Believe 15: Total Surrender    


How many have a hard time surrendering?  

Does anyone know who this guy is? 


His name is Hiroo Onoda.


Onoda was a lieutenant in the Japanese army during World War II. As part of army intelligence he had been sent to Lubang, 90 miles southwest of the Philippine capital Manila, in December 1944. 


Three months later Allied troops landed on the island and Japanese troops began surrendering.


But not Onada. He refused to give up and headed for the jungle with three other soldiers. 


His generation was taught absolute loyalty to Japan and its emperor. He and other soldiers in the Imperial Army followed a code that said death was preferable to surrender. 


One of the other soldiers emerged from the jungle in 1950 and the other two died. Onada stayed and struggled to feed himself. He would steal rice and bananas from villagers and even shoot their cows to make dried beef. 


So he stayed on the island carrying out occasional guerilla warfare following the last orders he had been given. This lasted until February 20, 1974 when a young traveler named Norio Suzuki went to Lubang to find Onada. He made camp in jungle clearings and just waited. Onada was the one to make contact and they began to talk.


Suzuki returned and told authorities about Onada. They sent his commanding officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi, who had given him his last order, to bring about the surrender. 


Onada was pardoned by the Philippine government and went home to Japan with a hero’s welcome. Although he struggled to adapt to this new life he did not view his 30 years in the jungle as a waste of time.


He was the last Japanese soldier to surrender and died January 16, 2014.


In my honest moments I can relate to Onada. I don’t much like to surrender either. 


Can you relate? You want to think your own thoughts, do your own thing, and live as you see fit. 


Surrender implies that we live as someone else tells us to. Who wants that?


How many have heard these phrases...

“There isn’t no such word as can’t.” 

“A winner never quits and a quitter never wins.” 

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” 


How many have a hard time surrendering/ giving up/ quiting?  Isn’t it true - We don’t like the idea of giving up or surrendering? 


Yet, isn’t it a little ironic that our theme for today in our Believe series is “Total Surrender.” 


We’ve been taught to never give up and to never surrender, yet God tells us that we must surrender all.  What gives?


It’s interesting… The Bible is filled with people who were slow to give up on their plans and do what God asked.


Moses had all kinds of excuses why he couldn’t go back to Egypt.


Gideon was sure God had selected the wrong person to defeat the Midianites.


Jeremiah said he was too young to be the Lord’s prophet.


Jonah refused to go to Nineveh and caught a boat going the opposite direction.


Esther was afraid the King would not welcome her and she would be put to death. 


I think we are a lot like these people before they surrendered their lives to God’s purposes. But ultimately these people all did what God asked. 


God used Moses to free the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. 


God used Gideon to defeat the Midianites. 


God used Jeremiah to warn people about God’s judgment for sin and give them the promise of the New Covenant of forgiveness. 


God used Jonah to call the people of Nineveh to repentance. 


And God used Esther to save the Jewish people. 


Are we willing to follow their examples and surrender our lives to God?


Connie Cavenaugh in her book “From Faking It to Finding Grace” writes on THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COMMITMENT AND SURRENDER... 


“Commitment means I am still in control, whereas surrender takes me out of the driver’s seat . . . Commitment is deciding on a plan. Surrender is going to God for His plan. Inherent in the act of surrender is submission to the Conqueror. We cannot surrender to God unless we submit ourselves to His absolute control. This means we no longer have a plan for our life. Instead we seek to understand His purpose for our existence. 


Understand that commitment is something we can do, something we control. In surrender, we make the conscious choice to let go of that control, but the actual surrender is something only God can do. 


When we surrender, we "give up," putting the focus where it belongs - on God. 


The action is more like "giving over." 


Let's get practical from the scriptures...


Romans 6:13 (ESV) 13  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.     


Matthew 22:37 (ESV) 37  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.


Romans 12:1 (ESV) 1  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 


We are only able to strive for total surrender in our lives through God’s wonderful gift of grace. 


We surrender not because we’ve been overpowered but we fully surrender to Him out of total desperation and realization for the need of a Savior.


Romans 1-11 detailed our need for mercy and God’s gracious provision of mercy through Jesus.  


Now, as chapter 12 begins, he writes, by the mercies of God" (ESV) / “In view of God’s mercy . . .”  (NIV)"


As I reflect on God’s mercies in my life – I can do nothing less than surrender to Him TOTALLY. 


I am compelled to love God and surrender to Him because of all that He has done for me.


KEY QUESTION: How do I cultivate a life of surrendered/sacrificial service?


Jesus practiced total surrender daily. He invites us to adopt this same lifestyle with his use of “all-in” language in the Gospels. 


For example, Jesus calls those who want to follow him to “lose their life” for him: 


Matthew 16:24-25 (NIV) 24  Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.


In Luke’s gospel, we are given 3 examples of what total surrender does not look like:


Total Surrender Is Not:


Lip Service


Luke 9:57 (ESV) 57  As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 


This man’s declaration sounds like an impressive admission of total surrender! 


