What Christians Mean by “Surrender Your Rights” to God

When ministers speak on the Spirit-led, Christian life, one will invariably hear ministers say, “surrender your rights.” In the context of their subject, they would not be wrong, per se. However, their expression is confusing to the common person on the street and needs clarification. Does God really expect a person to surrender his or her rights in order to be “Spirit-filled?” If so, what rights are we talking about in regards to surrender? And how do we surrender them? To what or whom do we surrender these certain rights?

A BASELINE: WHAT GOD WILL NEVER ASK YOU TO SURRENDER

It may seem inane to have compiled them, and they may not fully exhaust one’s God-given human rights; but the below 7 rights serve as a baseline for what God will never require anyone to “give up” or surrender in order to be “Spirit-filled.”

In the beginning, God created mankind with certain inalienable rights. Now, I am not taking my queue from America’s Declaration of Independence when I write that.

[As an aside, please note the USA’s founding documents notate the “pursuit of happiness” as an inalienable right. While the pursuit of happiness may be guaranteed by a government as a freedom it promises to preserve, finding and maintaining happiness cannot possibly be guaranteed. If anyone guarantees your happiness, run! Happiness is everyone’s capability but not every one’s right, as if the world or government owes its citizens each Reid subjective “happiness.” To sociopathic and psychopathic maniacs, torture and murder may make them happy. You see my point.]

Yet, a Christian worldview sees mankind (redeemed or disbelieving / sinner or saint) possesses certain rights of being, simply because he or she is made in God’s image.

These rights are:

1. A right to life: (Genesis 1 & 9) no one can rightly decide, much more act upon the decision, that I should not exist or that one’s existence is less important or necessary/essential than another’s. The fact decries all non-life-threatening abortion, euthanasia, racism, bigotry, animosity or discrimination even in the face of what Christians would label sexual aberrance.

God will never lead anyone to surrender their right to life for non-martyrdom reasons.^ Cult leaders and New Age spirit guides, who brainwash their followers to isolate themselves and eventually commit suicide, are delusional, …and so are those who follow them.

2. A right to defense & justice: (Genesis 4 & 9) if someone attempts to take my life or one under my care (whether successfully or not) or otherwise causes me to suffer injury or damages or loss in the natural course of my life, then God grants (via governments He instituted*) recourse and punishment that fits the crime. God not only allows self-defense in the face of violent attack, He clearly commands the defense of others who are in danger and especially defense of the weak & vulnerable and defenseless. [*not all governments practice the enforcement or even legislation of true justice, to their own shame, not God’s]

God will never require anyone to give up legal rights to defense and justice, even if religious leaders insist on doing so in the name of a perverted sense of “forgiveness.” [Please see ^ below]

3. A right to marry & procreate: (Genesis 1-2; 1 Timothy 4:3) it was a God who made mankind in the gender distinctions of male & female; and only the gametes from those 2 distinct genders can procreate humanity. Again, the founding documents of the USA confirm this when it references “posterity.” In that truth, God established marriage and blessed humanity with the command to “be productive and multiply.” It is one’s God-given right to honorably (according to God’s design) pursue a life’s mate of the opposite gender and hope for any number of children.

Though many governments and/or religious sects, claiming to be “of God” may do so, God will never require anyone to surrender their right to pursue male/female marriage and the right to pursue any number of posterity.

4. A right to responsibly utilize & maintain the earth’s resources for sustaining one’s life & posterity: (Genesis 1-2) the Christian worldview sees that, at the outset of human existence, God gave a stewardship of the earth and its creatures to mankind. It is both for us and to be prosperously maintained by us. In many passages of Christian Holy writ, one reads of God’s allotment of land to both nations and individuals as a general rule. It is a biblical right for one to lawfully obtain and keep land for the purpose of individual health & life sustainability… and also for the health of that particular land’s resources and its creatures.

God will never require anyone to surrender the ability / responsibility to provide for himself/herself. If religious leaders demand it on any grounds except the direct immorality of the “work” being done, then those “leaders” are wrong. Also, God will not forget the justice He reserves for those who deny a worker fair wages and for those who destroy the earth (Revelation 11:18).

5. A right to clothing: (Genesis 3; James 1) It may seem insignificant or unnecessary to state at first, but God repeatedly treats clothing as non-optional in the Bible, even as if He Himself is bound to provide it via charity, the supply of resources and provision of opportunity for work (Genesis 3; Matthew 6). And, He commands it to be given to the needy by believers and disbelievers alike.

