A SURPRISING ENCOUNTER
This morning as I was cutting the dead branches out of my front porch planters to prepare them for Christmas greenery, I heard a car pull up behind and across the street from me. As I glanced back, I saw two gals in long skirts getting out. I immediately knew they were going to come ask to talk to me about the Bible. There was a time in my life I dreaded these kinds of house calls, but today I inwardly smiled and immediately began to prepare for the visit. After an incredible and revealing week of Biblical research, a heart full of awe and wonder over our God, and a renewed longing to give every part of my life and being to the One who gave every part of His life and being for and to me, I knew He was bringing them to me, and I delighted at the thought. Silently and quickly, while poking at the dirt for a couple last moment, I sought to set my thoughts in order… I began to think on the fact of Christ in me, my flesh having no power over Christ in me, my lack of need to fear, and then I set my heart to trust Jesus in me to do His work through me.
“Ma’am? Can we talk to you about the Bible?”
I turned and looked. Love filled me.
“Yes! I’d love that!”
I won’t relay every part of our conversation that ensued, but this part I will:
“We’re His witnesses,” they said. “That just means we tell people about Him. God told us to be His witnesses for Him on this earth, so that’s what we’re doing.”
A WITNESS OF CHRIST
This little part of our discussion keeps echoing in my mind because before they even approached me, I already knew that I’d be writing about surrender and love in this post today. And as they walked back to their car 15 or so minutes later, thinking of the blog post I needed to get inside to start writing, this question rose in my mind: What makes a witness of Christ a witness of Christ?
Right up front, I’ll submit what I believe is the answer to this question: A person who successfully witnesses of Christ before others, is a person through whom Christ Himself has either spoken, acted, or both, and in doing so, He Himself has somehow been unveiled to another person.
Let me unpack what I mean by this.
HUMANITY MADE FROM DIRT
In Eden, back in Genesis 3, after Adam had been created from the dirt of the ground, and after he and Eve were tricked into eating the fruit they were told would kill them, they discovered that they were indeed dead, that is, they were emptied of the glory of God (God’s definition of death) they originally possessed in their human bodies. Upon their discovering this, God came into the Garden to find them (at which time they hid from Him), and in being told what had all just gone down, Adam and Even (along with the dirt itself and all who would come from their bodies after them), were set under a curse. They would remain in the state they were in (emptied of glory)… until dust returned to dust (Gen. 3:19). From here, they were sent out of the Garden to live and work and, after exiting, were protected from reentering the Garden (Gen. 3:22-24)… in which was the Tree of Life, which eating from would cement their fate eternally, rather than temporarily.
The Bible tells us that the devil is the ruler of this world (John 12:31), and the prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2). This dirt of Earth is the territory he rules over right now. This dirt includes you and I, in our natural, made-from-dirt vessels we live in (Gen. 2:7). The Bible calls these vessels “the flesh”. Paul, in the book of Romans, says the flesh is our enemy (Rom. 7:23). He says it wars against the human mind. This means as long as a human functions from the natural man (the flesh), the person will live a life of slavery to the ruler of this dirt, opposing the work of God inside him or herself. He or she, by living according to the flesh, will essentially protect her or his own in-born slavery, and her or himself from God.
RESCUE FROM THE DIRT
And friends, this is what we needed rescue from. This is what Christmas (and Easter) was and is about. Jesus said…
“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL [good news] TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,” (Luke 4:18, quoted from Isaiah 61:1; NASB)
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son… (Col. 1:13)
TWO FORMS OF SERVICE
So here’s the thing: Romans 8:3-14 tells us that humans live according to the flesh (body of dirt) or according to the Spirit of God within us (given, we’ve believed the good news of Jesus’ cross-rescue for us, and so have the Spirit in us). We live according to master 1, the devil, or Master 2, God. Either way, humans are servants.
If this idea of being a servant makes you cringe a little, I hear you. But hang with me a little longer, and I think you’ll see the beauty (and not the oppression) in this concept! Keep in mind, our natural flesh (which wars against us) wants to turn us from truth, and easily feels offended by it. Let’s risk hanging in there long enough to find answers that make good, pure, lovely sense. Because I promise… God’s Word, when we arrive at it’s real meaning (this is important)… always always always makes profoundly pure, exceedingly good, and crazy lovely sense! If God’s Scriptures don’t sound this to you yet, consider that you perhaps haven’t understood them from God’s perspective yet… and consider bravely opening your mind to continue searching for His meaning! Consider bravely not giving up on the God of the Bible and His Christ yet!
So, back to the idea of being a servant, period; either of the darkness over and in our flesh (the devil), or of God in us via the Holy Spirit.
To give you a different perspective on being a servant, think of your body. And if you are not able to use your entire body, think about how the human body works when it is fully functioning. Your brain has a thought, it sends a signal to the part of your body you intend to move, and that part of your body moves. In this way, your body serves your mind. It does the will of your mind. Of course, your head and your body are all one cohesive creature, but if we break it down, it is legit to say your body serves your mind.
Incredibly, the Bible refers to the Church (all people who believe Jesus and His cross work for them) as the “body” of Christ. Not coincidentally, the Bible also refers to Christ as the head of the Church. And it tells the Church that she has the “mind” of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). So, Christ and the Church, together, make up one whole living organism. When we think of our bodies, we do not find it demeaning that they respond to our mind. In fact, if they do, and if we really consider it, we have much thankfulness and joy that our bodies do respond to the signals of our mind. Moreover, how much do we value and care for our bodies? How much do we want them to be healthy, fully functioning, and even beautiful? Now consider Christ, and His view of His body!
