I believe one of the biggest issues for people resisting becoming Christians (the way the Bible says to) is: SUBMISSION. History has done quite a number on the perception of that word. From dictators to slave traders, to domineering husbands and parents, the word submission has come to mean breaking and tearing down the will of others so as to control and dominate them. That, however, is not the way the word “submission” is meant in the Bible. Biblical submission is much less harsh and violent, but seems to be very difficult to practice or even to accept. It is an attitude of voluntarily placing oneself under the control of another. Biblically speaking, that would be voluntarily placing yourself under the control of God.
So, why is that such a difficult task? Here we have an almighty, powerful, abundantly loving, merciful, compassionate God who created us in His own image and has, since before creation, had a plan for us to be with Him in His heavenly realm. This was accomplished through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus. 1 Peter 1:2o tells us Jesus “was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake (NIV).” Still many don’t want to accept Him! Why? I had an instructor who said something to the effect of, “I don’t want to follow a God who’s not smarter or more powerful than I am!” However, when people decide not to follow Him, they are saying, in essence, that they know better than God and don’t need Him. How foolish! Why go through life from a position of weakness when you can go through life from a position of strength?
What do you mean “go through life from a position of weakness?” What’s “weak” about taking care of yourself, making your own way in this world, and doing just what you want to do? These thoughts in and of themselves do not constitute “weakness,” but the underlying concept of them is the reliance on “self.” One person. No one else. King Solomon, in Ecclesiastes 4:12, tells us that “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” When there are more people around us to support us we are stronger. We have their help and encouragement, and they are available for us to bounce ideas off of. When we rely on ourselves there is no one else to help carry the load or maybe warn us that we’re heading down a blind alley. After a while the stress of managing everything on our own weighs heavy and the burdens of life can break us down. However, submitting our life to God and His plan provides us the most powerful stance we can ever find ourselves in – BUT…we have to be willing to submit to His plan for our lives and willingly surrender our control to Him. “For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:10, NIV).” This is from Paul after he had written the Corinthians about some thorn in his flesh given to him from Satan to torment him. He prayed three times for God to take it away, but was told by God, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9, NIV).” Wow! Did you catch that?! God’s power is not perfected in us until we admit our weakness and submit to Him! There is strength in submission.
Virginia Lefler states in her book, “Pursuing Purity and Spiritual Beauty:”
“A widely accepted myth claims that a worldly woman is strong and secure, while a woman who pursues purity is naive and vulnerable (7).”
She goes on to say:
“However, if we closely examine this myth, we can see it is not true. A better way to describe a worldly woman is hardened, not strong. The Bible describes a hardening process that goes on in our hearts when we sin (Hebrews 3:7-13), and the more we sin, the harder our hearts become (7).”
Submitting to an all-powerful, all-knowing God who loves you more than anything in this world ever could, should humble and soften a hardened heart. Understanding the depth of His love should pierce our hearts and cause us to voluntarily turn to Him and say, “You are in control, God. What you say goes!” Jesus summed it up in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (NIV).” In Philippians 2:5-8, the Apostle Paul explained the love Jesus had for all in this world and how we should imitate Him in our attitude this way:
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”
In each step of this progression – from Godliness to earthly death – Jesus showed an incredible amount of strength as He humbled himself more and more until He submitted to a death that only the worst of criminals were subjected to – crucifixion. Jesus was described as meek and gentle, yet, in todays terms again, He would be thought of as weak – not strong. However, the Greek word for meek used in the Bible is “praus” and gives a more accurate discription of Jesus’ character and attitude. Virginia Lefler, in her book “Pursuing Purity,” defines “praus” as “power under control, or power that is submitted or surrendered (20).”
Many of us can say we believe in God and that the Bible is His word, but are we willing to do what He says? We are told through Paul,
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2, NIV).”
The Apostle Paul then goes on to describe certain attitudes and behaviors that must not be a part of a life that is imitating God which included sexual immorality, and greed, but he also gave a whole verse of what should not come out of our mouths. He stated:
“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:4, NIV).”
The consequence of living such a life is severe:
“No immoral, impure or greedy person…has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (Ephesians 5:5, NIV).”
What then is the warning so that one does not lose their inheritance? Paul states:
“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is (Ephesians 5:15-17, NIV).”
This blog is about living a life of godliness (eusebeia) and the Bible clearly explains what a godly life looks like, but godliness is unpopular in today’s society for many reasons that in the end are selfish. We live in a society where we want what we want when we want it and no one has the right to tell us we can’t have it. But who are the ones crying out the most? Those who want things “their” way! It’s all about them. Those who choose to submit to the will of God are able to control their urges and when they do cry out, they cry about what God wants. It’s not about them.
Next month’s post will focus on other forms of submission spoken of in the Bible. This month I wanted to start the discussion with the most important form of submission – to God! Please let me know what your thoughts on the topic are, but remember to be respectful! Thanks!
The Holy Bible (New International Version), Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville, TN, 1996.
Lefler, Virginia, Pursuing Purity and Spiritual Beauty: A Beauty Treatment for the Soul, Silverday Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2010.