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The Meaning of REAL Surrender to God
By David A. DePra
When we think about, "surrendering to God," we usually think in terms of letting God do what He wants with a SITUATION. This is certainly good – for most often God does use situations to bring us to a surrender. However, if we limit surrender to our situation, we are liable to miss the point.
God wants us to surrender a situation. But more than this, God wants us to surrender ourselves! Yet it is important for us to grasp the meaning of surrendering ourselves. For again, we often think that this means, "Well, I will die to myself and put aside what I want in this thing, and allow God to do as He pleases." Again – this is good. But it still isn’t the real issue.
To surrender myself to God means this: I will let God do in me whatever is necessary to get Himself glory, and whatever is necessary to make me into the person He is after. I hope we see that this is much different that surrendering a situation to God. It is. What I am talking about here is more than surrendering THINGS to God, and then standing back and letting Him work. No. I am talking about surrendering MYSELF to God. There is no standing back. And there is no simple, "cooperation with God." Rather, the whole issue is my relationship with God. I – my whole self – is falling into His hands so that He can make ME BE what He wants through the current situation.
Actually, this is what Paul means when he talks about giving ourselves to God as a living sacrifice:
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom. 12:1-2)
What is being described here is not the surrender of a situation or a circumstance. No. It is the surrender of the PERSON. If we do this, we are saying to God, "Lord, I relinquish my right to be what I think I ought to be, and I fall into Your hands so that You can make me be what You want me to be." This will result in God’s glory, and of course, in my freedom.
Now, this ought to be great news. Because what it means is that it takes out of your hands the pressure of trying to BE what you think you should be. It takes off of you the necessity of, "trying to have faith." It removes the fear that you might not know what you need to know to come through to the will of God in any matter. It puts all of that in God’s hands. In effect, we simply surrender ourselves to God. He does the rest.
I’m NOT saying we need not believe and obey – as much as possible, right where we are. But if you have not yet figured it out, you know that the very nature of a great trial is that you CANNOT seem to do this. You find that you don’t have the faith, and continue to fail. Sure. God is exposing you as inadequate SO THAT you will take this next step. He wants you to say, "Lord, do whatever is necessary to MAKE ME what you are after. Lord, I don’t have the faith. Do what is necessary to create in me the faith. Lord, I don’t know if I am right about this matter – I don’t know if I have seen the Truth about You in it. But I give myself to you that you might do whatever it takes to show me the Truth, and to make that Truth living in me." This is true surrender, and the one spoken about in Romans 12:1-2.
Of course, when we make such a surrender to God, we are really telling Him to crucify IN US whatever must do in order that CHRIST IN US might be made manifest – to us, in us, and through us. Sure. This isn’t about US becoming a wonderful specimen – it is about God doing whatever it takes to get us out of the way and manifest Christ. And the fact is, this is always God’s goal – Christ. God wants to glorify Himself in us, and that never means anything less than to make Christ seen and know. He wants us to be living epistles of what it means for God to have His way with a human being.
Not Our Own
According to the New Testament, if we are Christ’s, then we really ARE Christ’s, and no longer belong to ourselves. There is no such thing in the Bible as a Christian that belongs to himself – although much of the battle, and source of problems, is that despite this, Christians continue to act as if we do belong to ourselves.
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)
Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (1 Pet 1:18-19)
The fact that we no longer belong to ourselves is so basic to Christian Truth, that the term God inspired most often to describe Christians – SAINTS – embodies the thought. The word, "saint," in the NT Greek, is, "hagios." The word means, "HOLY one." The root word for HOLY in the Bible means, "set apart for God’s use." It is also from this root that the word, "sanctification," is translated in the NT. But all of it goes back to the same thought: A, "saint," is one who, "belongs to God." This is not simply one characteristic of a saint. It is the very identity of a saint – he is one who belongs to God and is set apart for God’s use. A HOLY one.
Hopefully, we can see how this directly ties into the idea of surrender. To surrender to God is not supposed to be something extra we do for God, sort of like going the, "extra mile." No. A saint is really, "a surrendered one" – which is the outcome of being one who belongs to God. Surrender to God is therefore supposed to be business as usual. It is supposed to be more than something we do once in a while. Rather, surrender is supposed to characterize our relationship with God. Thus, a saint does just surrender. No. A saint is a surrendered person.
