Is It Possible to Make a Full Surrender to God?
I want to get into a simple question that was suggested by conversation we had today. The question is simply this: Is it possible to make a full surrender to God?
One of my favorite books on the Christian life, a book which I heartily recommend to you, was written by a man whom I greatly admire. His name was Dr. J. Edwin Orr, and he went to be with Jesus more than 25 years ago. It’s a wonderful book entitled “Full Surrender.” I think it’s worthy for you to pick up. It’s available as a Kindle book, or in print, on Amazon.
This book Full Surrender is great, but I know that there are some people who may object to that terminology. I kind of understand why they do. Frankly, it is impossible for anybody to make a full surrender to God. You could say that the only fully surrendered person to ever walk this earth was Jesus Christ. And friends, there’s some truth to that. There is always going to be something imperfect, something that falls short in our own surrender to God.
If by the term, “full surrender,” a person means an absolutely objective surrender to God, I think it’s obvious that no one can make an absolutely 100%, nothing-held-back-from-God commitment, because we’re imperfect human beings. We can’t do anything perfectly, much less surrender to God perfectly. However, I don’t think we have to assume that’s really what’s being talked about when we consider a full surrender.
Let me read you a verse which very well suggests the idea of this full surrender. You can find it in Romans 12:1, where Paul says, “I beseech you, therefore, my brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
I love this verse. I could preach on it for a long time. I love how Paul says, “I beseech you” — beseech means to beg — “I beg you, brethren.” This is something he can say to brethren. Paul couldn’t write this to people who are not in Jesus Christ yet, but to brethren, those who are converted and born again by God’s Spirit. He can say, “I beseech you, I beg you, brethren, my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, by the mercies of God.” This is something we can only do by God’s mercy, by His work in us, by the mercies that have already been so beautifully described throughout the book of Romans.
“I beseech you, therefore, my brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice.” Paul is using the imagery of the Old Testament sacrifice, where an animal would be brought to God’s altar. There at God’s altar, the animal would be offered. When they offered an animal to God, the entire animal was slain. Now, there were some offerings in which the entire animal was not burned on the altar before God, but the entire animal was involved in the offering one way or another. It’s not like the animal could just give its hoof, or just its horns, or just its tail. The animal was fully committed to the offering.
What we have here in Romans 12:1-2 really speaks of a full surrender, something completely given. This is the pattern that God speaks to us about how we should surrender our own lives to Him. Now, I don’t think that we have to press upon Paul’s meaning here, that it has to be a 100% perfect, not lacking in any way. The way I would describe a full surrender is surrendering everything to God that you’re aware of.
I know it’s true for me, and I’m going to suppose that it’s true for you as well: there are areas of my life right now that are not completely pleasing to God that I don’t even know about, of which I’m not even aware. It’s either through my thick-headedness, or maybe through my own lack of sanctification or dedication, or maybe my conscience is dead in some way. Whatever the reason, there are ways in which I fall short before God right now that I’m not even aware of.
Now, if I’m not even aware of an area, how could it properly be said that I surrender that area to God? You see what I’m talking about. So, in this sense, I think a full surrender isn’t some kind of esoteric, absolute surrender to God in all perfection. It is a surrender to God of everything I’m aware of, to the best of my ability, at the present moment. And I think this is a special point: it’s not consciously holding anything back from surrender to God.
I understand that there is something of an individual aspect to how the Holy Spirit works, but I’ll share with you how so often the Holy Spirit is working in my life. The Holy Spirit will highlight a particular area of my life that needs to be surrendered to God. At that moment, full surrender means surrendering that area that the Holy Spirit speaks me about at that moment. If I can just do that, in responsiveness to the Holy Spirit, even though I would not objectively say that I’ve made a full surrender to God in an absolute sense, I would say that I’m not consciously holding anything back from God. Especially where the Holy Spirit would put His finger at the moment, I’m truly giving that over to God. In that sense, I think it’s possible and desirable for us to live in a place of full surrender to God.
