FamilyLife Today® Podcast

A Legacy Begins With Surrender

with Dennis Rainey | April 13, 2011
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If you're going to leave a legacy, it all begins with answering the question, "Who is your master?" Dennis Rainey talks about the greatest decision you'll ever make - choosing to surrender your life to Christ.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • If you're going to leave a legacy, it all begins with answering the question, "Who is your master?" Dennis Rainey talks about the greatest decision you'll ever make - choosing to surrender your life to Christ.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

If you’re going to leave a legacy, it all begins with answering the question, “Who is your master?”

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A Legacy Begins With Surrender

With Dennis Rainey
April 13, 2011
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Bob:  You care about your children and your grandchildren, right?  You care about their future?  If so, Dennis Rainey says you need to take care of your own soul.

Dennis:  A godly legacy begins with total surrender to Jesus Christ.  You want to have a godly legacy?  You want to leave something for future generations?  For a time that we won’t see?

It comes with total surrender to Jesus Christ.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, April 13th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine.  Would you say you’re living your life today partially surrendered to Jesus, or fully surrendered? 

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition.  You know, hearing you talk about legacy and surrender just kind of takes me back to the warm breezes and the sunshine.  We’re going to hear a message today that you gave just a few weeks ago on the FamilyLife Love Like You Mean It cruise.

Dennis:  Yes – we had about 2,300 of our closest friends right there on the boat.  We rented the whole boat. 

Bob:  Right.

Dennis:  It was pretty cool!

Bob:  It really was.

Dennis:  It really was a fun time.  The entertainment was A+, we had an improv group; we had a couple who taught ballroom dancing.  I hate to tell you this, Bob, but we never got there.

Bob:  You and Barbara didn’t?

Dennis:  No, we just didn’t.  There were just too many things going on there, and we had all these music groups that are really on the top of their game.  Big Daddy Weave was there.

Bob:  That’s right, and we had Michael O’Brien there; we had Point of Grace; we had Selah and the Annie Moses Band.  It was a great experience.

You gave this message on the last night we were onboard the ship.  When the message was over, we all went out poolside on the top deck.  It was a beautiful starlit night with a full moon. . .

Dennis:  I’m telling you, I’ve led couples going through their vows and restating their wedding vows before, but this was all-time.  To give a message like we talked about on surrendering to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and then for couples to go up on the top deck with the breeze blowing in their faces, about 68 degrees, and starlit. . . it was spectacular!

There were violins and cellos playing.

Bob:  It was pretty great!

Dennis:  Then you had us all have a long kiss.  I told Barbara, “That was a good call Bob made.”


Dennis:  “He counted to ten on the kiss.”

Bob:  I slowed it down in the end.

Dennis:  You did – you said, “Nine.  Nine and a half.  Nine and three quarters.”


Bob:  I’m just curious; here we were on a marriage cruise, the Love Like You Mean It cruise, and we had talked about what true love is and the kinds of things couples do to promote a strong marriage and Tim and Joy Downs had talked about intimacy.

You decided to talk, on the last evening, about a fundamental of the Christian life.

Dennis:  Well, I was asked to speak about “Legacy,” and I thought, “You know what?  If you’re going to leave a legacy, it all begins with who is your master, who is your Lord, who are you going to surrender to?”

I thought, “What better time than to share this message.”  I have a great story that I’ll tell you near the end of the broadcast that happened as a result of this message.

Bob:  Well, we’re going to hear Part One of the message right now from the Love Like You Mean It cruise.  Here is Dennis Rainey:

Dennis (via audio recording):  It was my junior year in college; I’d had a spiritual sojourn over the previous 8-10 years of treating Jesus Christ like a spare tire.  When there was a crisis or a problem, I would pull Him out of the trunk, run Him for a couple hundred miles or a couple of days, whichever came first, and after the crisis was over, I would stick Him back in the trunk.

But the summer between my sophomore and junior years, the spiritual lights came on and the “Hound of Heaven” used the book of Romans to chase me down.  Jesus Christ in His love and work on the cross began to turn a life around to face that love and experience that love personally. 

