The Heart God Controls
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team
Jesus is both Savior and Lord. Contrary to one popular teaching, it is impossible to call Jesus Savior while denying His Lordship. Genuine salvation is marked by a profession of faith followed by a life lived in surrender to Christ’s authority. If that does not describe your life, then there are only two dangerous possibilities: you are a rebellious child of God or you are not really a child of God. In Surrender: The Heart God Controls, Nancy Leigh DeMoss encourages women to examine their hearts and raise their white flags in glad surrender to God’s authority.
Paul writes in his letter to the church at Philippi that they are to continue in obedience and work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (2:12). He would write the same thing to us today because the same God is willing and working in us for His good pleasure. He is the ruler of all creation, and the sooner we surrender to His authority over our lives the more blessed we will be. “Surrender is the source and means of true freedom and fullness,” writes DeMoss. The points at which we refuse to surrender to Him, believing ourselves to be free, will also be the very points at which we are ruled, not by our Father, but by sin and misery.
If we would be completely free from sin and living at peace with God, then we must end our battle with him and accept His terms of surrender. He requires nothing less than surrender that is lifelong and unconditional. DeMoss shares her unique testimony in this regard: she came to faith in Christ as a four-year-old child and slowly, but surely, grew in her awareness that her life belonged to God. “As my faith has matured,” she writes, “I have faced many situations that have required a fresh affirmation and expression of that initial surrender to the will of God. Most of those instances have been simply the daily choices to obey the Word of God and promptings of His Spirit.” The Lord is patient with His children as He guides us in the ongoing process of sanctification. The key is that we have that initial moment in which we declare unconditional surrender to God. DeMoss explains this as the signing of a blank contract. She references several well-known Christians who signed blank contracts with God to follow Him no matter what it cost them. John Wesley’s “Covenant Prayer” may be familiar:
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low by thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments offer several word pictures that resemble this kind of commitment: the burnt offering, the bond slave, living sacrifices, and marriage. God does not impose a one-size-fits-all policy when it comes to surrender. The sacrifices he calls for will vary in size and degree, but all will be complete. Jesus is our example of perfect surrender and sacrifice; therefore, our own sacrifices are reasonable.
That is not to say that we may not be fearful when we consider where God may lead, but, like Abraham, we overcome that fear with faith. DeMoss points out that the altar of surrender is a recurring symbol in the life of Abraham. Our journeys will not be very different. We will learn to revisit God’s promises to us in His word, we will grow in our knowledge of Him and His character, and our faith will be strengthened as a result.
In addition to sharing what the Bible teaches regarding surrender, DeMoss offers straightforward questions to help the reader inventory those areas of her life that may not be fully surrendered to God. DeMoss includes My Life, My Time, My Tongue, My Mind, and My Affections, to list a few. While no two Christians’ lives are going to look exactly alike, there are a variety of areas that are common sticking points for believers when it comes to surrender, like spending habits, possessions, children, and addictive habits, loss of parents, personal opinions and personal comfort.
The most important question to ask is, Am I seeking to know and follow the will of God in every area of my life? With the help of the Holy Spirit, DeMoss can help the reader discern how well she is following Paul’s encouragement to work out her own salvation with fear and trembling. Though she presents a strong challenge, DeMoss writes with sympathy and grace. While reading, it feels as though she understands where I am, she understands that there are areas that I’d rather not surrender, yet she is not so soft that I can still feel comfortable with disobedience. She shares the stories of several Christian men and women, encouraging the reader to follow their example, but also making the book very interesting. In addition to the study guide, DeMoss includes questions and exercises for further reflection at the end of every chapter.
I unreservedly recommend this book to Christian women. It is perfect for small groups. I’d also consider it for use in one-on-one discipleship with your mature 17-18 year old students.