Romans 12:1-2 “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. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
Once, my son and I were attempting to maneuver a small rowboat across a lake. However, the wood surrounding the guide rings had rotted, and sometimes as I pulled the oars through the water, one of them would pop out. The sudden imbalance would send us off course, and too often in the attempt to correct things, I would overcompensate, using the opposite oar too much. This would send us in circles!
In a sense, there are two “oars” that comprise a full surrender to Christ. Use just one of them and you will end up going in circles as a Christian and make no progress. However, when you use both oars of surrender in the waters of life, you progress according to God’s plan.
The Oars of Surrender
First, give your all to Jesus, trusting Him to take it. This is an active presentation. It is the “present your bodies…unto God.” To give your all to Jesus is surrender to His leadership. In so doing you are embracing His will. When you give your all to Jesus, you can trust Him to take it because He says the gift is “acceptable.”
Second, take Christ’s all to you, trusting Him to give it. This is an allowed transformation. It is the “but be ye transformed [lit. allow yourself to be transformed].” To take Christ’s all to you is surrender to His power. In so doing you are embracing His way.
When you give all and take all, you have both oars of surrender in the water—surrendering to Christ’s leadership and to His enablement. This is the exchanged life, exchanging your all for Christ’s all.
The Need for Both Oars
Beware of an imbalanced surrender! As we have noted, use only one oar and you will only go in circles.
First, there is the problem of giving your all to Jesus without taking His all to you. Some say, “I tried to surrender all, but I’m still defeated and see no real change.” The problem here is using only one oar. Some surrender to God’s will the best they know how but depend on themselves to carry it out. These have failed to take Christ’s all and thus are self-dependent, striving in their own strength to please God. This imbalance essentially says, “I surrender all—and I’m going to do it!” But you can’t, for without Jesus, you can do nothing (John 15:5). Surrender is not merely a commitment to do right because that leaves you as the power source. Surrender is recognizing your weakness so that you not only depend on God’s will but also on His power to carry out His will.
Second, there is the problem of taking Christ’s all to you without giving your all to Him. This is using the other oar by itself. Some trust God to enable them—but only to accomplish their own plans. This imbalance essentially says, “God, here are my desires and plans. Would You bless them.” But remember, we are not the leader; God is.
Beyond the major points, giving all and taking all, there are some minor points.
First, surrender is a matter of faith. Surrender and faith properly understood are two sides to one coin. When you surrender to Christ’s will and power, you are depending on His will and power. Conversely, when you depend on Christ’s will and power, you are surrendering to His will and power.
Second, surrender is a responsibility. Surrender is an active cooperation, not an idle passivity. Passivity in the name of surrender is deception. Surrender is yielding to the leadership and power of Jesus. This is the active cooperation of faith.
Third, surrender is both a presentation and a process. The verb “present” indicates a definite beginning. It need not be dramatic, but it needs to be real, not perfunctory. The verb “living” indicates daily continuing. Surrender is not a one-time event, but rather a new way of living. Sometimes we slide in and out of surrender, revealing the need for daily, fresh surrender.
Fourth, surrender is logical. It is “reasonable” because of God’s “mercies,” because God owns you through the blood of Jesus, and because when you give your all, you get to take His all.
Finally, surrender often involves a point of surrender. The point of surrender is finally yielding on that matter over which you’ve been saying no to God. The text also says, “And be not conformed to this world.” Is there an aspect of the world that God is calling you to give up? The obvious ought to be obvious. And what about those matters that good people debate over? When the Holy Spirit prompts you to give up a thing, the debate ought to be over.
Give your all to Jesus. Take His all to you. What an unbeatable exchange!
John Van Gelderen