God will never require someone to give up their clothing. While many religious cults promote either the extremes of nudity or identity effacing garb (ex. Burkas, masks/costumes, ostentatiousness, uniform-like & cookie-cutter dress styles “standards” for church), God never does. He merely calls for the principle of modesty in character and outward appearance.

6. A right to payment (and/or food) for labor: (Genesis 3, 1 Timothy 5:18, James 5:4) no food for those who do not work is a God-established law. This does not cancel out the God-blessed situation of charity, but it does establish a fair wage for services or labor rendered. God indicates nothing of a right to amass wealth. In fact, the Scriptures teach the opposite in regards to desiring wealth (Matthew 5 & 6, 1 Timothy 6:10). God warns such desires and practices for obtaining wealth lead only to severe suffering in one’s own life and in others’ lives.

Though churches and “leaders” may pressure it, God will never require you to surrender wages needful for your food or sustaining life. He will most assuredly never lead anyone to promise money they do not have (2 Corinthians 8:12-13), and He will punish those who fail to pay a worker, inside or outside a religious entity.

7. A right to peaceful worship: in His book, God does command His own people (modern day believers) not to worship other gods along side of or instead of Him (Deuteronomy 5; 1 Corinthians 6-9). Yet, God also allows all mankind the power of choice” in belief, whatever the object of that worship may be (in concept or being, Matthew 5:45, 2 Peter 3:9). In this way, God is the creator of freedom of religion, when He endowed mankind as a species capable of free will. To violate one’s right to worship is to attack the innate volition of that human… a thing not even God attempts. Therefore, to force religious observance or to demand religious abstinence, whether by violent or regulatory means is immoral to humanity. To put a price (tax, penalty, payment or access fee) on worship is also immoral to humanity.

It may seem unnecessary to state, but God will never require anyone to give up their right to worship Him. Governments may require it. Opposing religious leaders and entities may demand it, but God never will… even if those leaders and governments claim to be acting in God’s name and authority. Moreover, God will never forcefully violate the freedom of choice each one has to reject Him as God. He warns of the eternal consequences for rejecting Him, who died and resurrected for the sins of the world, but He will not override your will by force.

Lastly, although religious leaders may abuse their position by telling people only they (the religious leader) can rightly interpret the Bible (instead of equipping the believer to accurately and faithfully interpret for herself/himself), Jesus states all must individually worship Him within their human spirit and in truth. No one is a mediator between you and God besides Jesus, the Son of God by His Spirit… Who resides in every believer to guide them into all truth!

WHAT TO SURRENDER

Very simply, God wants you to surrender your “right” to deny his influence in developing your personal character and choices. That is the ONLY right he expects anyone to give up! And still, He won’t force you to do it. He influences you instead.

God wants you to give “right of way” to His influence on your character. God the Holy Spirit will always influence you to surrender your right to choose what God calls “sin.” Yes, it takes some renewing of your mind to learn what God calls sin; but most generally, sin stems from a failure to selflessly love God and others. Sin is directly tied to selfishness… the pursuit of pleasures or convenience of life at any cost to self or others and with no regard to God’s design for life. If one goes through a day or comes to a crossroads of life without saying to himself/herself, “I should objectively find out what God thinks about this,” then that one may very well be straying from God’s design.

Sin is disregard for and/or rejection of God and/or God’s design for life. Sin is not just behaviors. Sin is also entertaining or giving into dark & destructive desires and emotions (ex. hatred of persons instead of evil, envy, lust, anger, malice, greed, pride). So, God will always lead individuals to surrender their ability and inclination to embrace these evils. No one, not even God can stop someone from choosing these ills, which admittedly come very naturally to fallen humanity. But that is the point. We are fallen. We need God as our life coach!

To those who believe Jesus is the Son of God and Savior of Mankind from sin, and so, take on God as their Master of Life, God promises rescue from:

A. Our past sins, having expunged our soul’s record in His eyes of Justice and turning the evil into His good purposes

B. Our present sinful tendencies, as we surrender our right to deny His influence.

C. Our eternal future from damnation unconditionally.

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^In reference to persecution & martyrdom (Matthew 5), God does call on believers to be ready and willing (with no attempt at self-defense or outcry) to suffer all kinds of mistreatment and even death, IF AND ONLY IF that persecution is indeed of a religious nature and particularly done to those following Jesus, because of the Person and teachings of Jesus (1 Peter 4). In fact, Jesus commands to bless and pray for those who persecute believers. For a biblical teaching on the subject, please see Machetes, “Enough” and a Free Gospel

The True Extent of Pastoral “Authority,” Part 2

In a previous post, under the same title, Lambs's Harbinger examined the New Testament in order to determine whether pastors (elders / overseers) have "authority" over other believers in the organizational sense of the term, let alone in the spiritual sense. The answer is no for both. The Word is the true authority. The pastor is the one who must impart it accurately and faithfully.

