, Believe and Belong.
Have you ever surrendered your world or are you still trying to carry it?
2. It is an ongoing commitment
“. . .as living sacrifices”
This is not something you do at a point and time and then say, “Wow, I am glad that’s over!”
When two people get married they make some vows and one of them is to be committed to each other. That means there is no one else. You are 100 percent committed to each other. There is no one else that enters into the relationship. Most of us are wise enough to know that if we don’t respect these vows and we break them that the marriage will be over and our lives will be full of sorrow and pain that really wasn’t necessary.
Marriage is a point in time but it doesn’t end there. You loved your spouse before you were married and that continues and hopefully grows the more you are together. It is not just about the wedding it is about the walk and the daily surrender to the idea that you belong to someone else. You are not your own.
How many of you have done that? How many stood one day and got married? Did that settle it? Was that the “be all end all” of your marriage? No! You live every day making the adjustments in your relationship to grow and shape your lives together. Some day you may realize that you are not doing things right and you find a way to ask forgiveness and change your ways. This is what it means to be a “living sacrifice.” It is an ongoing daily relationship with ups and downs but there is a commitment that goes back to a point in time and that keeps you moving in God’s plan. That is private worship. This is foundational and if you and I don’t have this or get this there is no way you and I can truly worship God.
A living sacrifice not only means that you lay your life on the altar but be aware that “living” sacrifices tend to crawl off the altar and you have to be constantly pushing your life and the things in your life back toward the center of God’s will. You may get weary or stressed and move one way or another but the surrendered and authentic worshippers will sense it by the mercy of God and make a correction.
Listen to this carefully. People who get in trouble in their Christian life are people who have never surrendered or people who have surrendered but then don’t make the effort to keep their life constantly centered on the will of God. They ignore the warning signs of drifting away and they lose heart and perspective and the next thing you know they are spiritually shipwrecked somewhere.
3. It is a radical departure from the norm
“. . .holy and pleasing to God.”
This means to be sanctified or to be made holy. This has been the goal of God since Adam and Eve sinned away our original human condition of perfection.
God says, “I want how you think to reflect the way I think. I want the way speak to be the way I speak. I want your values and your heart. I want what you watch if I were on the sofa with you (just you and Jesus) to be what both of us would enjoy! We would both enjoy this magazine or website together. We would both enjoy the thoughts that are going through your mind right now. We would both feel good about moment by moment decisions you are making.
I know that this is a radical departure from what we think is normal. But this is worship. This is normal in God’s kingdom. It may not be normal in the church world but in God’s kingdom this is the base standard of holy living He expects and demands from His true followers.
We don’t often think about worship like this do we? We reduce it down to a song or a private time of devotions.
What is the motivation to do this?
This will feel like you are losing control so why would we do this? The motivation is not fear and guilt. The motivation for becoming an authentic private worshipper is found in our text.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy,”
If you and I could ever grasp the mercy and love of God that He wants to show us on a daily basis we would run to Him with arms wide open and hide nothing. We would live in anticipation of a daily walk with God that is open and clean and pure. Our conversations and speech, our thoughts and wishes and desires, our actions and reactions would be sanctified and surrendered to the will and way of God.
Let’s think about this for a moment together. God is all knowing, all powerful, Sovereign, compassionate and full of mercy, grace and truth. And oh yea, He sent His son to die on our behalf that we might have life.
I wonder if we could trust Him at this level.
I wonder if He would do better at managing our relationships, our daily decisions even how we manage our money and resources. I wonder if He is smarter than you and I?
Let’s see God is all powerful and all knowing but somehow I think I could manage my own stuff better than Him. Are you serious? Do you really think that?
I am afraid that many of us in this room live like that. We live as though we have the wisdom and knowledge to live our lives and make decisions on our own without involving God in the daily things of life. Do you see how foolish and how far off the mark you are when you try to live like that?
