Apr. 13th, 2015 | Series: Empty is the New Full

Sermon Content

Mark 8:27-38 – Surrender is the new Freedom. Jesus invited his followers to some things that seemed a little bit crazy on the surface. On one occasion, he told them to lose their life and find what it means to truly live. His point was, the hard you try to hold onto, control, and preserve your life, the less you are actually able to live. Listen as we explore this counter-intuitive teaching of Jesus.

Surrender is the New Freedom – Mark 8:31-38

(Intro Summary – Pastor Ryan retells a story he heard from his English teacher about a good-looking 16-year old boy who had many suitors.  He turned all the suitors down feeling that none were good enough for him.  He was walking near a pond and looked in and saw a reflection of himself.  And found the love he’d been waiting for. This is the Greek myth about Narcissus.  When he tries to grab his reflection, the pond ripples and the image of his face is dispersed.  His image haunts himself for the rest of his life and he eventually dies near the pond.)

I’ve heard it said that Narcissus is the patron saint of humanity.  Not exactly a flattering statement about us as people, but, I would argue, a true one.  And I don’t know if we’ve done ourselves a lot of service in attaching strict clinical diagnoses around that word.  I don’t necessarily consider myself a diagnosed narcissist, but I know that I wrestle with well…..me.  I wrestle with wanting to be at the center of it all.  I think, in many ways, this Greek myth is a representation of the way that sin has distorted us.  The way that sin is distorting our souls….that it haunts us.  God designed us in His goodness and His grace and His glory to be outward focused beings, living in His vast universe in the joy and mercy He designed us for, but, if you read back to the very beginning of the story, Adam and Eve—the first thing they do is—turn from this outward focus, God-directed life and they focus on themselves.  They look into the pond and they go aren’t we beautiful.  Don’t we deserve more than we have?  And from that point on, you and I struggle with looking in that pond, thinking that people should acquiesce to my desires and should serve me and should come around me.  We cave in on ourselves, but in the passage we’re going to look at today Jesus is going to invite us to something better and something more.  It’s a paradox really.  He’s going to invite us to lose ourselves and in doing so find the real meaning behind why we were created by this benevolent, good, beautiful God.  I don’t know about you, but I struggle with that.  I find it a paradox to give up my life and find meaningful existence.  And a paradox is simply that at the onset seems untrue and unfathomable, but once you get inside of it you go it works!  It looks strange from the outside, it feels strange at the onset, but once you live it you’re able to look back and go you know what…that Jesus guy was right.

Mark 8 — Listen to the words and the invitation of Jesus.  Jesus has been walking with His disciples for a number of years at this point and He’s done some miraculous signs.  If you go back and sorta flip through the beginning of Mark you’ll see Him walk on water—does the moonwalk on the lake.  He’s fed 5000 people, He’s just healed a blind man and He enters into this conversation with his disciples.  Verse 27:  And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi.  And on the way {This is on the way to Jerusalem. He’s walking to His cross.  He’s walking to His death, His sacrificial death for His friends and for people that would follow after Him.}  …..and on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”  {Sometimes people ask a loaded question—this is one of them.  Jesus was essentially saying what’s the word on the street about me?  People have seen me heal, they’ve ate the food that I multiplied miraculously, so what’s the word on the street?  How do they explain the miraculous signs that are coming from me?}  And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” And he asked them, {Just to invite you into the passage…He asks us all this same question.  Every single one of us has to wrestle with this question that Jesus asks to His disciples.}  “But who do you say that I am?”  {You’re going to have to answer that question at some point. There’s really no grey area in the way that you answer it.  Some people will say—-like the people the disciples refer to—-he’s a good teacher or he’s a prophet or he’s a man of God, but that’s not the way that Peter answers the question.  Listen to what he says.}   Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.”   

This word “Christ” was a word that had centuries worth of baggage and hope and dreams attached to it.  The Christ (Messiah) was the king—the one who would come into Israel and free the Hebrew people from the tyrannical of the Roman empire.  These Romans who would drag their friends and their family outside of the village and really for no reason at all…..maybe they would start some insurrection, but they would put down that insurrection by putting men up on crosses.  And so the people he’s talking to would have seen that happen, would have known friends and family members who that happened to and the hope was the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed One and the King would come and show up and free them from the reign of these Roman folks. That’s the hope.  So then Peter says, “You are the Christ,” you are the hope of Israel, our freedom has come, you are now about to redeem. Verse 30:  And he (Jesus) strictly charged them to tell no one about him.

