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I'm a bit of an old-school guy. I still read a physical newspaper turn the pages. And I've noticed that in reading the paper this week that every article is about the corona virus. If you're reading about the business news in the business, the finance section of the paper, it's about how this is affecting the business.
If you're reading about politics, it's about how the virus is affecting the politics. Sports, entertainment, every article, every commentary, every opinion on the editorial page has something to do with this crisis.
Well I'm happy to announce to you that my sermon this morning has nothing to do with the corona virus and it has everything to do with growing and developing as a Christian, no matter what is going on in the world or in your own personal life.
My lesson then is entitled "Unconditional Surrender." "Unconditional Surrender." Well the dictionary defines the word surrender as the act of giving up or giving over something under compulsion. There are two types of surrender.
One is called conditional surrender. For example, in the Desert Storm War of several years back the Iraqi nation made a conditional surrender to the UN forces that were lead by the United States. Conditional surrender meant that in exchange for stopping the war, the Iraqis would agree to certain terms; to repay damages, to withdraw their troops, to give back prisoners of war, so on and so forth.
They were not able to win the war, but in order to save lives in continued fighting, they agreed to surrender with conditions from their victors. Another type of surrender is called unconditional surrender.
An example of this, on September the second, 1945, the country of Japan signed an unconditional treaty of surrender with the United States, thereby ending World War II. Japan was utterly defeated with no hope of military progress after the United States dropped two atomic bombs, one on Hiroshima, one on Nagasaki, on these cities, and of course killing hundreds of thousands of people because of that, because of those bombs.
Terrible devastation. Now unlike the Iraqis, the Japanese had no bargaining or threatening power after the United States unleashed the power of atomic weapons against them. Their only recourse was to give up or to surrender without conditions, without special clauses, without delay, or risk losing their nation altogether.
Now for a people like the Japanese who believed that they were descended from the gods and that their destiny was to rule the world, this was the greatest humiliation and shock of their history. As a matter of fact, part of the terms set only by the Americans, the Japanese had no say, it was after all an unconditional surrender, so part of the terms was that they had to change part of their religious teaching which promoted the idea of their world sovereignty and they also had to change their flag which promoted this idea.
They went from a sun centered in the flag with rays emanating from it suggesting their dominance over the world to simply a sun on a white background. Now I'm explaining all of this to you so that you will understand two things.
One, the difference between conditional and unconditional surrender, and two, when you come to God through Christ, when you become a Christian, God requires an unconditional surrender of your life to Him.
Without, or rather, with the rest of my lesson, I'm going to try to explain to you what this requires and also what this will acquire for you in the long run, for all of us, actually. Now our unconditional surrender to God is very much like the wartime unconditional surrender of the Japanese.
We have been at war with God through disobedience and ignorance, lack of faith, no response to His gospel, no service to the kingdom. Paul the apostle writes, "As it is written," he says, "there is none righteous, not even one; "there is none who understands, "there is none who seeks after God.
"All have turned aside," Romans 3:10-11. And God has unleashed His ultimate weapon against our sins, against our war that we had been waging against Him, and that is the law. That's the weapon against us.
And Paul writes about the law in Romans 3:20. "Through the law comes the knowledge of sin." And then in Romans 6:23 he says, "Through the law comes the knowledge of sin, "and the wage of sin is death.
" So the law is God's tool, if you wish, to demonstrate that we are sinners, that we are lost, and what the consequences are for that. So through the law, God reveals to sinful man that he's a sinner and that because of this, he will die physically and then will suffer eternally in Hell because of it.
Very serious business. After all, this is a war. This is God's atom bomb, if you wish, that brings us, hopefully, to unconditional surrender. You see, we cannot win the war. We cannot change the results of the law.
If we go on resisting the gospel, we will die and we will be destroyed forever. Now the surrender that we offer to God is unconditional, and as such, all the terms are set by the winner. In our case with God, these are the terms of His unconditional surrender agreement with us as explained by Jesus Christ.
The first term of the unconditional surrender is conversion. Conversion. In Mark 16:15-16, Mark summarizes this idea of conversion. Here Jesus is saying to his apostles, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel "to all creation.
