Mary E. Stephens
4:17 They zealously affect you, but not well; yea,
"Surrender" is a word that we hear repeatedly among certain Christians. It is used in various hymns. It is commonly talked of as a "special, set apart" sort of thing. Several years ago, after a friend suggested I needed to "surrender" I decided to look it up in my concordance and see what the word of God had to say about it. It is interesting to realize that the word does not even appear in the King James Bible - not in any form, not in any context! It is not even used in the military sense.
So, how did it get such a preeminent place in Christian thinking and speech? The concept has been in Christendom for decades at least, possibly centuries, so it would be difficult to pinpoint where it first entered. However, a study of the subject from a biblical perspective should be beneficial.
Samuel Johnson defines "Surrender" as - 1) To yield up; to deliver up...To deliver up an enemy...2) To yield; to give one's self up...
That is not a bad definition. It would seem to our human minds that that is a good thing for us to do. But, God did not use it.
You see, the concept of surrender, especially as it has been taught and practiced for the last 50 to 100 years, has the thought of struggling against God, and finally giving up to Him. Hence, "I surrendered to preach" usually implies that he fought with God and lost. "I surrendered to wear dresses" implies she struggled and struggled and finally gave up and did what God "wanted." The fight and the fighter too often become the object in these battles instead of the Lord.
But, God is not fighting against us. He is fighting for us. Romans 8:31-34 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. How, then, can we fight against God? Yes, it is possible to resist His will, but that does not mean we are at war against God. What a silly thought when you stop to think about it. Who could fight against God? The religious, unsaved Jews thought they could in Acts 5:39 and 23:9, but they could not claim this promise since they were not saved through faith in Jesus Christ; therefore their reasoning was faulty.
A Sacrificial Life
Now, "sacrifice" is a good word that God used. It is not mentioned in the N. T. very often in the context which we are discussing, so it would seem wise not to overemphasize it either. Mostly in God's word it refers to Old Testament sacrifices. It is also used in reference to Christ's death for us. Since there are not many mentions in our context, we will go through them in order as they appear in scripture.
Johnson's Dictionary defines "sacrifice" as - 1) To offer to Heaven; to immolate as an atonement or propitiation...To destroy or give up for the sake of something else...To devote with loss... [Note: Atonement and propitiation were accomplished for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. This is not something we do.]
Hence, a "sacrificial life" would be one offered up to God; one in which self is denied or crucified that a better life might be made evident. Ever hear of that before? Luke 9:23-24 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.
After the four gospels, the first place in the N.T. that "sacrifice" shows up in our context is Romans 12.
Romans 12:1 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.
Paul is speaking here in the first person addressing the saints at Rome. First notice that he beseeches. He does not demand nor commande. This is a voluntary thing. The Lord wants a willing sacrifice. Which reminds us that ...God loveth a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
Secondly, notice that we are asked to present our bodies - not our minds, souls, wallets, etc. The sacrifice then relates directly to the fleshly tabernacle in which we live. (We will see this thought again later, so don't lose it.) Our minds are to be transformed, not sacrificed. God does not ask us to stop thinking when we sacrifice our bodies to Him!
Thirdly, note that it is a living sacrifice, not a dead one. We have a live body which eats, sleeps, walks, works, rests, talks, fellowships, testifies of the gospel, marries, bears and raises children, cleans house, fixes the car, goes on vacation, etc. A body that is a living sacrifice will glorify God in all areas of life. Therefore, all should be done to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
A sacrificial life is a growing life. It finds more sacrifices to make as it goes along. The concept of "surrender" can tempt people to think that once they are "surrendered" they have "arrived." Deeper life people would then correct this by saying "full surrender" was necessary. But, where do we draw the line? Where do we become "surrendered"? When are we "fully surrendered"? -- At the "altar" of a church building? At some personal crisis? After some "mountain top experience" or "valley of affliction"? Hmmm. Worse yet, what if someone else is drawing the lines for us, telling us, either outright or by implication, that we aren't "surrendered" till we do this or that? (usually meaning conform to their ideas, not to Christ, Rom. 8:29.)
