The Surrendered Life
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice." Romans 12: 1.
"The Lord hath need of him." Luke 19: 34
Why should we recognize Christ's right: why hear His call: why answer His beseeching for the yielding of our lives? Because surrender is the answer to His love. the supply of His need.
I. IT IS THE ANSWER TO HIS LOVE.
In a little chapel in a European village hangs a picture of the Christ. The artist who painted it was a child of God redeemed by the blood of Christ from a life of sin and folly. So filled with love for his dying Savior was his rejoicing soul that when he came to paint, that soul was flooded with tenderest love, and into every lineament, pose and expression of the Divine Man he painted love, love, LOVE as few had done before, or have done since. Underneath the picture of the Sufferer he had written the lines:
"All this I did for thee,
What hast thou done for Me?"
One summer day there strolled into the little church a young nobleman. Loitering along the aisle his attention was arrested by the painting into which the Spirit of God had breathed His own love through the fashioning hands of the artist. As he saw the love depicted in every lineament of that divine face; as he saw the pierced hands, and bleeding brow, the wounded side; as he slowly scanned the couplet
"All this I did for thee,
What hast thou done for Me?"
a new revelation of the claim of Jesus Christ upon every life upon which His grace had been outpoured flashed upon him. Hour after hour passed as he sat intently gazing upon the face of the Suffering One. As the day waxed apace, and the lingering rays of sunlight shot aslant aisle and pew, they fell upon the bowed form of Zinzendorf, weeping and sobbing out his devotion to the Christ whose love had not only saved his soul, but conquered his heart. Out from that little church he went forth to do a mighty life work, which has circled the earth with the missions of that Moravian people, who seem to have realized and incarnated the love of Christ for a lost world, as no other denomination of God's Church militant has yet done.
Believer, have you had this vision of the suffering Christ, not only as Savior, but as the wooer and the winner of your own heart's best love? Has His passion for you kindled in your heart a responsive, burning, love for Him? Has His love unto death not only brought you glad salvation, but stirred you to willing surrender? Accepting His redemption do you also joyously acknowledge His ownership? Is He a crowned King in your life, as well as a Lamb bleeding for your life? Do you recognize the claims of His love, as well as the privilege of it? Or, exulting in its sacrifice are you yet mute to its appeals?
You have been some time in a great revival meeting when every influence seemed to be beseeching men to be saved. The preacher has poured forth his message with eager, burning earnestness direct to the hearts of the multitude before him. The prayers that have gone up have been but sobbing pleadings that lost men might yield to God. The songs 'that have floated out over the vast congregation have stirred and thrilled your inmost soul with the intensity of their entreaty. And then, as under it all, men and women sat unyielding, unmoved, undeciding, you have cried out in amazement that souls could resist unto the end such mighty influences as were at work before your eyes, and were so profoundly felt in your own soul. But child of God, "art thou not inexcusable, whosoever thou art that judgest, for wherein thou judgest another thou condemnest thyself?" Have the men and women who sit stolid and apparently unmoved known the mercies of God as you know them? Have they been snatched from a horrible, impending doom by a dying Savior as you have? Is heaven, with all its bliss and glory, open before them, and assured to them as it is to you? Have their souls, reddened with sin, been washed white like snow as yours has? Have they felt the touch of Christ's healing hand, heard the tender tones of His divine forgiveness, exulted in the unspeakable peace of His salvation, had the tear-blinded vision of His agony and deathless love that you have? Ah, beloved, if the refusal of a sinner to give up his sins under the pleadings of the Spirit is a solemn responsibility, is not the refusal of a believer to give up his life, after he has experienced all the mercies of God, also a sad and solemn thing to the heart of that God? If the sinner is culpable in steadfastly resisting the Christ who wants to save him, are not we much more so in resisting the Christ who has saved us, and now wants to use us for His glory and the salvation of others? And how He pleads for the yielded lives of His children! Hear Him as through His servant Paul He voices His tender entreaty to us: "I BESEECH YOU therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice." What a scene is here! Not man, not Paul: but Jesus Christ, through man, beseeching His children for the lives He so much needs for His service. Picture Him entering this room tonight. As we sit with hushed, expectant hearts the door opens and He enters! Down the aisle comes that form, once a familiar sight by the shores of Galilee, in the streets of Jerusalem, and in the thronging feasts of the people. Passing quietly to the teacher's place He turns, and we look upon the face of Jesus! There is the same smile that gladdened the hearts of His own two thousand years ago; the same familiar voice that thrilled their inmost being as it spoke the words of life and peace; the same gaze that bespeaks Him at once the man of sorrows and of tender, compassionate, quenchless love. How still our hearts grow! How filled