SELF-SURRENDER, as we have seen, is the answer to finding God, forgiveness, peace, victory, and heaven.
But the question many ask is How am I to surrender? And, just as important with many, How do I become so I want to surrender? For the truth is, some say, I have no real desire to give myself to God. Candidly, if my chances for salvation depend on how I feel toward God, I guess I'm lost. If desire is a motivation, I seem to have none. I seem to be drained of all desire, all will, to be saved. I feel spiritually numb. 42
All I have, they may add, is an intellectual realization that if I do not surrender I can't be saved. Now tell me, they continue, how can a person who has no desire to surrender, surrender?
Let's look at it this way: Here is a man who has been caught in a terrible blizzard somewhere on the prairies. The temperature has plummeted to twenty degrees below zero, and as he struggles through the wind-driven snow toward home the bitter cold begins to penetrate into his very bones, it seems.
But after a time he begins to realize that he doesn't feel the cold quite as much any more. Also, a temptation to sleep is creeping over him. How delightful it would be just to lie down, be covered with a white blanket of snow, and give way to pleasant drowsiness. The temptation becomes almost overwhelming.
But behind the desire to sleep, reason says, You can't sleep! If you do, you die! You must go on!
So the man struggles on in spite of the desire to quit, until he gets home.
It was not his feelings that drove him to safety. Feelings said, Sleep! You don't feel like going on. Quit!
But reason said, You don't want to die. You must live! You must keep going!
And, in spite of the way he felt, the man obeyed reason.
What is the spiritual lesson for us here? As the man in the blizzard struggled toward home in spite of all feeling, so the person who only intellectually realizes he needs Christ, must strive to find Him, or he is lost.
So again we ask the question How may I, with merely an intellectual realization of my need, get to the place where I can surrender to God?
No Answers in Thirty Minutes
We live in a day when we want quick, easy answers to our questions. We want TV solutions to our problems-answers in the next thirty minutes, with time out for commercials. We want answers right now so we can get it over with and get on with something else.
But we must know this from the very beginning: God does not always give a quick answer. And He never gives, He cannot give, a quick, easy answer to the question we have just posed. Sin is too pervasive, too deep-seated, too profound a problem, to deal with in thirty minutes. Remember, Christ had to spend thirty years here on earth to make the solution available. And only as we look long and thoughtfully at the cross can we begin to realize what the answer to our question is.
To begin to find an answer to our question, let us take a look at a text -John 15:5. The last part reads, "Without me ye can do nothing."
In context, Jesus is telling His disciples that they are branches dependent upon the vine-Himself-for spiritual life and fruit bearing. But also, they could not become part of the vine except as He grafted them in, as it were.
For the sinner to be spiritually grafted in to Jesus, there are a number of steps that he must take. First, he must repent.
But he cannot repent of himself. Repentance comes from Christ. "God exalted him [Jesus] ... to give repentance to Israel" (Acts 5:31, R.S.V.).43
Before he can be grafted in to Christ, the sinner must be forgiven of his sins. The same text tells us that Jesus also gives "forgiveness of sins."
Also, before he can be grafted in he must be justified, accepted as righteous, by the Father. This also comes through Jesus. We are "justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 3:24, R.S.V.).
The Christian receives "eternal life [only] by Jesus Christ our Lord" (chap. 5:21).
Christ is able "to save absolutely those who approach God through Him" (Heb. 7:25, N.E.B.), and there is no other way to get to the Father but by Him (John 14:6).
Through Christ, and only through Christ, can we have real victory in our lives: "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4: 13).
And there is absolutely no other way by which we may be saved (Acts 4: 12).
As we ponder these thoughts a light begins to dawn in our minds: We cannot do anything of ourselves. We cannot repent of our sins. We cannot come to God. We cannot surrender. We cannot have victory over our sins. Moreover life, real life, freedom, rest, and all other worthwhile blessings, come through Jesus.
Then we remember another text, a key text, that puts it all together: "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3).
We Had Better Know Jesus
If this is so, if all things come from Him, then we had better get to know Jesus. For we have begun to see that the answer to our great dilemma is Jesus. "Acquaint now thyself with him ... : thereby good shall come unto thee" (Job 22:21).
So we ask, How do we become acquainted with Him?
By setting out to find Him, just as the man in the blizzard, with only reason to tell him to struggle on, persisted until he arrived home.