This ought to once for all dash to pieces the notion that you can accept Jesus as Savior and ignore Him as your personal Lord. No. It is actually all or nothing – when you accept Him as Savior you ARE giving Him all of you. He IS your Lord. Indeed, the work of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit by which we receive the very life of Christ – is to make Jesus Lord of us in practical experience. A saint is a surrendered person, and the Holy Spirit is going to seek to make us realize this, act like it, and live it – and He will use practical circumstances.
So what we see is that when we are brought into situations that call from us a surrender, we are really being brought into a practical outworking of what already IS – we already belong to God. Now, through a trial, we are to work it out in life. What was a FACT must now become a living REALITY. We are to present ourselves to God a LIVING sacrifice.
Adjusting Our Perspective
So many Christian people – and I think we do this without realizing it – think that they continue to belong to themselves. I don’t mean in a rebellious way. No, in an ignorant way. We walk as if we belong to ourselves, and when it comes time to surrender to God, we think of this in terms of us graciously giving God permission to do what He wants in our lives. Almost as if, by faith, we open ourselves up to God for His will – and then think that we deserve credit for doing so. We take pride in the fact we have surrendered, and many of us make martyrs out of ourselves for doing so. It may never occur to us that this betrays a blindness to the Truth.
We think in terms of OUR LIFE, and of God wanting to do in OUR LIFE certain things, and of us letting Him. Almost as if God is here to SERVICE US – and we are here to open ourselves for it. Nope. The Truth is, we don’t have any life anymore – not according to what we have seen about belonging to God. And God is not here to service us. He is really here to glorify Himself through us, and we are here to worship Him. Of course, this will all result in benefit for US. But we get things backwards in our thinking.
Surrender is not a matter of us once and while letting God IN. Rather, if it is based in the Truth, it is a matter of God already being IN, and of Him working OUT the reality of that. Or to put it another way, surrender doesn’t let God in. It really kicks us OUT. God already owns us. We need to stop acting as if we belong to ourselves.
There are a number of ways in which we betray our ignorance on this matter. First, we get mad at God for what He does, or doesn’t do, in our life. Well, it isn’t OUR life, is it? But the fact we get upset proves we still think it is – this attitude is still in our spirit. Second, we continue to think that God’s purpose is to give us a happy lot in our life. Indeed, some of us seek this AS the goal – and come into confusion when God doesn’t do it. But despite the fact that God does have a purpose for us as far as our lot in life, the fact that we have made this our goal is the big problem. It betrays a lack of full surrender – and the only solution is the one we have already seen. We must say to God, "Make my life whatever You want it to be," and not what I think it ought to be.
God cannot give us the lot in life He wants until He has firmly established a relationship with us that makes this possible. And what makes that possible is so obvious we miss it: God must have freedom to do as He pleases IN US. Then He will be free to do what He pleases in our lives – as to our lot in life. How could it be otherwise?
Think about it: If God has the freedom to do as He pleases with us, then God WILL do as He pleases with us! And guess what? That pretty much strips off every limitation. It means that God can do a work in us to glorify Himself and manifest Christ, and then this can safely function in the lot in life He has for us. It means that, for us, and IN US, God’s kingdom can come, and His will can be done. For now God can do as HE WILLS.
But it all goes back to a full relinquishment of my right to own myself. I must hand myself over to God for what He wants to do – not just IN my life – but for what He wants to do IN ME.
Can we see that
this is exactly what it means for JESUS TO BE LORD of me? For the Spirit of God
to GOVERN me? Sure. Indeed, Paul said,
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. (Rom 8:14)
The word for LED in this verse properly means, "to be GOVERNED." From this we see that Paul is talking about much more than, "leadings." Paul is not saying that the sons of God are those who walk around from here to there being LED by the voice of God to do this or that. I’m not saying this doesn’t happen from time to time – I’m just saying that this isn’t the fundamental characteristic of the sons of God that Paul is describing in this verse. No. Paul is saying that anyone who is a son of God is going to be GOVERNED by the Spirit of God. He is talking about what rules your life – the flesh, or Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Read Romans 8 and you will see that this is precisely the context: Flesh vs. Spirit, and which GOVERNS us. This is much different than any possible, "leadings."
Consequently, we see once again that this brings us back to surrender. A son or daughter of God is one who is walking under the on-going dynamic of Jesus as Lord. They have not only surrendered their life to Christ – their lot in life and all of the details – but they have given THEMSELVES to Jesus as Lord. In short, the Holy Spirit has a growing freedom to do in that person whatever is God’s will. The Spirit has the freedom to turn that person into a witness unto Christ, and into a living epistle. The Spirit will bring that person into the Truth, and into a relationship with God that will make this possible.