I’ve always wrestled with this, struggled with this because I’ve wondered well, Jesus, your instruction, your invitation to us is to tell everybody to the ends of the earth, but in your Scriptures you seem to keep this a little bit of a secret.  Isn’t that strange?  Yes….and no when you realize that the more word got out about Jesus, the less Jesus was able to be present with people.  So you see him sneaking away to the mountains to pray.  You see him taking his disciples on these little retreats in order to just get away from the crowds.  I think Jesus loved the crowds and loved the people, but also wanted to be known by a few.  So he goes alright, there’s going to be time to share, but, for know, just hold that between you and I.  You’re right, Peter, I am the Christ. Verse 31:  And he began to teach them {So after Peter’s affirmation–You are the Messiah, you are the Anointed One, you are the one who will free Israel–Jesus takes them and I’m sure he said, “Hey, look up at me!  Let’s talk!”  He teaches them.}   …teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.  

THIS is NOT the Messiah that Peter is hoping for!  This is not the “Christ/King” that he’s longing for.  Now, if he would have read back through the Old Testament with a lens looking for this he could have found it, but we often throw stones at Peter for not recognizing that the Messiah must suffer.  If you were to go back and you were to read it in the first century like they did, I guarantee there’s no way we would have seen it either…..at the onset.  We may have seen it on the back end after he raises from the dead.  But looking at it, where he’s looking at it, he’s going no, no, no, you don’t get it—-I said you were the Messiah.  And I(Jesus) told you that you were right! Well, the Messiah is suppose to reign and not suffer.  The Messiah is suppose to put Rome under His thumb, not submit to their way of death!  The Messiah’s suppose to bring hope and you’re telling us you’re going to die?!  To quote a famous philosopher, Charlie Brown, he said, “Winning ain’t everything, but losing ain’t anything.”  And it appears that Jesus is not only entering this for himself, but he’s inviting others to follow him in this way of death.  Here’s what Peter gets right: Peter gets right that God is going to win, that Jesus is going to be victorious, but he has no clue as to the way that this is going to happen.  Through sacrificial, self-giving love, not through ruling power and authority.  {Look up at me for a moment.}  For the last 1600 years, I think followers of Jesus, ever since the time of Constantine, have bitten that same hook, line and sinker.  We think Jesus is going to reign through power and through authority and through having a heavy-handed fist instead of through self-sacrificing, self-giving love.  We wrestle with this.  We would really rather him come and reign, sit on the throne that’s prepared for him by christendom and he says it’s still not my way.  That’s so not the way I rule.  That’s so not the way I reign.  Does God win?  YES!  But the question is HOW does God win?

Well, the account goes on–verse 33:  And he said this plainly. {That he was going to come and die and be resurrected.}   And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.  {Don’t you love this?!  Any of you that have kids, have you ever been “corrected” by your six-year old?  His world is this small and he says I don’t think you’re right.  I’m still smarter than you for the next year.  Settle down.  This is what Peter does.  He brings Jesus to the side because he’s respectful still of his Messiah and he goes I think you’ve got it wrong!  Now, I want to propose to you that Peter is simply saying what everybody else is thinking.  And here’s how I know this—you don’t have to raise your hand—how many of us have said to God, “God, I don’t like the way this is working out! And God, I don’t think you’re following the script—we had a plan here, didn’t we?  Didn’t you sign off on this?”  Like, I was suppose to get that job.  I was suppose to marry that guy.  I was suppose to get into that school.  It just doesn’t seem like you’re holding up your end of the bargain, Jesus.  You’re not following the script…..that’s all Peter says to Jesus.  And I think you and I have this desire to choreograph and control and so we’ll often say back to God the very same thing that Peter says to him.  Hey, Messiah, Christ, Lord that’s not the way it’s suppose to go.  You’re not suppose to suffer, you’re not suppose to die.  You’re suppose to come and you’re suppose to reign.  But Peter has an idea that God is going to win, he just has no idea how it’s actually going to happen—that it’s going to happen, not through power, but through love; and not through conquering, but through sacrifice; and not through control, but through surrender; and not through self preservation, but through resurrection.  That’s how it’s going to happen.  And Peter is called out—listen to the way that Jesus does this.  Verse 33.}  But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! {Not hey, you got some theological issues there we gotta iron out.  You start to get the picture, the more you read Jesus, that there’s not a whole lot of grey with him.  It’s almost as though you’re either with him or you’re against him.  And he says that to Peter—Get behind me, Satan—well, why is Peter satan?}  ..For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”  {Uh oh!  How many of us just got lumped in with Peter?!  Right here!  I did!  You may be way more holy than me, but I am in with Peter in many ways.  If my mind is set only on me, if I’m looking in the pond and going Ryan, Ryan, Ryan…..I don’t want to suffer, I don’t want to die, I want to preserve myself and my name……he goes no, no, no you can’t do that and walk with me.}

