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10. The heart of worship

L`OSSERVATORE ROMANO

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Give yourselves to God.... Surrender your whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes.

Romans 6:13 (TEV)

 The heart of worship is surrender.

Surrender is an unpopular word, disliked almost as much as the word submission. It implies losing, and no one wants to be a loser. Surrender evokes the unpleasant images of admitting defeat in battle, forfeiting a game, or yielding to a stronger opponent. The word is almost always used in a negative context. Captured criminals surrender to authorities.

In today's competitive culture we are taught to never give up and never give in-so we don't hear much about surrendering. If winning is everything, surrendering is unthinkable. We would rather talk about winning, succeeding, overcoming, and conquering than yielding, submitting, obeying, and surrendering. But surrendering to God is the heart of worship. It is the natural response to God's amazing love and mercy. We give ourselves to him, not out of fear or duty, but in love, "because he first loved us."

 Offering yourself to God is what worship is all about.

After spending eleven chapters of the book of Romans explaining God's incredible grace to us, Paul urges us to fully surrender our lives to God in worship: "So then, my friends, because of God's great mercy to us ... offer yourselves as a living sacrifice to God, dedicated to his service and pleasing to him. This is the true worship that you should offer."

True worship-bringing God pleasure-happens when you give yourself completely to God. Notice the first and last words of that verse are the same: offer.

Offering yourself to God is what worship is all about.

This act of personal surrender is called many things: consecration, making Jesus your Lord, taking up your cross, dying to self, yielding to the Spirit. What matters is that you do it, not what you call it. God wants your life-all of it. Ninety-five percent is not enough.

There are three barriers that block our total surrender to God: fear, pride, and confusion. We don't realize how much God loves us, we want to control our own lives, and we misunderstand the meaning of surrender.

 Can I trust God?

 Trust is an essential ingredient to surrender. You won't surrender to God unless you trust him, but you can't trust him until you know him better. Fear keeps us from surrendering, but love casts out all fear. The more you realize how much God loves you, the easier surrender becomes.

How do you know God loves you? He gives you many evidences: God says he loves you;' you're never out of his sight; he cares about every detail of your life; he gave you the capacity to enjoy all kinds of pleasure; he has good plans for your life; he forgives you; and he is lovingly patient with you. God loves you infinitely more than you can imagine.

The greatest expression of this is the sacrifice of God's Son for you. "God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us." If you want to know how much you matter to God, look at Christ with his arms outstretched on the cross, saying, "I love you this much! I'd rather die than live without you."

God is not a cruel slave driver or a bully who uses brute force to coerce us into submission. He doesn't try to break our will, but woos us to himself so that we might offer ourselves freely to him. God is a lover and a liberator, and surrendering to him brings freedom, not bondage. When we completely surrender ourselves to Jesus, we discover that he is not a tyrant, but a savior; not a boss, but a brother; not a dictator, but a friend.

 Admitting our limitations.

 A second barrier to total surrender is our pride. We don't want to admit that we're just creatures and not in charge of everything. It is the oldest temptation: "You'll be like God!"' That desire-to have complete control-is the cause of so much stress in our lives. Life is a struggle, but what most people don't realize is that our struggle, like Jacob's, is really a struggle with God! We want to be God, and there's no way we are going to win that struggle.

A. W. Tozer said, "The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven't yet come to the end of themselves. We're still trying to give orders, and interfering with God's work within us."

We aren't God and never will be. We are humans. It is when we try to be God that we end up most like Satan, who desired the same thing.

We accept our humanity intellectually, but not emotionally. When faced with our own limitations, we react with irritation, anger, and resentment. We want to be taller (or shorter), smarter, stronger, more talented, more beautiful, and wealthier. We want to have it all and do it all, and we become upset when it doesn't happen. Then when we notice that God gave others characteristics we don't have, we respond with envy, jealousy, and self-pity.

 What it means to surrender.

 Surrendering to God is not passive resignation, fatalism, or an excuse for laziness. It is not accepting the status quo. It may mean the exact opposite: sacrificing your life or suffering in order to change what needs to be changed. God often calls surrendered people to do battle on his behalf. Surrendering is not for cowards or doormats. Likewise, it does not mean giving up rational thinking. God would not waste the mind he gave you! God does not want robots to serve him.

Surrendering is not repressing your personality. God wants to use your unique personality. Rather than its being diminished, surrendering enhances it. C. S. Lewis observed, "The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become-because he made us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be.... It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own."

Surrendering is best demonstrated in obedience. You say "yes, Lord" to whatever he asks of you. To say "no, Lord" is to speak a contradiction. You can't call Jesus your Lord when you refuse to obey him. After a night of failed fishing, Simon modeled surrender when Jesus told him to try again: "Master, we've worked hard all night and haven't caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.' Surrendered people obey God's word, even if it doesn't make sense.

Another aspect of a fully surrendered life is trust. Abraham followed God's leading without knowing where it would take him. Hannah waited for God's perfect timing without knowing when. Mary expected a miracle without knowing how. Joseph trusted God's purpose without knowing why circumstances happened the way they did. Each of these people were fully surrendered to God.

You know you're surrendered to God when you rely on God to work, things out instead of trying to manipulate others, force your agenda, and control the situation. You let go and let God work. You don't have to always be "in charge." The Bible says, "Surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for him."

Instead of trying harder, you trust more. You also know you're surrendered when you don't react to criticism and rush to defend yourself. Surrendered hearts show up best in relationships. You don't edge others out, you don't demand your rights, and you aren't self-serving when you're surrendered.

