Why does a believer not immediately walk in victory?
To answer that question, first let us ask another question: Why does a newborn baby not immediately get up and begin running? Do we assume something is wrong with an infant when he cannot climb out of his crib and run down the street? Of course not. We realize that a healthy pair of legs needs to grow and develop before they can be used. There will be many stages of growth in a baby before they can even walk, much less run. Not only the legs, but the back, neck, stomach and arm muscles must be developed. In a baby this progresses in stages. At first they can only lay there and squirm. Eventually they will try rolling over, holding up their head, and sitting up. Then comes crawling, standing without falling over, taking a few steps with assistance, taking a few steps on their own, and finally walking without assistance. Then comes running.
The amazing thing is that this process of learning to run does not take years and years of practice and study. On average, children are able to walk in just eighteen months and run in only twenty-four months – quite an amazing achievement in such a short period of time. Beyond that, some will go on to participate in marathons or compete in athletics, and that will require even more growth and development. But everyone begins the same way: as a baby who cannot do anything.
The same is true of spiritual babies; and so, the Bible tells us, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2) and “Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).
Everything accomplished by way of the Cross brings the fullness of Christ and His Irresistible Kingdom into the heart of every person who believes. “He has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3) This great Gift of Christ has been deposited into the depth of the disciple the same way as a precious seed is buried into the soil. Contained within that seed is a bountiful harvest of rich fruit. But one does not plant a seed on Sunday morning and expect to find fruit on Monday. The seed must surrender itself to the process of growth before it can mature into something that bears fruit. “Truthfully, truthfully, I say to you, unless a corn of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it lives alone: but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit” (Jn. 12:24). This amounts to a death, burial, and resurrection.
The First Step: Absolute Surrender
Nowhere does the Bible indicate that the Gift of Christ is accompanied by a lot of excitement or feeling. It is the result of faith: simply believe that when you ask the Lord Jesus to make you one of His disciples He accepts you. It really is not a matter of accepting Him. He is Lord whether you accept Him or not; to be His disciple, He must accept you. The Good News is that He will accept all who come to Him and submit to Him as Savior and Lord.
Peter did not “accept the Lord Jesus as his personal Savior.” When Peter saw Him, “He fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord'” (Lk. 5:8). This does not sound like much of an invitation, but it contains all the elements of a true conversion:
1) A deep understanding of Self: that there is nothing good in me. I am a sinful man, and I plead guilty because I am guilty. I have no excuse. I am no longer convinced of my own righteousness. If I am to be saved at all it will be because of Someone Else’s goodness.
2) A genuine revelation of Christ: however small it may be. It may only be the tiniest glimpse of Him, but if it awakens something in us and gives us a bit more insight into the Person of Christ then it is enough. Peter watched Jesus and came to the sudden awareness that this Man was different from himself – He was holy. This revelation of Christ would later increase and be evidenced by Peter’s confession that “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Mt. 16:16). But this revelation in the form of a seed was planted in Peter the first day he met the Lord.
3) An absolute surrender: Peter could have run in the opposite direction, as so many people are prone to do when confronted with Someone greater than themselves. Instead, Peter fell at Jesus’ knees and called Him, “Lord.” Words are not enough; the heart must be as surrendered as the mouth. In Peter’s the case everything was genuine. Jesus might have rejected Peter and gone the other way also, but He did not. To Peter (and his brother Andrew), Jesus said, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mt. 4:19). And so a new disciple was born.
When Jesus accepts you then you are saved. A drowning man is at the mercy of his rescuers; if he wants to live he does not have the option of “accepting” their kindness. He ought to rather thank God that someone has accepted the challenge of saving him! All that is left to say is: “I’m yours! Come and get me! I surrender!” Jesus does not say, “Accept Me,” He says, “Follow Me.”
It really is that simple. Do you feel unacceptable, unworthy? Then you are exactly the kind of person He is ready to accept. Rest assured that He accepts anyone who comes to Him and acknowledges that He is preeminent over them. This may be done at any time, in any place. It can be done while you are reading this book. You can simply surrender to Him and He will accept you without fail. The only ones who are not accepted are the proud, the hypocritical, and the self-righteous because they will never surrender to anyone under any circumstance. But if they have a moment of clarity and do honestly surrender to Him then He accepts them too.
Occasionally people write in to ask me for advice because they are worried that they are not really saved. I do not try to convince them that something they did in the past was sufficient; I simply have them make a fresh surrender, and then the question of being saved is settled once and for all. In fact, the life of a disciple is a life of constant surrender to Christ, forsaking your own way for His way. Every day there is a new opportunity for surrender! In the beginning you may believe that your way is always the best way, but those of us with some experience will tell you that His way is always superior. Always. In time you learn to prefer His way over our own: that is a characteristic of the spiritually mature. When the surrender is made then discipleship can begin.