July 29, 2018
Pastor Jeff Struecker
Would it make you mad if your friend from work invited you over to his house to go swimming and you spend all of your time blowing up a floaty, and you get the children all lathered up with sunscreen and you were looking forward to go swimming because it’s hot outside, and you go to your friend’s house who invited you and they give you something cool to drink. They take you out into the backyard. You’re so excited about this, and then you see this beautiful swimming pool…with no water in it. Would you be disappointed? How many of you would say, “Man, that would really frustrate me”?
Alright, let me tell you a true story. This happened here just a few years ago in our church. There was a family that had been visiting our church from another church in town, a relatively young couple. Unexpectedly, the husband passed away. The wife really felt connected to the other church in town. The husband loved Calvary, and the family decided to try to bring both churches together and do a funeral service for the husband here at Calvary. The wife looked at me and the pastor of the other church and she said, “I want you [pastor of the other church] to preach the sermon. Jeff, would you just end the service with a prayer?” But she looked at us both in the eyes, and she said, “I believe my husband was a Christian. Many of his family and friends are not Christians. I want you to explain to people how they can become a Christian and invite them during the funeral service to become a follower of Jesus.”
So, I sat right over there during this funeral service. It was tragic, just this young man who left children and died at a pretty young age, and the preacher from the other church delivered the sermon. For 30 minutes he was talking in circles around and around about Jesus, but never once did he invite somebody in that room to become a Christian. I got angry, and while the service was getting ready to wrap up, I came up here on stage and I said, “Y’all, I’m supposed to just pray, and we’re supposed to leave, but I can’t do that because what that sweet woman who is grieving bitterly right now asked us to do is to explain to somebody in this room how you could become a Christian for the first time.” And I sat down and I explained the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and then I invited the family in the room to surrender their soul to Jesus right there on the spot.
I don’t know if any of them became a Christian, but I do know this: When you listen to some pastors, they talk a lot about Jesus, but they don’t invite people to become followers of Jesus. Pastor Mark Driscoll once gave this analogy: “As a Christian church, if people go to your church and they don’t hear who Jesus is, it’s like going to a swimming pool but not being invited to get in the water.” I’m going to take his analogy and take it a step further. When you and I start to develop gospel friendships and we start to explain to people who Jesus is and what he’s done for them, if you don’t ask them to surrender, it’s almost as cruel as bringing somebody to your house go swim in the backyard but not letting them get in the water.
So, if you’re new to our church, we’re almost done with a sermon series called Reach Deeper. This sermon series says you all have 20 or 30 casual acquaintances. I do too. Would you ask the Lord to help you take 2 or 3 of those 20 or 30 casual acquaintances and start to develop a gospel friendship with them? – start to explain to them who Jesus is and what he’s done for them? And today’s sermon will challenge you. If you’ve done that, faithfully done that in the past, at some point you’re going to have to ask them to surrender. -because here’s what Jesus expects of his followers:
Through faith in Jesus, you win the war through unconditional surrender.
I want to explain this. When we use the word faith today, that word faith is an all-or-nothing proposition. Unconditional surrender says you either surrender it all or you really haven’t surrendered at all. And I believe everyone on the planet who is far from God is struggling inside themselves, and the way that you find peace, peace with God and peace with yourself, is through surrender, through total unconditional surrender.
We’re going to take a look at, what does surrender look like in the Bible? What kind of surrender is Jesus asking me to make? -and if you’re practicing sharing your faith with somebody else, today is going to describe for you how you can invite a person to become a Christian for the first time. What you’re really asking them to do is unconditionally surrender to Jesus Christ.
Jesus calls for…
I. A personal surrender
So, here’s the surrender that Jesus calls us to: First it is a very personal surrender. What that means is that I can’t do this for you. You can’t do this for your friend or your next-door neighbor who you’re developing a gospel relationship with, and if you’re regularly sharing your faith, you’re probably going to hear this from time to time because I do. You’re going to hear somebody at this point tell you, “Well I believe that I’m getting into Heaven because my granddad was a Baptist preacher, because my uncle was a missionary.” They don’t use that phrase, but that’s basically what the logic says, and what they’re essentially saying is, “I’m getting into Heaven on somebody else’s face. I don’t know.”
What Jesus says today is, this is exclusively between you and him. It’s personal. It’s not between you and somebody else; it’s between you and him, which means I can’t do this for you. You can’t do this for somebody else. In Luke chapter 9, Jesus is going to give us a very vivid picture of surrender today. We’re going to start a verse 23. We’re going to read down to verse 27, but I want you to just see the personal nature of this unconditional surrender that Jesus is calling for from Luke chapter 9 today, starting in verse 23.
Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will save it.
The language that Jesus is using for us and verse 23 is the language of deny yourself. He (Jesus) knows that you and I struggle. He knows that we have this war that’s going on inside of us. I’m referring to it today as the “war within”, and this war is not just because of the temptation that’s happening around you. It’s actually a war that’s happening inside of you. You see, at its very essence, temptation, the kind of temptation that Jesus is describing today, it’s actually you against you. Yeah, maybe you’re being strongly tempted with alcohol or with greed or with pride or pornography. Whatever the temptation is, it’s still you struggling with you. Jesus says, “When you want to find peace, when you want to no longer struggle, it’s going to come through unconditional surrender. It’s going to come through taking up your cross [which is a form of execution] and following me.”
And then to make sure that nobody was confused here, he says, “Let me tell you the limits that I’m going to ask you to surrender today. You must be willing to lose your life if you really want to gain it, and if you hold on to your life, you’re actually going to lose it. I want you to think for just a second about what Jesus is saying. Think logically for a second. He’s asking for unconditional surrender, which if you’re talking to somebody who’s not a Christian, when they start to think through the consequences for this, many of them are going to say, “Wait a second. He’s asking me to be willing to give up everything, to go anywhere, to do anything that he asks me to do? That’s too much. I’m not willing to give all of that up,” and in their mind, when they’re doing the math, it’s because, “I don’t believe I’d gain more than I’m going to lose if I make this kind of unconditional surrender.”
Until you and I start talking to them about what we already know is happening inside their soul, about this war that’s going on inside of them and this war that’s going on inside of them is finally over, then you find peace with God through a relationship with Jesus Christ.
I’ll tell you an example of this. There’s a lady by the name of Bailey, a young woman. She was struggling deep on the inside. She was struggling with guilt and anxiety and shame, and it was consuming her so much so, that she couldn’t find peace. She was so at war with herself that she was actually hurting herself. She was cutting herself to try to find an outlet for the pain, and then finally when she surrendered to Jesus, she was able to find the peace that she had been looking for, for so long.
Let’s say you’re at the water cooler in the break room at work, and you’re trying to develop a gospel friendship with somebody who you work with, and this person looks like they’ve got it all together. I mean on Instagram they’ve got it made, and it seems like their life is all put together. I promise you, just like Bailey, if they’re far from God, they’re struggling with the same kind of shame and guilt and anxiety, and all of this stuff is going on inside them. You just can’t see this, and when you start to share with them who Jesus is, what Jesus has done for you, and how Jesus could do the same thing for them, it’s going to naturally lead to the moment you look them in the eyes and say, “When you’re ready to have the same kind of relationship with God that I have, it comes through unconditional surrender.”
And when you ask that of somebody, don’t be surprised that they start to think, “Wait a second; you want me to give up this and this and this in exchange for Jesus?! Why would I make that trade? And the answer to your question, the answer to that question is, this trade doesn’t make sense unless you gain more than you give up. You see, here’s how I would like to refer to people like Bailey. The only thing worthy of unconditional surrender is unconditional love, and the only guy who can give you unconditional love is Jesus Christ. He’s the only one worthy of your unconditional surrender. It’s personal. I can’t do this for somebody you know. You can’t do this for somebody you know.
II. A public surrender
But we don’t use the language around here of faith being private because it’s not. In fact, I’d like for you to write this down: Your faith, your unconditional surrender, is very personal, but it’s also very public. And this doesn’t come from me; this comes from Jesus in Luke chapter 9. Listen to what Jesus says for us next, starting in verse 25. He says it this way:
For what does it benefit someone if he gains the whole world, and yet loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and that of the Father and the holy angels.
Jesus in verse 26 is talking about here versus Heaven. He’s talking present tense versus future tense. “Whoever is ashamed of me here [present tense], I will be ashamed of him in Heaven [future tense]. This is a public surrender. There’s no way to do this privately and fulfill what the Bible is asking people to fulfill.
Back in verse 25, if you’ve been around here before, you’ve heard me say this is banking language. The word gain is actually a banking term for somebody putting something in your bank account, and you didn’t do anything to earn it. The word lose is also a banking term. Forfeit is a banking term. You did something wrong, and that something just cost you severely out of your bank account. The gains and losses, Jesus says here, is you could gain the whole world; it’s still not worthy of losing your soul. You could gain your soul, and if it cost you the whole world, it’s a good trade; it’s a good transaction. But it has to be public. “Those who are ashamed of me,” Jesus says here and now on earth, “I’m going to be ashamed of you.”