"He who has believed and has been baptized "shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved "shall be condemned." And so belief and baptism are the ways that a person express their unconditional surrender to God.
We call this conversion. For example, belief in this process. Belief in Jesus is not simply the acknowledgement that He is the divine Son of God, although that's part of it. Many scholars talk about this and they say that they believe this.
However, belief in Jesus implies everything that comes before it. That you recognize that you are a sinner condemned by the law. That you are ready and have repented of your sins and don't want to war against God any more.
That you have faith in Jesus to save you and accept Him as your Lord. When one confesses their faith with the words "I believe that Jesus is the Son of God," they are saying all of these other things, as well.
The other expression of our surrender is baptism. Baptism is not simply immersion in water. Many unseen but very real things happen at that very moment of baptism. It is a burial with Jesus into his death, Romans 6:3.
It is the putting on of Jesus as the Lord of righteousness in Galatians 3:27. It is a washing away of all the guilt for our sins, Acts 2:38. It is the point where we enter into the church, Acts 2:47. And we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38.
When we are baptized, we physically demonstrate for the first time our unconditional surrender to Jesus Christ, our new Lord and eternal Savior. So the first term in our unconditional surrender to God is that we believe in the One that He sent to save us and respond to Him in faith and baptism, excuse me, faith, repentance, and baptism.
The second term in our agreement to surrender is the following. The second term is discipleship. Discipleship. For several years after the war, for example, American troops and officials occupied Japan to supervise compliance to the surrender and also help rebuild that nation.
The U.S. policy was that it was better to train a new and friendly ally than maintain an old enemy. The Japanese knew, however, that any attempt to violate the agreement would result in swift retribution.
Our unconditional surrender to God also has a second stage that follows initial surrender in the waters of baptism. That second stage is called discipleship. In Luke chapter 14, Jesus explains the requirements of discipleship that follows conversion.
In this passage, the Lord outlines three requirements of discipleship. The first requirement of discipleship is exclusivity. Exclusivity. Let's read verse 25 and 26. He says, "Now large crowds were going along with Him; "and He," meaning Jesus, "turned and said to them, "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate "his own father, and mother, "and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, "yes, and even his own life, "he cannot be My disciple.
" Now, some misunderstood this passage to mean that, you know, to love Jesus is to hate family. I've had that question many times posed to me. This is false because it would violate the command to honor and obey parents.
Jesus says if anyone comes to Him, if you leave family to come to Him, if your family is between you and Him, if your family is against Him, if your family makes you choose between them and Him, then you must hate the one and love the other.
It's a question of exclusiveness when it comes to Christ. Nothing, not even family, not even your own life can take His position in your life. And anything that does, anyone that tries is hateful because it is trying, knowingly or not, to destroy your eternal soul.
Note that He says that this is not an optional clause. If you can't be exclusive about Christ and putting Him above all else, then you can't be His disciple. Why is that? Because you won't last. And more importantly, He won't let you be His disciple.
He will not accept you on those conditions. Remember, it's unconditional surrender. He accepts you on His conditions, not your conditions. A second stipulation, requirement of discipleship is cross bearing.
Verse 27, Jesus says, "Whoever does not "carry his own cross and come after Me "cannot be my disciple." Following Christ requires cross bearing. He carried a cross to His own death in order to resurrect.
We must carry a cross to our death in order to resurrect. Now the cross that Jesus carried was the will of God for His life. There was a moment in the Garden where His human side begged not to bear it.
But in the end, He said, "Not my will be done, but Thy will be done," and He carried the cross that the Father laid upon Him for our sake. Well, discipleship requires each of us to carry the cross that God puts upon us in our lives for the sake of our faith in Christ Jesus.
You know we're always saying, "I don't know why. "Why do I have to do this "and why do I have to do that? "Boy, I hate this world," or "I hate my job," or, "Well, it's so unfair that my child "was sick and the other child," you know, "Who's putting this on me?" Well, the Lord is allowing you to carry that cross.
The Lord is placing that cross on you for the sake of your faith in Christ Jesus. Because of our faith in Christ, we have to bear the cross of resisting temptation time and time again when we would love to give in.
