We normally think of sin as doing something wrong. We have learnt from the earlier studies of the book Discipleship Essentials that sin is disobeying God.
When we disobey God, we are actually “going our own way.” This is two sides of the same coin. But it is important for us to understand that when we choose to go our own way and disobey God, we have actually made a choice - we have chosen to follow the desires of our heart rather than sacrifice our own desires and cravings and surrender ourselves to the Lord’s leading.
Isaiah 53:6 says that we all, like sheep, have gone astray; each of us has gone our own way.
From the beginning of time, man has chosen to go his own way rather than follow God’s way. When the serpent tempted Eve to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, she began to doubt whether God was right and after some thought, she decided to ignore and twist God’s command and go her own way. Adam, who was with Eve all this while, did nothing to stop Eve and when invited to take a bite of the fruit, he decided to go his own way and join Eve in eating the forbidden fruit.
When Israel was brought out of Egypt to be God’s chosen people and to have a special relationship with Him, the Israelites doubted God’s ability to deliver them and rebelled against Him. Because of their rebelliousness, the first generation of Israelites who were lead out of Egypt was denied entry to the Promised Land. Psalm 95:10 records God’s anger with the first generation of Israelites – “For forty years I was angry with that generation; I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray, and they have not known my ways.’”
They did not appreciate how much God had done to deliver them from slavery in Egypt and present them with an opportunity to be His people living with Him as their one true God in the Promised Land. What God did for the Israelites was a foretaste of what God would eventually do in delivering us from our sins. The Apostle John wrote in chapter 3 of his Epistle that God completely and absolutely gave Himself to us by giving His one and only son, Jesus, to die on the cross in our place and for our sins. Jesus gave himself completely and totally to God in obedience to His great salvation plan. The salvation that comes from Jesus’ death on the cross is not merely to deliver us from our sins, it is to deliver us completely from ourselves and place us in perfect union with God.
By being a disciple of Jesus, we have the privilege of entering into a personal and intimate relationship with God Himself. If we want to seize this relationship with God, we have to give ourselves to Him in the same way He gave Himself for us - totally, unconditionally, and without reservation.
How do we start to totally surrender to God? We have to start with our minds and our wills.
I have been challenged by our Church theme for this year to be an authentic disciple. This requires a conscious effort on my part to choose God’s way and not my own. If I want to be totally surrendered, I need to make a conscious effort to surrender my thoughts, my actions and my will to God. Each time I make a decision or embark on a piece of work or communicate with someone, I want to commit what I think, what I do and what I say to God and submit to His prompting and leading.
In Roman 12:2, Paul exhorted us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, then we will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing and perfect will, which will be made known to us if only we would submit ourselves to Him.
And in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul encouraged us to pray continually (NIV) or pray without ceasing (KJV). The way I put this into practice is to turn all my thoughts into prayers. Instead of letting my thoughts wonder, I try to take the subject matter of my thoughts and say a prayer for that subject matter. It may be the appointments or assignments that I have to attend to that day or I might just happen to think of someone - a family member, or a missionary, or a cell group member or my pastors - I would turn that thought into a prayer. It’s usually a short prayer, a one-liner like: “Lord, I remember Ariel today. Protect him as he goes about your work and watch over Connie at home” or “Lord, I have to give this presentation next week, guide me in my preparations”. It doesn’t have to be a long prayer because I know that the tendency is for my thoughts to wonder and I have to rein in my thoughts before I get back to my prayer and conclude my prayer.
This can be the start of our journey to totally surrender ourselves to the will of God. I believe that once we bring our thoughts, our action and our will before God, we will be keeping our earthly desires and cravings in check and we will begin this journey of humbly submitting ourselves to God. We will gradually take on the mind of Christ and as we mature in Christ, we will think and order our lives in God’s way rather than in our own ways.