The Surrendered Life
James H. McConkey
At no period in the last century of the history of God’s people has there been more emphasis placed upon the Christian life and walk than at the present. For long years the hearts of God’s true children have longed for the fullest, richest, closest spiritual life attainable in Christ Jesus. That there was such a deeper, higher, broader life in Christ than the lives of many of His children were exemplifying, was admitted by all. The Word of God promised it; the lives of the early disciples were resplendent with its glory; the hearts of God’s devout children clung to it with pathetic persistence. That self-same tenaciousness of faith in the possibility of such a fullness of Christian experience was the Spirit-born and Spirit-fed proof of its existence. Men’s hearts would not yield their faith in its existence because the Spirit who dwelt within them would not suffer such faith to perish. Seeing then that he could not banish the vision of the glory-crowned peak, the arch-adversary sought to becloud the pathway to it. Knowing that they would not surrender their faith in the distant haven he essayed to confuse, by a maze of misleading lines, the chart that guided weary seekers to it. As for a thousand years he had blinded the way to the heart-resting peace with God, so now he diligently set himself to darken the path to the heart-keeping peace of God. Error and false teaching of divers and manifold forms swarmed to the becloudment. Perfectionism; sanctification of the flesh; eradication of inbred sin from that in which a holy God declares there “dwelleth no good thing”; holiness teaching with much of truth, yet such serious error in the ignoring and wresting of God’s word as has led to pitiable disappointment, and spiritual disaster;–all these have hung about the true pathway to fullness of life in Christ, as the mist and mirage beset the toiling traveler eager to reach his journey’s end.
All the while the Spirit knew this pathway. All through these weary years of gloom and error this truth was flooded with the light of an errorless simplicity in the mind of the Spirit: all this time it was already revealed in His Word. While men wandered in the labyrinth of their own dogmas, while they encrusted the truth with the cheap gloss of their own human opinions, He could not make plain to them what was so clear to Him. But as soon as they began to give to His naked Word that place of supreme authority they had been all unconsciously awarding to creeds, and to man-made comments upon that Word, the true light began to burst forth. So it is through the earnest, searching, trustful study of that Word to-day that, out from the error, ignorance, and false teaching of the century is emerging, in all its glory and preciousness, the truth which lets us into the secret of a full and triumphant life in Christ Jesus.
THE BODY OF THE BELIEVER IS THE TEMPLE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, WHO COMES AT CONVERSION TO ABIDE FOREVER. TO WALK IN THE SPIRIT, INSTEAD OF WALKING IN THE FLESH AS HE HAS HITHERTO DONE, IS THE WHOLE SECRET OF THE BELIEVER’S LIFE OF POWER, PRIVILEGE AND PEACE. TO THUS WALK IN THE SPIRIT THE FIRST ESSENTIAL IS THE ABSOLUTE YIELDING TO GOD OF THE LIFE WHICH THE BELIEVER HAS HITHERTO HIMSELF CONTROLLED AND DIRECTED.
These great truths are clearly set forth in God’s Word, and nowhere more clearly than in the writings of the great apostle. As we walk in the Spirit we shall not sin (Gal. 5: 16): as we walk in the Spirit we mortify the deeds of the flesh (Rom 8: 13): as we walk in the Spirit His law makes us free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8: 2): as we walk in the Spirit we show ourselves to be true Sons of God (Rom. 8: 14): as we walk in the Spirit we are freed from the bondage of the law (Gal. 5: 18): as we walk in the Spirit we are made like unto Jesus Christ (II Cor. 3: 18); and the image of His glorious life is reproduced in all its features of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, etc. (Gal. 5: 22.) In short he who has learned to walk in the Spirit walks in God, instead of in Self; for him to live is CHRIST: What higher summit than this is there in Christian experience?
SURRENDER NEEDFUL THAT GOD MAY HAVE HIS WAY WITH US.
