Surrender of Self

Scripture: Acts 24:14, 1 Corinthians 15:57, Isaiah 1:19
Many people want to live a Christian life but struggle to completely surrender themselves to Jesus. What does the Bible say about the importance of our will and choice in living for Christ? Are we willing?
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Some people are amazed by the unqualified promises contained in the Bible. They can't seem to believe that God really means what He says in the Scripture. Is there some hidden reservation, perhaps, or some secret meaning in the assurances of God? Some people are greatly frightened by the book of Romans. Do you know why? Because it describes the perfect work God wants to do in sanctifying His people. Many people are afraid of that word "perfect." They are afraid that God will ask them to do more than they want to do, or more than they are willing to do. But let's get this straight right now, friends, God will do nothing for you that you are not willing for Him to do.

Here is where the great problem arises, of course. Many people have never been reconciled to having themselves removed from the enjoyments of sin. That's a fact! They are not willing to give up the pleasures of the flesh and the world. Let me ask you something right here. Are you prepared to take all the results of a complete surrender to God? Are you resigned to the stripping away of all your darling indulgences and the mortifying of every fleshly evil in your experience?

Let me tell you something, the only reason we are not perfectly loosed from all our besetting sins is because we don't want to give them up. Or else, we do not think that it can be done in our case. Now, if you are not willing, of course, that is your problem. But, seeing it done is God's part alone. You must be willing, but you can never be able to do it for yourself. I want us to consider in today's broadcast these two great mental blocks that have stolen away the victory from so many of God's people. We must be willing before God can forgive us or before He can sanctify us. Self is the greatest enemy we face. Our own will is the only natural weapon we have to fight the devil. In fact, it is the only weapon God has placed in us, by creation, by which we can overcome Satan. Listen, once we settle it with the old man of self, who is always trying to rule over us, our victory is assured.

I will say something else also, the only ultimate sin in the eyes of God, the only final factor that will cause God to cast away any soul, is to deliberately say "No" to God and to His will. In other words, everything depends on the decision of your will. You are not what you feel, and you are not what you may do or be in a single act of your life. You can't always control your emotions, but you can control the will. You are what you will to be. Feelings have nothing to do with the truth of God. It is not your feelings, your emotions, that make you a child of God, but the doing of God's will. Perhaps you didn't feel well this morning when you awoke. If you should be honest, perhaps many would say that you are not feeling well now. But does this change the fact that God loves you, and that He died for you? Some can feel good during certain revival meetings. The songs and sermon seem to fill them with emotions of joy and peace. But friends, listen, those who are saved, will live every day, not by emotion or feeling, but by the will of God. Now it is inevitable that your will and God's should come into collision. You must either let Him have His way, or else take your own course and follow your own will. This is the only reason for a person losing out or holding back. He just wants to do his own way instead of God's.

Oh yes, people may give you many excuses for their reluctance to follow Christ. They may tell you they have doubts about the Bible, or that they don't want to give up certain things in their life. But friends, the fact is that God wants something from them that self is not willing to surrender. Multitudes are outside of the will of God and out of the church today, because they are not willing to give up something which they love more than they love God. Thousands inside the church are unhappy because something in the life has been fighting the will of God for years.

What I am trying to say is this, to be a Christian requires surrender. I think of Paul as an example of submission and resignation to the perfect will of God. You remember when he was going to Jerusalem, sailing by ship, and stopping at certain ports along the way to meet friends. Of course, there was grave danger awaiting him as he attended the feast in Jerusalem. Paul knew it, and so did his friends. They tried to dissuade him at every port. In fact, at Miletus, the elders met him on the sands of the shore and wept and prayed with him about his journey to Jerusalem. Then he came to Coos, Rhodes and Tyre, and once more men and women pleaded with him to turn back. Paul had to face the question, Should he be persuaded by men, or should he follow the will of God in his life? He persevered and continued to set his face toward Jerusalem. When people saw his courage and determination, according to Acts 24:14, they "... ceased, saying, The will of the Lord be done." They bowed their heads to the plan of God, and in that defeat they found victory. Friends, concerning God, surrender is always the moment of greatest victory.

Do you remember the time when your desire and God's will met in fearful conflict? Do you recall the struggle of your soul, when the self-life was trying to overcome your will? You resisted, of course. A fearful battle took place, you agonized with God, you prayed over that terrible struggle of will. You wrestled with God, but finally, you surrendered, and great peace came in. The battle was over, the victory was yours, simply because you had surrendered your will and become willing for God to give the victory. You didn't get the victory by struggle, you didn't drive back the devil because you were stronger than he was, your battle was with self. When you become willing, God will give the victory.