Biblical sacrifice does not need lines. It does not keep the person in constant bondage and fear of what will be required tomorrow, what "I should be doing" better, or what someone else will think. It takes up the cross daily, and bears it with Jesus Christ, knowing that the sacrifice of today is sufficient. Matthew 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. If others don't understand the sacrifice the Lord requires of us, or they judge us because they cannot see what we are doing or why, the sacrificial life doesn't worry about it. Our Lord was often misunderstood too, at times by those closest to Him. It is part of the cross He calls us to bear.
Referring back to Romans 12:1 - Notice that the sacrifice is to be holy. 1 Peter 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. We cannot be as holy as God. Thank Him for not telling us we must. But, if He had said, "Be ye half as holy as I am holy" that would have left the honest confused and the dishonest with a loop hole to get out of striving for holiness.
There are sacrifices made that are unholy. One way we can do this is by making sacrifices that are contrary to scripture. Here are a few examples, though there are many more - missionaries leaving their (school age) children in the home country while they go to the field; evangelists leaving their wife and kids behind while they travel; not providing for one's own family in order to give "at church"; disregarding one's husband to "serve" the pastor or his wife in their projects (or husbands abandoning their families to do the same), etc. These sacrifices are not in keeping with God's holiness for they directly contradict His revealed will in scripture.
The attitude or reason for a sacrifice may also render it unholy in God's sight. Proverbs 21:27 The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind? This is an O.T. sacrifice in the context, but the principle of the thing holds true. People will sacrifice to get a pastor or his wife off their back, to please their youth leader, to appear spiritual, or to try to buy off God or man. Interestingly, people will "surrender" for many of the same reasons. Some will sacrifice to the Lord knowing full well that they are regarding iniquity in their hearts. This can happen with "surrender" too. Psalm 66:18 If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:
People will also sacrifice to impress others. Many sacrifices are probably ruined for this reason.
Acts 4:34-37 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
When Ananias and Sapphira saw this, they wanted in on the glory, but they did not want to give the whole price of their land. It was not a sin to keep some back. The sin was that they lied about it to the Holy Ghost and thought they could buy favor with God and man. The Holy Spirit established the new, higher standard they were living under by killing them both. Under Pharisaical law they would have gotten away with this from a human standpoint, but things had changed now. They were dealing directly with God and had lied directly to Him.
God knows the motives for sacrifice. We do not always.
Also notice that the sacrifice in Rom. 12:1 is to be acceptable. Thank God for that word! It does not have to be just like someone else's. It doesn't have to be expensive or great. It doesn't even have to be noticed by others. And, God does not ask us to sacrifice what we do not have or cannot give. In speaking of giving, Paul wrote through the Holy Spirit to the church at Corinth, For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. 2 Corinthians 8:12 (Exit: "Faith Promise")
In the O.T. law they were supposed to offer a lamb for certain offerings, but if they were not able to get that because they were poor, they were allowed to offer two turtledoves or two pigeons. See Leviticus 5 and 14. This was an acceptable sacrifice to God. Maybe it was not as big or impressive as someone else's sacrifice, but it was acceptable.
Now man will ask us to give what we don't have or should not give, and he will ask us to give in comparison with others. I remember hearing about a pastor in Michigan who was like the horse leach with two daughters crying, "Give, give" (Prv. 30:15). He demanded people give for his projects, etc. One man gave so much he could not afford school books for home schooling his children. He was quite literally taking what was rightfully his children's and giving it "to God" at the suggestion of the pastor. Instead of rebuking the man for neglecting the needs of his children and giving the money back, the pastor asked the people in the church to pray and give to help the man out. Thus he added insult to injury. This is very reminiscent of the Pharisees of whom Jesus said, For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition. Matthew 15:4-6 [They were giving to God what should have gone to their parents.]
The Lord wants an acceptable sacrifice, not a spectacular one. An old lady sitting in a single-wide or a nursing home, who stays cheerful and prays faithfully for a long list of people may be offering a much more acceptable sacrifice than some Dr. Wonderful who can build a Sunday School from 3 to 3,000 in two weeks, three days and forty-five minutes. (One way to tell the difference - he will get up and boast at a preachers' meeting about how he did it and that "anyone can." She won't even mention what she does, or if she mentions it she will act like it's a reasonable service, not something to boast about.) Remember the widow's mite as compared to the gifts of the rich, Mark 12:41-44.
Psalm 37:16 A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked.
