I Surrender All

gospel song written by Judson W. Van De Venter
commentary by:
P.B. Mistretta III

It was a scene that I will never forget. A convoy from the Third Infantry Division of the United States Army was marching towards Baghdad just ten days into the war to liberate Iraq from the evil regime of Saddam Hussein. They came within miles of the center of Baghdad and followed the curve in the road back to the newly named Baghdad International Airport that they had taken control of just two days before. It was during this “sweep” through Baghdad that this scene unfolded. A Fox News correspondent and his cameraman was traveling along with the convoy, and the camera was focused on an Iraqi soldier that was surrendering on the side of the road. Then all of a sudden the correspondent shouts out, “There is another one! Don’t shoot!” The camera then focuses on an Iraqi soldier coming out of the bushes on the side of the road with both empty hands lifted high in the air and walking towards the convoy. He is trying to make it up the steep embankment on the side of road, when he trips and falls to his knees, yet his hands remain in that fixed and raised position as he fades out of the camera’s view.

One can only speculate as to what was going through the mind of this enemy soldier as he remained hidden in the bushes. I think it is safe to say that he could have remained unknown to the convoy had he not revealed his position. What made him reveal his position and surrender to our troops? Could it be that despite all of the brainwashing that he was receiving about the “Great Satan” of America, that he reasoned within himself that he would be better off as a prisoner of war for an enemy country, than to remain loyal to Saddam Hussein? I believe that is exactly what he was thinking and he was right. The United States did treat him better in that he was fed, given medical attention, put in a safe place, and is probably now free for the first time in his own country.

Truly there has never been a country like the United States of America in world history. The United States of America was originally settled by people who longed to live in a country with religious freedom. Our Declaration of Independence declares that it is our “Creator” that gives us these rights. Despite its tremendous military might, and its present day standing as the only remaining world super-power, it still does not try to take over the world. All America wants is for freedom to be extended to other nations all over the world. For instance, when we defeated Japan in World War II, it was the United States of America that helped to rebuild that country and form and write Japan’s constitution. Today, we are helping to rebuild Afghanistan from decades of war and civil unrest, and are helping to rebuild Iraq.

On July 13th, 2003, it was announced that Iraq had just convened its first meeting with its new interim government. In this momentous first meeting, their first order of business was to vote to cancel all of the holidays set up by Saddam Hussein’s regime, and to create their first national holiday on April 8th, which is the day that the Saddam Hussein government fell to U.S. forces. Truly the United States of America is the only super-power in world history that is not trying to extend its borders and take over the world, as I heard one political commentator say several months ago. Even though America is suffering from several national sins such as legalized abortion, the rejection of God in our public schools and universities, its corrupt entertainment industries, etc., it remains a beacon of liberty, freedom, and hope for the world. In fact, this may be one of the few things about America that is holding back the full force of God’s judgment upon Her. Most of the people who are living in freedom around the world, are doing so because of the United States of America. Oh, let us continue to pray for America and its leaders!

As I was thinking about the goodness and justess of America that this enemy Iraqi soldier entrusted his very life to, I was reminded about the goodness of the Lord. How much more is the goodness and justness of God than any nation ever has been or can be? Should we not surrender all to Him, who through His goodness, justtess, love, and mercy, sent His Son into the world to die for us that we might live our lives in and through Him? Surely the benefits of surrendering to Him far outweigh any and all benefits that any man or country can give us.

Judson W. Van De Venter (1855-1939) wrote this gospel song “I Surrender All” in 1896. It speaks of the wonderful redemption that takes place when one surrenders his life to Jesus. This simple gospel song speaks of the surrendering of ourselves to a merciful Savior who in turn freely gives us His presence and blessings.


Vs. 1     All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.

“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eight day, of the stock of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith. (Philippians 3:3-9)

The Apostle Paul speaks of his life before encountering Jesus and surrendering it to Him on the road to Damascus. The then Saul had an impressive resume. He was from a fine “pedigree.” He had gone through all of the proper religious channels of the day even from an infant. He was born out of the tribe of Benjamin, and was circumcised when he was eight days old, as prescribed by the Law. As a young man, he sat under the teaching of the great teacher of the Law of that time, Gamaliel. He says in Galatians 1:14 that he “profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” He became a Pharisee. He was so zealous of the Jews’ religion that he began to lead others in persecuting the Church of Jesus Christ.

