Imagine being the president and facing an escalating conflict with a country determined to conquer your nation and to compel your citizens to follow its laws.
Would you fight with every fiber of your being against such subjugation and, as president, order the military to pursue any means necessary to defeat the aggressor?
What if a trusted advisor informed you the only way your nation could survive was to surrender? The advisor explained that any attempt to protect your nation or any effort to launch a preemptive attack would result in your nation’s utter destruction.
Would you dismiss such advice as unsound or even treasonous? Why would any leader willingly abdicate control of his nation to a foreign head-of-state, without doing everything in his or her power to prevent it?
That was the situation faced by Zedekiah, king of Judah, more than 2,500 years ago. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, a powerful empire spread across the Middle East, threatened to invade Judah and absorb its citizens into his kingdom.
So King Zedekiah asked Jeremiah, a prophet of God, for advice. And this is how Jeremiah responded.
“If indeed you surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then you will live, this city (Jerusalem) will not be burned down, and you and your household will survive. But, if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city will be handed over to the Babylonians. They will burn it down, and you yourself will not escape from them.” (Jeremiah 38:17-18, HCSB).
As the capital of Judah, Jerusalem represented the nation. If it fell and burned then all of Judah would likewise be destroyed.
Understandably, King Zedekiah hesitated to listen to Jeremiah’s advice. It conflicted with common sense and seemed so counter-intuitive.
So Jeremiah reassured him.
“Obey the voice of the Lord in what I am telling you, so it may go well for you and you can live. But if you refuse to surrender, this is the verdict that the Lord has shown me… You yourself will not escape from them, for you will be seized by the king of Babylon and this city will burn down.” (Jeremiah 38:20, 23, HCSB).
We face a similar choice today. Not as kings or presidents but as the leader of our sovereign lives.
Inside each of us is a spirit of selfish rebellion that seeks to do whatever it pleases. Our sinful nature has established ‘self’ as lord, and has enthroned our ‘flesh’ as the king or queen of our heart. And too often we do whatever it demands of us.
We zealously pursue the things of this world, chase ephemeral dreams, and seek anything our evil hearts desire. We are in love with a world that promises happiness, satisfaction, and approval but delivers despair, discontent, and rejection instead.
In response we attempt to season our lives with religion: an hour of church every Sunday, religious music in the car, occasional prayers whenever we need something. We give a few cents on the dollar (maybe a dime if we’re generous), volunteer a couple hours a month, and use religious language at church.
Many of us profess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, take communion on a regular basis, and believe the Bible is God’s inerrant Word. We say the right things, believe the right doctrine, and avoid all obvious forms of wickedness (at least in public). We are certain that God’s best for us aligns with our own desires: to entrench ourselves in entertainment, cuddle ourselves in comfort, and lavish our lives with luxury.
We have persuaded ourselves that our lives can mirror those of our unchurched neighbors, as long as we maintain a veneer of religious righteousness, confess Christian creeds, and accept Jesus as Savior. We have convinced ourselves that such a modest commitment to Christ is sufficient to spend eternity in His presence. We have deluded ourselves into believing that we can live the good life in this world and then live it again in perpetuity when the Lord returns.
But God is whispering something we either refuse to hear because of our stubborn hearts or cannot hear because we are too busy chasing the world.
“Surrender to Me.”
That is an easy request to obey unless you really understand it. Surrender is comprehensive. You cannot surrender one portion of your life to God and retain another. Imagine King Zedekiah telling the king of Babylon that he will surrender his army but not his navy; he’ll surrender one city but not another. The Babylonian king would recognize this as no surrender at all and would lay siege to Jerusalem.
Yet many of us take a similar approach with God. We give him a few hours a week, claim that represents surrender, then spend the rest of our time pursuing whatever pleasures we delight in.
We do the same with our income. We toss him a few dollars, insist that is enough, and then buy for ourselves all manner of worldly possessions to momentarily gratify our insatiable appetites for the things of this world.
But God demands total surrender, a full and complete commitment to Him in every area of our lives. That is what it means to place our faith in Christ. Authentic faith always transforms the life of a believer.
Jesus informed his followers of this truth with these words:
“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33, NKJV).
Those willing to obey the Lord’s call to surrender will, like King Zedekiah, live. And that life will be everlasting.
Those who decline to surrender their lives to God in full will instead, like Jerusalem, burn. And that, too, will be for all eternity.
Do not be deceived. A casual commitment to Christ is no commitment at all. A half-hearted surrender is nothing more than a veneer of religion.
Call upon the Lord today and commit yourself to Him. Ask Him to empower you with His Spirit so you surrender your life to Him anew every day. And study His Word (the Bible) as much as possible to learn more about Him, His holiness, and His love.