Would You Give Up...?
We sometimes sing “I Surrender All,” but are we really willing to do that? If we came to understand that Jesus expected us to give up something very dear to us, would we do it? What would we do if He told us we had to completely abstain from college football? Would we be willing to turn in all of our school spirit shirts, caps, and other accessories? Stay away from news stories about the Tide, Tigers, Longhorns, Vols, Gators, Buckeyes, Bulldogs, etc.? Never again sit down on a Saturday to enjoy watching your team play? What if it weren’t football, but shopping at the mall or trips to the mountains? Vacations at Disney World? What if the Lord commanded you to give up your favorite food?
Could we, would we make that sacrifice? I think most of us would say that while it would be difficult we would do it. We would probably say that in comparison to what Jesus has done for us, how could we not do that for Him? We might throw in a couple of quotes from 1 John. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). We would explain that while at first it might seem like a great sacrifice, in light of the cross and the great reward that is promised it is not too much to ask of us.
If truly convinced that it was the Lord’s will, would we surrender all those things mentioned in the first paragraph? Would we not only respond with the positive answer of the previous paragraph, but would we turn to Mark 9 and explain that hell is such a horrible thing that we would do anything to avoid it? “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched….And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell….And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire—where ‘Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched’” (Mark 9:43-48).
Motivated by the Lord’s love for us and the fear of eternal torment we would give up anything, including our beloved football team, favorite food, favorite vacation destination, or any other interest. Or would we? You see, we are speaking here of hypothetical commandments, and when talking about something we know we will never have to actually deal with it is easy to tell ourselves that we would never repeat the mistake of that rich, young ruler who walked away sorrowful when Jesus pointed out the one thing he lacked (Mark 10:17-22). Though the things previously mentioned must be kept their proper place (Matthew 6:33; Hebrews 10:24, 25; et al), there is no requirement that they be given up. But what about commandments the Lord has given? What about sacrifices He does require? Are we really willing to surrender all?
When the marriage relationship seems too confining or goes through some difficult times, do we acknowledge that He forbids divorce except for the cause of sexual immorality (Matthew 19:3-9), or seek some escape clause? Do we surrender to His will or do what we want to do?
Is the love of Christ and the fear of torment what it ought to be when the fear of what others might say or do causes us to dress immodestly or do other things we know we shouldn’t? See Matthew 10:28, 32, 33 and Revelation 21:8.
He hasn’t commanded us to give up football or Disney, but He has commanded us to put away all bitterness, anger, evil speaking and such (Ephesians 4:31). Could it be that our determination to hold onto grudges, resentments, etc. tells God that we are not as determined to surrender all as we might like to think?
Paul wrote of giving up his own preferences for the sake of the gospel and the maximizing of his influence upon others (1 Corinthians 9:19-23), but do others regularly hear our pride telling them how things should be done? If we won’t give up our determination to have things done our way, we have yet to fully grasp either the compelling love of the cross or the severity of God.
Will we truly surrender all? Will we be genuine disciples who deny self, take up our cross, and follow Jesus (Luke 9:23)? The story of the cross and the horrible threat of eternal punishment should be sufficient motivation for us, so let’s look honestly at our lives and make certain there is not that one thing we still lack (Mark 10:21). Let’s make certain we do not have some corner of our life holding out in the battle and refusing to surrender to His will. Let’s truly surrender all to the One who gave His all for us.
John R. Gibson
All quotations from the New King James Version, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Copyright 1994.