In the evening, when all of my responsibilities for the day are done, one of my favorite ways to relax is to read a Christian novel, especially a mystery story. Since these stories usually center around solving a puzzling crime, they keep my interest until the end.
In the Bible, the word mystery isn’t quite the same as the world’s idea of a mystery. It refers to truths that are undiscoverable by human understanding. Only by revelation from God do these truths become learnable. The focus of this week’s Advent devotions from God Is In The Manger, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, center around the biblical theme of mystery.
To live without these mysteries is to live limited to human reason, seeing only what is visible on the surface. Mystery is used over 45 times in the Bible, most in the New Testament. A few of these are the mysteryoflawlessnessandiniquity, the mysteryofthe will of God, the mystery of Christ and the church, and the mystery of the kingdom of God (kingdom of heaven in Mathew).
But there is one mystery that stands out above all the others. To live without God’s mysteries being revealed is to live without Christ Jesus, because we cannot come to the a knowledge of Christ Jesus or accept Him without the Father drawing us.
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6:44 NIV
In Colossians 2:2-3, Paul speaks of Christ as “the mystery of God.“
“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3 NIV
Bonhoeffer calls God’s willingness to become human “The Wonder of All Wonders.” That God loved the people of this fallen world so much that He gave His only Son, Christ Jesus, that those who believe in Him will not perish but would have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Jesus Christ is the unrecognized mystery of this world:
He became lowly and weak, out of love for mankind.
He shows that God loves the world, not an ideal world but the real, fallen one.
He is God revealed in flesh, the God-human Jesus Christ.
He was born as a human baby, placed in a lowly manger where animals had been fed.
Jesus of Nazareth, the carpenter, was also the Lord of glory.
He lived a sinless life, then took upon Himself all of our sin.
Because of His sacrificial death on the Cross, we can all be forgiven.
He is coming back soon for those who eagerly await His return.
During this Advent Season, I’m reading “God In the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas,” a book of daily devotionals by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, written in 1943 while he was in Tegel prison camp in Germany. I will be sharing some of the most important points from this book, points that really stood out to me. This week, I’ll be dividing the material into two posts, since it would be difficult to share all of the important points in one post.
GOD IN THE MANGER: REFLECTIONS ON ADVENT AND CHRISTMAS, WEEK 1, PART 1
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) was a German pastor, theologian, and peace activist. He wrote without compromise about the Christian faith, as he stood against atrocities of the Nazi Regime. He was imprisoned shortly after Hitler’s cruel reign began in 1943, and was executed just weeks before the end of the war. God In the Manger was originally in German, and the version I’ve reading was translated by O. C. Dean Jr. and compiled and edited by Jana Riess.
Week 1 in this devotional focuses on the truth that Advent is A SEASON OF WAITING. The word “advent” comes from a Latin word, “adventus”, that means “arrival or appearance.” For Christians, Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas and is a period of preparing our hearts for the celebration of Christ Jesus’ first coming as an infant, God in human flesh, also known as the Incarnation. It is also a reminder that He has promised to come again, this time as Conquering King.
In a letter to his best friend Eberhard Bethge, as the holiday season was approaching in 1943, Bonhoeffer wrote:
“Life in a prison cell may well be compared to Advent. One waits, hopes, and does this, that, or the other—things that are really of no consequence—the door is shut, and can only be opened from the outside.”
Since I have personally been in a season of waiting on God for several months for an answer to prayer, this week of devotions was encouraging to me. One quote from Day 2 especially stood out to me.
“Celebrating Advent means being able to wait… Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting – that is, of hopefully doing without – will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.”
Waiting on the Lord to answer our prayers is in essence “hopefully doing without.” This was one of the most helpful quotes I’ve even read about waiting on God. God seldom moves in our timing, so waiting with hope and expectation is the key to not giving up.
In Week One, Day Three, Bonhoeffer explains that not everyone can successfully wait on the Lord. It takes a special kind of people, those who understand that they are poor and incomplete in themselves, waiting on the Holy One, the only Complete One, “God in the Child in the manger.” He is our source of strength and power to live in a way that is pleasing to the Father.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
When Jesus came in Bethlehem, He came as the LAMB OF GOD who would take away the sins of all who placed their faith in Him. John 3:16, the best known Bible verse by most people, makes it clear that God gave His Son because of His love for those He created. All men and women, boys and girls, are offered this gift, but to receive it we must believe in Jesus as the sacrificial lamb. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 ESV)
Jesus, a descendant of the tribe of Judah, will soon be coming a second time, as the LION OF JUDAH. Lions symbolize power, fierceness, and majesty. Lions have been called the king of the beasts. When Jesus returns, He will come as the “faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.” (Revelation 1:5) Hebrews 9:28 says this time He will be coming for “those who are eagerly waiting for him.” Does that include you?
