The Encounter: The Surrender

We continued our series called The Encounter at Gateway Church in Austin.

This week, I shared on “The Surrender.”

Watch my message here (at the 20 minute mark):

Discuss ways to apply the message here:

Next Steps for your life group or family dinner.

Notes from my message are here:

In this series, we have promised that if you jump all in, you will experience God. I want to go one step further, if you open your heart and your mind, and fully surrender, God will do more in your life and through your life than you could ever ask or imagine.

Well, Let’s review our progression so far in this series.

First, week one was The Promise. John Burke challenged us to stay connected to God throughout the day.

We downloaded the 60 60 app which reminds us every hour with a Bible verse and a song to stay connected to God. The idea was to be intentional about reconnecting our hearts and minds to God throughout the day knowing that we naturally drift away.

Week two was The Voice. We discussed how God speaks through his Word, other people, a quiet whisper in our hearts, and even through dreams.  He reveals what he would like us to do.

Week three was The Response.  We decide whether or not we’re going to obey – even when we don’t feel like doing so. Often when God speaks into your life, he’ll ask you to take a leap of obedience to show we trust him. Real faith calls for a response.

This week we are looking at “The Surrender.”

This 60:60 experiment is an experiment of truly making God THE God of our lives – surrendering every aspect of our desire to “play God” or hold onto certain areas of our life or attempt to control others or control the future. Today is about completely trusting God with every area of our life.

It’s not too late to start the 60:60 Experiment or to restart.

Remember: it’s not about perfection but progress.

Jesus’ Last Message

We’ve been looking at an important night in the life of Jesus. It was a Thursday night when Jesus had His last night with His disciples. He shared an important message we have been looking at throughout this series and which can be found in John 14-17.

Jesus had washed the disciples feet as an example to them of becoming the servants of all. He had shared with them that He was the Way to the Father. He had taught them about the Spirit of God, also known as the Holy Spirit. He promised that even as He was going to leave that the Holy Spirit would be their Counselor, their Guide. He also taught them about “remaining in His love” and loving each other.

It is in that context that Jesus said something remarkable about what a relationship with God can be like.

9 “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.  10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.
– John 15:9-17

What an amazing invitation! We can experience the fullness of love – the completeness of joy! The fruit of the Spirit!

We can be friends with God! We are no longer servants of the King- which by the way is still an upgrade to the way we typically experience life in this broken world – we are His friends!

Jesus’ followers in that room that night were about to see love fully demonstrated as Jesus was about to freely “lay down His life for His friends” – an act which enables all of humanity to move from separated from God to a friend with God. The son of God, Jesus, held nothing back and gave all for us.

Jesus said “No greater love” than to lay down one’s life–that’s what surrender is-laying down our lives to serve and honor God.

When we are willing to lay down our lives for God – to fully surrender to God – you and I can have a real and vibrant relationship with God through Jesus!

In another place Jesus said the following:

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.…”
– Luke 9:23-24

Surrender is dying to ourselves daily so that we might love God and love people.

I love this definition of Surrender that I found.

Surrender: to agree to stop fighting, hiding, resisting, etc. because you know that you will not succeed

If we want to fully experience the life God has for us, we have to stop resisting what God wants to do!

To help us examine where we are now and where we could be if we fully surrendered to God, I want to look more in depth at this same Thursday night in the lives of some familiar people to help us. In the lives of four people we can see four different types of surrender:

  • conditional
  • circumstantial
  • selective
  • unconditional surrender

Conditional Surrender

I will give everything to Jesus if He does for me what I’ve asked of Him.

Some of us have approached God with certain conditions. We will trust God if he protects us, protects our family, provides for us, and keeps bad things from happening to us.

This isn’t full surrender. The danger in a conditional surrender is that you haven’t really surrendered. You have set the terms. As a result, when bad things happen or when circumstances change, rather than turning to God and to the church, we turn our backs on God and turn our backs on community. We kiss Jesus goodbye.

On that Thursday night 2000 years ago, one of Jesus’ followers did just that and his name was Judas.

Judas has been associated with his betrayal of Jesus. He is well known for how things ended for him, and things did not end well for Judas.

Even still, we forget he was a real person who left his job and family to follow Jesus for almost 3 years. Jesus invited him to be one of the 12 disciples. He was entrusted with the money. Judas saw Jesus in person. He heard Jesus teach with authority – saying things that were so remarkable. Judas saw Jesus walk on water, feed the 5000 and heal people. It appears that Jesus even healed Judas’ father of leprosy. Judas had every opportunity to truly surrender his life and his heart to Jesus.

So what happened?!

Now most think Judas was motivated by one of two things.

  1. Perhaps Judas was so consumed with greed that he thought he would betray Jesus for 30 silver coins to make some money.

I don’t think that was it. Once Judas realized Jesus was headed to trial and towards crucifixion, he seemed to regret everything. It was as if he had not realized what would happen.

I don’t think it was greed that motivated Judas. I think it was pride.

Judas felt he knew better than Jesus did what needed to happen.