So he invites Peter to something more.  He invites Peter to a life that’s not just based around him, but that’s based around the cross.  That’s based around not just living a great life and getting all the things that we want, but in finding more than we ever dreamed we thought we wanted through laying our life down.  Listen to the way he says this in Mark 8:34—And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone {I don’t know about you, but I love that word!  If anyone who has a clean past would come after me…..if anyone who has these skills and these gifts would come after me….if anyone who..fill in the blank.  How many qualifications do we have?  And Jesus is no, no, no, no, no!  If anyone PERIOD!  So that’s great news for you this morning, because I think you fall into that category.  You might be anyone.  You might think you’re nobody, but I can tell you from the Scriptures you’re “anyone”!  Here’s what he says.}   If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.    He points out this counterintuitive truth that the harder you try to hold on to and define and elevate your life, the quicker it slips through your fingers.  Ever have one of those experiences?  Here’s what he’s saying: Complete surrender is the key that leads to abundant life.  When you lay down your rights, you actually pick up true life.  When you lay down your agenda, you actually pick up true, meaningful life.

I can remember as a middle-schooler being taught for the first time how to water ski.  I was behind that boat and I was getting ready to go up.  They coached you in the boat and then you get in the water and everything changes.  Oh yeah, that sounded great in the boat, but now I’m in the water and my skis are waving to people….. So, I’m sitting there and I’m behind the boat and I’m holding on and they tell you just hold on….it’s gonna feel like you’re gonna die, but then at some point you’ll pop up!  Now, at this point I have two skis on….and my skis….BOOM! pop out from each other, go opposite directions and sure enough I feel like I’m going to die, right?!  Or at least sing real high for the rest of my life!!  At some point I fall forward and I’m just holding on.  In my mind I’m thinking I’m not sure this is what they’re talking about in the boat, right?!  It does feel like I’m going to die, because I can’t breathe.  I’m drinking more water than this lake is gonna produce.  A thought pops into my head—-maybe I’ll be the first person EVER to not only survive this, but to pop up on bare feet and sling out of the water and be like what now??!!  If you’ve ever been there, you know THAT didn’t happen!  I’m being dragged through the water and I hear from the boat, “Let goooo! Let gooo! Let go!”

I wonder if Jesus would say the same thing to us this morning.  Let go!  The things you’re holding onto are killing you!  Let go!  These self-salvation projects that you long for, the way you want to define yourself, it’s killing you.  Let go!  And Jesus would say find what it means to really, truly live.  Let me invite you into His words that He teaches this morning as to how that happens, what that looks like and if you’ll invite me to, what I long to do today, is sort of reach into your soul and say:  Are we really living this?  Because what I’ve found throughout this week is that it’s one thing to memorize this passage and another thing to recite it and it’s a whole other thing to live it.  As I find myself trying to live it out, I find myself failing miserably.  You might too.  Just honest.  But I long to because I know that there’s life in this. Listen to what he says.   And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself…..      This means I check my own interests and my ambitions that are self-centered and that are me-centered at the door. Listen to the way the Apostle Paul writes it to the church of Philippi, he says a real similar thing.  Do nothing {I might propose that if you have your own Bible you circle the word “nothing”…and it might haunt you a little bit.}  ….nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others as better than yourselves.  Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others. (Phil. 2:3-4)  

