Total surrender is the best way to face the New Year. Each New Year, we wonder what is in store for us. Is this going to be a good year, or a tough one? Am I going to go ahead with the potential in my life, or fall away? Is it going to be the same as last year and the year before?
I believe that this is a pivotal year for Ignite Christian Church, and for each of you personally. I was recently criticised by a visitor for preaching too hard on righteousness, but I make no apology for this. I’m not here to play games or tickle ears, I’m here to encourage but also to challenge you. My vision for you is not to see you cruise through life and just exist, rather it is to see you thrive in the things of God and to inspire you in 2018 to become all that God has destined you to be.
I have sought the Lord asking for a key verse for this year, and I believe He has given us
Matthew 5:16 (ESV Strong's)
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.
In 2018, Ignite Church is the light on a hill, and we are called to shine boldly and brightly in this dark world. We are called to total surrender! Another verse our leadership have received several times is this one…
Isaiah 43:18-19 (ESV Strong's)
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
So it is time to stop looking back, however good, however tough, and start looking ahead to what the Lord has destined for us!
As we face this New Year, what can make a difference in Ignite and also in us as individuals?
GETTING INTIMATE WITH GOD
One of our greatest needs as human beings is to know that we are loved. Each one of us here has to feel certain, deep down in our hearts, that someone loves us, cares for us, and has our best interests at heart.
The need to be loved is at the centre of most human relationships. Men and women getting married, having families, having affairs, giving presents at Christmas, bringing up children, playing sport, joining clubs, joining Church, signing up to RSVP… all of us want to be loved in some way. And all of us need to know that somebody loves us.
That is how God designed us. He wants us to know that He loves each and every one of us with a passionate intensity too deep for words.
Zephaniah 3:17 (ESV Strong's)
The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.
God created human beings with fellowship in mind—first with Himself and then with others. But we cannot fully love one another until we have ourselves experienced the love of God. We experience His love when we willingly surrender to His call to be our Saviour, Lord, and Friend.
2018 is the year to get intimate with God. It is the year to totally surrender to Him!
ARE YOU AS SPIRITUALLY DEAF?
The fact is, many of us cannot hear God with any degree of accuracy or confidence. Lots of Christians say, “God told me this or that,” but how can they know? Very often Christians preface what is actually their opinion with the phrase, “God told me…” because they know that we can have no come back if it were true. That’s not often God, that’s often manipulation!
Of all the people who say, “God told me to tell you this” over the past year, barely a handful would genuinely be God. Many good people tell me that they are never sure if the Lord is speaking to them, if at all.
So this year, how can you foster an attitude and a lifestyle that enables the Lord to speak to you intimately as He promised He will? Do you have to be a crazy nutcase to hear God, and is the only other alternative being as spiritually deaf as a post?
Of course not! Hearing God should be a natural part of every Christian’s relationship with the Lord when you offer Him total surrender. You shouldn’t be weird or over the top strange to have to hear God, and my experience is that most of the odd people are not really hearing God clearly anyway.
But neither should you be spiritually hard of hearing. Religious people in church, even back in Jesus’ day, never had a great track record of listening to God, that why Jesus quoted Isaiah in saying,
Matthew 13:14-15 (ESV Strong's)
Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
Now, I want to give you one word that can transform your year. One word that will open your eyes to what God wants you to see, one word that will open your spiritual ears to hear Him. One word that, if you truly embraced it and acted upon it, will take the life that you live right now and morph it into the life you’ve dreamed of, the powerful, Spirit filled life your Father has destined you to live…
THE WORD IS SURRENDER, TOTAL SURRENDER
Charles Stanley writes about total surrender, “Our intimacy with God determines the impact of our lives.”
Total surrender is defined as, “To yield to the power, control or possession of another.” (Miriam Webster’s Dictionary)
Romans 12:1 (ESV Strong's)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
The Greek word for present is paristemi which means to yield or surrender.
When I think of total surrender, I always think of soldiers with their hands above their heads, yielding to the power of their conquerors. Now, when a soldier surrenders there is much fear. They have been fighting against the enemy, killing and destroying, and so to yield or surrender means they place their life into their enemy’s control, with no guarantees of survival or humane treatment. They take a chance, and their life hangs in the balance.
But not so when we surrender to Christ. We yield to Christ with the knowledge that He will never leave nor forsake us.
Psalms 9:10 (ESV Strong's)
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.
There are at least three reasons God seeks our total surrender:
1. GOD DESIRES OUR FELLOWSHIP
God loves us and desires our fellowship and worship. If we hold something back from God, if we refuse to draw close to Him by surrendering our lives to Him, we cannot know Him completely or fully experience His love.
James 4:7-8 (ESV Strong's)
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
When we totally surrender to Him, when we yield our lives to Him, we get all of Him. When we decide to move close to the Lord, when we start to seek Him with all our hearts, He moves closer to us.
2. GOD DESIRES OUR SERVICE
God wants our service for Him to be effective and fruitful.
The more we know and love Jesus, the more effective our service will be, and the more He will grow our ministry. The closer we draw to God, the more impact our lives will have. The more energetically we nurture our relationship with the Lord, the greater the positive mark we will leave behind.
Colossians 3:23-24 (ESV Strong's)
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
Total surrender to God means more effective service, and this is what I mean by surrendering to God grows your ministry.
3. GOD DESIRES TO BLESS US
God waits for the freedom to bless us.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV Strong's)
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Note verse 13, seeking God with all your heart. This is total surrender to Him.