Or caring for someone else's life instead of enjoying our own life. Or serving and giving to the point where it hurts us and interferes with our own personal time. Or swallowing our pride and pursuing peace with those who are unworthy of our love, at times.
I mean, the list is endless. But each of us knows the burden of the cross of Christ when it digs into our shoulder. Jesus says unless you are willing to carry a cross in following Him, you can't be His disciple.
Again, why? Well, all disciples are cross bearers. I mean, some want to follow without the cross so that they can have the name without the pain, and that just doesn't happen. Cross bearing is one of the terms of surrender.
If you don't want to carry a cross, then you're refusing the terms of unconditional surrender and putting in one of your conditions. Your condition is, "Oh, I want to be a disciple, "but I don't want to carry a cross.
" That's your condition. If you want to be His disciple, you have to go with His conditions, and one of His conditions is that we carry a cross. And so exclusivity, that's the number one term; cross bearing, every person must carry their own; and then thirdly, letting go.
Letting go. Let's read what He says about that, verse 28. "For which one of you, when he wants "to build a tower, does not first sit down "and calculate the cost to see if he has enough "to complete it? "Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation "and is not able to finish, all who observe it "begin to ridicule him saying, "This man began to build and was not able to finish.
" "Or what king, when he sets out to meet "another king in battle, will not first "sit down and consider whether he is strong enough "with 10,000 men to encounter "the one coming against him with 20,000? "Or else, while the other is still far away, "he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.
"So then, none of you can be My disciple "who does not give up all his own possessions." See, the Japanese had to let go of their old ideas and their old goals as part of their surrender. Jesus warns those who plan to come to Him that unconditional surrender will mean giving up everything they have and starting all over again.
Now for some, like the rich young ruler for example, this meant giving up material possessions. For others, like Nicodemus, it meant giving up a way of thinking and replacing that with a different way of thinking.
So whatever stops you from following Christ, whatever that is, sinful habits, unbelieving friends, occupations that hinders faith and service, beliefs and ideas contrary to the truth that you must be prepared to leave these things behind, whatever you have that serves Christ, you must give Him for His purpose.
Your talents and abilities, and your wealth, and your time and energy, and your loved ones. Of course, in other places He explains the ways to do this so that you can still render unto Caesar what is Caesar and unto God what is God's.
The point here is that you must be prepared to relinquish control of all you own and put it into God's hands as part of your unconditional surrender. You see, disciples may possess many things and manage vast holdings, but they realize that they no longer own anything.
Everything they have comes from God and is used to glorify and serve Him. And so in this losing war against God, we can only survive through an unconditional surrender which requires conversion and discipleship.
These are not easy things because they require a total and unconditional surrender of ourselves and all we love, and all we do, and all we have, and all we think. However, along with the terms of this unconditional surrender, come the blessings for those who comply.
In Mark chapter 10, after having heard the requirements of discipleship, Peter makes a comment, if you wish, that has a question inserted in it. And it says, "Peter began to say to Him," to Jesus, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You.
" Now he doesn't exactly ask a question, you notice here? He kind of makes a comment. You know, I'm just sayin'. It's one of those I'm just sayin'. And what he's saying is we've left everything, we've done that, we don't own anything.
We're following You. We're willing to carry the cross and blah, blah, blah. What's the question hidden in there? Well the question hidden in there is: What's in it for me? I've done all of this. What's in it for me? What do I get out of all of this? And Jesus summarizes the blessings of a full surrender in His answer to Peter and the other apostles who were within earshot.
Here's the first reward. The first reward is the reward we get in this world. Jesus said, "He will receive 100 times "as much now in the present age, houses, and brothers, "and sisters, and mothers, and children, and farms, "along with persecutions.
" The reward, Jesus says, in this world is a life that has 100 times the value of your previous life. You know, we often misunderstand Jesus here to mean that our reward is that we will receive greater wealth, you know, 100 times houses and farms.
Or we'll receive more friends or more family as Christians. Well, for a few this may be so. Their lives improve, they socialize with nicer people because of their faith. But for most Christians throughout history, being a disciple of Jesus has not meant financial prosperity, has not meant greater popularity.