During my junior year in college, I moved from being a mission field, in need of someone coming to talk to me, to becoming a missionary on a mission to share Christ with others.  As I was on that journey sharing Christ with others, I ran into a guy who marked my life dramatically.  His name was Tom Skinner.  Tom was the Chaplain for the Washington Redskins, and we couldn’t have had a more different background as two men.

You see, I grew up in Ozark, Missouri, a town of 1,350 people with one flashing yellow light.  Tom Skinner grew up in Brooklyn.  Tom began and ended every one of his message with a quote that I’ve now shared with millions of people on radio and at conferences like this.  You see, I’m from the “Show Me State,” Missouri. - the tribe of the doubting Thomases.  I have to see it to believe it.

Tom Skinner stepped into my life and he put his finger on the very soul of my life and it was like a spiritual 2x4 hit me between the eyes as he said this quote.  He said, “I spent a long time trying to come to grips with my doubts, when suddenly I realized I had better come to grips with what I believe.  I have since moved from the agony of questions that I cannot answer to the reality of answers that I cannot escape, and it’s a great relief.”

Tom Skinner encouraged me in a person-to-person encounter with Jesus Christ, the greatest radical of all time, because He changed people from the inside-out, and He began to change me.  One of the privileges I have in interviewing folks on FamilyLife Today is that I get a chance to hear them share passages of scripture that are meaningful to them. 

So I’ll have Randy Alcorn’s name down beside a passage, and Kay Arthur, and other great Christian leaders, some you’ve never heard of – but the verses remind me of whom they are.  My Bible is open right now, as we talk about “The Great Surrender,” to the man who taught me how to surrender.

It’s his life verse.  His name was Dr. Bill Bright, the President and Founder of Campus Crusade for Christ.  The verse was Galatians 2:20:  “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ Who lives in me.  The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

Look at that passage.  Bill used to say this; he would say, “I really want it to be that it’s no longer I who live, but it’s Jesus Christ Who lives in me on a day in and day out basis.” 

He used to say - and if I heard him say it one time, I heard him say it a hundred times – “I get up each morning and dedicate that morning to allow Jesus Christ to think with my mind, speak with my lips, feel with my heart, walk around in my body, and do whatever He wishes to do through me, because I am a bondslave.  I am a servant.  I am one who is yielding my rights to my Master, to Jesus Christ.  He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.” 

He said, “This is what I want to mark my life:  the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God Who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” 

You know what?  Bill Bright infected me with that disease:  a delightful encounter with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  If you can show me one better to follow, I’ll drop the Bible; I’ll drop Jesus Christ and will follow what you’ve got.  But I’ve made that statement hundreds of times on the radio and before live crowds.  There has never been another offer, because there isn’t one.

I have a very simple principle; only one point to my message.  Here it is:  A godly legacy begins with total surrender to Jesus Christ. 

You want to have a godly legacy?  You want to leave something for future generations, for a time that we won’t see?

It comes with total surrender to Jesus Christ.

Any time you talk about total surrender to Christ, you immediately begin to think about the excuses people make.  Jesus encountered these people in Luke chapter 14.  He told the parable of a great feast.  There was a master who wanted to throw a pleasurable, bountiful feast, and he invited all these people to come.  One after another, they all made excuses not to come.

One man had bought a field and he said, for that reason, “I need to go look at it.  I can’t come.”  Another one said, “I’ve got five oxen.  I’ve got to go check on them.”  Another one was even in family ministry.  He said, “I’ve married a wife, and for that reason I can’t come.”

That made the master angry.  He said, “You know what?  Forget that crowd!  Go out to the hedges and the byways and call the poor, the ill, the lame, the down and outers, and invite them to come to my feast.”  Because he wanted to celebrate!  You would think Jesus would dumb down commitment to make it easy, but He didn’t.  He did the exact opposite. 

He finishes His parable in the familiar passage on the cost of discipleship.

Listen to these words from Luke 14, beginning in verse 26:  “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters and, yes, even his own life, He cannot be My disciple.  Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.  For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 

Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’  Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not first sit down and deliberate whether he is able with 10,000 to meet him who comes against him with 20,000, and if not, while the other is yet a great ways off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace?”

