April 17 – Nothing Less Than Complete Surrender

When Jesus heard his answer, he said, “There is still one thing you haven’t done. Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22)

Read: Joshua 15:1-63, Luke 18:18-43, Psalm 86:1-17, Proverbs 13:9-10

Relate: Jesus was a heretic. No, wait, please… before you go running for the exit, please hear me out. By our standards of orthodoxy He had to have been. What He taught all too often doesn’t seem to line up with our rigorous definitions of sound theology. I’m serious (sort of). Just take for example the way He answers the most important question anyone could ever ask: “What must I do to inherit eternal life.” Two different times someone comes to Him asking this question. Both times He seems to get the answer wrong.

I mean, seriously. What was He thinking? By the time I was in third grade I had learned by rote at least three different “proper” ways to answer this question. The first was called the ABC’s of salvation: Admit you are a sinner, Believe that Jesus died for your sins, Confess your need for Him. The second way was called the Romans road. Basically, you cherry pick various verses out of Paul’s epistle to the Romans to show a person the same thing as the ABC’s. The third way and easiest by far was to simply get a person to repeat with you the sinner’s prayer. Any of these three methods will work, but Jesus doesn’t use any of them.

The first time someone asks this question of Jesus, he responds by asking a few leading questions and then launches into the story of the Good Samaritan. After sharing that parable He says, “Go and do the same.” Then… Oh wait, that’s it. There is no prayer. There is no “repeat after me”. Jesus just tells him to do. He tells the one asking to go be the Good Samaritan. The second time someone asks this question Jesus again starts with a few leading questions and then again He tells him to go do. This time the doing involves selling everything the man has and then following Jesus. But what about “admit your sins”? What about “confess and believe”? Why on earth is Jesus calling these men to act? Doesn’t He know that works-salvation is heresy? Isn’t salvation supposed to be a heart issue? Doesn’t He know that we are saved by what we believe and not by what we do?

React: Sometimes I think that in our effort to nail down the perfect theology we have made things a bit too easy. We today are the product of an enlightenment, rationalist mindset. We have formulated, organized, and systematized the life out theology. In some ways this is good. It makes it easier to grasp and understand certain things of God. Is this trade off worth it? We have created ways where people can give an intellectual or emotional assent to what we are saying and fool themselves into thinking that is enough to be a Christian. Today we tend to be great at getting converts but horrible at making disciples. God has called us to be Christ followers, not nominal believers. The call to discipleship is a call to nothing less than complete surrender. Am I willing to take it up?

Respond: 

Dear God, 

You are the pearl of greatest price. Help me to give up everything else I have that I might gain You. Help me to die to myself, my dreams, my accomplishments, and my treasures. Help me to understand that compared to You they are nothing. All I want is You. Help me to want to want You more. Let everything else fade to black.
Amen

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11 thoughts on “April 17 – Nothing Less Than Complete Surrender

  1. Hi! Been following your blog for awhile, and I love your posts. Would love to share the Catholic perspective- we believe that we are neither saved by faith nor good works, salvation cannot be earned. Rather it is a gift freely given to anyone who becomes a child of God. We believe that good works as acts of faith play a role in our justification. “Do our works mean anything? According to Jesus they do (Matthew 25:31-46). The people rewarded and punished are done so by their actions. And our thoughts (Matthew 15:18-20) and words (James 3:6-12) are accountable as well. These verses are just as much part of the Bible as Romans 10:8-13 and John 3:3-5.”

    God love you. Blessed Easter! 🙂

  2. I agree that we have simplified faith way too much. But I also think that we share Jesus the way we do because we aren’t Him. Just think about it… In both these examples Jesus could see the asker’s heart and motivation for asking the question in the first place. So He led them to whatever was holding them back from following Him. Then it was their choice to make what they were going to “do” with that. If you look at John 3 where Jesus is answering the same question from someone who rationalizes God’s word much like we do He gives the answers many of us give, very similar to the A,B,C’s of faith but equally as difficult for the asker to grasp. Just some thoughts but, I loved the post!

    • Actually, these are the only two times recorded someone asks him about eternal life. When Nicodemus comes to Jesus, he is asking about His identity. The point, though, is that each time Jesus met that person at the point of their spiritual need while we all too often use a cookie cutter formula that has proven ineffective for making true disciples more often than not.

      • You’re right just went back and read that chapter again.
        However, while I agree the cookie cutter formula doesn’t work, isn’t it true that someone must be saved by Christ before they have the ability to become disciples at all? That being said I don’t think it’s wrong either to start with the cookie cutter and then to let God use that for His purposes.

        • When scripture talks of being saved, it refers at different times to three things: justification (“it is by grace you are saved”), sanctification(“work out your salvation”), glorification(for in this hope we are saved”)
          Too often we refer to being “saved” only as the first of these. In doing so, we have all too often made it the end goal of our mission rather than the starting line of our race.
          The problem I have with cookie cutter methods is that it replaces the prompting and leading of the Holy Spirit which will be different person to person based on their spiritual needs, experiences and cultural circumstances with a well crafted “sales pitch” that only tries to get people to commit to that end goal which should really be a starting line.

        • Absolutely, this is a starting line. Unfortunately, you’re right. Many Christians when sharing their belief use salvation as the ultimate goal then leave a baby believer to wonder what exactly they’re supposed to do with this new faith. Instead we should be showing them the starting line and coaching them through the race. Without some form of support none of us would’ve made it very far. Paul had the same concern you have for the baby churches he was planting which is why he writes and prays so adamantly in 1 Thessalonians 3:1-3 “So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy who is our brother and God’s fellow worker in spreading the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we were destined for them.” Paul had only been ably to be with them for a few short weeks, which made it all the more important for him to know that these knew believers would learn how to run their race with all its costs. This concern seems to run through his other letters as well. So I agree fully with you that salvation is only step 1 and that there must be more than that in the conversation. So, I guess what my question would be is: if cookie cutter methods are used to start the conversation but you stick around for all the discipleship that follows would that be alright? Not perfect…just a good starting place for someone who isn’t good at sharing their faith with others until they get some more experience through their own discipleship with other older and wiser believers?

  3. Enjoyed reading your post. I especially agree with the “Today we tend to be great at getting converts but horrible at making disciples”. Many “churches” have water or dumbed down the gospel and the Whole Counsel of God to the point that its about putting bodies in the pews and not about the Christ’s mandate in Mathew 28:18-20.

  4. Thank you for writing this – you have expressed some thoughts I’ve had for years but never figured out an answer to!

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