As you probably know, I’m a biblical counselor and for the past 7 years have done crisis counseling and discipleship with women who struggle with addiction and other life-dominating problems. Over the course of time, I’ve noticed some common responses when someone first expresses a desire to give their lives to Christ, and I’d like to take some time to explore some of the common things that hold us back from finding the freedom and salvation we all want.
If you’ve already surrendered your life to Christ, I hope this article will serve as an encouraging reminder to trust God and remember what He’s done for you. And if you haven’t yet come to that point of surrender, I hope this article will challenge you to take that step of faith and find the peace that comes in trusting God with every aspect of your life.
Now, back to the topic at hand:
When I say surrender, what jumps to mind?
In order to get right with God, surrender has to take place. We see this all throughout scripture, but today I want to focus in on Luke 14:25-33.
Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple."
Jesus is telling us very clearly how to begin a relationship with God. Let me point out that Jesus was talking to the crowd at this time. That tells us that this message is not for the elite. It's not for super Christians. It's actually directed to the lost. The requirements -- the terms -- he lays down are for salvation, not for you to work on "after."
Jesus begins with a shocking statement – “you must hate.” However, the word hate doesn’t mean what we tend to associate with hate (violence, bitterness, anger, etc.), but rather separate. It’s the same word used to describe God’s relationship with sin – nonexistent. He doesn’t have one. And so Jesus uses this term to describe a surrender that must take place in regards to our family relationships.
It’s far too easy for us to separate ourselves from Jesus for the sake of our family; Jesus is calling us to separate from our family for the sake of Him. And this is a commitment that He says is necessary for salvation – because we cannot serve two masters, whether it’s God and money or God and family. I’ve seen this happen time and time again – someone makes a profession of faith and does pretty well for a time, but eventually their family gets tired of it. Their friends get frustrated with it. The pressure settles in, and it’s not long before they collapse to it, turning from Christ, and embracing their earthly relationships above all else.
I think the reason Jesus calls for this surrender up front is because if we wait until we’re faced with the choice, we’ll choose wrongly. We’ll back away from Christ and compromise our relationship with God, in order to have our family relationships intact. Instead, Jesus wants us to decide up front that even if it costs us our family, we will still choose Christ.
This is a big commitment – but Jesus doesn’t apologize for it. He thinks He’s worth it. And you know what? He is. Every time.
The next surrender Jesus calls us to is our very life. It’s easy to talk about surrendering ourselves to Christ, but until we take the time to consider what that surrender looks like, we fall into the danger of not following through on that surrender when Jesus comes calling for what we’ve supposedly given to Him.
So what does personal surrender look like?
It’s our identity. Our past. Our future. Our likes. Our dislikes. Our hopes. Our dreams. Our attitudes. Our beliefs. Our escape mechanisms. Our defense measures. Our self-preservation. Us.
It's all of us. Everything about us must now come under the Lordship and Ownership of Christ and become His.
Again, this is a big commitment. It’s a lot. But when we consider all that Jesus did for us, giving up His very life, is it really unfair or unjust for Him to ask us for all of us?
Jesus emphasizes this surrender through two stories. The first has to do with building a tower. It's a power symbol. Imagine the humiliation if you were to decide to do build this grand masterpiece, only to run out of funds in the middle of construction. Can you hear the taunts and laughter? See the pointing fingers? Makes you wish you had thought through the financial burden ahead of time, doesn't it? Now you're out of money AND everyone thinks you're an idiot. Not a great situation.
Why does Jesus tell this story? Because in the same way, we must consider what following Jesus is going to cost us (what we already talked about). But more than that, can we afford it? Will we do it? All in? Because if not -- if we say yes but don't follow through -- well, we're going to look pretty idiotic. You've seen people like this, I'm sure. They're on fire for The Lord. They seem to have it all together. Everything's great. But a few months or a year later you see them and they're worse than they were when they first cried out to God. What's up with that? They didn't consider the cost. So when God began to collect on what they promised, they refused to give it up.
