Has the lamb that was slain received the reward of his suffering, through your life? You know, that’s what Jesus died for; he died that our lives might be transformed by his power! He died that we might be a testimony that would reward all of his suffering! Has the lamb that was slain received the reward of his suffering in your life, in my life? That is a good question for us to start with as we open our hearts to the word of God and let the Spirit of God, through the word of God, examine us.
We are moving through a series on Christ in the early Anabaptists, and I want to comment on some of what my opening words were in the last message. I believe the foundational doctrines the early Anabaptists believed. I want you to know that. But in practice, it seems to me that they are so far ahead of where I am, and where I live. I think if we would be honest, most of us are all pretty far away from where they were. Oh, that God, by His spirit, would put a fire of desire in our hearts; that somehow we would return to the way it was – the spirit of early Anabaptism – that we would return to the practices and the heartbeat that made those men and women die for their faith! I believe that it is the will of God for us to return to that.
We stand in danger of being more like the reformers, who claimed to believe right but lived very differently than what they believed. We stand in danger of somehow finding our confidence and our faith in the fact that we believe the doctrines of the people who lived five hundred years ago. But it is not enough to believe the doctrines of what they believed, if there is no reality in our own hearts and lives! We are in bad shape; we are just as bad as those people who sat in those reformed churches, and heard nice doctrines about Jesus Christ. Dear God deliver us!
The title of the message is Gelassenheit – complete surrender. If that is a new word to you, it won’t be by the end of this message. I have chosen to use a word that is often used among the Anabaptists, a word with powerful meaning behind it. I’m not even sure that we will be able to understand the depth of that word! But we are going to attempt to anyway.
I want to make an attempt to explain this word with other words. However, I must admit that to try and describe this word, Gelassenheit, with other words is a very feeble attempt. What does it mean? What are some of the other words that the early Anabaptists used to describe this word Gelassenheit? They used phrases like this: “A true letting loose of all of my will and desires.” “A true letting loose”, notice that even in those days they had to put adjectives in front of the words, to shore them up. It is not just a letting loose; it has to be a True letting loose of all my desires and my will!
Gelassenheit means a total abandonment. That is, to forsake completely and finally as abandoning a sinking ship. Do you realize that this world is a sinking ship? Have you abandoned it yet? Have you realized that it is sinking, that it is a world under judgment? Or do you have one foot in the boat and one foot in the world? Gelassenheit– Total abandonment!
We also find them using the words, ‘complete surrender,’ and that word surrender means to give oneself up to the power and authority of another. And, of course, that power and that authority is God.
I was recently talking to a young man who was a drug addict and an alcoholic. I was giving him my testimony and he told me that he went to a program for about two weeks to try to get over his drug and alcohol addiction. He told me they were a bit too radical, and I looked him in the eyes and I said very kindly, “But stop and think about it friend, we are talking about God, and when you start talking about God there is no such thing as too radical! Five seconds in the presence of the almighty God of the universe and every one of us would feel like we are so weak and uncommitted! There is no such thing as too radical when you begin to talk about God.” Well, he walked away from that beautiful opportunity that he had to be delivered from his drugs and his drinking, and he is still in them today, may God help him.
Gelassenheit means a total resignation. That word “resignation” means to submit oneself in mind and heart without resistance: that means “I’m giving up the fight“. Another one that they used is, “a melting down of my own will”. Think about your will. You know what our will is like sometimes, how strong it can be, how opinionated, how direct it can be. A melting down of my will. Resignation also means simplicity of heart: “I give up, I give up“.
I want to read you just a few little phrases here that some of the early Anabaptists wrote about this word, Gelassenheit. Hans Denk wrote: “We have but one Lord and Master of our conscience. Jesus Christ is his name, whose word, will, commandment and ordinance we obey as willing disciples even as the bride is ready to obey her bridegroom’s voice.”
