Monday, August 22, 2016

Waving the White Flag

The following is a revised version of a message I wrote for the College & Career students at my church in a newsletter called emmaus report, in February, 1984. It's message is still relevant today for those of us who wish to follow Christ as disciples. Read and heed.

And the king of Israel answered and said, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have.  I Kings 20:4, KJV)

Can we learn anything good from a wicked king? Sure we can. In 1 Kings 20, Benhadad, King of Syria, decided to attack Samaria, take all the silver and gold, and all the women and children. Ahab, the cowardly King of Israel, surrendered without a whimper. After all, all he had to depend on was Baal, and Elijah had shown him how dependable Baal was. So, when Benhadad said, "Give up!" Ahab gave up. He gave in to an earthly king rather than commit his life to the King of kings.

Although he was wrong to surrender to Benhadad, Ahab still provides us with an excellent example of how we should commit our lives to God. He does this by the way he yields to the Syrian King. His answers to Benhadad's messengers contain four phrases that reveal how we should respond to God:

            "My Lord, O king...."

Ahab acknowledged the superior position of Benhadad. He revealed respect for the other ruler's power and authority. The phrase, "My lord," in this case, merely indicates respect for the other person; but "O king," refers to his exalted status. Likewise, when we surrender our lives to Jesus Christ, we must begin by acknowledging Who He is. Submission to His Lordship is not required for salvation. Salvation is a gift. But we are talking about submission to Christ as a disciple to his Master. As you read through the New Testament, you will notice a number of references to Jesus as "Lord and Savior." Whenever you see these two terms together, you can be certain of two things:

1. They always appear in this order--first, Lord; then, Savior. Jesus is always Lord. It's Who He is. He became Savior when He sacrificed Himself for our sins. So, now He is Lord and Savior.
2. They inseparably go together.

In other words, you cannot acknowledge Jesus as Savior without eventually submitting to Him as Lord. Note: eventually. Lordship is a relationship that comes after salvation, sometimes long after. You may wonder, "I never heard of this before. I was only told I had to receive Him as Savior. Since I did not even acknowledge Him as Lord at that time, does that mean I am not saved?" Absolutely not! Submission to His Lordship is not required to become a child of God. But to follow Him as a disciple does mean submission. Remember what Jesus said to the rich young ruler, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Matthew 19:21, NAU) Perhaps you need to do the same in much the same way Ahab did to Benhadad. First, acknowledge His Lordship. Jesus is Lord. Then acknowledge His claim. This was Ahab's next step:

            "According to your word...."

Ahab based his commitment on the word of the Syrian king who subjugated him. He did not make up his own mind either on what to surrender or how much to surrender. Furthermore, he did not consult his advisors, priests, prophets--or even his wife in this case. In his situation, Ahab might have been wiser if he had consulted someone else. Still, he didn't; but rather committed himself according to the word of Benhadad. In other words, his conqueror determined the terms of surrender. Here again, in spite of himself, Ahab reveals a good example for Christians. How often do we decide for ourselves how much of our lives we are going to turn over to Jesus? In a pamphlet entitled, "My Heart, Christ's Home," Robert Munger likens the heart of a Christian to a house with many rooms. Say it has six rooms, and you tell Jesus He can have five of them, but you reserve the playroom for yourself. This will never do! First, it means you have not submitted to Him at all. You are still in charge of the entire heart because you have decided which rooms Jesus can have and which He can't. Second, and perhaps more important, you have ignored His Word. He hasn't left us in the dark as to what He expects of us. His Word clearly spells out the terms of surrender; and if we intend to fill our lives with His fullness and blessing, we must submit to His terms. "According to [His] word," we must, like Ahab, respond first with

"I am thine...."

Before we commit our substance to God, before we give Him either one day of our time or one tenth of our money, we must surrender ourselves to Him. Turn to the Apostle Paul for the classic detailed passage on Christian stewardship and giving. You'll find it in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9. Before he gets too far into his discussion of giving, Paul commends the believers in Macedonia because they "first gave their own selves to the Lord, the will of God" (2 Corinthians 8:5, KJV). This is ever the Biblical order. Substance comes later as a token of your commitment. But God wants you first. What difference does it make if you give Him a tenth of your money and then give the other nine-tenths to the devil? Or if you give God one day of the week, and live for the devil the other six days? God doesn't want your money or your time nearly as much as He wants you! Your first commitment to God must, therefore, be as Ahab's to Benhadad--"I am thine...." Then, you can legitimately add...

"and all that I have."

Here, Ahab presents a supreme example. Unlike Abraham and the other patriarchs, Ahab does not offer only a portion or a proportion of his goods. He turns it all over to the king. And God wants you to acknowledge His Lordship over all that you have. It's a principle of ownership and possession. You may have possession, but God has ownership. He has only given you the use of the things He has entrusted to your care. He may require you to give a portion of it back to Him, but He certainly expects you to recognize that it all belongs to Him. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul asks them, "What do you have that you did not receive?" (1 Corinthians 4:7, NAU) God gave us everything we have. And there are strings attached to these gifts. He insists that we use them according to His Word for His glory to accomplish His purpose. We do that by first  submitting to Him completely, all that we are and all that we have. Surrendering ourselves and our possessions to be used for His glory.(cp. 1 Corinthians 10:31; Philippians 1:11)

Submission is not a popular subject. Yet it is a reality we all must face. Daily, we submit ourselves to our employers, to the rules and regulations of our jobs, as well as to the laws of our community and our country. Why, then, do we find it so difficult to submit ourselves to the Lord Jesus? Let's overcome that difficulty. Let's turn our lives over to Him by saying to Jesus what Ahab said to Benhadad: "...according to your word, my Lord, O King; I am yours, and all that I have...."

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