My New Testament Bible reading this morning was Philippians 2. This is a chapter I’ve studied many times, but as I was reading it this morning, verses 12-13 stood out to me. What exactly does it mean to “work out your own salvation?” So I did some studying to make sure I understood the true meaning of these verses.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13 ESV
First, I looked up the Greek word for “work out” using the Blue Letter Bible, and I learned it means “to do that from which something results.” Further research gave me this meaning: “to carry out to its full perfection.” This obviously does not refer to earning our salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes it clear that we were saved by grace through faith, no works on our part are involved.
So what exactly does it mean work out your own salvation? To answer this question, we need to look at the tenses of salvation. Salvation has three tenses: past, present, and future.
PAST SALVATION is also known as JUSTIFICATION. If you are a Christians, this means that all of your sins have been forgiven by faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This past tense of salvation applies to everyone who has come to Jesus for forgiveness of sins and is “by grace through faith“. No matter how many good works we do, we cannot earn this stage of salvation. It is a free gift of grace. We have been delivered from both slavery to sin and its PENALTY.
PRESENT SALVATION is the tense of salvation described in Philippians 2:12-13. Basically, it is DELIVERANCE from the POWER of sin, in which we have a part. This stage is also known as SANCTIFICATION. I’ll go into more detail about this in a minute.
FUTURE SALVATION is also known as GLORIFICATION. It happens when we see Jesus face-to-face, and we receive our new bodies that will be FREE FROM ALL OF SIN’S CORRUPTION. In Romans 8:23 Paul calls this the “redemption of the body.”
Philippians 2:12-13 is about the stage of salvation in which you are currently living, if you are a genuine Christian. And these verses give us an essential key to how we are changed into the image of Christ. PRESENT SALVATION or SANCTIFICATION includes more than a mere moral change of character, brought about by learning the truth of God’s Word. The words “work out” are important. We can only “workout” what Christ has already put within. We have a part in this second stage of salvation, but Scripture says it is primarily a work of the Holy Spirit.
“And such were some of you (referring to the unrighteous, see verses 10-11). But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV
SANCTIFICATION is the stage of salvation in which we have HUMANRESPONSIBILITY, combined with DIVINE RESOURCES. The Holy Spirit Who lives within us works in our will, to bring each of us to a place of surrender to the will of God. Then He gives us the capability to do what He has called us to do; i.e., to “work out” what He has “workedin.”
There was two main areas included in this stage of salvation: (1) Being conformed to the image of Christ (see Romans 8:29), and (2) Completing the good work that God planned for us even before we were born (see Ephesians 2:10).
I want to close with a unique illustration on which makes it clear that this process of sanctification is Spirit-empowered and also requires our obedience to the teaching and leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is from one of my favorite resources for quotes or in-depth study of Scripture verses or passages, https://www.preceptaustin.org/observation
“There are some Christians whose lives are like a parked (or stalled) car – if God wants them to move down the road of life, He will have to push them Himself.
“Others live the Christian life by keeping their car washed and polished—looking good on the outside—but they fail to give proper attention to the engine that supplies the power.
“Still others live the Christian life by holding the steering wheel and patiently waiting for instructions on where and when to go. Their car has been gassed up by the presence of the Holy Spirit (Php 2:13) Who freely gives His power and counsel for the journey ahead: a lifetime of adventure in the Spirit!
“Are you like that parked car? Are you stalled on the highway to holiness? Are you waiting for a push (a “Let go and let God” mindset)? Even worse, are you trying to push your car down the road of life in your own natural energy?
“Or is your life one that looks good on the outside but lacks the Spirit’s power on the inside? Your most successful life journey will be to begin to sit prayerfully in the presence of His Word and to daily learn to use His Spirit’s energizing supernatural power and counsel to work out your salvation.
“The only thing the Lord will not provide is the decision to sit behind the wheel, turn on the ignition and drive. This is a choice of the will that each one of us must make, but God even gives us that desire. But we still have the choice to act on His desire or to act on our won desire. The choice is yours.”
