The old hymn ‘I Surrender All’ is over one hundred years old. The lyrics were written by a man who after years of struggle surrendered his potentially successful career as an artist to be an evangelist.
Though I love the tune and the holiness it often engenders I think the lyrics fall short of the great victory we have in Christ. Romans 8:37 says that we are not surrendering. Rather we are “more than conquerors through him that loved us”.
This great victory was not always available. Under the law the Psalms and prophets spoke eloquently about the great sacrifices the righteous would make to God.
The law itself presented the righteous life as one fraught with prohibitions and limitations on food, clothing, and marriage. Lives of millions of animals were surrendered to God. Great riches were offered to God through the temple.
Gentiles who became members of Israel were circumcised and had to stop eating bacon and shaving their face among other things.
The law was holy and righteous but its purpose was to show that we are not. We have nothing we can offer God that he needs. Man is filled with sin. We were enemies of God, foolish, disobedient, and deceived.
Many think that if they just surrender their hearts’ greatest desires of success, money, power, and pleasure that God will consider their great sacrifice and will then pour out his Spirit upon them and grant his love and salvation.
This could not be more wrong.
“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8
It is not about our surrender but his surrender at the cross. It was Christ who took the form of a man and was obedient unto death at the cross. Compared with his surrender ours is a shame.
Speaking of shame, it would be a great mistake to think that the Christian life is solely about surrender. His death is only half of the story. The rest is told in the ultimate victory over sin and death by his resurrection!
It is the song of victory over sin and death that we should be singing about! Through Christ we have been given forgiveness of sins, free justification, sanctification by the Spirit, and eternal life! Sin has no dominion over us; death where is your sting?
If you get a promotion at work you would not say you surrendered your old job. You would declare of the victory of earning such an honor.
Now consider that the promotion was granted not by your own efforts but by the work of another. This would cast ‘ I surrender’ far from your mind as your attitude would be thankfulness.
Giving up sinful activity and selfish interests is always a good thing. But if your focus is on surrender you are going to struggle with victory. Take your eyes off of who you were and where you have been and look up towards who you are in Christ and where you are going.
You have been crucified with Christ! There is nothing else to surrender. It is finished.
Concentrate on the great victory that has been achieved for you and you can become more than conquerors through him that loved us.
Here is an alternative to the classic I Surrender All with more victorious lyrics.
You can also download the sheet music and accompaniment mp3 for this song (#11 in our Grace Hymnal) here: www.GraceHymnal.com