There is a tremendous amount of good news in all of this because, as noted earlier, it means that it is not up to YOU to become what God wants. This may come as a shock to people who think that the Christian life is about nothing more than mechanical obedience to rules and laws. But anyone can keep laws and rules and congratulate themselves for being like Jesus. Sure, we need to obey God – but have we yet learned that there is more wrong about us than mere mechanical obedience can fix? Will we never come to spiritual bankruptcy, and see that we are utterly unable to set ourselves free?
It is a fact that God is going to bring us to the point, if we will submit, where we will see that we cannot obey Him. He will bring us to the point where we may, save the grace of God, utterly despair over ourselves. We will see that we are totally empty without Him. Of course, this too, is part of God doing whatever it takes in us to bring us into the Truth. But at the time, we may not realize this.
And yet this terrible reduction is UNTO an end. It is only when we come to the place where we might despair about ourselves that we will finally say to God, "Lord, I cannot BE adequate. I cannot pass the test. I cannot make the grade. I don’t have the faith. There is no good in me." But then, rather than give up, God would have us say, "Therefore, I give all of myself wholly unto You, that You might do in me whatever You are after. I will submit to whatever Cross you bring Lord, so that you might, from that death, bring forth life that pleases you in Christ." Amazingly, once we come to this place and confession – that we don’t have what we need and have no way of getting it – God will say to us, "You are right. You cannot make the grade. But the fact you have now seen it is actually My will being fulfilled in you. You had to come to this place of surrender before I could work. Now, we will proceed." All of this is what it means to LEARN CHRIST – which is much different from learning ABOUT Christ.
An unconditional surrender to God is not merely a promise to obey Him no matter what. No. Rather, it is a relinquishment of my entire self – including my inabilities and perceived ability – into His hands that He might do whatever is necessary to glorify Christ in and through me. The result isn’t going to be ME as a spiritual giant. It is going to be Christ seen in and through me.
Natural thinking usually suggests that God has a standard He wants, and if we could just meet it, through obedience, faith, or a good attitude, then this will push the right buttons and move God on our behalf. But can we know see that this is equal to us using God for our agenda, as well-intended as this might be? Can we see that this is still us trying to be what we think is right, so that God will give us what we want? Can we see that this kind of thinking is often the result of not trusting that God knows better than we do, or the result of a fear that would suggest that God really isn’t with us – already working to His glory? Christian people continue to operate as if God Himself is nothing more than a big LAW to please, with results forthcoming based on how well we jump through the right hoops. God is not that. We belong to God. He already wants to do IN US what we are feverishly trying to do FOR HIM.
God wants to glorify Himself in us, and this cannot be accomplished if it is left to US to do the work. No. There will always be FLESH involved in that case. If you truly want to be set free, and come into the purpose for which God has given the Holy Spirit, God Himself must have the freedom to do has He pleases with you. But this is not something to be afraid of. Better to fear NOT doing this. For God has only good in mind for the people who BELONG to Him. This is about redemption, freedom, and being set free from all that would hinder His glory, and our enjoyment of Him.
God Is In Charge
Have you been burdened because you think you are not finding God, or because you think that you have somehow missed His purpose for your life? Has this burden been multiplied because you don’t even know where you got off the track, let alone how to get back on track? Well, can we now see that this concern is invalid? Just surrender to God and ask Him to do whatever it takes to show you the Truth. Do we believe we could be more concerned about this than God is concerned?
So many Christians carry this unnecessary burden. We somehow think that God has a big plan for us, but that He is keeping it secret, expecting us to figure out what it is – but if we don’t, well, then we lose out. We imagine ourselves to be constantly on the outside of God’s purpose looking in – and never seem to figure out how to GET in. This is deception. We are not on the outside of God looking in. We are on the inside of God through Christ. And once we realize this, and believe it, we can turn to God and ask Him to do whatever is necessary to set us free of this nonsense and show us the Truth.
Do we really believe we are on our own to discover the Truth? Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead us into all Truth. Is that a sane promise if we are on our own to find it? God is not sitting up in heaven expecting us to figure things out. He wants us to surrender ourselves to Him so that He can reveal the Truth, not only TO us, but IN us. In short, this is about CHRIST IN US. God must do this work. He seeks to open our eyes. He just wants our continual surrender.
Cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers; That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, (Eph 1:16-19)
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