“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:34-35
Jesus was not a prosperity gospel preacher. Could weak and declining Christianity in America be due to the fact that the pulpits of today have compromised the real gospel? The gospel demands surrender of all that we are. Nothing less will do. We dare not cheapen the price that Jesus lays out for those of us who follow him. Self denial is the door to true life and freedom.
What does the surrendered life entail? Let us examine three stories.
MOSES – surrendering comfort and sin
Originally set apart for destruction with the Israelite children, Moses was found and adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter by God’s miraculous plan of deliverance. He spent his childhood and adult life in the palace. He had it made. As a prince of Egypt, all of the delicacies of palace life were his. He was shielded from the suffering and persecution of God’s people as long as he remained loyal to Egypt. He had every pleasure at his finger tips and never tasted the shame, disgrace, hard labor and suffering of the people of God.
But at what cost? The cost was that he no longer belonged to Israel. This is a prophetic picture of the life of sin, comfort, and self-indulgence that separates us from God. Sadly, some people who claim to follow Christ would look at Moses and say he was “blessed.” That his life of ease was because God was with him. Deep in his soul however, Moses knew something was wrong.
There came a turning point for him when he saw his fellow men being beaten and abused. His righteous anger was aroused as he took vengeance on their oppressors. He saw the truth about Egypt and what it stood for. He could no longer be a part of this system. Moses fled for fear of retaliation from Pharaoh, trading his life of comfort in order to do what was right in God’s eyes.
Before Moses could be used by God, he had to surrender his self centered life of ease and sin. He then spent many years in the university of the wilderness until there was nothing of him left but an empty vessel. Then, at the right time, God’s Spirit speaks to him, fills him, and uses him for a purpose far beyond anything Egypt had to offer.
“By faith, Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than all the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Hebrews 11:24-26
What if Moses had stayed in the palace instead?
JOSEPH – surrendering control
Our next subject is a man who was given a vision and promise at a young age. He was the favored of his father and has a dream that one day he will be great and a ruler among the people. Because of this vision he was rebuked and rejected. His brothers also hated him because of the favor that was upon his life, and they conspired to kill him. Sounds like a good movie or soap opera, right?
The Word says this about Joseph, “He sent a man before them, Joseph sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters. He was laid in irons. Until the time his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him.” Ps. 105:17-19
Joseph did everything right, and yet he got what the wicked deserve. He was sold into slavery, falsely accused, mistreated and abandoned. There must have been many times he thought of the dream God gave him and wondered… “When is this going to come to pass? Why is the exact opposite happening? Did I miss something God?”
Have you ever felt this way?
The surrendered life also includes trusting God’s process, his breaking, and his timing. There were so many things happening for Joseph that he did not understand at the time. God had to humble him, to teach him to trust in the midst of the prison and to overcome offense and bitterness. God had to teach Joseph that he and he alone was able to deliver him from the prison and send him to the palace to fulfill the word of the Lord. No matter what Joseph did, he could not speed up the process. He had to surrender control to God.
Jesus also said during his ministry and life that, “My time has not yet come.” He understood that he could only do what he saw the Father doing. Anything else was him exerting his own will and imposing it onto God. (Even though he was God.) Jesus like Joseph surrendered control of the training process and timing to the Father. Once the process had been completed, the word was then fulfilled.
There are many people today who have not seen the promises of God yet come to pass in their lives or ministries. This is the test. Will we continue to wait and be faithful with what we are able to do in the midst of suffering and the breaking process of God? Will we like Job say, “Though he slay me, yet I will trust in Him?”
Many people stumble here and never enter the promise because of offense or unbelief. What if Joseph would have slept with Potiphar’s wife when given the opportunity? What if he would have cursed God from the depths of the dungeon because he believed God had forsaken him?
MARY – surrendering reputation
Mary was just a young woman when the angel Gabriel appeared to her and told her she was going to carry the Christ, the Savior of the world. Although she was engaged to Joseph, this child would not be of human origin. He would be conceived by the Holy Spirit.
In Jewish culture, it was shameful to be sexually intimate before marriage. This child was going to change the way people looked at her. What would Joseph say? Would he even believe her that an angel had appeared? Would anyone believe her?
Mary had to be willing to surrender her reputation completely in order to carry that which God placed inside of her. She had to face the possibility of false accusation and losing her beloved fiancé Joseph. Even more, if people thought she had committed adultery, she could be stoned.
Mary is often overlooked when it comes to the price she had to be willing to pay to obey God. We must see with the eyes of the Spirit to understand her trials during this call to mother Jesus the Christ. She was willing to surrender the opinions of others in order to obey the will of God, even the opinions of those she loved the most.
This is a hard test. Many people want to follow Christ but when they know they will be rejected by family, co-workers and the like, they back down. Their reputation is an idol.
The apostle Paul said of Jesus, “Though he was God he did not consider equality with God something to be held onto. But instead he made himself of no reputation and took on the form of a bondservant and became obedient to death. Even death on the cross!” Phil. 2:5-8
What if Mary would have told the angel to pick someone else because she feared what people may say or do to her?
If anyone told you following Jesus was easy, they lied to you. The only path of discipleship is the surrendered life. God is calling you and me to lay down the life of comfort, to surrender control to him, and to lose our reputation for his name’s sake.
“He who desires to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” Mark 8:35
The good news is we are not alone in this journey. The Holy Spirit is our guide, comforter, and empowerer. Can you see the reward in front of you? Will you surrender all to Christ?