Surrender That Leads To Freedom
Recently back at Life Compass, my home church, a man came up to me after service to share about how the Lord was changing his heart. He told me how God was making him more aware the importance of his new name as a child of God. As we talked, the song "I Have Decided To Follow Jesus" come to my mind where the lyrics say "no turning back, no turning back".
In the past every time I sang those words it was from a position of inner self-righteousness. I would think firmly to myself that I would not turn back from these principles, I would not turn away from what God called me to.
I really believed that Christ was better than anything else. I really believed that I wanted to follow Jesus. I worked up emotions of determination and faithfulness, but was so mistaken because inevitably I'd be rushing back to whatever sin was consuming me at the time. My surrender wasn't complete, I didn't know daily true worship, and I wasn't really living in freedom.
Talking with this man on Sunday, I realized that to truly follow Jesus is to never turn back.
But Its Hard
That being said, freedom is still hard to find. Not because its unavailable, and not because its only for the spiritually elite. Freedom is hard because it requires everything.
Freedom means your inner being is renewed in the love of the Father. It means that sin, strife, perversion, and shame have to flee because new fruits of love, joy, and peace are entering. Yet finding this way to freedom requires a lifetime of surrender and humility.
I see so many people trying to live in the middle where daily faith becomes sort of a balancing act being pulled in opposite directions. In one moment, the pull is to spend time in my devotional, the next moment the pull is to fit in with my co-workers. In my personal life I find tugs to seek the Lord in intimate worship and other tugs to seek my own sinful momentary desires. In this lifestyle there is very little surrender and growth and the result is only a confusion of the truth.
Translation: running in circles.
We are standing with one foot in the Kingdom of God and one foot in our own world. We are on a seesaw precariously choosing which way to lean; unwilling to fully move into freedom because it ultimately means the abandonment of everything that would challenge our identity as Children of God.
What that song really is saying is, "If I decide to follow Jesus, there will be no turning back."This poses the questions again in a whole new way. Suddenly this becomes very real: the only reason we aren't living in freedom is because we don't honestly want to exchange our ashes for God's beauty. This doesn't make sense. Why wouldn't we want to hand over our ashes?
Teddy Bear Jesus
I was struggling with including this image of Jesus and the teddy bear (it's probably loaded with tons of theological implications about things I'm not talking about right now), but I chose it because it illustrates what a moment of surrender often looks like ...well it's the closest meme on the internet.
What this image gets right is simply how we really like the stuff we have. I mean we LOVE our stuff. Even if we are in a destructive cycle or addiction, this becomes the norm - the status quo - and we love it. Even if its an occasional outburst or slip-up, we still love it. We love the energy behind our rage, the passion behind our lust, and the security of our pride. We might not even realize that we are holding on to something we need to surrender. Unfortunately many churches have been torn apart by this blindness.
Whatever this teddy bear represents is only one moment away from freedom. How do we really understand an inner surrender that leads to freedom?
We often talk about inner surrender from a position of control as if we are the ones relenting. We encourage laying down our lives, giving up our own desires, and choosing the Lords way like we just need to make a few more positive decisions. Last I checked surrender is what people choose when they have absolutely no options, resources, or strength left. I don't think true surrender is as much an action as it is a response.
Due to the fact that I'm a guy in my 20's when I think of surrender my mind flashes to intense Lord Of The Rings battle scenes. In the second movie, The Two Towers, all of Rohan is held back in Helms Deep, a mighty fortress built into a mountainside, as an army of 10,000 orcs march to their door. Surrender for them was not an option because surrender meant certain death, the fall of their nation, and the end of their heritage. But in Christ, surrender means eternal life, acceptance into a new kingdom, and an abundant inheritance.
In Christ we have a new hope. In Christ, surrender is the first step to true freedom.
SO WHY IS IT SO HARD?!?!?!
It changes everything. Here's what I think the meme missed.
Its not that we are simply "trading up" or giving up something small for a big surprise. It's a cost. The surrender of every little thing that we define ourselves with outside of Christ's love and acceptance. This is why it seems so hard because it means actually giving up the things that we want to control - those norms we love. It's so much more dramatic than an upgrade - its a reversal, a transformation, a renovation. Can you be honest enough to find yourself in that position with the Lord holding on to your junk and confess like the girl in this image, "but I love it God."
On the other side of this surrender there is hope.
This hope is that freedom in Christ is so much greater than anything we could imagine. I wish I could type these words just perfectly to announce that there is truth in a deep renewal of your spirit. There is a freedom that bubbles up and causes all those things that weigh us down to fall off. There is a contentment that comes from a foundation that grows deep down into Christ.
Worship In Freedom
For those of us involved in worship music, this becomes a pivotal topic. Before we can demonstrate and lead worship for others we must be engaged in this lifestyle of freedom in our own secret place. Instead of always focusing on the external we can focus on the internal world of our spirits. As we grow in our surrender our light shines in our worship.
Can we pause and be thankful for the gift of worship through music? Often I find it a pure mystery how sounds and rhythms can so eloquently paint a picture of the throne room of God. I love how perfectly the right song can engage my soul to the Lord.
True worship will mobilize our communities in freedom but it starts in surrender.
Co-Host of People of Freedom