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Ever notice that surrendering to the Lord is a slow process? It usually begins with an admission that He is God, and you are not, something fairly obvious to the casual observer but many times there is a long winding road of denial and resistance before this truth finally breaks through our calloused hearts to establish itself firmly as the go point for having an accurate estimation of ourselves and God.

Not that we don't make a pretense of believing with shows of religious activity and lip service to acknowledge God as Creator or as the object of spiritual musings. We do this because not believing is more difficult than simply acknowledging His reality, thus leaving the heavy lifting of atheism for stronger souls who like to be defined by what they don't believe. Simply believing, however, is not the same as surrendering because when one surrenders to God, he is no longer who he was.

Believing in God may bring changes to one's lifestyle and thought process, but surrendering to God changes a person's soul. This is why the process is so slow.

Giving up bad habits, changing opinions, practicing religious rituals are all external things done in response to one's understanding concerning the demands of their religion. Surrender, on the other hand, brings about a change in who we are and how we identify ourselves.

It is no wonder then that Peter, Paul and other inspired writers of the New Testament referred to themselves as slaves or bondservants of the Lord (Romans 1:1). This was not done out of false modesty. Theirs was an acknowledgment of the surrender that they had experienced because of their proximity to the living God made flesh in Jesus Christ! It is comforting for us to witness their sluggish and, at times, grudging submission to God in the face of the overwhelming proof of Christ's divinity because this helps us have some perspective and patience with our own slowness in finally giving up self in surrender to God.

We, as believers, are often called upon to imitate Jesus, and this exhortation is usually carried out with an effort at improving our morals. It is seen as a call to sin less rather than to surrender more, and in so doing we fail at both. The whole point of Jesus' incarnation and sinless life was to atone for our sinfulness. Once we have been justified by faith (expressed in repentance and baptism) why do we continue to pursue this justification by renewed attempts at less sin? After all, was this not the reason Jesus had to come, because we could not sin less?

Better an exhortation for greater piety than less sin because in attempting to care more about God and the things of God, which is the definition of piety, we are at least relating to God directly rather than having self as the starting point in an effort to sin less (i.e. I want to sin less). And all done in a futile attempt to improve our moral standing before God. Not that doing away with sinfulness is a bad thing, it's just that making this a goal negates any fruitfulness that the exercise might produce. Reducing sin as a means, however, is a productive strategy in the surrendering of my soul to God because in doing so I am restoring the Edenic vision given to man before sin came into the world, a vision that allowed Adam to walk with God because he could see God and take in His majesty.

Therein lies the reason for the slowness in our surrender to God, the blindness caused by sin.

If I could but see Him in His Glory I would surrender to Him immediately and naturally because of the joy I would have in knowing and seeing that which is thankfully and mercifully greater than I am. In other words, knowing that I am not God becomes a source of joy and eternal gratitude that would have the power to instantly dissipate all sin in me and free me from the bondage of pride that began when Lucifer first lifted up his heart before God, and has continued as every man, blinded by sin, refused to give to God what He was due...complete surrender. In alluding to this fact Paul proclaims that at His coming,

...every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.
- Philippians 2:10-11

The Spirit promises that eventually everyone will surrender, whether they want to or not.

Thankfully, God is patient with us about our slowness. Since He is outside of time our slowness does not provoke Him as it does those who desire to bring their complete lives to Him as a living sacrifice. In the end, for those in the slow process of surrendering, there is the constant cycle of knowing the momentary joy of being firmly held in His eternal grasp followed by the familiar burden of being in the flesh. Only those surrendering know the wretched feeling Paul describes as his "body of sin" in Romans 7:24. The fatigue caused by the pull and push of the internal battle where the enemy doesn't want to quit the spiritual fight already won by Christ in us. A war of attrition where the outcome is decided but the damage continues to be inflicted simply for evil's sake.

The comfort of the surrendered soul is that once decided, the slowness no longer works against him as it did when resisting the Spirit. Now the slowness of the process leading to complete surrender provides an opportunity to glorify God because it is no longer I who lives (within this slow to surrender and sinful body) it is Christ, and He not only lives in me but will also finish the work of surrender that He began in me when I finally acknowledged the blessed fact that He was God, and not I (Galatians 2:21).

Discussion Questions

  1. What would be the first step that you would have to take in order to completely surrender to God?
  2. Describe one tactic that your own flesh uses in resisting the Holy Spirit's influence in your life. Why does this one tactic work so well?
  3. Who is the most surrendered person you know? Explain why you believe this about that person.
  4. Read and discuss Romans 12:1-2 in light of personal surrender to God. What is Paul referring to when he says, "...your spiritual service of worship?"
  5. What is the most significant change that has taken place in your life since you've been baptized? What change do you desire but still await.

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Dr. Stafford North
Professor of Bible
Oklahoma Christian University