Surrender Pastor A.W. Weckeman Dec. 2013/ Updated Nov. 2021
Surrender, in terms of biblical doctrine, refers to the act of willfully yielding one’s life to the power and authority of the Lord. Whole-hearted submission to the will of God. It is the vital aspect of Christian living, the cost of following Christ. Surrender is the path of deliverance, the way of escape from the bondage of sin and self. It is impossible to effectively put off the “the old man” and put on the “new man” without first laying ALL on the altar.
When we talk about surrender as an N.T. principle, we primarily speak of the outcome of a prolonged inner struggle between two diametrically opposed forces…self-will and God’s will. Surrender is not about the end of the battle; it’s about the end of INDECISION. It involves once and for all choosing sides: “How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal then follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21)
Surrender boils down to a simple question: Who will you serve, God or yourself? And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Josh.24:14-15). [Emphasis mine]
The Heart of the Problem
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa.53:6). [Emphasis mine]
This self-serving attitude not only dominates before regeneration but continues after salvation: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov.14:12).
The natural tendency is to prioritize “our own way” over God’s way, running our own lives, always putting our will first. The sad truth is that, although all “born again” Christians trust Christ for salvation, very few trust Him with control of their lives.
Self-deception is the natural tendency of most believers when confronted with distasteful decisions concerning God’s will and their own will.
An example of this Truth: When faced with a dilemma that requires a difficult choice, we pray: “Oh Lord, as I go forward, open or close the doors…not my will but thine be done” All the while, deep down inside, in our heart of hearts, we have already predetermined what we are going to do! And if God closes the door, we climb out the window!
A pastor who ministered to a small rural congregation down south was offered the pastorate in a large city, big flock, more money, and perks. He told the pulpit committee that he would have to pray about it. So when he came home that afternoon and told his wife the exciting news, he ran upstairs. His wife said honey aren’t we going to pray about this. So he called down to her, start without me. I’ll join you when I get done packing!
There is no such thing as a Christian who is incapable of self-deception. If you think you are beyond this, then you have already deceived yourself! Remember, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…” (Jer. 17:9).
“We are rebels who are blinded by pride and sin, deceived by our selfish lusts and ambitions, and conditioned by years of living in a world that has exalted man and forgotten God!”
“So great is the human capacity for self-deception that we can be blind even to our own insincerity.” Dave Hunt
The Cost of Non-Surrender
“As long as we refuse to surrender our will to the will of God, we are never truly free. Rather, we find ourselves dominated by ungodly appetites and forces.”
Consider (Rom.6:14-16) “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that TO WHOM YE YIELD YOURSELVES SERVANTS TO OBEY, HIS SERVANTS YE ARE to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” [emphasis mine].
It’s about who we will SERVE. If we refuse to surrender to God’s control and serve Him, then we will be given over to our enemies and serve them.
The enemies that will rule the unyielding believer: (1 John 2:15-16):
“…the lust of the flesh” The immoral desires of the human body…carnal appetites.
“…the lust of the eyes” Covetousness, greed, excessive desires, especially for that which is unlawful.
“…the pride of life” The desire to exalt self…to impress people. Intellectual arrogance and self-reliance.
Some are given over to one or more of the following: anger, bitterness, resentment, depression, jealousy, envy, laziness, selfishness, sexual lusts, food, etc.
Ironically, the very things which we refuse to let go of (give to the Lord) will end up controlling us. They become self-destructive forces that dominate our lives.
For the most part, surrender is the incremental death of an independent spirit; emancipation from self-life. Submission is learned by the purging of pride, the prolonged surrender of self-will. A transformation wrought in life’s refining fires; the often painful path of deliverance; the way of escape from the bondage of sin and the captivity of self.
Surrender through Crisis
Some believers surrender all at once, totally overwhelmed with awe and gratitude (Paul, Acts 9:6), (Peter, Luke 5:8-11), (Woman with the alabaster box of ointment Luke 7:37 & 47). Or in a moment of heartrending failure or despair (David Ps.51).
However, most of us let go progressively, piece by piece, day by day, trial by trial, gradually realizing, “in Christ,” we are no longer our own: What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Surrender involves not only the end of self-will but also the unconditional acceptance of God’s will.
The Lessons of Army Life
In November of 1966, at Fort Dix N.J., I was sworn into the U.S. Army. At that moment, I surrendered the next three years of my life and officially became a soldier. However, the swearing-in ceremony was just the beginning, the initial surrender which set the stage for an ongoing surrender. In the coming days, I would painfully learn much about the pivotal correlation between submission and soldiering.
I went through eight weeks of basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C. The purpose of boot camp was to transform us from a bunch of willful individuals to a unit of disciplined, unquestioning warriors. This change of heart was accomplished through rigorous training involving constant challenges and continuous hardship designed to break down any resistance to authority. There could be no second-guessing authority in the heat of the battle; commands wouldn’t be explained, nor did they have to make sense.
There were numerous dropouts; some broke under the weight of the physical and mental hardships; they couldn’t endure the intensity of the training. Still, others refused to relinquish their individualism and personal identity, constantly rebelling against the authority of the drill sergeants.
Soldiers for Christ
“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” (2 Tim. 2:3).
