Altar Vision Devotional - Week 1 What does the Christian idea of surrender mean? (Why surrender to God?)

Scripture

Decoration image for quotation

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.

Matthew 3:13-18, ESV

Reflection

Christian surrender means joining Jesus in his poverty of spirit and learning to participate in his surrendered life.

One of the most surrendered things Jesus ever did was ask John to baptize him.

Jesus, remember, was fully human. Entering the waters of baptism was part of Jesus’ journey towards us, his complete identification with broken, poor, sinful, beloved humanity. And it was a clear preview of what he would do on the Cross.

Throughout his life, Jesus exhibited this same poverty of spirit, this deep humility, and yielding of power and privilege. He depended on the hospitality and support of others. He got hungry - the king of the universe, for whom and through whom all things were made - got hungry. He grew tired. He wept. He washed his disciple’s feet, even Judas’s feet. And he submitted to death at the hands of his own creation, bracketed by thieves and rebels. This is what a surrendered life looks like.

All of this was foreshadowed by his baptism. Jesus surrendered to the symbolic death of going under the water to identify with the pain and sin and powerlessness of humanity. When he rose from the waters the heavens were torn open, and the voice of the Father declared, “This is my Son, with whom I am well-pleased.” This was not just a proud papa moment. This was the King announcing the heir to his kingdom. This is Father, Son, and Spirit revealing the nature of God.

When Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” he was offering to share his heavenly inheritance with his little sisters and brothers, with those who would join him in his surrendered life: his baptism, his poverty, his death, and his resurrection. The Church at its best throughout history has been surrendered with Jesus. Our mission and fellowship has been most genuine and effective when we have depended not on wealth and power but on faithfulness to the one who became poor with us and for us; when we have been humble and preferred others, even to the point of self-sacrifice; when we have confessed our weakness and admitted our wrongdoing; and when we have acknowledged and even rejoiced in our poverty of spirit.

We cannot begin our spiritual journey without spiritual poverty. There is simply no other starting place. A lot of damage has been done by engaging in religious and missional activity without first confessing our sinfulness, our brokenness, and our need for help. We can’t do it by ourselves. The good news is that we don’t have to. God, in Christ, has provided a way into surrender and victory through his life, death and resurrection. And he is continuing to do it in us by his Spirit as we participate in Jesus’ poverty, freedom and joy.

We cannot begin our spiritual journey without spiritual poverty. There is simply no other starting place.

Action

Confess to someone you trust an area where you need help and strength. Maybe it’s a feeling of being overwhelmed, a skill that you lack, or a shame or sin that you can’t seem to shake. You aren’t necessarily asking for the person to fix things for you, just acknowledging your need for outside help. Start by confessing this to yourself and to God.

Prayer

Father, please help me to see the holy surrender in Jesus’ life. Reveal the love that fueled his surrender and fill me with that same love. Show me what I am relying on instead of you and move me into a posture of surrender. Help me to know that I need help, and that you want to help me. In your name I pray, Jesus, and by your Spirit. Amen.

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About the author

Profile photo for Aaron White

Aaron White is the National Director of 24-7 Prayer Canada. He has been a pastor, missioner, justice worker and prayer instigator in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver for the past 16 years, where he lives with his wife and four children in a community home. He is the co-author of Revolution and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Kingdom of God; co-creator of The Creative Way Down discipleship resource; and author of the upcoming book Recovering: From Brokenness and Addiction to Blessedness and Community.

Aaron was a plenary speaker at Missions Fest Vancouver 2020.

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