Michael Sattler wrote these words, “They threatened us with bonds, then with fire and a sword, but in all this I surrendered myself completely to the will of the Lord; together with all my brothers and with my wife and prepared myself to die for His Testimony!” Now we are getting closer to understanding what Gelassenheit is.
Peter Reedman said it this way: “Sin is the forsaking of obedience to God, for as through obedience all the righteousness of God cometh through Christ, so also cometh all sin and unrighteousness from disobedience to, and the forsaking of God’s commands; hence the disciple has to learn one thing above all else, the art of self abandonment, in German it is called Gelassenheit. It is yieldedness or resignation, the man who through yieldedness seeks to follow Christ along the narrow path has to over come all self-centeredness and has to open his heart to a loving and subsequently, usually a suffering attitude.” That’s Gelassenheit.
Hans Hoffer wrote these words from a prison cell in Moravia: “Now let us hear what true surrender is- it is to let go of all things for God’s sake and to turn to God so he may lead us; Jesus Christ called it hatred! ‘He who does not hate his father and mother and renounce everything that he has is not worthy of me‘. True surrender is to put to death the flesh and to be born another time; the whole world wants to have Christ but they pass him by, they do not find him because they want to have him only as a gift, only as a giver of grace and a mediator which he certainly is, but they do not want to have him in a suffering way. The same Christ who says ‘all who are heavy laden come to me and I will refresh you,’ also says ‘whosoever does not forsake father and mother cannot be my disciple!’ Whoever loves truth must accept the one as well as the other. Whoever wants to have Christ must have him also in the way of suffering. It is foolish to say that we believe that Christ has redeemed us, but we do not want to live like he lived. True surrender involves two things: enduring persecution, and overcoming ourselves. When they hit us on the one cheek we are to turn to them the other. In the second place we must be weaned from the ways of our human nature as a child must be weaned from his mother’s breast, we must be willing to forsake wife, children, father, mother, lands and property, our lives and even what God has given to us for Christ’s sake.” That still stands today brothers and sisters! Do we believe that? Almost seems like he’s talking about America, doesn’t it?
We’re beginning to get a glimpse of what the word Gelassenheit means, but words are not sufficient to explain this word. However, where words fail, examples prevail powerfully. So we want to look at some examples here. I want to go back to those first Anabaptists, back to that room in Felix Manz’s house, where those twelve men came under the pressing grip of the Holy Ghost. The fear of God settled down upon them. What where they doing there on their knees that night? I will tell you what they were doing – it’s called Gelassenheit! Real, clear, practical Gelassenheit, as they knelt there on their knees. They saw God in everything they were facing, they saw God pressing them to go forward in obedience and they surrendered that night in that place.
Consider the political and religious climate of Europe in those days. The church and the state were the same thing. The brethren knew that they could not baptize babies and they would not allow their babies to be baptized! They knew that they must preach the gospel and baptize believers! They knew they could not enter into the Mass any more, which is eating the bread and saying it is the actual body of Christ and drinking the wine and saying it is the actual blood of Christ, they knew that they could no longer do that. And they knew that God wanted a holy, voluntary church.
But they also knew if they make this decision tonight, persecution will come. Imprisonment will come. Banishment will come. Torture will come. Even death will come! And they got down on their knees, being pressed in the spirit as the fear of God settled down upon them and they surrendered all; that’s what they did! With the reality of all this looming over them they surrendered to Christ that night, all their will, all their plans, it was utter abandonment from that moment forward in their hearts and their lives and that’s Gelassenheit.
I thought of ways we could relate to this, but it’s a little hard you know, because we live in America. Things are pretty nice here, but I thought of ways to relate to this. I would like you to consider this for a moment, what if in the middle of this service somebody stood up with a gun in their hand and shot three people dead and disappeared in to the night, how many of you would come back tomorrow night? That’s Gelassenheit! How many of you would come back because you sense that the Spirit of God is moving and if someone stood up and shot three people dead it is simply because the devil doesn’t like what is happening! How many of you would come back, oh American Christianity? How many of you would bring your children? That is Gelassenheit, amen?
