Jesus trail led to a place marked “sacrifice”

6 02 2016

 Jesus died a sacrificial death at Golgotha.

In Gethsemane, Jesus surrendered His will to God’s salvation plan, a plan which required the suffering and death of Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus repeatedly said that His sacrifice was given willingly, “I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:15b). And again,

“Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (John 10:17-18).

The greatest expression of love brought about this greatest spiritual transaction of time and eternity.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

No human can possibly fathom the magnitude of the work which the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – were accomplishing during those hours of crucifixion. The Bible tells of a horrendous and merciful exchange in which Jesus took upon Himself the sin of the entire world:

“For He [God the Father] made Him who knew no sin [God the Son] to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

Even as the righteous Son of God bore our punishment, we receive His purity if we will simply place our trust in Him.

When the debt of our sin had been fully paid, Jesus declared, “It is finished” (John 19:30)! In His final act of relinquishment, Jesus said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit’” (Luke 23:46).

Maybe, in eternity, Jesus will allow us to see into the glory of His sacrifice for the sin of the whole world. Maybe we will be able to comprehend, even in the smallest way, what holy joy there was when in the merging of human and divine Jesus knew the curse had been fully born, and He could cry out in victory, “It is finished.” And just maybe we will be unable to contain our admiration and gratitude when we glimpse His relief at casting Himself into the welcoming embrace of the Father. He had anticipated since the fall of mankind to finally commit His spirit back to God, having completed His work.

 SUMMARY: The Marker of Sacrifice

  1. Event in Jesus’ experience: Crucifixion at Golgotha
  2. How Jesus led: Death
  3. Your task: Follow Jesus in sacrifice
  4. Key phrase: “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit’” (Luke 23:46).
  5. Key verses: Luke 23:26-49; John 10:14-18; John 12:24-26; Gal. 2:20
  6. The symbol: The Cross

My spiritual crisis at a Bible college

5 02 2016

1.1e     Practical counsel for the disciple at the marker of surrender.

I entered my college years planning to be an architect. I wanted to make a large income, live in nice homes, and drive nice cars. My father required me and all my siblings to attend a Bible college our first year – which I did. That year was very upsetting to me. I saw around me fellow students and professors that were living with a love for Jesus that I did not have, even though I was the son of a pastor and a leader in the youth group. Their commitment to Jesus as Lord exposed my self-centeredness. I realized Jesus was merely a convenient friend who I could consult if I needed on my way to the lifestyle I planned. Jesus was my Savior but not Lord of my life. I was miserable. I sat in Bible classes and did not know if I believed any of it. I was in a spiritual crisis. From my despair I told God that if He showed Himself true that I would not continue with my plan, but that I would give everything including my career to Him. After some months of wrestling, and I mean they were miserable months, I finally concluded that, even though I still had questions about God and the Bible, I would rather take the risk of pleasing God with my doubts than pleasing myself with my money! I surrendered my future to God and have never regretted it. I was so relieved to place everything in His hands, even though I had no idea where His path would lead.

Have you arrived at the marker of surrender? Do you sense that God is asking you to do what He desires instead of something you would rather do? You may already know what God is asking of you, or you may have a general sense that what you have held back from God must be surrendered to Him. Surrender is any relinquishment you need to make in order to move forward with God. You may need to surrender a

  • sinful habit
  • an addiction
  • an inappropriate relationship
  • something or someone you treasure as much as or more than God
  • an ambition that you are asking God to bless but that He has not given you

Or this may not be a call away from something that stands in the way. It may be a call to a higher plane of service. It may be a reward for your previous faithfulness. Like Jesus, you may be ready for the next phase of your purpose for living. What an honorable place to be!

If you are at a trail marker of surrender, you need to wake up and be very alert to your spiritual journey. Don’t be apathetic about this. Get yourself deeply into the Word and prayer. Yes, this is going to be difficult, but it is the only way to continue moving ahead on the Jesus way. God intends this for your growth and His glory. God is able. And in Him, so are you!

God has prepared you for this. He would not ask you to undergo more than you can bear. He has confidence that you will respond in obedience. Take confidence in His assessment of you, and that which He has allowed.

Pray for the grace of indifference (mentioned in the previous section), in which you desire nothing more than the will of God – nothing more, nothing less, nothing other. Pray persistently until you are at that place of indifference. When you are there, you will say “nevertheless.”

Jesus knows the agony of surrender. He is with you in the place where you are now. In His life, Jesus came to a point of conceding to the will of the Father, saying “nevertheless.” Listen to Him, and lay your concerns before Him. He understands the internal resistance and the temptation to bail out. Allow the Spirit of God to walk with you through this time.

Do not hurry. It is more important that you understand what God is asking than it is for you to get past this phase. Pray at length and ask God to make it clear what He desires for you to lay down for His glory.

If you feel alone, acknowledge your loneliness to God. Jesus was alone in His Gethsemane. His inner circle of disciples fell asleep. Do not be angry when others cannot identify with your agony or struggle. They are not at the same place you are at this time. God may bring them to their own Gethsemane at a later time and way that is appropriate for them. Remember that you are not actually alone. The One who surrendered first is there with you.

Pour your heart out to God. Jesus was sorrowful and deeply distressed. He fell on His face as He struggled with God (Matt. 26:37-39). You have the freedom to wail before the Lord. He is not threatened by your emotions, doubts, or anger. But do not shake your fist at God or harden your heart to Him, because this gives an opportunity for Satan to take advantage of you.

Take note of temptation to avoid or cut short the process of full surrender. Acknowledge that such resistance is from the pull to conform to the world, from your fleshly nature of self-sufficiency, and ultimately from Satan himself.