Rather than pastors being hierarchical CEOs of churches, they have a charge to keep. It is a calling (responsibility; leadership by influencing example & service) and a gifting (always including teaching) by God to "look out for" the growth, health and maturity of each believer. This "looking out for" role serves the goal that individual members of the Body learn for themselves how to consistently hear and obey God Himself. A pastor should lead people by prayer, by teaching the Word and by example to develop their own, direct and vibrant interactive relationship with God. That is quite a difference from the man inserting himself between the believer and God through insistence on authority structure or fostering co-dependence. "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," (1 Timothy 2:5).

THE MYTH OF AUTHORITY IN CHURCH DISCIPLINE

While pastors are charged by God to give reasonable answers to attackers of Christianity; and while they also must bring attention to and rebuke those who spread false teaching or cause divisions, …in Matthew 18, Jesus never authorizes an elder (pastor) to remove someone from church membership. Rather, the unrepentant person must be brought before the church.

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’17 If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

THE ELDERS & THE YOUNGER

But, what about the authority of older pastors over younger pastors? There should be mutual respect and honor reflected in these roles. The Apostle Peter puts it this way: (1 Peter 5:1-5 ESV)

So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

In this passage we can notice 3 terms of designation. There are general statements to all pastors but mainly the older ones—elders. Then, we can also see Peter differentiates between "the flock of God" and the "younger."

Here are the statements to the older pastors (elders) in verses 1-5:

  • Shepherd the flock by exercising the role of "looking out for" [overseeing] them. (Again, not a CEO hierarchical or managerial, director position)
  • Don't do this because you are compelled: ex. because a title or "position" socially demands it… or because someone (or your own shame) pressures you. Rather, do it AS GOD LEADS / WILL HAVE YOU and you are eager. (i.e. May not be permanent; may need breaks in seasons of life, etc.)
  • DON'T DO IT FOR PAY!! (The greatest compulsion)
  • Don't domineer God's people but instead lead them by example!! (Quite impossible to do in a sterile, organizational setting). [IMPLIED: Be subject to the Chief Shepherd, Who will give a Crown of Life]

These mandates quite disqualify most pastors / elders these days. Do they not?

Then, in the last part of verse 5, the Apostle Peter shifts to addressing the "younger," which could be anyone in the flock; but since Peter referred to the "flock" earlier, the term "younger" most likely defines younger ministers by comparison to the aged ministers (ex. as Timothy & Titus to Paul, cf. 1 Timothy 4:12).

The young ministers are commanded to show respect and submission to the older ministers (the elders), recognizing that God's Hand is at work… especially in situations where (implied) there is ongoing lording and domineering and ministering under compulsion (esp. for money). In fact, verses 6-11 are clearly aimed at all ministers (the brotherhood, v.9) but bear special overtones toward the younger minister.

ALL MINISTERS CLOTHED IN HUMILITY

These matters being noted, the last half of verse 5 (of 1 Peter 5) commands all "under-shepherds" (older and younger) to be humble toward each other.

If the older ministers have not disqualified themselves by being domineering and lording, or by doing ministry under compulsion (especially for pay), then they—like the younger—must give great attention to humility. This is nothing other than mutual honor and respect, due to recognizing that Jesus is the Great Shepherd above all and in all. The elder and younger are equals, not "lord to subservient." As Paul charged Timothy, "Let no one despise your being young, but be an example…" (1 Timothy 4:12).

The whole relationship, whether ministers to "laity" or between fellow ministers is not stated better than by Paul elsewhere, Philippians 2:3

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Q&A: “How Good Must I be In Order to be Called a Christian?”

A Facebook friend-of-friend recently posted the following:

To be saved a person must stop smoking, drinking, drugs, and cussing. Attend church on a regular basis, and become a born again Christian. Now are you ready to commit to being a Christian? If not then Hell is your destiny…..If you don't believe me, read your Bible. So if you are still cussing like a sailor, or doing drugs, or getting drunk after you read this then you did not commit to being a Christian and you need to quit pretending like you are one. There is more to being a Christian than just saying you are. God bless and have a wonderful day……

Having seen this, the mutual friend to the one who posted tagged me for a response. Here it is:

One time, similar conversation took place within earshot of Jesus. Here is what happened:

"And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17; Luke 5:31; Matthew 9:12 ESV)

So, Jesus presents Himself as a Doctor. If you know you aren't perfectly healthy in relationship with God, then go to the Doctor so he can give you His cure. But, this idea you have to make yourself better before you can be a "Christian," or (worse) that you have no sickness in your flawed human nature, is just stupid.