Some of you are frustrated because God doesn’t seem to be making all that much of a difference in your life. I mean you come to church every week and you give Him a whole 65 minutes or “worship.” Are you beginning to see how foolish it is to do anything less than give yourself completely to God?
Paul says I urge you brothers. This is a plea and a loving kind appeal not an in our face challenge. We respond to this not because of guilt or fear but because of all that God has done to demonstrate His love for us.
There is a story in the life of Christ that we need to hear today. Do you remember the story of the Pharisees trying to check Jesus out to catch Him in some kind of an inconsistency so they could ignore His teaching and there was a woman who came in to the house? She broke a bottle of perfume over the feet of Jesus and washed His feet with her hair. The Pharisee said, Well if he was a real prophet he would have known what kind of woman this.
Jesus said, Simon can I ask you a question? Sure Lord. There was a man who owed a great debt and one who owed a small debt. If the master forgave both of them which one would love the most? Well I suppose the one who was forgiven the most. In essence Jesus responded by pointing out that Simon had not done anything special since he had come to his house but this woman who had been forgiven for many wrong things in her life loved much.
Do you think it takes more grace and mercy by God to forgive some people more than others? If you do you are very flawed in your thinking. Until you grasp how deeply you have been forgiven you will not want to express your love in worship and a radical way.
You want some perspective on this? Try reading the Gospels and instead of identifying with the disciples put yourself in the role of the sinners found in the stories. Find yourself as a prostitute that encounters Jesus Christ or a woman who was caught committing adultery and hear the words of Jesus as they wash over you, “Neither do I condemn you go and sin no more.” Imagine that you are a tax collector and you have ripped people off and you know what you really deserve and you are sitting up in a tree to watch this Jesus guy and the huge crowd of people and He stops under your tree and calls you by name and says I am going home with you. Jesus said to Zacchaeus, you will need to
You know why most of us never follow or worship at this level? Because we don’t trust God. We have a warped view of God. To live this way would mean that you are losing control of your life. How that working out for you? I mean you having control?
Some of you are afraid to trust God with your life because it will mean some crazy thing like you might have to go to Africa to be a missionary or something. You might have to give up living right next to your children or always having them around. You might have to do something radical for God.
Psalm 84:11 is your homework assignment this week. Think about it and meditate on these words: “For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. (unlimited resource and protection) He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right.”
Some of you think that if you turn your life and your finances and you relationships over to God He will do bad things to you because you perceive Him as some kind of cosmic killjoy.
There is a story in the New Testament about a man who found a treasure. Let’s say it was the equivalent of 10 million dollars. He buries it in a field and comes home and says to his wife we need to sell everything we own so we can buy this property. The house, the cars, the antiques you inherited from your mother, everything! He finally convinces her that this expensive property is worth even more than what it is going to take to buy it. She finally relents and he sells everything and buys the property and digs a whole and there it is. More than he could ever have imagined.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.” Matthew 13:44
Billy Graham tells the story about a little child that was playing with a very valuable vase. He put his hand into it and could not withdraw it. His father too, tried his best to get it out, to no avail. They were thinking of breaking the vase when the father said, “Now my son, make one more try. Open your hand and hold your fingers out straight as you see me doing, and then pull.” To their astonishment the little fellow said, “O no, dad, I couldn’t put my fingers out like that because if I did I would drop my dime.” Smile, if you will but thousands of us are like that little boy, so busy holding on to the world’s worthless dimes that we cannot accept liberation. Drop the trifles in your life. Surrender! Let go, and let God have His way in your life.
WHAT IS YOUR GOD? "Whatever you love most, serve most, seek out most, give to the most, worship the most, and care about the most is your god. Your “god” can be your career, your bank account, the way you look, a particular position or degree, influence, power, or physical pleasure. It can even be something that is considered intrinsically good, yet you allow it to dominate your life more than God – such as your marriage or your family. Your “god” is whatever you allow to control you, to be the ultimate guide to decision making, the place of your supreme loyalty, and the source of your self-worth." SOURCE: James Emery White, You Can Experience an Authentic Life, p. 2.