  1. You see, Judas followed Jesus because of his own agenda. Judas wanted a political revolution. Judas wanted Jesus to overthrow the Roman government.

Judas was trying to force Jesus’ hand to move faster. Judas wanted the political revolution to begin sooner than later. By turning Jesus over to the authorities, Jesus would be compelled to fight back. The disciples would fight back. The revolution would begin.

Jesus did not have aspirations for a political revolution but a spiritual one.

Jesus did not fight back. Jesus was ready for the cross. Jesus had told the disciples He would die and rise again. Somehow Judas missed this! Judas listened with selfish ears – only hearing what he wanted to hear.

Judas became so distraught that Jesus was not fighting back and so distraught that Jesus was heading towards the cross. He hung himself on a tree that was at the edge of a cliff. Eventually the rope or the tree limb broke and his body fell to the bottom of ravine. Such a tragedy.

How did it get so bad for this man who walked with Jesus?

I think some of us have thought, you know if I could actually see Jesus then I would believe! If I saw God walking among us and doing the miraculous, I would absolutely fully surrender.

The problem with that is there were people who were there for everything but they didn’t actually see everything.

Pride blinds us.
We’re so busy thinking about ourselves that we miss all God has for us!

Judas had his own agenda and his own plan. He believed he knew better than the Son of God what needed to be done.

Before the betrayal and the arrest, Jesus could read the heart of this friend who would betray him. During that last meal together, the Scriptures tell us in John 13:

“Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.”

The disciples looked around at each other and wanted to know: Who Is It?!

26 Jesus answered, “It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.” Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 As soon as Judas took the bread, Satan entered into him.

So Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do quickly.” 28 But no one at the meal understood why Jesus said this to him. 29 Since Judas had charge of the money, some thought Jesus was telling him to buy what was needed for the festival, or to give something to the poor. 30 As soon as Judas had taken the bread, he went out. And it was night.
John 13:21, 26-30

Think about what’s happening. Judas was already bitter. Judas was already giving up on Jesus. Judas wanted Jesus to do something Jesus was not willing to do.

In this tense moment, Jesus clearly stated that the betrayer would take the bread. Judas had a decision to make. He could have refused to take the bread. He could have said no: I won’t betray you! There were plenty of others scheming to kill Jesus. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross would have happened regardless.

Vs. 27 tells us it was the moment that Judas took the bread from Jesus that Judas opened the door for evil to take over. Think about that moment: Judas heard what Jesus said and even still took the bread. Judas looked into the eyes of Jesus and took the bread declaring in his heart: “that’s right Jesus. I am going to betray you, because you betrayed me.”

Let’s be honest – really honest for a moment.

I imagine all of us have slipped into thinking we know better than God sometimes. We feel we know what’s best for our lives or even for the lives of others or even for our world. If only God would do this or if only God had stopped that from happening…. Then all would be better.

It’s in those moments, we are stepping into the enemy’s territory, into the realm of darkness, into the same place Judas operated. You see, the enemy, Satan has dominion on earth for a short time. He was an angel expelled from God’s presence due to his pride.

The Scriptures tell we draw closer to God when we are humble, but we are walking away from Him when we are proud.

Some of us have not ever surrendered our hearts and lives and the way we live to God because we are waiting for him to do what we want Him to do. Our pride is keeping us from a loving and real relationship with God!

Some of us have convinced ourselves we have it all together and don’t really need any more from God. We’ve got it all figured out. Our pride has confused religion for a relationship. We think being religious is the way to go because religion gives us the sense of earning God’s favor. God invites us into a relationship.

Others of us may have truly surrendered our lives at one point, but we have started taking things back from God. Or we now have new relationships or new situations onto which we have held on to thinking we know best.

God resides among the humble. Pride takes us into the darkness.

When we follow Jesus for what we can get from him we are in danger of becoming someone who will betray Him and walk away from Him when we don’t get our way.

Here’s what’s amazing about God: if you’ve allowed pride to slip into your heart, your next to step is simply to admit that to God. Ask him to forgive you, and choose to follow His leading – no matter what it may be with humility and with trust. That’s how you move from conditional to unconditional surrender.

Let’s consider another person in our story who represents another type of surrender. This might be where you struggle.

Selective Surrender

We feel like we have fully surrendered. We really want to follow after Jesus, and we really try to do so, but sometimes we get ahead of ourselves. We think we’ve arrived. We think we have surrendered all, but things get difficult. Suddenly we have to put our faith into action, and we fail.

We have good intentions but we act before we seek out Jesus for wisdom.

In that same dinner conversation where Jesus spoke to Judas, Jesus warned Peter that he wasn’t as fully surrendered as he thought he was. Jesus spoke of going away to which… 

36 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?”

Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”

37 Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”

38 Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!
– John 13:36-38

Peter couldn’t believe it! He would never deny Jesus! He was willing to lay down his life – the very definition of surrender!

Often, we have enough faith to handle what we’ve already experienced,
but we need to continue to rely on God to grow in our faith to handle the new challenges life brings.

We don’t realize our level of surrender is selective until we face a difficult situation.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy,” ~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Peter was with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.

