I know it isn’t part of our culture anymore, but many are old enough to remember the full-service gas station in small towns across our nation. With service that is foreign to our modern experience, attendants would not only put gas in your car, but also wash your windows, check your tires, and add water to your radiator while you remained comfortably seated behind the wheel.
Now, imagine businesses like these still existed, and one day while driving you notice that your oil light begins to blink. After you pull into the closest station, they quickly top off your gas tank, wash your windows, and put air in one tire. Soon, you drive away thankful for the tremendous service, but you quickly notice that the oil light is still flashing. Though the assistance you received was not unimportant, you realize the workers provided everything except the one thing you needed most.
I fear that many Christian attempt to walk with the Lord in the same way. We attend church fairly regularly; we read our Bibles each week; and we offer up prayers on good days and bad days. Yet, these commendable acts notwithstanding, we fail to offer God the one thing He desires from us more than anything else. What is it? In a word — SURRENDER.
Calling for the totality of who we are, the Apostle Paul instructs us to present our bodies as sacrifices to the Lord (Rom. 12:1). This is nothing short of volitional, emotional, spiritual, and physical submission to our Savior. The idea is that our minds, bodies, hearts, and wills belong to God. Admittedly, though, we do not usually perceive notions of losing control positively. Thoughts of surrender conjure up images of missing out, excessive commitment, or painful sacrifice.
Yet, for the Christian, surrender represents God’s single greatest expectation. It is equal to putting your YES on the table. It is learning to yield to the Lord in every circumstance. It is laying your life down so that God can pick it up. Rather than negative necessities, we should view the losing of our lives as the doorway to God’s greatest blessings (Matt. 10:39). In other words, God demands your surrender not because of His desire to take from you, but because of His ambition to give to you.
So where do we begin? What are the prerequisites of a heart fully surrendered to the Lord? First, you will need a good memory. Before his call to become living sacrifices, Paul urges us in light of the mercies of God (Rom. 12:1a). This singular theme remains in the background of the entire book of Romans. Grace, by definition, is when God freely gives us what we do not deserve. Mercy, however, is when God does not give us what we do deserve. Despite our deserving death, hell, and judgment, through His Son, God the Father shows us incredible mercy by withholding His wrath. If you want to become a living sacrifice, don’t ever forget God’s mercy.
Second, you will need a godly ambition. Three adjectives describe the kind of sacrifice God treasures as we give ourselves to Him (Rom. 12:1b). As a holy sacrifice, we are to be set aside for the Lord. As an acceptable sacrifice, we seek to live in order to please the Lord. And as living sacrifices we pursue obedience to God’s commands by taking up our cross and following Him. All of these images are meant to hearken back to the Old Testament sacrificial system. After a priest carried an animal to the altar, he killed it, poured its blood over the fire, and then burned its carcass in the flames. Because Jesus already died on the cross for our sins, our assignment is to sacrifice in order to live for the One who willingly died for us. He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf (2 Cor. 5:15).
Finally, you will need a grateful response. The Bible describes our surrender to Christ as our spiritual service of worship (Rom. 12:1c). Total commitment is the reasonable, logical response when you realize how much Christ has done for you. Gratitude necessitates surrender in the same way that life requires breathing. Don’t make the mistake of being busy for God without being fully surrendered to God.
Deep down, if you wonder whether this is the best way to live your life, consider the promise of Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” God wants to bless you in ways you can’t imagine. He wants to know you and walk with you. He wants to build His kingdom through you. If you can trust Him to save your soul, you can trust Him to enrich your life. —Adam B. Dooley is pastor of Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson and author of Hope When Life Unravels. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBDooley.