“In short, a man must be set free from the sin he is, which makes him do the sin he does.” — George MacDonald
“The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is the hand over your whole self–all your wishes and precautions–to Christ.” – C.S. Lewis
Our God is always seeking to transform us into the image of Christ, to make us mature and complete, lacking in nothing. He does this by virtue of the great principle of the cross. That principle tells us that life comes out of death. Specifically, that the Christian life does not consist of us deciding to be like Jesus and spending the rest of our lives working harder at becoming “Christ-like.” The Christian life consists of each one of us who are followers of Jesus giving up on our own efforts and our own understandings. We deny the total of our self-life and die daily so that Christ might live His life in us by His Holy Spirit.
According to the principle of the cross, everything my God gives to me is in response to what I have given over to Him in full surrender. There is a kind of exchange that goes on here. I surrender to Him my living, my loved ones, my dreams and aspirations, my fears. I yield full control over all of my life. The true life of my God in me can only come through my death to all these things. This is the great principle of the cross.
In response to my surrender, my God gives to me the fullness of His life. He desires to live His life by His power in and through me, in place of my own life. This is exactly the principle Jesus was explaining in John 12:23-25 – “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
My entire living, my “grain of wheat” must go to Him to die if I am to experience His power to bear much fruit. My life, my reasoning, my control, every possession, and every difficulty I experience. In exchange, my God supplies everything I need for life and godliness so that I am lacking in nothing.
“But why can’t God supply all my needs apart from the death of my self-life? Why does it require the surrender of everything to Him?” Even in our fallen state we bear the image of our God, and the image of God in us allows for free will. It is the law of sin and death in us that distorts that free will into a selfish force. We in our flesh are incapable of allowing the life of Christ to be lived in and through as our God intends. We are simply too self-oriented and independent. He will not overrule our free will. He waits for us to acquiesce and to surrender our full control over our living.
When we decide to live by this principle of the cross, to yield in full surrender to Him, we begin to find the fullness of the new life we have in Christ Jesus. This life is what Jim Elliot was speaking about in his famous saying, “He is no fool who gives up that which He cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.” The exchange of our life and circumstances for the life of our God lived in and through us is the “exchanged life” spoken of by the great Hudson Taylor.
Thus, Paul the apostle could write in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”
We have the great gift of the life of Christ in our “earthen vessels,” our physical existence, which is marred by sin. When we deny ourselves and die daily to the self-life, the surpassing power of our God lives through us. We have no power on our own and if we try to make the power our own, we nullify God’s power and work. We are “…are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” Once we are dead to self and our self-life is out of the way, the life of Jesus can made active in us daily.
This is a great law of life – things must die to be reborn. Caterpillars into butterflies. Winter into spring. Seeds into harvest. This pattern of death becoming the basis for life reflects the cross of Christ and His death in bringing life to all who would receive it. Remember the words of John Calvin, one of the great reformers – “Repentance is the true turning of our life to God, a turning that arises from a pure and earnest fear of Him; and it consists in the mortification of the flesh and the renewing of the Spirit.”
Full surrender means turning our lives fully to our God every day. When we surrender all of our living to our God, He brings us into deep union with our Himself and greater conformity to His will. By His power and life and not our own, He makes us mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
Next post: Enemies of the Cross
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