"What is the greatest commandment for successful living?" The religious leaders asked Jesus this very question (or something similar in essence), and this is what he said:
"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" (Matt. 22:37-39)
Jesus was talking about a surrendered life -- one that is fully yielded and submitted to God. Many people don't have a clue about what Jesus requires of them when they put their faith in him. It's important for Christians to know that following Jesus is more than just going to some church services and listening to a few sermons. A surrendered life requires sacrifice.
A life surrendered to God...
...has stopped resisting God as an opponent or authority. Once an enemy is now called "friend" (James 4:4). There is an acknowledgement that God is God and they are not. God is the authority now for their life.
...has wrestled with the ideas of "self" and "free will," choosing freely to fall in line with a new plan, a new way for living life. They acknowledge that their plan isn't working so well anymore. Instead of self-preservation, they have relinquished control over the circumstances of their life and no longer worry about material things, death, provision... (Matt. 6:25-34).
...has a new identity -- a child of the mighty King of the Universe. They are no longer concerned about what others think about them as much as what God thinks (John 1:11-13). Their identity and sense of self rests solely in Him.
...desires for their life to matter, to represent God in a favorable light through their actions and words (James 3:13).
...knows deep down that God is good, and though life is hard and full of pain and sorrow, good things can and do come out of the ashes (Rom. 8:28).
...gets excited about the things God cares about. New passions and adventures begin to surface. Sure there is fear from time to time, but God gives those who have surrendered their life to Him the tools they need to overcome obstacles (Eph. 6:10-20).
Living a surrendered life is not all that easy, actually. Our thoughts, attitudes, and opinions take time to catch up to God's ways. We wrestle with old desires, temptations, and habits, and we must choose again and again to surrender to God's authority on the matter. Paul understood this when he wrote the book of Romans! (Rom. 7:21-25)
Is partial-surrender enough?
Unfortunately no. James warned believers about being double-minded, that is, having one foot in and one foot out in the life of faith. One who is partially surrendered is unstable in their beliefs and can get caught up in the ways of the world. The double-minded should not expect to receive anything from the Lord (James 1:6-8).
We have to be all in. Look at what Luke records Jesus saying:
"Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels." (Luke 9:23-26)
God's Word and principles are as true today as they were back then. So if Jesus calls for a surrendered life, we would do well to heed his instruction. Not everyone who calls Him "Lord" will enter in to heaven (Matt. 7:21-23; 25:31-46). There is a lot at stake!
How does this look in real life?
Practically, a surrendered life can be simple, like allowing another car to merge in front of you on a freeway, or giving someone your seat, or letting another person go first in line. But it can also be extremely challenging and demanding and of great expense to you, like tackling a damaging issue concerning your child or spouse instead of turning a blind eye. It comes down to how we relate with God so that we can use our life to help others. Other examples might be:
Doing something about your failing marriage, like communicating your concerns with your spouse, taking a marriage class, getting some counseling, or reading marriage-boosting materials. Fixing a marriage is hard, but it is a wise and sacrificial thing to spend your time on.
Training yourself to not say the sarcastic remark or cast blame for something you did. We can choose self control and to take responsibility for our own actions.
Putting someone's needs ahead of your own - a spouse, a child, a neighbor, a friend. A willingness to stop what you're doing, to sacrifice your time, agenda, and energy is a sign of a surrendered life.
Ultimately, a surrendered life does the necessary things to be able to hear the Holy Spirit's instructions, like taking time out of your day to pray, to be still, or read the Scriptures. How can we know what God wants to change in us, or whom God wants us to help if we're not in tune with him?
I hope you choose the surrendered life. It's a decision that will never leave you wishing you hadn't.
I would love to hear from you about some of the ways you have surrendered your life for the sake of God and others. You can email me directly at email@example.com. Remember, a great life is only as great as your relationships!
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