But how can that Spirit lead, purify, transform, fill, and use a life unless it is yielded to Him? What can the potter do with the unyielded clay? How can God fashion the unyielded life? If every idol He shatters is secretly mourned: if every chastening stroke is bitterly denounced: if every higher purpose is resisted by a hostile will, how can He mold, and transform, and bless? Surely the ship which God is not piloting is destined to disastrous wreck: surely the harp which God does not attune will ever be a jangle of discordant notes to His listening ear. If we would have them restored to their perfection, we yield our disordered time-piece to the watchmaker: our costly gem with its broken setting to the jeweler: our wounded, bleeding limb to the hand of the surgeon. Can we do less toward God with the priceless treasure of life if we would have it meet our highest aspiration? Wherefore the Word of God calls upon us again and again to yield, yield, YIELD ourselves to God (Rom. 6: 13, 16, 19) if we would have His Spirit hold full sway in our lives. He will not compel such surrender. He wants consecration, not coercion. But His fullest purpose of grace, blessing, and ministry is simply baffled in the life which will not yield to Him. Nothing is more striking in Christ’s earthly life than this attitude of absolute submission to the Father. “Lo, I come to do Thy will” was the complete expression of His early life and ministry. He came, as He says, not to do His own will: not to speak His own words: not to seek His own glory: not to teach His own doctrines. In all these He repeatedly emphasized His entire submission to the Father, His entire effacement of self in the conduct and shaping of His own earthly career. Now the servant is not greater than his Lord: as the Father sent Him, even so has He sent us into the world. He, as the Son of God, did this for an ensample to us who are sons. Wherefore if He, the sinless, spotless Son of God, needed to yield His earthly life wholly to the Father, how much more do we? Almost every page of God’s Word calls us to follow in his footsteps. But where is there one which exempts us? Every consideration of obedience, of fullness of blessing, of closeness of walk with God, of glorification of His name, and of successful service and fruit-bearing for Him, calls us to follow Christ’s example and yield ourselves unreservedly to God, to do His will and not our own. Many who are saved are not servants. They rejoice in salvation, but shirk from discipleship. They covet the crown, but shun the yoke. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for or us” (Rom. 5: 8). “He died, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them” (II. Cor. 5: 15). They see in this first text Christ’s purpose to save sinners, but they do not see in this second Christ’s purpose in saving. They do not see that He died not only to save the life, but to use the life after it is saved. He died not only to bring men into the Kingdom, but to make them servants of the King. He wants not only saved sinners, but surrendered saints.
Perhaps the most astonishing fact of the religious life of today is the number of men and women, who, thus saved by Christ, are yet unwilling to yield to Christ, and to live no longer unto themselves, but “unto Him.” Let this test be applied to the average gathering of Christian men and women, and mark the result. Marvelous indeed is it to see that the ratio of God’s children who joyfully and whole-heartedly respond to it is often as small as that of the unsaved who to the appeal of the gospel of salvation. What distrust in the Christ of Love! What a revelation of the kingship of Self in our lives! What a cheapening of His sacrifice for us that the vision of it instead of impelling us to cast ourselves, our all, at His feet, barely stirs us to reluctant and stinted gifts from our abundance! Verily, no truth of God’s Word has suffered more at the hands of His children than this of His call to the yielding of the life: none has oftener been wounded in the house of its friends. It has suffered in the frequent woeful failure of God’s messengers to bring it home tenderly to the lives of all His children; in the sad and repeated failure to respond when it is brought home; and in the everyday handling of the truth of consecration with a flippancy which has made it only a high-sounding phrase and the consecration meeting often a shallow mockery. Yet it stands as the supreme act in the believer’s life: the threshold of blessing and successful service.
For the first great step of the walk in the Spirit, is that yielding of the life which puts us under the control of that Spirit. Without this we may, and do have times of blessing, in so far as we trust and obey God in the acts of our daily life, and thus carry cut the principle of obedience involved in surrender. But it is only through this that our whole life can be brought into that perfect alignment with God’s will for or us which makes not only isolated acts, but, the whole course of our life, always well pleasing unto Him, and a constant joy to ourselves. Myriads of God’s children are thus doing acts which please the Father, and finding joy and gladness therein, walk happily with Him while His plans are well pleasing to them. But when it comes to walking with Him in the dark, and bearing and doing things which their own wills would have otherwise, they break down at the point of greatest weakness, a point of some secret cherished reservation to the whole will of God. It is just here that a definite act of surrender to God in blank is of such value. For it is a yielding of the life to do and suffer all His will, in all things and at all times, because we have, once for all, settled that it is the best thing for us. Wondrously steady under chastening and affliction does it make our life, to have it thus placed wholly and confidingly in His loving grasp. Then, when the hour comes to walk with God in the twilight of a simple, naked faith, while He works in ways that seem hard and strange, we follow Him as trustfully in the night of faith as in the full noontide of sight. We look back and remember the transaction by which we handed all things over to Him; we recall His faithfulness and power to guard all that is committed to Him; we remind ourselves of His deathless love for His children; and we quietly leave our life where we once, and forever, placed it, confident that the hands that bled to save it, are the safest hands to keep it.