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Surrender Your Life? The Choice is Yours
Surrendering your life to God is a profound journey that transforms your relationship with Him into something many only dreamed about but few ever expected to happen. In fact, full surrender to Him is what He requires (that is why He is called Lord and Master), but is often conveniently glossed over in our churches today. We feel more comfortable with terms like servant or disciple or follower— rather than anything that resembles submission or smacks of surrender to anyone, including the Lord. We want Jesus as a friend with a Get-Out-of-Hell-Free-Card who politely laughs and turns His head at our sin. But the last thing we want is the King of kings and Lord of lords who will stand in judgment of our lives. Well, guess what? That’s not our choice. We get Jesus as who He is and not who we want to make Him into.
Understanding this, let’s be honest about the steps to surrendering to Him (assuming that’s something you want to do). Your journey into Christ-likeness cannot progress unless you continually deal with anything and everything in your life that separates you from Him. And you know what that is. It’s no secret, never has been. It’s always been the same thing since Adam and Eve fell prey to it in the garden and made the same mistake we make on a daily basis. And it’s what works against your complete submission to Him and the joy of the abundant life He promises (John 10:10). The Achilles heel in our spiritual life is pride and the sin it inevitably brings.
The Second Step: Confession and Repentance
Confession and repentance of sin are essential for maintaining fellowship with God and walking in obedience to His will. Remember, they were the essential ingredient in your salvation. And as such, they are vital for maintaining a close relationship with the Lord. As 1 John 1:9 promises, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God always stands ready to forgive. But our sin must be acknowledged and confessed, and repentance means more than simply feeling sorry you got busted for doing something you knew was wrong.
What does confession and repentance look like day to day? First, it requires taking as much time as needed to ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart and reveal any areas of disobedience, unconfessed sin, wrong attitudes, or anything that might hinder your relationship with God (Ps. 139:23-24). Don’t rush through this thinking there is something in your day more important. There isn’t. Be willing to listen openly and honestly, as His conviction is a sign of His love and desire for you to become like His Son. So don’t rush this process, and allow ample time for the Spirit to speak to you.
Next, prayerfully examine your thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, lifestyle choices, relationships, and pretty much everything else in your life. Consider whether you harbor bitterness toward someone, look at pornography when no one is watching, engage in dishonest business practices, lie, gossip, steal, elevate yourself by tearing down others, or neglect time in God’s Word. Call sin exactly what it is without rationalizing or downplaying it. God doesn’t care that others are doing what you are doing. Two wrongs don’t make a right. As 1 John 1:8 warns, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” Don’t let that happen to you. Make a habit of self-examination to keep your heart right before God and then respond immediately when His conviction comes.
And when the Holy Spirit reveals sin, make a thorough and specific confession directly to God. Pour out your heart like the tax collector who cried out, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” Remember, Jesus said he went home justified because of his humble confession and repentance (Luke 18:13-14). Be brutally honest about your struggles with bitterness, immorality, greed, pride, neglect of God’s Word, apathy, laziness, or anything that is displeasing to Him and separates you from His intimacy. Hold nothing back but confess every detail openly. And go through this process as soon as you sense your relationship with God waning.
Repentance means not merely being sorry for what you have done (sin of commission) or haven’t done (sin of omission), but deliberately changing directions and turning away from your sin. You must renounce sin, reject sin, abandon sin, and hate sin as much as God does. These are the first signs of true repentance. Your repentance will then demonstrate itself through specific life changes, such as eliminating influences or relationships that tempt you toward wrong behavior, no matter how painful that process may be. The Spirit may urge you to make restitution when your sinful actions have harmed others. You will find yourself compelled to wholeheartedly turn away from old sinful patterns and habits and walk in obedience to God’s ways. In essence, you will fulfill the admonition of John the Baptist to those who came to him for baptism, “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8). This is what true repentance looks like.
After Confession and Repentance, Then What?
Going forward, keep short accounts with God. Real short. Don’t allow unconfessed sins to accumulate for even a moment. When the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin and a rift in your relationship with the Lord and your surrender to Him, deal with them immediately, no matter how small or insignificant you may feel they are. Sin is sin. So don’t try to downplay or rationalize it. God treasures honesty and values even small acts of repentance that keep your heart soft and surrendered. Remember, the best way to keep short accounts with God is through daily prayer, the study of His Word, and fellowship with other believers who can keep you accountable. And even though you may have heard about prayer and Bible study for years, don’t let your familiarity with these disciplines breed contempt for them in your heart. They are still true and have proven to be the best way to grow closer to Him and experience His goodness, whether you are tired of hearing about them or not.
The Christian life is a lifelong journey of confronting sin, confessing it openly, repenting completely, and experiencing God’s cleansing forgiveness. And walking in the light requires being brutally honest about the darkness still within us coupled with a willingness to expose it to God’s convicting light (1 John 1:7). As the Puritan pastor John Owen observed, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”¹ So maintaining a clean heart and right spirit is crucial for surrendering fully to Christ and experiencing the blessings of an intimate walk with Him. And it is only by complete surrender that we can hope to experience the abundant life He promised (John 10:10).
The Road Ahead
In conclusion, confession and repentance are not a one-time event but rather a lifestyle of honesty, transparency, and dependency on God’s grace. And it takes courage and humility to acknowledge our sins and shortcomings continually. But as we are quick to confess and turn from sin, we clear the way for a deeper intimacy with Him and greater spiritual power to fulfill His purpose for our lives— which is the whole point, wouldn’t you say?
A surrendered life requires laying down pride, sin, and self at the foot of the cross. And to remain surrendered requires the same, only more often. But the joy of walking in unhindered fellowship with Christ is worth the cost, no doubt about it.
So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started today.
1. John Owen, The Mortification of Sin (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 2004), p. 9.