Wow!  What a difficult, beautiful invitation.  Here’s what Jesus is inviting us to, here’s what Paul’s inviting the church at Philippi to…..one word….. SURRENDER.  This word “life” in the passage in Mark 8 could also be translated “soul”.  It’s the Greek word “psyche”.  It literally means your identity, your personality, your selfhood, or what makes you distinct and what makes you YOU.  We have a number of ways that we try to define that.  In a traditional culture, what makes you you or what makes somebody themselves is the family they have and the legacy that will outlive them.  That’s sort of a traditional culture.  In an individualistic culture that we live in, what makes us us is typically the job that we have.  Try this out:  Ask somebody to tell you about himself. They’re going to answer with I work at…..      Our job that we have, the bank account that we have, the house that we live in, the car that we drive…..things like that, that’s what defines us as an individualistic culture. Regardless of how we define ourselves, they are both, at their core, performance and achievement based ways of saying here’s who I am.  What Jesus is inviting you to is not a free ticket to heaven in this passage.  When he talks about saving your life or saving your soul, he is talking about eternal life, yes, but eternal life that starts today.  This is not a dictation about how to get to heaven.  This is an invitation about how to live in such a way that your soul is free in the way that a benevolent, gracious God designed you to live.  That’s what this is about.

I think if we were to look at the words of Jesus and sorta outside looking in, we would go, you know what, he’s right.  The harder I try to define myself the worse off I become.  Have you ever been around somebody that felt like they had something to prove?  Or you told a story and they had a better one–always.  Have you noticed that people who are trying to be impressive—overly impressive—are very rarely impressive.  It’s the people that are just simply confident in who God’s made them to be that, ironically, are the most impressive people you’ll be around.  Have you ever noticed that people who try to be original start to look like everybody else that’s trying to be original?  I used to walk onto college campuses and all these original people looked the same.  It turns out that the most original thing you can do is simply be you.  And Jesus is saying we long for these things, we build ourselves up and we hope for them so strongly and they aren’t what we’re really looking for.

In David Lodge’s novel, Therapy, he recounts this interaction or tells a story about an interaction between a therapist and the person who’s a patient sitting in his office.  And he says here’s what I’d like you to do.  I’d like you to take this piece of paper and I’d like you to divide it in half.  On one half of the paper I’d like you to write all the good things in your life.  Just write them down.  And so the patient starts to write down I have a great marriage.  I have a family and we’ve successfully launched our adult children.  I have a job that I love and I have a retirement that’s going to provide for us.  We take a number of vacations and can go really wherever we want.  I have a house I enjoy living in and in a neighborhood that’s pretty nice.  We have a car we enjoy driving.  His therapist looked at him and goes it’s a great list.  On the other side of the paper he told him to write down all of the things that you don’t like about your life.  And the guy writes down one thing:  I’m unhappy most of the time.

Isn’t it true that we can get all the things we think we wanted and still find ourselves lacking and in need?  The teaching of Jesus in this passage is let go of those trinkets and instead of being concaved on yourself like sin has done to us, open yourself up to the gift of God.  In losing your desire, in sacrificing YOUR desire to achieve and to make a name, you’ll find what it means to really, truly, honestly be free!  I love the way that Lucius Septimus Severus, a Roman emperor, said it: “I have been everything and everything is nothing.  A little urn will contain all that remains of one for whom the whole world was too little.”  That’s haunting, isn’t it?  This is the testimony of Solomon all throughout Ecclesiastes:  I have everything I’ve ever dreamed of and I find myself wanting and lacking.  Here’s the way Jesus says it in Mark 8:36—-For what does it profit a man…{or a person. What good is it to gain everything you thought you wanted in the world and yet to have a soul that’s out of balance?  To not be walking in the way that Jesus designed you to walk.  To have this haunting suspicion about this reality that we live in and walk in that stuff will never define us and never make us happy and it will never deliver on the promises it makes.}  Jesus says there’s a better way.  He invites us to replace the place that we put our value.  He invites us, like the Apostle Paul, to say: I’ve been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2:20)  Paul’s going to say that that’s the pathway to life.  Through sacrifice.  Through laying my ambition down, ironically.