This one fact we must recognize: There must be effort on our part. We must start by responding to reason, just as the man in the blizzard put forth every effort in response to reason. For him merely to hope for his life to be preserved while he did nothing would have been fatal. So "he who does nothing but wait to be compelled by some supernatural agency, will wait on in lethargy and darkness." -ELLEN G. WHITE, in Review and Herald, July 17, 1888. 44
"If the youth will seek Christ, He will make their efforts effectual." -Messages to Young People, p. 18. And not only will the efforts of youth to seek Christ be made effectual; there is no age limit to seeking God.
In the same book Mrs. White writes of "deliberately and intelligently" accepting Christ's terms of salvation (page 30). This is done by diligently searching them out, by seeking to understand them, and following them closely. "If we seek God with earnestness, He will impress us by His Holy Spirit" (ELLEN G. WHITE, in Review and Herald, Oct. 31, 1912). 45
Where may one search for Christ?
"Search the scriptures," said Christ, " ... they are they which testify of me" (John 5:39). The Scriptures, said Paul, "are able to make thee wise unto salvation" (2 Tim. 3: 15).
These are vitally important words. Do not slide over them casually. If you do you may almost as well stop reading right here. For this is essentially the whole answer to our question. We find Jesus by going to where He is revealed. That is in His Word.
Immediately after her warning against waiting for a supernaturally compelling power to arouse us, quoted above, Ellen White says, telling how to escape from lethargy and darkness, "God has given us His word. God speaks in unmistakable language to your soul. Is not the word of His mouth sufficient to show you your duty, and to urge its fulfillment?"
Nor is it sufficient to take the word of others regarding the Bible's teachings: "We should not take the testimony of any man as to what the Scriptures teach, but should study the words of God for ourselves." -Steps to Christ, p. 89.
The Bible, then, is the channel by which God has ordained that His Son shall be found. 46 One who does not take these words seriously will have taken an attitude that makes it hard, if not impossible, for God really to get through to him with the information he must have. "The Bible and the soul were made one for the other." -Signs of the Times, Aug. 20, 1894.
Yet it seems that so few, even of Adventists, really try to get to know Jesus at all. In fact, most seem to ignore Him, if a survey that was made a while back paints a typical picture. The survey showed that in the churches surveyed, only one Adventist in four did any studying of their Bibles at all. 47
Not Found Casually
We will not find what we need by a casual, haphazard seeking. "And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart" (Jer. 29: 13).
There must be earnest study and close investigation [of Scriptures]. Sharp, clear perception of truth will never be the reward of indolence. No earthly blessing can be obtained without earnest, patient, persevering effort .... And we cannot expect to gain spiritual knowledge without earnest toil. ... No halfhearted, indifferent work will avail. It is essential for old and young, not only to read God's word, but to study it with wholehearted earnestness, praying and searching for truth as for hidden treasure. Those who do this will be rewarded, for Christ will quicken the understanding.
Our salvation depends on a knowledge of the truth contained in the Scriptures. -Christ's Object Lessons, p. 111.
In our search we must sincerely ask the Holy Spirit to make what we study meaningful, and to apply it to our hearts. This is vitally important.
Without the Spirit of God a knowledge of His word is of no avail. The theory of truth, unaccompanied by the Holy Spirit, cannot quicken the soul or sanctify the heart. One may be familiar with the commands and promises of the Bible; but unless the Spirit of God sets the truth home, the character will not be transformed. Ibid., p. 408.
When you search the Scriptures with an earnest desire to learn the truth, God will breathe His Spirit into your heart and impress your mind with the light of His word. -Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 499.
Don't keep looking for something sudden, dramatic, earth-shaking, world-changing, to take place.
There are those. who see that God has changed the lives of others, and want what they have. They begin to seek. Days or weeks pass, and nothing unusual seems to be happening. They don't feel any different. So they become discouraged and let it all go.
Please know, God usually comes to us like the quiet tide rather than like a violent tidal wave. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, the tide sweeps in, slowly conquering the sand and shore. And one may watch for several minutes before he is sure the tide is indeed coming in.
By an agency as unseen as the wind, Christ is constantly working upon the heart. Little by little, perhaps unconsciously to the receiver, impressions are made that tend to draw the soul to Christ. These may be received through meditating upon Him, through reading the Scriptures, or through hearing the word from the living preacher. Suddenly, as the Spirit comes with more direct appeal, the soul gladly surrenders itself to Jesus. By many this is called sudden conversion; but it is the result of long wooing by the Spirit of God -a patient, protracted process. -The Desire of Ages, p. 172.
