In my opinion the "key" to the Christian walk is knowing how, moment by moment, to give things over to God-how to acknowledge and confess our sin and self; how to repent of it; and then, how to give it over to Him. This has been the subject we have been exploring in depth over the last three articles. In thisarticle, I would like to continue to examine the third step of this procedure - how specifically we give our sin and self over to God.
Once God has shown us our own ungodly thoughts and emotions (everything in us that is not of faith or that has quenched His Spirit), and we have confessed it as sin and repented of it, the next essential step is to give all that He has shown us over to Him. God will not violate our free will by forcibly taking these things from us; we must willingly choose to hand them over.
God wants us to give Him - to sacrifice to Him - everything that is not of Him, so that it can be purged and cleansed by His Blood. As we willingly give these things over, He promises that He will take them, "As far as the east is from the west." (Psalm 103:12)
This is exactly what the priests did at the Brazen Altar when they willingly sacrificed their offerings to God.II Chronicles 7:1 gives us a vivid picture of what happened: "Now when Solomon had ceased praying, the fire came down from heaven, and consumed the burnt offering [on the Brazen Altar] and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house."
In like manner, as we offer and sacrifice ourselves to God, He reaches down from heaven, removes our sin "as far as the east is from the west" and fills us with His Spirit.
As Christians, we so often take for granted the miracle that God really does take away our sins, and that we really can begin each day with a brand-new, fresh start-a clean slate. Chuck and I were recently sharing about this very thing - what a truly phenomenal gift God's forgiveness is. It allows us to "blow it really badly" with each other, and yet, if we confess, repent and forgive each other, God will wash us, cleanse us and heal us, even with the memory of that sin wiped away. What an astonishing and spectacular blessing this is!
Just think, if we didn't have Christ in our lives, all of our fights with each other, all of our guilt, our failures, mistakes, ungodliness, errors, wrongs, immorality, and every sin that we have ever committed would always be with us. We could never get way from the memory of them. We would try to bury our guilt in the hidden chambers of our soul, but it would always be there to influence our actions. We could never forget our past or have a chance at a fresh, new start. No wonder so many relationships without Christ fail. I weep at the thought, because that salvation, that miracle, that answer, that cure and that Love is there, just for the asking.
An Example: Mike
One incredible example of this that pops into my mind is that of the life of Mike MacIntosh, pastor of Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego, California.
As a young husband and father, Mike tragically became involved in drugs, womanizing and the low life. As a result, he ended up losing his wife and child and being confined to the psychiatric ward of a local hospital. At that time, he was told he would never amount to anything and would spend the rest of his life in an institution. The Lord, however, had other plans for this young man.
I've forgotten the exact details of how the Lord became a part of Mike's life, but as a result of Mike's confession and repentance and his accepting Christ into his life as his Savior, God not only supernaturally healed Mike's mind and body, put his marriage back together and restored his relationship with his child, but He also began a ministry through Mike that has influenced millions of people.
Mike has written several books, been consistently on television and his first church has grown into a dozen churches that minister to thousands upon thousands. Just think, if Mike hadn't asked Christ to come into his heart, all of his sins and problems would still be there, and he would never have had a chance to freely influence millions of people by his incredible life.
Truly, that same miracle, that same answer and that same Love is there for all of us. We simply must reach out and take hold of it, just like Mike did. As Acts 2:21 tells us: "Whosoever shall call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved." (See also John 20:31.)
Give as Love Gifts
We are not only to ask Christ into our hearts to be our Savior, we are also to daily surrender our lives to Him, in order to be extensions of His Love and Life to others. In order to do this, however, we must not only give Him the surface sins that we can see in our lives, but also the root causes of these things-the hidden things in our soul that we cannot see.
Luke 11:39-41 tells us that the priests did not do this and it caused huge problems. "The Lord said unto him, 'Now do ye Pharisees make clean the outside of the cup and the platter; but your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness. Ye fools, did not He that made that which is without make that which is within also? But rather give alms [give as love gifts] of such things as ye have [within]; and, behold [then] all things are clean unto you."
Alms in the New Testament were love gifts with no strings attached. I think of giving our inward thoughts and emotions (our self) over to God much like giving Him alms. As we sacrifice or offer up to God our alms - everything inside of us that is not of faith - He, then, makes all things clean for us on the outside.