So let me get into this a little bit, underneath it, and ask us some questions.  What does this feel like?  What does it look like? If you’re able to really truly deny yourself and not need to achieve and beat your chest, you’re able to honestly be present with people.  Have you been with somebody that was so present that you knew they weren’t thinking about something else or someone else?  This is the road they walked.  That we don’t need the approval of others because we have the approval of King Jesus.  That we don’t assess our value based on what we produce, but based on what God said is true about us.  These are people who’ve denied themselves.  Is it not one of the most wonderful things in the world, to be around somebody who does not assess their own value based on what they’ve produced and therefore does not base their value of you on what you produce?  It’s a beautiful thing, is it not?

This is the pathway that Jesus is inviting us to walk down.  I was wrestling with this question the whole time, though:  Does that mean that there is no “me” left?  And I think I’m still staring into the pond a little bit, to be honest with you.  But does that mean that there’s no personality left?  Does that mean there’s no Ryan left?  Does that mean…..God, I believe what you created is good, does that mean that I have to just completely check myself at the door?  Here’s the way that C.S. Lewis brilliantly answers that question: “The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of ‘little Christs’, all different, will still be too few to express him fully….Our real selves are all waiting for us in him…until you have given up yourself to him, you will not have a real self.”  So he says coming to Jesus is what allows you to step into more fully the “you” that He designed you to be, but it requires that we let go of the “me” that we long to be.

Here’s the way he goes on.  So he says first deny yourself or submit or surrender yourself.  Next he says this: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross.    Here’s his next invitation.  Not only surrender, but an invitation to sacrifice.  To take up your cross does not mean to go into your jewelry box and to get your cross necklace out.  You probably know this, but back in the day the cross was an execution instrument.  Many of the followers of Jesus would have seen people attached to Roman crosses and die a brutal death on those crosses.  What Jesus is saying is follow me, not only in surrendering yourself, but in sacrificing your life for those around you.  As I thought about this, though, I think our way we interpret this might be a little bit too broad.  In the context of what Jesus is inviting his disciples to, he’s not telling them that He’s going to make some arbitrary type of sacrifice.  What He’s going to do is that in the face of evil give His life.  What He’s going to do is, with power at His fingertips that He could tap into at any moment, surrender power and conquer evil through sacrificial love, not through a prominent overthrowing of the Roman empire.  Now, my guess is you’re not facing the Roman empire, but…..I do believe that the way that Jesus lays down his power and his rights in favor of self-sacrificial love has something to say to us today.  Especially in a world where we long, Christians long, for political power; we long for a military power and what Jesus says is my Kingdom will come, but not in the way you’ll think it will come.  It will come in your lives personally and in the world at large as we take up our cross and, in the face of evil, lay down our lives in the way of love.  That’s the way it comes.  That’s the way it came and that’s the way it still comes.  Power laid down and rights relinquished are the way that Jesus wins the victory.

Here’s my problem with that.  In order to pick up my cross, I have to lay down my agenda.  I’ll be honest with you, I love my agenda.  I think my agenda’s right.  I think God should follow it sometimes. But in order to pick up my cross, I have to lay down my agenda.  So what does this look like?  Number one, it looks like I forgive those who wrong me.  This is the way to victory.  This is the way that Jesus overthrows the power structures of his day, not through conquering them overtly, but through praying on the cross, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.”  This is the way that Jesus invites his followers to live, because it’s the way He himself lived.  So are there things you’re holding onto, friends?  Because you can’t hold on to the wrongs that people have done against you and carry your cross.  You can do one or the other.   You can’t do both. Jesus could not pray “Father forgive them” from the ground looking up at the cross, He had to pray it as He gave His life in sacrificial love for His enemies who hated him.  As difficult as it feels, it’s the way to find true, honest, meaningful life.

As a backpacking guide, on our trail training, we always use to hide rocks in peoples’ backpacks.  We thought it was hilarious.  You get to the end of the trip and you’re like: hey why are you carrying all this stuff.  You shouldn’t have been doing that extra 20….we loved to do that.  I meet so many followers of Jesus though, they don’t even know they’re carrying stuff.  I think maybe this morning, His invitation is…..and this is a process, it doesn’t just happen overnight.  It’s a process that doesn’t happen one time either.  I think that’s what we struggle with.  We want to make a decision, but what we realize is that this is a minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day decision.  I’m going to deny myself, I’m going to surrender and I’m going to sacrifice and pick up my cross.

