What does it mean to surrender all? There have been many occasions that I sang the words to that great old hymn by the same name, “I Surrender All”. With heartfelt adoration to God I sing, “I surrender all. I surrender all. All to thee my blessed Savior, I surrender all.” With a full heart there seemingly is no gap between my words and my willingness to live up to the confession of that great hymn. So how do I live that out? To embrace that life means we understand it from the words and life of Jesus Christ.
In Chapter 9 of the Gospel of Luke we find this conversation between Jesus and a Scribe,
57 “Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.”58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”59 Then He said to another, “Follow Me. ”But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” 61 And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” 62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Right before this exchange Jesus had spent the day doing some incredible miracles. Matthew chapter 8 tells us that Jesus cleansed a leper from his spots (vs. 1-4), he healed the centurions servant (vs. 5-13), he healed Peter’s mother in law, (vs. 14-15) and many others had demons cast out of them and sicknesses healed (vs. 16). It was quite a day and huge crowds of people followed Jesus as he made his way through Capernaum. You can imagine there was a great deal of buzz and excitement from what they had all just witnessed with their own eyes. It was here that the Scribe made his bold proclamation, “Lord, I will follow you where ever you go!”. Jesus didn’t try to turn this man away, but He explained to him the cost of full surrender to follow Him. He had seen God move and he was excited. He was ready to make a commitment, but Jesus then draws attention to the difference between commitment and surrender.
Many times you will find people who get caught up in the excitement of others. They see God moving and great things happening and they want in on it! They need help and they think that Jesus is the answer. And we know that Jesus is the answer, but the problem is that these people want to make a commitment instead of surrendering to Jesus. I remember hearing Adrian Rogers tell a story about a conversation he had with a man named Josef T’son. They were talking about the difference between commitment and surrender and T’son said, “When you make a commitment, you are still in control no matter how noble the thing you commit to. One can commit to pray, study the Bible, give his money, to make automobile payments, or to lose weight. Whatever he or she chooses to do, they commit to it, however surrender is different. If someone holds a gun and asks you to lift your hands in the air as a token of surrender, you don’t tell that individual what you are committed to. You simply surrender and do as you are told.”
The call of James and John to follow Jesus gives us a perfect illustration of surrender. Mark 1:19-20 says, “ When He had gone a little farther from there, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the boat mending their nets. 20 And immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and went after Him.” Jesus called James and John and they submitted their lives to him. They left their home, their family, their job, and their lives, as they knew it, to follow Jesus Christ. To embrace this life I have to ask myself, “How far am I willing to go?”
To give my best “YES” I am going to have to first say, “No”. The scribe pointed to several obstacles to his full surrender. The world is full of biased (says I am just as important as) distractions that hold us back. If I am going to fully surrender I have to say, “No” to 3 distractions:
–My Personal Aspirations
Most of us have thoughts about the way things should go but Scripture says, in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not upon your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” Surrendering to God’s plan removes the obstacle of control.
Luke 14:26 ““If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” I have to trust that God loves and desires to care for the people I love more than me. There can be no one above my affection for Him.
1 John 2:15-17 “ Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
The world is full of temptation to get my eyes and heart distracted on what I want and what I think I need. So what does full surrender to Jesus really mean? It means undistracted focus on the kingdom of God. Jesus said it like this, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” When I fix my eyes on the person of Jesus Christ and follow Him I become an empty vessel for Him to work through.