Recently, I have seen several United States Marine Corps billboards with the slogan, “We don’t accept applications, only commitments.” The message is clear. Don’t sign up unless you are ready to make a serious commitment. The billboard message reminded me of a similar message Jesus gave to those who expressed interest in becoming His followers without truly understanding what it was they were asking.
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25 (NASB)
While commitment may be sufficient for the United States Marines, Jesus demands much more from His followers. According to the New Testament, Jesus does not accept applications or commitments, only total surrender. While it is true a commitment is better than an application, following Jesus goes far beyond a simple commitment. In other words, nothing short of complete submission to the Lordship of Jesus Christ will do for those who wish to become His followers.
The problem is the word commitment does not adequately describe what is required to follow Jesus. The story of the rich young ruler illustrates what it means to totally surrender to Jesus. We find this story in Matthew 19:16-22 (NIV)
Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”Which ones?” the man inquired. Jesus replied, “‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack? Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus knew what this young man needed to lay aside in order to totally surrender his life to Christ. We may not be rich, but we all have things we cling to, things we do not want to let go of, that in effect, we hold in a higher esteem than we do our Lord. He is not the Lord of our life if we do not let go of our stuff, and put Him first. He is Sovereign! He is Lord! He deserves and demands nothing less than unconditional surrender of our lives. We should freely give ourselves to Him.
This past Saturday, I attended the funeral service of a dear missionary friend, Dr. Ronald Hill. Ron and his wife Evelyn gave their lives to spread the Gospel in Thailand for 41 years. After his retirement in 1993, Dr. Hill continued to serve others, working with Laotian and Burmese immigrants in North Carolina, up until his death at 86. His life was an example of total surrender.
The United States Marine Corps is looking for commitment. Jesus is looking for surrender. We make commitments for many different reasons – a sense of obligation, duty, or loyalty. Surrender however, requires love and submission. This is why Jesus defined the first and greatest commandment in this way, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37 (NIV)
Is your relationship with Jesus a matter of commitment or surrender?