I grew up going to church every week, often more than once. I even taught a Sunday School class in my local church. But throughout those years, I didn’t know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord.
That changed the year after I graduated from college. I was beginning a career as a kindergarten teacher. Soon after moving to the town where I had a teaching position, I did what was a lifestyle for me – I looked for a church to join. While this church was of the same denomination of the churches I had been a part of, it was very different.
For the first time, I heard the gospel clearly explained. I learned than Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin, and I was encouraged to surrender my life to Him and accept Him as my personal Savior and Lord. I was told when I did this, that Jesus came to live in my heart through the Holy Spirit. He was now my teacher and guide for how to live as a believer in Jesus Christ. And this began a lifelong adventure was walking the genuine Christian life.
This happened in 1972; it’s now 2022, fifty years later. While I’ve matured in the faith from those early days as a Christ, I’m still learning how to walk in the truth of God’s Word. In fact, I’m currently taking a nine week, in-depth course on renewing my mind in a specific area where I’m not yet walking in victory, which I chose as my “mountain” that I need to overcome.
We choose what we will believe! A belief is something that we either consciously or unconsciously accept as truth. But there is only one source of truth: THE WORD OF GOD!
Most of us, no matter how long we have been Christians, still have a few areas of our lives where we are not walking in victory. These are the areas where we need to renew our minds by recognizing the lies we are still believing and replacing them with related truths from the Word of God.
Renewing the mind is basically rewiring your brain to think like Christ Jesus – to have the mind of Christ. Dr. Caroline Leaf speaks of this in her book Switch On Your Brian: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health.
“God designed humans to observe our own thoughts, catch those that are bad, and get rid of them... You cannot sit back and wait to be happy and healthy and have a great thought life; you have to make the choice to make this happen. You have to choose to get rid of the toxic and get back in alignment with God. You can be overwhelmed by every small setback in life, or you can be energized by the possibilities they bring.
“Thoughts are real, physical things that occupy mental real estate. Moment by moment, every day, you are changing the structure of your brain through your thinking.”
In physical terms, this is what happens when we choose to renew our minds. The actual structure of our mind changes as we learn to think differently about a specific area of our lives. We learn to recognize our wrong thoughts and replace them with truths from God’s Word… and continue doing this until we have learned a new way of thinking.
An essential step in renewing our minds is understanding our identity in Christ, who we are in Christ. Our minds have been influenced since early childhood by things our family, friends, teachers and other acquaintances have said about us, things which have physically changed the structure of our brains. Renewing the mind includes building new pathways for our thoughts about ourselves.
I’ve learned that renewing the mind takes time and effort. It requires honestly facing the lies we are believing, lies that are keeping us from walking in victory in a specific area of our life. It’s important that we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in this step, because the very nature of lies is that we often don’t recognize them.
The class I’m currently taking has use begin with a “mind dump,” with listing at least ten thoughts that are currently on our minds. As I did this, I was surprised at the toxic thoughts that showed up. Then, we allow the Holy Spirit to reduce the list, one step at a time, until we recognize the “mountain” God currently wants us to focus on. A question made it easy for me to narrow my list down to one: What does the Lord see as the weighty issues in my life? Suddenly, I knew the area the Lord wanted me to focus my mind renewal on, something I had not even considered before that.
This is just an introduction to renewing our minds. If any of you are interested in a time of intense mind renewal, just leave a message in the comments after this post. I will be glad to give you the name of the study I’ve been doing – for the third time. This is just a taste of what I’m learning about renewing my mind. Each time I’ve done the study, I’ve seen major change in a problem area of my life, an area where victory had always seemed just beyond my reach. IT IS POSSIBLE TO WALK IN VICTORY IN AREAS OF PERSISTENT SIN – AND MIND RENEWAL IS THE KEY!
“The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies. The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me. The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path. But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.” Psalms 18:2-6 NLT
After Samuel anointed David with oil and announced that he would be the next king of Israel, David spent many years running for his life. On the day when the Lord delivered him from the power of his enemies, David wrote Psalm 18 as a prayer to the Lord. In it, he describes how the Lord saved him from death.
Today in Afghanistan, there are many Christians who can identify with this prayer of David. They are hiding in their homes, fearing what the Taliban will do to them if they are discovered. The Taliban is going door to door, looking for any who have a Bible in their possession, even checking phones for any Bible apps. If these are found, they are taking unmarried women captive and killing the other residents of that home.
