Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What are We? - Part 4

In part 1, we learned that we cannot know who we are - that our lives are hid with Christ in God. and the only way to know ourselves is to know God.

In part 2, we learned that we can't know God by ourselves, but that God has revealed Himself to us both in the natural order and in Holy Scripture. To know ourselves means that we must first know God has He has revealed Himself.

In part 3, we find that Holy Scripture is both of divine and human origin and that to try to separate the human from the divine is to engage in either scriptural adoptionism (emphasizing the human origin to the detriment of the divine origin or scriptural docetism (emphasizing the divine origin and not seeing (or minimizing) the human origin). In order to understand God's revelation in Holy Scripture, we must surrender.

So, as a brief recap, we must first realize that we can't know ourselves and, left to ourselves we can't know God. However, God chooses to reveal Himself to us in Holy Scripture and to understand Holy Scripture - thus understand God and, therefore, understand or know ourselves, we need to surrender our lives to God.


That is a scary word to us. It means that we are not in control. In our society, it is seen as a cowardly act. We glorify those who died fighting rather than surrender.

But to know God (and thus to know ourselves) we must surrender to Him. This is part of what we mean by "faith."

Today, we tend to think of "faith" as an intellectual assent to a set of ideas. We equate "faith" with "belief." But I think that is now what "faith" in the Christian sense means. The best way I've seen to differentiate between "faith" and "belief" comes from Bishop Stanton. I may believe that the value of a stock will increase. I may have done the necessary research and agree with the analysts that this specific stock will increase in value. But I do not have any faith in it until I invest my own money in it.

Faith is investing yourself with God. It is saying to God that you trust that He knows you better than you know yourself. Now one problem with us that that we tend to approach faith - even in this definition of trust or investment - the way we approach other investments. We want to diversify. We'll trust God with this much of our lives, but trust our money or our talents or our family/job/country/friends with some other part of our lives. We will come to know ourselves in direct proportion to how much we faith in God.

To know God as much as we can, we need to trust Him completely. Now, I don't personally know anyone who has done this. But I've know people who come close.

So, how do we go about trusting God more? It's easy to say "Just do it!" but isn't that itself a from of control?

In my prayer and study, surrender to God happens both in spurts (we discover in prayer that there is this part of our lives that we haven't surrendered) and gradually and that there are times of stasis where we aren't growing in faith. Thomas Merton said that the parts of our lives that we hold most dear are the last to be surrendered to God. I find this to be true.

So, how can we surrender to God? Well, I've got good news and I've got bad news. The bad news is that we can't of our own will or power surrender to God. The good news (Gospel!) is that God is there willing to help us surrender! God wants us to surrender and is willing to provide the means and help we need. All that is required of us is to ask for God's grace to surrender.

Surrender is hard work. It requires spiritual muscle and we need to practice it daily. But we need to be careful. Surrender can also be turned into a form of spiritual pride. When we start comparing ourselves to others or even to ourselves, we take the focus of off God and put it on ourselves. Just as Peter began to slip below the waves when he took his eyes off of Jesus, we too will slip as we lose focus on God. As a person who has Attention Deficit Disorder, I can attest that this is true and that it is difficult to keep our focus on God.

Here are ways to help us keep our focus on God.

  1. Pray daily - several times daily if possible. Practice both discursive prayer and prayer of listening or quiet. Actually, the more quiet time you have, the more likely surrender will occur because you will be listening.
  2. Study daily - reading scripture daily or reading books on Christian living/history/theology daily will help you to see how others have experience surrender to God and give us a good idea of the God to whom we are surrendering.
  3. Be a minister - Each Christian should have a minimum of 2 ministries. The first is inside the congregation and is used to build up the Body of Christ by encouraging others within that body through some ministry - choir, Sunday School teacher, hospitality ministries, administration. The second should be focused outside the congregation and be directed to bringing others to know and love Jesus Christ. This can be through prison ministry, or what have you.
  4. Accountability - we all need someone (preferrably a small group) to be accountable to. When we try to live the Christian life ourselves, we tend to lie to ourselves about how we are doing. Accountability groups help us to stay focused and will (if we let them) help us to learn to surrender more.
  5. Spiritual Direction - we need a person in our lives who is experienced in living the Christian life and can help us see what is happening in our own lives.

As I said here none of what we do will acheive salvation. This is not a works based righteousness. This does not help us to get closer to God. We do these things because we faith or trust that God knows us better than ourselves and that He wants better for us than we can ask or imagine. We can't surrender ourselves - we can only participate with God in our surrender.


Phil Snyder

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