What if tomorrow morning you got the daily newspaper, and on the front page you saw these words: “Cashless Society: Only Two Months for Transition!” Oh, they present it so beautifully and so wonderfully and so invitingly to all of us: that it is so much easier to deal with all the terrorists and other problems with a cashless society and you don’t need a credit card anymore and all you need to do is get a little mark on your hand and maybe one on your forehead and everything is going to be alright. And you have two months transition period. That’s Gelassenheit. In other words: surrender with meat on it.
That’s what those brethren had when they gathered in that room there in Felix Manz’s house; they had surrender with meat on it. They were looking around them and they realized, ‘I may not live for another week, but bless God I’m going down on my knees and I’m surrendering my life with total abandonment from this day forward, I don’t care what they do with me, I don’t care if I starve to death, I don’t care if I rot in a prison somewhere, I don’t care if they cut my head off, I don’t care!’ That’s Gelassenheit. This was the foundation underneath the early Anabaptists. We are pretty far away from that!
Would you surrender? Think about that, don’t answer too quickly! Would you surrender, would you come with that simplicity of heart that said, ‘I have no will but God’s will, do with me whatever you want? I’m willing to lose everything, I’m willing to be hunted down, I’m willing to have no food, I’m willing to be tortured, I am willing to die.’ That’s Gelassenheit.
I think that I am right in saying that that would be a pretty hard struggle for most of us. It might take you a couple of weeks to get to that place, but you know what I believe in my heart? I believe that because of the foundation that is in you and in your heritage that most of you would get to that place, because down in your heart you know it is right!
The words of Menno Simons are good for us to ponder because the reality of these things is coming to our land, and it is coming sooner then you think. This is what Menno Simons wrote about the dear persecuted brethren in the Netherlands. He said, “Those who fear God must bear great persecutions as we witnessed with our own eyes. How many pious children of God had the magistrates deprived of their homes and possessions, confiscated their properties and committed the proceeds to the bottomless imperial money chests! How many of the brethren have they driven out of cities and countries and put in the stocks and tortured? The poor orphans were turned out destitute in the street…”
That’s your children, because they no longer have a father and mother! Their father and mother were killed and now their children don’t know where to go. Those days are coming!
“…Some they have executed by hangings, some they have tortured with inhuman tyranny and afterwards choked with cords at the stake! Some they roasted and burned alive, some they have killed with a sword and given them to the fowls of the air to devour! Some they have cast to the fishes, some had their houses destroyed, some had their feet cut off… Others wandered about here and there in want, homelessness and affliction in mountains and in deserts, in holes and caves of the earth.”
As Paul says, ‘They must flee with their wives and their little children from one country to another, from one city to another. They are hated, abused, slandered and lied about by all men.’ And you know what, they didn’t give up! Gelassenheit! ‘Lord, I give up my will to you, you can do with me what ever you want, I am going to be faithful to you, God.’ That was the heart of the early Anabaptists!
Consider Gelassenheit in the life and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is our example of utter, total, complete surrender, a man who walked upon the earth by the power of the Holy Spirit and yielded himself up to his Father and his Father’s voice in every situation, and ended it all by laying himself down on the cross to die for you and I! He didn’t just die there to redeem you and me; He died there to show us how to die! He always walked in beautiful obedience to the voice of his Father; he surrendered in the garden, did he not? Oh he wrestled, and he prayed and he wrestled and he prayed, when he was done we know what it was; it was Gelassenheit.
He surrendered to the cruel mocking of those in the judgment hall, he surrendered to the accusations in the judgment hall, he surrendered to the tortures before his death and finally his surrender to death was an example to all of us. That is written not so that we can look back on it and say, “My redemption is in that Gelassenheit;” but, “My ongoing reality in my own Christian life lies in that Gelassenheit!”
