“Search me, o’ God”
by Glen Doss, Major –
The man’s big shoulders heaved. He was extremely distraught because his old thought patterns still ruled. He was seeking a magic wand that would eliminate his old tendencies and turn him into a compliant pawn in the hands of God. But, after praying with him, I told him:
“Bill, you are not able to make a full surrender to God right now because you can’t give away something you don’t possess. You don’t possess yourself to the extent that people in your past, some long in the grave, still rule you in significant areas of your heart. How can you give God your heart when you don’t even possess it yet? You must continue to follow God’s precise plan of action on how to take ownership, and along the way you will surrender more and more of your heart to him. Meanwhile, expect these difficult moments. You are still being ruled by your past, and will be until you make more progress along the road to freedom.”
Jesus points us along this road to freedom, this precise plan of action, in John 8:31-32. His audience was believers who were reluctant to follow his directions. He informed them, “If you abide in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (NASB).
His listeners didn’t get it. They replied that they had never been anyone’s slaves and asked, “How is it that you said, ‘You shall become free’?” Jesus’ response probably took them aback: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34).
James gives us a succinct definition of sin: “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin” (4:17 NASB).
The compulsion to sin—the powerful impulse to do the thing that I know God disapproves of—is the enslavement to which Jesus refers and from which he offers freedom.
This freedom is priceless, for only the blood of Christ can buy it—liberation from enslavement to forces issuing from outside myself, but that can only be addressed within myself. I have seen hundreds die in such captivity, but I have also seen multitudes set free—it all depends on whether one is willing to follow the Lord’s precise plan of action—to make a sincere decision to “abide in his word.” The Amplified Bible translates John 8:31: “If you abide in my word—hold fast to my teachings and live in accordance with them—you are truly my disciples.”
In this journey toward full surrender to our Creator, which we call repentance, we must begin somewhere. When we finally throw up our hands and exclaim, “I give up, Lord. Take me. Show me what to do,” God’s reply is to point to his Word: “Obey it.”
The Amplified Bible shows us that the Greek word pisteuo, normally rendered “believes in” in John 3:16, correctly means: “trusts in, clings to, relies on.”
God’s Word tells us that it is only the person who clings to Jesus, who relies on him, that is saved and set free from the enslavement to sinful habits. A decision of the intellect alone will never suffice. The following characteristics obstruct my full surrender to God and will continue to do so until I literally cling to Jesus for help: my deep-seated guilt feelings, resentments, inner fears, and—interwoven through them all—my anger. Intellect alone never defeats these.
“A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup,” Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:28 (NIV). When Jesus directed his disciples, “Take and eat. This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me,” the broken piece of bread represented what was about to happen to him and that would bring about a mending. Through the crucifixion and resurrection a way would be provided for us to reconnect with God, with our fellowman and with ourselves. We prepare ourselves for this new life through healthy introspection, confession of sin, and making amends. Before every communion with our Lord, not only at mealtime, we are advised to do a healthy moral inventory. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24 NASB). God wants to be a part of the process.