What exactly is surrender?

If you’ve been in Christian circles long or even read a few blogs on this site, you’ve probably encountered the phrase surrendering your life to Christ. It’s an expression intended to denote enthroning Jesus as Lord in your life, thereby submitting to His will and doing what He says. Many people struggle with this notion because it suggests losing their freedom and giving up on legitimate passions. Sometimes, those encouraging others to surrender their lives to Christ recognise people’s hesitation and quickly add: “You’ll be rewarded in heaven”, almost as a consolation for making Jesus their Lord. But what if our paradigm of what “surrender” means is wrong? What if the proposition is an act of extraordinary benevolence rather than the subjugation we often assume it is?

I’ve needed to reflect on the implications of “surrender” recently, and my enquiry precipitated a closer look at the big picture from the Bible’s perspective. Sometimes, I suspect our biggest challenge as Christians is seeing ourselves as the Bible describes us before and after Calvary [Ephesians 4:23]. Paul paints a stark picture of the reality of anyone outside Jacob’s lineage before Calvary: “…separated from Christ, alienated from God’s covenant with Israel…having no hope, and without God” [Ephesians 2:11-12]. So, it’s an illusion to think we had freedom and options before Jesus. On the contrary, we were all slaves to sin – yielding our bodies and minds to sin and powerless to decide our destinies because we were spiritually dead and under the dominion of darkness [Romans 6:15-19, Ephesians 2:1-3]. Our plight was akin to animals in a zoo who only have an illusion of freedom compared to their counterparts in the wild, but much worse because our zookeeper despises us and is only interested in our destruction and eternal damnation.

But, at Calvary, everything changed. Jesus fulfilled His manifesto to the letter [Luke 4:18-19, John 19:30]. First, He fulfilled the claims of justice by paying for our sins on the cross, ensuring that no one could legally condemn those who put their faith in Him [Romans 8:1, 1 John 2:2, 1 Peter 3:18]. Then, He descended into hell and utterly disarmed the rulers and authorities of darkness, making an open spectacle of them as He triumphantly rendered Satan, death, sin, and hell powerless over us [Ephesians 4:9, Colossians 2:14-15, Hebrews 2:14]. So, for the first time, we could access true freedom in Christ; the bars of sin and the nature which causes us to sin were eternally destroyed [Isaiah 45:2, John 8:36]. Now, no longer enslaved, we could, for the first time, choose [Deuteronomy 30:15-20].

Here’s where our understanding of our choice matters. God created us to be free creatures, which is why confining a human being is a punishment. The challenge is we lack the wisdom to consistently make the right decisions to maintain our freedom because our knowledge is limited. Moreover, God never created us to self-govern. Consequently, we cannot do so without destroying ourselves and others. Hence, God never leaves us without prohibitions, even in the Garden of Eden [Genesis 2:16-17]. The other reality we often neglect is that God created us to serve, so we must serve. As such, in Scripture, you’ll find statements like: “…choose who you will serve…” or “You cannot serve God and mammon” because it’s a given we’ll serve someone or something. Interestingly, who you serve determines your destiny, so we’re admonished to choose wisely. But before we can do so, we must understand who we’ll serve, what’s on offer and the consequences of our choice [Proverbs 14:12].

Today, having been transferred from the domain of darkness into God’s kingdom through the blood of Jesus, we get to decide our master [Ephesians 1:7, Colossians 1:13-14]. We can choose to self-govern, which implies being led by our senses [1 Corinthians 3:1-3]. The zookeeper, our former malevolent master, thrives in the mental and emotional realm. He’s smarter than us, so he’ll outwit and confuse us in the sense realm. Remember that though he’s a defeated foe, he’s still alive and able to wreak havoc in our lives [John 10:10a]. If we let our senses dictate our choices, we’ll eventually become his captives again [Romans 8:11, 1 Peter 5:8]. However, the alternative is to choose to come under the King who roundly defeated our former captor and set us free. Astonishingly, God is offering us, who were once His enemies and hopeless slaves, an opportunity to reign with His Son in His kingdom as co-heirs – members of His household, akin to what happened to Joseph, but immensely better [Genesis 41:37-44, Romans 8:17, Ephesians 2:19].

As I reflected on the meaning of surrender, I realised that surrender in the Scripture means submitting to be led by One infinitely wiser and more powerful than I am so that I can reign with Him to accomplish far more than I could on my own [Romans 8:14, 1 Corinthians 3:9]. Essentially, I could hustle on the streets until I fall prey to my adversary or reign in the palace, utterly out of Satan’s reach, sat in Christ [Romans 5:17, Ephesians 2:6]. It’s a no-brainer from my perspective. Who doesn’t want an easy life [Matthew 11:28-30]?

I believe our aversion to submitting to the Lordship of Jesus betrays our ignorance of what He’s offering and our alternatives. It also implies we don’t trust Him or understand His extraordinary benevolence. The solution is simple: Allow God’s word to change your paradigms, and you’ll see God’s love for you and His astonishing goodness [Romans 12:2]. And guess what? We’re free to do that now because our eyes are no longer veiled to the truth once we’re set free [2 Corinthians 4:3-4]. As one of those messengers sent to tell others about Jesus, I must ask: “Have you surrendered your life to Christ?” [Romans 10:5-14]. 

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