“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” Luke 9:23-25
When I was growing up, I was always open to playing a board game. But many times, when I couldn’t find a second player (since I am an only child) I would resort to my alternate lineup: me, myself and I! Trying to play objectively with myself (as a whole, not the specific player) as an imaginary player was interesting. Usually, the games came out about equal regarding which one of ‘me’ would win (although Scrabble was definitely not in my lineup as a solo game!). A fairly basic and typical pool of games was played in our home, consisting of: Monopoly, Scrabble, Life, Parcheesi, Payday, Easy Money, Mousetrap (one of my favorites), etc. Most of these are rather lengthy and involved, so they would often run late into the night. They therefore weren’t played as often as I’d have liked. Two games had a set of cards obtained individually either by a particular roll of the dice or a number spun on a wheel. Depending on the particular game, it could send you to a specific space on the board, require you to pay or collect a certain amount, or obligate a player to share half of the wealth gained or pay half of the loss acquired at a later time. The cards most prized exempted you from sharing your wealth or paying most fines, etc., for as long as you held the card.
Many people continue to carry the game-playing mentality into real life all through their lives, long after childhood ends. To them, Heaven becomes just a goal they are trying to win, and Jesus Christ becomes merely the means of obtaining their goal.
They feel that when they “get saved,” they are on the winning side and the game is almost finished.
Accepting Jesus is seen as their ‘get-into-Heaven-free’ card. As long as they keep out of ‘real’ trouble and do what they feel is right, when they die they can just hand their winning card as their entry pass to the angel at the gates of Heaven (or to Peter, as some have been taught). Then off they go to their magnificent mansion (or cloud) high above the sky.
The concept of surrender, sacrifice, and obedience never has entered their minds (or they did not want it to enter their minds). A growing movement believes that when you accept Jesus into your heart, God removes all sin from your life permanently. Some groups go to the level that even the whole concept of sin has been done away with.
“Sin is only in unbelievers. Jesus came and took care of all sin, and therefore when I gave my heart to Jesus I became free from sin forever” has become the general (but not literal) cry of this crowd. Even mention of the word ‘sin’ in a believer’s life is taboo, because they feel that this brings something back into existence that has been eliminated.
But in reality, these views are quite far from the truth. In his determination to keep us from following God, the Devil figures that if he can’t stop us from giving our lives to Christ, he will twist God’s word (the Bible) into something that sounds pleasing to our old self. If we listen, it will keep our new self from growing in the knowledge of God. Meanwhile, he creates the illusion (of which he is a master) that we are pleasing God all along. At the same time, he succeeds in keeping us out of a true relationship with Jesus (and ultimately out of Heaven). This paradox grows greater every day, especially as the Bible is forsaken for alternative teachings, or for what the latest bestselling author has to say, or for an ‘offend-no-one’ message in a church (or what once was called a church!). So much of the Bible has been taken out of context lately that it recently reached the list of banned books used as a guideline for schools, libraries, booksellers, etc.
The truth of the matter is, that when we give our hearts to Jesus, our old self, commonly known as ‘the flesh’ (the part of us that wants to live for the sinful pleasures of this world) has to give way to Jesus. The process is not optional, nor is it an easy one. Choruses are sung about “surrender” and “giving our all to Him,” about giving Him our lives and letting Him use them for His purpose, etc. Yet very few ever stop to ponder in their hearts what’s really being said or meant.
Jesus can’t be the Lord of our lives if we continue to be the lord. Our ‘self’ or ‘the flesh’ enjoys the idea of the joy, peace, and power He gives us when we accept Him. But it absolutely balks, almost in sheer rebellion, at having to yield totally to Jesus.
As a result, we have this determination and zeal to serve Him in our spirit, the opposite of our flesh, but the dominance of our flesh drives us to follow the sinful passions of this world.
God is a holy God, and He cannot allow any sin in His presence. So the Devil comes along and gladly offers to redefine sin for us! This satisfies our sinful flesh, and we no longer allow more of Jesus into our lives so we can become what God wants us to be. This begins our downfall as a believer in Christ.
The spirit of Christ (the Holy Spirit) within us cannot cohabit with our sinful flesh. Either the flesh goes, or He goes. He expects us to forsake our sinful ways, not accommodate them.
This world is no longer our true home; therefore, we should not continue to live our lives as if it is. God has a much, much better place for us. Nothing rots, decays or grows weary there. Due to sin, this present world is corrupt and dying, and never will provide true satisfaction. But as long as we continue to allow the world to dominate our flesh, we will never have real peace, and ultimately will die with it.
This doesn’t mean we have to allow ourselves to be tied up and left in a locked room, or abandoned in the middle of the desert with nothing to eat, and then cry out, “Jesus! I’m all yours now! Do whatever you want to me!” Instead, we need to stop trying in our own self or flesh to please Him, to do His work for Him as if we are going to win an extra turn or bonus points in the game. We need to allow Him the freedom to use us in the way He wants to. This doesn’t mean He’ll automatically send us to an unknown land where we don’t know the language or anyone at all, and they don’t know, or even want, us. Rather, it demonstrates to Him that we are open and willing to do His will, whatever it may be. If we refuse in one area, then He won’t use us in all areas. It’s like being in total control of a country, except for a small minority in the backside of the capital city that is holding out just in case something goes wrong. If that is the case, then you’re not in total control of that country. Ultimately, God wants us to surrender our authority over ourselves. When we “surrender all” (as the popular chorus goes), all means 100 percent, not 50, not 85, or even 99 percent.
“So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:33
I ask you now, how much of your life are you going to yield to God? Are you going to allow your old self to reign? Are you going to continue playing life as a game, living like you please, flaunting your get-into-Heaven-exemption-card when troubles arise? Are you going to continue singing “I surrender all” when you are not surrendering all (or even some)? Are you spending time reading and studying God’s Word and communing with Him in prayer?
Prayer is not just a time of presenting our needs and petitions to God, but rather a time to align ourselves with His will.
As we surrender and submit ourselves to Him, we’ll find that the sinful (and even non-sinful) pleasures and desires of this world are not so pleasurable, and are actually appalling.
Let the finished work of Christ by His death on the Cross be the target of your faith and belief, not the latest self-help book, or ‘Christian’ fad on the Internet. Jesus loves you and wants all of you, not just whatever portion you can easily or conveniently give up to Him.