Last of all, in Romans 12:1 we see that this is a reasonable service. Look at Christ's sacrifice for us. This sacrifice that we are asked to live for Him is only reasonable compared to that! Revelation 5:9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
Biblical sacrifice says, "This is a reasonable service to God. He has shown me great mercy through Jesus Christ, and the Lord Jesus Christ is worthy of this."
Surrender too often implies a struggle against God. Sacrifice often requires a struggle against self. Sacrifice is made for an object loved. Too often surrender is done to make self feel "right" or to make a show before men. ("Going forward" at an invitation. Intimidation from man when asked, "Are you surrendered?") Surrender often feeds the ego, while sacrifice denies itself.
Some will doubtless insist that surrender is a struggle against self and yielding to God, and perhaps for some it is. But too often it has ...a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh. Colossians 2:23 But, going to the altar to prove you are "surrendered" is often cheap. It too often has more of the rudiments of the world and the traditions of man about it, which generate men's approval and praise. A living sacrifice - daily taking up the cross - really costs something. Often the price is not seen or fully appreciated by others, so the flesh does not like it. We want notice and approval here and now. We want a pat on the back and to hear someone say, "You're really doing well."
Why must so many "surrender" to preach or to be a missionary, or to be a preacher's or missionary's wife? Too often a great struggle is admitted to, or even boasted of. This glorifies the flesh. "I fought and fought and finally I surrendered" implies that God "really wanted" me. It makes me seem more valuable to God in my own eyes and those of others. Thus it gives me an elevated position in the Lord's church. It makes a "them " and "us" mentality, which is neither helpful nor biblical (1 Cor. 1:10, Php. 2:2).
A sacrificial life would not boast of such things. All the glory would be left where it belongs - with God. It is not even so bold as to say, "I am surrendered." True sacrificial living knows it never "arrives," and tomorrow and the next day will hold their own opportunities of sacrifice.
In fact, if you have to fight and wrestle so much to "surrender," maybe it isn't even God's will. More than one man has "surrendered" to some ministry or "calling" and never done it. Those who know of it will remember that and hold him guilty for not accomplishing that thing, so he seems a second rate Christian the rest of his life. On the other hand, some men have packed up their family and gone off to do what they "surrendered" for only to find out they were not fit for the work or they end up doing something else. This can make them feel they somehow failed God. But, were they actually supposed to "surrender" for that work in the first place? Or were their emotions so harrowed up and worked upon that they convinced themselves of that? I don't have an answer because that is something that each person has to answer for himself before God. But, what if we all just took up our cross daily and followed Jesus? Do you think that He would be able to lead us much more directly to the work He wants us to do?
Women can have various problems with "surrendering" as well. Complications may arise when they surrender to some particular "ministry." Some young women refuse to marry anyone who isn't a missionary or pastor because they "surrendered" to be a missionary's wife or pastor's wife. A friend of mine once pointed out that it isn't even in scripture. So, why do we do it or commend it?
The whole "surrendering" idea can be hard on a marriages as well. If a woman surrendered to be a pastor's wife or missionary's wife, she may nag her to surrender too so she can be "right with God." A wife may also make her husband miserable nagging him to do what he "surrendered" for, or just nagging him to surrender. Sometimes a woman's husband has to follow her around the mission field so she can do her "God-given" work, while his is made of secondary importance. This can be really hard on a man and his God-given role of leadership. A husband may also make life very hard for his wife through his zeal for something he "surrendered" to do.
Men and women regularly mistake their own will, man's will, and man's traditions for the will of God. Because they want to do a thing, they think that must automatically be their calling. This is just not true. Because some person they admire did a certain ministry, they may assume that they should do the same thing. "Surrendering" for these things can become a sort of fast lane to convincing everyone else that this is truly God's will for them.
We can confuse a willing spirit with the will of God - "I'm willing to do this, so it must be God's will that I do it" - which does not necessarily follow. More than once I have been willing to do a thing but the Lord closed the door and told me to be still. It doesn't feel very good to be willing, and possibly even express willingness to others, and then have God tell you, "I don't want you to do that." We may feel disappointed, even embarrassed if we told others. Making it a point of public display as "surrendering" to God to do this or that, and then having Him stop us only complicates that matter. The truth is that God always calls us to things where we have to take up the daily cross and follow Jesus. Being willing to do a thing doesn't mean it isn't God's will, but it doesn't prove it is, either.
