THE SORCERER'S STONE!

CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR: HOW DO I SURRENDER TO GOD?

 

As the next meeting began, Larry said, “Instead of a class in psychology, sociology, or anthropology, this is a class in how to walk with God. Is this what you want? Is this meeting your needs?”

A chorus of “Yes” from the students.

“Well, I’ve had a number of requests for a rousing song service to start each meeting. How does that sound?”

Another “Yes.”

“Well, let’s start with a really good one!”

And did they have a great one! So good, in fact, that they were late getting the question-and-answer period started.

“Oh well,” said Larry, “We made up for previous meetings without a song service. We’ve had our opening prayer. What’s the first question of the evening. After a week of thinking, I’m sure we’re brim full of them.”

“What do I have to give up in order to be accepted by God?” inquired a student.

“Well,” Larry answered, “last week we talked about surrendering to God. So this would be the next logical question: What do we give up in order to make that full surrender?

“In giving ourselves to God, we must necessarily give up all that would separate us from Him. That’s easy to remember, isn’t it? Everything that would separate us from God must be given up.

“Satan will make us think that we are sacrificing something, but it’s not true. All the devil does is lie to us. —If there is anything you have to give up in order to be a Christian, it is generally something that wasn’t good for you!”

“Well, then,” asked a student, “is it a matter of will power? We give up this, and we do that, and we are accepted?”

“Of ourselves, we cannot do anything acceptable to God,” replied Larry. “We have to make the changes in Christ, not apart from Him. Whatever we try to do, in the Christian life, by ourselves will never succeed.

“There are those who profess to serve God while they rely upon their own efforts to obey the ten commandments, to form a right character, and secure salvation. Their hearts are not moved by any deep sense of the love of Christ, but they seek to perform the duties of the Christian life as that which God requires of them in order to gain heaven. Such religion is worthless.

“But what we do in Christ is entirely different. When Christ dwells in the heart, the soul is so filled with His love, with the joy of communion with Him, that it cleaves to Him; and in the contemplation of Him, self will be forgotten. For His sake, nothing is a sacrifice.

You have become like a little child holding onto your father’s hand. As you cross the dangerous highway of life, the closer you press to your heavenly Father, the safer you are.

“Everything becomes different. Love to Christ becomes the spring of action. Those who have this experience do not ask for the lowest standard, but aim at perfect conformity to the will of their Redeemer.

“There’s a lot of talk about making the Bible the standard of life. Well, in the life of the genuine Christian, the Bible actually becomes his standard. He reads it because His heavenly Father wrote it. He obeys it because he wants to obey the letters His Father sent him. Yet that obedience can only be carried out in the ongoing strength of Christ.

“But think not that this is a works program. It is just heartfelt Christian living. The Bible says we are to cease from our works [Hebrews 4:10], which are dead works [Hebrews 6:1; 9:14], and do good works [Hebrews 10:24], which are works done in the enabling strength of Christ. ‘Without Me,’ He said, ‘ye can do nothing’ [John 15:5].” That is a promise. Believe it and live by it.”

“Sometimes it just seems that it is too great a sacrifice to give everything I have to Christ, to dedicate myself to Him,” commented a student.

“The devil tempts us that we will lose a lot if we live for Christ,” Larry explained. “Or he tells us that we had better wait till some later time to come to Christ. Satan knows that if we do wait, he will so fill our lives with problems, that we’ll forget all about coming to Christ.

“Yes, I understand how easy it is to be tempted to think that it is too great a sacrifice to yield all to Christ. Just ask yourself the question, ‘What has Christ given for me?’ The Son of God gave all—life and love and suffering—for our redemption. And can it be that we, the unworthy objects of so great love, will withhold our hearts from Him?

“Ask yourself the question, ‘What do I give up, when I give all?’ We give a sin-polluted heart—for Jesus to purify, to cleanse by His own blood, and to save by His matchless love. And yet so many think it hard to give up all!

God never requires us to give up anything that it is for our best interest to keep. In all that He does, God has the well-being of His earthly children in view.”

“Well, getting right down to it, I have a friend who wants to make this surrender of himself to God,” a boy said. “But it seems there’s some kind of hurdle here that he can’t surmount. What’s the answer?”

“This is the problem,” said Larry. “A person desires to give himself to Christ, but he is weak in moral power, in slavery to doubt, and controlled by the habits of his life of sin. His promises and resolutions are like ropes of sand. He cannot control his thoughts, his impulses, his affections. The knowledge of his broken promises and forfeited pledges weakens his confidence in his own sincerity, and causes him to feel that God cannot accept him,—but he need not despair.

“So often, this is the situation with all of us. What we need to understand is the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. The power of choice God has given to men; it is theirs to exercise.

“You and I cannot change our heart, we cannot of ourselves give to God its affections; but we can choose to serve Him. We can give Him our will; He will then work in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus our whole nature will be brought under the control of the Spirit of Christ; our affections will be centered upon Him, our thoughts will be in harmony with Him.”

“Wow! So choosing is the key,” said the same student. “It is putting my will on Christ’s side.”

“That’s right,” agreed Larry. “Desires for goodness and holiness are right as far as they go; but if any of us stop here, we will fail of obtaining our goal. Many will be lost while hoping and desiring to be Christians. They do not come to the point of yielding the will to God. They do not now choose to be Christians.

“Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in your life. You will have strength from above to hold you steadfast and thus, through constant surrender to God, you will be enabled to live the new life, even the life of faith.”

“And so I just choose to go to Christ; that’s it. Just deciding I’ll go to Him?” inquired a girl.

“Yes, with all your heart, confessing your sins, having true repentance for how you have hurt Christ—just go to Him!” said Larry. “He will receive you! As your conscience has been quickened by the Holy Spirit, you have seen something of the evil of sin. You have seen its power, its guilt, and its misery; and you look upon it with abhorrence. It is peace that you need. You have confessed your sins and in heart put them away. You have resolved to give yourself to God.

“Now go to Him and ask that He will wash away your sins and give you a new heart.”

“What is the next step after that?” asked a boy.

“After you’ve confessed your sins and accepted Christ as your Saviour,” explained Larry,—“then believe that He has accepted you! This is crucial. You must believe!

“Satan will tempt you to doubt. But you are to believe just because He has promised in His Word. You believe because He died for you on Calvary.

“The gift which God promises us, we must believe we do receive, and it is ours. You are a sinner. You cannot atone for your past sins; you cannot change your heart and make yourself holy. But God promises to do all this for you through Christ. You believe that promise. You confess your sins and give yourself to God. You will to serve Him. And just as surely as you do this, God will fulfill His Word to you. If you believe the promise,—God supplies the fact. Do not wait to feel that you are made whole. But say, ‘I believe it; it is so, not because I feel it, but because God promised.’

“Well,” concluded Larry, “I think we’ve covered enough for tonight. How many are ready for next week?”

Every hand went up.

“Good, we’ll have a great meeting!”

Larry paused and then said, “I think we’ve probably covered most of what is involved in how to come to Christ and accept Him as our Saviour.

“Next week, we’ll take a look at what is involved in staying close by His side, day after day, so we don’t fall away. So have your questions ready.

“Who would like to give the closing prayer?”

“I would,” said a student.

As usual, after the meeting, everyone was busy sharing their thoughts with friends about what they had been learning. Somehow, telling some of it again helped fix it all the more firmly in their minds.

The students recognized that, if they solidly put into practice what Larry had been telling them, it could make the rest of their lives happier and better. 

CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE: ARE OUR PRAYERS IMMEDIATELY ANSWERED?

   

The audience buzzed with excitement, for these meetings were getting to be a special event. People arrived early, so they could visit with friends outside; and then, when it was time for the meeting to start, they went inside, expecting practical information they could use in their personal lives.

Larry walked down the aisle, climbed the steps onto the platform, and went to the podium.

“Well, the place is as full as last week!”

Chuckles.

“You know, when we talk about how to live better, cleaner, purer lives, it really is exciting, isn’t it?”

A response of “Yes” from the audience.

After a song service that encouraged everyone, Larry said, “We need to start with prayer. You know, we have a lot to be thankful for, don’t we?”

A lot of Amens.

After someone offered the prayer, Larry asked, “What’s the first question of the evening?”

A girl near the front stood up. “You mentioned last week that we could receive the answer, if we believe. Could you explain a little more what it is that we can have? Maybe I should say it this way: Do we receive everything we ask for? What things can we always pray for and receive?”

“The only thing we can receive immediately in answer to prayer is the forgiveness of sin,” replied Larry. “For most other things, we generally have to wait and keep praying. But doing so strengthens our faith, so we will be more thankful and use it better when we receive it.

“Often our prayers are answered in a way we did not expect, but which wonderfully fills the need we prayed about.

“And, of course, we will never receive some things we ask for. God may know that having them would not be for our best good. Once I met a man who wondered why God didn’t give him a new car, even though he had prayed for it.

“But our kind Father will always give us forgiveness of sin right away. And He will always give us strength, as we keep trusting in Him, to resist temptation and overcome sin.

