When someone mentions the word “surrender”, lots of negative definitions come to mind: cowardice, quitting, defeat, shame. When used in the normal course of conversation, these definitions are what is usually meant by surrender. However, when used in the context of discipleship, and when using God’s dictionary, the word “surrender means just the opposite.
In God’s definition of the word, surrender means victory! In Luke 9:23 Jesus said: “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me”. In this verse, Jesus was saying that His followers would be characterized by absolute surrender to Himself. But, what is surrender? What does it look like? Using this verse let’s take a look.
“Deny himself”. This doesn’t mean self denial. Many who have the proper self discipline can deny themselves certain things in life. By denying ourselves, Jesus was saying that we must give up all rights to ourselves to Him. He calls the shots. He is in control of our lives. We get off the throne of our lives and He takes his rightful place as Lord. We give up all rights to ourselves to Him, and become His bond slave.
“Take up your cross daily”. This doesn’t mean that we construct a big wooden cross and literally carry it around the streets of our community. To take up your cross means that we follow the same path that Jesus took when He walked the earth; one that the world says is filled with shame, and defeat, but which God says is filled with purpose and meaning. To take up our cross means to be totally committed to Jesus no matter what anyone else says, and to live for His approval, not man’s, no matter what the cost may be. It is to desire holiness in every aspect of our lives. It is a daily dying to self so that we are free to follow Him.
“Follow Me”. This means unreserved, unconditional obedience to whatever He call us to do. It is willing to be stretched and yanked out of our comfort zone if this is what He asks of us. It also means to have an intimate relationship with Him. We follow Him because we know Him and love Him so much, and we trust Him with all the details of our lives.
In a nutshell, surrender is giving ourselves totally to Him. How do we do this? Do we follow certain steps that are outlined in a book? No. The journey of absolute surrender is an act of our will where we intentionally give Him control. The next question many ask is: “How will I know when I do this? Will there be a definite point in time when this happens”? Absolute surrender is a life long journey that we embark on that begins when we take the first step of surrender – desiring with all our hearts to give ourselves to Him and desiring with all of our hearts to live for His glory. As we journey on this road of surrender, He will reveal aspects of our lives that we need to put under His control. Then the choice is ours, surrender that thing to Him or not. Again it is an act of our will, and no one can force us to do so. Even God won’t force us, He wants us to make that choice.
Does surrender sound negative, scary, even fatalistic? it would if we were surrendering ourselves to someone who didn’t love us and have our best interest in mind. However, we surrender to Him who loves us with a perfect love – the cross is all we need to look at to know this. Surrender is anything but defeat…it is victory!!!
In a militaristic context, surrender means to give up your freedom to save your life. In God’s context, surrender to Him means that you give up our life to gain your freedom. And there on no greater freedom on this planet than being a bond slave of Jesus.
Christian beliefs are based on faith. For example, we believe in the trinity – one God who eternally exists in three distinct persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe that God created the universe with His spoken word. We believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose bodily from the dead three days later. These are only three core beliefs in the theology of Christianity, but we can see that faith is essential in these beliefs: to truly grasp the concept of the Trinity is beyond our finite minds, we weren’t present when God created the universe, and we weren’t eye witnesses to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
However, even though we believe these doctrines by faith, our faith is definitely not a “leap in the dark”. We have overwhelming evidence in the Bible for what we believe, which is substantiated by secular history, archeology, and science. Unfortunatley, although many Christians might have a basic understanding of what they believe, very few know why they believe it. When asked why they believe in a certain doctrine of Christianity, many respond “that’s what my Sunday school teacher, my pastor, or my parents taught me”. They have never dug into Scripture for themselves to prove their faith. Christians who run on blind faith are prime targets for cults and aberrant theology. These are the ones who turn their back on God and the church when confronted by secular thought or when assaulted by the trials of life. Studies have shown that most of our young people fade away from the church when they leave high school. Why is this? Because they weren’t grounded in their faith and were easily enticed by the world. Thus, we have a culture of shallow Christians whose faith is shaky at best.
Faith, in order to be strong, must have an intellectual understanding of some facts; the brain and faith are intricately woven together. Faith without a mental ascent to some facts is indeed a “blind leap in the dark”. For example, I sat in my chair to write this blog believing it would hold me up and not collapse. How do I know this? I didn’t watch it being made so I have no first hand knowledge of its construction. However, I do know that it was manufactured following an engineer’s specification. There are tags on it that prove that it was built and tested by qualified people. And I know that the company that sold it would not risk a law suit if they didn’t have confidence in the builder. So my sitting in this chair is not a blind leap in the dark at all. It is based on certain facts I know to be true.
Our faith follows the same line of thinking. We must understand the facts God has so wonderfully given us in order for our faith to be strong through the storms of life. Obviously, we cannot know everything about God. If we did He wouldn’t really be God. However, He has given us all we need to firmly grasp the truths necessary to have a firm foundation.
It’s time for pastors to start preaching the depths of biblical truth and theology. It’s time for all followers of Jesus to take the initiative to study, and I mean really study, the Bible. This is the only foundation on which to build our relationship with our wonderful God. Remember, we dig deep not just to know facts, but to know the Author of the Bible intimately. The stronger our foundation of knowing what we believe and why we believe it, the more intimate we become with God.