Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
October 12, 2014
Nothing less than total surrender
Jesus has many admirers. He has fewer followers. His admirers consider him one of the greatest teachers of all time. It costs nothing to admire Jesus but following Jesus is costly.
Jesus explained the cost this way: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
The concept of costly discipleship makes no sense to us when we are children. We can easily embrace Jesus as our Friend or Shepherd. But as we mature it dawns on us that following Jesus is very demanding. Total commitment is required. Without that we are playing a game of sham and pretense.
I know about the pretense. I grew up in the church. My kindergarten teacher pinned a little lamb on the calendar on each Sunday I was present. I felt good about Jesus. He was my Friend. He was kind and gentle. He loved people, especially sinners.
I learned in Sunday school that God wants me to treat people like Jesus treated them. That is what being a Christian is all about – or so I thought. Be a good boy and always ask, “What would Jesus do?”
Then in my teen years I began to realize my rotten, sinful nature. I realized I was not fully surrendered to Jesus nor was I ready to take that step. I wanted people to think that I was a Christian but in my heart I knew the cold truth. I wanted control of my life. I wanted to be a Christian on my own terms.
What followed were several years of inner struggle and turmoil. I did not share my feelings with anyone but inwardly I was tormented by doubt. Perhaps the stories of Jesus were mostly myth. I had no doubt that he was crucified but the resurrection of a dead man from a grave seemed most unlikely. Perhaps what Christianity offers us are ethical principles drawn from the teachings of Jesus that provide the framework for a Christian “way of life.”
Then I began to hear people talk of “knowing” Jesus personally. They had a contagious joy. I wanted what they had but I had to admit my own experience was head knowledge. Jesus was not a real person to me but an historical figure much like Moses, David or Jeremiah. I had no sense of his actually being “with” me. I could sing about him and read about him but I did not “know” him.
Then all that changed. In a moment of time Christ became real for me. I admitted I was a sinner, helpless to save myself. I invited Jesus to forgive me of my sins and come into my heart, and for the first time I felt an inward assurance that he had done exactly that. My doubts melted away and the marvelous reality of the living Christ flooded my whole being. John Wesley described it this way: “I felt my heart strangely warmed!” And that’s how it was for me too as his joy overwhelmed me and his presence within me transformed my life. Getting to “know” Jesus changed everything!
The Apostle Peter and the other disciples experienced this same life-changing power. At first they followed Jesus because they admired him. As they listened to Jesus teach they must have wondered, “Who is this man? Is he only a man or is he more than a man? Can he possibly be the Messiah?” Then that shining moment came for Peter on the day Jesus asked the question, “But who do you say that I am?” It must have seemed like the sky had parted and Peter knew, beyond any doubt, that Jesus was indeed the Messiah! He was the Son of the living God, the Savior of the world! His heart was strangely warmed!
But Peter had more to learn – as we all do after our initial surrender. At first we simply want the benefits of being a Christian – the forgiveness of our sins, peace with God and the respect of others. Then our “peace” is jolted by the discovery that to become a genuine follower of Jesus requires nothing less than our total surrender. We must practice self-denial, take up our cross daily and deny ourselves comforts we thought we deserved.
The more I follow Jesus the more I realize that I can only get home by “the way of the cross.” I must continue to give up “my rights” and value nothing only so far as it can be used to honor Christ.
I valued the love and respect of my dad and mother. I value the respect and affection of my family and my friends. But more than anything I want to live my life so that God my Father will never be ashamed of his investment in my life. I was never ashamed to be the son of my earthly father and I want never to be ashamed to be known as a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
The people I admire the most are the ordinary people who have given their all in absolute surrender to Jesus. If I am to be such a follower I must be willing every morning to make a new total surrender of my life to him. So when I say to my friends, “Pray for me,” that is the prayer I want them to pray – that Walter will be totally surrendered to Jesus until his last breath! + + +