In the closing days of World War II in Europe, German military leaders sent word to Allied commanders requesting a meeting to discuss the terms of Germany’s surrender. Adolph Hitler had committed suicide. The country was in ruins and it was obvious to the German commanders that the war was lost. And yet they somehow believed they could still dictate the terms of their surrender to the Allies. But Allied commanders would have none of it. Germany’s surrender had to be unconditional, and it was not negotiable. A few days later, Germany did surrender….unconditionally. A few months later in August of 1945, Japan would also surrender unconditionally.
Unconditional surrender means exactly what it says. You surrender everything to the victor. You surrender to the victor’s authority and agree to his terms, whatever they are. And you understand your position. You know you cannot make demands because your life is in HIS hands. The victor calls the shots. That’s the unconditional part. When World War II ended, the United States occupied the defeated nations only long enough to help them get back on their feet. We helped them rebuild their governments and economies. Of course, in the aftermath, certain German and Japanese military leaders had to be brought to justice for war crimes. But we did not go into those countries as oppressors. We did not massacre or enslave the civilian populations (though regrettably, many civilians did die as a result of wartime actions). We were gracious in victory and our former enemies were shown great mercy. And today, Germany and Japan are two of our greatest allies. In the long term, unconditional surrender worked out very well for them.
So when we apply the expression ‘unconditional surrender’ to our Christian faith, what should it imply? Very succinctly, it means we surrender ourselves to God on His terms. And God does have terms. Among the first things He asks of us is repentance, to renounce sin. After His temptation in the wilderness, the very first message Jesus preached according to Matthew 4 verse 17 was the message of repentance. From that time on, Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Repentance alone, however, is not enough. The Bible teaches us that, even though many repented upon hearing the preaching of John Baptist, they weren’t saved until they came to know Jesus Christ. Acts chapter 19 tells us:
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”
So Paul asked, “Then what baptism did you receive?”
“John’s baptism,” they replied.
Paul said, “John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.
So repentance in and of itself is not enough to be saved. It’s a good first step, but it must be accompanied by genuine belief in Jesus Christ; (whoever believes in him shall not perish but shall have eternal life). John the Baptist prepared the way, but he was not…….THE way. He helped people take the first step on the road to salvation. God took care of the next step by sending His son, and by sending messengers like the Apostle Paul to tell people about Jesus. God still sends messengers today, people like us, to spread the message of the gift of grace. But the gift of grace cannot be a gift until it is accepted. I’ve met people who are genuinely sorry for things they’ve done in the past. They claim to believe what’s written in the Bible about Christ, but they stop short of making a commitment to become followers of Christ. They believe, but they don’t believe IN Him. There’s a difference between believing someone and believing IN someone. And by not believing in Jesus Christ, they refuse the free gift of grace.
“God, I’m going to read the Bible and go to church every Sunday, but……..I don’t want to shut off HBO and Cinemax. I tell you what, I won’t let the kids watch those channels. I’ll lock them out during the day. But I like to watch those channels after my wife and kids go to bed.”
“God I believe Jesus died for the sins of the world, but……there’s this one website I really like to go to. Really, what’s the harm?”
“God, it’s okay if I move in with this person I’ve been dating because we do love each other, and that’s all that matters isn’t it?”
“God, if you do this one thing for me, here’s what I’ll do for you.”
“God, I”ll surrender my life to you after I clean up my act, after I get it together, after I learn how to control myself, after, after, after…………..” Fortunately, that was never one of God’s terms for our surrender.
We cannot come to God on our terms. We don’t dictate the terms or our surrender. It must be on His terms. And sometimes, even devoted Christians sometimes try to renegotiate the terms a little.
But God’s terms are clear – Repentance, Belief, Acceptance. Turn away from sin. Believe IN Jesus and all that He did for us by going to the cross. Accept the free gift of grace. That’s the foundation of our faith. And His terms are not burdensome. Jesus said:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11)
God’s terms for our surrender are unconditional; meaning we cannot dictate the terms of our surrender to Him. But given what He promises in return to all who believe IN him, why would we even think about trying to renegotiate the terms?