It is quite a gift Jesus gives us by forgiving us and making us His child—able to partake in His Divine nature. So with that said, the Apostle whom Jesus loved writes this:

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! ….Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this earnest expectation, sourced in Him, purifies themselves, just as He is pure." (1 John 3:1-3)

Summary: you can't be good enough to earn merit with God. Turn to Jesus for rescue. AFTER that, you still can't be good enough to repay God or "keep" what you were given (Galatians 3:3). It is a gift. What you can do is live thankfully by aiming for being like Jesus, out of love and because He changed your identity to His child. We can't be perfectly like Jesus on this side of Heaven, but we should want to be transformed into Jesus' likeness as much as we possibly can until then.

We all (especially Christians) have areas of life needing transformation. I have habits and patterns of response… call them addictions, if you will. Everyone has some form of addiction—religious self-righteousness can be an example, as the above person's post reveals. No matter what is our weakness or mortal flaw, the important thing is to stay humbly transparent and keep faith that Jesus is the ultimate Deliverer. Desire to keep a big and open connection with Him! Sheep are safe & fed near the Shepherd; the sick do well when near the Doctor.

Jesus never asked us to "commit to being a Christian." He asked us to turn to Him for rescue!

The True Extent of Pastoral “Authority,” Part 1

What authority, if any, does God grant a pastor over people? The short answer is “NONE in the position or the man himself.” 

Hebrews 13:17 King James Version (KJV) does read:

17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

BUT, this is a stodgy translation manufactured inside of an Anglican Monarchy. The Anglicans are simply an English duplicate of Rome. In this verse, “to submit” is not to place one’s self in subjugation, as in militaristic rank, but rather “to willingly follow by consent.” The definition of “rule over” is NOT “to domineer” nor even “to direct.” Rather, to oversee is properly understood as “watch like a shepherd tending a flock of sheep.” As Bill Mounce so accurately points out, overseer (episkopos) refers to the assignment or leadership role (by service & example, Mark 9:35, 10:34) placed upon the man by God via calling and subsequent gifting, not to an administrative position. [Reference Acts 1:20 wherein Peter says of Judas, “May another take his place of leadership” (https://billmounce.com/monday-with-mounce/overseer-or-office-overseer”-1-tim-3-1)%5D.

What Hebrews 13 states by using the word “obey” is not what many pastors assume it to mean. The term really means “to willingly follow, due to being convinced.” Convinced of what? Well, that brings up Acts, chapter 6. The duties of those who oversee the flock of God are:

  1. Prayer
  2. Ministry of the Word

Believers should be convinced that a pastor’s ministry of the Word is accurate to the Word. The pastor’s only authority—if we call it that— comes from showing what the Word says. The Word is the real authority. He must be able and ready to teach it. He is to be a workman that is unashamed, because by thorough and diligent and prayerful study, he rightly parses (interprets, teaches) the Word of God (2 Timothy 2:15) in all of its contexts. If people are not convinced his teachings are clearly from the Word (without mixture), then he is not to be followed; and he cannot demand to be followed. In fact, he ought to be ashamed, if people find his teachings to be erroneous or his concept of “his” authority abusive. Indeed there are many “clergy,” who lord over the flock, against God’s command never to do so (1 Peter 5). They are hireling shepherds (John 10) of a cultish following.

So many pastors—the great majority, I fear—cling to Romish and Anglican “organizational authority,” and that is never the biblical concept. Let’s be absolutely clear and call organizational authority by its real name: hierarchy. If a pastor assumes hierarchical authority, then he is a “professional minister” and the whole cultish cycle is perpetuated. No where in the Bible does God grant pastors/elders power over the congregants or staff, let alone to have staff. These are man-made positions. God designed His Church to work via the gifts and empowering of the Spirit. So few recognize the gifts and the Spirit, Who empowers and directs them all.

“But what about the coordination components of ‘ministry?'” My opponents will ask. “Someone has to decide when to start the service”…. Really?  This type of work is administration, and there is a gift for that, as found in Romans 12. Pastors don’t have to have that gift. In fact, there is room to say the Bible never puts administrators and pastors in the same lump. It rather always places the gift of teaching with the gift of pastor.

