How to Surrender to God
What does it mean to surrender to God? Is surrendering to God more than just belief? This blog will cover three steps to surrendering your life to God.
The word surrender means to yield to the control and power of another.
How does a Christian surrender to God? Is it as simple as waving a white flag in the air? Or does it happen by simply praying a short prayer and “giving your heart to the Lord”?
What does it mean to surrender?
How Paul surrendered to God
Consider the example of one of God’s greatest servants in the Bible, the apostle Paul. Before he became a great man of faith, he was a zealous Pharisee who dragged Christians from their homes, imprisoned them and sometimes killed them. He thought he was doing God’s work when he was actually working in direct opposition to Him!
Put differently, Paul was not walking in a surrendered way of life as God desired.
One day, as he was journeying from Jerusalem to Damascus with arrest warrants in his hand, he was struck down by Christ Himself.
The account reads: “Then [Paul] fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’” (Acts 9:4).
The account continues: “So [Paul], trembling and astonished, said, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do?’” (verse 6, emphasis added throughout). Notice the surrendered attitude of this previously misguided, but now humbled man.
“Lord, what do You want me to do?” is a question that encapsulates what it means to surrender to God. It is the beginning point of every truly converted Christian’s journey toward becoming surrendered to God.
When we, like Paul, come to the point in our lives where we are struck down by circumstances and know we need God’s mercy and guidance, we begin the journey to surrendering to God.
But how do I surrender my life to God?
Is it just professing a belief in Jesus? Is it just an emotional experience? Or is there much more to it?
Let’s examine three action steps we must take to truly surrender our lives to God.
“Surrendering to God” step 1: Repent
Mainstream Christianity today seldom talks about repentance. Oftentimes, the idea of repentance is little more than an emotional experience accompanied by words like, “I’m inviting Christ into my life,” or “I’m giving my heart to the Lord.” To learn more about this, read “Is ‘Accepting Jesus’ All to Becoming a Christian?”
Repentance is much more than merely acknowledging Jesus is the Lord and feeling sorry for past sins.
The word repentance, or some variation of it, appears about 70 times in the pages of the Bible.
When John the Baptist preached in the Judean wilderness, what was the first recorded word that came out of his mouth? “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). When the Pharisees and Sadducees approached John, what did he tell them? “Bear fruits worthy of repentance” (verse 8).
What was Jesus’ message when He began preaching? “Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). What did Paul proclaim to the Athenians of his day? “God . . . commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17: 30).
Repentance may not be a popular message, but it is necessary—and the first step in truly surrendering to God.
Some may ask: “But what does repentance mean? And what should I repent of?”
Repentance may not be a popular message, but it is necessary—and the first step in truly surrendering to God.According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, “repent” comes from the Greek word metanoeo, which means “to perceive afterwards,” or “to change one’s mind.” In its most basic form, repentance is a shift in mind-set. It is a total change in thinking—which leads to a change in conduct.
But there is another element of repentance that is brought out in a New Testament account that helps paint a fuller picture of the meaning of the word.
Weeks after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ—a brutal death preceded by mocking, beating and scourging—Peter spoke to the multitudes in Jerusalem, many of whom had witnessed the various miracles Jesus had performed.
Notice Peter’s comment to the crowds of people: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
Peter confronted them with the harsh reality that they were responsible for the death of Christ, God in the flesh. They had seen the sick healed, the demons cast out, and the dead raised to life again—and yet people had shouted, “Crucify Him!” just weeks earlier (Luke 23:21).
But when Peter said “you,” he was not only referring to those people at that time. He was also speaking to you and me.
That “you” applies to each of us individually. Because of our sin, we all are responsible for the death of Jesus Christ. To learn more about the purpose of Christ’s death, read “Why Jesus Had to Die.”
The reaction of the crowd illustrates the first stage of repentance: “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37).
True repentance involves being “cut to the heart.” We should have deep remorse for our sins and the part they played in necessitating the death of Christ. That remorse then must lead to an unshakable resolve to change one’s mind and stop sinning. These two components are at the heart and core of repentance.
When our sins grieve us and we want more than anything to fully obey God, we are on the path to total surrender to God.
To take a deeper dive into the subject of repentance, read “What Is Repentance?”
But what comes after we experience remorse for our sins and resolve to stop sinning?
“Surrendering to God” step 2: Be baptized
After the multitudes had their “cut to the heart” moment, they asked Peter and the rest of the apostles an important question: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (verse 37).
Peter answered, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (verse 38).
Following repentance, the next step in surrendering to God is baptism, which is for the “remission,” or forgiveness, of sins.
Sin is the breaking of God’s law, and its consequence is separation from God and ultimately death (Isaiah 59:2; 1 John 3:4; Romans 6:23). We need the shed blood of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, to pay for our sins and reconcile us to God. Before a person is baptized, he or she must truly repent and accept Jesus Christ as his or her personal Savior.
At baptism, the believer enters into a covenant with His Creator, vowing to follow Him no matter what.The Greek word for baptism is baptisma, which means “immersion” or “submersion” by water. This ceremony pictures the cleansing of sin and the lifelong commitment to turn from breaking God’s commandments to obeying them wholeheartedly. At baptism, the believer enters into a covenant with His Creator, vowing to follow Him no matter what. Baptism is the most momentous commitment a Christian will ever make in his or her life.
Jesus addressed the level of seriousness involved in making the decision to surrender to Him in Luke 14:26: “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.”
The word for “hate” here means to love less by comparison, which illustrates the point that God must come first in our lives. We must be willing to give up everything—including our own lives if need be—to follow Him. We must prioritize Him—and the pursuit of His Kingdom and righteousness—over everything else (Matthew 6:33).
Moreover, when repentant believers make the decision to be baptized—after carefully considering whether they are truly willing to unconditionally surrender to God—they are figuratively putting their old sinful self to death.
Notice what Paul said regarding this: “Our old man was crucified with Him [in baptism], that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6-7).
Through baptism, the believer is set free from the shackles of sin and made a slave of God (Romans 6:22). In other words, the believer is now able to surrender to God and become His servant.
“Surrendering to God” step 3: Walk in newness of life
After the repentant believer has been symbolically buried in a watery “grave”—an act that marks the end, the absolute cessation, of the person’s former sinful life—he or she can begin a different way of life.
Concerning this different way of life, Paul was inspired to write, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).
We are expected to “present” our bodies, or our lives, as instruments of righteousness.What does “newness of life” mean? How does a Christian walk in it?
We find the answer in verses 12-13: “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.”
Prior to baptism, our lives were characterized as instruments of sin, but now we are expected to “present” our bodies, or our lives, as instruments of righteousness.
Just as a chisel—a physical object with no will of its own—rests comfortably in the hands of a craftsman as his or her tool to do a specific job, a surrendered Christian strives to rest comfortably in the hands of God, allowing Him to work through him or her.
The Bible calls the transformation to this way of life conversion.
Living a life surrendered to God
We used to go our own way, but now we go God’s way. We used to look for ways to please ourselves, but now we look for ways to please God.
As we continue to surrender to God in every aspect of our lives, we demonstrate that we are walking in newness of life.
From baptism on, the default approach to life should be that of the apostle Paul: “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
That is how to surrender to God. Are you ready and willing to do it?