The idea that we can achieve absolute perfection in our Christian life is not going to happen. But in a very real sense we can say, “Lord, I’m going to yield to You. As Your Holy Spirit works in me, I’m going to continue to yield to You, and especially where Your Holy Spirit puts His finger on some particular area of my life, I am going to yield that to You.” That, in my understanding, is a great way to describe this simple idea of what full surrender is. In that sense, I think it’s possible, and I think it’s desirable for us to live in this place.
Now, the other thing we want to avoid is excessive introspection. It would be like taking my pulse spiritually every moment of the day, living our Christian life asking ourselves every five minutes, “Am I fully surrendered now?” That attitude displays a Christian life that has its focus upon self, not upon Jesus Christ. Putting my focus upon myself is a pretty depressing place to be. My focus should of course be not upon myself, but upon Jesus Christ Himself.
In this pursuit of what we might call a biblical idea of full surrender, we want to avoid the problem of excessive introspection. We also want to avoid the focus on comparison with others. If we’re constantly looking around for those Christians whom we would consider to be fully surrendered and those we would not, then friends, again, there’s something wrong. Do you see what’s wrong there? In the first situation I spoke to you about, our focus was wrong because our focus was on ourselves. In the second area that I’m speaking about, now, our focus is wrong is because our focus is on others. Our focus in the Christian life must not be fundamentally upon ourselves, nor should it be fundamentally upon others. First and foremost, it should be upon Jesus Christ.
We can get into the bad habit of constantly and excessively comparing ourselves with other believers. Two problems are going to come from that. The first is that we’re going to think that we’re much worse than other believers and beat ourselves up about it all day long. The second aspect is even worse: we’re going to consider ourselves to be much better than other believers, and be praising ourselves all day long. Either one of these give a deadly trap to a healthy relationship with God, and those traps should be avoided.
I do think that, properly understood, there is a valid concept of full surrender to God. Again, we’re not taking it to a literal extreme, or being absolutely objective, as if we were perfect in our lives before God; no, we’re not talking about that. Full surrender to God is simply saying that we will not consciously withhold anything from the governance of the Lord. We will keep a very short account with God. We also want to avoid the problems of excessive introspection upon ourselves or comparison with other people. Those are two things which can really spoil an otherwise valid and helpful sense of full surrender.
Is there a connection between the Lord’s Day in Revelation 1:10 and the Sabbath?
In Revelation 1:10, the Apostle John says that he was in the spirit on the Lord’s Day, as he was there at the island of Patmos. I would suggest you that he is speaking of Sunday. Very quickly after the church was formed, Christians began to call Sunday the Lord’s Day. There were a few reasons why they did this.
First of all, it was the day that they set apart as the one belonging to Jesus Christ. Now, believe me, Christians understood that every day belongs to God. It’s not that one day belongs to God and the other six belong to whoever. But they wanted to mark out this one day of service of special recognition and commemoration, not to Caesar or any pagan deity, but to the Lord Jesus Christ. This was in commemoration of the day that the resurrection of Jesus Christ was revealed to the world. That was the beginning of the Christian church: when Jesus Christ rose from the dead.
Again, every day belongs to God. Every day is a day of spiritual rest, a day of resting from our works, and rejoicing in our union in Jesus Christ. But Christians marked out the first day of the week, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, saying, “When you gather together on the first day.” It seems that Christians from a very early time started gathering as believers on Sunday, perhaps to set themselves aside from the Jewish synagogue, which would gather on Saturday, the seventh day. Together, they wanted to recognize Sunday as a day of new beginnings and to gather together on the Lord’s Day. So, from a very early time in the New Testament church, Christians made an emphasis of gathering together on Sunday instead of other days of the week.
The Bible states very clearly in the book of Colossians that we should have no man judge us in terms of feasts, or fasts, or new moons, or sabbaths. In other words, if a person is persuaded that they would rather keep Saturday, the seventh day, as a Sabbath instead, they have full liberty in Jesus Christ to do so. But they don’t have a biblical command to do that in light of the New Covenant. We are told specifically in the New Testament that we are not to judge one another regarding these things. We have freedom; we have liberty in Jesus Christ. The simple idea here is that we have this liberty in Jesus Christ, and we should enjoy this liberty.