There are a few words that Peter had to say about this whole subject, so beautifully described in 1 Peter 2:19-24:
“For this is thank worthy if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? But if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threaten not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
Hallelujah! That’s Gelassenheit isn’t it? We can hardly grasp what that means, because we live in America. The Anabaptists knew what those words meant; they knew very well what those words meant! By his stripes we have been healed and we sit here with a heart that has been enlightened by the glorious sound of the gospel. While there are millions upon millions of people who have never heard the gospel, we sit here. What a privileged and responsible group we are!
Also in 1 Peter 4:1-2 Peter goes on to admonish us this way:
“Forasmuch then as Christ has suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves like wise with the same mind: for he that has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin;”! The early Anabaptists believed that verse; they believed it and found it to be true in their lives! As they suffered in the flesh, as they were beaten, as were chased, as they lived out in the field, as they went without food for days because there was no food at all, they found themselves ceasing from sin, and they took joy in their sufferings.
“For he that has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lust of men, but to the will of God.” There it is again, Gelassenheit, a total yieldedness to God! I wonder, what does Gelassenheit mean to you? What does Gelassenheit look like to you? What comes into your mind as you consider that type of surrender in your own life?
The Anabaptists believed that suffering came on three different levels:
- 1) Suffering came through persecution, which is physical pain and suffering.
- 2) Suffering came through temptation, which is temptation to compromise or to sin.
- I’m not even sure if we believe in that kind of suffering but the bible says that Jesus was made perfect through suffering. Jesus was in all points tempted like we were yet without sin! Jesus suffered temptation! The Anabaptists also saw temptation that way and they guarded against temptation coming their way.
- 3) Suffering came through grief and sorrow, like our Lord Jesus Christ who was a man of sorrow and he was acquainted with grief. They also recognized that and they lived many of their days in sorrow and grief–though they knew joy like I don’t even know if we know, they were filled with sorrow and grief.
There are two things that brought all this trouble, all this pain and agony, upon the early Anabaptists. They would not compromise and they would not stop preaching. And that cost them great sufferings. If they would have quit rocking the boat of the reformers everything would have gone very differently, but they could not, they would not. The Spirit of God was constraining them and they would not, they could not compromise and they would not, they could not stop speaking the things which they saw and heard. And that is where all of the trouble came upon them.
What about us? What about the issue of compromise, what about the issue of opening our mouth for God? I wonder what would happen if we could also come to that same place, not go back there, but right here where I live in today? I will not compromise and I will not keep my mouth shut about the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I wonder what that would do to each one of our lives if those two commitments were made upon our knees?
I thought about this subject of preaching the gospel. Sometimes people, when they first get converted, aren’t sure if they should stay in their church. But I’ll tell you how to know real fast whether you should stay in your church, no matter what church you are in; you just open up your mouth about Jesus Christ, you get excited about the things that God has done for you, you overflow, you be like the psalmist there in Psalms 45: “My heart is inditing a good matter concerning the king.” That word inditing means my heart is bubbling over. It was like Conrad Greble who said, “My belly is over flowing and I cannot help but speak!”
You open your mouth and start speaking about Jesus in the setting that you are in and you’ll find out; you won’t have to ask anyone if you are in the right church or not, you will find out real fast! God will give you the courage to give that test to your church, I don’t care what church you are in. Because if you get in trouble for that, then it’s time to find another church. I don’t care how many of your family members are there, I don’t care how many relatives are there, I don’t care how many sweet memories you have of the life that you had there. If you cannot open your mouth about the Lord Jesus Christ and testify and tell others what good things God has done for you without receiving persecution, and those furrowed eyebrows, and all those things that come along with it, then it’s time to find another church! They would not compromise, and they would not stop preaching about Jesus Christ.