Listen to a letter I received from a precious sister in Australia who is learning to give things over to God: "It's really interesting and exciting. If I feel terrified and I keep giving the thought over and over to the Lord, and it won't quite go, then I pick at the past hurts as much as I understand them and give those over to God, and inevitably I get a relief from the terrible fear and a definite move to a new and more real understanding of life. I'm able to see that God has moved me further out into the life I once hid from, and I can feel that yet another piece of my pride and my aloneness and fear has gone. And the real me (that is actually not self, but God filling my emptiness - Creator filling creature) is alive as never before and I have died a little more to myself and, thereby, been filled with God."
Do Something Physical
In order to truly experience getting rid of the things that we give over to God, it's helpful to do something physical. A dear friend of mine takes a piece of paper and writes down all her hurts, wounds and memories, whatever God has shown her is "not of faith," and then, she wraps these pieces of paper up in packages and presents them to Him as "love gifts."
Personally, I like to burn my lists! I write down everything I give to God and then burn the really bad ones. I like to watch them burn, because, to me, it's a graphic picture of how my sins are totally eradicated by God. Another woman wrote that she flushes all the things she gives to the Lord down the toilet. "That," she says, "is what I think of them."
We Don't Have to Feel Our Choices
Remember that we walk by faith, not feelings. God, in His perfect timing, will align our feelings to match what we have chosen to do and believe by faith. Many of us, however, still walk by feelings and thus, when we don't "feel" our choices, we don't think they're genuine. In God's Kingdom, however, this is not the case. God has given us the authority and the power to make "faith choices," or non-feeling choices where we say, "Not my will, but Thine," and this is all that is required for God to then take over our lives.
I have a friend named Rose who learned the hard way that we don't need to "feel" what we choose. Years ago, Rose found out that her unbelieving husband, Darryl, was having an affair with a nurse at his office. When the nurse became pregnant, Darryl decided to divorce Rose and marry the nurse.
Obviously, Rose was consumed with hatred, bitterness and resentment towards both of them, totally justified by worldly standards. God, however, would not let Rose wade in her own "pity party" for very long. Since the courts had ruled that Darryl would be allowed to come over once a week and see the children, Rose was forced to deal with her anger and bitterness. Since Darryl was not a Christian, Rose was more concerned that he come to know the Lord than anything else. Thus, she determined not to act out of her hurts, but purely out of God's Love.
Rose continually chose, in spite of how she felt, to give her "self" over to God and to unconditionally forgive both Darryl and his new wife. Now she certainly didn't "feel" like making any of these choices. They were simply faith choices.
Several years went by, and Rose never had to see or meet Darryl's new wife. However, two years ago, Darryl's oldest son (by a previous marriage) decided to get married. The young man had always felt a special closeness to Rose so he called her and asked if he could have the wedding reception at her house. Rose, too, had always loved her stepson, so after much prayer and seeking God, she said yes, she would be delighted to host the reception. This meant, of course, that not only Darryl would be coming, but also his new wife.
All of Rose's friends and relatives told her she was crazy to do it and, by worldly standards, they were right. However, Rose was convinced God wanted her to go through with it, so she told her relatives she was going to trust God to give her the love, the forgiveness and the compassion she needed. Again, she didn't feel these choices; she made them purely out of faith.
The day eventually came. The doorbell rang, Rose answered and there they stood! Much to Rose's amazement, she reached out in genuine Love, put her arms around Darryl and his wife and genuinely welcomed them in. Rose said later that the incredible part about the whole experience was that she meant it with all her heart. She said, "Nancy, it was a miracle. I didn't experience any of the old hatred or bitterness. All I felt was God's Love and His forgiveness."
Remember God's faithful promise to remove our sin and self "as far as the east is from the west," if (and that's a big "if") we have chosen by faith to give them to Him. (Psalm 103:12)
If you are interested in further exploring this subject of giving our hurts, thoughts and emotions over to the Lord, I really recommend reading my latest book, Against the Tide. We are so programmed to feel everything we choose to do. When we don't feel our choices, are they still genuine?
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To be continued next month: "Recognize the Battles." This article has been taken, in part, from Chuck and Nan's book, The Key.