Monday, April 27, 2009

Broken to Surrender

I love to read stories about how God has transformed the lives of people. Consider the story of Basilio Clark.
Any of the old-timers living in Olongapo, Philippines, near Subic Bay (once the home to the American Seventh Fleet), will tell you that Basilio Clark, the warm Baptist pastor who plays his guitar and sings so beautifully, is a different person from the one who terrorized the same city in his youth.

A clue to his background is found in his name--Basilio Clark. Basilio is a Filipino name; Clark, an American name. Basilio’s father was an American serviceman; his mother, a Filipino who met and fell in love with the handsome American. After several children were born, Basilio’s father was killed in an automobile accident. Without enough food at home, the boy began to run the streets, stealing from the sidewalk vendors and shopkeepers in the open markets of Olongapo.

As a teenager, Basilio was the head of a gang who robbed, plundered, murdered, and pillaged at will. Holing up one night with his gang, Basilio slept as police surrounded the hideout. They took him and his companions captive.

The judge, glad to be able to rid the area of such terrors, showed no mercy. Basilio and his eight companions were sentenced to die in the electric chair. They were quickly moved to Bilibid prison in Muntinglupa, just outside of Manila. The massive steel doors of the fortress-like prison closed, ominously signaling the end.

The electric chair at Muntinglupa sends thousands of volts of electricity into a frail body, short-circuiting the heart and stopping life. Basilio and his gang feared death this way and chose rather to die at their own hands.

Mixing insecticide, which had been smuggled into the prison, with paint thinner they were able to steal, the nine of them formed a circle and drank the deadly potion. Of the nine, only one survived: Basilio, and he was blind.

He had failed in life and he had failed in death. While he awaited his appointment with the electric chair, Basilio began to listen to a little radio that Olga Robertson, a faithful prison worker, had given the prisoners. This little radio known as a PM (Portable Missionary), played but one station, DZAS, the voice of the Far East Broadcasting Company. Day after day as Basilio listened, God began to speak to his heart. From there Basilio slowly surrendered his life to Jesus.

Gaining his confidence, Mommie Olga, as the prisoners affectionately called her, began to disciple and teach Basilio the Word of God. Then going from cell block to cell block, Basilio began to tell other prisoners that God had forgiven him and that he had repented of his sins.

It quickly became obvious that this was no longer the tough youth who had terrorized Olongapo, but a changed man whose eyes no longer saw--but they did shed tears over his fellow prisoners. Something had happened! Something big.

Eventually, the president of the Philippines issued a pardon to Basilio Clark, and he was released. Going back to his home a changed man, Basilio continued to share his faith.

While it would be easy to give the credit to Basilio’s transformation to the voices he heard over the radio and the discipleship of Olga Robertson, the reality is that they are just vehicles God used to connect with Basilio. God was the one who worked the miracle--and what He did for a thug and gangster He can do for you. Changed lives are what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. Paul was right, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). (Harold Sala, Profiles in Faith, pp. 71-74)

Many of us have lives that are broken by sin. They are broken by the sin which we struggle with and by the consequences of the sin of other people. The only way we can have lives that are transformed, like the transformation Basilio Clark experienced, is to surrender our lives to Jesus. Surrendering isn’t a one time act, but the constant giving away our lives to the will of God.

In Acts 2 we read about the beginnings of the Church. I hope that you take that time to read it, but because of space I will summarize what happens. The disciples of Jesus, lead by the 11 apostles, are in Jerusalem. It is the day of Pentecost, 50 days after the crucifixion and around a week since Jesus ascended into heaven. The disciples receive the power of the Holy Spirit and begin to preach to the crowd, which is large because of the festival. At some point Peter becomes the chief speaker, and his words center on Jesus, which prick the hearts of the listeners. They cry out; “What must we do to be saved!’ and Peter answers that they must repent and be baptized. On that day 3,000 men were added to the number of Christ Followers.

Not only did they become members of the Church, but their lives began to change as the devoted themselves to the teachings of Jesus, as taught by the apostles, to fellowship, to pray, and Communion. These new disciples were community focused and served and helped one another as they committed themselves to Jesus.

From the historical account found in the book of Acts we can make several observations about surrendering to Jesus. The first observation is: surrendering is the result of understanding God’s Word.
“So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!” Peter’s words pierced their hearts, and they said to him and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?”
(Acts 2:36-37; NLT).
The people listening to Peter’s sermon had experienced the events that took place 50 days before (the death and resurrection of Jesus). They had talked about what happened and maybe even debated who Jesus was, but it was the result of hearing the Word of God preached that God was able to connect with their hearts.

Similarly we are often moved to repentance and surrender when we are convicted in our hearts by the Word of God. We will not surrender our lives to Jesus until we have an understanding of our situation apart from Jesus Christ. If we think we can get by or if we can change our lives on our own then we will not bow a knee to the Lord of lords. Scripture, through the power of the Holy Spirit, is the main tool God uses to convict people of their brokenness. When we are brought face to face with our broken lives the only thing left for us to do is to give our lives to the One who can make us whole.

Second, surrendering requires repentance and baptism. When the listeners of this first Christian sermon became convicted of their brokenness they cried out for help; “What should we do?” (Acts 2:37,) And Peter’s response is quite clear; “Repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). If we are going to surrender to Jesus then we need to repent and then we need to be baptized.

What exactly is repentance? I think the best way to describe repentance is with the word defection. Repentance means that we have been part of the kingdom of Darkness and we defect and join the Kingdom of Light. We decide to no longer side with God’s enemies and instead we become one of His allies. Repentance is the changing of our minds, wills, and loyalties. This was at the heart of Jesus’ message. Jesus proclaimed; “The time promised by God has come at last! The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”(Mark 1:15; NLT). This is what Jesus is saying: “Believe God’s Word and join His Kingdom!” Through God’s Word we are made aware of our broken condition and through repentance we leave the kingdom of sin and death to live in the Kingdom of Light.

How does baptism fit into all of this? Baptism is part of the physical action that we do to demonstrate our surrender to Jesus Christ. Malcolm Smith had this to say about baptism:
“But in baptism, we are passive; it is something we submit to;it is a rite that is done to us by another. It is the dynamic action of faith by which we helplessly present ourselves to the Holy Spirit for God’s acceptance through the cross and resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (The Lost Secret of the New Covenant; pg. 149)

Baptism is something that we submit to in faith as we helplessly put ourselves in a position to receive the mercy of God. The apostle Paul wrote; Or have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? (Romans 6:3; NLT) In baptism we lay aside our agendas and wills and die to self in order to become the people God created us to be. That is what it means to surrender.

Surrendering demands that we change the way we live. How did the 3,000 new Christians respond after they surrendered their lives to Christ Jesus? According to Acts 2:42ff. they demonstrated their surrender to Jesus by changing their lives. Surrendering isn’t a one time event, it is the constant aligning our lives to God’s will. If our lives are not changing then we have not surrendered our lives to Jesus.
But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy (Ephesians 4:20-24; NLT).

Changing the way we live is an essential part of surrendering to Jesus. It is the part of surrender that we have to do each day for the rest of our lives.

Here is the truth I want you take away today: Wholeness is the result of surrendering our lives to Jesus. We will never be the people God created us to be until we surrender the broken pieces of our lives to Jesus. He can take the broken pieces of our lives and create a masterpiece. All we need to do is give Him a chance.

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