On the flip side, consider if we serve the domain of darkness, that is, the devil. If we do his will, we function as his body. Again, the Bible tells us that at all times we serve one “head” or the other. We work together, in unity, toward the same goal and purpose, with the same heart, for one “head” or the other.
WILLING BUT UNABLE
So in this, we can see that the way humans function by responding to one signal or the other… the thoughts of the flesh (darkness), or the thoughts of the Spirit (Light). This is not to say that we have no will. In fact, it is possible to choose our Master! To believe a certain master. To choose which thought we believe is true and which we’d like to respond to. But, as we’ll see, we’re really only free to respond to the Lord Jesus when we learn to consciously walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. This is because the flesh—these bodies—hold us captive from doing so. See how Paul describes the process of wanting to serve Jesus, but not being free to:
14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate… So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good… but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. (Excerpted from Romans 7:14-24)
WHAT SURRENDER IS
And this is where the idea of surrender comes in… the very concept I came to discuss today. If a person surrender’s himself to God, what this means is he or she surrenders the flesh over to the will of God in Christ Jesus. She denies the thoughts of the natural man (the flesh), and inwardly submits to Jesus, and not the flesh/devil, as her Master (Lord), her Head. She says no to the flesh, and yes to Jesus. She says no to being the devil’s body, and yes to being Christ’s body. She recognizes the devil came to steal, kill, and destroy her, and that God’s will and plans (though they may strongly feel contrary to the desires of the flesh), can only be good, lovely, pure, and good. Surrender involves the enslaved body being given over, that is, entrusted to God’s Spirit to do God’s will… To function as Christ’s body on this earth… To work all the marvelous and brilliant good His beautiful mind thinks!
“Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” (Romans 12:1)
THE PROBLEM OF OUR SLAVERY
But before we close this out, we must cover one remaining problem. Namely, we have NO ABILITY to not be slaves! We, as Paul, need to be SET FREE from the body of this death (this body emptied of God’s glory)! Paul’s solution? “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Master!” Jesus Christ, HAS ALREADY set man free from the body of this death! He already has set us free from the slavery of the flesh!!! HOW? Through His cross death! You may recall, the curse of Eden was in effect until “dust returns to dust” (Gen. 3:19). A human body has to return to dust before the slavery can be done away with. Christ died on the cross, taking our sins—our loss of God’s glory/inheritance—on Him. In other words, He took our non-heir status, our non-child-of-God position, our slavery, and all the works done from that position, upon Him. And then He died with it. He took that status and position to death. Then He was buried, dust returning to dust. And thus, we were set free from the slavery of our flesh. His resurrection in a filled-with-glory body (Rom. 6:4, Col. 2:9), was LIVING PROOF that His body was NO LONGER under the devil! The victory had been won, and humans set free from the captivity of their vessels!
What does this mean for us? If we believe this is what Jesus and His cross-work accomplished for us, we’ve been given the Holy Spirit in us! The MIND of Christ. The HEAD, Christ! BUT, we must know and understand this, walk by faith in this, and trust HIM in us, in order to walk according to the Spirit! It’s easy to default to walking in the flesh! Our flesh was not done away with on the cross! But our uncompromising servitude to it was! ONE DAY we WILL be set free from this flesh too, but until then, as long as we remain in it, we have been given the Spirit to supersede the enemy in it! Because He’s already broken the curse and destroyed our old slave-status, if we walk believing we don’t have to obey the flesh, believing the Holy Spirit can live victoriously in us instead, and trusting Him to do so… THEN we walk free! THEN we walk as the legit body of the beautiful mind of Jesus! THEN we can walk in unity and the love and wisdom and power of God!
ONLY ON THE BASIS OF FAITH
But we can know all this, and even consider it true, but not walk in the Spirit! IT happens only be faith! This is why we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7)!
WHAT A WITNESS IS
And this is how we really witness in the world. Christ Himself compels us in all we do and say. And then His Spirit energizes us to accomplish His wondrous thoughts. If He compels us, if He energizes us, then God Himself will surely be witnessed through us by others. Amen!?
Therefore, we must walk sober, constantly aware of the thoughts in our head. Constantly discerning between light and darkness (Heb. 5:14). We repeatedly choose and inwardly claim Jesus as our Master (Rom. 10:9), resisting the dark thoughts, and trusting He will 1) reveal His thoughts of Light to us and 2) energize our bodies and mouths to function from His good, lovely, pure thoughts and not ours (in the flesh).
8 Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 11 To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:8-11)
LOVE STIRRED UP
I don’t know about you, but this stirs up deep love in my heart for Jesus. Not only did He rescue me from the prince of this dark world and his control over my flesh, but every single thing He thinks is loving, pure, excellent, wise, beautiful, and good. He rescued me, in such a harrowing way—the only way possible, and now when He guides me, He “makes me lie down in green pastures, leads me beside still waters, He restores my soul.” Surrender and servanthood are not oppressive! Not if they’re to Jesus! In fact, Jesus did them first. He gave up Himself to God (Phil. 2:5-9). And in doing so, He gave Himself for and to us! So much so that now, when we serve Him, give up our slavery to darkness to serve Him in the Light, He responds by giving us even more…
“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)
He asks what He wishes, we do it for Him. We ask what we wish, He does it for us. He gave Himself away for us. We gave ourselves away for Him. He gives Himself to us. We give ourselves to Him. Round and round it goes. Love gives itself. Love gives itself. Love gives itself.
God gave Himself:
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son…. (John 3:16)
In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son… (1 John 4:10)
We love, because He first loved us…. (1 John 4:19)
We give ourselves:
And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments…. (2 John 1:6)
If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me…. (Mark 8:34
God gives even more:
If… My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you… (John 15:7)