The most difficult area to surrender for many people is their money. Many have thought, "I want to live for God but I also want to earn enough money to live comfortably and retire someday." Retirement is not the goal of a surrendered life, because it competes with God for the primary attention of our lives. Jesus said, "You cannot serve both God and money" and "Wherever your treasure is, your heart will be also."

The supreme example of self-surrender is Jesus. The night before his crucifixion Jesus surrendered himself to God's plan. He prayed, "Father, everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will, not mine."

Jesus didn't pray, "God, if you're able to take away this pain, please do so." He had already affirmed that God can do anything! Instead he prayed, "God, if it is in your best interest to remove this suffering, please do so. But if it fulfills your purpose, that's what I want, too."

Genuine surrender says, "Father, if this problem, pain, sickness, or circumstance is needed to fulfill your purpose and glory in my life or in another's, please don't take it away." This level of maturity does not come easy. In Jesus' case, he agonized so much over God's plan that he sweat drops of blood. Surrender is hard work. In our case, it is intense warfare against our self-centered nature.

 The blessing of surrender.

 The Bible is crystal clear about how you benefit when you fully surrender your life to God. First, you experience peace: "Stop quarreling with God! If you agree with him, you will have peace at last, and things will go well for you." Next, you experience freedom: "Offer yourselves to the ways of God and the freedom never quits.... [his] commands set you free to live openly in his freedom!" Third, you experience God's power in your life. Stubborn temptations and overwhelming problems can be defeated by Christ when given to him.

As Joshua approached the biggest battle of his life, he encountered God, fell in worship before him, and surrendered his plans. That surrender led to a stunning victory at Jericho. This is the paradox: Victory comes through surrender. Surrender doesn't weaken you; it strengthens you. Surrendered to God, you don't have to fear or surrender to anything else. William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, said, "The greatness of a man's power is in the measure of his surrender."

Surrendered people are the ones God uses. God chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus, not because she was talented or wealthy or beautiful, but because she was totally surrendered to him. When the angel explained God's improbable plan, she calmly responded, "I am the Lord's servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants." Nothing is more powerful than a surrendered life in the hands of God. "So give yourselves completely to God."

 The best way to live.

 Everybody eventually surrenders to something or someone. If not to God, you will surrender to the opinions or expectations of others, to money, to resentment, to fear, or to your own pride, lusts, or ego. You were designed to worship God-and if you fail to worship him, you will create other things (idols) to give your life to. You are free to choose what you surrender to, but you are not free from the consequences of that choice. E. Stanley Jones said, "If you don't surrender to Christ, you surrender to chaos."

Surrender is not the best way to live; it is the only way to live. Nothing else works. All other approaches lead to frustration, disappointment, and self-destruction. The King James Version calls surrender "your reasonable service." Another version translates it "the most sensible way to serve God." Surrendering your life is not a foolish emotional impulse but a rational, intelligent act, the most responsible and sensible thing you can do with your life. That is why Paul said, "So we make it our goal to please him." Your wisest moments will be those when you say yes to God.

Sometimes it takes years, but eventually you discover that the greatest hindrance to God's blessing in your life is not others, it is yourself-your self-will, stubborn pride, and personal ambition. You cannot fulfill God's purposes for your life while focusing on your own plans.

If God is going to do his deepest work in you, it will begin with this. So give it all to God: your past regrets, your present problems, your future ambitions, your fears, dreams, weaknesses, habits, hurts, and hang-ups. Put Jesus Christ in the driver's seat of your life and take your hands off the steering wheel. Don't be afraid; nothing under his control can ever be out of control. Mastered by Christ, you can handle anything. You will be like Paul: "I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me, that is, I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency."

Paul's moment of surrender occurred on the Damascus road after he was knocked down by a blinding light. For others, God gets our attention with less drastic methods. Regardless, surrendering is never just a one-time event. Paul said, "I die daily." There is a moment of surrender, and there is the practice of surrender, which is moment-by-moment and lifelong. The problem with a living sacrifice is that it can crawl off the altar, so you may have to surrender your life fifty times a day. You must make it a daily habit. Jesus said, "If people want to follow me, they must give up the things they want. They must be willing to give up their lives daily to follow me."

 Surrender is not the best way to live; it is the only way to live. Nothing else works.

 Let me warn you: When you decide to live a totally surrendered life, that decision will be tested. Sometimes it will mean doing inconvenient, unpopular, costly, or seemingly impossible tasks. It will often mean doing the opposite of what you feel like doing.

One of the great Christian leaders of the twentieth century was Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. Through Crusade staff around the world, the Four Spiritual Laws tract, and the Jesus film (seen by over four billion people), more than 150 million people have come to Christ and will spend eternity in heaven.

I once asked Bill, "Why did God use and bless your life so much?" He said, "When I was a young man, I made a contract with God. I literally wrote it out and signed my name at the bottom. It said, `From this day forward, I am a slave of Jesus Christ.'"

Have you ever signed a contract like that with God? Or are you still arguing and struggling with God over his right to do with your life as he pleases? Now is your time to surrender-to God's grace, love, and wisdom.

 THINKING ABOUT MY PURPOSE

 Point to Ponder: The heart of worship is surrender.

Verse to Remember: "Surrender your whole being to him to be used for righteous purposes."

Romans 6:13b (TEV)

Question to Consider: What area of my life am I holding back from God?

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