Therefore, if we want to select Sunday as a day to rest, to have our joy in the Lord, and to gather together with God’s people, we have complete liberty in Jesus to gather in that way. I would say that God has made us so that we need this day of rest. And because God has made us weak, needing that day of rest, we should take it, we should observe it, and we should be grateful for it. Use that day to focus on the Lord, to enjoy your family, and to enjoy the blessings that God gives. These are the great things that God gives us to do.
Who were the women that Cain, Abel and Seth got children with when they were the only humans on earth at the time?
Adam and Eve had many more children than what we read about in specifically named in the Scriptures. The first few chapters of Genesis tell us that Adam and Eve had many other children; but it only names a few of them specifically. So where did Cain and Abel and Seth get their wives? They got them from their sisters. Adam and Eve lived many hundreds of years, the Scripture tells us. Because they lived these many hundreds of years, they were able to father and mother many children, and these were the siblings that intermarried.
Now, today we understand that God’s word says we should not do that. The Bible does say that there should not be marriage between close family members. We understand that completely. But God did not make that command until many years later in His unfolding plan of the ages. God, in His ordained time, would make that law, but there was a time when this was just absolutely necessary for the propagation, promotion, and growth of the human race. That’s the whole issue there: it was simply a matter of necessity. Additionally, in those days, when the human genetic strain was so much more pure, and had so much less corruption introduced in it, there was much less possibility for a birth defect, and other such corruptions.
How can someone break the bad habit of spending too much time on social media?
What are some ways of breaking up to break the habit of spending too much time on social media, browsing the internet, etc.? I don’t want to allow those distractions to get between myself and God.
I think you’re asking a very valid question. I want to thank you for such a question, because this is in fact a great time waster for people. It’s not helpful for them in their walk with the Lord at all. I do think that it’s important for us to realize things which are distractions. We must free ourselves from the thought that if other people do it and it seems okay for them, then it must be okay for us. What I want every believer to do is to have a soft conscience before the Lord and before the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit would move them to say, “I should not do this,” they should listen to the Holy Spirit. They should say, “The time that others spend on social media may be perfectly fine for all my friends who are believers. But for me, the Holy Spirit says, ‘No, you should cut back on that.’”
Practically, I think the thing to do is to start off small and build up from that. Learn how to take some internet fasts. My son instituted something with his children and his family that I think is wonderful: they do something called technology-free Tuesdays. The simple principle is to pick a day where at their home, they are going to not use technology of that type, or at least avoid it as much as absolutely possible. Friends, that’s a great idea.
You might think, “Listen, I don’t know if I can go a whole day without this technology stuff.” Well, maybe you can start out with half a day, then move into three quarters of a day, then move into a day. I think that this is a very important thing for us to do. Because how do you know if you are a slave to something unless you try to break free from it? Isn’t that a very simple and plain principle? There are a lot of us who think that we’re free from some bad habit, until we try to break free from it, and try to completely avoid it. Well, friends, that’s the time we find out that we are not free from it at all.
So, I think my son has instituted a very wise thing with his family. I would recommend that to you: start with half a day without using technology. During that time, put down the phone, using it only as a speaking device, as a regular telephone, or maybe just something to exchange text messages. And that’s all- you’re not going to check on social media or be a part of those things. Once you’ve done it half a day, then do an entire day, then extend it out from there. These are ways that we find out whether something is truly a master over us or not. That’s what I would recommend, and I hope that works out for you.
What does Paul mean when he says we should not grieve the Holy Spirit as new people in God?
This is a concept that Paul speaks about at least once, or maybe more than once – that we as the people of God should not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. And this is how we could conceivably grieve the Holy Spirit. We could grieve the Holy Spirit by resisting and even in our own way opposing what the Holy Spirit directs us to do. Do you understand what I’m talking about here? A few minutes ago, I talked about the conviction that the Holy Spirit might put upon somebody’s heart. We’ve spoken about that several times in reference to the idea of full surrender as well as in the idea of taking a pause from technology.
