Intentional discipleship is surrendering to the will of the Father.
The first of AA’s twelve steps is to admit you are powerless to bring about change in your life, and the second step goes hand in hand with it, to believe there is a “higher power” who is able to facilitate the change you desire. These are also the first two steps in the life of a disciple. We must be willing to admit that we are powerless to plant and cultivate the seeds of kingdom life in our own hearts, and we must submit to the only one who can. By choosing to be a disciple, a student, we admit that we need to be taught. Without this beginning in humility and surrender, the fullness of the abundant kingdom life will elude us. Humble submission to the creator of the universe is the foundation of intentional discipleship.
Surrender is a recurring theme in Jesus’ teaching. Over and over he teaches that clinging too tightly to our own ways will prevent us from experiencing the kingdom life. He says, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” (Mt 6:24) He tells one rich man that his attachment to wealth is keeping him from the kingdom (Mark 10:17-22), and he turns away three would be followers in Luke 9:57-62 because they are unwilling to give their whole lives to be disciples. Over and over Jesus confronts the divided loyalty of people, and over and over he says they cannot follow him without full devotion.
If we are going to enter the kingdom of God, we must be willing to leave our own kingdoms. Land is a part of one state or another, one country or another. There are no overlapping territories, and the same is true in the kingdom of God. As long as I insist on living in my kingdom, I will not enter the kingdom of God. There is an incredible home for each of us in the kingdom, but for some reason we keep paying rent on the dilapidated studio in our own kingdom. As long as we do, the beautiful kingdom house is just a dream.
Even Jesus experienced surrender. In Philippians 2:6-11 Paul says that Jesus emptied himself and became a servant even to the point of dying one of the most horrible deaths imaginable. Perhaps the most dramatic examples of his submission to the Father’s will comes in Luke 42:22. For some time Jesus has known what awaited him in Jerusalem. As he made his way down the dusty paths from Galilee to Jerusalem, Jesus spoke often of his death, and I suspect it was constantly on his mind. Yet when the time came, he sat alone in a garden praying, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Moments before his arrest and hours before his death, even Jesus had to surrender his will to the will of his Father.
Surrender is not primarily a matter of obedience. Obedience is a part of it, but I would rather look at obedience as the outcome rather than the starting point. We surrender to the will of the Father because of who he is. He is God. He is creator. He is love. Living a life of surrender means that we acknowledge that we are the created, and we cannot live the lives we were created to live under our own power. We acknowledge that the one who can cultivate within us the life we so deeply desire is God. We acknowledge that he is the creator of all things, that he loves us, and that he alone has the power to bring about our transformation.