What Does Surrender Mean?

“The man or woman who is wholly or joyously surrendered to Christ can’t make a wrong choice – any choice will be the right one.” – A. W. Tozer

In American culture, surrender is rarely seen as a positive idea. It is commonly seen as giving up or losing. But to a Christian surrender is an act of faith: it is the first act for those coming to salvation, and a continual habit of those walking with Christ. To spiritually surrender means to let go of control and trust God with our present and future. Galatians 2:20 says, “My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

The returning prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 is a picture of what it means to surrender to God. The son gives up on his way of life and runs back to the father hoping to be a servant. His surrender is met with rewards beyond his expectations. He is received with open arms, lavish love, and a new life as a restored son.

Jesus lived a life of continual surrender to the Father. ”So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” (John 5:19). And as He said to the Father when the time came to surrender His life, “I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Luke 22:42).

Walking with Jesus means continual surrender, trusting that the God who made you has a plan for you and loves you. When you surrender to Christ, you aren’t surrendering your God-given identity and uniqueness. We surrender not for fear or threat, but in hope that the One to whom we surrender has a better life for us.  And that hope doesn’t disappoint.

In surrender, God may—or may not—give us what we want. But when we surrender, He always wants to give us Himself. When we surrender, we always receive what is best: the Lord Jesus.

Surrender isn’t about giving up; it’s about giving in to the One who knows what is best for us, to the One who knows us most and has a perfect plan.  Surrender is the only real way to experience His peace. It’s the only way to true joy.

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30).

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is an area of your life that you know you need to surrender to God? 
  2. What might you be giving up if you do surrender that area to God? 
  3. Do you believe that surrendering to God could actually benefit you? How?

Dependence On God

Living in the spirit means that I trust the Holy Spirit to do in me what I cannot do myself. This is completely different from the life I would naturally live of myself. Each time I am faced with a new demand from the Lord, I look to Him to do in me what He requires of me. It is not a case of trying, but of trusting; not of struggling, but of resting in him.” – Watchman Nee. 

We need to be dependent on God. But here is the catch: you and I don’t always like having to depend upon God. So instead of learning to depend on God, we spend our whole lives trying to supplement our dependence upon Him.  We try to put enough money in the bank so we don’t have to depend on Him for our daily bread. We try to control our decisions so we have some control over how much we need to depend on God. 

Dependence starts by acknowledging Almighty God as the owner of everything, and the controller of every circumstance. Nothing is impossible with God, and everything is within His reach. Your part is to trust and obey, and His part is to do the rest. Dependency depends on Him working in and through you. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)

Jesus said in John 15:5:” Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus wants us to stay “plugged in” to Him, and depend upon Him, to be able to do anything in the Christian life.

Jesus is not an add-on to a full and balanced life—He is our life. It is short-sighted to use the Lord as a last resort only after we have exhausted ourselves and our resources. That is not dependence on Him. “But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.” (Psalm 1:2-3).

The Beatitudes are character qualities of Jesus Himself. He lived them out perfectly. He demonstrated dependence on God the Father continually throughout His life on earth. In John 5:19, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.” Jesus knew He had to depend upon His Father for everything He did here on earth.

In the same way, we can do nothing without Jesus. Just as Jesus could do nothing without the Father, so we can do nothing apart from Jesus. We will inevitably struggle in heart, body, mind, or community, and so our ultimate reliance on God is demonstrated through daily embracing His undeserved grace and never-failing love.

Discussion Questions:

  1. When do you tend to learn the most about God–when things are going well or when things are going poorly? Why do you think that is so?  
  2. How can you display dependence on God in times of pain and times of prosperity?

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:1-3 (ESV). 

Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount is one of the most extensive and significant collections of His teaching that is recorded in the Bible. This foundational message begins with a series of traits or ways of thinking called Beatitudes, which, when practiced, yield joy and peace of mind. The first is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Since Jesus is the one giving the sermon on the mount it is no accident that the first beatitude is about being poor in spirit. This is a primary trait for a Christian—a fundamental requirement to following God’s way of life. A humble spirit enables us to develop the rest of the characteristics that Jesus lists in the sermon on the mount.

When used in the spiritual sense, “poor” refers to someone who is humble enough to recognize how powerless he or she is compared to God and someone who is willing to submit to that power. Compared to God, we are nothing. The poor in spirit don’t compare themselves to others: “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (2 Corinthians 10:12 ESV). After looking at how insignificant one is compared to God, it’s impossible not to feel humbled. Psalm 39:4-7 says, “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”

After God gave Job a glimpse of His greatness through the creation, Job declared, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6 ESV).  

There are many reasons God requires this deep humility. An example is Psalm 25:9 which tells us that the humble are teachable: “He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” The humble are repentant: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 ESV)  And the humble acknowledge and accept their dependence on God and recognize His greatness: “Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2 ESV).

Discussion Questions:

  1. Describe a time when you felt especially poor in spirit—a time when you were keenly aware of your need for God. How did He meet you?
  2. Where do you especially need to grow in humility? (at work, as a parent, in your marriage, in the way that you approach church, etc)

I Surrender All

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” – James 4:10.  

You are probably thinking, “Surrender. Ugh.” I get it. In the eyes of the world, surrender equates to humiliation. No one wants to give up and wave that white flag of surrender. So, no wonder the idea of surrender is often deeply resented. But here’s the irony and the paradox of the Christian faith: Surrender is the beginning of the victorious Christian life. Jesus was all in for you, He wants you to be all in for Him.