When it comes to this idea of grieving the Holy Spirit, that should concern us. The Holy Spirit of God is God. And being God, He has Lordship over our life. It should disturb and concern us that our own stubbornness and unwillingness to hear the Holy Spirit would grieve the Spirit of God. We should say, “Lord, I want to have the kind of tender, soft conscience before You that would by all means avoid grieving Your Holy Spirit.” That really should be our attitude.
To grieve the Holy Spirit is simply to resist the Holy Spirit; to not listen to the Holy Spirit; to push away the guidance that the Holy Spirit might wish to give us in any particular circumstance. I think it’s important for us to pray that God would give us guidance on these things, that we would have a soft conscience before the Lord, to listen to the Holy Spirit and not resist Him in any way whatsoever.
Can you explain 1 Samuel 28:15 when the witch of Endor brought up Samuel from the dead?
First of all, I would recommend that you go to my commentary at enduringword.com. I’m happy to explain now, but you might get an even more full explanation by taking a look at what is in my verse by verse commentary.
In 1 Samuel 28, Saul connects with the witch of Endor. And it seems like she summons Samuel the prophet who had died several years before. We won’t know what’s going on here. Now, some people say that nothing real was happening here, that this was a trick by the witch of Endor. You know, there are many people who claim to have psychic or spiritual powers, but they’re just frauds playing tricks. They know how to use mind games and word tricks and sleight of hand to make people think that there’s some encounter with the supernatural but there’s not. Some people think that this was some kind of trick by the witch of Endor. Some other people think that it was a true spiritual manifestation but was something demonic. That’s a second suggestion. I don’t agree with either one of those.
I believe that this instance is an absolutely unique situation, where God in fact sent back the prophet Samuel from the dead, to bring judgment upon King Saul. King Saul was seeking for spiritual guidance from the world beyond when what he should have been doing was repenting. But you know what? He didn’t repent, even when Samuel warned him of the judgment that he would face. The next day, Saul made absolutely no change in his behavior whatsoever. None.Not a bit. Isn’t that strange? Wouldn’t you think that, if you heard a message from the world beyond that judgment was coming upon you tomorrow, you would get down on your knees before God and repent and do everything you could to get right with Him? Saul did none of that.
I think God supernaturally did this in a one-time situation. We shouldn’t expect that God would do anything like this with any kind of regularity or repetition. But in a strange “one off,” God sent Samuel back to speak a word of judgment against the tragic and disobedient King Saul.
By the way, the witch of Endor was terrified when she summoned Samuel. That’s what indicates to me that this was not a sleight of hand; it was something actual that happened. The other thing is that the Bible text itself says that it was Samuel who spoke. The most plain direct reading is that it is Samuel speaking to Saul. I think it’s a strange and tragic occasion, showing us the depth of Saul’s depravity. Even in light of this utterly unique message that God gave to him through the prophet Samuel coming from the world beyond, he still didn’t repent; he still didn’t listen to God.
What are your thoughts on taking children to “adult” church services?
This is a thing that is of some debate among Christians today. There are some Christians who say the children should sit with the parents throughout the entire worship service, so they can learn by seeing their parents and other adults modeling worship and listening to the Word of God. They believe this is the best training ground for children. Other churches say no, it’s better for us to give something age appropriate for the children. This has predominantly been my experience. The children have their own children’s service, where the atmosphere and teaching are more geared toward that audience.
Some churches try to do a combination of both. One service will be a family service, and the other service will be separated for adults and children. Maybe the children will be in for the first part of the service where they have worship and maybe even communion together, and then the children will be dismissed when it’s time for the preaching.
I think it’s permissible for Christian churches to do it all sorts of different ways. There’s no command in God’s Word to do it one way or the other. Obviously, there’s a command that parents should teach their children. But there is no command that children must sit with the parents in the church service. So, because there is no command, Christians have freedom to have their children in the church service. A church has the right to decide not to have the children in with the adults during the service. It’s going to be up to each individual congregation, and then up to each individual parent or person within the congregation.