This zealous persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ continued until that fateful day on the road to Damascus. But before we go there, we must first talk about the Church’s first martyr, Stephen. Stephen was accused of speaking blasphemous words and was arrested and brought before the Jewish council in Jerusalem. It was there that he testified before the council for several minutes and they “saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:15) After his testimony, they were “cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.” (7:54) “Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord. And cast him out of the city, and stoned him, and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.” (Vs. 57,58) The Scripture says in Acts 8:1, that Saul consented unto the death of Stephen. Saul then went on to “make havoc” of the Church in Jerusalem and the Church was scattered and went everywhere preaching the word.

Now, on the road to Damascus, Jesus told Saul “it was hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts9:5) I believe that Saul was first pricked in the heart when he saw Stephen that day. He saw the glory of God in the face of Stephen that day and he could not get away from it. He saw in Stephen what he had longed for all of his life. He was “cut to the heart,” and yet his religious pride may have made him wonder as to how could this ignorant man have the glory of God. “How could this “unlearned and ignorant” common man, claim to see Jesus standing on the right hand of God?” he may have asked himself. It is no doubt that Saul had witnessed many other common folk with the glory of God and heard others preach under the anointing of the Holy Ghost, as he continued to make havoc upon the Church. He was “cut to the heart,” by Stephen and others, but was fighting against it.

But, that all changed on the road to Damascus. He was traveling with papers to continue his persecution of the Church, when that “great light” from heaven shined upon him. Paul, quoting what Jesus told him after he saw that great light, as recorded in Acts 26:16, said “I have appeared unto thee…” Paul later records in I Corinthians 15:8, “And last of all, he was seen of me also.” Paul caught a glimpse of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ that day. He saw a righteousness that far exceeded any righteousness that he had in the Law. Everything of the law that he had trusted in was immediately lost and counted but dung in the light of His glory. He saw an “excellency of knowledge” in Jesus Christ that all of his “zealous” learning of the Law could not even be remotely compare to, and he was determined to go on to know Him.

Now we know that the Law was only a shadow of better things to come. It was also added because of Israel’s refusal to hear the voice of God at Mount Sinai. If the Jew was wrong in continuing in the Law after Christ, what excuse do we have today in following our poor, pitiful, man-made religion? Why do people get so upset over defending their man-made religion or church? Why do people make statements like, “My grandma says this," or "My Pastor doesn’t believe that," or "My church doesn’t believe that"?  We had better be concerned over what the Word of God says.

God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah in the 66th chapter and 1st verse, asks the question, “Where is the house that ye build unto me?” He continues is verse two, “For all of those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.” Notice he said that all these things “have been.” In other words, there is nothing new. God has made it all and seen it all. He is not impressed with our buildings or our pitiful religion that denies freedom from sin. He says that he is looking for and will dwell in the heart of those who are poor and of a contrite spirit and trembles at His word.

Will you allow yourself to forsake your religion as the Apostle Paul finally did? Will you allow the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be revealed and shine in your heart? Will you count everything in your “belief system,” that may have been handed down to you through the generations, but dung that you may win Christ? Will you say along with the songwriter “I will ever love and trust Him"? It is those who surrender all to Him and truly “love and trust Him” and Him alone, that “in His presence daily live.”


Vs. 2     All to Jesus I surrender, Humbly at His feet I bow, Worldly pleasures all forsaken, Take me Jesus take me now.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of the Father abideth for ever.” (1 John 2:15-17)

We live in a time in America that is filled with the pleasures of this world. Our advertisements, movies, television, and music, glorifies immoral lifestyles. Never before in our history has immorality been so accepted by the mainstream culture as it is today and it began in the 50’s with the birth of “rock and roll” music. Every generation since that one is steeping lower and lower into immorality. Today, we have the thug music of “gansta” rap. We have people who are propagating a thug lifestyle that dishonors woman and law enforcement and everything that is still good about America and they are becoming millionaires. They could not become millionaires if the people would not buy that garbage. How far have we fallen in America when such a person can become a millionaire, and such music can become so popular? And it doesn’t stop with “gansta” rap. All music that does not have Jesus Christ as its central focus and honor is “of this world” and is hated by the true Christian and that includes much of todays so called “Christian” music, where the emphasis, in many cases, is on entertainment instead of true worship.

