Chip Ingram is senior pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, California, and the president and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. He is the author of ten books, including Good to Great in God’s Eyes; Love, Sex & Lasting Relationships; and The Invisible War. He has four children and six grandchildren with his wife Theresa.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.2
—Jesus of Nazareth
Well, I’d like to say that my life was completely changed, my problems were put behind me, and my new relationship with Christ was one of countless victory after victory; but I can’t. My life did change. God did a radical work in my heart and planted a new set of desires within me. No one told me I had to read the Bible, but I couldn’t put it down. I read it at night and in the morning with a sense that the living God was speaking directly to me. No one told me I had to stop “doing this or that,” but somehow God changed my desires . . . and the sin that I once enjoyed became repulsive. I had peace in my heart and often a song on my lips. I was free. I was motivated and wanted to share the love that I now experienced with everyone.
New Life/New Struggles
But my new life also introduced new struggles. Although some sins quickly vanished, others seemed impossible to overcome. I was very fortunate to have some mature Christians enter my life shortly after my conversion and teach me how to live the Christian life. Little by little, I learned how to get to know God and understand His Word so He could talk back to me. The early days were filled with a joy that I’d never known and followed by tests that I had never imagined.
As I read through my New Testament in the mornings and talked with God about school, basketball, and girls, I soon learned that His opinion about how to “do” life was a little bit different from mine. Jesus was certainly my Savior, but He was far from the Lord of my life. I was growing and confused. I felt such joy in my new relationship with Christ, but I didn’t want anyone telling me what to do. Unconsciously I began to compartmentalize my faith (just like I observed in the church of my childhood) and took a salad-bar approach to God’s commands. The ones that I liked and seemed reasonable I obeyed; and the ones that I disliked and seemed unreasonable I chose to disregard.
As I look back, it was a crazy way to live. I read my Bible in the mornings and had a wonderful time with God, only to experience extreme remorse and guilt later in the day as I engaged in activities that violated the Holy Spirit living within me. I looked forward to Thursday-night Bible study, where our campus ministry would crowd into a small living room to sing songs, share our hearts, and experience God’s presence in a powerful way.
On Friday and Saturday nights I would load in the car with four or five players on the basketball team and hit every bar in Wheeling, West Virginia. I was the one with the social skills, so I was appointed the designated “introducer” to the good-looking girls. Often getting home in the wee hours of the morning, I would miss church, feel guilty, ask for forgiveness, receive it, and continue on with this schizophrenic Christian life.
Though I didn’t show it, I was miserable. Over time the joy of the Lord began to fade as I constantly violated my conscience, and even the sin I once enjoyed lost its ability to satisfy, as it was always accompanied with guilt and shame—now that I had the Holy Spirit living in me.
It was about two and a half years into my journey with Christ that God had me revisit those two very important questions: “What is it that God really wants from me the most? And how do I give it to Him?” It was these two questions that brought me to a point of seriously reexamining my relationship with the living God.
Giving God What He Really Wants
As I was reading through the Scripture one day with a group of guys my age, I realized that my double, compartmentalized life had never been God’s intent. He wanted me—all of me! The missing power and the absent joy could only come as I understood and applied the truth of Romans 12:1 . . . only when I learned about surrender.
God wanted me to surrender all that I am and all that I have in submission to Him. He wanted to have the same place in my heart that He possesses in the universe. He wanted me to believe that He was so good, kind, and loving that I would entrust all of me to Him, knowing He had my best in mind. He wanted me to bring my dreams, my future, my girlfriend, my basketball career, my academics to Him with open palms. He wanted me to bring my everything so that He might reign in my heart as He reigns in the universe.
I cannot begin to tell you the extent of the struggle and battle I experienced in coming to a place of surrender. My view of God was so warped that I assumed to surrender to Him would mean the end of the things that I held most dear.
Surrender and fear were synonymous in my mind and heart. I was single and certainly wanted to be married someday. But I thought if I surrendered to God, He might want me to be single and I would be miserable my whole life. Or worse, He would direct me to marry some ugly girl whom I never wanted to be with. If I surrendered, He might ask me to quit basketball and send me to some strange land to be a missionary. If I surrendered, He might want me to change what I was studying to something different that I would probably hate. Over and over in my mind the issue of surrender became paramount.
