By Brandon Sutton
We’re working our way through the 12 Steps of Recovery. In step one, we admit our powerlessness over sin and complete inability to set ourselves free. In step two, then, we come to grips with the reality that God alone has the power to restore our broken lives. That power is not inherent within us. Once we come to terms with these two crucial realities, we move on to step three. “We decide to trust God with our lives and wills by accepting his grace through Jesus Christ” (Re: Generation).
Many say the principle behind step three is trust. Some people would say it’s surrender. I say it’s both. But trust in God must come before surrender to God. That’s what my last article was about. When we come to step three, for many of us, we trust in Christ as our Savior for the first time. In Him, we receive the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Once we receive Christ as our Savior, we must also submit to Him as Lord. Don’t get me wrong. You can’t have Christ as Savior without submitting to Him as Lord. But it seems to me that we must trust Him before we surrender. You won’t surrender to someone you don’t trust. Even the apostles didn’t follow Jesus right away. They heard Him teach and observed Jesus on a few occasions before they finally dropped everything to follow Him.
But surrender is necessary, and unless you surrender to Jesus, there is no reason to believe that you have been forgiven. Forgiven people surrender, because that’s what Jesus demands. 34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.35 For whoever would save his life[d] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:34-38).
Here’s Jesus’ requirement for discipleship—die! If you want to follow Jesus, your life, as you know it now, is over. Your ambitions, dreams, desires and will are all buried. You now follow Jesus. You embrace His will for your life. His mission is your mission. His priorities are your priorities. That’s what it means to deny yourself and take up your cross to follow Jesus. Your life is dead. You now live for Him. This is why Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). When Paul came to know Jesus, his life came to an end. He died. Moving forward, Christ lived His life through Paul. This doesn’t mean we become robots. It means that God completely changes us to desire His will. He empowers us by His Spirit to live for the glory and purposes of Christ.
And so, we follow Christ and die to self-daily. Salvation occurs the moment we trust in Jesus. Dying to self, however, is a moment-by-moment choice we must make. Will I live for my selfish ambitions and desires today, or will I live for Christ? Will I put to death my will and say, “Thy will be done” or will I pursue my own will? Perhaps this is why Paul said, “I die every day” (1st Corinthians 15:31).
Maybe you have trusted Christ, but your life doesn’t reflect a disciple who has surrendered fully to Jesus. First, you need to ask yourself: am I really a Christian? Because true Christians surrender. Or perhaps, you’re in a season of sin. If so, confess your sins to God and turn to Him. He is faithful and just to forgive His people.
Wherever you stand with the Lord right now, let us all pray this prayer.
Lord, I owe my life to you for you are my Creator. You have given me everything. I can take credit for nothing. You have been nothing but good to me, and in return I have rebelled against your will. I have lived my life for selfish ambition. I have enjoyed the world more than You. If I were to answer for my sins, judgment is all I would receive. Which is why I look away from myself and to the Savior. He bore my sins on the cross of Calvary. He was pierced for my transgressions. Forgive me, O Lord, according to your mercy in Christ. Restore my life. I surrender to you. My life is yours. Do with me as you will. To God alone be the glory. Amen.