When I say surrender, what jumps to mind?
At my church, I am one of the counselors that prays with people as they come forward during the invitation. I also am a counselor for ladies at Victory Home. And I’ve noticed a pattern.
In initial counseling, whether at VH with someone who is checking in and wanting to get right with God, or at the altar with someone who is wanting to get right with God, there’s always the same two types of people – two types of thinking – two types of response.
You see, in order to get right with God, surrender has to take place. We see this all throughout scripture, but in particular I’ll reference 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 says you must surrender your family. Will you choose to separate yourself from your family to follow Christ? Or will you make your family your priority and compromise your relationship to Christ? He’s not saying you must be willing to forsake your relationships. He saying you must.
Jesus says you must surrender your very life. What does this look like? The short answer is (a common phrase around my church), “life as you know it is over.” Here’s the longer (though still incomplete) answer: Your identity. Your past. Your future. Your likes. Your dislikes. Your hopes. Your dreams. Your attitudes. Your beliefs. Your escape mechanisms. Your defense measures. Your self preservation. You.
It’s all of you. But don’t we owe all to Christ, who gave all for 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, you better consider what following Jesus is going to cost you (what we already talked about). But more than that, can you afford it? Will you do it? All in? Because if not — if you say yes but don’t follow through — well, you’re going to look pretty idiotic yourself. 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?
You are the army of ten thousand. God is the army of twenty thousand. He’s coming for you. Can you defeat him? If not, will you 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 is going to send you to hell for your rebellion. For your refusal to accept his terms of peace. Fact of the matter is, God is under no obligation to save you from hell. In fact, his obligation is to send you to 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 deserve. And yet, you have decided that you’d rather have your family, your habits, your job, your…? It’s 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 you. And you know it. That’s why it’s hard. You’ve already thought through all the reasons to hold on — but deep down, you know it’s what God wants. The fact that you won’t let go reveals it is now an idol in your life.
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 you follow Christ. He will continually bring things to your attention. Things he wants you to surrender again. Sometimes things you didn’t even know you were holding on to. And then you have to decide. Now, ultimately you already decided when you decided to follow Christ that it all belonged to him. So now it’s show time. Will you reaffirm his lordship over your life? Will you let go? Even when it doesn’t make sense? Even when it hurts? Will you trust that he is worth it? That he is good and loves you and will give you something better than what you’re 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.”
You already surrendered all. And that’s huge. You know how God provided. You 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.
Are they yours? Are they for you and your glory? Or do they belong to God now? For His glory?
If you just let go, you will find that He who calls you 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 you already have.
So when I say surrender, what comes to mind?
In a word: passionate. About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even iced skinny soy mochas.