It is sadly common in various circles for those in authority positions to pressure others to "surrender" to this or that calling. Traditions of man can enter into this when it is presented as if every young man or woman should be "surrendered" to some specific thing - preach, motherhood, etc. This is likely the origin of the phenomenon in some circles for every boy to be "called to preach." It becomes some kind of badge of approval that is boasted of throughout life, whether the man ever does preach or not, as my family discovered when we lived in Tennessee. In these circles you can even hear fathers talking with each other in a competitive manner about how and when their sons were "called to preach." Sometimes a long self-important "testimony" will be given by a man about how he struggled and fought before he "surrendered" to the "call to preach."
2 Corinthians 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
You see, being "surrendered" breeds elite attitudes - or as the Lord calls it, the deeds of the Nicolaitans (Nico - above, laity - the people). Those who are "surrendered" are set above the people who are not, by man's definition. Even those who may be a mess still in areas, because they have "surrendered" are deemed better Christians, or perhaps we should say more promising Christians, than those who just go on and serve God daily however He leads them, but never "go forward" or "surrender." Some pastors even refuse to let anyone work in the church who is not "surrendered" as they define it. Jesus Christ said to the church at Ephesus, But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Revelation 2:6 The Lord hates it when some people are lifted up above others in His church. That is a strong word, friends!
Remember what John wrote of Diotrephes, 3 John 1:9-11 I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church. Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. He was a Nicolaitan. Though people who are not "surrendered" are not always cast out of the church, they are are looked down upon until they comply and sometimes are even encouraged to leave.
In Luke 19:12-27 is the parable of the lord who delivered the pounds to his servants and then came back later to require of them what they did with the trust. We find from this that if someone is using the talents - or pounds - that God gave them and occupying till He come, they are acceptable to God. It is not for us to worry that they are "not surrendered" according to man's requirements, or that "they could be doing so much more." It is the ones who are doing nothing with what God gave them that need help.
In the parable of the sower (Mt. 13:3-23) the Lord does not judge those who bring forth thirtyfold because they didn't bring forth sixty or a hundred. Bringing forth less fruit is not condemned. It is the fruitless that are the problem. Remember ...it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not. 2 Corinthians 8:12 And again, 1 Corinthains 12:11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. It is God who divides the gifts and abilities according to His will, not ours.
The "surrendered" mentality, as it lifts itself up and scrutinizes others, often tries to determine what and how much others should be doing "for God." That is God's business. Romans 14:12 So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Where He is not concerned, we have no right to be! Faithfulness is what He requires. 1 Corinthians 4:2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.
As Dear Children...
Ephesians 5:1-2 Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
Here is the second mention of sacrifice in our context.
Our example of sacrifice for love's sake is Christ Jesus. Dear children have no trouble sacrificing for the sake of the one they love. When children are not dear and don't know how to love they are just selfish, we've all seen that or experienced personally in our own childhoods.
A love attitude toward our fellow saints will be a sacrificial attitude. It is so uncomplicated compared to "surrender."
Quite a few years ago a small boy was visiting in our home. My dad gave him a small (snack size) candy bar while he was there. He decided to take it home to share with his rather large family. He could have eaten the whole thing while he was at our house, but he thought it reasonable to take the tiny thing home to share among those he most dearly loved. They had not always been "nice" to him. They had normal scraps and disagreements as all kids do. But, they were his family and he loved them and would sacrifice his pleasure for them. In fact, it was his pleasure to sacrifice for them!
We thought it rather strange at the time as I recall, but that did not bother him one bit. He understood what he was doing and why, and that was enough for him. There was no gut wrenching struggle. No altar call. No "surrendering" after a prolonged battle. As a dear child he simply gave.
How much more should we have this attitude for our Lord and His church! Can you see how simple this kind of sacrifice makes things? For dear children it comes much easier than for complicated adults, which is why God told us to follow Him thus.
Philippians 2:3-8 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Also note that Jesus' sacrifice, like ours, was to God. He loved us, but His sacrifice was to God.
Service and Faith
Philippians 2:17 Yea,
and if I be offered upon the sacrifice
I do not fully understand this verse, but notice how sacrifice and service go together again (Rom. 12:1). And, it is of their faith, ...for whatsoever is not of faith is sin. Romans 14:23 We sacrifice according to the measure of faith, which is not the same for everyone. If others judge us in this our answer to them should be Romans 14:12.