We do our part in preparation by immersing ourselves in the Word, by seeking to absorb it as a sponge absorbs water, by becoming familiar with it so that we understand the way God speaks. 48
The Dull Becomes Fascinating
At first we may find the Bible uninteresting and hard to understand. But perseverance will change all of that. As we permit the Holy Spirit to work, truths will begin to fall into place; the seemingly dull will become interesting, even fascinating. 49
What should be studied? Those parts of the Bible that unfold God's way of salvation. The first eight chapters of Romans, especially chapters three to eight. The books of Galatians and Ephesians. The Sermon on the Mount.
What we have been saying about the vital necessity of studying the Bible applies with equal force to the Spirit of Prophecy writings. As Seventh-day Adventists we believe that Ellen G. White's books are God's special messages for those who live in earth's last days. And in her books Steps to Christ, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, Christ's Object Lessons, and The Desire of Ages especially, we find the way to the Saviour beautifully unfolded. "As they [those who hunger for Jesus] feed upon His word, they find that it is spirit and life. The word destroys the natural, earthly nature, and imparts a new life in Christ Jesus." -Ibid., p. 391. 50
As you study and seek, entertain a humble expectation that God will help. Remember, He does not mock us; He will not play with us. He is more eager that we find Him than we can ever be. When our hearts are properly prepared, He will come in a direct way.
When He makes the loving invitation, respond immediately. It is safe to let go of self and every worldly support, and take the hand of Him who guides the millions of worlds in His vast universe.
Jesus loves to have us come to Him just as we are, sinful, helpless, dependent. We may come with all our weakness, our folly, our sinfulness, and fall at His feet in penitence. It is His glory to encircle us in the arms of His love, and to bind up our wounds, to cleanse us from all impurity. -Steps to Christ, p. 52.
Why does He accept sinners in their sinful condition?
He is waiting to strip them of their garments stained and polluted with sin, and to put upon them the white robes of righteousness; He bids them live and not die. -Ibid., p. 53.
He wants to pardon and justify.
Study With Others
Experience has shown that one very helpful way to find a relationship with Christ is to spend time studying with others who know Him and who desire to talk of Him and what He has done for them.
Let small companies assemble in the evening, at noon, or in the early morning to study the Bible. Let them have a season of prayer, that they may be strengthened, enlightened, and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. -Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 195.
Not only must the Scriptures be searched to find Christ; they must be habitually searched to retain Him. This is the intent of John 6:54. The Greek verb tense conveys the idea, "Whoever continues to eat my flesh and drink my blood, has eternal life,"
"To eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ is to receive Him as a personal Saviour, believing that He forgives our sins, and that we are complete in Him," -The Desire of Ages, p. 389.
The process of partaking of Christ is the practice of searching and absorbing the truths of Scripture. And this must be done daily, as we must partake of physical food daily. If we do not do this we will become spiritually weak and listless, perhaps without realizing why.
As our physical life is sustained by food, so our spiritual life is sustained by the word of God. And every soul is to receive life from God's word for himself. As we must eat for ourselves in order to receive nourishment, so we must receive the word for ourselves. We are not to obtain it merely through the medium of anotherís mind. We should carefully study the Bible, asking God for the aid of the Holy Spirit, that we may understand His word. -Ibid., p. 390.
Why Blessings Are Lost
Perhaps the greatest reason why the blessed experience gained during revival meetings or following an inspiring sermon is lost is because we do not sustain the blessing by continuing in the Word that we have heard preached. During those meetings the Holy Spirit sometimes speaks forcefully to our hearts. We bask in that blessing and leave the meetings with a determination to retain it. But unless we act to do so, we will lose it. God's blessings can be retained only as we watch and pray and go continually to the Source from which they came. That Source is Jesus Christ as found in His Word.
To find the gateway to surrender, then, we must deliberately and intelligently go to where we can be shown the way-the Bible and the writings of Ellen G. White. We must patiently, perseveringly, prayerfully, earnestly, fill our minds and hearts with those passages and pages that show us the way to Jesus Christ. As we do this we need not fear that God will not respond to our seeking. He sees every soul who is searching for Him a great way off. "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out" (John 6:37).
Let this be your prayer, "Take everything from me, let me lose property, worldly honor, everything, but let Thy presence be with me." It is safe to commit the keeping of the soul to God, who reigns over all heaven and earth. -Special Testimonies to Ministers, series A, no. 1, p. 8.