Today’s Scripture:  “24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.  26  For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”  Matthew 16:24-26

Introduction:

Well…we’re finally on day 21.  It’s been a long journey to get to the end of this series, but I can’t help but to think that the Holy Ghost knew that the breaks we took along the way were necessary.  Lord knows there were a few times that I needed what I wrote to sink into me and my heart before I could move on to another message.  You see, friends…like I said to you yesterday…I am being ministered to and learning from these messages I write too.  There are many times I have to go back and re-read these messages because I don’t always know what the Holy Spirit has me say.  So…I have to go back to re-read these messages…and it’s when I do that I realize…like I did yesterday that I have become a much better writer than I give myself credit for…but the whole reason I deny myself that credit is because of what we’re going to read about today…it doesn’t belong to me.

Friends…I am confident in saying that if it wasn’t for the Holy Ghost…this may be one of the few things I’m fully convinced about…but I wouldn’t be any good at writing.  I mean I’ve always been okay at being able to communicate through writing…but friends…these messages…this stuff I do for the Lord…I am in awe some times because I know that within me…the ability to write messages like I am has only gotten better…clearer…and easier to read because it’s the Holy Ghost who is writing the messages for me…

So…dying to self is what we’re going to be talking today.  I don’t know that we’re going to stay on topic with the writer of this devotion or not.  I know that the Holy Ghost is going to have quite a few things to say…so let’s pray and get into today’s message.

Opening Prayer:

Lord God…I come to You seeking once again the anointing and supernatural ability to write that comes only and solely because of the Holy Ghost.  I ask…Lord God that You would take over this message, that You would take over my mind, my thoughts, and keep me focused upon You and Your voice.  I ask that all distractions would be quieted so that Your voice…Lord God…would be all that I hear so that I may write that which YOU would have me to say this day.  I ask that You would be heard, that Your words be spoken and written.  I ask that the readers of this message would have ears to hear what the Spirit says, eyes to see that which You have for us to see, and hearts that are receptive and ready to respond to the Word which You’re going to speak through me through this message…I thank You that I make my fingers as those of a pen of a ready writer…that I may write only that which You would have me to write…I thank You for unction, utterance, and the anointing…and I thank You that You have given me this ability to speak to Your people through the messages I write…I surrender this message to You…and ask that You would have Your way…and use me as Your servant and vessel.  In the MIGHTY name of Jesus I pray…Amen & Amen

Today’s Message:

Before I go to far I hear the voice of the Holy Ghost reminding me of something that one of my pastors from New Life Christian Center has said or even tweeted a few times.  It’s something that will give you cause to stop and think, but man is it good.

We spend a whole lot of time trying to fix what Jesus is trying to kill. #DieToSelf

Friends…until we began getting into this series I thought that I’d done a fairly good job of dying to self, but as I’ve said yesterday there is so much that I realize within me that still needs to be put to death.  I have so much self, so much pride, and so much of me that I thought was sacrificed and surrendered…but the ugly truth is what I have given and allowed Jesus to kill in my life is so miniscule that a series like this takes so long to write and finish because I have come to realize that what I thought was a fairly good job of being surrendered, submitted, and sacrificed…is barely a drop in the bucket…so-to-speak.

Take a moment to read that and really allow it to sink in.  “We spend a whole lot of time trying to fix what Jesus is trying to kill.”.  Then when you add to it:  “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”  from Matthew 16:25 (KJV)…you get a whole new perspective of just how little of our lives we really have surrendered and allowed to be crucified with Christ.

The Bible says that we’re crucified with Christ, but it also talks about our need to carry our own cross daily.  We’re told that we need to die daily.  Why all of this insistence?  We’re also told by Paul that we need to take off the “old man”, and put on the new.  So…the being crucified in Christ is about our position in Christ…NOT our work of putting ourselves to death.  Being crucified with Christ is our assurance of our salvation…and it doesn’t negate the fact that we have lives to lay down before Him every single day.

We are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, but if we’re God’s workmanship that implies that there is work in our minds, our hearts, and our lives that still has yet to be done.  If there wasn’t a need for God to do the work within us until the day of  completion…then there wouldn’t be a need for us to die to ourselves….but there is a need.  There is a need for us to pick up our crosses daily and follow Jesus…and the reason for that is because we’re still locked in these fleshly bodies…and we still have our own will…and those both need to be sacrificed and crucified daily…and surrendered at the foot of the Cross so that we don’t live…but that He would live through us.