As I look back, I see that it was my misunderstanding of God and the concept of surrender that destined me to be a cultural, carnal, hypocritical follower of Jesus—the very thing I had hated growing up.
It was my misunderstanding of God and the concept of surrender that destined me to be a cultural, carnal, hypocritical follower of Jesus—the very thing I had hated growing up.
I wanted to begin our journey together by sharing my story of struggling with the Christian life, because according to the best research and my personal experience, the great majority of “Christians” in the United States and around the world live in this great twilight. Believers who know and love God and yet do not experience His joy, power, or presence anywhere near the way God longs for them to know Him.
If you’re tired of all the rules, all the formulas, all the religious activities, and even well-meaning church programs that promise transformation but don’t deliver, I invite you to join me on a journey of grace, faith, and relationship that leads to genuine transformation. Together we’ll learn what it really looks like to follow Christ and how in His power and grace, you can live a new, radical, abundant life.
In order for this to occur it will require your participation. Reading or even agreeing with what Scripture says about spiritual transformation does not make it happen. So at the end of each chapter I will provide you some key questions, assignments, and resources to help you process and apply what God is saying to you.
I use the acronym TRUST ME to remind you that what pleases God the most is our faith (Hebrews 11:6). You will be tempted to see r12 as the “bar of discipleship” that you need to achieve instead of the profile of what Christ wants to produce in your heart and relationship through His power and grace.
Don’t feel compelled to answer all the questions at the end of each chapter or do all the assignments. They are there to help you hear God’s voice, overcome common barriers, and cooperate with the Holy Spirit’s work in your heart—not to be another list of things you need to do. The most important question you can ask at the end of each chapter (and in all circumstances for that matter) is “What does it look like to trust God? What does it look like to trust God in view of what I just read? What does it look like to trust God in my job, my relationships, my future, etc.?”
TRUST ME will walk you through a grace-oriented process to help you hear what God is saying to you. Let’s get started in this first chapter on surrender:
IT’S YOUR MOVE—Become an Christian
God longs to speak personally to you. Take two minutes and slowly read through the TRUST ME questions and suggestions for spiritual growth. Then sit quietly for three minutes and ask God which of those questions or actions might provide a pathway that will strengthen and encourage you. Don’t feel compelled to answer all the questions or do all that is suggested; listen to the Holy Spirit and follow His leading.
THINK—What part of my struggle with surrender spoke to you?
REFLECT—Why do you think that aspect of my story resonated in your heart?
UNDERSTAND—How might God be speaking to you? Are you afraid? Convicted? Relieved that others have the same struggles?
SURRENDER—Take a moment and simply tell God how you are feeling. Share your fears, relief, or honest struggles with Him. Tell Him you want to learn more and want His help to really understand what surrender is all about.
TAKE ACTION—Decide when you will read the next chapter to hear God’s heart concerning surrender.
MOTIVATION—Go to the web (LivingontheEdge.org/r12) and watch the fourteen-minute video “How to Give God What He Wants the Most.”
ENCOURAGE SOMEONE—Take one minute and pray for someone who is going through a struggle in their journey of surrender.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Romans 12 as a Way of LifeMay 31 2010
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Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I've often thought that Romans 12 offered a "rule of life" for the Christian, and that you could base your whole life off this one chapter of the Bible.
Evidently, Chip Ingram thinks so too, and in his new book "Living on the Edge" he lays it out for us, point by point. I highly recommend taking this book in small sections and doing some of the exercises it offers. Romans is thought by many, including me, to be a letter that could get you the whole Gospel if it were all you had of the New Testament.
But in addition to teaching us what to believe, we can learn how to LIVE.