“Our Lord Jesus Christ said, ‘What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them’ [Mark 11:24]. But there is a condition to this promise—that we pray according to the will of God. But what is the will of God for our lives?

“It is the will of God to cleanse us from sin, to make us His children, and to enable us to live a holy life. So we may ask for these blessings, believe that we receive them, and thank God that we have received them.

Ask, believe, claim—ABC; that’s the formula. Ask in faith for that which God has promised, believe that He gives it, then claim the promise. Set to work believing you already have it,—and you will have it when you need it. But you must ask according to His will.”

“I have experienced so much peace in Christ in the past few weeks,” another girl said. “But I’m afraid that I might lose Him. How can I be sure I’ll stay close to Jesus in the future?”

“That’s a very important question,” Larry said. You know, every day is so important. Our lives are very short. And in our teens we are getting ready for adulthood. Soon we’ll be grown and have to face the adult world. We’ll be getting married, we’ll support our families, we’ll have children and begin raising them. And, as you know, there are a lot of perils out there. But, in answer to your question, consider this:

“Now that you have given yourself to Jesus, do not draw back, do not take yourself away from Him. But, day by day say, ‘I am Christ’s; I have given myself to Him’; and ask Him to give you His Spirit and keep you by His grace.

“Here is the key to success: As it is by giving yourself to God and believing Him, that you first become His child, so you are to live in Him.

“Unfortunately, here is where thousands fail; they do not believe that Jesus pardons them personally, individually. They do not take God at His Word. But it is the privilege of all who comply with the conditions to know for themselves that pardon is freely extended for every sin. Put away the suspicion that God’s promises are not meant for you. They are for every repentant transgressor.

When you that are doubting and trembling look up; for Jesus lives to make intercession for us. Christ is your mediator, interceding for you in heaven right now. Thank God for the gift of His dear Son! The closer you hold on to Him, the safer you are.

“The promise in 2 Corinthians 5 is for you: ‘If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new’ [2 Corinthians 5:17].”

A boy near the back stood to his feet and asked this question, “How can I be sure I’ve been converted? It seems I should know the exact hour it happened.”

“That’s probably something a lot of people wonder about,” said Larry. “A person may not be able to tell the exact time or place he came to Christ. He may not be able to recall all the events and decisions which led to conversion; but this does not prove him to be unconverted.

Genuine conversion is shown by a definite change in character, habits, and activities. His likes and dislikes will have changed. The contrast will be clear and decided between what he has been and what he has become.

“The test is this: Who has the heart? With whom are our thoughts? Of whom do we love to converse? Who has our warmest affections and our best energies? If we are Christ’s, our thoughts are with Him. There is no evidence of genuine repentance unless it works reformation. The lovely, and loving, character of Christ will be seen in His followers. It was the delight of Jesus to do the will of God and help those around Him.”

“Larry, I’ve heard you say that we will be keeping God’s law,” said a boy. “Now that sounds sensible. Of all the people on earth, we should expect that Christians would not steal, commit adultery, or kill. But I’ve heard it said that if I keep God’s law—I’ll be a legalist! How can I obey the ten commandments safely? That sounds like an odd question, but I don’t know how else to put it.”

“People get mixed up on this sometimes,” replied Larry. “There are two errors against which God’s children especially need to guard: The first is that of looking to their own works, trusting to anything they can do by themselves, to bring themselves into harmony with God. All that man can do without Christ is polluted with selfishness and sin. It is the grace of Christ alone, through faith, which can make us holy.

“The opposite and no less dangerous error is that belief in Christ releases men from keeping the law of God; that since by faith alone we become partakers of the grace of Christ, our works have nothing to do with Christian living.

The truth is that obedience is the fruit of faith. Righteousness is defined by the standard of God’s holy law, as expressed in the ten commandments [Exodus 20:3-20]. It is not faith, but presumption to think that we do not need to keep God’s moral law. Morality was not abolished at the cross! Surely, we dare not say that it was!

“I think we can all thank Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy S. Moore. He has called our attention to the importance of defending the ten commandments. The atheists want to get rid of God’s moral standard; God’s people should defend it.

“The solution is to be in Christ. When we are abiding in Him, He gives us power, moment by moment, to obey the moral code. That is what the Bible means when it says He writes the law on our hearts [Hebrews 8:10]. But we must constantly stay close to Him,—or Satan will draw us away from God and the law will no longer be in our hearts. When that happens, we have left Christ and are out in the world again. Obedience is a matter of clinging to Christ and, in His strength, obeying His Written Word. Without Him, we cannot do anything right. He is our righteousness. We are never our own righteousness.”

“I think I see what you mean,” the same student said.

