Paul urgently appeals to every believer who understands the mercy we have received from God, to respond by completely devoting themselves to His service. This, he says, is the only appropriate way to thank Him. We surrender our lives to Him as completely as if we had placed our bodies on an altar like an animal about to be sacrificed, only in our case we are not there to be slaughtered but rather recruited into His service (Ro 14:7: 1Co 6:19, 20; 2Co 5:15). He compares this offering of ourselves to those presented in the tabernacle and temple. Just as sweet-smelling smoke rose up from that altar, the surrendered lives of believers will be received by God as a well-pleasing offering (Php 4:18). This is the worshipful heart out of which all other expressions of worship flow. And it is this deep attitude which transforms a persons entire life into an act of worship (Ro 1:1).
True worship is not a religious activity. Its not the performance of some prescribed ritual. At its root it is the radical re-orientation of a persons entire life. Everything in that life is changed and becomes an expression of that persons worship. Even daily activities are done for a different reason than in the past, and they are done in the light of an ever-present consciousness of God being near, even inside us.
Such surrender cannot completely take place in one moment of profound decision, but it does begin with one. It begins when we repent and are born-again and then that same process continues on as we discover with time just how costly that first decision is going to be. In the face of one difficult choice after another we find we have to repeatedly offer our bodies as a living and holy sacrifice. Again and again we place ourselves on His altar and say, I choose to live completely for You. Because of all You have done for me and because I love You I will obey in this difficult matter.
There is no higher example of such repeated surrender than Jesus Himself:
His baptism (Mt 3:13-17)
Peters rebuke (Mt 16:21-25)
His transfiguration (Mt 17:1-9; Lk 9:51 He set His face to go to Jerusalem)
Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-46)
He refused the wine (Mt 27:33, 34)
Paul also leaves us his own example of repeated surrender:
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus (Ro 1:1)
Pauls sufferings (2Co 11:23-33)
Pauls final reflection: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith
Full surrender willingly embraces death for Jesus sake, if need be. But it does not appear likely that most of us will have to make that choice. Our full surrender will find its expression in a series of costly choices that lead us away from something we desire toward something selfless that God wants us to do. We choose a path that to the natural mind appears to lead downward, in the wrong direction.
Henri Nouwen, The Selfless Way of Christ, Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2007, pp. 32-44
Ys in the road
Full surrender is not something we can produce in ourselves. Its not some form of self-punishment. Its a process directed by our Heavenly Father whose will for our lives confronts us with painful choices. Over and over again we are forced to make tough decisions when faced with temptations or prompted by the Holy Spirit to step away from our ambition, comfort, safety, prosperity
and put someone elses needs ahead of our own. The more we say yes to God the more our life expands into one filled with people, purpose and answers to prayer. The more we say no, the smaller our world becomes until we find ourselves isolated, alone, bored, and find our faith largely focused on religious facts with few or no examples of Gods miraculous activity working alongside of us. This is what Jesus said would happen:
For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it (Lk 9:24).
The worshipful heart
So at its root real worship is the radical reorientation of a persons heart.
There is now:
1) New insight: I believe God has rescued me from such a horrible eternity, and at such a terrible cost to Himself, that there is no other reasonable response for me than to devote the rest of my life to serve Him (Ro 14:7, 1Co 6:19,20; 2Co 5:15).
2) A new goal: I no longer live to please myself. In one way or another I am actively at work helping others get to heaven! Everything I do, I do because I believe it pleases Him and my greatest joy is to delight His heart.
3) New standards: I also worship Him by daily living according to His holy standards. I seek to be morally pure, honest, patient, clean in my speech, generous, kind and full of love for others. I no longer let my culture decide what is right or wrong but turn instead to the Bible and seek to obey what it teaches.
4) A new calling: I believe God has a specific plan for my life, and I will make every effort to discover that plan and direct my energies accordingly (Php 3:12,
I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.)
5) A new source of fulfillment: My fulfillment is now found in being near Him. Whether worshipping in a gathering of believers or alone I actively remove any internal obstacles and press in until I become aware of His presence and can hear His voice.
So, a worshipful heart begins right here with the decision Paul urges us to make. Lets listen to him again:
Therefore I urge you
by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable service of worship. (Ro 12:1).
I begin by beholding Gods amazing mercy and then respond in thanks by choosing to turn aside from the selfish path I was on. My first step in following Jesus is to devote myself to His service, but as life goes on I find myself needing to choose the selfless path over and over again. And then surprisingly as I do this I discover that what seemed at first like dying was actually the door to true fulfillment.
1) Is there anyone who is ready to place yourself on that altar for the first time and devote the rest of your life to serving Jesus? Remember Hell only reveal His plan for you step by step and choice by choice.
2) Is there anyone who started out on this path, but came to a tough choice and stopped, yet today you are ready to ask forgiveness and surrender again? The next time youre confronted with a choice to obey youll choose the selfless path. Remember, you cant necessarily go back and undo the past, but you are preparing yourself to obey the decision that will be put in front of you.
1) Have you ever made a full surrender to God? If not, what has held you back? If so, what took place inside of you that enabled that to happen?
2) Are you at a y in the road? If you feel free to share this with us do so and then wed like to pray that God will help you make the right choice.