Now, I’ll give you my own perspective on this. I don’t see any real evidence that it’s better for the children. Every family is different. If a parent tells me, “It’s better for my children that they’re in the church service, and my children are well behaved and won’t be a disruption,” then praise the Lord. It doesn’t bother me. But on a broad spectrum, I don’t see any evidence that says this is the key or solution for every Christian family. Nobody’s ever shown me evidence that, in some church tradition where the children stayed in service, a far greater percentage of those children went on to be true disciples and vibrant followers of Jesus Christ, compared to this other church that didn’t do it.
I think this is another area where we have liberty in Jesus Christ. In the churches that I have pastored, we have sought to have excellent children’s programs. I know that the children and the parents have appreciated it. But we’ve also had some parents who have said, “I want my children in with us during the worship service.” Our stance has always been that if your children are well behaved and not a distraction, and everybody around them is fine with it, you’re free to do that. If not, then they should go and be part of the children’s ministry service. That’s been my experience. The bottom line is this: we want to be people who obey the Bible. We want to know what the Bible says and what the Bible doesn’t say, but there is no biblical command one way or the other in regard to this.
Muslims say their name means “surrender to god.” Who are they suggesting they are surrendering to?
A Muslim would say that they’re surrendering to Allah. Now, there is a legitimate and complicated question concerning whether you can say that Allah, in the Muslim concept. is the same as the God of the Bible. Certainly, there’s some common terminology used between the two. But there are also some areas where the Muslim presentation of Allah does not align with the revelation of God which we find in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Nobody is truly surrendered to God unless they are surrendered to Jesus Christ. Jesus said that if you’ve seen Him, you’ve seen God the Father. Jesus said that He was the perfect representation of God the Father. In other words, if you want to know what God in heaven is like, look at Jesus Christ. If somebody rejects Jesus Christ, they’re rejecting God, because Jesus is the perfect representation of God the Father.
We don’t have to wonder what God’s like. Of course, there are going to be some details about the nature and the being of God of which we cannot plumb the depths. He’s God, and we’re not. But overall, God has given us an amazing revelation of who He is: in the person and work of Jesus Christ, in His Word as a whole, and in the created world around us. This is how we know who God is.
Jesus Christ is the perfect and highest revelation of who God is. If somebody says that they’re surrendering to God, but they don’t surrender to Jesus Christ, then they’re not at all understanding the God to whom they claim to surrender.
My challenge to the claim of a Muslim, even a sincere Muslim who is truly concerned about seeking after God and wanting to please God, would be this: “God bless you in your desire to seek after God and to please God; that is a good desire. However, let me add this. You need to come to the place where you recognize that God is perfectly revealed to us in Jesus Christ.”
How can someone manage anxiety/mental health through the word of God?
First, if we’re talking about how to do this in and through the Word of God, we should be aware that there’s nothing in the Word of God that would prohibit us from seeking proper medical care. If there are things wrong with a person biologically or medically, problems which are having a significant influence on their level of anxiety or their mental health, these things should be addressed by a doctor. In some cases, they may need to be wisely and properly addressed through medication. The Bible speaks nothing against that.
But the Bible also tells us that the Word of God is good for our mind. The Bible says that God will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed, is kept, and remains on Him. If you want to keep your mind and heart on God, a great way to do that is by knowing and reading and meditating upon God’s Word. There is something beneficial for us – body, soul, and spirit – in that. I hope nobody thinks I’m just trying to say, “Wave a Bible verse at something and your problems go away.” We’re not talking about waving a Bible verse at it. We’re talking about believing the Word of God, and letting your mind meditate on the good things of the Word of God.
Throughout my own Christian life, I have spent many hours in studying and meditating on the Word of God. I think this is one of the chief sources of great blessing in my life: the countless hours over the years which I’ve spent reading and meditating and thinking about and studying God’s Word. I believe that whatever healthy frame of mind that I have comes from that real focus upon God and His Word. I’m reading, memorizing the Word of God, and meditating.
Here’s something that you might want to pair together with your study of the Word of God: fasting. There are many different components to fasting. By fasting, I mean abstaining from food and drinking only water, with no calorie intake at all. That form of fasting, coupled together with a devoted study of God’s Word, has particular spiritual power and effectiveness in our lives. So I would suggest it to you.
