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 each of its citizens a 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/or 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 the life of 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 the Creator, 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. He may ask you (by His Spirit within you) to leave houses and lands, mother and father for His sake; but He promises to reward you 100 times in addition to eternal life (Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:31; Like 18:29). But, if religious leaders or governments demand you abandon your livelihood 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 as “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, services & goods) 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” (free will) 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 or to exercise free will. 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. More specifically, God will never forcefully violate the freedom of choice each one has to reject Him as God. He only warns of the eternal consequences for rejecting Him, who died and resurrected for the sins of the world; 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 Holy 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 power, position, 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.
^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