Surrender your whole life, you body, your everything, to God, and learn how to do it. I've had some occasions over the past few years where I've basically just sat and read this one chapter of the Bible in it's entirety every day for a month or two. I recommend this (obviously, in addition to regular readings), and Chip's book is a great way to make this work for you as a way of living, not just thinking.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Absolutely foundational for how we should live a ChristiansMarch 8 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
If you want to understand how to really live a Christian life, explained with clarity and honesty, this book is for you. It will hit you right between the eyes, but is delivered with a tender heart, directing you to where God's biggest and best blessings are found. Based on Romans chapter 12, it lays the foundation for how to be surrendered to God, to live separate from the world's value system, to have a sober self assessment, to serve others in love and supernaturally respond to evil with good. I am recommending this to everyone I know, in the hope it will impact their lives as much as it is my own.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Great BuyJan. 17 2010
- Published on Amazon.com
Whether you are a "babe" in Christ, a veteran soldier of the cross, teacher, student, pastor or layperson, you will be enormously edified by this work, which is suitable for group study, or personal study. I am currently using this book in a small group and it has blessed me enormously. After reading this book, I can see why. Romans will compel the serious Christian to "earnestly contend for the faith that was once delivered to the saints."
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Compelling analysis and teaching & personal application of the Christian life at its essenceMay 17 2010
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Compelling analysis and teaching & personal application of the Christian life at its essence.
I have always been somewhat intimidated by the dense theology of the book of Romans and was intrigue by this author's proposal that Romans 12 is the one chapter in the bible that most encapsulates the Christian faith-life. I think that the author delivers on that promise with thoughtful teaching, step-by-step analysis of the scripture, real life examples, and modern day application. It breaks down each verse and concept slowly, and challenges you to funnel your life experiences and perspectives through the screen of scripture. I found that this book helped me as a long-time believer to realize afresh the potential depth of my faith in Christ. At the same time I felt that it was a great book for a new believer (or study group with the additional video curriculum). The basic foundations of faith in Christ are so well defined.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
If You're Serious About Knowing What the Bible Says About Living Life as Jesus' Disciple, START HEREJune 16 2010
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Author, speaker and pastor Chip Ingram has worn many professional hats as a Christ follower. But no matter where he serves, there is a sense of urgency and passion about his work, message and compelling need to convince hurting people to trust God again (or for the first time). In this expansive resource, he expounds upon Romans 12 as the foundation for understanding and experiencing a daring faith walk with Christ. He writes in the Preface, "Life is short and your time is important."
From there, Ingram suggests that every reader ask themselves 4 Big Questions before delving into this material. If you are spiritually stuck, are tired of the spiritual status quo, long to discover who you really are, wish you could experience authentic community, or need a clear pathway to spiritual maturity, then LIVING ON THE EDGE is for you. On the flip side, this book is not for you if you are satisfied with your spiritual life, want a quick fix to your problems, dislike being spiritually challenged, or being spiritually mature is not a high priority.
Second, Ingram answers the question What is this book about? In short, he talks about how scripture explains what an authentic disciple of Jesus Christ really is and how to become one. He shares that this text will help believers learn how to give God what He wants most, how to get God's best for your life, how to come to grips with the real you, how to experience that genuine community with others, and how to overcome the evil aimed at you.
Next, Ingram tells his readers how LIVING ON THE EDGE will be different from others written on similar themes. Throughout every chapter of this practical handbook, he presents an actual profile of a specific discipline and a proven pathway to become more like Jesus as it is applied. This pathway is biblical, relational, grace-based, faith-focused, practical and measurable.
Finally, Ingram offers sound reasons as to why this book is being published now. He answers what Christ followers already know: today's Christianity is anemic; Christians are stuck; church programs aren't producing mature Christians; and sincere Christians have tried the quick fix gimmicks, leaving them performing and exhausted, feeling guilty and ashamed, imprisoned to false expectations, disappointed and disillusioned, and angry and bitter. In response, they frequently leave the church, give up on God, or go through the motions without any real sense of God's presence.
After thoughtfully contemplating the above, Ingram warmly invites his fellow Christians to begin a dynamic journey of discovery and rediscovery of God, faith and living as a disciple. Dissecting Romans 12 over and over again strengthens this text, as readers continue to see how imperative it is to fully grasp the intent and meaning of these verses (and apply them to everyday life). As Ingram encourages, every one of us must make a starting point. So if you're serious about knowing what the Bible says about living life as Jesus' disciple, START HERE.
--- Reviewed by Michele Howe, author of BURDENS DO A BODY GOOD and Single Parenting Columnist