Living a life of surrender isn't easy or popular. In fact, it flies in the face of today's culture that encourages and promotes selfishness. But a true Christian is called to live a surrendered life- to God. This doesn't mean giving up all responsibilities, to throw one's hands in the air with a spirit of resignation but instead to hand your entire life into God's hands recognising - as the scripture from Galatians 2:20 says; that your life is now His rather than your own.
For the past few months, I've been looking at the concept of living a surrendered life and what it actually looks like for me so here goes...
To surrender means- 'to die to self, to give up, relinquish, yield, let go, abandon, submit, to give up my rights.'
John the Baptist understood and lived out a surrendered life well when he said,
"He(Jesus) must become greater and greater and I must become less and less."(John 3:30 NLT)
The French theologian, Francois Fe'nelon expressed,
'Whatever spiritual knowledge or feelings we may have, they are all a delusion if they do not lead us to the real and constant practice of dying to self.'
Richard Foster defined self-denial as 'simply a way of coming to understand that we do not have to have our own way.'
Jesus Himself exemplified a surrendered life. Philippians 2:5-11 sums it up beautifully;
"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God has also highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and those under the earth and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord according to God the Father."
How can we live a life surrendered to God?
Jesus taught that there are conditions attached to being His disciple- His follower. In John 12, Jesus used the example of a grain of wheat falling into the ground and dying in order for grain to be produced. He said,
"Most assuredly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let Him follow Me; and where I am, my servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honour."
We must die to our own rights, our own way, our selfishness. We are to follow Jesus, His example and His teachings. In turn, when we live surrendered, we honour the Father and are truly His disciples.
Jesus' words in Luke 9 also reiterate this point.
"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and he himself is destroyed or lost?" (vv 23-25)
We deny ourselves.
We take up our cross- daily.
We follow- Jesus.
I like this explanation below from Bill Hull. I hope it helps clarify the way we should live.
'When Jesus mentioned self denial and cross-bearing, what did He really mean? Many think of self-denial as giving up something during the Lenten season. Others have said that it is to be dead to self or even hate self. I disagree with these opinions. When Jesus referred to self-denial, he was not talking about denying ourselves some luxury item or denying the reality of self or the needs of self. Rather, he was focusing on the importance of renouncing self as the centre of our life and actions. In other words, self- denial is the decision of each of His followers to give over to God their body, career, money and time. A true disciple is willing to shift the spiritual centre of gravity in their life. Self- denial is the sustained willingness to say no to oneself in order to say yes to God...the cross..is the symbol of mission, essence of purpose...whatever mission God gives me is my cross..'
The idea of surrendering ourselves is tough. We don't want to miss out. We think we know what we want and need to be happy and content. We don't want to give up our hopes and dreams. And a lot of our prayers are simply a wish list of what we want God to give us or do for us. Many of us believe that God is a big genie in the sky at the ready to grant our every request and succumb to our every whim. There is a false and dangerous theology being spewed from the mouths of many false teachers and prophets today that the cross of Jesus- His very death, burial and subsequent resurrection is the magic formula for living 'your best life now'. Jesus' work at the cross was NOT so we can be healthy and wealthy. Utter heresy!
The apostle Paul expressed that the process of surrendering ourselves is not always easy. In Romans 7, he shows that there is a real inner battle going on between our will and His and the desire remains in us to do both good and evil. Paul continues in chapter 8 of Romans that when we live by and in the Spirit, we truly live and are children of God. But living according to our flesh (our own desires) is to die. "To be carnally minded is death but to be spiritually minded is life and peace."(v6)
In C.S. Lewis's book 'The Screwtape Letters', Screwtape (Satan) writes letters of instruction to his demon nephew, Wormwood on how to keep a Christian from growing. When addressing the topic of surrender it reads,
'When He (God) talks of their losing themselves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts ( I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His, they will be more themselves than ever.'
I love this! God, in His great love, wisdom and sovereignty has created us in such a way, that when we choose to fully surrender to Him, we are then the best version of ourselves and the most peaceful and content. In other words, it's in our best interests to live surrendered to the Lord.
Oswald Chambers said,
'We have to keep letting go and slowly and surely the great full life of God will invade us in every part and men will take knowledge of us that we have been with Jesus.'
In what areas are you being challenged to surrender to God? In what ways are you fighting to maintain your rights, your way? How are you justifying your carnal (worldly, selfish) desires?
Have you been deceived into believing that you deserve all your heart desires? Have you a faulty view of God and of Jesus' sacrifice at Calvary? Are you holding on to things that deep in your heart you know are not honouring God?
Each of us need to reach that point in our walk with the Lord to honestly say and live out the words.. "My life is yours Lord. Carry on and do Your will in me."