Acceptable and Wellpleasing to God
Philippians 4:18 But I have
all, and abound: I am full,
Here is an example of a sacrifice that was acceptable and wellpleasing to God. The church at Philipi sent "things" (not just money) to Paul to help him in his work. Helping the saints is one way to sacrifice.
My grandparents were missionaries in Africa for some years. On one furlough, they were visiting a certain farmer who supported them. He was driving an old, run down car. My dad was a kid, but was old enough to notice that these folks did not have a very "up to date" vehicle. He mentioned the state of their car to my Grandpa, who told him that that man drove that old car so that he could continue to support their family in the Lord's work. My dad almost cried when he realized the sacrifice that man was making to God for them. (Note - That man's wife was a participant in the sacrifice. Had she been nagging for a "nicer" car all that time, things might have been quite different. She also received a reward for her participation in the sacrifice.)
True sacrifice always blesses the saints who know of it, even as Paul was blessed by the gifts from Philipi. A "surrendered" life is not always a blessing to others. "Surrendered" people have and can make themselves very obnoxious at times, thinking it their "Christian duty" to provoke others to "surrender" instead of to love and to good works (Heb. 10:24). They may convince themselves and others that they must do thus and so because they "surrendered" to do that, even if it is obviously not God's will and causes unnecessary difficulties.
Sacrifice can also lend itself to these abuses. Before China fell to the Communists, there was a Lisu tribesman who was compelled by the missionaries to go out and preach in various places during the rainy season. His mind was not at all to do this, but they shamed him into surrendering to their will. He died on that trip. The missionaries then lifted him up as a hero who made a great "sacrifice for the Lord." It was really for man, not God, and they may be surprised at the judgment seat of Christ to give account for his death and for the suffering they caused his family. It was acceptable to man, but was it to God?
Some sacrifices man approves are not required by God. Colossains 2:20-23 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
Man's demands may have a show of wisdom in surrendering the will, denying the flesh and even humility, but that does not prove it is God's will! Man looketh on the outward appearance (1 Sam. 16:7), so appearances are very important to man. Appearing to be "surrendered" can become very important. Some may be sincere, but their true thoughts are shown when they still judge others based upon appearances. They try to convince others to conform to their idea of "surrendered" instead of being transformed by the renewing of the mind (Rom. 12:2). God looketh on the heart and knows what is under the appearances - good or bad.
Sacrifice can be misused. But, it is the Biblical standard, and only God can tell the truly sacrificial life, which is holy and acceptable to Him, from the "surrendered" life that is a vain show or dictated by the traditions of man (Mark 7:13)
Outside the Camp
13:12-16 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people
Christ's sacrifice was "without the camp." It is ironic that everyone is of some "camp" or another, and some will even use that word. Those who wish to live a sacrifice find more and more that they must go outside these camps to do so. In the camps we are required to "surrender" according to men's standards, ordinances or traditions.
A sacrificial life considers it reasonable to bear His reproach outside the camp. Hudson Taylor was cast out as ridiculous and disgusting by other missionaries because he insisted upon wearing Chinese clothes and a queu. He was making this sacrifice for Christ that he might reach the Chinese with greater ease. As it turned out, he could also move around the country without attracting so much attention. He felt it was the only reasonable thing to do, and it directly benefited his service.
But, notice the sacrifices we are to offer according to this passage, when we arrive outside the camp:
Praise to God - the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name continually - is a well pleasing sacrifice to God! Many would say, "That is no sacrifice. We should do that anyway! It's our duty and brings no reward." Well, God calls it a sacrifice. It is a reasonable service considering all He has done for us. But, it also sets us apart, without the camp, for unregenerate man has less and less desire to thank God (2 Tim. 3:2). [Perhaps this is one reason why hymns exalting God without reference to "me" are used less and less in many church meetings.]
Doing good and communicating are also sacrifices that please God. They are not just "duties," they are sacrifices. Listen, the Lord knows that we are giving up something of ourselves when we make time to communicate and do good. ...he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust, Psalm 103:14. He knows how hard it is on us to be conformed to image of His Son in these fleshly bodies.
Some might think these sacrifices don't cost enough. They probably spell "cost" c-a-s-h. Someone would undoubtedly want to interpret "communicate" simply as "giving." Samuel Johnson defines it - "To impart to others what is in our own power to bestow...To reveal...To participate..." Thus, it may be anything from giving (money or other things) to speaking often to one another of the Lord, Mal. 3:16.