In the recently released 2022 World Watch List from Open Doors, Afghanistan is now the most dangerous and difficult nation to be a Christian. Last year, a thousand more Christians around the world were killed for their faith than in 2020. One thousand more Christians were detained. Six hundred more churches were attacked or closed. Severe persecution is a way of life for many of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Our God is a God who saves! The Sovereign Lord rescues us from death.” Psalms 68:20 NLT
When we as Christians hear the word salvation, we usually think of being saved from our sins by the blood of Christ. While this is the New Testament meaning of salvation, the Old Testament meaning of salvation (El môšāʿâ) primarily refers to saving acts and deliverances from death. This is the kind of salvation found in Psalm 68:20, today’s key verse. This Hebrew word is always plural, a good reminder that Old Testament salvation isn’t a single event. Our God’s saving acts are unlimited.
The prophet Isaiah reminds us that when we go through rivers of difficulty, God will be our deliverer. When we face the fire of oppression, the flames will not consume us. (Isaiah 43:1-4 NLT) Our God is the God who saves us from the circumstances that threaten our lives. He is El Moshaah, the God who saves.
I encourage all of those reading this article to check out the OpenDoorsUSA.org website for a list of ways we can pray for those in the body of Christ who are currently facing persecution. Below is a link to their prayer post giving five ways to pray for our brothers and sisters who are currently facing persecution.
We live in a culture where TRUTH is considered relative, constantly changing according to circumstances and man’s understanding. What is thought true for one person at one time isn’t necessarily true for another person or at a different time. According to this philosophy of relativism, absolute truth is non-existent, man is considered the measure of truth, and the existence of God is often rejected. As Harvard Professor Ruth Hubbard put it, “Truth is in the eye of the beholder.”
As Christians, we believe that truth is not really truth unless it meets God’s definition of truth! John 17:17 makes it clear that God’s Word is the source of truth. “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” Psalm 119:160 says “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” Truth isn’t relative, it is unchanging and always lines up with God’s Word.
Today’s name of God is the God of Truth. There are actually three words in Hebrew that are translated truth.
• “Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O Lord, Godof truth (El ĕmeṯ).” (Psalm 31:5 NASB)
• “He is the Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice, A God of truth (El ĕmûnâ) and without injustice; Righteous and upright is He.” Deuteronomy 32:4 NKJV
• “So that he who blesses himself in the earth Shall bless himself in the God of truth (El āmēn); And he who swears in the earth Shall swear by the God of truth; Because the former troubles are forgotten, And because they are hidden from My eyes.” Isaiah 65:16 NKJV
The first two Hebrew words, ĕmeṯ and ĕmûnâ convey the idea of both truth and faithfulness. The third one, āmēn, means verily, truly, amen, so be it. This is where we get the English word amen from.
The name God of truth applies to all three persons of the Godhead. Psalm 31:5 refers to Jehovah, Father God. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV) And Jesus spoke several times of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of truth(John 14:17 is one example). Finally, Jesus said to those who follow Him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32 ESV)
Knowing the truth begins with knowing the God of truth personally, through a relationship with Christ Jesus. Then we increase in our knowledge of truth as we spend time daily in His written Word, which is our guide for truth.
“Look down from heaven and see, from your holy and beautiful habitation. Where are your zeal and your might? The stirring of your inner parts and your compassion are held back from me. For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O Lord, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.” Isaiah 63:15-16 ESV
Today, I’m starting a series on the names of God. Isaiah 63:15 is the beginning of a prayer of the prophet Isaiah, a prayer for mercy and restoration for the Jewish people. My focus today is on verse 16, where God is seen as FATHER and REDEEMER.
This prayer begins with a plea for God to look down on His erring people with mercy and compassion. God was displeased with His people, and they were in exile in Babylon because of their sin. But He was still their Father and their Redeemer, and Isaiah was praying for God to show them mercy and restore them.
I usually think of Father and Redeemer as New Testament terms, but Isaiah 63:16 shows that they are not limited to this. The people of Israel were loved by their Maker, and their sin that had brought judgment did not change that relationship. They were experiencing His discipline, but He was still their Father and their Redeemer.
The Hebrew word for Father is‘āḇ. It was used of the first ancestor of a family, and it was used figuratively of benevolence & protection. Here it is used of God as the Father of His people, the one Who controls, guides and lovingly watches over His people.
Redeemer, gā’al in Hebrew, means “To purchase back; to ransom; to liberate or rescue from captivity or bondage, or from any obligation or liability.” Yahweh is here seen as the one Who redeemed Israel, His people, from slavery in Egypt, and later from exile in Babylon. With God as the subject, it implies a personal relationship that is being restored.
I’m so grateful that the terms Father and Redeemer aren’t limited to Israel. As Christians, those who have accepted Christ Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we also have the privilege of calling Yahweh, Almighty God, our Father. Galatians 4:6-7 says, “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”
In addition to God being our Father, He is also our Redeemer. In fact, God took on human flesh for the purpose of redeeming us or setting us free from the bondage of sin. Titus 2:14 speaks of God redeeming us to make us “a people for his own possession.”
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11-14 ESV)
If you have accepted the free gift of salvation, You have the privilege of calling God both Father and Redeemer. If you haven’t accepted Christ’s death on the Cross as the payment for your sin and beginning of a new life, now is the time to do so. I want to close with the word of the apostle Peter, the invitation given to those gathered on the day of Pentecost.
“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”” Acts 2:38-39 ESV
I’m doing a Chronological Bible Reading Plan this year with one of the Facebook groups I’m a part of, and this morning we started reading the book of Isaiah. As I began today’s reading of Isaiah 1-4, I only made it to the 7th verse.
“Your country lies desolate; your cities are burned with fire; in your very presence foreigners devour your land; it is desolate, as overthrown by foreigners.” Isaiah 1:7 ESV
While I know in context this refers to the judgment Israel would face, Israel wasn’t the nation that came to mind when I read this verse. I received it as a message to the church in the United States of America and to me personally as a member of that church.
2020 saw our country facing a pandemic caused by a virus from China that shut down our economy and did unbelievable damage to our nation and other nations around the word. We also saw riots that resulted in many of our cities being burned with fire. Then the year ended with an election that evidence shows was corrupted by foreigners.
If these were signs that Israel’s sin of idolatry and unfaithfulness to God would be judged, should God’s people in this nation see these happenings as a judgment of our own sin. Could God be warning us as a nation that it’s time to return to the founding principles that have made America great?
Many of our founding fathers came from Christian backgrounds which influenced their beliefs and principles. These same principles and beliefs were foundational in the documents and events that founded this great country. We can conclude from the founder’s words that our country was established as one nation under God.
John Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence, one of two signers of the Bill of Rights, and the second President of the United States wrote the following in a letter to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813.
“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
The apostle Peter warned us that when judgment comes on a nation, it begins with God’s people, “the household of God.”
“For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17 ESV
Much of the church in the United States no longer holds fast to the Word of God. Compromise with the culture in which we live has become acceptable. In many churches, the truth of the Gospel has been exchanged for sermons that make us feel good. It’s time for the church of Jesus Christ to repent and return to foundations upon which it was founded.
As I was praying for our nation this morning, Matthew 5:13-16 came to mind. These verses which are familiar to most Christians describe our calling to be salt and light in the world. Salt preserves and adds flavor to life. Light reminds us that Jesus is the Light of the world, and as His body we are called to represent Him.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16 ESV
For the next five week’s, I’m going through a Faithgateway Online Bible study on Christian worship leader and recording artist Laura Story’s newest book, I Give Up: The Secret Joy of a Surrendered Life. My normal Tuesday and Thursday posts will be centered on the teaching in this book and the related videos and study guide.
The title for this week’s study: “What is Surrender Anyway?” So today’s post is to make sure we understand the true meaning of surrender.
Surrender is basically a military term. It is what an army does when it realizes their opposing army is going to be the victor and they lay down their arms and give up their rights to the conqueror.
This world is a battlefield. Since the Garden of Eden, mankind has ignored and rebelled against our Creator and chosen to walk according to our own desires. In essence, we have joined sides with Satan, who has been called the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
There’s one major problem with that – it puts us on the losing side of the battle. Satan hasn’t yet been totally stripped of his power, but he has been defeated by our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. The battle was won when Jesus became the spotless Lamb of God, died for our sin and rose again.
If you are a Christian, if you have accepted the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross as the full payment for your sin, you did so by surrendering to the drawing of the Holy Spirit, revealing the truth to you that you needed a Savior. But surrendering to God doesn’t end when we are born again and experience new life. That is simply the beginning.
In simple terms, surrender is turning the control of my life over to God. Surrendering to God is recognizing His authority in my life and choosing His will over my own. Surrender is not meant to be a one-time decision for a Christian. It is meant to be a daily lifestlyle. It is laying down our desires in order to make pleasing God our top priority. As Laura Story says in our study guide, “Surrendering to God’s will is a learned skill that takes a lifetime to develop.”
The actual word surrender is not used in most translations of the Bible. But the concept of surrender is found throughout both the Old and New Testament.
Surrender is submitting to the Lord. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7
Surrender is recognizing the truth of Galatians 2:20, which says, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Surrender is being a disciple, a follower of Jesus Christ. It is believing and living according to Luke 9:23-24, which says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.”
Surrender begins with presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, as Romans 12:1-2 tells us to do, the first prerequisite of knowing and doing the will of God. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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.”
Surrender is, as Ephesians 6:6 says, “doing the will of God from the heart.” Sometimes the will of God is clearly stated in Scripture, but often this isn’t true. It begins with us coming to the Lord in prayer and asking, “Lord, what is Your plan in this situation?” And then waiting patiently until we receive an answer and walking in obedience to the revealed will of God.
Surrender is yielding to the hands of God as He shapes us into a vessel to bring Him glory. It is making ourselves willing to be molded into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.
Remember, surrender is a daily choice. It is to choose to make Jesus Christ Lord of every aspect of our lives, seeking His will in every circumstance that we face. It is being who God created us to be.
“For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.” Psalms 18:28
Something unusual happened while we were at church one Sunday in May. We had watched a video teaching on the Bible study we were doing at that time, and I had just finished leading our discussion on the promise of God we were covering that week – when the lights went out. With stormy weather outside, our classroom was really dark. A couple minutes later, the lights came back on, and we were able to finish the class and leave for home.
This morning, as I was preparing to write this week’s Thankful Thursday post, this experience came to mind. While it was just a small inconvenience, it brought to memory God’s promise to enlighten our darkness. And one of the ways He does that in our daily lives is through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit comes to live within us when by faith through grace we accept Jesus’ death on the Cross as the payment in full for our sins, receive His forgiveness, and accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord. And from that moment on, we never have to walk in darkness.
I am currently working on writing a Bible study which I’ve given the working title The Holy Spirit: Stranger or Friend. For many of us, Jehovah our heavenly Father and Jesus Christ our Savior are parts of the Godhead we understand fairly well. In one of the lessons from the Bible study our iConnect Bible study class at church recently completed based on Max Lucado’s book Unshakable Hope: Building Our Lives On The Promises Of God, we read the following quote.
“Ask a believer to answer the question ‘Who is God the Father?’ He has a reply. Or ‘Describe God the Son.’ She will not hesitate. But if you want to see believers hem, haw, and search for words, ask, ‘Who is the Holy Spirit?’ Many believers settle for a two-thirds God.”
Yet there are more that a hundred references in the Bible to the Holy Spirit. From the Gospels, where Jesus says He will be returning to heaven but He will not leave them alone (https://www.bible.com/59/jhn.14.26.esv) through the book of Acts, and all the way to Revelation, we learn that the Holy Spirit is central to our lives as Christians.
Today, I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit and the many things He does in our lives. Here are just a few of the functions and names of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is our Regenerator. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, He is the one who opens our heart and imparts life. “Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.’” John 3:5
The Holy Spirit is our Empowerer. He gives us power to be witnesses and complete the work He has called us to do. “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:49
The Holy Spirit is our Helper. He encourages, consoles and comforts us when life becomes difficult. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,” John 14:16
The Holy Spirit is our Teacher. As the Spirit of Truth, He shows us the lies we are believing and instructs us in God’s truth. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” John 14:26
The Holy Spirit is our Guide. He leads us down the path God has planned for our lives. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” Romans 8:14
The Holy Spiritis our Intercessor. He prays for us and His prayers always line up with the perfect will of God. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26
The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier. He works in us to make us look more like Jesus. Like the apostle Peter, we too are among the elect, “according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood…” 1 Peter 1:2
There are many more functions and names of the Holy Spirit, but these seven give you a picture of His important place in our lives as Christians. And this week, I’m grateful for Who the Holy Spirit is and for all He does in our lives. How about you? Have you stopped in your busy day to thank God for the Holy Spirit? Who lives within you if you’ve accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord of your life.