One dear lady, I think it was Michael Sattler’s wife, they had burned her husband at the stake and they gave her three or four days; she was such a sweet and intelligent lady and they thought they could surely talk her out of this nonsense. A woman in authority came to her cell and began to plead with her, and do you know what she said? She said, “Look, I can get you out of here, and all you have to do is get rid of all this nonsense that you are going with!” And Margaretha Sattler said; “I will not, I will not!” The lady thought for a moment and she said, “I will get you out of here if you just promise that you won’t say anything; you can go home tonight.” Can’t you just hear the devil in those soft, smooth words? “If you will just be quiet I will let you out of here!” Bless God! Margaretha looked the queen right in the eyes and she said, “I will not compromise, and I cannot help but speak about the things that God has done for me; and besides that, my husband is in heaven today and I want to go join him!” Praise God! She knew what surrender was all about didn’t she, that dear lady? They couldn’t, they wouldn’t compromise, because they were compelled by the Spirit of Christ which was in them!
I want to say something about surrender and anointing. I think many times we think that all we need is an anointing; ‘I need God to come on me, then everything is going to be alright.’ But that’s backwards from the way it was with the early Anabaptists! It was obedience and surrender, it was Gelassenheit, and in the midst of their Gelassenheit, God falls, His anointing falls, His fire falls on a sacrifice! And the sacrifice fell on those twelve brethren up there in that room in Felix Manz’s house, the sacrifice fell on Michael Sattler, and the sacrifice fell on thousands and thousands because they surrendered everything to God, holding nothing back. The spiritual climate was such that they had no choice but to surrender and it was a real surrender; it was not a superficial good feeling at an altar somewhere! And because of that the anointing of God came upon those people.
It was very interesting to me as I was reading through all the writings that there is not a lot of talk about the Holy Spirit, but you see Him on every page. They weren’t looking for Him, they already had Him! They weren’t praying for Him, they had Him! Because of their obedience, they had Him! How different it is than modern American Christianity, even our kind. They didn’t surrender for anointing’s sake; they surrendered out of love and dedication to Christ. God looked on that and blessed them so beautifully.
I wonder what Gelassenheit looks like for you? Can you ever begin to relate to it? These are your forefathers, you know; many of you bear their names. Can you even begin to relate to the surrender that they made? Romans 12:1-2 says these words, and how beautifully the Anabaptists did live out these words.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God”! Those dear brothers and sisters, they did this.
I wonder what Gelassenheit looks like to you? Maybe you just need to surrender your past; you don’t need to carry all that hurt in your life. But I will tell you one thing you do need to do; you have to accept the fact that God allowed it to happen in your life. That’s Gelassenheit, total resignation. ‘Yes God, you can do anything you want with me, you can turn me upside downside, I give up!’
It seems almost silly to say this but maybe you are still wrestling with blue jeans and tennis shoes. That seems pretty foolish. I am afraid that that is the level of Gelassenheit for some. You are still wresting with tee-shirts, blue jeans and tennis shoes. Maybe it is a nice house that you want. Everyone gets a nice house in Lancaster County, and so you deserve one too. Maybe that’s Gelassenheit for you. Or maybe it is that nice house that you have and God is saying, “I want you to get rid of it because it is not a good testimony of Jesus Christ.”
Maybe it is that covetousness in your life that is ruling you, that consumes you. There is a lot of covetousness in Lancaster County! It’s powerful, and there is so much of it that most people live in it and never even realize it because it is so much a part of the status quo here. But covetousness is idolatry and we know from the scriptures that no covetous man will have a part in the kingdom of heaven! Whoa, what do we do with a word like that in Lancaster County?
What does Gelassenheit look like for you? Maybe it’s a nice car, maybe it’s your farm or your business, maybe you just need to come out of hiding and take your stand for the Lord. That’s Gelassenheit with meat on it! Some of you know, if you take your stand and come out of hiding, you’ll lose everything that you have. Yes, my friend, that’s Gelassenheit! That’s the spirit of the early Anabaptists, that’s what made them such powerful people!
Will not anyone stand up like that anymore in this country? If not, then we shall go along on our merry way for another three or four generations—if Jesus waits that long—being the quiet in the land, having the tourists come and eat our pies. Dear God, take us beyond that! Maybe you need to come out of hiding and take your stand!
