What Do We Mean By ‘Surrender’?

Updated!

There’s a word which keeps on cropping up in our worship songs now, and it’s that word, “surrender.” Unfortunately, though, it’s too often not explained, embellished or elaborated upon in those songs, so I fear that it becomes a ‘fill in the blank’ for many. Many of these songs seem to be taking it from the hymn, “I Surrender All,” where it is definitely embellished, verse by verse, as a summation of an act of personal consecration and devotion to Christ. Frankly, the Biblical term which translates most closely to ‘surrender’  (Greek paradidomi) is more often translated as ‘betray’ and it’s most often used of the betrayal of Jesus. So, if this word is to have any legitimacy at all in our worship  there needs to be a connection of the word ‘surrender’ to Biblical teaching and experience. Here is how I would make that connection in a worship service if I were serving as a worship leader or as a pastor.

The first thing that I would make clear is that ‘surrender’, when it could be used to describe the consecration experience of a Biblical figure or to summarize a Biblical command, is never passive. It’s a “Here I am” like the ‘Hineni’ of Isaiah 6:6 that is a personal commitment to follow the will and the mission of God, and in that case, it had nothing to do with a corporate worship experience and being caught up in the music and the emotions, but with a personal revelation of God that was deeply convicting and transforming and led to a life of ministry and perhaps even martyrdom, if Isaiah was indeed martyred during the reign of Manasseh, as some traditions indicate. It had nothing to do with a description of an momentary emotional state that we achieve in a worship service and much more to do with a life sold out to God that was lived in faith and obedience outside the temple praise and worship experience.

Furthermore, I would bring these scriptures into play to describe what we mean by ‘surrender’ if we mean for it to have any meaning at all which is rooted in Biblical truth:

It means first of all, that I have come into a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. There is no ‘surrender’ that has any meaning as long as I am living without Christ and without hope in this world, trusting in the delusion of any of my good deeds to recommend me to God and get me into heaven. Now is the time to do this; there is no waiting to clean myself up or for some experience to come down upon me like some lightning bolt from heaven.

Romans 10:9-10: “ . . . if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus[that Jesus is Lord], and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Mark 1: 15: “ . . . the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

II Corinthians 6:2: “  . . . behold, now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation.”

It means personal consecration to God, to the Lordship of Christ, as someone who has died to sin and who is raised with Christ. It means the recognition and acceptance of the legitimate authority of the risen Lord as Lord, Master and Savior over my life, as the outcome of my faith in him for my eternal salvation.

Romans 6:11-13: “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those who are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto God.”

Romans 6:19: “  . . .  for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity: even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.”

It means consecration of my entire life to God through Jesus Christ as the ultimate act of worship, a refusal to be squeezed into the mold of the fallen world, and surrender to be transformed by the renewing of one’s mind by the Word through the Spirit of God.

Romans 12:1-2: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

It means commitment of all my own plans and desires to be accomplished according to the will and through the provision of God. It means, namely, a refusal of any kind of independence from God in my own plans for my life and what I want in my life, but to recognize his sovereignty, guidance and provision as supreme.

Proverbs 16:3: “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.”

It means casting my cares and concerns on God in prayer, since he is the one who really is in control and able to do all things well.

I Peter 5:7: “ . . . Casting all your care upon him: for he careth for you.”

It means a refusal to attempt to control my life and the life of any other person, but to recognize and allow for the Lordship of Christ and sovereignty of God in the lives of others. My surrender of my life to God means also that must recognize his Lordship over others, particularly where they are following the Word of God as they see it, their conscience and the leading of God as they see it. It means that I claim to be and try to be lord and master of no one, based on my self conceit or pride of position.

Romans 14:9-10: “. . . Christ both died and rose and revived, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and the living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.”

Its outcome means that my plans and my pursuits are no longer to be as they were before, but that my life is to be a reflection of Jesus Christ in every way. It means that I make no plans and take no courses of action that may end up in transgressions of the will of God.

Romans 13: “And that, knowing the time, that now is high time to wake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day: not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.”

It means turning to a new life in Christ walking in the light as Jesus is in the light, owning up to my sins in confession before God, and seeking to be walk in the Spirit and be filled with the Spirit.

I John 1:5-10: “This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in darkness we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.”