These particular verses come in the chapter where Jesus predicts his death to his disciples. He tells them of the exact events that will occur and is met with opposition. The one who is brave enough (or stupid enough) to question the happenings Christ just outlined is Peter. Surprised? You shouldn’t be because this is the guy who, ten chapters later in Matthew, confesses his love for Christ and then denies him three times. Did I mention he also cuts off the ear of one of the men who arrested Jesus? Peter is definitely a character.

I think if we’re honest with ourselves…a lot of us are like Peter.  I know that I can certainly identify a lot with Peter.  I have been like Peter where I’ve confessed my love and undying devotion to Christ only to have the flames of passions go out…and have to be restarted by the Holy Ghost more than once.  I’ve found myself tasting of the goodness of God only to find myself like Peter…returning to the familiar and comfortable…and then having God come to me to ask me like He did Peter…”Do you love Me?”…and like Peter there were many times in my life I gave the nonchalant “Yes, of course I love You Lord.”…but I believe all of us are eventually confronted that final time…where we realize that God wasn’t looking for an answer from our minds…He was looking for an answer from our hearts.  “Love the Lord with ALL your heart, ALL your soul, ALL your mind, and with ALL your strength.”

I have shared many times with you that there was a time when I read the encounter of Jesus and Peter a few times, and one day as I was reading it…I realized that God wasn’t speaking to Peter…He was speaking to me…and like Peter I eventually came to realize that God was working to fan the flames of passion in my heart…and not only did He fan the flames…but there’s a fire of passion in my heart that burns much hotter and much more out of control that it ever has.

If you’ve walked the Christian road for any amount of time, the likelihood that you’ve heard a message preached on the verse above is great. Oftentimes we hear a message that exhorts us to rise above ourselves and live our lives to honor Christ with no regard for what we’ll receive. And we are told that when we take this path we will truly find life.

You know…once you learn that you are called to ministry…and then you step into that calling there is another level of surrender and dying to self that needs to happen.  I was talking with my mother-in-law last night where I was sharing just a little bit of the dying to self that’s taken place over the course of the last year.  I’ve come to realize that as a Minister of the Gospel there are things that I simply cannot continue to do…and the more I see that doesn’t reflect Jesus…the more I realize that there’s a whole lot of me…a whole lot of myself that needs to die.  I’m reminded of John the Baptists words…they’re very short and simple…but reflect exactly what it is the goal is for those of us who are Christians and even more so for those of us who consider ourselves to be in ministry.  The words:  “I must decrease so He can increase.”  In other words…more of You Lord…and less of me.

I remember the fall of 1995 vividly. The apartment where my husband, Chris, and I resided was about 750 square feet. We spent a lot of time playing music together. We even wrote our first song there. A bigger event that transpired while we were living there was God’s calling on our lives to surrender. Surrender what, you might ask. Everything. And I didn’t know if I wanted to.

The first time the Lord let me know that there was more for me to do than be a warm body on a church pew was in 1998.  I was living at the Kenosha Youth Foundation, I had just gone through my first brush with the Wisconsin legal system.  I met some people who were part of New Song Ministries because they were holding services in one of the meeting rooms there.  It wasn’t long before I began to sense the Lord in a way that I hadn’t sensed Him since I was a child.  It’s then that I had one of the elders of that ministry lay hands on me and pray that I’d do the work of an evangelist.  For those of you who have been really following along with my messages…you’ll know this is when the Lord spoke up on the inside of me for the first time and said “That’s not what I’ve called you to do.”.

None the less…that’s the first time I learned God was calling me into ministry.  However, I had just gotten out of an inpatient treatment program, the reason I was moving into the KYF is because I was about to be homeless but knew someone who could help me by getting me into a homeless youth program…and I took one look at my life…and thought that there was NO way in the world God could use someone like me…and instead of answering the call…I ran from it.  Unlike what Mrs. Beall writes…it wasn’t that I didn’t want to answer the call…it’s that I didn’t see how God could use a broken down wretched person like me for any good.

Travel ahead to 2002 if you will and you’ll find me hearing from God yet again about the direction in my life. With my marriage absolutely on the rocks, I was and still am convinced that God called me to stay and work things out. That encouraged many and frightened plenty. But, I chose to follow God’s direction and literally lose my life. And again, I found it.

This woman’s timeline is a lot like my own in the sense that the next time the Lord got my attention was throughout 2001 as I spent all that year locked up after yet another brush with the State of Wisconsin where I received 9 months in jail and 10 more years of probation.  Like I shared with you before…if you’ve been following along that’s the year I spent in the Word of God under the instruction of the Holy Ghost.

