In my last blog post, I challenged you to look at sin from a different angle. I encouraged us that instead of looking at sin as a list of “do’s and don’ts,” to look at sin as what stands in the way between us and fullness of the Holy Spirit. When I am able to do that, sin goes from being a religious concept, to the barrier that keeps me from a thriving, life giving relationship with Jesus.
I mentioned at the end of my blog that I would be sharing a few “foam rolling” exercises that will help release the knot of sin that restricts the unleashing of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Before we go there, I want to address something. I think that sometimes evangelical Christians are hesitant to talk about our role in our faith journey. We get scared that all of a sudden we will get all religious and “works based.” Let me be clear, our efforts will not change God’s love for us or whether or not we will go to heaven. But if we want to live in the fullness that God has for us, we don’t get to be innocent bystanders.
First things first, we need to die.
Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
I have read this verse possibly a hundred times. They are very familiar words to me. However like a lot of other scriptures, I love the concept, but I don’t always know how to bring it down to real life.
In order for Christ to live in me, I need to die. But how do I do that?
Before moving forward, I want to clarify some language. I am going to be using the words “Surrender” and “die to self” interchangeably. According to YourDictionary.com (which may or may not be a legit dictionary, but I appreciated the definition) the definition of “surrender” is: to give up control of something or to give something up to another. To die simply means to cease to exist.
Those two words are certainly not one in the same, but in this context both concepts and words speak to the point- we must become less so Christ can become more in our lives .John 3:30 says “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” Less of us means more of the Holy Spirit.
We love to sing about surrendering. As I write this blog, I have worship music on in the background. At least every third song speaks to this idea of surrender. I find myself in worship services being overcome with emotion as I declare that I will surrender my life to Jesus. It is really easy to get caught up in emotion around a song, it’s a totally different thing to really surrender. All day, every day.
So where do we start?
It starts with everyday life. It’s the little moments of surrender throughout the day that lead us to a place of true, full surrender. It’s hard work, it is not for the faint of heart. But I promise it is worth it.
I am usually more successful at surrendering throughout the day when I start in the morning. Every morning when my alarm goes off and it’s time to get up and go running, I feel angry. Why did I think that would be a good idea to get up early to run? As I slowly get up I am reminded of how great I feel when I’m done. I’m not saying that I physically feel great when I’m done, but I feel centered.
You see when I run, I pray. I pray for the people in my life that I love. I pray for the people I know are struggling. And I surrender my day to the Lord. I think through what I have planned for the day and I lay it down. I die to myself and my plans for the day. I ask God to show me throughout the day when I am not surrendering.
Maybe the thought of getting up and going for a run makes you nauseous. It takes all of your strength to get in the shower, get the kids ready and get out of the door at a respectable time. Running is my place, find yours. Pray in the shower, pray in the car. The good news is that you don’t even have to speak out loud, God can hear our silent prayers. But start in the morning. Go through your day and lay it down. Surrender your day to the Lord. When I do this, it really changes my day. It changes my heart. I become less and he becomes more.
Then the day begins. Posture your day with this question in mind: “Is this you God or is this me?”
Let me give you an example.
If you know me, you know that I really like to be in charge. And I’m pretty convinced that my ideas are the best ideas. That’s why God continues to put me into teams, to remind me that other people have good ideas as well. This past spring my coworker and I were getting ready for VBS. I remember that she shared an idea. Just as I was about to disagree, I paused and asked myself “Is this you God or me?” I knew it was me. It was me wanting to give my input, share my ideas-because of course, my ideas are the best ideas. But in my pause, I shut my mouth, I died to my idea, I died in my desire to be in control. I got out of the way and gave space for the Holy Spirit to move. I was filled with more grace and more patience. As the Holy Spirit had more space to move, what came out of that conversation was bigger and better than either of our ideas.
John 3:30 says “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”
The more that I get out of the way, the more space I create for the Holy Spirit to move.
At first glance it would be easy to think that I am talking about dying to sin. That is certainly part of it, (which we will talk more about in another blog post), but the focus today is not just dying to our sins, its dying to ourselves.
Let me explain.
We need to die to our dreams. Even if we feel like God gave them to us.
We need to die to our plans, even if we feel the path before us is paved.
We need to die to our ideas, even when feel like they are the best.
We need to die to our desire to be in control, even though it makes us feel safe.
Dreams, plans, desires and ideas are not bad within themselves, they become problematic when they get in the way of God’s dreams, plans, desires and ideas.
I’ve mentioned this in previous blogs, but three years ago I was offered my dream job. I felt like it was the job God created just for me. It lined up with my passions and gifts. I was good at and I wasn’t the only one who thought that. It was a no brainer, of course I would take the job. But I didn’t feel any peace. I would take one step towards saying yes and would be met with confusion. I would rework a scenario in my mind to make sense of it all, move forward and again be met with chaos. I really wanted that job, it was in ministry so of course God would want me to have that job too. As you can probably sense, the job didn’t work out and I was really upset about it.
What I needed to do was die to myself, my ideas, my dreams (that I felt were from God), but instead I pushed and I pushed. I said things I didn’t mean and burned bridges in the process.
It took me a while to finally surrender that dream, but you know what happened when I did? I finally felt peace, the peace that passes all understanding. I didn’t feel confused anymore. I had a clear picture about what God had for me. It wasn’t the picture I would have painted, but I would have no other way. And as I continue on this journey to die to myself, to my ideas, my passions and my dreams, I’m experiencing unprecedented growth in my faith and in my relationships.
The idea of surrender is emotional and romantic, it’s easy to sing about. But the day to day reality is hard and requires resilience and patience. But I promise it’s worth it. So start with the morning. Surrender your day. Position your day with this question in mind, “Is this you God or me?” And if you’re anything like me, 98% of the time it will be you. Then lay it down, die to yourself-to your ideas, your dreams and your plans.
And watch, as we become less, he becomes more. Before you even realize it, this confusing, intangible concept of the Holy Spirit will become a powerful, driving force bringing life to and making dry bones dance.