Altar Vision Devotional - Week 4

What are the characteristics of a surrendered life?


"I no longer live" Galatians 2:20


“Surrender” is a challenging word for us Canadians. Back in the 1940’s and 50’s, most churches had an altar rail in front of the platform, where congregants would regularly come, after a Sunday Evening Service, to surrender their lives anew. The altar represented death to self, our self-serving thoughts, words and actions.

Surrender is a military concept; we have difficulty fully comprehending today. This might be because the Great Wars and the implications of surrender are fading into a distant second-hand memory.

In the days when Jesus walked the earth, and the Romans ruled, surrender was better understood and practiced as part of their culture. Roman soldiers would routinely battle other cities and countries and would most often conquer them. They would claim the land for the Roman Empire, and those citizens who did not die in the conflict had to surrender their rights to Lord Caesar. Many of the conquered peoples were made slaves of wealthy Romans. Fully a third of the population of the Empire were slaves. 

Jesus told several parables about slaves, which were clearly understood by his followers.

“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’?  “But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’?  “He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?  “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’ ” Luke 17:7-10 NASB

It’s so hard for us to comprehend this type of relationship between master and slave. When we think of slavery, our minds go to the horrors of slavery in England and the US over the past couple of centuries. Many Bible translators avoid translating the word “doulos” as slave — rather they use the words “servant” or “worker” to soften it.

A slave in Roman Days was the property of his or her owners. Legally a master had the right to kill his slave when he felt the cause justified, and the slave was on his own property. A slave had no personal rights, they could not own anything, and he or she was at the command of their master 24/7. No thanks were necessary because when they obeyed, they were simply doing their job. The children of the slave also belonged to their Master. There was no pay for their work, but they were totally cared for by their owner. Sometimes, in a good home, a slave was thought of as family member and were treated like the master’s children.

Jesus used slaves as an illustration of our relationship with our Lord and Master. God owns us. “For you have been bought with a price” He paid the price to buy us from our former slavery to the devil. We belong to him and all that we think we own, actually belongs to Him. The Apostle Paul referred to himself as a slave of God.  Paul, a bond-servant (doulos) of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God ...” Romans 1:1 NASB.

So, surrender implies that I give up my rights and totally submit to my Lord and Master. All that I own, including my time, possessions and energy belongs to him. I am at his service.

Thankfully, Jesus looks at us as sons and daughters. He calls us his friends.  “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15 NASB

So here’s how it works. I see myself as Jesus’ bondslave and he sees me as his friend. Like in our church, I see myself as the servant of my flock, but they honor me as their pastor. I see myself as the servant of my wife and family, but they see me as husband and father.  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her ...”  Ephesians 5:25 NASB. When I travel to other countries to teach, I go as their servant, but they see me as their teacher. It’s the lesson that Rehoboam neglected to learn. “Then they spoke to him, saying, ‘If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.’” 1 Kings 12:7 NASB


Surrender means “I give up!”. I am now your servant Lord Jesus. I surrender all. 

Song: I Surrender All

All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give

I will ever love and trust him, in his presence daily live.

All to Jesus I surrender, humbly at his feet I bow.

Worldly pleasures all forsaken, take me Jesus, take me now.

I surrender all;  I surrender all,

All to thee my blessed saviour, I surrender all

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