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Intentional Discipleship Part 2: Surrender to the Will of the Father

Intentional discipleship is surrendering to the will of the Father.

The first of AA’s twelve steps is to admit you are powerless to bring about change in your life, and the second step goes hand in hand with it, to believe there is a “higher power” who is able to facilitate the change you desire. These are also the first two steps in the life of a disciple.  We must be willing to admit that we are powerless to plant and cultivate the seeds of kingdom life in our own hearts, and we must submit to the only one who can.  By choosing to be a disciple, a student, we admit that we need to be taught.  Without this beginning in humility and surrender, the fullness of the abundant kingdom life will elude us. Humble submission to the creator of the universe is the foundation of intentional discipleship.

Surrender is a recurring theme in Jesus’ teaching. Over and over he teaches that clinging too tightly to our own ways will prevent us from experiencing the kingdom life.  He says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Mt 6:24) He tells one rich man that his attachment to wealth is keeping him from the kingdom (Mark 10:17-22), and he turns away three would be followers in Luke 9:57-62 because they are unwilling to give their whole lives to be disciples.  Over and over Jesus confronts the divided loyalty of people, and over and over he says they cannot follow him without full devotion.

If we are going to enter the kingdom of God, we must be willing to leave our own kingdoms.  Land is a part of one state or another, one country or another.  There are no overlapping territories, and the same is true in the kingdom of God.  As long as I insist on living in my kingdom, I will not enter the kingdom of God.  There is an incredible home for each of us in the kingdom, but for some reason we keep paying rent on the dilapidated studio in our own kingdom.  As long as we do, the beautiful kingdom house is just a dream.

Even Jesus experienced surrender. In Philippians 2:6-11 Paul says that Jesus emptied himself and became a servant even to the point of dying one of the most horrible deaths imaginable.  Perhaps the most dramatic examples of his submission to the Father’s will comes in Luke 42:22.  For some time Jesus has known what awaited him in Jerusalem.  As he made his way down the dusty paths from Galilee to Jerusalem, Jesus spoke often of his death, and I suspect it was constantly on his mind. Yet when the time came, he sat alone in a garden praying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  Moments before his arrest and hours before his death, even Jesus had to surrender his will to the will of his Father.

Surrender is not primarily a matter of obedience.  Obedience is a part of it, but I would rather look at obedience as the outcome rather than the starting point. We surrender to the will of the Father because of who he is.  He is God.  He is creator.  He is love.  Living a life of surrender means that we acknowledge that we are the created, and we cannot live the lives we were created to live under our own power.  We acknowledge that the one who can cultivate within us the life we so deeply desire is God.  We acknowledge that he is the creator of all things, that he loves us, and that he alone has the power to bring about our transformation.

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Comment by Jason Feffer on February 7, 2012 at 7:50am


  Thanks for the comment.  I really do appreciate it.  These posts are all part of a book I am putting together, and the feedback is extremely helpful. I hope you see the other posts and know that I am not promoting surrender with no other action.  I think we need to start with surrender.  Without that beginning we will just be trying to do it on our own which I am sure you would agree is just not possible.

That being said, you have pointed out something I have not included at this point, why do we surrender, or why do we choose to live the life of a disciple?  You are right that love is a high motivation, but I think most (maybe all) people actually start the journey for selfish reasons.  We are hoping to get something from God.  Perhaps we are looking for the abundant life of John 10:10 or something to live for.  Perhaps we are hoping to earn grace, or feel that it is our obligation to follow Jesus after being forgiven. (Is that any different than trying to earn grace?) The good news is that as we follow Jesus our sense of brotherhood with him grows and we begin to follow Jesus for the sake of the relationship.  I think it takes some time for most to get to this place, and if my story is an indication we will spend a great deal of time (the rest of our lives?) rooting out places where we are still following Jesus for selfish reasons. 

I don't know if that makes sense or if it is just the rambling of a tired guy, but I do want to sincerely thank you for the comment.

Comment by Dan Palmberg on February 5, 2012 at 6:19pm

Hey Jason,

Sorry if I recoil just a bit at your promotion of surrender.  I guess what I hear is in line with:  "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of . . . " or  "deny yourself".  These are essential starting points (as you said: 'the foundation of intentional discipleship') but are always accompanied clearly or implicitly with a faith driven ambition.  

Your quotation of Jesus' teaching about loving one master but hating another is maybe to point I'm making.  The Christian life surrenders areas of self love as it engages more fully the love of God.  The passages you cited all have a reason for submitting.  To add to the list . . . The reason Christ was able to submit to His Father's will and go to the cross was out of a love for the Father (John 17:23).  It was for the joy set before him that he endured the cross (Heb. 12:2).  

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying dying, humility, submission, mortification etc. are not part of the walk they certainly are.  I guess I wanted you to finish with the reason and motivation for our  surrender as being the greatest commandment.  As Paul said:  "The Love of Christ constrains me . . . (2Cor 5:14)"  The reason that Paul counts everything to be rubbish is because he beholds something far more beautiful and valuable - knowing Christ.

When I meet with guys, I'm always listening to areas godly affection to fan into flame.  In times of rebellion I will certainly use the language of the fear of the Lord and submission but only with the knowledge that where they need to end up is in pursuit of the love of God.  It is His mercy that leads us to repentance.


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