Matthew 3-4, Psalm 83
The Christian hymn, "I Surrender All" was published in 1896. Though not played as often, when it is, we all sing, with outstretched arms, as though we surrender all. But, if we were to be honest, more accurately we should be singing, "I surrender nothing", or "I surrender a little", or "I surrender some". This rendition would not be quite as popular but would certainly be more accurate. Consider our lives and our Christian walk and consider how much of our current day we dedicate to Him or ourselves. A well known fact is few choose to tithe. The reasons are many: the house we bought is a little more than we can handle, our car payments have to be made, we work hard and we need those vacations, our kids education or activities cost a lot. Another truth is most don't regularly attend church. The reasons for this are many: my job interferes with the time of church, my kid's activities interfere, it's football season, etc. Most have never read through the Bible and the overwhelming majority that do read, prefer short bite-size devotionals which contain a verse or two followed by a short feel-good little commentary which probably takes 5 minutes or less. The reasons for not regularly reading are: no time, too tired when we decide to actually read, can't understand, I've already read it, it doesn't make sense, etc. We must all ask ourselves, do we mean what we say and say what we mean. Is God and our pursuit of following Jesus a nice little extra or will we allow it to consume us and transform us. Giving Him little pieces of our lives will never accomplish this.
We read in Matthew 4:18-20, "And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fisherman. Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." They immediately left their nets and followed Him." In the next two verses we see James and John do the exact same thing. Some may make the mistake thinking this was the first time they set eyes on each other, but Jesus had been teaching in their town of Capernaum. Often we make the mistake of elevating the qualities of these men or this interaction between them in a mystical way. But we read in a parallel passage in Luke 5:8, "When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"" Peter acknowledged his sinfulness in light of the sinless Lamb of God who was before him. In that light he realized how meaningless and shallow his own life was in comparison and was willing to follow him over his family, his vocation, his city, etc. A few years later we read in Matthew 19:27, "Then Peter answered and said to Him, "See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?" Jesus' response includes 19:29-30, "An everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first." We read in Matthew 16:24-26, "Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"
We must all ask ourselves the question of what is most important in our lives, and ask that question honestly. Do we see our sinful selves in light of the sinless, spotless Savior as Peter did in Luke 5:8? Or do we compare ourselves with others and compare our level of dedication to others and feel good about ourselves. Are we willing to lose ourselves in pursuit of Him, or would we rather play it safer and give Him only a little sliver of our lives, though He deserves it all. Jesus didn't call those who give mental ascent to His teachings, not even believers, but disciples (Matthew 28:18-20). Paul described our appropriate response in light of so great a gift in Romans 12:1-2, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." May we all take some time and evaluate what it means to follow God, and allow our lives to be transformed in the process.
Messages from Pastor Lloyd Pulley: