We crucify the old self but to yield self means an active participation in the purposes of God. He desires that we work with Him and invites us to reason together with Him in all things so that we can choose to yield as He desires we should.
“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18-20)
It’s a remarkable – and almost incomprehensible – truth that the I AM has chosen to work in, with, and through frail and sinful humanity. The word ‘remarkable’ scarcely covers the magnitude of this privilege of an omnipotent God who literally can do the impossible inviting us to join Him in His work. But it’s the incomprehensible part that raises up all kinds of misunderstandings. Some err on the side of arrogance – God has ‘chosen’ to work with us, so we are ‘chosen’ and so are somehow special. While based on biblical truth, these assumptions are often taken to the extreme of spiritual arrogance which overlooks another critical truth that creates equal confusion unless we understand the Word of God. Many believers misunderstand what it is to yield self. In doing so, they miss the fundamental and powerful reality of the relationship God desires with us.
To yield self is absolutely necessary.
Both Old and New Testaments are filled with Scripture which points to this. We see it in the Samuels and the Davids, and in the lives of the apostles. Jesus speaks of it when He talks of laying down our lives and taking up our cross. It’s echoed consistently in the letters of Paul when he reminds us that we died with Christ and encourages us to live only for Jesus. If we study the Bible and listen to the sermons of reputable Bible teachers and preachers, we see this taught over and over again. It’s perhaps one of the most certain and indisputable truths with which every believer is confronted. Yet we still misunderstand what this really involves for a committed follower of Jesus who truly wants to walk in the ways of the Lord. But we can be encouraged. The first step is acknowledging the necessity.
The Bible as consistently makes it plain that to yield self is necessary because self sets itself up against the will and purpose of God. Self, in the natural man, rises up in rebellion because it want to retain control. God, who is absolutely sovereign in all things, won’t share His glory, and especially not with those He has Himself created. While self rules in us, God will not. We may desire to know the ‘all’ of God, but this simply is not possible while we retain even some of self. Every activity of self in our lives is automatically in conflict with the work of God in our lives. The mantra of self is ‘me, myself, I’ and that will never change. Paul plainly states God’s purpose for self – crucify it. Yield it up as a sacrifice as Jesus yielded His own will at the cross.
What to yield really means.
The dictionary says that to yield is to give way to arguments, demands, or pressure. It involves the ‘let’s reason together’ that God puts forward in today’s verse. This is a little different to our notion of yield, which is closer to the idea of surrender we have – one which is also misunderstood. The dictionary defines surrender as: the action of surrendering to an opponent or powerful influence. By and large it carries the negative connotation of ‘giving up’ which most of us regard as an extreme weakness. Yet the Bible teaches repeatedly on patience, perseverance, standing in the face of opposition or persecution, and holding fast to the Word. These are all the very antithesis of our limited understanding of surrender. God’s Word never contradicts itself. If He wants us to yield self or surrender, it must carry a meaning consistent with His Word.
Today’s verse provides a vital key to understanding what it is to yield self. God invites us to reason together, a wonderful and revealing truth which will radically change our notion of yielding. For now, though, we need to grasp the fundamental principle that yielding is based on reasoning – using the cognitive abilities He has given us together with Him to come to the right conclusion or revelation. We must understand that God created us as we are for His glory. The self that has been shaped to raise itself up against the things of God was created to function for the things of God. This hasn’t changed. It’s our use of self that has changed and stepped outside His divine purposes. Yielding or surrender isn’t giving up. It’s acknowledging the truth received through spiritual revelation from God that He is sovereign and His purposes perfect.
To yield self or to crucify self?
These do not contradict one another. They are our guidelines for dealing with two sides of the same thing. To understand this, we must dig a little deeper into self and what it means. The born again and Spirit-filled believer essentially has two selves – the old self and the new, regenerated one. The old self – the before Jesus self – is the one which existed in rebellion against God. Its driving purpose was self-gratification. The new self, however, is self in Christ – a new creation through the resurrection power of God. We live as a dual-self and each must be dealt with differently. The old self must be crucified and reckoned dead with Christ. The new self must be reckoned alive in Christ. In other words, we must have separation between them. To yield self is to commit the new self in Christ to the purposes and will of God.
Paul teaches extensively on this difference and the spiritual significance of the cross – the dividing line between the old self and the new. The ‘reasoning’ behind this is the shift from a me-focused life to a God-focused life. The Bible never instructs us to crucify the new man. It teaches us to yield self willingly in the sure and certain knowledge that God is sovereign and that His will, His ways, and His purposes are perfect and wise beyond our full comprehension. Many believers miss this vital truth. They don’t ever learn to yield because they’re so busy trying to crucify what God has decreed should live. The self we are now is not the self we were before Jesus. We are regenerated – made new – in the original purpose of God. This is to work together with Him using every ability and capacity He has placed in us.
Yield self is active, not passive.
Christians coin many phrases that add to the misunderstanding, though all are based on fundamental truths within the Bible. Phrases like ‘let go and let God’ or ‘step back and let Him work’ are appropriate when we consider how much we like to be hands on and in control. But these subtly contribute to a mistaken understanding that to yield self is a passive condition. We give up and let God work, or we surrender and relinquish all interaction. God is sovereign so we have to give up and let Him get on with it because He knows best. But the Bible never teaches passivity. Even ‘wait upon the Lord’ implies action through prayer, seeking His face, and building faith through the Word. Passivity is the old self manifesting itself in a kind of spiritual sulk – if I can’t do it my way I won’t do it at all.
Today’s verse points out very clearly that God intends that when we yield self, it’s in an active and engaged relationship with Him. Through this, He presents the full revelation of His Word. He provides us with the perfect truth that inspires and enables us to yield. This is beautifully emphasised in the message of the cross – the full atonement for, forgiveness of, and total remission of sin. When faced with this, the new self cannot help but yield. But it’s a conscious decision shared by God. We engage all that we are. When we yield it’s not to ‘shut down’ and let Him get on with it. Rather, it’s a joyful acknowledgement of His sovereign power and authority and a willing obedience to work alongside Him to fulfil His purposes. Yielding hears and obeys, not as mindless robots but as active participants.
The practical nature of yield self.
The reality of life is that the old self remains and will consistently seek to intrude between the new self and God. We know, through the Word, that it is dead, but it ignores the memo. If it cannot regain control it will try to undermine the full truth of our new relationship. Passivity is one of the ways it does this. Creating misunderstanding around what it really means to yield self or to surrender is another. What we need to take hold of is that the new self is one of resurrection life. It is active by nature and is characterised by abundance. God does not intend for us to sit passively by but to abound unto every good work according to the purposes He reveals to us. The old self is dead and has nothing at all to do with our new self in Christ.
Passive yielding is living the old, dead self in the new life. We may not give in to the demands of self, reckoning it dead as we are told to do. But if we don’t yield self to all God intends for the new self by actively participating, we’re living in a dead, passive, inanimate self. Life in Christ means living in Christ – as He did, which was in full, obedient action directed by the will of God. From a practical perspective, this requires that we seek His will and listen when He speaks. This is very different to lurking around, waiting for God to work. God wants to work with us and through us. He wants to reason together with us for the purposes of His kingdom. When we hear, we must then act. God does the work, but we are there alongside Him and working together with Him.
The choice to yield self.
This is something that we need to do daily – and sometimes many times during the day. Because we live in the ‘real’ world, things intrude and the old self interferes. To yield self means to pause and to reason together with God. What is His will and purpose in this moment? We choose how to deal with situations and circumstances. It’s an incredible privilege that the great I AM should desire to work together with us frail and sinful human beings. When we consider what He was prepared to do to enable us to take up that invitation, it’s reason enough to yield. It’s by His grace that we are able to do so. But we must do it with active, joyful, obedient participation. If God encouraged passivity, He’d not have made us as we are, and He would never have needed the cross.
Lord God, thank You for the awesome privilege of relationship with You and the opportunity to work together with You. Forgive us for those times of passivity when we have misunderstood Your true purposes. Help us to yield self as You desire, alive and abounding in Your work. Renew our minds according to the truth of Your Word, so that we can draw alongside in faith, humility, and thanksgiving, and take the place You have prepared for us in Your perfect will.