I have to surrender it all. Even I, “the great Apostle Peter,” have to do this day in and day out. I can hold back nothing. Anything that I am not willing to lose, anything I am holding onto, will just hold me back from Jesus. And the silliness of it all is nothing – not one thing – is really mine anyway.
Satan loves to hear me talk about what’s mine. The great joke will be that in the end, when we have either found eternal Life, or lost our temporary life, we will see nothing was ever ours to own. That was all an illusion. And as I get closer to my own death, I see that my learning to die to Self has opened the gate to go deeper into the Kingdom with my Savior.
I have found that if I look out for Peter, and therefore my Self, I find in the long run only frustration, anger, loneliness, disappointment and even failure. I miss Jesus’ life to the full. But if I look for Jesus, I will find Him, and with him all the riches of his kingdom. He promised us this.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Please notice he did not say, “… he must deny himself things.” What he did say is we must deny … Self. Now that raises a whole new, deeper issue: What exactly does “deny Self” mean? What does it look like in my day to day life?
God our Father is always and foremost interested in our hearts. The outer garments of material stuff, and our habits and actions, although more obvious, are minor issues compared to the inner condition of the heart. And even though we all have multiple issues (I know I do), each of you knows that one thing, that one area, that one heart issue, about which the Spirit is convicting you right now, even as you read my words.
It is that one thing you must surrender, and deny to your Self. Perhaps you are thinking even now about some habit, or some issue of your heart, that you know would not stand the light of day?
Okay, sure, we can all list multiple areas that could be improved. But the Holy Spirit is typically pressing in on that one thing in our lives we know is not pleasing to him. (And we know it is not beneficial for us, either.) It has actually become your master; you know it and God knows it. The question is, “What will you do about that one thing?”
One day not too long ago, I was sitting with some of the Twelve, and we were discussing this. It was a warm day and I was about to drift off when Phillip issued this challenge: “Let’s each write it down – that one thing – and commit to freeing ourselves from it. If we are serious about this, if we know something has a mastery over us, let’s step up and defeat it.”
I wish you could have seen the various expressions on the men’s faces as we struggled with writing it down – that one thing. We all knew if we wrote it down, we were committed. Thomas said, “I have too many things; I need time to think about it.” Two minutes later he said, “No, I don’t actually need any more time; I know exactly what it is.”
I know some of us, me for sure, were thinking, “I don’t know if I can really do this.” Or “I really don’t want to try to do this. It’s easier to just let it slide. I can get to it later. Oh sure, I know it’s not beneficial, but ….”
When we attempt to save our life, we are trying to keep our life exactly like we think it must be for us to be happy. Whatever that one thing is for you – be it a bad habit, a dark heart, a lust, a secret only you know about: if you are trying to save it, then Jesus is speaking directly to you, right now.
Your one thing could be a not-so-bad thing, but it is always more about our hearts: perhaps you just cannot forgive that person, or you’re resentful, or envious, or is it pride? Perhaps someone or some thing has become a god for you?
That one thing is retarding your growth. That one thing is blocking the Light. That one thing is holding you in bondage. It might even be blocking your salvation. But let me assure you, if you will surrender it, what Jesus has waiting for you is a richness, a true spiritual depth, you have not yet experienced.
And please remember this: this is not a Self-help program. You must look to the Holy Spirit to assist you and empower you.
And he will.