“Live from Godliness not giftedness.” – Joni Eareckson Tada
Can’t remember where or when I first heard that quote, but as I was cleaning my office the other day, I stumbled upon a sticky note that I’d written it on. And it hit me hard, maybe even harder than the first time I heard it.
Because in the weeks leading up to re-discovering that sticky note, I’d been reading an old devotional called “Abiding in Christ,” by Andrew Murray, originally published in 1895, but more recently modernized in a 2003 publication by Bethany House Publishers. The entire focus of that devotional (which is the most excellent devotional I’ve ever read), is the concept of abiding in Christ, which is deeply explored in the parable of the vine that Jesus tells in John 15, and which is, if we’re honest, the central component of the entire Christian life after conversion.
One of the paragraphs in that book reads, “entire surrender to Jesus is the secret of perfect rest. Giving up one’s whole life to Him to rule and order, taking up His yoke, and allowing ourselves to be led and taught of Him, abiding in Him, to be and do only what He wills—these are the conditions of discipleship without which there can be no thought of maintaining the rest that was bestowed on first coming to Christ. This rest is in Christ, not something He gives apart from himself, and so it is only in having Him that the rest can really be kept and enjoyed.”
Wow. In the past few years of my life, that has become clearer than ever through my personal growth in Christ. The only times I’ve felt peace is when I’ve completely surrendered my life to him, and sought to abide in him and to, in faith, live out the Christian life. This means daily dedication to prayer and restful worship, prioritizing loving Christ over all else, and reading the Scriptures daily. It means giving him my everything in return for his everything. And it looks like actually responding to the commands in Scripture, and re-organizing my life according to his word.
Now, I can say with Paul, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.” -Philippians 3:12-15
This begs the question: In what ways have we not totally surrendered to Christ? In what ways have we refused to abide in Christ and trust that he will bring about the completion of the good work he began in us?
It’s been a great comfort to me, as I’ve suffered through anxiety and significant trials these past two years, to remind myself that the Bible promises that all who are saved have been called by Christ. That we’ve literally been CHOSEN by Jesus himself, and he called us to himself, then pressed us into himself and changed our lives, because he wanted to. We are his because he made us his. And he promises to keep whoever is his until the end, and to perfect us.
In return, all we are called to do is surrender everything we have to him, and live by faith in him.
“The righteous shall live by faith.” -Romans 1:17
“Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.” – Romans 3:27
“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” – Mathew 21:22 (Speaking of Godly requests, such as to be given strength to endure, or to experience intimacy with Christ—this verse has been wrongly used to back the absolutely abhorrent “prosperity gospel,” which is nothing more than the American dream hijacking the Bible for its own greedy means. To be utterly clear, this verse does not mean, “Hocus Pocus, give me a Ford Focus.”)
“They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith.” – Romans 11:20
“so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” – 1 Corinthians 2:5
“for we walk by faith, not by sight.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” – 2 Corinthians 13:5
This is the test Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians: whether we abide in Christ through faith. The proof is in our fruit, which is grown through faith alone by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit inside us (which is the sense of God’s presence that we feel when we worship).
Are we bearing the fruit of the spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control? If we are lacking in any of those areas, we are lacking in faith and refusing to fully abide in Christ and surrender to him.
Let’s truly examine ourselves right now, and make certain that we’ve surrendered our lives. Because without faith, we are nothing. Without Christ, we have no life.
We call ourselves Christians. We’d better act like it.
Our lives have nothing to do with how gifted we are at building a church body, or succeeding in our ambitions, or becoming successful in business/art/writing/etc. Our lives are about whether or not we live a holy, surrendered life to Christ.
Are we burning for him? Or for our own pride? Are we living from godliness instead of from giftedness? These, I think, are sobering words for everyone.
Let’s not be a statistic. Surrender to Christ (I’m talking to myself, here). Abide in him and experience his rest. Enter into the abundant life he has for you today. And continue in it until you die and pass into eternity in his arms. Does that not sound like paradise? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Blessings, and stay safe and healthy this Christmas!