While there I was part of an in-jail treatment program for addicts, alcoholics, and those who needed things like anger management.  We also had a couple of Bible studies established, and I began to walk a little bit within the vocation in which I knew I was called to.  However, there came yet another point that I looked at my life wondering how in the world God could use me…and once again instead of completely surrendering my life to Him…I only surrendered a little bit of my life.

I wound up back on the streets, and I wound up back in the 12 step programs.  I managed to do pretty good for a while.  It wasn’t until May of 2003 that I would find myself again faced with the reality that I had turned away from God…and found myself facing prison time for violating my probation.  However, the hand of God is so amazing.  He had me working with a probation agent who believed in me…and some how was able to give me the favor of only spending another 9 months in the county jail…and that was when God got my full attention.

See…it was at that point that all of my excuses were taken away, and I finally realized that I needed God to work in my heart and my life.  I surrendered.  I went back through the Livingfree Program, and by the time I was awarded the opportunity to work in the kitchen…the other thing God did was brought in my pastor…Pastor Stephen Robbins who showed me the love of Christ…and helped me to realize that there was a call upon my life…and I needed to stop running from it.

But you know what?  I still wasn’t ready to embrace the call of God upon my life.  By that time the life I had led had me so discouraged that even though I continued to soak up the Word of God,  I found myself in my first marriage, and on the surface everything seemed like it was right.  I can tell you that going to Pastor Robbin’s church was more like going to Bible school than church…and it was Pastor Robbins who is responsible for building within me the foundation that I have today.

By 2009 things were really looking good.  I was married, I was the owner and operator of my own business, and I thought things were wonderful.  However, by July of 2009 I began seeing someone outside of my marriage…a marriage that had I listened to the Holy Spirit I wouldn’t have gotten myself into because instead of being encouraged to follow the call of God on my life…I was shackled by a woman who was trying to control my life…instead of love me and encourage me to follow the Lord.  I should’ve been clued into that when I felt like I might be called to attend Kenneth Hagin’s Rhema Bible College…and she issued me the ultimatum of either I choose her or Bible school.

By December of 2009 I wound up in an adulterous affair…and by January I was moved out of my home and into this other woman’s home.  However…that was just the beginning.  By February the woman I had left my wife for had let me know that she wasn’t really ready for a serious and committed relationship…but God had a plan.  My mom and dad had moved to Arkansas…and I found myself at another fork in the road…my mom had decided that she was going to get me a one-way bus ticket to Arkansas…and this is where the Lord took over (kind of).

2010 was kind of my Abraham moment where God kind of said to me that it was time to “pick up and go”.  How many of you know at that moment I could either have chosen to stay there in Wisconsin…because I may have had a few places to go…or I could’ve taken this once in a lifetime opportunity to get away from all that was comfortable.  I decided that I needed a change of scenery…so I accepted the one-way bus ticket…and to Arkansas I came.

However, I wasn’t fully ready to completely surrender still.  I was still trying to hang on to a little bit of my old life by talking to a woman from back home who I eventually talked into moving down here.  I now know that having her come down here was a last moment attempt for me to have something from my old life to hang on to…but by October of 2010…the woman I had come down here decided that being down here wasn’t what she wanted…so she left.

It was at that time that I was the most broken that I’d ever been.  More broken than getting ousted from  the United States Marine Corps.  More broken than I was over becoming a two-time convicted felon.  More broken than the times I wound up homeless and living on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin.  More broken than I was about the end of my first marriage.  More broken than I was when the woman I left my first wife for decided that living with me wasn’t as exciting as chasing me.  More broken than I was when I first arrived in Arkansas.

However…it was at that point that I reached the end of myself…and what I felt I could bear in life…I knew at that moment that I was seriously at the breaking point of life.  I remember many days and times between the time Jennifer left to go back to Illinois…and the Sunday that I had the encounter with God that would change my life forever.

See…we all reach that moment that Peter reached where the Lord asked Him that final time:  “Peter…do you love Me?”  I found myself in that moment where the only thing I could say…the only thing I could pray was “God…You gotta do something.  I don’t know what I need You to do…but I need You to do something because I’m feeling like such a failure.  I am feeling like I’d much rather leave this world and be with You than wanting to be here.  So…I don’t know what it is I need You to do…but Lord…You have to do something…because I don’t want to be here anymore.”

November 15, 2010 was the encounter with God that changed my life forever.  I can’t really describe to you what happened that day, but I felt the God’s arms around me.  The pastor that prayed over me said that he saw in the spirit God reach down…and take everything I had been carrying off my shoulders…and He did.  The only thing I can tell you is that God did what I needed Him to do.