Galatians 5:26: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”

Ephesians 5:17: “And be not drunk, wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit . . .”

In honor of the 40oth anniversary of the King James Version, all quotations are from that version.

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The Father For the Fatherless

Updated!

My father was not abusive. He was not perfect, and there were times in my life where I had to deal with myself, with God and with him about his imperfections and my own imperfections besides, with the love of Christ and asking and offering forgiveness. I’ve never shared anything about this, simply because it isn’t something that I would disclose simply for the morbid curiosity or malicious intrusiveness of another person, and I think that it is normal for anyone who goes through any kind of Biblically based spiritual inventory to spend some time forgiving and seeking forgiveness with one’s own family. But I write this to say that what will follow is more from my understanding of the Word of God and time of ministry than my own experience.

Billy Graham dealt with this well in his newspaper column once. I would agree with and echo every word that he wrote there. Nevertheless, I would add some more thoughts of my own of the relevance of understanding the Biblical revelation of God the Father for ministry today.

The Bible describes God as “ . . . a father to the fatherless . . .” (Psalm 68:5). Why hasn’t there been more emphasis that God is more than able to fill that void of  human fatherlessness in a persons’ life, since he alone is the perfect Father? Back in 2001 George W. Bush named fatherlessness as a major problem: “Over the past four decades fatherlessness has emerged as one of our greater social problems. We know that children who grow up with absent fathers can suffer lasting damage. They are more likely to end up in poverty or drop out of school, become addicted to drugs, have a child out of wedlock or end up in prison. Fatherlessness is not the only cause of these things, but our nation must recognize it as an important factor.” And many in the church were very ready to agree, but the recognition of that void in the lives of so many doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact on our preaching and teaching. Moreover, the diminishing emphasis on the Trinity in contemporary worship songs, where God the Father is rarely mentioned by name anymore, seems to feed a void of understanding of God as the perfect Father in our lives as Christ.

There are two effects that I’ve noticed in the lives of those who have been marred by fatherlessness in some form. The first is a deep and persistent sense of neglect, abandonment and rejection. The second is a sense of deprivation of family, physical, spiritual and emotional guidance and provision, and often a deep and sometimes extraordinarily vindictive rage and envy toward family and even towards those  whom they feel have received what they did not receive. I again must honestly say that I’ve heard very little in the preaching and teaching of the church over the years that has addressed these problems. I’ve heard it said that much of the preaching of our churches now reflects the concerns and experiences of a fairly happily married middle aged man with children who probably grew up in a Christian home, and this may well be part of the reason why these tendencies are so rarely addressed.

So then, there is a tremendous opportunity for the preaching and teaching of the church here, to serve a true need in the lives of so many. We cannot nod our heads any more about fatherlessness being a problem and then do little to nothing about addressing it. The men, women and children who have suffered from its effects stand in our pews, sing our songs, attend our Sunday School classes, and in some cases in our pulpits and in other places of leadership, and yet they may leave spiritual stymied through no one taking the time to dress their wounds lovingly. Rather, we need to emphasize that Biblical salvation means not coming into relationship with a cold disciplinarian or a distant someone who writes a check to provide for our needs. “For you are all sons and daughters of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 5:26). “For you have not receive a spirit of slavery again to fear, but you have received the Spirit of being established as sons and daughters, by which we cry out, ‘Dad! Father!’ For the Spirit witnesses with our spirit that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:15-16). “For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved  me, and you believe that I have come from God” (John 16:27).

‘WWJD’ and By-Path Meadow

“Now the way from the river was rough, and their feet (Christian and Hopeful) tender by reason of their travels; so the souls of the pilgrims were much discouraged because of the way. Wherefore still as they went on, they wished for a better way. Now a little before them  there was  on the left hand of the road a meadow and a stile to go over into it, and that meadow is called By-Path Meadow. Then said Christian to his fellow, if this Meadow lieth along by our way-side, let’s go over into it. Then he went to the stile to see, and behold a path lay along the way on the other side of the fence. ‘Tis according to my wish, said Christian; here is the easiest going; come, good Hopeful, and let us go over.”  — John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.