the room seems with His Presence! How breathless we sit: once self-absorbed, now Christ-absorbed! And now, as the instinct of prayer steals into our remorseful hearts, we would beseech His forgiveness for our coldness which now seems to us an awful shame. We would beseech His forbearance with our selfishness which now fills us with astonishment and grief unutterable. We would beseech His forgetfulness of our lack of communion, which now in His presence seems almost unforgivable. We would beseech His compassionate grace for our failure to tell the heathen world of His love, for now it seems red-handed crime. But as our heart is flooded with the sense of our unworth, worldliness, and faithlessness, and our lips begin to move and our knees to bend in petition, behold a marvel! Do our eyes deceive us ? He the King, the Lord, the Creator begins to beseech us the subjects, the servants, the created! Stretching forth His scarred hands, touching His blood-stained brow, pointing to His pierced side--all tokens of the mercies of God, He speaks. "Children of God, I beseech you! By the need of dying men: by the shortness of the time: by the follies of the world: by the wasted years of your life: by the secret longings of your own heart: by My blood shed for you: by My death instead of yours: by My resurrection, which is life for you: by My glory prepared for you; and by My Kingship to be shared by you--I beseech you by the mercies of God that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God."
Alas, indeed, for those who will not accept Him as Savior. But alas, too, for those who, crimson with the blood of His redemption, from the sin-smiting hand of God by His quivering body, thrilling with exultant life from His glorious resurrection, still will not Yield to Him as Lord of their lives. How can our eyes be blind to the vision of His love, our ears be deaf to the mute pathos of its appeal, our hearts fail to fill, and throb, and well-nigh burst with longing to requite in some measure by surrender, sacrifice, and suffering even unto death, His matchless love for us? Astounding to ourselves will be the spectacle of our own unyielded lives when in the great day of reward we stand in the presence of the Prince of Sufferers! The very glory that enrobes us, as it attests His grace, will be the mightiest witness against our failure of responsiveness to it. Being risen with Him, being joined with Him in fellowship of glory and kingship, we shall also be associated with Him in fellowship of judgment. With Him we shall judge ourselves! Gazing back with His vision upon our unyielded life we shall see it then as He sees it, and join in His solemn judgment upon its wasted opportunities. Tremendous thought! "But if we judged ourselves we would not be judged." Wherefore, let us judge now this question of the unyielded life as in the light of eternity we shall then judge it. And so shall we here see its ingratitude, its awful waste, its utter failure to carry out His perfect purpose. And so seeing, and so touched by the vision of His matchless love we shall, before "the night cometh," lay it at the feet of "Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and Priests unto God and His Father."
II. IT IS THE SUPPLY OF HIS NEED.
When the Master sent His disciples to bring the colt upon which He would make His entry into Jerusalem, the owners of the colt said, "Why loose ye the colt?" And they said, "The Lord hath need of him." The Lord of heaven and earth, He who could say, "The cattle on a thousand hills are mine," in infinite grace and humility of spirit deigned to say that He who had created all things by the word of His power needed this humblest beast of burden. Even so does He need the life of each man and woman who has been born into His heavenly kingdom. Every word in this simple sentence is full of meaning
The Lord hath need of thee, saved one. Trade, with all its rush, and fever, and wear, and waste, lays its hands upon the Christian and says curtly: "I need you to plan, think, toil, accumulate, and die in my service." Society, too, asserts its claim, and says: "I need you with your wit, beauty, talents and accomplishments to shine in the brilliant circles of fashion, and will give you pleasure without limit if you will yield to me." Professional life lays its hand on him and says: "I need you to adorn your chosen calling, and will gratify your highest ambitions if you will come." But there comes a voice, softly floating down from twenty vanished centuries, a voice which whispers to every redeemed child of God in the hour when wealth, and pleasure, and ambition have failed to satisfy his secret longings; a voice which is true today as of old: "The Lord hath need of thee." Suppose you were absent from home, engrossed in business, pleasure, or professional activities, and a swift messenger came to you with the tidings that you wife was in deadly peril and needed you forthwith. None of the other varied interests that clamored for your tarrying could hold you by their outcry of need. That swift-handed artist, your own heart, would quickly paint a picture of the wifely love of her who was now in jeopardy, and the whispered message, "She whom thou lovest is sick," would send you flying to her bedside. Even so, amid all the conflicting interests that lay claim to your life, you cannot escape this great truth that the Lord whom you love needs you. He who loves you as no being in the universe loves: He who left the glory of heaven: He who endured the wrath of the Father against sin: He who bled between earth and heaven, all for you: He, your risen Lord, sends you this message today: "The Lord hath need of thee."