This verse, like Matthew chapter 7, strikes terror in my mind, because in Matthew chapter 7, Jesus puts it this way: “Many people are going to show up to me on the last day in Heaven, and they’re going to say to me, “Lord, Lord, I did all of these great things in your name,” and Jesus is going to say, “Depart for me. I never knew you.”
The public surrender that Jesus asks us to make, biblically speaking, is baptism. I’ll say this to you, especially to our guests today. About every 2 or 3 months, people who are new to Calvary will have stopped me in the hallways, and they’ll ask me this question: “Hey Jeff, how come you don’t invite people to make a public response to the Gospel at the end of the service? Why don’t you invite them to get up and walk down the aisles and to publicly come forward?” Frankly, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a public, come forward Gospel invitation, but that is not what the Bible describes as making your faith public. Making your faith public in the New Testament is being baptized. In fact, the very first Christian sermon ever preached in the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts chapter 2), Peter is standing up and preaching right after Jesus’s death and resurrection to the people of Israel, and he preaches this powerful message.
People, according to the book of Acts, are cut to the soul, and they ask Peter, “What should we do?” Peter’s answer to that question is 2 words: “Repent and be baptized.” Personal decision, personal surrender (repentance), public surrender (baptism). For all of us in our church, I need you to know what’s going to happen next Saturday. In fact, I want everybody in this room to join us at the Phenix City amphitheater, because this has the potential to be the single most significant day of baptism in the history of Calvary Baptist Church. I’m not kidding. We went back and looked at the records. Our records go back all the way to 1939. The highest number of people this church has ever baptized in one month (best that we can tell) is 15. Right now, we’re scheduled to baptize 17 or 18 people in one day, next Saturday.
It will be awesome, and every baptism, 1 baptism, Abby’s baptism that you’re going to see in just a second, is a picture of a miracle that’s already happened inside a girl’s soul, and now she is boldly making it public to the church and to the Chattahoochee Valley, “I belong to Jesus. I surrender. And he’s got it all.”
III. A permanent surrender
The surrender is personal. The surrender is public. And are you aware that it’s permanent? It is a once-and-for-all package decision. Nothing can ever change that. The last verse that I want to read from is Acts chapter 9, verse 27, it’s controversial. In fact, I’m going to try to explain some of the confusion here, but before I read this verse to you, if you’re in the habit of sharing your faith, I promise you, here’s what’s going to happen. When you get to the point where you’re ready to ask somebody to surrender to Jesus, they’re going to say to you, “Oh, I already did that a long time ago. I did that when I was a girl in vacation Bible school,” or “I did that when I was a boy in a church. I prayed a prayer. I walked down an aisle.” Nothing about their life, nothing about them, even their own words, sounds like they’re Christian, but they’ll say, “I did that thing a long time ago.”
And now you and I owe it to them to try to help them understand either the assurance of salvation (that what happened a long time ago was real and it lasts forever) or to help them understand the permanence of salvation (that no one or nothing can take away what Jesus has done inside your soul). Luke chapter 9, verse 27 says this:
Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”
Now, Bible scholars, pastors, theologians, they’re all over the map on this verse. Basically, there are a couple of opinions here. What does Jesus mean by “see the kingdom of God”? Does he mean his second coming? -because if that’s what he means, he’s saying some people are going to live all the way until the second coming. That sounds a little bit unusual. Does he mean by this they will be alive when the Holy Spirit is poured out from the Kingdom of God? -because if that’s the case, that’s a different story. Some believe he means (and I tend to think this is what Jesus is referring to) the very next thing in the book of Luke. Read verse 28. Jesus takes some of his disciples up on a mountain, and on that mountaintop, he has transformed, and they see King Jesus in all of his glory for a brief moment. Maybe that’s what Jesus is referring to.
Frankly, we’re not totally sure what he means by this, but we do know this: The word some is very important because he’s saying, “Some of you will see it, and some of you won’t.” Now obviously, he’s talking about Judas Iscariot. “The one who was with us but not among us went out from us.” Certainly, he means Judas Iscariot, but he probably also means some people who have been to church and been following him for quite a long time, but they’re just going through the motions. It’s never really been nailed down once and for all, and he’s probably referring to that category of people too.