“Christ changes the heart. He abides in your heart by faith. You are to maintain this connection with Christ by faith and the continual surrender of your will to Him; and so long as you do this, He will work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure [Philippians 2:13].”

“I have a question,” asked a girl. “Does that mean we’ll eventually reach a point where we don’t need to stay as close to Christ?”

“Good question,” replied Larry. “That will never happen. The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes; for your vision will be clearer. This is evidence that Satan’s delusions are losing their power. No deep-seated love for Jesus can dwell in the heart that does not realize its own sinfulness. The soul that is transformed by the grace of Christ will admire His character.

“A view of our sinfulness drives us to Him who can pardon; and then the soul, realizing its helplessness, reaches out after Christ. To such a one, Jesus provides wonderful help, wonderful answers. The more our sense of need drives us to Him and to the Word of God, the more exalted views we shall have of His character and the more fully we shall reflect His image. So, the closer we come to Him, the less we will see anything in ourselves, apart from Him, that is good.

“Well, why don’t we bring this meeting to a close at this point? It’s time for our closing prayer.”

When it was finished, Larry raised his hand as he said, “How many appreciate these meetings?”

Hands went up everywhere.

“Have your questions ready; and, when song service is over next week, we’ll start in.” 

 

CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX: MORE ON THE NEW BIRTH

 

The following week, when it was time for the first question, a student stood up. “Larry, what you’ve been talking about, the conversion experience, is about the new birth.”

“That’s right,” replied Larry.

“Can you describe this new birth to us in clearer terms?” was the question.

“What the Bible speaks of as the new birth is the change of heart by which we become children of God,” said Larry.  “Before that we were children of the evil one, caught in his net. But then Christ sets us free as we accept Him as our Saviour.

“Elsewhere in the Bible, this experience is compared to the germination of the good seed sown by the husbandman. It is God who brings the bud to bloom and the flower to fruit. It is by His power that the seed develops. The sprouting of seeds is a miracle. The new birth is also a miracle. Our God is a God of miracles.”

“But once the seed sprouts, from then on it grows on its own, doesn’t it?” asked a puzzled girl.

“The plant only grows,” explained Larry, “because it receives nourishment from the soil, air, and sun. The same with us. We can only grow because Jesus enables us to do so. He is our soil, our air, and our sun!

“As the flower turns to the sun, that the bright beams may aid in perfecting its beauty and symmetry, so we should turn to the Sun of Righteousness, that heaven’s light may shine upon us, that our character may be developed into the likeness of Christ.”

“I think I’m beginning to see how I come to Christ and, at the first, give Him my heart,” said a student. “But don’t I also use some other methods to grow in Christian experience after that?”

“ ‘How am I to abide in Christ?’ is the question,” said Larry. The answer is that you abide in Him in the same way you first received Him. The Bible says it this way: ‘As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him’ [Col­ossians 2:6].

“By faith you first became Christ’s; that’s the new birth. By faith you are to grow up in Him; that’s all the rest of your Christian life. You do this by giving and taking. You are to give all you have: your heart, your will, your service. You give yourself to Him, by His grace, to obey all His requirements. And you must take all: Christ and the blessings He brings you, to abide in your heart. In this way, He is your strength, your righteousness, and your everlasting helper to give you power to obey.”

  “This is really terrific!” said a girl. “I’m getting so much out of this. Now, if you would, tell me how I make sure I’ll start each day right—with Jesus.”

Consecrate yourself to God in the morning,” Larry said. Make this your very first work. Let your prayer be, ‘Take me, O Lord, as wholly Thine. I lay all my plans at Thy feet. Use me today in Thy service. Abide with me and let all my work be wrought in Thee.’

“This is a daily matter. Each morning consecrate yourself to God for that day. Surrender all your plans to Him, to be carried out or given up as His providence shall indicate. Thus day by day you may be giving your life into the hands of God, and thus your life will be molded more and more after the life of Christ.”

“But isn’t there something here I need to be worried about,” a student asked. “This sounds like walking on the edge of a cliff. It just seems too good to be true.”

“There is something to fear: Fear that you will leave Christ,” replied Larry. “Be concerned that you will drift away, drawn by one of the devil’s attractions.

“But, having said that, know for a fact that, if you will cling to Him constantly, Jesus will guard you like a fortress. He intends that no outside power be in you, other than His Holy Spirit.

“Actually, a life in Christ is a life of restfulness. There may be no ecstasy of feeling, but there should be an abiding, peaceful trust. When the mind dwells upon self, it is turned away from Christ, the source of strength and life. For this reason, it is Satan’s constant effort to keep your attention diverted from the Saviour. He wants to prevent your union and communion with Christ.”

