My hands fall into my lap as I finish playing, “I Surrender All” for the congregational “Hymn of Response”. We would always end the hymn singing the chorus acapella. As my voice joins the congregation, my heart is a mixture of hope and doubt. Why do I continue singing this song throughout my life not feeling like I am getting anywhere? Have I truly surrendered all? If I “felt” moved enough into thinking that I had “surrendered all”, I felt particularly holy that day, particularly Amy Carmichael-like, or anyone else who, seemed to have truly, “surrendered all”. My highschool prayer journals are permeated with this battle to “surrender all”, particularly in regards to the desire of marriage. I heard story after story of those girls for whom marriage did not come until they had truly “surrendered all”. I was either constantly anxious over whether I had truly surrendered a desire, or feeling rather saintly thinking that I had indeed surrendered. “I Surrender All”, kept my eyes fixated on myself, not only because it made me the judge of whether I truly had surrendered all, but also because it gave me the assumption that I could surrender all.
The Law of God demands perfection. Nothing short of it will do. All of our surrendering, all of our crawling on and off the altar of surrender will not cut it. In Philippians 2:3-4 the Apostle Paul writes, “3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This seems to have a bit of a ring of, “surrendering all”, doesn’t it? But Paul, at this point, rather than opening the hymn book and asking us to sing, “I Surrender All”, takes us on a very different path. In the next verse Paul writes,, “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a]”
Two quick notes. Here, in verse 5, we have both a command and a promise. We are commanded to “have this mind among yourselves”, and then, we are immediately given a promise, “which is yours in Christ Jesus,”. We are commanded to have a “mind” of surrender because we already have it in Christ Jesus! Rather than asking us to belt out “I Surrender All”, Paul fixes our eyes on Jesus. We continue to read,
“6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Jesus Christ crawled up upon the altar, offering his perfect, well-pleasing life, for those who can never hope to perfectly surrender all on their own, but who have their hope and promise that their perfect surrender is in Himself. Jesus remained on that sacrificial altar until He fully satisfied the Father’s wrath meant for us. We are freed from a gaze that is fixed on our own examining of our own surrender and in its place we are given a command with a beautiful promise. Jesus surrendered all, that we might walk in obedience, having “this mind”, rejoicing that it already belongs to us in Him!
John Bunyan, the author of Pilgrim’s Progress, got it.
“One day as I was passing into the field, this sentence fell upon my soul: ‘Thy righteousness is in heaven.’ And with the eyes of my soul I saw Jesus at the Father’s right hand. ‘There,’ I said, ‘is my righteousness!’ So that wherever I was or whatever I was doing, God could not say to me, ‘Where is your righteousness?’ For it is always right before him.
I saw that it is not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse, for my righteousness is Christ. Now my chains fell off indeed. My temptations fled away, and I lived sweetly at peace with God.
Now I could look from myself to him and could reckon that all my character was like the coins a rich man carries in his pocket when all his gold is safe in a trunk at home. Oh I saw that my gold was indeed in a trunk at home, in Christ my Lord. Now Christ was all: my righteousness, sanctification, redemption,” (John Bunyan, Grace Abounding).