Listen to how Christ concludes this.  This is the exclamation point for the Pharisees.  He says, “So, therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” It’s almost like we want to say to Jesus, “Couldn’t you make this in a little more comfortable language here?  You’re talking about death to self, renouncing all.”

Well, you know what, there’ve been excuses made by a lot of people over the years.  For a number of years, the excuse I used was that I wanted to have it my way.  The reason I didn’t want to be a follower and a disciple of Christ was that I wanted to do it my way, have it on my terms; if I was going to surrender on anybody’s terms, it was going to be mine! 

Well, that doesn’t work. 

Any time we say to Jesus Christ, “I’ll surrender up to a point,” it’s not total surrender.

A second excuse we have is fear.  This also was mine.  I was afraid He was going to make me miserable.  I was afraid He would send me somewhere I didn’t want to have to go.  I was afraid of what it would cost me.  I was afraid of what I would have to give up.  I was afraid of what other people would think.

I’m reminded of Jesus telling the parable of the talents:  five talents, three, and one.  Do you remember what the guy who had one talent did?  He didn’t believe the truth about his master, so what did he do?  He buried it.  He didn’t use it.  He believed the wrong thing about his master.  He said, “I believed you to be an evil man, and so I was afraid you were going to work me over if I did something wrong with it.” 

Jesus was trying to point out to us that we need to believe the right thing about God.  Some of us believe the wrong thing about Him when it comes to this subject of the great surrender, of yielding it all.

There’s a third reason why we don’t surrender, a third excuse:  idolatry.  John Calvin said, “The human heart is an idol factory.”  Another man said, “When we stop worshiping God, we don’t go on to worship nothing, we go on to worship anything.”  Why?  Because our hearts, our hearts, were made to worship!

We were designed to worship.  Something or someone is going to fill the gap in our hearts.  The question for you is, “What do you love?  Who do you love?  What do you think about?”  Or better yet,” What are you surrendered to?  What’s the master of your life?  Who is the master of your life?”

Maybe you’ve parceled it out.  That’s a safe play. 

J.R.R. Tolkien, author or Lord of the Rings, gives us an insightful statement.  He says, ”The essential task of life is to put our loves in order” - to prioritize the loves of our heart in proper order. 

Did Jesus speak to this?  “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.  And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

What’s your idol?  Every one of us has them.  I’ll never forget another meeting I had with Bill Bright.  I was in the Christian Embassy in Washington, D.C., where a donor had made possible a building on Embassy Row to entertain ambassadors and heads of state, to introduce them to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  It was a magnificently appointed embassy with silk wallpaper and a cherry wood library that you would just die for.  It was just beautiful – magnificent! 

I’m sitting in that cherry wood library with Bill Bright and he turns to me and says, “Dennis, wear the cloak of materialism loosely.  There is no amount of money that God won’t give to the man or woman who doesn’t allow any of it to stick to his fingers.”

I want to be a conduit.  I don’t want to be a bucket.  I want to be a funnel to be used by God to impact people.  I don’t want it to stick to my fingers. 

Well, those are the excuses.  What does surrender look like?

There’s a great passage in the Bible that’s probably the best passage, though I don’t hear it being preached on a lot from pulpits.  It’s Romans chapter 12.  This passage marked my life early in my Christian growth.

Romans 12:1-2, “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what the will of God is, what is good, acceptable, and perfect.”

He’s talking about a living sacrifice – presenting yourself to Jesus Christ.  The great surrender begins as we come to Him and just say, “I’m yours.”

Bob:  Well, we’ve been listening to the first part of a message on the importance of surrender.  The legacy that you leave really depends on who your Lord and Master is.

This message was presented onboard the Love Like You Mean It cruise here a few weeks ago as we sailed with about 2,300 people and the audience was with you as you presented this message.

Dennis:  They really were.  There was one young couple who had been married, I think, for four months.  They went back to their room after the message and the husband looked at his wife and he said, “Do you think I’m a Christian?” 