Everything changed from that moment forward because it wasn’t long after that I began seriously dating the woman who would become my wife…and from that day forward…friends…my life was never…ever the same.  He began to use my wife to love me and encourage me…and to love me through her and encourage me through her.

By January of 2012 I was surrendered enough where I was finally ready to step into the call of God upon my life…and here we are today in August…and I’ve written almost 200 messages.  Friends the journey was long…the journey was PAINFUL…but here I am walking with the Lord…and serving Him…and writing messages that I never dreamed I’d be able to write.

During the last several years, I have had more life given to me by God than I could contain. Sometimes I just sit and think about how much I’ve been given. I can’t imagine my life getting any richer and fuller than it already is. But then God shows up and brings abundant joy and more blessings than I can comprehend. And I got all this because I lost the life I thought was amazing?

I lost the life that I thought was amazing.  I wish I could say that I thought my life up until November 15, 2010 was amazing…but the truth is life had beaten me into submission.  I can honestly tell you that God was going to have to show me He loved me and had a purpose for me to continue living…or I was seriously considering the option of doing something to make sure I got home to see Him face to face.  I was at the end of myself…and I wish I could say something better.  I wish I could say that I’d reached a place where I thought the life God was asking me to give up was something great or amazing…but it wasn’t.

“Sometimes I sit and thing about how much I’ve been given.”  The things that God has done over the last almost 2 years now is nothing short of amazing.  He’s helped me to restore the extremely broken relationship with my parents.  He’s given me a family of my own with a woman who loves me…and no matter what I do to try to push that love away…she won’t let go…she’s committed to me beyond anything I’ve ever experienced…and loves me beyond any love I’ve ever really experienced.

Today…I’ve a relationship with my parents, I have a wonderful marriage, I have a pretty good job, and I have this ministry that God’s been waiting for years for me to finally surrender and step into.  I’ve come to realize that the abundant life that God promises isn’t about the accumulation of stuff and this financial prosperity that’s crept into the Body of Christ…but the things that no amount of money can buy.

I don’t remember the exact day but God spoke profoundly to me. His voice was not audible but the message was indelibly written on my heart. I could not deny His still, small voice that day. I was praying and simply sitting in awe of the amazing life I live and asked, “Why me, Lord?” His reply was simple: “Because you said yes.”

It wasn’t until I was in the middle of my church’s series on the Mandate where the Lord reminded me that I was called to work for Him.  So…I set up this blog page…and began writing messages.  He let it be known to me through His Word that I was called to be Pastor Bryan Kizer of Christlike Ministries NWA…and that’s who I have been since then.

I sat upright and realized that back in 1995 I had a choice to make. I could have said “no” and kept the life I enjoyed. Or, I could have said “yes” and received a life that I never could have imagined. And occasionally still have to pinch myself to make sure this abundant life is real. It is.

The truth is back in 1998 when God first spoke to me about the ministry He had for me…I too said “yes”…but He took me back even further than what I remember…long before I sat and gave my heart to Him on the edge of my grandmother’s bed at the age of 6…but before I ever stepped foot into this world…that grandmother I sat next to was the one who prayed over me before I ever stepped foot into the realm of time.  I had been set apart for Him before I had ever taken one breath of air…and now that I realize that…I understand that the choice was never really mine to make…I still had to decide to say “yes” to Jesus…and then again to God when I understood that He had work for me to do…but God had my purpose and calling ready for me…before I ever got to November 15, 2010…He had it prepared for me before February 13, 1974.

I sat upright and realized that back in 1995 I had a choice to make. I could have said “no” and kept the life I enjoyed. Or, I could have said “yes” and received a life that I never could have imagined. And occasionally still have to pinch myself to make sure this abundant life is real. It is.

I do realize that my real cross-road was the day I chose to accept the one-way bus ticket to Arkansas from my mom.  The choice was for me to continue to live where I knew and was comfortable…or take the trip to Arkansas…but for me to say that I imagined life would turn out the way it has…I’d be lying to you.  I had NO idea that all of this was going to come from making the decision to walk away from everything I’d known…and step out into a place where I knew only my parents…and had to trust the Lord.

I recognize that even Jennifer played an important role in me continuing to live down here.  She was the one who helped Arkansas to feel like home to me.  I realized when she left that I had no desire to return to living up there, and that I knew my life and destiny and purpose was to remain here in Arkansas…but even then I couldn’t have imagined all that the Lord would do…and just like Mrs. Beall…I have to occasionally just stop and thank God…and tell Him that I have a hard time believing that He has done so much…but that there is so much more that He has yet to do.