You would think that this is exactly what Jesus is looking for?


This was Jesus’ response:


Luke 9:58 (NIV) 58  Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." 


Jesus now presents to him a hard dilemma – Basically… “Are you willing to live this type of a lifestyle? Are you willing to follow me – even if it gets hard.”


What happened? Jesus basically says that this man was  exercising lip service, not exhibiting genuine service to the Lord. 


Here’s the hard fact – Following Christ with a steep price. (Luke 14:26 –33).


(Luke 14:26-33 ESV) “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. 


So… Total Surrender is not LIP SERVICE.


Now, moving on to the second potential follower:


  1. The Past


Let Go Of The Past – Move On To The Future


Luke 9:59-60 (ESV) 59  To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60  And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”


At first glance - Jesus’ response sounds harsh, we must remember he was walking with men who had already left behind everything to follow him. 


His invitation was urgent and current, not a simple RSVP. Jesus’ call was to spread the message of life, not to carry out the rites of death. 


His disciples were moving forward with the kingdom and the business of life.


So… Following Christ is NOT about 1) Lip Service and 2) About the future and not our past.


There is a third and final man in this scene: Following Christ is NOT:


About DELAYED Obedience


Luke 9:61-62 (ESV) 61  Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62  Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”


This disciple might have been sincere but the bottom line is this: delayed obedience to God is really equivalent to disobedience. 


When he invites us into his work, the time is now, not later. The day of salvation is always today.


When Jesus was healing, performing miracles, and meeting needs, crowds of people appeared to be all-in


Yet when he made strong statements, such as in the verses above, about the reality of following him, many decided total surrender simply cost too much. 


By the time Jesus hung on the cross, even his closest friends had abandoned him. 


His final act of total surrender to the Father was completed alone. 


The road walked with Jesus is truly the narrow one he describes in Matthew 7:13 – 14.


Matthew 7:13-14 (ESV) 13  “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14  For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.


KEY IDEA: I dedicate my life to God’s purposes.


Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu’s father died when she was only nine. As early as the age of twelve, Agnes felt called to a religious life. 


Although her mother was initially against the idea of her beloved daughter leaving her home in Macedonia to serve in India, she eventually understood the call of God and gave Agnes this piece of prophetic advice: “Put your hand in his hand and walk all alone with him.”


This charge would mark her life for the rest of her days. Agnes, better known as Mother Teresa, died at the age of eighty-seven. 




Her efforts had produced fruit in over 130 countries, including a network of 600 homeless shelters, orphanages, AIDS hospices, leprosy clinics, and homes for single mothers. 


A Gallup Poll survey in 1999 named her No. 1 on the list of the most widely admired people of the twentieth century.


The cultural norm will always be to fulfill our own desires as much as possible — which is the opposite of our key idea. 


Committing to hand over our life to an unseen God not only will be unpopular; it will also make for some difficult days. 


Why? Because we are choosing to go against the grain of the self-centered human nature. 


But keep in mind that our key idea has a goal and purpose — to dedicate our lives to God’s purposes.


In Matthew 25, Jesus uses a metaphor about separating sheep from goats. In Scripture, believers are often compared to sheep. 


Here, Jesus uses this imagery while comparing unbelievers to goats. It is ironic to see the righteous group’s response to his invitation of eternal inheritance.


Matthew 25:37-40 (ESV) 37  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38  And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39  And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’


The righteous people were a bit confused, which led them to pose some questions. 


They had no idea that when they were serving people, they were also serving Jesus — feeding, clothing, and serving him — every time. 


Total surrender to Christ will result in these regular acts of love on an ongoing basis. 


And total surrender will elicit this response from the King: 


Matthew 25:40 (ESV) 40  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ 



This should be our aim and goal.  Notice what Jesus told one disciples.


Matthew 22:37-40 (ESV) 37  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38  This is the great and first commandment. 39  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”


The only way to live out Jesus’ calling on our lives is through total surrender. 


As Mother Teresa’s mother encouraged her, our Lord urges us to simply put our hand in his hand and walk all alone with him. 


KEY APPLICATION: What difference does this make in the way I live?


We daily open our hands and heart and surrender all we have to God.


To surrender means to give up the battle of the flesh, to give over control of your life, and to abandon your rights. The battle, control, and rights all come from the same place — the sinful nature. 


Declaring surrender is handing over your heart and life fully to Jesus, as you declare, Lord, this is no longer my life, but yours; no longer my will, but yours; no longer my plan, but yours. I give my life to you, my life for you.


What Do We Need To Do?


Romans 12:1-2 (ESV) 1  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 


1. Change Our Minds


A. About God


Romans 12:1 (ESV) 1  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God... 


By the way, how do you perceive God? 


Do you see Him as a tyrant, one who is just waiting for you to make a mistake so He can pounce on you? 


Or do you see Him as a loving, gentle, heavenly Father who lifts you up, encourages and embraces you? 


