Imagine a husband who stands before his wife, grabs her by the hand, looks into her eyes, and says, “I love you.”
The next day, he cheats on her with another woman.
Now imagine another scenario: A second husband stands before his wife, grabs her by the hand, looks into her eyes, and says, “I love you.”
Just a few hours later, he cheats on her with another woman.
Imagine one more scenario with me: A third husband stands before his wife, grabs her by the hand, looks into her eyes, and says, “I love you.”
Only a few minutes later, he slides into his car to drive over to spend time with his mistress.
My question to you is this: What do these three men in common?
My answer to you is twofold: Either (1) they are dirty, rotten liars; or (2) they don’t know what it means to love.
If you’re still with me, let’s imagine a small group Bible study; one person has a guitar and leads worship, guiding the four or five other guys and girls through a classic hymn: “All to Jesus I surrender; all to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live…”
Expand the scenario a bit. You are now in a college service at the local church, and the worship band leads a hundred kids through the same song: “I surrender all, I surrender all…”
One more scenario: You are in a huge arena with thousands of college students, the majority of them shaking with emotion as their hands are lifted high: “All to Thee, my Blessed Savior, I surrender all.”
In all three of these scenarios, the good majority of these students leave their respective locations only for their emotions to calm down as they return to their old way of life. No change, no difference, no surrender.
What do these three sets of students have in common? They are (1) either dirty, rotten liars; or (2) they don’t know what it means to surrender.
I have long told people that the song “I Surrender All” truly bugs me, not because the lyrics in and of themselves are bad, but because the majority of the time I don’t feel that I can personally join in with the singing. Is it right to raise my hand and say “I surrender” when I know deep down that I don’t? Of the thousands of students standing around me, are each of those with their hands raised and bodies shaking truly meaning the words that comes from their mouths, and if so, why is there no change in their lives from that day forward? Or are they so lost in the emotion that they don’t even process that which they sing? Or do they think that they are tricking God into believing that they surrender when, in fact, they don’t?
Here's the thing: If you are sly and experienced at the sin of adultery, you could get away with it without your spouse ever knowing. However, no matter how slick you are with God, He will always know when you are cheating on Him. You raise your hand and sing “I surrender,” but do you know what surrendering even means? It is a term used in battle, typically accompanied by a white flag being waved through the air: “I tried fighting, but I realized I can’t do this. I’m laying down my arms and giving myself over to you.” That’s surrender.
When you get so lost in the emotion of a worship song that you say “I surrender” without even processing what you are saying, that is like a man saying “I love you” in the throws of a one-night stand. It’s meaningless, degrading, and God surely has to turn His head away in sadness.
Some would say that I am being too harsh, but let’s return back to the scenario of the husband and the wife. Would we applaud the man for saying “I love you” when in fact he (whether intentionally or unintentionally) was going to commit adultery just a day, an hour, or a few minutes later? No, we wouldn’t! We would tell him that he was a lying cheat who knew nothing of what it meant to love. “It’s the thought that counts” isn’t a phrase that applies in this scenario. The man telling her he loves her doesn’t alleviate but instead enhances the pain she will feel at his infidelity, so not only is his statement of love incorrect, but it is cruel.
Why then, should we applaud people for singing to God lyrics which they don’t in fact mean? “Well, they didn’t intend on going back to their old ways; they fully intended on surrendering at that moment.”
Well, I’m sure the husband fully intended on being monogamous when he stood across from his wife at the altar, but that doesn’t change the fact that he knows diddly-squat about love. Why do we expect our vows to a human woman to be weightier than our vows to the Creator of the universe? Is it that we know God to be gracious and so we are fine chalking our sin up to “intentionality” so that His grace can cover it all with a smile? Or is it that our view of God isn’t real enough, that we view the wife that stands across from us more real than the Deity we cannot see? If it’s lying for an unfaithful man to say “I love you” to the wife he cheats on, how much greater of a lie is it to tell the Author of all creation that we surrender everything to Him when in fact we surrender nothing more than that which we in our own perceptions feel that we can afford to lose?
I strive for God daily and I seek to surrender, but rarely do I feel that I am in the state where I can truly tell Him that “I surrender all.” You might think that I am being legalistic and nitpicky, but I think that perhaps sometimes we are not nitpicky enough. When we treat the creation more important than the Creator, that’s wrong, so as amazing as the human woman might be, she is nowhere near as special as the God who created her. So if we would berate an adulterous spouse for making false vows of love, how much more should we berate the Christian for vowing unintentional surrender?
NOW LET’S BE HONEST…if the sin of the Pharisees was their legalism and reliance on the Law, our sin is that we have done the exact opposite: we have clung so dearly to God’s grace that we have forgotten entirely the need to surrender. We sing the words but forget the action. We feel the emotions but won’t put in the time. We raise our hands but don’t anchor our feet. My friends, why is this so? I ask you – I plead with you – to be more intentional with the things you say to the Lord. “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). Let us not mistake word nor hymn nor thunder nor wind nor feeling nor emotion for the unmistakable and undeniable constant presence of our Savior. He is there, I can promise you that, whether you feel Him or not.
My challenge to you today is this: ask yourself how real God is to you. Is He as real at your boyfriend, your girlfriend, your husband, your wife? Than start treating Him with the same reverence, and say to Him only that which you mean and are willing to back up with action. May grace and peace be upon you all as you enter into the world and fight for surrender.