Actually, for many, it has meant quite the opposite. Our faith costs us our wealth and our friends, and for some costs us our families. And therein lies the relationship between unconditional surrender and this earthly reward that the Lord is talking about.
Surrender brings you to another level of spiritual experience which is 100 times or 100% superior to the experience of life that you were having before you surrendered to God. That's the point. Not quantity, it's quality.
We see complete surrender as a sacrifice. We see it many times as the end of our pleasure or the point where our lives end, if you wish. But Jesus says to His disciples that surrendering to Him is really a door, it's the entranceway to a life and an experience that is 100 times fuller and richer than anything we've ever known before.
I've often said in my own experience that the one good thing, the only good thing about having been converted when I was 30 years old is that I experienced for at least part of my adult life what it was like to be lost.
I remember very clearly what it was like to just not believe in something or not be a follower of Jesus Christ, to be on my own in this world. To try to figure out which way to go. How do I handle this? What's going to happen to me? Where will I go after I die? Is there anything there? I remember, I remember asking myself these questions and thinking about these things, and, here's the point, not having an answer.
Not having an answer and just saying, "Well, I guess I just, you know, "might as well just putter along, "do my best, try to get as much "out of this world as I can, "find my pleasure, satisfaction where I can find it.
" But I had no answer. I had no hope. I remember what that feels like. And I know what it feels like now for the last 40 plus years as a Christian the fullness of Christian life. And even the fact that this better life has more persecution than the former life, even with this element, it's still 100 times better.
I mean, I know in my own life, my own family, our family and of course my aunts, uncles, parents, you know all of that, they're gone now, but when they were alive, you know, my conversion stood as kind of an invisible wall between us.
We spoke. They didn't call us bad names or anything like that but it was forever a division in our lives. We never go back to the way we were in the past. So in a sense, both my wife and I lost our families over it.
And yet, the family that we now have in Christ, 100 times fuller in the sense that the relationship is richer and deeper and hopeful. And the Bible confirms this truth over and over with the stories of men and women who surrendered and discovered while here on this earth an experience they would not trade anything for, not even in front of threats of suffering and death.
Moses and the prophets, Mary and Paul, and others who found a life 100 times worth living once they gave up their other one in becoming disciples of Jesus Christ. This is the major symbolic point of baptism.
Along with your sins, you also bury your house, your family, your wealth, your life in the waters of baptism, and this new surrendered person arises ready for the new life, that 100% improved experience of Christian living.
The problem is that many go through with the ritual but they don't really surrender, so the same old person comes out of the water. It's not just about getting wet, brothers and sisters. And so Jesus promises all those who come to Him in unconditional surrender that their lives as disciples will be 100 times more satisfying than their old lives.
And if this is not so in your life, it's not because Jesus has failed in His promise to you, but because you have failed in completely surrendering yourself to Him. There is where the problem lies. And then, this is the reward in this world, and then Jesus talks about the reward in the life to come and He says, finishing the verse, "And in the age to come, eternal life.
" As superior as the Christian life is to the life without Christ, it is still filled with pain, and temptation, and ultimately physical suffering and death. Most people like the status quo. And when asked to leave what they have, even if they truly have it for a little while, for something better that will only last for a little while, they usually, you know, they usually like to stand pat.
Change is scary. Change is uncomfortable. This is why Jesus also mentions that the second and most precious reward of unconditional surrender is eternal or unconditional life, a life without conditions or limits of time, pain, ignorance, without limits for our capacity for joy.
Jesus only mentions the word eternal in referring to the future reward. But in other places in the Bible we get a picture of the essence and the quality of this life. And I'll just read a few of these short passages here in Matthew 22:30 He says, "For in the resurrection they neither marry "nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.
" So Jesus says we will possess the nature, if you wish, of angels. We know that angels are powerful beings and their powers and abilities, Jesus said, will be ours. And then in I Corinthians 15:52, Paul says, "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, "at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, "and the dead will be raise imperishable, "and we will be changed.