Having said all of this, I can see that there seems to be a turn toward morality in America today. Some people can see that the so-called sexual revolution of the sixties has given us incurable sexual diseases including Aids, broken marriages, broken lives, and broken dreams. There seems to be a trend towards abstinence in our schools. In fact, a few years ago, our Governor in Louisiana started a volunteer abstinence program in our state’s high schools, and its enlistees have now grown to be one of the largest numbers per-capita in our nation. I applaud our Governor’s efforts in this area. Certainly, good moral leadership from our elected officials is very helpful in our society.

Let us pray that this trend continues. At least America had not stooped to the low state of many of the European nations, who once also had mighty revivals in its past, but many are now basically secular, socialistic nations with legalized drugs, prostitution, etc. God will judge every nation because of the sins that it condones. Even though the general morality of America may make a turn for the better after 50 years of rapid decline and God’s extreme judgment on America may be averted, that does not exempt each individual of his personal salvation. We are admonished to work out our “own” salvation with fear and trembling. (Philippians 2:12) The Apostle Paul said that he taught publicly and from house to house, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20,21) Repentance speaks of a reversal and a change of mind. In order to turn towards God, one has to turn away from something. There is a hymn that we used to sing and it says, “The cross before me…the world behind me…No turning back, no turning back.” Jesus said that if any man puts his hand to the plow and looks back, he is not fit for the kingdom. (Luke 9:62) Before one comes to Christ, he must first be willing to forsake the pleasures of this world, turn his back upon this world, and fall at the feet of the Cross and beg for God’s mercy. That is what repentance “toward” God and faith “toward” Jesus Christ is all about. It is faith in what he accomplished at the Cross for us, for we cannot do it of ourselves. It is an emptying and a surrendering of ourselves unto Him who is able to make us His child.

As the songwriter says, it is those who humbly bow at the feet of Jesus, forsake the pleasure of this world, and surrender all to Him, whom he “takes” as His children. It is then that one experiences the true pleasures. The Psalmist says, “Thou will show me the path of life. In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalms 16:11) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father except by me.” (John 14:6)

 “Experiencing the good life,” has been a motto in America in the past few decades. We have experienced unprecedented prosperity that has extended to almost everyone. However, in acquiring the houses and cars and computers and cell phones, we have forgotten about God. John says that, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” (1John 5:12) Jesus told the Laodicean church, “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing; and knoweth not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” (Revelations 3:17) America, who once knew God, is now found wanting and lacking in spirituality. Life is in the Son of God. He has promised to show us the path of life if we surrender to Him. The way to the path starts with repentance, it takes us to the foot of the Cross of Christ, and it begins as he takes us to new life in His resurrection, and at the right hand of God where there are pleasures forever. Yes, America must see revival, and let it begin with us.

Moses was one who forsook the pleasure of this world. It is recorded in Hebrews 11:24-29 of his story. It says that “by faith,” he “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,” and “enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” One, who would not understand, would view Moses as a fool. He could have been a king. He could have had all the riches and pleasures of Egypt at his disposal. Why would he forsake all of that and count himself among a slave people? The Scripture gives us the answer in verse 26 of Hebrews 11. It says, “Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.” The next verse says, “for he endured, as seeing him who in invisible.” Moses forsook Egypt and “suffered affliction with the people of God,” because he had a vision of Christ. He knew that out of the lineage of the slave people of the Israelites would come the Messiah, Jesus Christ. It was the reward that Moses was looking at. He looked beyond the natural and saw Christ. He was looking forward to the time of the coming Redeemer. Moses died without having received the promise. (vs.39) Today, we can receive the promise. We can have that “better thing” that God has provided for us (vs.40) through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We can have the true pleasures, not just in a looking forward to, but in a present day obtaining by grace through the finished work of Jesus Christ.


