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SHOULDN'T WE TELL THE TRUTH EVERYWHERE, EVEN IN CHURCHespecially in church? Shouldn’t we tell the truth to everybody, even to God—especially to God?

Then why do we sing stuff like this?

All to Jesus I surrender;

All to Him I freely give;

I will ever love and trust Him,

In His presence daily live.

Noble sentiments, certainly. And if we happen to know what brother Judson Wheeler VanDeVenter was going through in his life when he composed those words, we’d be more than willing to spot him a few promises he couldn’t possibly keep.

But on any given Sunday morning, as you form such words in God’s presence and in earshot of the folks around you, do you believe for a single moment that you can live up to the vows you’re making? If even wise King Solomon and zealous St. Peter stumbled so badly, what makes you think you can pull this off? Let’s be careful what we promise God. Righteous exuberance easily flips into overblown confidence in our own faithfulness.

The writer of Ecclesiastes cautions us against such overblown, unrealistically pious promises:

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. . . . When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest . . . “My vow was a mistake.” . . . Stand in awe of God” (5:1, 4-7).

Better to err on the side of caution. Let’s concentrate our singing on what God does/can do rather than wax eloquent on our own pious intentions. When we offer ourselves to God’s service, let’s do it passionately and wholeheartedly, but also with full recognition of our own weaknesses and fallibility. Curiously, Mr. VanDeVenter’s hymn does that so well in the closing verses:

All to Jesus I surrender;

Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;

Let me feel the Holy Spirit,

Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus I surrender;

Lord, I give myself to Thee;

Fill me with Thy love and power;

Let Thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender;

Now I feel the sacred flame.

O the joy of full salvation!

Glory, glory, to His Name!

Especially in church, let’s keep it real!

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