The day we trusted Christ for salvation, we humbly agreed with God’s assessment of our actual condition (Rom.3:10 & 23) we surrendered to the Truth. At that point, we were sworn into God’s army.
In reality, the second birth is the birth of a soldier. Perhaps unwittingly, nevertheless, we took sides in a very real battle; we entered the age-old war between good and evil, light and darkness, God and Satan. See: (1Tim.1:18; 2 Tim.2:3-4 & Eph. 6:12).
Living a Life Surrendered to God
For me, the swearing-in ceremony at Fort Dix was the initial surrender, the first step, which paved the way for a life of submission to authority, so it is with our new life in Christ. The act of surrender that preceded salvation must become a continuous part of our lives, a day-by-day reality. A truth expressed by the apostle Paul in 1Cor. 15:31 “I die daily…”
God’s Boot Camp
For this reason, God has His own version of boot camp designed to subdue our sin nature and transform His recruits from self-willed, self-centered individuals to yielded, unquestioning soldiers. (2 Cor.11:23-29). Only the battlefield can produce warriors.
“Away from the mire and away from the clay, God leads His dear children along. Away up in glory, eternity’s day, God leads His dear children along. Some thru the waters, some thru the flood, Some thru the fire, but all thru the blood; Some thru great sorrow, but God gives a song, In the night season and all the day long.” God Leads Us Along G.A. Young, Hymnal page # 298
“The great thing is to suffer without being discouraged.” Fenelon
Surrender equals Victory
We must come to realize that the LORD’S ways are not our ways (Isa.55:8). Our prolonged struggle with the flesh is designed to teach us a vital truth, “the flesh profiteth nothing.” The harder WE try to suppress sin by seeking to reform our flesh, the more WE fail.
Our natural response is to cry out to God for strength so WE can prevail against sin. But God’s way of delivering us from the flesh is not by making the “old man” stronger “Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? (Gal.3:3). “How foolish is it to attempt to serve God in the very thing He came to deliver us from.”
Someone wisely stated, “God created everything from nothing and everything He intends to use He first reduces to nothing.” Thus, in His infinite wisdom (His ways), He allows His children to struggle with sin in the flesh, not to strengthen them but to weaken them, to bring them to the point of surrender, to the end of themselves.
The problem, of course, is that every one of us is born with a nature that is opposed to God, an inherent determination to run our own lives. It goes against our grain to yield; there is something inside of us that does NOT want to “deny ourselves”…nor is it natural for us to relinquish our right to make our own decisions. And so, God patiently waits while we stubbornly try to please him in our flesh until such time when we come to the end of ourselves and surrender to the indwelling “power that worketh in us” (Eph.3:20).
It is impossible to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” (Eph.6:10) until we reach the point of utter defeat in our struggle with the “old man” and cease trying to overcome sin in the flesh. Thus, God’s purpose in trials and tribulation is to bring us to the end of our natural strength so that we may “…be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” (Eph.3:16) [Emphasis mine].
Simply put, when we cease trying, we cease failing. “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor.12:9).
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me” (John 15:4).
The Christian life is a supernatural life that can only be lived by “Abiding in Christ”; maintaining an ongoing, intimate relationship with Him. Christ’s life is expressed through those who live in this vital union. The branches have no life or fruit of their own they draw their energy and vitality from their connection to the vine. No one apart from this day-by-day discipline can live a fruitful Christian life, moment by moment abiding in Him.
“How does the branch bear fruit? Not by incessant effort for sunshine and air; not by vain struggles for those vivifying influences which give beauty to the blossom, and verdure to the leaf: it simply abides in the vine, in silent and undisturbed union, and blossoms and fruit appear as of spontaneous growth.
How, then, shall a Christian bear fruit? By efforts and struggles to obtain that which is freely given; by meditations on watchfulness, on prayer, on action, on temptation, and on dangers? No: there must be a full concentration of thoughts and affections on Christ; a complete surrender of the whole being to Him; a constant looking to Him for grace.” H.B. Stowe, How to Live on Christ
The final analysis is not what we go through that matters; it’s how we respond. Our response to what God has allowed is the critical factor that will make or break us, our ministry, marriage, and relationship with the Lord. It will also determine our influence on those around us, whether we encourage or discourage. Response to the trial of our faith (1Peter1:7) measures our willingness to trust and obey the Lord. A proper response is a pivotal factor; either we trust God or don’t, either we accept our situation (realizing that God is in control) or fight against our circumstances to our great loss. All these work together to reveal sin, stifle self-life, perfect faith, obedience, and trust, bringing us to the point of (Prov.3:5-6) where we finally surrender the right to run our own lives.
The Freedom of Surrender
Little by little, as this truth sets in, we learn to let go of the wheel and allow the Holy Spirit to take control. When surrender finally becomes a living reality, we realize how foolish, selfish and useless it was even to attempt to control our own lives. The futility of murmuring or complaining, questioning situation or circumstance becomes self-evident; instead of asking why Lord, we find ourselves asking what Lord. As a result, the inner struggle is greatly diminished; the wonderful peace of acceptance takes hold, and priorities are forever changed.
“…for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content” (Phil.4:11).
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Prov.3:5-6).