So, what say you? Yes or no? It’s that simple.

Friend…what I can tell you is that saying “yes” to God was just the beginning.  I some times look back over the course of my entire life, and am in awe of where God’s taken me from to where I am today.  I also cannot help but to look back to November of 2010, and realize that when I had that encounter with Him where I finally surrendered myself and my life to Him…and then again this past January where I said “yes” to starting the ministry…I couldn’t have imagined things turning out better than they have…and I also can tell you that there’s nothing within me that feels like I deserve any credit at all.

On November 15, 2010…I finally put the old Bryan to death…and in almost two years the transformation that’s taken place has been nothing short of amazing…and it’s all God.  Today…I am working to allow Him to kill more and more of my life…because I want to reflect more and more of Him in my life…and that’s the mark of someone who has truly surrendered their life to God.

What does this surrendered life look like?  I still don’t know…but it looks a lot like someone who was once living his life for himself…and now it looks like someone who is living his life for the Lord.  It looks a lot like someone who was about to quit life altogether…and someone who has begun to realize that in Christ…his life has just begun.  It looks like someone who was running as fast as he could from the call of God on his life…to someone who has not only embraced the call…but is walking in it.  I’m not saying that my life is what a surrendered life looks like…but I am saying that I realize that I look a lot more like my Daddy than I did two years ago.

The surrendered life looks like a life that has reached the end of themselves to realize that he doesn’t even know what he needs God to do…he just realizes that the ability to change the course of his life no longer resides within him…the surrendered life looks like someone in a weeping mess on the floor at the feet of Jesus…the surrendered life…is found in someone who is willing to fast from worldly entertainment venues to find there are too many things that took priority over the presence of God…and even after that fast…knowing there are certain things that need to be laid down permanently.

If you have ever said “yes” to God…then that is what the surrendered life looks like…but there’s much…much more to living the surrendered life than just saying “yes” once.  I have found that in surrendering my life to the Lord…there are many more times where I am faced with a yes or no decision.  Some times…I say yes…and some times I am still stubborn and say no.

Let me give you a hint.  The places you say “no” are the places that are yet to be surrendered…but I’m starting to find there are less times that I say “no”…but as I’ve shared with you time and again…there are many…many areas that I still have to surrender…but I will because after this series…I realize that it really is just this simple.

So, what say you? Yes or no? It’s that simple.

Points for Pondering:

  • Are there parts of your life that you haven’t surrendered to God?

Be A Doer Not Just A Reader:

  • Think about the areas of your life where you are stiff-arming God and not allowing Him to lead you.

Conclusion:

Well…this concludes the “Living the Surrendered Life” series.  I know I shared a lot of my personal life in this message…and I know that it includes a lot of things that aren’t very churchy.  It includes admissions of marital infidelity, it includes a moment where I considered ending my own life, it includes admissions that I’m a two-time convicted felon, and I realize those things are very hard for church people to look past…but that’s where I came from.  I’m not embarrassed or ashamed of my scars…that’s real life…and some times I think that it’s alright to share my life…because the truth is…the hope is that if there are people on the fence about giving their lives to the Lord…the hope is that if they see the things that God’s helped me to overcome in my life…they can overcome them too.

I often share with you that I’m no different or better than anyone else…and my personal history proves that I’ve no reason or right to judge anyone else’s life but my own.  However…what it also proves is that when you surrender your life to the Lord…He most certainly can take your mess and turn it into a message.  He can take tragedy and turn it into triumph.

The truth is…a surrendered life is one like mine.  It’s a life that realizes that the only thing praiseworthy isn’t what I’ve done or where I’m at in life…but that the only thing worthy of glory, honor and praise is the God that has taken a broken down life like mine…and turned it into someone who writes messages for the sole purpose of serving and giving glory to God.

My life is not my own…I’m not my own person.  I belong to God…and it’s He who deserves all the praise…all the glory…and all the honor.  I am crucified with Christ…and the life I live is no longer I…but Christ living within me…and I lay down the rights that I think I have for the life that God desires for me to live…

24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. 26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?  Matthew 16:24-26

I have a long way to go…but I know that I will continue to work at allowing God to kill what I’ve been trying to fix…because the truth is…there’s nothing I can do…it has to be God…and if I want more of Jesus to be on display…I need to lose more of my life for His sake.

So, what say you? Yes or no? It’s that simple

I don’t know about anyone else…but I know what I want my answer to be…

Yes…Lord