Jesus tells another story. This one is about war. One King is minding his own business, doing his thing, when suddenly he finds out another king is coming after him. More than that, the king that's coming for him has twice the army he does. Big problem. Remember, this was pretty much hand to hand combat. Tanks and guns were not in the picture at that point. So if you had an army twice your size coming for you? Well, you were toast. There were only two options. One: fight to the death and hope, maybe, somehow, someway, you may actually win (false hope). Or two: find out terms of peace. Sounds great, right? There are terms of peace! You can work out a deal! Well... Terms of peace weren't exactly easy. This is war, remember? And you're the losing party... Terms of peace sometimes meant cutting off everyone's ear. Sometimes it was gouging out everyone's eye. But it was violent. It hurt. And it marked you and your kingdom. Everyone knew you'd been defeated by this other king -- but you survived. You didn't win, and it cost you, but it didn't destroy you.
Do you see where Jesus is going with this?
We are the army of ten thousand. God is the army of twenty thousand. He's coming for us. Can we defeat him? If not, will we accept his terms of peace? His terms of peace are in verse 33. Forsake everything. Renounce all you have -- and all you are.
Surrender costs. But it's worth it.
There are two questions I always ask someone when they tell me they want to get right with God. The first is, is there anything more important that eternal life? I don't think I've ever gotten anything other than a "no" to this question.
But it's the second question that catches people. Is there anything you're not ready to give up to have eternal life?
Sometimes people immediately answer. My kids. My friends. My boyfriend. Cigarettes. And then the excuses come. It's not that bad. Where is that even in scripture. You mean God would send me to hell for my boyfriend? God would send me to hell for smoking? No. Not at all. God does, however, send people to hell for rebellion. For refusal to accept his terms of peace. The fact of the matter is, God is under no obligation to save any of us from Hell. But He gives you a way of escape through the violent death of His only Son, on whom He poured out His mighty wrath that you and I rightfully deserve. Are we really sure that we’d rather have our family, our habits, our false sense of control than to surrender those things to God and find eternal life for later and hope in life for now? It’s just not worth it.
Sometimes people just hesitate. And I know that they're thinking of something. And they're battling with it. Because the truth of the matter is, whatever comes to mind when someone says "surrender" is exactly what God is demanding from us. And we know it. That's why it's hard. We’ve already thought through all the reasons to hold on -- but deep down, we know it's what God wants. The fact that we won't let go reveals it is now an idol in our lives.
But then there are those who say no. Some say it timidly. Some say it with loudly and confidently. Some hesitate first. But now it's time to act. If you accept God's terms, you must tell him. And you must follow through. And while it may be hard, and while it may hurt, you know that it's worth it because you receive life instead of death. Freedom instead of bondage.
This pattern continues as we follow Christ. He will continually bring things to your attention. Things He wants us to surrender again. Sometimes things we didn't even know we were holding on to. And then we have to decide. Again. Now, ultimately we already decided when we decided to follow Christ that it all belonged to him. So now it's show time.
Will I reaffirm His lordship over my life? Will I let go? Even when it doesn't make sense? Even when it hurts? Will I trust that He is worth it? That He is good and loves me and will give me something better than what I’m holding on to?
Corrie ten Boom said, "Whatever you treasure in life, hold it loosely so it doesn't hurt when God has to pry open your fingers to get it."
We already surrendered all. And that's huge. We know how God provided. We know that He is worth it and it was a good -- no, a great thing.
It's the "small stuff" that comes later that is sometimes the hardest.
Friends. Media choices. Time. Priorities.
It’s time to ask the hard questions. Are they mine? Are they for me and my comfort and glory? Or do they belong to God now? For His glory?
If we can just let go, we will find that He who calls us is faithful. He is worth it. There is far more comfort, peace, and joy in surrender than in grasping for control and comfort in what we already have – and if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we know that we don’t really have it in the first place. We’ve simply bought into the lie that we have control, when in reality, we can lose it all in a second.
The most beautiful thing of this surrender is that we don’t actually, literally, physically lose anything. When we give everything to God, He gives us everything else back. But instead of it being ours to keep, it’s God’s to keep and ours to simply enjoy. This brings freedom because we no longer have to grasp and manipulate and fear and control the things in our lives to ensure our fair share; rather, we can enjoy what God richly blesses us with. He just asks us to trust Him enough to give Him everything and believe that what He has is better than what we have. But in order to receive what He has for us, we must empty our hands.
So when I say surrender, what comes to mind?
In a word: passionate.