Jill was the family’s Cinderella. She did all the work around the house. Her dad didn’t know how to act around girls, so she was discarded. He was very closed off emotionally, and she never heard him say, “I love you.” She did hear him say, “Oh look, I have another son,” after she came home from an already traumatic trip to a barber. Her step-mom had had all her hair cut off. Her mom didn’t know how to raise a girl either and through many subtle and not-so-subtle actions & words gave her the message, “It’s not okay to be a girl.” Her dad’s lack of affection and powerful words strongly reinforced that idea. In fact, she felt like she never belonged, even in her own family. She was now much older, but still lived in that pain. She still didn’t feel like she belonged and had developed the idea, subconsciously, that the only place it was okay to be a girl was in the bedroom. Everywhere else, she had to be manly in order to have any level of acceptance and to protect herself from abuse.
After accusing and forgiving the people who had taught her this lie, she rejected the lie that she was not acceptable as a girl and asked her heavenly Father to give her a truth.
She saw a massive, ancient, leather bound book lying open in front of her. The pages were turning. She loved books from the time she was very young. She saw the book close and her heavenly Father’s hand resting on top of it. She realized that she had not been living what He had written in the book and that she needed to stop living her own fairy tale and live according to his truth. Her heavenly Father spoke this truth to her, “You are who you are supposed to be.” Finally she felt like it was okay to be a girl, because that was how her Father had written her story.
I think many of us who are people of faith find at one point or another a tug on our spirits to surrender to God. I’m not talking about the initial surrender where we appoint Jesus as the Governor of our lives, but rather a more specific, pointed surrender in a particular area.
I remember a few years ago being in a place of spiritual apathy and, worse, disgust and distrust in this Christian God. I had a full list of doubts and disagreements, not with theology per-say, but God himself. When it came down to it, even though I could never convince myself that He wasn’t real, I was convinced I couldn’t trust Him.
I empathize with people who are in this same place. It really sucks. You desperately want to believe, love and trust this God you keep hearing about, but you seem entirely unable to muster up what you assume must be the faith you lack: the defeat of all your doubts.
My story has a different ending than “defeating all my doubts,” or rather a different beginning. I never answered my doubts and I never solved my intellectual arguments against God. In fact, today, three or four years later, I don’t know if I would have a convincing answer to my prior self’s interrogation. But, somehow I found myself trusting Him again.
Honestly, I could have fought this debate out in my head forever. Trust me, it wasn’t going anywhere productive. I could have wrestled against God until I broke my hip, but apparently I’m no Jacob and in the end I had to surrender.
I think sometimes we have a very passive approach to surrendering to God. We somehow think that to surrender means to do nothing. Try not to think about it. Let it go. Let bygones be bygones. Unfortunately, for me, the very thing that I was trying to surrender was apathy itself. In my distrust of God I had lost almost all interest in an active faith. Apathetically surrendering to a life of apathy sounds… well, ridiculous.
My surrender had to be more active than this if I ever wanted it to work. Yes, our theology should work. If it fails to do what it promises, it may be time to reevaluate what you believe and how you see scripture.
I remember being in worship. It was the first worship meeting I had been to since high school (meaning, all worship, all night for 3+ hours). There was a reading from Revelation and an image on the screen of a close-up of the sun. Suddenly I was struck with a revelation of God as a consuming fire. I had a very strong and real sense that I could literally, in the physical realm, spontaneously burst into flames and die as I stood before the consuming fire.
This was my moment. This was my choice. This was my active surrender. If He took me right then and I died, would I be okay with that? It’s hard to use words in such a way to portray the seriousness of this question in that moment. I was ready to die.
I knelt down, physically, with everyone around me unaware of what was going on in my spirit. I surrendered to Him that night in a way that I had never surrendered before. My surrender definitely didn’t look like trying really hard to not think about everything that was bothering me, it looked like an intentional act of surrender. My testimony is that as we surrender ourselves in “death” to our King, He will raise us up with the same power that raised Christ Jesus from the dead. When we choose an active posture of surrender, He pours out an active resurrection power.
That same night I received the gift of tongues, and, looking back, I mark that night as my baptism in the Spirit and in fire.
I was asked this question earlier this summer and this is my answer. What is yours?
Matt 12:33,35 says, “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good it’s fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, it’s fruit will be bad… A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.”
We need to be made good in the core of our being. In fact, we need to completely die and be recreated in a new nature (Gal 5:24). Romans 6:3-4 says, “Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.” (See also Rom. 6:6-7 & Eph 4:20-24)
Having died to our old nature we are reborn by the power of the Spirit, the same power that raise Christ from the dead (Eph 1:19,20), now our spirit becomes alive by the Holy Spirit. In John 20:22 Jesus breathed on his disciples saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” This was pointing directly to when God breathed life into Adam’s lungs, giving him life. When we receive the Holy Spirit (not necessarily the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which happened at Pentecost – after this encounter with Jesus) our spirits are given life. We are now again able to have communion with God as our body and soul are put in proper order under our spirit, which was given new life by the Holy Spirit. Romans 8:15,16, “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” Eph. 2:18 “Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.”
Therefore, the primary inward evidence of salvation is restored communion with God the Father through receiving and being guided by the Holy Spirit. With the receiving of the Holy Spirit as an inward working force we see His fruits in our life as we are now a “good tree.” The internal fruits of this tree will be such as listed in Gal. 5:22-23. You will find love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control are your new natural way of life, springing out of your soul as an internal spring of living water (John 4:14), bubbling up within yourself. (Past wounds, lies, and unresolved sin will pollute this river of God and resolution must be sought for all unhealed wounds, but these things are unnatural for this new creation.)
Having the Holy Spirit, your eyes will be opened to see: 1. The glory of God as the veil (spiritual blindness) is removed (2 Cor. 3:16-18). 2. Revelation of scripture (as opposed to simply reading it) as the Spirit leads you into all truth (John 16:13). 3. God’s deep secrets will be revealed (1 Cor. 2:10). 4. The Spirit himself will teach you directly through an anointing (this may come after baptism in the Spirit as it is referred to as an anointing in 1 John 2:27). These things are a fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah and the promised new covenant. Jer. 31:33-34:
“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”
Again, we see a promise and God fulfilling it in all fullness on our behalf. When we turn to God placing an active faith in his promises, this is the kind of internal effect we will see in our lives.