Vs. 3      All to Jesus I surrender, Make me, Savior, wholly Thine; Let me feel the Holy Spirit – Truly know that thou art mine.

“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Thessalonians 5:23)

It seems that the songwriter is almost begging the Lord in this verse, as you hear the cry of his heart. Truly, the Lord will turn no such person away. He speaks of being “made” wholly His, and of wanting to “know” that he has passed from death to life. Do not be confused by the wording of this verse in I Thessalonians. The Scriptures teach that sanctification is a complete work at salvation and not a process. II Thessalonians 2:13 says we are “chosen to salvation through sanctification of the spirit and belief of the truth.” Paul, in listing the sins of the flesh in I Corinthians 6:9-11, turns his attention to the child of God in verse eleven and says, “such were some of you, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Jude opens his letter “to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ.” Notice that Jude and Paul both use the word “preserved” and in both instances it comes when the person is sanctified. Nothing can be preserved until it is cleaned from all of its impurities. Paul, in the verse in I Thessalonians, is showing that sanctification does not stop with the spirit. He cleans us up from the inside – out. Paul is saying that if they are moved not away from the hope of the gospel, their whole spirit, soul, and body will remain preserved blameless until the coming of Christ. Some teach that the spirit is holy, but that in the flesh remains the sinful nature. However, the wonderful truth of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ is that it leaves no room for the sin nature after salvation. The Scriptures teach that we are the temple of God. (II Corinthians 6:16, I Corinthians 3:16) In I Corinthians 3:17, it says that, “The temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” Paul, in Romans 12:1, beseeches us to present our holy bodies to God as a living sacrifice. As the songwriter says, he “makes” those who surrender all to Him, “wholly Thine.”


Vs. 4     All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to Thee; Fill me with Thy love and pow-er, Let thy blessings fall on me.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

In verse three, the songwriter prays that Christ would “make” him “wholly Thine.” In verse four, the songwriter now surrenders “himself” to His Savior. He has been made a child of God. His spirit, soul, and body have been “made” holy. Now he says he gives “myself to Thee.” He surrenders himself to Christ to be used for His glory. This surrendering of self to Christ, includes our surrendering of our holy bodies unto Him as a living sacrifice. Paul beseeches us to do this. This surrendering of ourselves to Christ, also consists of our surrendering to His will for us. Jesus himself had to surrender to the will of the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his crucifixion when He prayed, “nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42) 1 Corinthians 6:19 and 20 says that we are not our own, but that we have been bought with a price and we are to glorify God in our body and spirit which are God’s. Peter says that the price that redeemed us was not with corruptible things such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”(1Peter 1:18,19) God gave us His best when he sent his Son to die for us. After our redemption, will we not give Him our best? Surely, we can do nothing of ourselves to please God. Even Jesus Christ said, “The son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.” (John 5:19) Philippians 2:13 says that it “is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” It is a surrendering of ourselves unto His will that enables Him to do His work in and through us. It is those who surrender all to Jesus and give themselves to Him to be used for His glory, who are rewarded with the fullness of His spirit and “power” and “blessings.”


Chorus:    I surrender all, I surrender all, All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

There are so many things in our present day society that can distract us and that bid for our attention and time. However, as a child of God, we are not under any laws. Religion has used rules and laws and “do’s and don’ts,” to try to control the people and bring a “holiness” through outward laws and manner of dress. One can obey all of the church “laws” and still be unclean on the inside - just look at the Pharisees!

In these last days, God is looking for some “David’s,” who have a “heart” after God. He is looking for those who, just as that Iraqi soldier did towards America, are willing to surrender all to Him and trust in Him to take care of them. He is looking for those who raise their hearts and empty hands unto Him as that universal sign of surrender. He is looking for those who forsake all of man’s religion and cling to Him alone. He is looking for those who forsake the pleasures of this world and seek His eternal pleasure and purpose.

Knowing that these are the last days, we will leave you with the words of the Apostle Peter:

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Whereof, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of Him in peace, without spot, and blameless.” (II Peter 3:10-14)