How precious, then, is this thought that the Lord really NEEDS us! The other phase of this truth we all know. That we need Him is beyond question. Not only do we sing it, but daily, hourly, do we profoundly realize it: "I need Thee every hour." For light, help, peace, victory, power, yea for all things we need Him every moment of our existence. But that He needs us--how blessed! And yet it is true. "I am the vine: ye are the branches" is the message which comes to us from His own lips. But have we caught all of its meaning? Think a moment upon the symmetry of this truth. Surely the branches need the vine. It is the source of their life. From it those branches, moment by moment, draw the tiny streams of life-giving sap that feed and build up their fabric of leaf, fiber and fruit. Apart from it they could do nothing. Severed from it they starve, shrivel, and perish. But is it not also true that the vine needs the branches? For the vine bears its fruit through the branches. It cannot get along without branches. Not a single cluster of grapes does it grow upon its own main stem, but always upon some tiny branch off-shooting from it. "I have chosen you that ye should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should abide." Christ is the living Vine. He is the source of our supply. But He bears His fruit through us. He needs us for fruit-bearing -as surely as we need Him for life. There is a profound sense in which He cannot get along without us. Sometimes a great vine grows up behind a castle wall. No eye from without sees its hidden stem, strong, sturdy, and grounded in the rich garden soil. But it makes itself known through thousands of branches which cover the wall with a profusion of foliage, blossom and luscious purple fruitage, delighting the eye of every passer-by. The vine is the source of the branches' life: the branches are the expression of the vine's life. So Christ is the living Vine. He is hid behind the veil that separates the eternal from the mortal, and our life is "hid with Him in God." Men do not see Him: "the world seeth Me not." While He is the head in heaven we are the members on the earth. Therefore the hidden Vine must make Himself known through His countless fruit-bearing branches. He stands no more in street and field, and synagogue as of old, preach the glad Gospel but He would do it through us. He does not minister to the sick and afflicted with physical hands, but He needs us to do it. He does not warn the impenitent, comfort the sorrowing, cheer the fallen by word of lip today, but He would fain minister thus through us, His members and branches.
Again, the Lord hath need of THEE. Observe, what a humble instrument it was that Christ declared He needed. For that triumphal entry into the city He might have chosen splendid chariot and mettled chargers, for He who created all was worthy of earth's richest and choicest. But He chose the humblest, lowliest, most insignificant beast of burden to be found, and said, "The Lord hath need of him." Mark, He did not simply use the colt for lack of something better, but He chose it, and that too, in fulfillment of Scripture. Just so, "God hath chosen the foolish things . . . and God hath chosen the weak things . . .and base things of the world, and things which are despised hath God chosen" (I. Cor. 1 :26, etc.). Those who are nothing are God's choice! And He chooses the wise and noble only when they are willing to be as nothing. He can do more with consecrated nothingness than self-sufficient pride and loftiness. And so the message comes, today; "You who are servants with but one talent: who feel that all others are fitted for God's service except you: who shrink with fear and trembling from every proffered opportunity: you who are the humblest, the weakest, the most obscure, 'The Lord hath need of thee.' You are really God's chosen ones, if you will but place yourselves in His hands in this same spirit of nothingness which He alone can use to keep the flesh from 'glorying in His presence.'" Let us appropriate this blessed truth for our very own, and put ourselves in the hands of Him who with a worm can thresh the mountains. And then as we walk the streets, as we toil at our business, as we shut ourselves into the chamber of prayer, as we bow over His Word, as we work on in the humble sphere of life where He has placed us, it will be very sweet to hourly whisper to ourselves, "The Lord hath need of me, the Lord of heaven and earth needeth ME. Gladly, therefore, will we yield our lives to Him who in infinite grace tells us that He needs us, and condescends to make us co-workers with Himself through time and through eternity.
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