Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were an offering far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
Isaac Watts (1674-1748), the writer of some 700 hymns, became known as "The Father of English Hymnody." The above-quoted verse, taken from his well-known work, "When I survey the wondrous cross," raises a question with each one of us as to the degree of our self-surrender. This subject is one that is found throughout the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation.
Living as we do in days when we hear so much about the teachings of Buddhist priests, Sikh gurus, and Hindu yogis, it is well to recognize that such theosophies are but the breeding grounds for asceticism, fanaticism, and meritorious works of achievement.
Christian self-surrender is not simply denying self of certain conveniences of life or of activities that, while legitimate, are without profit. Christian self-surrender is entirely unconditional and takes its character from the burnt-offering that was wholly consumed on the altar.
From the many examples we have in the Scriptures we will restrict ourselves to three believers, namely, Abraham, Amos, and Paul. Then we will finish with some details from the life of the Lord Jesus Himself.
Abraham: The first reference to self-sacrifice in Abraham's life is to be found in Genesis 12:4, "And Abram departed as Jehovah had said to him." The last one is in Genesis 22:10, "And Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to slaughter his son."
One can readily understand the desire of the children of Israel to be free of the oppressive policy of the Pharaohs and leave the Fertile Crescent. But the great moral victory of Abraham, in Genesis 12, was that, in spite of the wealth and attractions of Babylon, he was prepared to surrender all: his land, his kindred, and his father's house.
In his supreme obedience of faith, recorded in Genesis 22, he surrenders his only son, the child of promise. Thus he not only laid on the altar his own future but that of the whole nation. But in this mountain transaction he came to know Jehovah-Jireh and learned that God can only rest in the sufficiency of His own surrender.
Amos: Probably the best-known words of Amos are:
"I was no prophet,
Neither was I a prophet's son;
but I was a herdsman
and a gatherer of sycamore fruit.
And Jehovah took me as I followed the flock,
and Jehovah said unto me,
Go, prophesy unto my people Israel."
In Amos we see a man who was prepared to leave his lands, his herds and his fruit-fields in order to serve among a people who had little regard for his religion or his people. This man of Judah was under a divine compulsion to surrender all that he possessed in the world to serve a people who not only refused his king but also his God.
Arriving in his field of service one of the first words he heard was, "Thou seer, go, flee away into the land of Judah, and eat bread there, and prophesy there. But prophesy not again any more at Bethel; for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is the house of the kingdom." The people who had listened uncomplainingly to ministry affecting others, such as Damascus, Gazah, Tyre, Ammon, Moab, Judah, were not prepared to hear what God had to say to them. But Amos, sustained by his five heavenly visions, pursued his course and carried out his assigned mission.
Paul: Paul's unconditional surrender started the day he met the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. His cry on that first encounter was, "What shall I do, Lord?" At the end he could write, "For I am already being poured out, and the time of my release is come."
How wonderful to start and to finish one's life with such cries of committal. Throughout his life, from Damascus to Rome, his one burning ambition was to make much of Christ, as he does in Colossians, and much of His assembly, as in Ephesians.
The stirring surrender of the apostle should surely awaken similar desires in all of our hearts, "But surely I count also all things to be loss on account of the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord, on account of whom I have suffered the loss of all, and count them to be filth, that I may gain Christ" (Phil. 3:8).
Lord Jesus: In the life of the Lord Jesus there was no trace of self, self-indulgence or self-interest: all was of self-abasement and self-abnegation as in the words, "But I am a worm, and no man, a reproach of men, and the despised of all people" (Ps. 22:6).
At birth how subject are the words, "Behold, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me-To do thy good pleasure, my God, is my delight, and thy law is within my heart" (Ps. 40:7-8).
In life He could say, "My meat is that I should do the will of him that has sent me, and that I should finish his work" (Jn. 4:34).
In death we hear the cry of total dependence, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit" (Lk. 23:46).
The call of the Lord Jesus is as real today as it was 2,000 years ago, "Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me" (Mk. 8:34). The word translated "deny" is a compound verb that has no greater intensity anywhere in the New Testament.
In one of his letters JND wrote: "The true heart is occupied with Christ, and in a certain sense and measure self is gone. The right thought is not to think of self at all, save as we have to judge it."