True Spirituality CHAPTER ONE
What does God really want from you?
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.2
—Jesus of Nazareth
Well, I’d like to say that my life was completely changed, my problems were put behind me, and my new relationship with Christ was one of countless victory after victory; but I can’t. My life did change. God did a radical work in my heart and planted a new set of desires within me. No one told me I had to read the Bible, but I couldn’t put it down. I read it at night and in the morning with a sense that the living God was speaking directly to me. No one told me I had to stop “doing this or that,” but somehow God changed my desires . . . and the sin that I once enjoyed became repulsive. I had peace in my heart and often a song on my lips. I was free. I was motivated and wanted to share the love that I now experienced with everyone.
New Life/New Struggles
But my new life also introduced new struggles. Although some sins quickly vanished, others seemed impossible to overcome. I was very fortunate to have some mature Christians enter my life shortly after my conversion and teach me how to live the Christian life. Little by little, I learned how to get to know God and understand His Word so He could talk back to me. The early days were filled with a joy that I’d never known and followed by tests that I had never imagined.
As I read through my New Testament in the mornings and talked with God about school, basketball, and girls, I soon learned that His opinion about how to “do” life was a little bit different from mine. Jesus was certainly my Savior, but He was far from the Lord of my life. I was growing and confused. I felt such joy in my new relationship with Christ, but I didn’t want anyone telling me what to do. Unconsciously I began to compartmentalize my faith (just like I observed in the church of my childhood) and took a salad-bar approach to God’s commands. The ones that I liked and seemed reasonable I obeyed; and the ones that I disliked and seemed unreasonable I chose to disregard.
As I look back, it was a crazy way to live. I read my Bible in the mornings and had a wonderful time with God, only to experience extreme remorse and guilt later in the day as I engaged in activities that violated the Holy Spirit living within me. I looked forward to Thursday-night Bible study, where our campus ministry would crowd into a small living room to sing songs, share our hearts, and experience God’s presence in a powerful way.
On Friday and Saturday nights I would load in the car with four or five players on the basketball team and hit every bar in Wheeling, West Virginia. I was the one with the social skills, so I was appointed the designated “introducer” to the good-looking girls. Often getting home in the wee hours of the morning, I would miss church, feel guilty, ask for forgiveness, receive it, and continue on with this schizophrenic Christian life.
Though I didn’t show it, I was miserable. Over time the joy of the Lord began to fade as I constantly violated my conscience, and even the sin I once enjoyed lost its ability to satisfy, as it was always accompanied with guilt and shame—now that I had the Holy Spirit living in me.
It was about two and a half years into my journey with Christ that God had me revisit those two very important questions: “What is it that God really wants from me the most? And how do I give it to Him?” It was these two questions that brought me to a point of seriously reexamining my relationship with the living God.
Giving God What He Really Wants
As I was reading through the Scripture one day with a group of guys my age, I realized that my double, compartmentalized life had never been God’s intent. He wanted me—all of me! The missing power and the absent joy could only come as I understood and applied the truth of Romans 12:1 . . . only when I learned about surrender.
God wanted me to surrender all that I am and all that I have in submission to Him. He wanted to have the same place in my heart that He possesses in the universe. He wanted me to believe that He was so good, kind, and loving that I would entrust all of me to Him, knowing He had my best in mind. He wanted me to bring my dreams, my future, my girlfriend, my basketball career, my academics to Him with open palms. He wanted me to bring my everything so that He might reign in my heart as He reigns in the universe.
I cannot begin to tell you the extent of the struggle and battle I experienced in coming to a place of surrender. My view of God was so warped that I assumed to surrender to Him would mean the end of the things that I held most dear.
Surrender and fear were synonymous in my mind and heart. I was single and certainly wanted to be married someday. But I thought if I surrendered to God, He might want me to be single and I would be miserable my whole life. Or worse, He would direct me to marry some ugly girl whom I never wanted to be with. If I surrendered, He might ask me to quit basketball and send me to some strange land to be a missionary. If I surrendered, He might want me to change what I was studying to something different that I would probably hate. Over and over in my mind the issue of surrender became paramount.
As I look back, I see that it was my misunderstanding of God and the concept of surrender that destined me to be a cultural, carnal, hypocritical follower of Jesus—the very thing I had hated growing up.
It was my misunderstanding of God and the concept of surrender that destined me to be a cultural, carnal, hypocritical follower of Jesus—the very thing I had hated growing up.
I wanted to begin our journey together by sharing my story of struggling with the Christian life, because according to the best research and my personal experience, the great majority of “Christians” in the United States and around the world live in this great twilight. Believers who know and love God and yet do not experience His joy, power, or presence anywhere near the way God longs for them to know Him.
If you’re tired of all the rules, all the formulas, all the religious activities, and even well-meaning church programs that promise transformation but don’t deliver, I invite you to join me on a journey of grace, faith, and relationship that leads to genuine transformation. Together we’ll learn what it really looks like to follow Christ and how in His power and grace, you can live a new, radical, abundant life.
In order for this to occur it will require your participation. Reading or even agreeing with what Scripture says about spiritual transformation does not make it happen. So at the end of each chapter I will provide you some key questions, assignments, and resources to help you process and apply what God is saying to you.
I use the acronym TRUST ME to remind you that what pleases God the most is our faith (Hebrews 11:6). You will be tempted to see r12 as the “bar of discipleship” that you need to achieve instead of the profile of what Christ wants to produce in your heart and relationship through His power and grace.
Don’t feel compelled to answer all the questions at the end of each chapter or do all the assignments. They are there to help you hear God’s voice, overcome common barriers, and cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart—not to be another list of things you need to do. The most important question you can ask at the end of each chapter (and in all circumstances for that matter) is “What does it look like to trust God? What does it look like to trust God in view of what I just read? What does it look like to trust God in my job, my relationships, my future, etc.?”
TRUST ME will walk you through a grace-oriented process to help you hear what God is saying to you. Let’s get started in this first chapter on surrender:
IT’S YOUR MOVE—Become an Christian
God longs to speak personally to you. Take two minutes and slowly read through the TRUST ME questions and suggestions for spiritual growth. Then sit quietly for three minutes and ask God which of those questions or actions might provide a pathway that will strengthen and encourage you. Don’t feel compelled to answer all the questions or do all that is suggested; listen to the Holy Spirit and follow His leading.
THINK—What part of my struggle with surrender spoke to you?
REFLECT—Why do you think that aspect of my story resonated in your heart?
UNDERSTAND—How might God be speaking to you? Are you afraid? Convicted? Relieved that others have the same struggles?
SURRENDER—Take a moment and simply tell God how you are feeling. Share your fears, relief, or honest struggles with Him. Tell Him you want to learn more and want His help to really understand what surrender is all about.
TAKE ACTION—Decide when you will read the next chapter to hear God’s heart concerning surrender.
MOTIVATION—Go to the web (LivingontheEdge.org/r12
) and watch the fourteen-minute video “How to Give God What He Wants the Most.”
ENCOURAGE SOMEONE—Take one minute and pray for someone who is going through a struggle in their journey of surrender.