“What do you mean by ‘communion with Christ’?” asked another student.

“Well, that’s a big word, and the big words can get us confused at times,” apologized Larry. “By that, I mean talking to Him! We are not only to be united with Him by faith; we are to talk to Him as often as we have opportunity all through the day.”

“ ‘Talk with Jesus’? asked a girl. “How do you do that? I’m busy all day long, and much of the time I’m around other people.”

“There is an interesting sentence in the Apostle Paul’s writings. He said to ‘Pray without ceasing’ [1 Thessalonians 5:17]. Now, if we can figure out what he meant by that, it would probably improve our own Christian experience. We know that Paul had an extremely close walk with God.

“When you first get up in the morning, pray and read God’s Word. This should not be a form, but a genuine experience. Paul said ‘I die daily’ [1 Corinthians 15:31], so he had such a genuine experience—a renewed conversion—every morning.

“Then, as you go through the day, you talk to Jesus. —You really do talk to Him! If you are alone, you can talk out loud. If you are around others, you talk to Him silently. Another way to say this is that you are praying silently, and we’ve all done that. So it shouldn’t be anything strange or new.”

“What do you talk to Him about?” asked a girl quizzically.

“Well,” chuckled Larry, “you talk to Him about what you are doing, what you are going to do. Specifically, though, you thank Him; you ask for guidance to know what to do next, wisdom to do it right, and protection as you do it. You pray for loved ones and those you are trying to help, those you will meet, those you have just met. You pray for people, you pray for yourself. You pray for guidance, you pray for protection. There is so much to talk to Him about. And there is something else: You thank Him, constantly thank Him for the blessings. The more you praise Him, the more you will have to praise Him for. Try it; it works.

“Jesus is real; and, when you are with someone real, you talk to him!”

“Well, I’d be afraid I might forget partway through the day! What if I don’t talk to Him constantly?” asked a boy.

“Don’t worry about it. Just keep aiming for it. Keep talking to Him. If you find you haven’t for a little while, no problem; just start in again. Thank Him, ask Him for help in what you are trying to do. If you are doing anything which in the slightest degree could be dangerous, ask Him for protection. Make Jesus your best friend! For He surely is!”

“You said that we are not only to have continual communion with Him, but also continual union,” a boy said. “By ‘communion’ you mean continually talking to Him. What you do mean by ‘union’?”

“This concept of union with Christ and being in Christ is found many times in the New Testament,” Larry explained. “We mentioned earlier how Christ said that He is the Vine and we are the branches [John 15:1-5]. We are to be so closely connected to Him that we, as the branches, continually draw nourishment from Christ, the parent stock. Paul says we are ‘members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones’ [Ephesians 5:30]. Jesus said we must drink His blood and eat His flesh [John 6:53-56].

“All these symbols describe this extremely close relationship. To put it another way: Each of us is to be His little child, holding His hand all through the day, trusting Him to care for us and guide us.

“The result of this continual union, or connection, is that we become like Him! Can you imagine, becoming like Christ! Yet all the while we ourselves are not aware of the change; for we are just His humble, obedient children. It was predicted that Christ would save His people from their sins [Matthew 1:21], not in their sins. In the process of taking you out of your sins, Christ makes you more like Himself. In other words, He makes you a clean, honest, pure person. You become Christlike.

“Remember how, in His last prayer with His disciples before leaving for Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for all of us [John 17], and He asked that we might be one with Him—even as He is one with the Father. What a union is this! Thus, loving Him and abiding in Him, we shall ‘grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” [Ephesians 4:15].

“Can Satan catch me if I don’t want him to?” asked a girl. “By this I mean, if I want to stay close to Jesus (and determine to) and read the Bible and keep praying. Is there some way Satan can catch me anyway?”

“God cares for His own! When Christ took human nature upon Him, He bound humanity to Himself by a tie of love that can never be broken by any power save the choice of man himself. Satan will constantly present allurements to induce us to break this tie—to choose to separate ourselves from Christ. But if we keep our eyes fixed upon Christ, He will preserve us. Looking constantly unto Jesus, we are safe. Nothing can pluck us out of His hand. All that Christ was to the disciples, He desires to be to His children today.

“Our danger is being attracted by the devil’s trinkets and toys. All that Satan offers is a deception, yet it appears so attractive. In the strength of Jesus, turn away and keep your hand in Christ’s hand.

“How many are thankful that we have such a wonderful Saviour?” asked Larry, raising his hand.

Hands went up all across the auditorium.

GO TO CHAPTER 37 

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