Closer to You Than to Me
- 2002 9 Sep
Christ has called for unconditional surrender-death to the flesh-for all who would follow Him. When we become Christians, we are "crucified with Christ" (Rom 6:6; Gal 2:20), our rebellious sin nature is put to death with Christ when He died on the cross. And yet, in practical terms, "the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another" (Gal 5:17). There are still times, in other words, when we don't feel like surrendering-we'd rather die than give up our independence, our individuality, and our indecencies. But Jesus draws a firm line in the sand: "Whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:27).
Jesus offers one term of surrender: The cross you died on positionally must be the cross you live on personally, each and every day. For the saints of God, surrender leads to an entirely new kind of life. In fact, we are born again to a new and living hope (John 3:3; I Peter 1:3). But to experience that life we have to surrender not just once but every day.
There are numerous examples of saints in Scripture who chose life by surrendering. First, think of Job. Though he was assailed with greater calamities than most of us will ever face, a prayer of surrender was found frequently on his lips: "'The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.' In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong" (Job 1:21-22).
The truest test of whether we are surrendered to the Lord is in times of personal defeat. Pride says, "Rise up and fight!" But the Spirit says, "Surrender and live." Job was wise enough to know the difference-and he lived (Job 42:10-17).
Jonah might be the surrendered saint we most readily identify with. In the end, he realized it was better to be closer to God than to himself. He was brought to the surrender ceremony kicking and screaming, with both heels dug into the sand. He wanted nothing to do with God's terms of surrender: "Go to Nineveh and preach a message of judgment to the Ninevites." Thank you, No. Jonah did an about face and hopped the first ship headed for Spain. You know the rest of the story.
From the belly of a great fish Jonah prayed his prayer of surrender: "I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD" (Jonah 2:9). Jonah learned it was better to surrender sooner rather than later. He went to Nineveh and God used him mightily.
Finally, the one for whom the stakes were the largest was Jesus Himself. Even as a young boy He sensed the need to be surrendered to the will of His Heavenly Father (Luke 2:49). And at the outset of His public ministry He was offered surrender terms by the devil himself-which terms He soundly rejected (Luke 4:1-13). He made it to His last night on earth able to say, "I have finished the work You gave Me to do" (John 17:4). Yet His greatest challenge came just moments after He said those words.
When Jesus prayed His prayer of surrender, "Not My will, but Yours, be done" (Luke 22:42), He set the pattern for surrender for all who would follow Him into the kingdom of heaven. Ultimately, no one who says to God, "I'd rather be close to me than to You," enters the kingdom of heaven. No one goes to heaven who says to God, "Not Thy will, but mine be done." The ruler of hell itself earned his position with just such words as those (Isaiah 14:12-14).
How do we accept Christ's terms of surrender, living daily on the cross? Begin each day with a prayer of surrender: "Lord, today I surrender my life to You. I choose Your will to be done, not mine. I want to be closer to You, God, than I am to myself. I accept Your terms for my life today and purpose to live personally the crucified life which I received positionally through faith in Christ. I ask You to give me grace to be a surrendered soldier of the cross today. Amen."
This article was excerpted from Turning Points, Dr. David Jeremiah's Devotional Magazine. Call Turning Point at 1-800-947-1993 for your complimentary copy of Turning Points.