God is omnipotent, He is all powerful and can do anything, but He will not violate His own principles. He draws us to Himself so we can experience His love and forgiveness. He asks for our willing surrender so that He can give us the best blessings He has to offer.
We are sometimes like a young child watching TV. Their parent comes and wants to take them to the zoo, but they resist because they are content just watching TV, not knowing the wonderful experience awaiting them!
WHY WE RESIST TOTAL SURRENDER
It is in your interests to surrender to God today at the start of this year! But we resist, don’t we? Why do we want to join the resistance instead of offering total surrender to someone whose expressed desire is to bless us not to harm us?
With all the blessings God has clearly in mind for us, why does anyone resist surrendering to God?
Pride is the key reason most people resist surrender.
I remember Kira learning to tie her shoelaces, saying, “I do it mine self” and making us all late!
People think they know better than God and that they can handle their lives better than He can, so they keep Him at a distance. Which is ironic, given the mess most of our lives finish up in, isn’t it?
Proverbs 18:12 (ESV Strong's)
Before destruction a man's heart is haughty (prideful), but humility comes before honor.
God wants us to put our trust in him.
We insult God when we trust in our own resources, or anything else, to deliver us from our problems. When we surrender our lives to God, we become his own chosen ones. He promises to hear us when we call out to him.
Others do not surrender because they fear what God will do (or not do) for them. They think that if they give God control, He’ll make them do exactly what will make them most miserable.
Many apparently can trust God to give them heaven, but cannot trust Him enough to give them heaven on earth in a life of fulfilment and joy.
Fear of the Lord is a great thing. Fear of the future is not. Can your trust in God exceed your fear for the future?
Proverbs 29:25 (ESV Strong's)
The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.
We often treat God like a man, thinking He is out to punish us, or make us suffer, or make us do things we hate just to show us who is boss. God is not like that, so stop tarring Him with the same brush as you would a leader, pastor or politician.
John 14:27 (ESV Strong's)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Still others refuse to surrender to Christ because they believe Satan’s lie, which tells them that God is judgmental and will punish them for their mistakes.
Jesus says this about Satan…
John 8:44 (ESV Strong's)
He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
Don’t let your pride, fear or unbelief stop you from fully surrendering to the Lord
IT’S TIME TO SURRENDER
God always has our best in mind. He will refuse us no good thing when we gladly submit to His will. He tells us, “‘I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope”’ (Jeremiah 29:11).
Romans 8:31-32 (ESV Strong's)
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
When we fully surrender to Him, He will withhold no good thing. Of course, we will still face trials of many kinds, but He will graciously help us triumph over them, and use the trials to build character and wisdom into our lives.
It only makes sense to surrender to God, because when we do, we grow close to Him—which is His highest priority for us—and we begin to have an impact on our world.
And right now, at the start of the New Year is the perfect time to fully surrender to Him and allow Him to fulfil our destiny!
I have to do this every day. I constantly have to fully surrender my life to Christ. In my life I have trusted many things, from my own talents and abilities to my profession to financial advisors.
When I fully surrender to Christ, when I fully trust Him for my provision, my future, my reputation and my blessings, that is when He can truly work in my behalf. Whatever I have to face, if I can face them with Jesus, I will be content!
IT’S TIME TO REALIGN
Is this the cry of your heart? Do you want to know the Savior and live in the fullness of His blessing each day? You can. David wrote,
Psalms 34:10 (ESV Strong's)
The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Young lions try their best, but they are young, strong and headstrong. This year, are you resolved to work harder, try harder, do your best more often, or are you ready to surrender and give it all to Jesus?
If you boarded a flight to Sydney from our local airport, and the pilot was just 1 degree to the east off, you would land 17 km out to sea! The only way the pilot can cause you to arrive at your destination is to constantly realign the direction of the plane.
At the start of this year, we need realignment. We constantly need realignment. We need to be totally surrendering daily to God, and we can start right now.
If you have drifted in your devotion to the Savior last year and feel as though you grow more distant each day in your relationship with Him, then pray that He will draw you near once more. He knows your weaknesses, and if you will tell Him that you want Him to take control of your life in total surrender, He will come to you in a mighty way and bring hope and light to your situation, no matter how dark and hopeless it may feel…
Isaiah 55:6-7 (ESV Strong's)
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
IT’S TIME TO TAKE ACTION
Charles Blondin, the great French tightrope Walker, became famous in 1860 for walking across a quarter of a mile of tightrope stretched 160 feet above Niagara Falls. He performed the feat many times in a variety of death-defying ways, including on stilts, on a bicycle and blindfolded. He even carried a small stove and eggs across, and stopped halfway to cook an omelet!
Then he took a wheelbarrow across the falls, and asked the huge crowd if they believed he could carry a man in the wheelbarrow across Niagara Falls. They enthusiastically replied, “Yes, you’re the greatest tightrope walker in the world.”
“Ok!” He replied, “Who wants to get into the wheelbarrow?”
James 2:17-18 (ESV Strong's)
So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
You’ve heard me call for total surrender this morning, and you can sit and applaud my fully committed heart. But today, I’m asking you to get into the wheelbarrow, I’m asking you to respond by not just listening, not just agreeing, not just thinking or resolving, but by stepping out and doing…
William Booth said, “The greatness of a man’s power is the measure of his surrender.”
How great do you want to be in this coming year? Can you offer God total surrender?