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You may be wondering if such a surrender is really necessary. Yes, it is. Why? Before entering God’s kingdom, we were rebels against God and pursued a life of autonomy, which was manifested in the various sins that characterized our life. To repent of our sins and trust Christ is in effect to end our rebellion, lay down our arms, and come under God’s reign. C.S. Lewis put it well,
Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor—that is the only way out of our ‘hole.’ This process of surrender—this movement full speed astern—is what Christians call repentance.3
To reserve the right to run certain areas of our lives as we see fit is really to carry our old attitude of rebellion into our new lives, thereby rejecting one of the most basic principles of kingdom life. Surrender is the concrete, ongoing expression of repentant faith and union with Christ; it is the fruit of a converted heart and the basic attitude and posture of a child of God toward his or her heavenly Father. Surrender and obedience are critical!
How is such a life possible? Through an event, followed by a process. The Greek text here clearly means we must make a definite, decisive, absolute surrender to God (Rom. 12:1). The Amplified Bible captures it well: “make a decisive dedication of your bodies—presenting all your members and faculties—as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God.” This is the event, it is something we do at a specific point in time. It is an act of the will, not a feeling or sentiment. It is a settled determination to give ourselves wholly to God; to be His, and His alone, and to do His will, no matter the cost, for the rest of our lives. We are henceforth His and no longer our own. He doesn’t want a truce or armistice; He wants unconditional surrender.
Ideally we do this at the time of conversion, like Paul, though ignorance or resistance can cause a delay. In any case, the flesh will resist this, and the devil will use every trick in the book to prevent it. He will whisper in your ear phrases such as Are you crazy? You will become a religious fanatic. You will lose your reputation. You could lose your job and career. Your friends will abandon you. You could lose your marriage. This could cost you your life. And these are only a few. He will bring before your mind the things you fear most and tell you that God will require them of you if you surrender to Him. God will send you to Africa as a missionary. He will call you to marry an unattractive spouse. Or to live in an unfulfilling or unhappy marriage. Or to live in poverty. And on it goes.
What the devil will not tell you is the truth: that you are surrendering into the arms of love, the arms of a loving Father in heaven who redeemed you at great cost, who knows what is best for your life, and who only wants to do you good. You are surrendering to God’s all-wise purposes for your life, which will bring you ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment in life and the greatest glory to God.
Making this surrender, doesn’t mean that we promise henceforth live a perfect life. Nor does it mean that we will not sometimes stumble into sin or grow weak in our commitment or even relapse to self-management. Rather, it means that we make a fundamental commitment to take God’s side in a lifelong, relentless warfare against our sins in the pursuit of holiness. It means that in our hearts we “will to do His will” and desire to be transformed into Christlikeness. It means that we give as much of ourselves as we are aware of at the time to God, and let him expand that awareness as life unfolds. It means that in our weakness, we depend on His strength and daily seek to be filled afresh with His Spirit and obey His word. And it means that when we stumble and sin, we turn at once to our Father in confession and repentance to receive His loving pardon. Like a ragged little street urchin who has been adopted by a childless king, we know from whence we have come and what a mess we still are. We also know that He wants to clean up our mess, and we want to cooperate and do whatever it takes to please Him and become like Jesus.
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