I Don’t Exactly Surrender All

 

So this is another long one. It’s an exploration one of the most popular themes from my yesteryear, that which failed to sink Gospel teeth into me. It’s probably not perfectly formed, so I’m up for clarifying critique. On with the show.

The last two White Horse Inn episodes I’ve listened to, along with reading J.G. Machen have started me on another round of anti-navel-gazing ponderance. The questions posed in the gospel of pragmatism are whether our experience, or life story is the Gospel and whether making disciples can be a system similar to the process of a factory. Yep, back to the Finney Finish and Me-ism I go.

What should be amazingly easy, but we all seem to forget constantly, is that ever-present religion of Me-ism. It’s not just that we believe our personal testimony is the prime tool for bringing people to Christ, but that our very life is critical to everything in our Religion. I mean here that if I sin grievously, persistently, that my faith is in doubt. That I might not be saved. I also mean here that if I’m not living “as a Christian should”, that I have no witness to bear.

This is insane. If I sin grievously once or persistently over time, my faith could be in doubt. But that is missing the point. My salvation can not be in doubt, because God has promised me eternal life, salvation by Grace through faith, entirely being His gift. He has not promised me a cleaned-up, perfected life right now. If this was not the case, my baptism should’ve been a bit more dramatic in its results, I believe, and I should also be a very effective preacher, missionary or seminary prof by now. And a lot of other really awesome Bibley things. 

Salvation does not hinge on what I’m doing right now or late at night with my friends. It does not hinge on me falling off the wagon or getting on the wrong wagon. It hinges on me trusting in Jesus Christ. It hinges on me believing The Gospel and not, especially not, in the testimony of somebody else or the change in my life. And my believing the Gospel does not hinge on me! It hinges on God. Assurance is not me and is not subjective. It is God and His Word that assure me.

But we turn round again, at every turning, back to this doubt and sense of hopelessness that we are not saved, or that we have forsaken our right to the fellowship of the church. Garbage. Instead of us re- blanket training ourselves the Gospel has removed us from the sin blanket that makes us dependent on our own goodness to get in with God.

Getting all this Gospel-centeredness straightened out should lead to another amazing revelation. The Gospel is The Gospel. It’s not me and my long tale of conversion. The story I have put up in the About here at LAH is not the Gospel. Notice all the potential Me-ism in there. I put it up there not in hopes that somebody would come to faith by reading it but to show where I come from and where I’ve been, for relevance and sharing the joy of what’s happened. 

If I crash and burn tomorrow, falling into a pit of sinful misery at the bar in Thailand with two women, tequila, a doobie and a stolen car, my pretty story suddenly takes on  a new light. It begs the question, “What about now? All that awesome stuff really didn’t mean anything, did it?” And so my “witness” is shot. And in a majority of churches, I’d be suddenly out of grace, considered unsaved, reprobate, a false convert or maybe even just plain subject to losing my salvation. Garbage. In fact, based on what most Christian teaching implies, if I show up in church next Sunday after my vacation, reformed and confessing my sin, I’d better ask Christ into my life and forgive my sins, heck – even get baptized again, cause I wasn’t really saved last week. But that’s not it at all.

Now I hope and pray the Lord will forever protect me from such a demise. He’s definitely put in place a lot of safeguards that are very likely to limit the chances of me getting into such a situation. But that’s not it for the Gospel. The point here is that what I do is not critical to the Gospel. What Christ did is critical to the Gospel. It is the Gospel. And if I believe it, I’m saved. Not perfected. Romans 12:1-2 the whole New Testament is about believing the truth and then working it out, not hearing the truth and then meeting Joel Osteen.

Okay, so what can I look for, for indicators that I’m saved? If all the stuff above doesn’t clear any fog, maybe this might help a little: Here’s what changes, in varying degree and extent, for a Christian.

Before:  I loved to sin. I felt guilty because I knew I was doing wrong, sometimes, but mostly because of consequences. I constantly dug for reasons to legitimize my evil, self-centered desires and pursuits. I hated the idea of a judging God who set the rules and, regardless of my opinion, made them not-optional.