People also can get the idea that if it doesn't hurt, somehow it isn't a sacrifice. Joyful sacrifice just doesn't seem right to them. Some sacrifices are painful in some way, but to assume that all must "hurt enough" or they don't count is Catholic or monastic. A reasonable service may not seem a terrible cost. After all it is reasonable. Jesus Christ endured the cross, despising the shame, for the joy that was set before Him (Heb. 12:2). True holy sacrifice should then focus on the joy before. "Surrender" often focuses on the struggle to give up, self, and what it costs me. That is to say, "I surrender all" as opposed to "Thou art worthy, O Lord" (Rev. 4:11).
By their traditions, some imply that only "spiritual" good works are rewarded and acceptable. They make of none effect the sacrifices that God says are pleasing unto Him by their "traditional" ones - tithing, visitation, soul winning, driving a church bus, visiting a nursing home, working in the "children's ministry," Faith Promise, singing in the choir, being a preacher or missionary, etc. Some of these things may not be bad in themselves, but they are set up as requirements for the "surrendered life," and thus they make the other sacrifices of none effect. The Lord does not qualify nor deeply interpret what He means by doing good, communicating and giving praise unto His name. He just tells us these are sacrifices and they please Him well.
A Priestly Work
1 Peter 2:5 Ye also, as lively
stones, are built up a spiritual
We are an holy priesthood. This is all saints, not just "the men of God," preachers, and other assorted Nicolaitans. Every believer has the privilege of offering spiritual sacrifices. Thanksgiving, doing good, and communicating are sacrifices every saint is capable of offering. Not even the newest or feeblest member of God's family is excluded! What wonderful kindness that the heavenly Father should arrange things this way! Truly He is to be praised! "Deeper life" people could probably invent a whole list of "spiritual sacrifices" we "must" do to be "fully surrendered," but it is always safer to stick with God's plan when it is clearly revealed in scripture.
Notice our spiritual sacrifices are acceptable again. What a world of difference a few little words make. We are not required to make perfect sacrifices. We are not required to "fully surrender" in order to present acceptable sacrifices to God. We are not required to get man's approval for our sacrifices.
It is easy, and cheap, for people to think, "They could do more for the Lord than that. They aren't giving enough. They aren't surrendered or they would _____________________ ." (You fill in the blank - be at every service, sing for a church service, volunteer for nursery or VBS, wear better clothes, go to Bible college, cut his hair, come out for visitation, etc. ad nauseum. [Note that these are all outward appearances.])
But, notice what the verse says - our sacrifices are acceptable to God by Jesus Christ! We don't have to be "worthy" to offer an acceptable sacrifice. Do you realize what liberty that offers? You don't have to be "surrendered" or "fully surrendered" to offer a sacrifice that is well pleasing and acceptable to God! Jesus Christ, our High Priest, makes it acceptable!
This is not to say we should be content to live in sin. We should not. But, we are not limited to offer sacrifices to God only when we are "surrendered." A newly born again Christian with little knowledge or growth can offer a sacrifice as pleasing and acceptable to God as an aged and wise saint! A weak and struggling Christian has the same Saviour to make his or her sacrifices acceptable! What a wonderful thought! And it's all because of Christ.
1 Corinthians 4:6-7 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another. For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?
Everything we have, we received from and through Christ Jesus. The fat woman, the cussing man, the fellow who takes a sip of booze now and then, the smokers, the lady in pants, the boy with an earring - if they are in Christ, they can offer a sacrifice that is acceptable to God! They can praise Him, they can do good, they can communicate. Oh how the self-righteous flesh cringes at such a thought! But, oh how this glorifies God! For it has pleased Him, for the glory of His Son, to make it possible for every saint - every priest - to offer acceptable sacrifices through Jesus! Praise His Holy Name!
As joint-heirs with God's Son (Rom. 8:17), He accepts the sacrifice, no matter how insignificant it may appear to man, and no matter how "unworthy" the giver, because the worthiness is in His Son. There are people who are judged by others as "not surrendered" because they do or don't do certain things. But, God has not limited them from offering spiritual sacrifices by Jesus Christ. Friend, this is a solemn and humbling thing, for who among us could be worthy to offer an acceptable sacrifice to God Almighty?