" And so Paul says that we will be fitted with bodies that will never sin, never suffer, never die. Imagine! And then in II Timothy 2:12, again Paul says, "If we endure, we will also reign with Him." Here, Paul says that we will reign over the spiritual world with God above the angelic hosts at the right hand of God with Christ.
We participate in the Godhead. I can't even imagine what that is like. How wonderful it will be. You see, what makes the Christian life so special is that it is lived in the complete confidence that there is another life to come.
This hope gives perspective to this life here on earth and all that happens, good or bad. You know, the people are running around, "Oh I'm going to, you know, this, this virus thing, "oh, I'm going to lose my business, "I'm going to lose this, and I'm going to.
"Oh, you know!" Why? Because they're afraid of losing the things that are important to them in this life. And rightly so. We've got to eat. But as surrendered disciples of Christ, I may be concerned about my life here and how I'm going to feed my family and taking care of my responsibilities, but nothing that happens in this life threatens the life that is to come.
Nothing. This hope fuels patience, and love, and service while we are here. This hope is the wellspring for the joy and peace that Christians experience in this world where there is suffering and death.
Brothers and sisters, there's always going to be a virus of some kind. Call it war. Call it pestilence. Call it a tornado. Call it a hurricane. Call it what you will, there's always some kind of thing that disrupts our life.
This is just the latest in a series of many and it won't be the last. Those who refuse surrender are left to scrape together whatever life they can here on earth only wishing or speculating on what comes after.
However, a surrendered life gives us a sense of what our life will be in the future. And you know, it's a lot like cooking. I'll give you one last, you know, in honor of Marty who always has food examples, I, having an Italian background will give you my food analogy here.
This expectation, if you wish, of the life to come is a lot like cooking, if you wish. I remember when my mom used to cook, you know, or my dad used to cook and then his recipe came down to my wife through my mom.
And when Lise, my wife, makes my father's special family recipe for Italian spaghetti and meatballs, it takes a full day of cooking. The whole day is devoted to this meal. You have to prepare the ingredients.
You have to mix and roll each meatball by hand. We're 22 people. When my whole family gets together, we're 22 people. That's a lot of meatballs. And each one has to be mixed, first of all, and then each one has to be rolled by hand.
And the sauce needs to cook for four to six hours and it's not one of these deals where you just leave it there and turn it on and walk away and go shopping or something. No, no, no, you've got to come and stir that thing every 15 or 20 minutes.
So you can't be far away from the sauce. You've got to stay with the sauce all day long. My kids and I will probably laugh a good laugh at home, but they know what we're talking about. By late afternoon, the entire house is filled with the Old World aroma of tomatoes, and garlic, and cheese, and peppers as we anticipate the wonderful meal that we're about to enjoy in just a few hours.
I mean, the kitchen's a wreck. The kitchen is a wreck. Well, our wait for eternal life is something like that. God has prepared a wonderful feast in a wonderful home for us to enjoy in just a little while.
And the aroma of what He has prepared fills the lives of all those disciples who have fully surrendered to Him so that they can anticipate and begin to enjoy now what He has waiting for them in the future.
This is what Jesus offers all those who would leave everything today and surrender to Him in conversion and discipleship. Well in closing, let me remind you that despite the times of war between nations or the war against an unseen enemy that seems to threaten all of humanity, God still rules over all and calls on every single person to unconditional surrender.
And this reality remains true even during these extraordinary times that we are now living through. I am convinced that this crisis is only one way that God reminds us of His sovereignty and our weakness and fragility.
So what will it be, I ask you. What will it be? Your way or His way? Your life or His life? Your conditions or His conditions? Partial surrender or unconditional surrender? Now or later? Think about these things.
And if you need to respond in some way, because of our unusual circumstance this day, you can type in your request for prayers or response for whatever you may need. As a response to this lesson, you can kind of type that in and Hal will read that to us, give that to us and one of the elders will respond to your prayer.
I ask you to think about this for a moment and if you need to respond in any way, we've provided a way for you to do that. Please do so while we share one more song before our brother will come and close us out this morning with a word of prayer.
And if there are any requests, we'll honor those at that time. God bless you.