One of the essential conditions for experiencing “life more abundant” is total surrender to the lordship of Christ. The classic Scripture text that speaks directly to this need is Romans 12:1,2: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The counsel on practical Christian living in chapters 12-15 hinges on this pivotal exhortation. Let’s take a closer look at what is involved in this total commitment.
The Motive of Total Surrender
The admonition to present oneself as a living sacrifice is based on “the mercies of God.” To review the context, notice how the apostle establishes the fact that humankind is hopelessly lost apart from God’s mercy (Romans 1:18-3:23), then the Good News of redemption by Christ is presented. This salvation is available only through God’s grace by faith” (Romans 3:24-26).
Whenever a sinner is saved, he/she confesses Jesus Christ as Lord: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). This refers to Christ’s objective authority as King of kings; this is Who He is. However, it often takes years for believers to come to grips with the subjective implications of the lordship of Christ over every area of one’s life. The true believer should become a fully yielded disciple (See Luke 9:23). This is why Romans 12:1,2 is addressed to those who have already received Christ–those who have experienced the “mercies of God.”
Although this total commitment is essential for experiencing God’s best, it is not the only condition for personal renewal. Many have responded to altar calls and have “rededicated” their lives to God. However, Romans 6:1-14 shows that God is not waiting for us to dedicate our self-effort to live FOR Him; rather, He calls us to surrender and trust so He can live His life THROUGH us.
The Appeal to Total Surrender
All believers are challenged to whole-hearted surrender to God as an expression of gratitude for such a full and free salvation: “…by the mercies of God … present your bodies a living sacrifice.” If that sounds radical, that’s because it is! As Isaac placed his life in the hands of his father, Abraham, on Mt. Moriah, so the believer is to fully entrust himself/herself to God (Genesis 22). Dr. Charles Solomon counsels, “If you haven’t surrendered to God, then you’re still fighting Him!” If we have not said “yes” to this calling, God will allow providential pressures to build up until–in L.E. Maxwell’s words–we are “crowded to Christ” as our Lord and Life.
Notice that the context describes this surrender as a loving, grateful response, not a legalistic duty. The mercies of God motivate us to agree to this radical summons as our “reasonable service.” If Christ gave Himself for us as a physical sacrifice when we did NOT deserve His grace, shall we not willingly present ourselves back to Him as living sacrifices, since He DOES deserve this dedication?!
The Greek tense implies a decision, as in a crisis. Yet, this decision should be followed by a process of daily yieldedness (Luke 9:23). As someone has noted, “the trouble with living sacrifices is that they keep crawling off the altar.”
The Scope of Total Surrender
The total surrender of the believer is to be “holy, acceptable unto God.” Although the new birth sets apart the child of God positionally (Hebrews 10:10), we are to present ourselves to God practically. As Paul counseled Timothy, “But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 2:20,21).
This attitude of availability is “acceptable to God…” By way of contrast, an attitude of self-will is a form of idolatry, which is always UNacceptable.
How are we to surrender? Being a living sacrifice involves surrendering all of our RIGHTS. This welcomes God as our Vindicator. Others still have responsibilities to treat us lovingly and legally, yet we relinquish the ownership of these rights. This, of course, is counter-cultural. No wonder the text goes on to warn us to not be conformed to the world system! (Romans 12:2).
We are also summoned to surrender our RELATIONSHIPS to God. This welcomes God as our Supreme Relationship. As Christ reaffirmed, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). As we lose our independent “life,” [Greek, psuche=soul] we end up saving it–finding Abundant Life (Matthew 16:25).
History records how the famous mathematician, physicist, and theologian, Blaise Pascal, came to such a place of total surrender. “…Pascal felt an extreme aversion for the beguilements of the world….His growing desire to retire from the world was confirmed on Nov. 23, 1654 when he experienced what is known as his ‘second conversion.’ The written memorial of that experience, which he wore thereafter as a kind of amulet, records that from 10:30 until 12:30 that night he knew ‘the God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of philosophers and scientists,’and that he resolved ‘total submission to Jesus Christ…'
Friend, have you, like Pascal, responded to God’s call, giving Him “permission” to do whatever He sovereignly chooses with your life? This “reasonable service” will open a door to a greater experience of God’s will for your life, a plan that is “good, acceptable, and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
The hymn by Judson Van DeVenter expresses this so well:
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.
All to Jesus, I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
 The issue of Lordship Salvation has polarized many church leaders. Some have reacted to the apparent “easy believism” of a shallow gospel (intellectual assent to the good news message apart from repentance and commitment). They warn that saving faith requires a personal recognition of Christ as Lord as well as Savior (e.g., John MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus. Zondervan. Cf. Matthew 7:21).
Others react to lordship statements that seem to add a condition of committed obedience to the Gospel–the good news of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone (e.g., Zane Hodges, Abolutely Free. Zondervan. Cf. Romans 4:5).
It seems that both sides have legitimate concerns. The lordship of Christ must be accepted objectively at salvation, yet the subjective response to His authority is a process. “Therefore, my beloved, …work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Yet this expression is not based on works of merit, but on the grace and indwelling life of God: “…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12,13).
 “Reasonable service” is a translation of two Greek word. 1) “logikos” (related to our word “logical”) which means “reasonable” and 2) “latreia” (related to our word “liturgy”) which means “divine service.” The sense is of the phrase is “this is our reasonable service of worship.”
 This use of the Greek aorist tense is discussed by Gerald McGraw in his book, Launch Out (a study of Dynamic Sanctification) Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, ch. 18.
 Great Books of the Western World, Vol. 30, (Encyclopedia Britannica: 1952), v. vi.
 Judson W. Van DeVenter, 1896: “The song was written while I was conducting a meeting at East Palestine, Ohio, in the home of George Sebring….For some time, I had struggled between developing my talents in the field of art and going into full time evangelistic work. At last the pivotal hour of my life came, and I surrendered all. A new day was ushered into my life. I became an evangelist and discovered down deep in my soul a talent hitherto unknown to me. God had hidden a song in my heart, and touching a tender chord, He caused me to sing. (from CyberHymnal.org)