Young people, maybe Gelassenheit for you is simply obeying your parents. That’s Gelassenheit, isn’t it? Okay dad, anything you want; here’s my heart, tell me what to do, talk to me, guide me and direct me. Go into my room and check out my music, look at my clothes, what do you think, dad? Maybe that’s what Gelassenheit looks like to you! Let me tell you something, if you kick and spit about that, you will never progress in your Christian life; I guarantee it! You will never know what the power and the grace of God is until you get over that hump, and by the way, it’s a pretty small one. Your mom and dad, they love you. They may not be perfect, but they love you.
Gelassenheit – ‘Lord! Here I am, anything you can do with me, do it! Anything you want to put me through, put me through it! If you want to change my job, change it! If you want to change my priorities, change them! Yes Lord, I’ll get up in the morning! I’ll go to bed at night so I can get up in the morning! Yes Lord, I am going to take my Bible and start memorizing those scriptures!’ Gelassenheit!
Maybe you’re in one of those departing Mennonite churches in Lancaster County. Do you know what a departing Mennonite church is? That’s one of those churches that just keeps moving, and changing, and changing, and changing and they become more and more like the evangelical churches in America ever year. Maybe you’re in one of those churches. Do you know what Gelassenheit is for you? It’s a one hundred and eighty degree turn with a humble heart that says, “We have been wrong! We overreacted, and now look where we are.” Do you know in my 26 years here in Lancaster County it is far and few between that you meet someone who went that way, who turns around and comes back through repentance and humility? You know what? That is Gelassenheit for you!
Will you do it? Will you take your stand? Will you be a weirdo in your church? You and I know what they will say. “Oh boy, isn’t he getting holy! Look at her, her covering is getting bigger, before we know it she’ll be Amish!” Or, they will say all kinds of things about you, but that’s peanuts compared to what the early Anabaptists went through. Will you not turn this thing around?
It’s going to take more then just a few Amish getting converted to turn this county around! It’s going to take some of those departing Mennonite churches getting right with God! Whoa, do I dare say such a thing? Maybe you need to open your mouth and proclaim Christ openly. It may cost you everything to do that. There are men that lost their wives and children because they took their stand for the Lord. That’s Gelassenheit! That dear brother stood there that day and watched all those people come on his farm and load up all kinds of furniture and load up his children and his wife and drive down the lane. He wept that night, but you know what? He knows what Gelassenheit is, and there is grace all over him!
The early Anabaptists embraced the pain and the suffering that came from this kind of yieldedness, and they embraced it! They believed in it; they believed that suffering had a sanctifying effect upon them; they believed that you couldn’t make it to glory without it! Do we believe that anymore? They believed you couldn’t make it to glory without suffering! And therefore when the suffering came they welcomed it. And thus they developed a theology of suffering. The suffering Christ lived in them, longing to live out his sufferings in their very lives, and they were so yielded and giving up to him that he got the opportunity to do it; to live out His suffering in their lives, to live out His suffering before the lives of a lost and dying world! The suffering Christ lived in them! And brothers and sisters, He lives also in you and I, and I wonder how he would lead us if we would let him! I wonder what He would put us through if we would yield to Him! They treasured suffering; it was a blessed necessity.
Consider also this deep heart searching, surrender. It didn’t just happen one time! We are only talking about one time, but it didn’t just happen one time! It happened everyday for many of them. They never knew if, “Perhaps today, perhaps tonight at the meeting, I’ll get caught and that will be it for me. I won’t see my wife and children again, but that’s alright Lord; I give my life to you, you have given your life for me. If that’s what its going to cost, then that’s fine with me, Lord!” And there was Gelassenheit again that day.