The wife said, “Well, you’ve sure memorized a lot of the Bible.  You’ve led worship in church.”  But, “No, I don’t think you’re a Christian.”

Bob:  Wow.

Dennis:  He said, “I want to take care of business right now.”  He got down next to their bed on his knees and surrendered his life to Jesus Christ.  When he got back to land, less than 24 hours later, he put it on facebook.  He said, “I became a Christian.  I became a follower of Jesus Christ.  I surrendered my life to Him.”

Bob:  Hmmm..  There is a difference between doing stuff in the church and being a Christian, isn’t there?

Dennis:  There is.  You know, you wonder right now, am I talking to a person who is very religious, maybe like Nicodemus in the New Testament, but who needs to be born again.  Who needs to place his or her faith in Jesus Christ and say, “I’m yours.  I surrender.”

I encourage you, before the day is over, get down on your knees and fulfill the great surrender.  Turn your life over to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and get on with life as God designed it.  Receive forgiveness for your sins.

There is no greater decision you’ll make in all your life than this one right here.  This is the beginning point of your legacy.

Bob:  And the Christian life is an ongoing series of surrenders.  I mean, it’s something we’ll do over and over again in our lives, but it does begin with that decision we make to say, “I’m turning from what I have been pursuing - which has been self-interest and pleasure or money or power, or whatever else you’ve been chasing after – and instead I’m going to pursue God.”

In fact, we’ve got a book that we’d like to send any of our listeners who are tuned in today.  This issue of your spiritual life, this may be fresh and new for you.  You may be hearing about God and about Jesus for the first time, or maybe you’ve heard about these things for years but it has just never really sunk in.

We have a book that we’d like to send you, called Pursuing God, that lays out clearly what it means to be a follower of Christ.

You can call 1-800—FLTODAY to request that or go online at to request it.  If this is all new to you, we’ll send a copy of this book out to you for free.  Just go online at or call 1-800-FLTODAY and ask for your copy.

Let me also mention a book that will help those of us who are Christians understand what it means to be fully committed, fully surrendered to Jesus.  It’s a book written by our friend Francis Chan, and it’s called Crazy Love.  It looks at God’s infinite love for us, and looks at how we ought to respond to that.  The kind of love that we ought to have for Him in response and what that love looks like.

We’d love to send you a copy of the book Crazy Love.  You can order it online from us at or call 1-800-FL-TODAY, that’s 1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY.”

Of course, we’ll be headed out Valentine’s week on FamilyLife’s Love Like You Mean It cruise 2012.  If you’d like to join us you can find out more when you go to the website  Click on the link for the Love Like You Mean It cruise.  We hope you’ll think about coming along with us and sailing with us.

Now, we are just days away from the resurrection of Jesus.  It’s good for us in this season of the year to take some time to meditate on the cross, and to meditate on His resurrection.  That’s a good thing for Christians to do throughout the year, but particularly here in the Easter season we ought to have that as a central focus.

This month, we have a special way that we are saying, “Thank you” to those folks who help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today by making a donation.  We are listener supported, so those donations are what keep us on this station and on our network of stations all across the country.

If you’re able to help with a donation this month, we’d love to send you, as a thank you gift, a copy of a DVD of the movie called Magdalena, which tells the story of the life of Jesus through eyes of Mary Magdalene.  It’s a powerful movie that your family can watch together.  Because it includes dubbing in Spanish, French, Mandarin, Arabic, Korean, Russian, and Portuguese, if you know someone who is a native speaker of one of those languages, after you’re done watching the movie, you can pass it along to one of them as an Easter gift.

So, again, make a donation online at and when you do, type the word “MAGDVD” into the keycode box (it’s all one word “MAGDVD”), or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  You can make your donation over the phone and just ask for the Magdalena DVD, and we’re happy to send it to you.

We hope you have a wonderful Easter celebration this year.  We want to say thanks for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

Tomorrow we’ll hear Part Two of Dennis Rainey’s message on the need for spiritual surrender.  That comes up tomorrow and I hope you can be here for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today

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