We talked about this moment last week. While Jesus prayed with anguish about what was to come, he sweat drops of blood. When Jesus needed his inner circle with him the most, he looked over and found them asleep.

Peter was one of the ones Jesus said: “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Sometimes, it’s not in the big things for God that we fail, sometimes we miss what God wants because we aren’t awake. We aren’t fully present.

  • We are busy.
  • We are going through our day with what we have planned.
  • We lack margins to even pause and see what God wants from us – to see the needs he wants us to meet all around us.
  • We live such stressed out lives that we try to relax with tv, food, alcohol, or smoking out.
  • We may be awake but we are not aware.

Jesus warns those who follow Him to stay awake – stay aware – stay alert!

It was then that once again Peter’s faith was tested even more.

Right after Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, Luke writes:

49 When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” 50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.

51 But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.
– Luke 22:47-5

Jesus’ followers don’t know what to do. Jesus are you allowing this? Or are you wanting us to fight back?

Well, one of the disciples doesn’t wait for Jesus to answer. He grabs a sword and starts swinging!

Can you guess who that was?! It was Peter! He just started swinging!

If we are honest, we have all faced a moment like this. We really want to live a fully surrendered life, but once chaos hits we realize our default is still to try to fix things in our own way. We have surrendered until it doesn’t make sense. We don’t like to be uncomfortable or inconvenienced so we act first and pray later.

Maybe you are here today and you realize you need to stop swinging!

  • You need to stop trying to fix things.
  • You need to surrender!
  • Trust Him!

God’s ways are not our ways. He is surprising, counter-intuitive, and all knowing, and completely trustworthy!

Later that night, Peter was confronted three different times about his relationship with Jesus. Three times Peter denied he knew Jesus. Denied he knew him. Denied he followed him.

Peter’s response to his failure was far different than Judas. Peter came back to Jesus.

Don’t let a defeat defeat you.

After Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead. Jesus forgave Peter for those denials and restored him to ministry. Peter experienced the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Peter became a leader in the Church, and eventually he died for his faith. Tradition tells us he refused to be crucified saying he was unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus, so his captors crucified him upside down.

In what areas do you suspect God is asking you to trust Him, but you’ve been resistant to even consider it?

Circumstantial Surrender

Pilate was another important person on this fateful Thursday night 2000 years ago. He had the power to release Jesus, but the peer pressure was too much for him to overcome. He acknowledged he did not find anything wrong with Jesus, but he was more concerned with pleasing people and keeping his position of power than choosing to trust Jesus.

The Scriptures tell us that Pilate wanted to release Jesus. He found no reason to keep in prison or to send him to the cross to be executed. He thought he would reason with the crowd. Pilate had Jesus beaten thinking that would be enough to satisfy the angry crowd. It wasn’t. Then Pilate thought he would offer to release a terrorist or Jesus assuming they would choose to release Jesus. Once again, Pilate was wrong. Pilate’s wife even had a dream warning him not to get involved. Unfortunately, Pilate, like too many of us men, did not listen to his wife.

Instead, he let the crowd and his fear of losing his power determine his actions.

Frustrated, Pilate tried to get Jesus to plead for his release. Instead, Jesus was willing to lay down his life.

The final exchange between Pilate and Jesus can be found in John 18.

“Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the crowd gathered there…

– John 18:35-38

Rather than having the courage to make his decision on his own, Pilate turned to the crowd to help him make his decision or in an attempt to abdicate responsibility.

Earlier that very night, Jesus had said to his disciples: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6

Pilate looked at Truth right in the eye and asked: “What is truth?”

Each of us has to decide for ourselves: “What is truth?” “Who is truth?”

  • Is your faith circumstantial?
  • Does your faith carry on outside of these doors?
  • Do you allow the world around you to keep you from living out your faith?
  • Do you allow your desire for power or position to keep you from trusting Jesus?
  • Or are you willing to be counter-cultural and allow your faith to guide you in every area of your life?

So what do we do? How can we avoid conditional, selective, or circumstantial surrender so that we might experience all that God has for us?

Unconditional Surrender

As always, our ultimate example is Jesus.

Back in the Garden where those closest to Jesus fell asleep, Jesus was troubled and overwhelmed with sorrow as He knew His death was imminent. It was then that Jesus prayed…

“My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” – Matthew 26: 39

Seeing his friends asleep…

42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” – Matthew 26: 42

Jesus prayed the same thing again a third time. On the same night, Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus surrendered His future to the Father three times.

Jesus gave us the perfect human illustration of full surrender: “not my will but Yours will be done.”

We will only experience all God has for us – the love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control He offers us – when we live for the will of God rather than our own will. Throughout the day our prayer needs to simply be: “not my will but Yours will be done.”

We can trust God. We can surrender to Him. He has good for us. He can bring good out of the bad. Success in God’s eyes is not the same as success in the eyes of the world.

Let go of whatever it is you are trying to pull off with your own power. Hold onto Him!

In which area do you need to surrender?

The world needs us to be fully surrendered so God can work in us and through us in ways beyond what we could ever ask or imagine!



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