A few years ago there was another resurgence of interest in Charles Sheldon’s book, In His Steps, and it’s ethic of the Christian considering his own conduct from the perspective of, “What would Jesus do?” The book was an inspiration to my own youthful passion for Christ back in 1977, and it inspired another generation of Christians from the late 1990s onward. It resulted in the ‘WWJD’ bracelets and some other fashionable ways of bringing the question to a believer. Unfortunately, I think that the fashionable, hip and trendy path has become a kind of threadbare and possibly deceptive ‘By-Path Meadow’ for many.

One of the considerations that led me to a much diminished consideration of the question, “What would Jesus do?” was the lack of scriptural support that I could find for that question being a guide to Christian conduct. Rather, as I read the gospels and the rest of the New Testament, I found a lot more explicit instructions on what Christ has done for us in his death and resurrection and living for him as Lord and Savior. Even more, I found that Jesus and the apostles were much more concerned about his people following his commands as Lord than in contemplating his example and following our speculation about what he would do in our situation.  For example, the conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew and the Sermon on the Plain in Luke represent what Jesus actually expected from his disciples: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them – I will show you what such a person is like. He or she is like a man who is building a house who dug deep and placed the foundation upon the rock. When the flood came the torrent burst upon it but it was not able to shake it because it was well built. But the person who hears and does not do is like a man who had built a house without a foundation, which the torrent burst upon, and immediately it fell apart, and great was the ruin of that house” (Luke 6:46-49). So, it was passages like this that drew me more to consider and follow what the Bible actually taught rather than my own speculation about what Jesus might do.

This, then, is how the WWJD ethic can become a ‘By-Path Meadow’: if it leads at any point to anyone neglecting to learn, believe and follow the Word of God in its explicit teachings. Recently I heard a pastor of a church which I visited and which seems to have some connection to the ‘Emergent Church’ movement say something to the effect that it’s not really that necessary to seek to learn the Bible that well, and that he seemed to say that knowing some of the stories about Jesus – he mentioned the story about the woman at the well from John 4 and the rich young ruler – and following the WWJD ethic was enough to get by with as far as knowing the Bible. I pray that he reconsidered (or will reconsider) what he said and corrected it before his congregation at some point. The truth is that churches and denominations already went down that path at one point in the past. It was called Modernism and 19th century theological Liberalism, and it ruined many Christians, churches and denominations. It resulted in a preaching and teaching about a merely human Jesus who set some vaguely good example, a Bible treated as if it were error filled and thus ignored, a deadening of spiritual vitality, missionary service and evangelistic fervor and a severely dumbed down social ethic of following mere speculation about the example of Jesus.

Personal Accountability to Jesus Christ and the Judgment Seat of Christ

There is one recurring theme in scripture that is rarely heard today in the preaching and teaching of the church: the judgment seat of Christ. Yet I think that many in our congregations need to hear it clearly. It may be mentioned from time to time in churches when there is preaching or teaching on the end times, but generally it is more put into place on a timeline and rarely mentioned during the normal preaching and teaching of the church as the genuine motivation to godly living that it really is. A fresh recovery of the significance of the judgment seat of Christ is essential, I think, to making the understanding and application of the Word of God as more than another kind of self help teaching.

Here’s why I think the peculiar absence of mentioning this in preaching and teaching contributes to a lackadaisical attitude toward believing and obeying the Word of God among many believers: their working standard by which they choose what they will think, say and do is based more on their own estimation of what will make them satisfied, happy and comfortable than on the written Word of God. They will disobey the Word of God in what they think, say or do if they believe for some reason that they may lose anything related to their satisfaction, comfort and happiness.  And secular self help is based on thinking, saying and and doing what will supposedly bring a person satisfaction, comfort and happiness. When the preaching and teaching of the church attempt to emulate secular self help, it often does neglect this scripturally significant motivation to follow the Word of God: personal accountability to Jesus Christ

Here is the basic summary from scripture about this coming event and its significance for the believer.

Every believer will appear before the judgment seat of Christ to give account for everything that he or she has thought, said or done.

“ . . . For we must all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written:

“As I live,” declares the Lord, every knee will bow to me,
And every tongue will confess to God.”

Therefore each one of us will give an account to God.”

(Romans 14:10-12, Dale’s sight translation)

Here are some further statements of scripture on the final judgment of each believer.

At the judgment seat of Christ we will give account to him and receive our just treatment for both our good deeds and bad deeds.