Maybe that night he did get caught, and they threw him in jail, and he never saw his wife or his children again. This deep experience of heart surrender didn’t happen one time. It wasn’t a trip to an altar somewhere where they made those commitments and then that was it! There was a yielding that took place day after day after day in their lives! And do you know what it did? It brought such a powerful anointing down upon those people that they filled all Europe with their doctrine; the doctrine of Jesus Christ!
Remember that the political and the religious climate of that time in Europe were not very good. And they would run from one city to the next, but it didn’t take long till they found out in that city that they were there, and they had to go through the whole thing again. Sneaking out into the woods to have a prayer meeting was just the way life was for them. Menno Simons lived that way for 25 years and he never knew if this was the day. “Maybe tomorrow, maybe next Sunday I’ll get to die for my faith!” And he went like that for 25 years and died in his bed. Imagine the grace, imagine the character, imagine the Christ likeness of a man like that who lived in such Gelassenheit for 25 years! He was a powerful servant of God.
Where can we find a comparison to this? I thought to myself, a missionary, out in the bush, knows what Gelassenheit is! They know what they are getting into; they know the difficulties that are coming their way! They know about the malaria, they know about running diarrhea for three months. They know that’s what they are getting into when they decide to go, they know they are going to have sleepless nights and they won’t be able to take a nap the next day! They know what it’s going to be like to sleep on a concrete floor for a bed! They know what it’s going to be like to get bitten by a scorpion whose sting will make a grown man cry! They know what it’s like to have sick babies that are going to die on them! They know what it’s like to look down on their wife and wonder if she is going to be alive tomorrow morning! They know what it’s like to lay and sweat all night long, tossing and turning and not being able to sleep because it’s 100 degrees in the bedroom, and the little fan that they have went off because the electricity went off in the middle of the night! Do you know what they do? “Here Lord, here I am Lord!” out of love for God and their fellow man! Gelassenheit is their heart.
I want to say a little bit more about Anabaptist theology. Some people say that the Anabaptists didn’t have a theology, and I disagree with that. I will say again that I disagree with that; they did have a theology. But they didn’t learn their theology in a seminary; they didn’t sit down in a classroom somewhere and say, “This is what we believe.”
Let me show you how they learned their theology. They learned it by experience! This deep, continual surrender to God and the circumstances of the life that they were surrounded with, they learned it in the midst of all of that! They tasted suffering and they tasted the fruit and blessing that comes upon those who suffer and they developed a theology of suffering. They found themselves in the midst of suffering and they surrendered to it! And as they began to suffer they began to taste the sweet fruit that comes from suffering. They tasted suffering, and they tasted the blessing of suffering, and out of that a theology of suffering emerged.
Poverty came upon them and they tasted the joy and the freedom that poverty brings. Because of that, they developed a theology about their finances which is very, very different than what we believe in Lancaster County today. They didn’t read it in a book; they found themselves in the midst of poverty and they found it to be a great blessing! They found a sweet simplicity in having given up everything, and having not set their hearts on anything of the world’s goods, in poverty.
In their great necessities they began to care for the suffering brotherhood, and in their caring for the suffering brotherhood, a community emerged out of that. No one sat down and just read it; they were living it! And as they lived it, it developed before their very eyes! Either way, whether they lived in community or not, they all understood what community was. Community was laying down your life for your brethren. “My brethren are suffering, and they don’t have any food to eat, and this brother just lost his house, or it was burned down.”, and in the midst of those trying circumstances the theology of community just emerged in their midst.
In their desperate need to stand strong in Christ, they cast themselves upon faithful men and a faithful brotherhood for discipleship, and discipleship developed among them. They saw brotherhood not as just a word that they threw around, or a time that they stood around in a circle and decided what to do. Their brotherhood concept was way deeper then that! It was, “Brother, I’m facing temptations, help me! I want to overcome sin in my life, will you help me brother?” And in the midst of their desire to overcome sin and in the midst of their desire to overcome their persecutors, brotherhood developed and discipleship became a very real, living principle in their lives and thus a theology of discipleship emerged. Isn’t that interesting?