Here’s what he says:  surrender, deny yourself, pick up your cross and then he says follow me.  In order to keep the alliteration alive, I will say “shadow.”  We become a little Christ—-a follower, not an admirer, friends, not an off in the distance look isn’t Jesus beautiful and isn’t he great, but an embracing of the way of Jesus.  Which means that I have to relinquish my control.  If I’m going to follow Him, it means that He is in charge.  Being a follower of Christ is very different than Christ following after you.  What Jesus says is deny self, take up your cross and then follow after me—give over the controls.  We have this debate/argument that goes on in our house almost daily.  My kids sit down and they watch the iPad and argue not only about what we’re going to watch, but who’s going to hold the iPad while we watch it.  How loud the volume’s going to be while we watch it.  And who’s going to sit where.  My oldest son wants to control it ALL!  {I realize he gets that from his mom….just kidding!}

I’ve realized that I’m not all that different and it’s hard for me to lay down my rights and to sacrifice and to give over my control.  Here’s the beautiful thing about saying I’m a follower honestly, truly, in a descriptive sense of Jesus.  I’m following Him.  I don’t have to fix everything in my life.  I don’t have to fix the things that I’ve inherited and I don’t have to fix the things that I’ve caused.  I’m trusting Him.  I’m a follower of Jesus.  He’s the one who fixes, number one.  And number two, being a follower of Jesus speaks into my anxiety and it speaks into my fear, because I have to trust the one who took my sin upon his shoulders.  I must trust that Jesus has my best in mind if he took my sin on his shoulders.  I can’t say I believe that and then believe that He’s powerful and good and is going to lead me to someplace or something or someone that’s going to be a nightmare for me.  I can’t do that.  I have to trust Him.  When sacrificial love grips your soul it frees your heart!  It just does!  Every time!!

So what might Jesus be doing this morning?  What might He be up to in this counter-intuitive, paradoxical invitation?  To find our life as we lose it.  To give up the attempts at saving our life and find what it means to really, truly live.  Well maybe, just maybe, looking into the mirror of self-protection and self-indulgence and really just being our own God, maybe He’s asking us to surrender all those things.  To bring them to His cross.  To remember that we’re not in the driver’s seat—we never were.  To remember that maybe sometimes we’re not even riding shotgun, we’re probably back/middle feet on the hump.  Most of the time.  And to say back to this Jesus:  Because you have your eyes on me, I can take my eyes off of myself and put them on you.  Because you have your eyes on me and you’re good, I have to trust you, you took my sin to the cross, paid for my redemption, sealed my holiness with your blood and I stand righteous before you, and because that’s all true, this morning I can come to you and say:  my whole life—I surrender all!  Not I surrender some and not I surrender most. And in doing so, pick up more than I ever put down.  As I read this passage, I had this picture in my head of my son playing with one of his toy cars.  And me coming up to him and telling him that I have a real car out in the driveway for him.  Here’s the keys.  It’s yours and I just need you to give up that car.  Just let me have that car, I’ll give you a real one.  I think that’s what Jesus is saying in this passage—-give up that little life, surrender it, enter into a way of sacrifice and following and in doing so, pick up more life than you could ever have dreamed!  That’s the invitation, friends!  That’s the invitation to abandon ourselves, to fully abandon and to find ourselves in a divine love that frees us to embrace a life of eternal significance.  That’s His beautiful invitation.  I was reminded of the words of Dallas Willard when he said: “If Jesus knew of a better way to live, He would have been the first to endorse it.”  He does not.  There is not.  This is the pathway to life and in your surrender I pray that you and that we as a church will find more life than we could ever possibly carry on our own.

Let’s pray.  Jesus, we come to you and say we believe, help our unbelief.  There’s something so strange about finding life and laying down our life and yet there’s something so beautifully true about it that resonates in the soul of every human being because it’s the way you designed us to live.  So Lord, if there’s ways we’re trying to preserve ourselves or promote ourselves will you help us deny ourself.  And if there’s ways of power and control we’re trying to hold onto, Lord, we lay those at your feet today and our declaration is wholly and simply we want to follow after you in your way, King Jesus.  Please.  Please.  We love you and we pray that in this surrender, surrender that I believe has power to heal marriages, to transform jobs, to be life giving in every situation in life we find ourselves in…..in THIS surrender, King Jesus, I pray that you will lead us to abundant life.  We love you and it’s in your beautiful name that we pray.  Amen.