Im sure there must be lots of people whove stayed married who never surrendered their hearts to Jesus, but I know we certainly needed Him. When Mary and I look back on 38 years of marriage we are deeply aware that were it not for a genuine relationship with Jesus in both of our lives we would not have been able to stay married. What held us together when forces were pulling us apart was the conviction that He had put us together. This meant every thought of disloyalty was a sin against Him. Both our hearts were surrendered to the same Lord, and He hates divorce. Yes, people can do things that make continuing a marriage impossible, but neither one of us did those things. Yet, staying married was at times still quite a challenge. Since He wouldnt let us escape, our only option was to grow. We had to change at the deepest level: humility, patience, forgiveness, courage. We had to give each other grace and focus on our own issues rather than what was lacking in our partner. And as time passed something remarkable emerged: two people with different gifts and personalities who loved each other and are able to work as a team. No amount of helpful hints about how to have a lasting marriage can overrule the selfishness of an unchanged heart with its natural tendency to disloyalty. It takes a miracle, but one thats readily available where two people are truly surrendered to Jesus and are determined to obey Him by loving each other for the rest of their lives.
1. Why must I surrender for that miracle to take place?
A. All Christianity is built on the proposition that the human heart is transformed when the new birth takes place.
Read Hebrews 8:10-12
The mind now receives revelation and the will wants to obey God.
B. To bring our lives into order God doesnt start at the perimeter and gradually move inward until He finally arrives at the heart, He starts at the heart and works His way outward.
When a persons heart changes then everything they touch changes (marriage, singleness, family, church, business, friendships, ministry, health, addictions, lifestyle
Real change doesnt come by changing what you do, but by changing who you are.
You dont get your act together and then come to God. You come to God and then get your act together.
When were born-again an entirely new influence enters into the situation (Jn 3:3).
C. Two essential elements must be present for the new birth to take place:
Repentance: Surrendering my doubts, fears, distrust of God and the idol to which Im clinging and welcoming Gods authority into my life. I now trust, love and respect Him. I want Him to change me.
Faith: I believe that Jesus is who He says He is and has died to pay for my sins, and now my risen Savior is proof that God mercifully provided a substitute for me.
When you make salt, sodium and chlorine must both be present to form sodium chloride (NaCl). One element is not enough to make the compound. Likewise, repentance and faith must both be present for the new birth to occur. (Ac 20:20, 21; Ac 2:38; Mt 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.)
When both are genuinely present a persons life is transformed because:
I am given the righteousness of faith (Php 3:9) so God is at peace with me and releases to me all His resources (1Co 3:21-23).
The Holy Spirit indwells us and makes changes possible that were not possible before. He:
- Puts Gods laws into our minds (revelation)
- And writes them on our heart (will) (Heb 8:10, 11)
The heart reorients from wanting to serve and glorify self to loving God and wanting to glorify Him.
- Temptations still come from the world, flesh and devil but they are now seen as unwelcomed enemies. We discover we are able overcome them (Gal 5:16-21).
2. What is an idol? (Ex 20:3, 4)
A. First commandment: You shall have no other gods before Me (v 3). I see this as pointing particularly to theology, how I envision the spiritual world, who I consider to be the creator and supreme authority. (Who do I worship)
B. Second commandment: You shall not make for yourself an idol... (v 4). This command addresses how I live out my faith. Where do I turn for fulfillment, sustenance, help in time of need. (To whom do I pray)
An idol is whatever I turn to fulfill me or provide for me or protect me or help me cope with life. Its the source of power I turn to before turning to God.
Sex, emotional affairs
Pride in my own intelligence, strength, goodness, stubbornness...
Weapons, locks, security systems
3. Where do I start if I want to surrender?
The surrender required for the new birth takes place when I give all that I can of myself to all that I know of God. My heart is far too complex for me to understand. Im sure I have idols I dont even know I have, and I certainly dont know all the plans God has for me. But thankfully I dont have to know all these things, I simply need to submit and trust His leadership, as it were to put my hand in His and determine to follow. Sorry for the things Ive done wrong in the past, but more focused on following Him into the future.
If there were a button in front of me marked, Give God control of everything would I push that button?
Even those with long sorry histories of rebellion or addiction can do so, for God will help them. Remember the man with legion who dragged 1,000 demons to Jesus. I assure you not one came willingly (Lk 8:26-31).
Some might easily answer, Yes, I will press that button and trust Him to transform me! But most of us would find ourselves immediately confronted with this thought: If I say yes to Him I know what He will take out of my life and Im not ready to let it go. This is your idol.
I dont believe anyone is wise enough or strong enough to surrender without Gods help. He must guide our lives to the point where we are able to surrender. He cant make us surrender but Hes the One who makes us able to surrender.
Some are much more humble than others.
For some it has to hurt badly for a long time until we come to the conclusion that surrendering to God couldnt be any worse.
Some only reach this point on their death bed.
4. Continuous surrender
Surrender isnt a once for all event. Its a lifelong process of re-choosing to trust God. We continue to release idols as we discover them and must diligently prevent them from returning (I fought to get it out, now I fight to keep it out). But the new birth doesnt take place till I surrender the ones I know about because these are the ones that prevent me from coming to God.
This moment become a violent dying to self. In effect, I allow my lusts, ambitions, fears, prejudices, anger, greed, pride... to be crucified.
Often when trying to help people with their marriage it becomes apparent that one or both partners is not surrendered to Christ. In practice they really dont care what He wants, they want what they want. And I cant remember if Ive ever seen one of those marriages actually heal and thrive. Some have stayed together in some sort of negotiated truce, but most just limped on awhile and then came apart. There are situations in which things that are so awful have been done that even the surrender of both hearts cant (and maybe even shouldnt) save the marriage. But most marriages can be saved and become something deeply fulfilling and powerfully releasing of the ministry potential of both partners... when two hearts are surrendered to the same Lord.
A. Who do you know whos been happily married for a long time? Why do you think their marriage works so well?
B. Have you discovered idols in your life that had to be surrendered to Jesus after you were born-again?
C. How did God prepare your heart to be able to surrender to Him? What happened that made you ready to finally let go of control? What changed when you did?