They had nowhere to turn for direction, so they turned continually to the Bible. “If we don’t know what to do in this situation the Bible has the answers!” And in their desperation and need for direction they found themselves in the Bible, and as time went on they emerged as strong, strict Biblicists! Christ was in them. They found themselves in such desperate need of direction so many times, that they cast themselves on Christ. Christ became a living Savior to them to such a point that they divided the word into two places- it was the written word, and the living word. The written word was the scriptures; the living word was the Spirit of Christ which dwelt within them, and they learned to hear His voice, a voice which we hardly know how to hear anymore. They heard the voice of Christ just as the early Church did in the book of Acts.
They found themselves in the midst of two kingdoms in great conflict. They didn’t sit down in a theological class somewhere where someone explained to them the teachings of two kingdoms; they saw two kingdoms very clearly! They found themselves right in the middle of two kingdoms that were in conflict, and if you go back to the word of God in the midst of two kingdoms that are in conflict, you will find out real fast which kingdom you’re in! And their two kingdom theology emerged out of that kind of experience.
Do you see how different that is than sitting in a theological classroom somewhere? As their persecutors beat and attacked them, the love of Christ welled up inside their hearts and they couldn’t fight back, and they saw that when they didn’t fight back their persecutors were touched powerfully! And the doctrine of nonresistance emerged out of that which I call ‘suffering love’. “I am suffering out of love for that man’s soul.” And they won many that way.
I wonder what you would like to learn. Do you want God to be your teacher? Gelassenheit is the only way. What doctrine would you like to learn by experience? That is where they get deep into the heart anyway. We can have a lot in the head, but if you want it down in the heart where it affects your life powerfully, you must learn it by experience. I wonder what doctrine you would like to learn. It begins and continues in this utter abandonment that we have been speaking about.
God brought back to my memory a testimony that I heard from George Brunk, the evangelist. There was a day in his life after going to church Sunday after Sunday, and giving the same old, dry sermons to the people and sitting there in the same old, dry song service and sitting in that same old, dry Sunday school class, he walked out of the church building and went to his house. He told his wife, “I am going into my closet and I’m not coming out until God changes me! I am not coming out!” and he didn’t. I don’t know how long he was in there but I know what he was doing in there. Gelassenheit!
I don’t know what God dealt with him about in there; I don’t know what kind of surrenders he made in there, although I do know some of them. He sold his chicken house and his house and all kinds of things and bought a truck and a tent and a trailer and hit the road! And when that man came out of that closet he had been changed into another man and everyone knew it. He didn’t have to give his testimony to anyone; everyone knew that God had changed him. The first time he opened his mouth, the power and the anointing was upon him, and many souls were converted because of Gelassenheit.
Is God calling you to a deeper, more practical surrender then you have ever done? You cannot go on if you resist that. Remember, God is God and besides him there is no other God. If you don’t reckon with God and what he is saying in your heart, you are not going anywhere! If you can reckon with God, with the Spirit of God and what he is speaking to your own heart, God can change your life.
I thought about the unconverted earlier today as I was praying, and I thought, what a way to begin! Gelassenheit from day one, what a way to begin your Christian life! That’s the way they began 500 years ago. The unconverted stood along the side of the houses and listened to the fiery Anabaptist preachers, preaching about the kingdom of God under the anointing of the Holy Ghost, and they thought to themselves, “Whoa, if I open my heart to what that man is saying I could lose my head in a week!” What a beautiful way to get converted. Makes good converts, amen? “If I listen to what that man is saying and open my heart, I may lose my head in a week, but I can’t help it because the spirit of God is dealing with my heart and I want to be rightly related to God no matter what it costs me!”
Listen to me, dear friend: if you have never been born again, let’s start the right way! God is calling you; God is calling many. There is no question in my mind that God has been speaking to the hearts of many. Don’t just pray a prayer, that’s not going to do anything. Look at the facts, count the cost and surrender in reality – in real, practical ways! In Gelassenheit! I know God will bless you.