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.