Fulfilling our purpose in life and creating the future we desire can be frustrating.  But we have a choice. We can give up or give in, or we can surrender it to the Lord. Surrendering isn’t the same thing as giving up — not when God is involved. Surrendering to God means letting go of our plans, and letting God have His way in every aspect of our lives. Allowing Him to guide our steps and direct our decisions. As Christians this means we surrender our will for His perfect will, and follow God.  As Christians, we are called to turn over every aspect of our lives to God’s control. There is no one-step way to surrender to God, it’s a daily, moment-by-moment choice to give it to God.  

As we surrender to the Lord, our giving up is replaced by His lifting us up: “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7). When we humble ourselves before the Lord, we begin to see His mighty hand at work.  

In surrender, God may—or may not—give us what we want. But when we surrender, He always wants to give us Himself. When we surrender, we always receive what is best: the Lord Jesus.

Surrender isn’t about giving up; it’s about giving in to the One who knows what is best for us, to the One who knows us most and has a perfect plan.  Surrender is the only real way to experience His peace. It’s the only way to true joy.

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30).

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is an area of your life that you know you need to surrender to God? 
  2. What might you be giving up if you do surrender that area to God? 
  3. Do you believe that surrendering to God could actually benefit you? How?

The Attributes Of God – God Is Always With You

What are God’s attributes? When we talk about the attributes of God, we are trying to answer questions like, who is God, what is God like, and what kind of God is He? An attribute of God is something true about Him. Each Friday we will look at the attributes of God. This week, God is always with you.   

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” –  Joshua 1:9. 

You are not alone. You are never alone. You may feel like the only person in the room, but God’s presence is always with you. God is present everywhere … so He is always with you. Because He is an infinite Spirit, He is not restricted to being in one location at a time. God is not limited to time and space; He exists everywhere at the same time. No matter where you go or how fast you get there, God is already there. You simply cannot escape the presence of God. If it was possible for you to travel from east to west at the speed of light, you will find God is already there, waiting for you. 

Jesus Christ promises to be with us always and everywhere: “… And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28: 20). In Acts 17:28 we are told, “For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.”We live in His presence every second of our lives. When we are alone, God watches what we do. When we do something good that nobody else knows about, God sees it.  He also sees the bad things we do in secret. Hebrews 4:13 states, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before His eyes, and He is the one to whom we are accountable”

We actually have the presence of Almighty God living inside us. The apostle Paul wrote, “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)  God wants us to “consciously” live in His presence each day.  Because He is always present, it is possible for us to be in constant communication with Him and to depend on Him in every situation. But too often we ignore His presence because we are so preoccupied with our lives.

The bottom line is that no person or circumstance can ever remove us from the presence of our loving God. He is always with us, hearing our cries for help. He is always with us, protecting us from danger. He is always with us, watching what we do. He is our ever-present Lord and Savior.  

“…I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”Matthew 28:20. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. It isn’t a matter of achieving God’s presence, but surrendering to God’s presence that is already within the Christian. Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?
  2. Is anything making it difficult for you to see God’s presence in your life? Is there something you need to stop or start?

Above All Else, Guard Your Heart

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

As your heart goes, so goes your life.

Ever since you were born your heart has been in the process of being shaped. Family, friends, teachers, media, music, and so many other things have all influenced who you have become. How you respond to circumstances and how you view life, has been greatly impacted by these influences. Whether you realize it or not, you are always being shaped by something. Even now, as you read this devotional, your brain is making a decision on whether it will be influenced by what you are reading.

Enter Solomon. King Solomon possessed the wisdom to govern all Israel. But King Solomon lacked the will to govern his own heart. His many wives introduced many gods to Israel – and influenced the beginnings of compromise that ultimately led to harsh consequences.

It makes you wonder how such an intelligent person could manage to get their lives in such a mess. But as we found out in previous weeks with the life of Abraham and David, they all payed a high price for their obsessions and an unguarded heart.

Scripture tells us to guard our heart, because it is the source of our life. It is the essence of who you are. It is your authentic self—the core of your being. It is where all your dreams, your desires, and your passions live. It is that part of you that connects with God and other people. Out of the heart come all our motives, desires and motivations. We are to barricade our heart against anything or anyone else that seek to claim it because our heart belongs to God. Only God can have the permission to lead, guide and instruct our heart. That is why we must safeguard it. We must diligently and consciously protect it from invasions other than God.

It naturally asks the question of what are you allowing to shape it? There are no shortage of people, or things that want to lay claim to our heart. But they can only possess it with our permission. If something or someone has taken hold of it, it is because we have let down our guard and let it or him/her/it in. As Christ followers we must become intentional in guarding our heart from anything that is contrary to scripture. Rather, we must focus on what enables us to be more like Jesus.

In Proverbs, Solomon reveals the outcome of pathways chosen. Many of the verses in Proverbs offers us hope as it looks to the desired end of our lives and challenges us to think backward along its logical course. How do we want our lives to end? In what areas do we really want to succeed at all costs? The path we take today will lead us there. It attempts to provide us some perspective. And when you have that perspective, and when your eyes are fixed on the prize, you will better guard your heart.

Guard your heart with things like prayer, solitude, fasting, scripture memorization, and learning to sharpen your ability to draw closer to God. These will help you guard your heart because you will be spending your energy on Him. Remember, as goes your heart, goes your life.

Discussion Question:

  1. Why is it so important to guard your heart? Why is it important that we address any issues at the source rather than downstream?
  2. Read Matthew 22:37-38: What is the first and greatest commandment concerning the heart?
  3. According to Luke 6:45, how does our heart affect our actions?
  4. Read Luke 21:34 and Deuteronomy 11:16: What are at least two dangers of concerning our hearts?
  5. Pray and give God complete access to your heart.