Monday, December 03, 2007

répondez s'il-vous-plaît

This week Adam launched us into the Christmas series called “rsvp”. God invades the planet as a Jewish baby in a feeding trough for livestock and the invitation to the kingdom party is sent out. Please rsvp.

We happen to believe the initial reaction to the touch of God is worship. Or think of it like this:

Q: What is the first response to God from a ransomed soul?
A: Outrageous gratitude.

And isn’t that the foundation for worship? Worship begins with the Big Thank You. I'd like to think that we are such noble critters that our first approach to God is awe and worship simply for Who He Is, but I don’t think that’s reality. We are in such a deep hole that the natural first response to the rope thrown in is: thanks. Plus, God is far more personal and in love with us than we realize...until we surrender.

And that’s the thing. I mentioned at our shareholders meeting Friday night that though this “surrender” is nuanced and multilayered, I believe there is a linear process: a surrender to live, a surrender to serve and a surrender to die.

The first surrender is a surrender to live. Jesus says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” In this surrender, we want help. We’re dying inside, our lives are out of control, and we’re depressingly aware of our brokenness and distance from God. It's numero uno on the twelve steps. Life has become a 500-pound gorilla on our back. We are beaten down...we are tired...we want a savior.

The surrender to live is the doorway into interaction with Jesus. Jesus always responds to a cry for help.

Next comes a surrender to serve. It is here that we let God know we want to do something for Him. We have many people who come to VCC who haven’t hit this part yet. Jesus said that self-aware people who understand what they’ve been rescued from respond in this manner as a “thank you”. He put it like this: the one who has been forgiven much, loves much. We want to express our gratitude in a tangible way; we have a utilitarian reaction. We begin to understand (slowly) that our response is not to earn anything from God, but a gracious reply to the gift of Life.

I remember reading an article in Time about a woman who survived the collapse all the way from the 50th floor in the Trade Center attacks on 911. Although some people suffer from survivor guilt, she became immersed in gratitude and purpose for God: “I was spared for a reason—I want to serve God with all that is in me—I want to make a difference.”

But last comes the surrender to die. Jesus says to us “Pick up you cross and follow me.” In other words, "Choose your form of execution and model your life after Mine." It becomes not “if I die for you”, or “if I am martyred for you”, but rather “I die daily”. This is a death to self-will, to self-ambition, to recognition, to preference, to natural gifting, to everything in you that says there is a part of me that has to be comfortable.

This is radical.

It moves beyond every healthy self-help process to something hidden deep inside. It’s the part that people won’t understand…and is the part that you can’t really talk about because it’s humility on steroids. When a person is being crucified, they don’t have a five-year plan. They don’t have a five minute plan. They aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The message of the Church to the world is: the cross of Jesus brings life. The message of Jesus to the Church is: come and die; go find your cross.

A final note: in different areas of our lives—interpersonal and inner issues that we’re struggling with—those three surrenders will cycle through on a regular basis. But in general, the process for salvation for our whole life appears to follow that order.

And if true worship is marked by sacrifice, then surrender and worship are synonymous.


  1. Dave:

    Great entry. Your thoughts are always provocative.
    I heard once (I can't remember who said it first) that the job of the church is to speak grace to the culture, and judgment (or something like that) to itself. Too often we do the opposite. Thanks for calling us (the church) to accountability and deepening discipleship, and teaching us to love the lost with a holy and unending love. Bob

  2. "And if true worship is marked by sacrifice, then surrender and worship are synonymous."

    i love that! i've never heard anyone link those two words, surrender and worship, so closely before. it makes sense, though, and it helps explain to me why i've always been a sucker for surrender messages. because it's worship in disguise, and we are hard-wired to have a heart for worship.

  3. Dave

    This message, the one on the shepards was really powerful for me. I listened to it online. I am the humble the broken the hurting. I am have shed many tears this christmas, i have been very alone. I have gone through many changes recently, I was in ministry and am not now. I hope to be again soon, but for now it is not what God wants. I dont know what will happen with my life, oh that God would redeem me, fully. and not just for heaven, but for now too. do i feel forgotten, margenenizled, oh i dont even know how to spell it. but yes. That God do a miracle here.