“For it is necessary for all of us to appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one will receive our reward for everything that has been done in the body, whether good or bad” (II Corinthians 5:10, Dale’s sight translation).

Justification by faith in Christ through the propitiation of the cross of Christ does not, according to the plain words of scripture, mean that no believer will ever have his or her bad deeds – sins – mentioned in the final judgment. Rather, it does mean that a believer will not face the eternal penalty for his or her sins and that he or she can live in fellowship with God because of the blood of Christ.

Believers will give account for everything that they have said at the judgment seat of Christ.

“But I say to you that men and women will give account for every idle word they speak  in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36, Dale’s sight translation).

Here Jesus is telling about the personal responsibility that people have for what they say. It’s not, ‘Just talking.’ He obviously means something more wicked than small talk and chitchat about the weather. It’s the careless slander and reckless words that are let fly without regard to their truth or their effect (Ephesians 4:29-30). Sometimes even professed believers seem to have a definition of sin that is no higher than not having committed murder lately, or not having openly committed sexual sins that receive the disapproval from church people. Loose tongues receive little attention and talk is treated as something that is cheap. Yet even the words of believers will definitely be something that they give account of before Jesus Christ personally.

This will include everything that believers think will remain secret and hidden because it is not open and evident to other people.

“Therefore judge nothing before the time when the Lord comes, who will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and make known the thoughts of their hearts; and then praise will come to each one from God.” (II Corinthians 4:5, Dale’s sight translation).

“For there is nothing hidden that will not be made manifest, and nothing secret that will not be made known.” (Mark 4:22, Dale’s sight translation)

This means that no one will ultimately get away with anything that breaks the moral law of God. This reality should drive believers away from any idea that their standard of conduct can remain as anything that trying to get away with before man that they can. This low standard of right and wrong is most likely part of the mentality of anyone who is trying to keep up a religious reputation but continues in thinking, saying and doing things which that person knows are contrary to the Word of God. Sometimes it seems as if some professed believers seem to think that their actions are OK if God does not immediately swat them down. Rather, the truth is that God may and most probably does allow some things to wait until he has a final day in court with each one of us.

The standard of judgment will be the moral law of God, whether received through the written Word of God or through the less reliable light of conscience.

“The person who rejects men and does not receive my words has something which judges him; the word which I have spoken judges that person in the Last Day” (John 12:48, Dale’s sight translation).

For those who do not have access to the Word of God, through being in an isolated part of the world, the moral law as reflected in the lesser light of conscience, as the apostle Paul wrote: “. . .  for when the Gentiles who do not have the Law do by nature the things set down in the Law, they who do not have the Law are act as a Law for themselves. They show the deeds set down in the Law written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness with them, and their own thoughts either accusing or excusing them, on the day when God judges the secrets of mankind, according to my gospel, through Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:14-16, Dale’s sight translation).

Moreover, this means that ultimately the only winner in the universe will be God, and he will ultimately have his own way in every situation.This reality should likewise drive believers away from thinking and acting as if simply “getting my own way” in a situation is the ultimate goal and satisfaction in a person’s conduct.

This should be a constant motivation to seek Christlike purity in one’s life, far beyond any kind of social acceptability.

This should incite believers to seek for entire sanctification, as holiness, righteousness, and Christlike love in all that they think, say and do. The ultimate motivation for this would then be to bring glory to God and demonstrate the power of his salvation in the day that he opens up the thoughts, words and deeds of everyone before the entire universe. For the person who has truly experienced salvation by faith in Jesus Christ and has come to love God with all his or her heart, soul, mind and spirit, this is motivation indeed. And this would then not be a standard and a coming reality that that person would seek to hold over the heads of others to try to keep them in line, but rather a coming reality that would motivate a believer himself or herself first of all. The apostle John put it this way: “Dearly loved brothers and sisters, now we are the children of God, and what we shall be has not yet been made manifest. We know that when it is made manifest, we will be like him, because we will see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure” (I John 3:2-3, Dale’s sight translation).

There is clearly more that could be written on this from the simple statements of scripture. A simple look through Nave’s Topical Bible, a concordance or a systematic theology would most likely show much more. I would encourage anyone who preaches and teaches the Word of God nowadays never, ever to skip over or minimize the clear statements of scripture about the final responsibility of every person, and especially, every professed believer in Christ to him.