Jesus learned obedience. You can learn obedience too. This is a furnace that will purify your heart, and burn away more of what is not of God. You will look back on this time as one of the hardest but one of the best times of your life. You are on the way to giving greater honor and glory to God.

Do not knowingly hold back any part of your heart from God. If you are not sure of the extent of your surrender, ask the Holy Spirit to show you any areas that God wants you to surrender. If you feel you have surrendered everything that God asks at this time, relax and don’t obsess over it any more. Rather, thank God by faith.

Review and reflect on prior parts of this section. Meditate on the scriptures. Memorize at least one which speaks directly to your situation.

Rejoice that you have the privilege of sharing in the surrender of Jesus. His Gethsemane was excruciatingly difficult. Imagine having to surrender to a brutal future knowing that you are the very Son of God who had every right to enjoy the glories of heaven! Enter in and bask in the unique privilege of fellowship with the Son of God in the agony of surrender.

Journal other practical wisdom you are gaining in your own journey.

SIDEBAR: Possible experiences at the Marker of Surrender

3 02 2016


Possible experiences at the Marker of Surrender

  • Choice
  • Confrontation
  • Call
  • Crisis
  • Clash
  • Battle
  • Appointment
  • Agree with God
  • Yield
  • Decision
  • Agonize
  • Confess
  • Say no to self, yes to God
  • Bargaining
  • Repent
  • Denial
  • Others? (How you describe?)

Watch for the predator of prideful self-sufficiency.

3 02 2016

The Jesus way is not a peaceful stroll through a meadow alive in glorious sunlight. Yes, there will be patches of ease and times when all seems well in your world. But the reality is that you trek through terrain that always holds danger. There are “predators” which intend to ensnare the disciple.

We are already beginning to see this warfare in Jesus’ blazing the trail. Satan sought to snuff out Jesus’ life as a baby. The magi refused to identify the messiah to Herod so he had all children in Bethlehem two years and younger killed to try to eliminate the Christ child (Matt. 2:17). Immediately after Jesus began His public ministry with water baptism, He had to undergo three temptations from Satan himself (Matt. 4:1-11). For years He was continually criticized by the religious establishment (for example Matt. 15:1-20), and abandoned by some of His disciples (John 6:66). In Gethsemane the attack came as an internal struggle to obey. The temptation was real for Christ,

“who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:7-9).

The predators who await you on the trail are easily recognized. You will not be surprised as to who or what they are, but you will still need to be always alert to the ways and times they appear. John names them this way:

“For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:16).

As we are called into Gethsemane-like struggles, personal thoughts or counsel from others which resist the call to surrender must be seen as predatory attacks from the evil kingdom. In Jesus’ calling, He began to tell the disciples that He would suffer, be killed and rise again (Matt. 16:21). Peter was well-meaning when he protested, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You! (Matt. 16:22). But notice the source of this resistance:

“But He [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men’’ (Matt. 16:23).

Our fleshly nature is full of pride which wants its own way. It wants to depend on no one, and yield to no one. We are taught to take control of our lives, and to work out our own problems. We are rewarded when we show ourselves to be self-reliant. No wonder we find it difficult to surrender decisions and outcomes to another, even God.

When you find yourself in a Gethsemane-like experience, seek to identify prideful expressions of your fleshly nature. Note the resistance to surrender which rises up in your heart and mind. Hold this resistance up to the Father and test the motive behind it. Is it a subtle attempt to preserve your reputation, your lifestyle, or your autonomy? Even Jesus learned obedience though the things He suffered. How much more are we to learn to obey when God calls us to surrender to His will.

There is an ancient spiritual discipline taught by Ignatius called the grace of indifference or detachment. This points, not to apathy, but to a holy trust in God’s good purpose for your life, such that you are indifferent to anything other than the will of God. Reaching such a point of detachment from one particular choice over another can be an arduous process of prayerful surrender, but that can be the place where, like Jesus, we pray “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” That is the holy ground where we turn the corner from self-preservation to surrender .

…to be continued

[Back to index]

The beginning point for following Jesus

31 01 2016

 Surrender to God’s will is the beginning point for following Jesus.

Any disciple who desires to share in the victory of Christ must share in His surrender to the will of God. This was made painfully clear the His disciples James and John. Their mother approached Jesus and asked if they could have the privilege of sitting on either side of Jesus in His kingdom. Jesus spoke to the two brother with these words.

“You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with” (Matt. 20:22)?

Note the parallel between drinking the cup of suffering and baptism with Christ, for this will figure later in our trail guide. But for now, follow along with the conversation. The two brother affirmed, “We are able.” We must credit them with their zeal even as we wonder if they had any conception of what was ahead for Christ. Jesus was gracious with them:

“You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with, but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father” (Matt. 21:23).

As with James and John, disciples of Jesus today must drink the cup of Christ if we are to follow Him. We must be baptized with the baptism He underwent.

As a disciple of Jesus Christ, your personal desires will sometimes clash with God’s desires. Or you will face a decision between two or more options. In some cases, neither of two options will be clearly sinful or wrong. But as a disciple, you will want to be confident that you are choosing the path God wants you to choose. In such a Gethsemane-like experience, your challenge is to surrender your will to God’s. Jesus made this point very clear:

“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:24-25).

The disciple of Jesus can only find spiritual happiness by entrusting his entire life to the purpose of God. It seems ironic and even illogical, but happiness comes only through obedience, and obedience to God is only possible by denying desires which run counter to God’s will.

[back to index]