After: I hate being sinful. I hate that everything I do is tainted with Me-ism and weakness. I do as much wrong as I did before, only now it’s worse. Much of that obvious evil activity that characterized my life is now well hidden. Maybe some of it really is deleted from my programming, but most? Still here. I’m essentially the same dirty person. But I believe that God has promised me salvation. I believe that Christ did what is impossible for me and then paid the price for all that I have done (and will do). So I can rest in these things, thankful that everything I have that is good is provided, not by anything I’ve done, by God Himself.

I don’t exactly surrender all, rather I believe and increase in beliefs about what is true and what follows is a deeper love for God and His ways. That causes a deeper hatred of my ways and the world’s ways. But what everything returns to is the Message. Christ lived for my righteousness, died for my sins rose again for my life.

Sheesh

All to Jesus I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

Refrain:
I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!

Feeling? I can’t trust my feelings. Surrender? How can I give up this stuff of my own volition? Freely give? I think it’s better if He takes, so I’m gonna pray for that. Giving me to Christ? God gave me to Christ:

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. — John 6:37

Here’s what is good. I fight all day against my sin. At the end of the day I look back and usually I can dump out a decent bucket of sin onto the table for sorting and examining. Sometimes there’s a piece of sin that is not there, often one that is pretty familiar and usually in the mix. But not often. It seems that my evil just won’t diminish, in fact it seems to become more detailed heavy. And I can, by the grace of God, look at it and then at my Savior and know that I’m forgiven and that someday this mess is really going to be cleaned up. And then I look ahead to Sunday, always looking ahead to Sunday, and the reunion with the rest of my people who are just like me, gathered to worship the One we are not: The Saving God Who Keeps His Promises.

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5 responses to “I Don’t Exactly Surrender All

  • Evan

    I with you for the most part though there seems to need a bit more separation from antinomianism. I believe there is real change other than just feeling different about sin. I like how Bonhoeffer expresses grace as a conclusion. As we are followers of Christ we learn as you correctly state that we are only saved and sanctified by the grace of God, His Gospel. Yet there is a real change. The world must see this change as a whole church and not individuals, something like a light on a hill. But yes we always point to Christ, not putting man on a pedestal as many do and then the witness comes crashing down. The only remedy is to point to Christ as He will never fail and only prevail. Good stuff brother!!!

  • Pooka

    Thanks, Evan!

    Yeah, I didn’t want to go down the (well-worn) antinominan trail right yet. This was long enough without some additional Paul and M.L. Jones material.

    I have more on the plate for tomorrow, which should fill the void on attacking free-sinning that grace will abound all the more.

    I’m hoping to capture that real change thing, too. But it’s difficult when some change SO dramatically and others are gradual, slow as mowlassez in a Colorado Rockies winter.

  • Through The Wringer « Lord And Hearth

    [...] wrote about how we can’t do anything to earn salvation and that there’s no route we can take to lose our [...]

  • RubeRad

    Good thing you’re not a Lutheran!

    a pit of sinful misery at the bar in Thailand with two women

    In Thailand, you better hope they’re both women!

    Ahem.

    Here, though, is a mystery. We confess an infallible assurance of faith (or at least the possibility: “a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it”), which kind of begs the question (or backs it up a level): how do you know for sure when your assurance is infallible (vs. when you feel assured, but might yet fall away, thus revealing that you were never elect?)

  • Pooka

    Hrm.

    A reference to Stranger In A Strange Land is appropriate here: Grokking Is.

    Or, in Christianese, assurance is. Maybe this is cheese, or cheating.

    I have to return to the Word. Everything comes from God’s Word. If I feel assured, that’s a Rosenbladt Liver Shiver(tm). I still don’t think Infallible Assurance should mean I experientially have a tangible assurance. I think it’s like knowing a fact by reference.

    God is infallible and only He and His provision is infallible. Never my own interpretation or personal interaction.

    Individualism ruined everything – Now I have to feel my assurance.

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