In light of that, the "surrendered" mentality shows its true, arrogant colors. The puffed up, self-righteousness of it begins to show for what it really is. Man wants to compare himself with others and say, "I'm better than that person so I'm serving God better than they are." Or perhaps, "I'm worse than that person so I can't serve God." ...but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. 2 Corinthians 10:12.
It is not a matter of worthiness or being surrendered. It is a matter of coming through Jesus Christ to offer the sacrifice. This gives all saints an equal footing, which maddens yet condemns those who measure by appearances, comparisons, and experience. Pharisees need to look better than someone. They are altogether faulty and vain. Psalm 39:5 ...verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity. Selah. Those who humble themselves and draw nigh to God with their sacrifices in Jesus Christ don't need to compare. Do you know why? Because when you draw nigh to God, He draws nigh to you and.....well, that is enough, isn't it? What more could you ask? James 4:8 Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you...
Abel didn't have to justify himself or declare himself "surrendered." Cain knew that his sacrifice was not acceptable. Hebrews 11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. Through the Lord Jesus Christ, we can offer a more excellent sacrifice than "being surrendered." Because of the righteousness that is imputed to us by faith in Him, we can offer spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God.
A Few Last Thoughts
Some would say "surrender" is the same as "sacrifice." In all fairness, it may be in some people's thinking. But, more commonly surrender is largely based on man's traditions. Certainly sacrifice is not free from this, but as we have seen, it is the biblical model.
"Surrender" tends much toward pleasing man and meeting his requirements. Man's traditions define it to a large extent. Some people cannot even comprehend how a man or lady, could be "truly surrendered" and NOT be helping in AWANA, the youth ministry, the nursery, the choir, the maintenance staff, the Christian school, the "bus ministry," "mother's day out," the Christian preschool, the Family Life Center, or any number of other extra biblical activities that church people think necessary today. How could a young person really have a heart toward God and NOT go on missions trips, participate in "youth activities," be a camp councilor or go to camp, visit the nursing home, go to Bible college, etc.?
Man's tradition says that if you are surrendered you will be "at services" at least 3 times a week. You will have paper membership in a local church. You will be baptized by immersion in a Baptist or Pentecostal church, or by sprinkling in a Reformed church. You will know the catechism. You will go to "such and such" college (you fill it in from your experience). You will tithe and give at your local church (only). If you are really surrendered you will "be there every time the doors are open." You will give "sacrificially." You will "go forward at the invitation" to "pray at the altar" at least several times a year. (Except in a few truly exceptional cases who are SO surrendered that they never "need to get right." Ahem.) You will read your Bible every day - preferably very early in the morning. You will pray daily for everyone in the church and ALL the missionaries the church supports (all 275 of them) - by name and specific need. You will read devotional books or listen to sermons constantly. You will pursue the "deeper life" (another non-biblical expression). You will be "more spiritual" than other people.
Can you see how much of "being surrendered" is done by pleasing man, and must be proven to him (or her) by outward appearances?
Yet while we see all this frantic outward activity to prove one is "surrendered," notice that surrender itself is passive. It is "To yield up; to deliver up...to give one's self up..." In contrast sacrifice is active! It is "To offer to Heaven...To destroy or give up for the sake of something else...To devote with loss..." The sacrifice that pleases God is a living sacrifice - it is alive and well. It is not laying at some altar crying, "Oh to be nothing, nothing; Only to lay at His feet; A broken and empty vessel, for the Master's use made meet."
The Lord is not seeking broken vessels cast at His feet - ones that have "given up." He wants those who are vessels to dishonor to become vessels to honor through an active choice of the will. He wants those who will offer themselves up to heaven - to Him. These are meet for the Master's use! 2 Timothy 2:20-21 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.
A sacrifice brought with an wicked mind is not acceptable, Prv. 21:27. So surrendering to make a show of the flesh and gain man's approval for your appearance is nothing. Many surrender, not to please God but because it is expected of them. If they do not "go forward" or have some exciting struggle with God they feel deficient, and others may think them deficient also.
Cheerful sacrifice offers willingly. A living sacrifice lives its offering. Reasonable service does not need to have a "great struggle" and finally "give up" or "give in" to God. It is obedient, willing, and humble. It is acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
Psalm 34:1-5 I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed.
& graphics by Mary Stephens