How does one know that he/she has blasphemed against the Holy Spirit?
Jesus specifically said that this is the one sin that will never be forgiven. Wow. It’s important for us to know what a sin is, particularly one which will never be forgiven. What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Jesus told us that the mission, goal, and work of the Holy Spirit was to testify of Him. In other words, the Holy Spirit’s work is to tell us about who Jesus is and what Jesus came to do for us.
If a person decidedly and repeatedly and firmly stays in a place of rejection regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ, then friends, they are in a place where they are blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
I would define the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit like this. It is the consistent, settled, permanent rejection of what the Holy Spirit tells us about who Jesus is and what He came to do for us. It’s the sin of steadily and permanently rejecting Jesus Christ.
So, how can I know that I have not blasphemed the Holy Spirit? It’s very simple. Surrender your life to Jesus Christ today. Put your trust in Him as the one who paid for your sins on the cross, and who rose from the dead and the empty tomb. Trust in Him as the one who took the punishment and the wrath and the dishonor that you and I and every sinner deserves for our sin, which He bore on Himself on the cross. He rose again to give us new life. Put your trust in who Jesus is, and what He came to do for us, especially what He came to do at the cross and the empty tomb. If you do that, I can guarantee that you haven’t blasphemed the Holy Spirit, because right then you are agreeing with what the Holy Spirit has told us and will tell us about the person and work of Jesus.
To know that you have not blasphemed the Holy Spirit, put your faith in Him. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever would believe in Him would not perish but have everlasting life.” If you will believe on Him, He will give you new life from above, and you can know that you have not blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
Some time ago, there were people on different media channels trying to tell people that they should blaspheme the Holy Spirit. First of all, I cannot think of a more wicked thing to do than to encourage people to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Listen, friend, if you want to go to hell yourself, that’s your choice. But for you to try to drag other people down to hell with you! Who do you think you are, that you would take some kind of pride in dragging other people to hell with you? If you want to go to hell yourself, that’s your choice. It’s sad and tragic; it’ll be a tragedy for all eternity and for anybody who ever knew you. But that’s your choice. Don’t ever have an attitude that it’s something good or glamorous or fun. These people try to lead people into blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
Even if you think you blasphemed the Holy Spirit in the past, if you repent of your sins and put your trust in Jesus Christ today, you can be forgiven that. You can know that you are no longer in that condition of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. There’s forgiveness for everyone who will seek it in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Does “inherit the kingdom of God” in Galatians 5:21 refer to an eternal reward or to salvation, and why?
Galatians 5:21 lists several sins, such as envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like, following several sins which are mentioned in the verse before that. Paul says, “Just as I told you in times past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” This refers to someone who will not inherit eternal life and will not go to heaven.
The idea of the kingdom of God in this context is not talking about reward. It’s talking about people who won’t go to heaven. It’s talking about people whose lives are dominated by such sins. Now, there is no one on this side of eternity who is perfect. We’ve come full circle back to our original lead question today about full surrender. Nobody is fully surrendered. Every one of us will sin in some way, small or large, until we pass from this life to the next and are glorified with Jesus Christ. But that is a different thing, from having a life that is dominated by sin.
When we are born again, God gives us the power to no longer be dominated by sin. Right now, a believer has been set free from the penalty of sin that’s in the past. Right now, believers are set free from the power of sin. In other words, sin doesn’t have to have dominance over us.
I would say this also means that one day we will be free from the very presence of sin. In this life, we live right now; then we die; and then we are in eternity. When I say “on this side of eternity,” I mean in the life we live right now.
If we’re in Jesus Christ, we do not have to live dominated by the power of sin. Christian growth is increasingly living in a trajectory that’s more and more pleasing to God. Again, it’ll never be complete, until the day we are glorified with God in heaven. But it’s good, and it’s glorious for us to be taking steps in that direction, even as we are right now. So, it is pretty clear here that inheriting the kingdom of God in Galatians 5:21 does not refer to reward in heaven; it refers to heaven itself and eternal life in Jesus Christ.