My annual journey through Scripture has once again taken me to the early books of the Old Testament and those long passages in which God lays out the laws that are meant to govern his covenant people as they come into their promised land. Among the laws are a whole host that describe the system of sacrifices. So many sacrifices to serve so many purposes!
As I worked my way through chapter after chapter, I noticed one recurring theme: the people are meant to bring to the Lord what is first and what is best. Where they may be tempted to wait until their barns are full and their larders stuffed before offering their sacrifice, God demands the firstfruits. Where they may be tempted to sacrifice the animals that are lame or unsightly and that can otherwise serve no good purpose, God demands what is perfect and unblemished. He makes clear that if his people are to worship him, they must worship him in ways that prove he is their first priority.
And as I read I began to wonder: Do I give God what is first and what is best in my life? I don’t even mean the first of my money or the first of my possessions, because in my context those concepts don’t even really make sense. What is the firstfruits of a paycheck and what is a spotless and unblemished sacrifice in a twenty-first century urban context? What do these things mean when our worship no longer revolves around an intricate system of sacrifices?
Yet the New Testament does demand at least one kind of sacrifice. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1). Where in the Old Testament God’s people were to sacrifice an animal, we are to sacrifice our bodies and, more than that, to sacrifice our very selves. As we come to Christ we are to surrender to him our bodies and souls, our attitudes and actions, our time and talents, our dreams and desires, our … everything.
This is why we sing songs like, “Take My Life, and Let It Be” in which we piously say,
Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.
Or “All to Jesus I Surrender”:
All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.
But I wonder: Do we really mean it? Are we really “ever, only, all for thee?” Do we really surrender all? Or do we surrender merely some or most? Do we offer him the best of what we have or those bits we know we can do okay without? Do we really fully surrender to him those things that we love most, or do we effectively bring him what is lame and spotted, what is of little consequence and low on our list of priorities? Do we surrender the firstfruits of our lives or the lastfruits?
“I surrender all,” except my money and comfort. “Take my life” but not my position or reputation. “Take my heart it is thine own,” but please don’t take that sin I enjoy so much. “Take all I have Lord,” minus my health and strength, minus my spouse and children. “All to Jesus I surrender,” except those things I value most. We may as well be the Israelites of old entering the temple with the ugliest of our animals, the leftovers of our harvest.
When we come to Christ we must come all the way, which means we do not merely surrender our souls, but ourselves. Our prayer is to be not just “save me” but “use me.” “Use me even if it involves pain. Use me even if it involves loss. Use me even if it means you must break me. I love you, I trust you, and I surrender all.”