The ONLY thing a pastor is gifted to do is lead (i.e. Influence) people to maturity in their own relationship with God, to learn from him how to follow the leadership of the Spirit and not be co-dependent on a man… which is the recipe for lording^! The pastor’s role and responsibility are done by example and by prayer and by teaching/applying the Word (declaring what God has plainly written as the objective braces for living a subjective relationship with Him), until the words of Jesus and the works of Jesus are heard & seen in each individual believer…and, in turn, the Body, EACH PART supplying what the others need (Ephesians 4). Leading people to Christian maturity (direct, consistent interaction with God Himself) includes restoring the failing in their faith, hope & love… as there are many threats to believers from the world, flesh and forces of evil. 

The calling is also a protective role in addition to a nurturing and restorative one. Pastors guard against false doctrine and are ready to give an answer to those attacking the essential tenets of biblical Christianity (Ephesians 4; Titus 1:9). They mark out and rebuke those that cause division through exerting the spirit of Diotrephes (3 John vv. 9-11), through false teaching, through contentiousness and/or by forming fleshly cliques (Titus 3:10; 1 Corinthians 3; Romans 16:17-18; 1 Thessalonians 5:14). They are supposed to be the “spiritual” ones who meekly care enough to patiently restore (with compassion, encouragement & sound teaching) the one who is stuck and overburdened spiritually (Galatians 6; James 5), even if that person is distracted to the point of self-contradiction and self-destructive behaviors (2 Timothy 2:25). They also warn the flock of spiritual pitfalls that will sidetrack, hinder or stunt the believer’s direct relationship with God. But mostly, they show from the Book and from their lives “How to” grow up into a likeness of Jesus and utilize their gifts under the Spirit’s direction for edifying the Body and for obeying the prompting of the Spirit out in the world, in the “work of the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:11-21; Ephesians 4).

So, there we have it: oversight of the flock is a nurturing, protective and restorative calling that God gifts and empowers a man to do, so that the members of the Body of Christ are served on the individual level, until the flock is reaching maturity in their own relationship with Jesus. Nothing more, nothing less. None of the aspects of the Pastoral gift require organizational or managerial or director “authority.” And yes, pastors and elders must give an account to God for following this calling (Hebrews 14). So, if they are faithful and accurate in ministering the Word, then they should be given much weight (lit. “double regard / honor,” not a paycheck) in our hearts and minds for their teachings (1 Timothy 5:17).* But, their teachings should always be held against the backdrop of “searching the scriptures daily to see if these things are so” (Acts 17:11). [Christians must exercise their Bible literacy and believer’s priesthood, instead of relying on someone to spoon feed them.]

The work admittedly can be done only very rarely (if ever) on the corporate level. By biblical pattern there are to be many pastors/elders in one local body (Acts 6, 20; 1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). This fact determines a high pastor/elder to congregant ratio—a plurality or presbytery, not a monarchy or dictatorship. This disturbs most pastors, who have long mistaken the role of pastor as an administrative hierarchy, managerial or organizational director position. Yet, the meager, control-oriented power hoarding of lording is laughable to those who trust the all-powerful, all-seeing Spirit in correcting the 10/90 problem. Very few pastors will like to relinquish their unbiblical power for the genuine calling to be truly pastoral on the personal level.

Whatever others decide, it is time to cut off the false heads and shed the Romish & Anglican trappings on our Faith!

See Part 2

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*in the passage 1 Timothy 5:17, “directing the affairs of the church faithfully” Darby presents the best translation: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Timothy%205:16-18&version=DARBY

17 Let the elders who take the lead [among the saints] well be esteemed worthy of double honour, specially those labouring in word and teaching;

Here, “taking the lead” is the same as “be an example to the church.” They lead by example. They do not “direct the affairs of the church” and get paid for it as some horrible translations reflect. Also, herein, the muzzling of the Ox treading the corn is illustrative analogy. It shows the principle that you honor the beast of burden that feeds you… even so, those who labor to study the Word, in order to impart it as food for the hearers, should be given high regard (analogous to corn) for the one that labors (i.e. The pastor/elder). So, just as one does not starve his corn-grinding ox, which would end badly for both man and beast; even so, learners should not disrespect or lightly regard the teachings of a pastor’s labor intensive study. They should be given weighty regard in our minds and hearts. Otherwise, it will end badly for all.

^Here is a quote that will further show what I mean:

“The problem comes when this “pastoral authority” is taken into the spiritual realm. This is a great problem. I’m not sure the terminology of “pastoral authority” is a wise terminology, …. This overreach is often cultic. It sets up the pastor to manipulate because he supposedly speaks in the name of spiritual authority. But a man claiming spiritual authority over others is biblically wrong, because “there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). Spiritual authority belongs to the Spirit of Jesus—alone. There is no priesthood of the believer if a pastor possesses spiritual authority.” –John Van Gelderen