This year, GYC Europe held its first FOCUS event. FOCUS is a local conference and the idea is to have three installations in each place. The first one is called “Coming to Christ” and has five workshops. In this article series, the presenters share a part of their workshop with us in the form of an article.—Editor.
2000 years ago, Jesus willed for men and women to follow Him and even today, He is calling each and every one of us to Himself. But when He calls, how do you do say, “Yes Lord, I choose you”? What does it mean to fully surrender your life to Christ and how does this impact your life moving forward? How do you give up your power, rights, emotions, control, and all your words and actions? How do you manage to give Jesus your life completely and let Him use you for His purpose? We will discuss what it means to give your life to Christ and once you’ve done that, we will identify the key concepts that you need to keep in mind in order to maintain a healthy relationship with Him.
Let me share some of the powerful, pivotal, practical, and perhaps paradigm-shifting truths from my workshop on the topic. These truths have been a great blessing to me personally, and I trust they will to you!
How do we surrender ourselves to Christ? How do we live a victorious Christian life? I must face the honest reality, I must tell you: We can’t! Sorry! “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil.” Jer 13:23, NKJV. The apostle Paul wrote: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do . . . For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing . . . What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” Rom 7:15–24, NIV.
So, we can’t. No way. Impossible. Wishful thinking.
The 2-Year Old’s Prayer
When his boy Jacob was very little, John Bradshaw was kneeling down with him one night by his bed. As Jacob was praying, somewhere in his prayer he said: “And dear Jesus, please help me to be good.” “When he said that, I realized that dad had to step in,” Bradshaw recounts.
“‘Uh-uh, son, wait. I hate to interrupt you, but I’ve got to interrupt you. I don't want you ever to pray that Jesus would help you to be good!’ My son looked at me, and I knew what he was thinking: ‘I shouldn't be praying that he will help me to be bad, so what is it?’
I said, ‘Son,’—he was no older than 2 years old—‘Son, the Bible says that there is nobody that is good. None of us can be good of our own, it is impossible! Jesus said, there is only one good and that’s the Father. So if you are praying that Jesus would help you to be good, you are praying a prayer that He cannot answer, and you are doomed to fail.
Son, don't pray that Jesus will help you to be good. It is an impossible prayer—a prayer He can’t answer.
Here is what you would want to do. You want to pray that Jesus would come into your heart and live His life in you, and if He does that you cannot possibly be bad!’”
What we need to do is to switch the prayer around in that way. We are kind of praying for the same thing, but in a way that is possible and not impossible: Instead of praying to be good, you pray that Jesus will come into your life so that you may be good, for when He comes into your life He brings His goodness with Him. When He enters your heart He will bring in His goodness, His obedience, His exemplary behavior, doctrinal correctness, and, of course, all this is a growing thing.
How about praying that way?
How Can I Surrender?
In Steps to Christ, Ellen White writes,
“Many are inquiring, "How am I to make the surrender of myself to God?" You desire to give yourself to Him, but you are weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of your life of sin. Your promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. You cannot control your thoughts, your impulses, your affections. The knowledge of your broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens your confidence in your own sincerity, and causes you to feel that God cannot accept you; but you need not despair. What you need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise. You cannot change your heart, you cannot of yourself give to God its affections; but you can choose to serve Him. You can give Him your will; He will then work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus your whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; your affections will be centered upon Him, your thoughts will be in harmony with Him.” SC 47.
Friends, we can’t. The Christian life is an impossible life. Without Christ. It is just as impossible as for Peter to walk on water or Lazarus to live and walk!
But praise the Lord, the impossible life is HIMpossible! The Christian life is possible in Christ!
A Key to Victory
Finally, let me share one crucial key to a victorious life: We need to let Jesus live His life in us.
In the message to the Laodicean church–the church in the end of this earth’s history—a message to God’s people today, the Faithful and True Witness solemnly states: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.” Rev 3:15–17, NKJV.
We are “wretched”.
Now, the Greek word for wretched, talaipōros, is very interesting. This word is only used two times in all of Scripture. Do you know where the other place is? It is in Rom 7:24—in the passage I quoted in the beginning of this article. In this passage there is a very significant lesson that we as Laodiceans must learn! After describing how he again and again failed in living the Christian life, the apostle Paul exclaims: ”O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Rom 7:24, NIV.
When we read the preceding verses carefully, we find what I believe was the core of his problem: “I”, “I”, “me”, “me”, “I”, “me”, “I” etc., etc.
It seems evident that Saul was sincere in trying to live a God-fearing life. And I am sure pious Saul—as countless other failing Christians throughout history—prayed to God for help. Nevertheless, he had not yet learned our crucial, paradigm-shifting lesson. He had not yet learned to switch the prayer around. In his own strength he tried to live the impossible life, rather than letting God live His life in him!
But praise the Lord, the book of Romans doesn’t end with Romans 7. Praise the Lord, Paul learned the lesson.1 Have you?
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” Rev 3:20–22, NKJV.
Joakim Hjortland presented the workshop “Defeat or Victory” at the “Coming to Christ” Focus in Stupini, Romania, 2016. He is the author of A Prophet for This Generation (see prophet.empowermissions.org).
Read, for instance, Rom 8. ↩