Psychologists tell us that usually our perception of God is molded by our relationship with our earthly father. If your earthly father was a harsh disciplinarian, and he insisted that you toe the line all the time; then probably your perception of God is much like that.


But they say that if your earthly father was loving and gentle and tender, then probably your perception of God is more like that.


And when Jesus pictures God to us, He tells of a father waiting anxiously for his son who had gone astray, and who welcomed him with open arms when he came home again.


Jesus said, “God is like that.” Now if you have trouble seeing God like that, let me suggest that you do 2 things: 


#1, take a long, hard look at the cross. If you do, it will remind you of how horrible our sins are, and how deep is God’s love for us. 


#2, take a long, hard look at God’s Word because it tells us again and again of God’s love. 


1 John 4:7 (ESV) 7  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God…


1 John 4:9 (ESV) 9  In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.


1 John 4:11 (ESV) 11  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

So the first thing is - to change your mind about God. For if your perception of God is wrong everything else will be wrong, too. 


So… 1- Change Your Mind About God


Here is the second change. 


B.   About Your Body


Romans 12:1 (ESV) 1  … present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 


We’ve been taught to think that our bodies belong only to us. So we hear such themes as: “It’s your body, you have the right to choose,” and "If it feels good - do it.” That’s basically a this world attitude.


But God’s Word teaches that our bodies don’t belong to us alone. Not only are we God’s creation, but 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says:


1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (ESV) 19  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20  for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.


C. About The World


Romans 12:2 (ESV) 2  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 


Now the ways of the world have always been in conflict with the ways of God. The world sees things one way, and God sees them in another.


2- Change Your Heart


Now here’s the second part – “Changing our hearts.” You see, if we change our minds and don’t change our hearts, then it just won’t work. 


The Bible talks about all kinds of spiritual heart problems. There are hard hearts, troubled hearts and selfish, divided, boastful, unrepentant, lying, callous, doubting, lustful, slow to believe hearts. So the real need for us is to change our hearts. 


When David faced up to his sin in Psalm 51, he realized his need. So he wrote, “Create in me a pure heart, O God.


Ezekiel also writes, “Rid yourselves of all of the offenses you have committed and get a new heart.” 


Until the heart changes, the changing of the mind is going to be pretty much useless. 


So the two go hand in hand. (Think, Act, Be - who’ve we become in Christ. Solid Truth, put into action, produces Godly character, leads to a changed world)


So the important question is: 


How Do We Get A New Heart? Here are 4 steps:


A. Humble Yourself Before God


Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” So first of all, we have to humble ourselves before God.


Jeremiah 13:23 (ESV) 23  Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil. 


In other words, if you have lived a life of rebellion against God, and the sins are deep inside, you are not going to change overnight, and you just can’t do it by yourself. 


So humble yourself before God and ask for His help.


B.  Decide To Obey God


In the military they’re taught to obey orders even though they don’t understand the reason for them. 


In Christ it is pretty much the same way. You may not understand why God asks you to do certain things, but He is the Commander in Chief, and if He has commanded it you will do it because your heart and mind have been changed.


And Ezekiel says, “I will remove from them their heart of stone and I will give them a heart of flesh.


C. Do the right thing regardless of your FEELINGS


If you wait until you feel like doing it, you may wait a long time. I’ve discovered that most times our feelings will follow our actions. 


So do the right thing when you know the right thing to do, even though you may not feel like doing it.


D.  Expect Progress Not Perfection 


One of our problems is we think that when we do the right things, God will just make us into perfect little saints who never think wrong thoughts or want to do the wrong things again. 


But that’s not true. As long as we’re residents of this world Satan is going to be seeking to entice us to slip back into his grasp again.


So expect to be making progress, but don’t expect perfection. We’ll never be perfect this side of heaven. But we can be forgiven, and be growing upward in Christ as long as we live.


I like this song, “He’s still working on me to make me what He wants me to be. It took Him just a week to make the moon and the stars and the sun and the earth and Jupiter and Mars. How patient and loving He must be because He’s still working on me.”


1 Peter 2:11-12 (ESV) 11  Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12  Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.


We offer every moment, thought, and activity of our lives as a sacrifice to God.


I never tire of hearing the story of the chicken that shared with a pig his desire to prepare a special breakfast for their farmer. The chicken said to the pig, “I will provide the eggs, and you provide the bacon.” The pig thought about it for a moment and then responded, “You are only making a contribution; I am making a total sacrifice!”


We should be willing to die for God, but he’s not asking us to be a “dead sacrifice”; he wants us to be a “living sacrifice.” 


Frankly, offering our lives as a dead sacrifice might be a bit easier. Someone once wisely said, “The problem with living sacrifices is they keep crawling off the altar.” 


In light of what God has done to give us life, we should offer ourselves as living sacrifices back to him. We will serve God in any way He desires.


As we close… Let us echo the words of the Apostle Paul:


Acts 20:24 (ESV) 24  But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.


Excerpts from Pastor Larry Courson, Rick Brown, Tim Rolen, Randy Frazee