Do you remember the text in 1 Corinthians 15:57, "But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." Then that other text, the words of Jesus, when He said, "How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens ... and ye would not!" Notice friends, "ye would not!" Your will did not yield.

Listen, it may sound foolish, but it is very true, before you can have, you must give away. Before you can be full, you must be empty. Before you can live, you must die. It will seem like defeat, but actually it is glorious victory instead. I am sure no one ever felt so defeated, so depressed, so beaten and cheated as eleven men felt on Friday night. Jesus had promised them the world. They were going to rule a kingdom. Some were going to sit on the right and some on the left. Life would be marvelous for them. They were important now, and they were going to serve in God's glorious kingdom over this earth. Then, suddenly, Christ is arrested, tortured and crucified. Ah, we shall never feel as they felt then. No, not even crippling disease, or financial failure, not the desertion of friends, or the death of loved ones, or the injustices of life could ever bring us as low as the cross brought those disciples of Jesus. The world had simply come to an end for them. But was it defeat? No indeed! It was the most glorious victory that could be known.

Now, let's come back to this question of your sin and mine. We have to admit, of course, that we are defeated from the start. The devil is stronger than we are. Habits seem to bind us with chains in both heart and hand. We struggle and exhaust ourselves, then somebody comes along and says "try harder." But friends, the harder we try, the deeper we seem to sink into the mire of sin. Listen, there is no use going to India as missionaries, if that's the only message we have to carry them: "try harder." Those Hindu people know that better than we do and they are carrying it out better than we are too, most of them. They are trying even more than we are. Do you know why trying will not break the chain of sin? Because sin is not just an act of the body, it's deeply embedded in the mind and in the subconscious.

You know what I am talking about, because you have struggled with memories of sin and weakness. You have tried desperately to forget scenes of unfaithfulness in your past. But all your effort has ended with fatigue and utter failure. Why? Because no man has the power to keep his mind under control. The thoughts and the imaginations of the heart are rooted in the very nature of man. That nature is carnal until Christ has indwelt the soul.

I heard of an Indian Sadhu who came into a village one day and claimed that he could make gold. He had a great water caldron brought and gathered the people to observe him. He began to stir the water, and utter his sacred mantras or prayers. In the process of stirring, he slipped some nuggets of gold into the water. After it was finished, he poured off the water and lo and behold, there were golden nuggets. The head man of the village was very enthusiastic about it, and wanted to buy the secret for 500 rupees. At last the holy man agreed to sell it to him, but he had this word of caution before taking his leave of the man. He said, "Here's a secret you must never forget, you must concentrate on the gold, and never once think of the red faced monkey. If once you think of the red-faced monkey, the gold will never come." Well, of course, you can imagine that the gold never came, because the harder the man tried to forget that monkey, the more it seemed to fill his mind spoiling his chances of the gold. Ah, yes, your mind or inner self will defeat you every time.

It's always easier to deal with external actions than it is with internal disposition. Men may act correctly on the outside, but inwardly they may be at war with their outward conduct. Jesus says, that "such wars must cease." There must be no conflict here. Our internal desires must be reconciled with our outward life and conduct. It is easy, of course, for the external things to be adjusted and the person may feel that he has arrived because he has been able to control his external actions. But, friends, this could lead to a good deal of self-righteousness. A man may drive 25 miles per hour in a restricted speed zone, and yet be seething with rebellion and anger inside. You see, self is behind the angry battle that takes place there. The stubborn will has never yielded to the idea of obedience. That is where the desperate need lies with Christians. We can try to our last breath, but it won't change the disposition of our soul. We cannot alter and adjust our attitude until the will is resigned to a change. By trying desperately, we can slow down to the 25 miles per hour, but not trying will sweeten the heart and make it submissive to do that thing. The Bible says, "If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. Isaiah 1:19. So there must be willingness as well as obedience.

No, friends, we are lost if we must depend only on trying harder and struggling longer. Time will only take a young sinner into an old sinner. Finally, we must give up and admit our failure, and confess that we can't do it alone. When we do that it is the beginning of victory. In John 15:5 we read this, "For without me ye can do nothing." It is not enough to know that, we need to know something else. In Philippians 4:13 we read, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."

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