The permanent salvation, the permanent surrender that Jesus offers people is like you were working a minimum wage, hourly job, just scratching out a living, barely able to pay the bills. In fact, some months not able to pay the bills, and then somebody in your family, a wealthy relative, passed away. And somebody put all of their money into your bank account because you were bequeathed this huge inheritance. That money’s yours now. You didn’t do anything to earn it, but it belongs to you, and you have the privilege of spending it however you want for the rest of your life. It’s a permanent gift made to you, and it’s something that you didn’t earn.
When we talk about our belief in Jesus, our surrender to Jesus, the miracle of salvation, the miracle of new birth, that’s something that you and I can’t take credit for. It’s put into our account because of what Jesus has done for us. His righteousness is being credited to us, but we gain permanently, not just here on earth, but for eternity, the benefits of that transaction. There are lots of other places in the Bible that make this kind of statement. I’m going to read just a couple of them to you just to help you understand what you’re hearing from the Bible today. Matthew chapter 24 in verse 9 through 13 says:
“Then they will hand you over to be persecuted, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name. 10 Then many will fall away, betray one another, and hate one another. 11 Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. 13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved.
I don’t have a whole lot of time, but I think this is probably a good time for us to talk about something that we did as a church a few weeks ago when we practiced church discipline with a brother who was in sin and showed absolutely no signs over a two-year period of time, any kind of remorse, any kind of regret, any kind of guilt, any indication that the Holy Spirit was showing him what he did was wrong. At some point, we had no choice as a church but to look this man in the eyes and to say, “This can’t possibly happen to somebody who genuinely knows Jesus. We can’t be in fellowship with one another. We can’t call you a member of our church anymore if you can live like this and show no guilt, no shame, no regret.
Here’s how the book of Hebrews puts it in chapter 6, verse 4:
For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, who shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age, 6 and who have fallen away. This is because, to their own harm, they are recrucifying the Son of God and holding him up to contempt.
What Hebrews chapter six is saying, it’s not saying that you can lose your salvation. We believe the saints remain in God’s control, in his hand for eternity. What it’s saying is that if it were possible that you could genuinely be a Christian and then turn around and walk away with no remorse, no regret, in order for you to come back to Christ, it would be like having to re-crucify Jesus all over again.
The language that it’s using is that it’s impossible; it can’t happen. If you’re genuinely, permanently surrender, you won’t walk away, and just to drive the point home (though I could do this all day long with y’all), I’ll show you what John’s teaches us in John chapter 10:
My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
As a Christian, you’ve been branded with the cross of Jesus Christ. It’s a permanent mark. Nothing can take it away from you. Jesus is saying, “You would have to be more powerful than God to take somebody who’s in my hand out of my hand. To take a genuine, permanently surrendered follower of Jesus away from me, you’d have to be more powerful than God, and that obviously can’t happen.” Yeah, we teach around here that once you’re saved, you’re always saved if you faithfully follow Jesus, if you surrender and take up your cross daily.
This is why we teaches in church that our LifeGroups are so important. -because you see, LifeGroups for us are the way of coming around each other and lifting each other up and encouraging each other. It’s the way that we hold each other accountable when we struggle with temptation. It’s the way of saying, “Brothers and sisters, I need you to help me live out my surrender to Jesus tomorrow, and I want to help you live surrendered to Jesus tomorrow.” If you’re not involved in a LifeGroup, I don’t know why you would avoid it any longer. This is essential for living a life of surrender. You need good, godly men and women around you who will help you do it. I need that; you need that also.
The surrender that Jesus calls for is personal, it’s public, and it’s permanent. It lasts forever, but I’m here to tell you, Church, anyone who’s ever experienced the peace of God will tell you, “I gained more than I lost the moment that I surrendered to Jesus.” And for those of you who are developing gospel friendships, what you’re asking somebody to do when they surrender is to finally have peace deep on the inside.
• Today, I realized that I need to surrender to Jesus for the first time.
– I am already a Christian, but I’ve never made my faith public through baptism. Contact me about river baptism.
+ I will not let temptation turn me away from Jesus this week.
- Is it possible to only partially surrender to Jesus and still become a Christian? (Explain your answer)
- Why do Christians often still struggle with personal sins even after they’ve surrendered every area of their life over to Jesus?
- What would you say to a person who claims to be a Christian, yet has never been baptized or told another person about their faith?
a. Do you believe you can be a Christian and be silent about your faith?
b. Support your answer from the Bible.
- Confess to each other areas of your life that you are still struggling with temptations and sins that you’ve committed this week.
- Pray for the Holy Spirit to give you power over temptation this week.