20 January 2013
And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." (Mark 8:34-38 ESV)
This week we will be looking at the discipline of submission. This is a discipline that is a little more difficult to apply to our lives because, if we really are honest, we do not want to submit to anyone. This is because of the sin nature that we live with day by day. The summation of all sin can be summed up in one word: Pride. Pride is what keeps us from repentance, from humility, and from God. The antidote for pride is submission.
Submission is a willing obedience, "to give over or yield to the power or authority of another." It is not often easy to give power over to another. A simple illustration of this is the child whose parent has to leave for a bit and places an older sibling (not too much older) in charge. There is outrage, denial, fighting, abuse, all because the younger does not wish to submit, even for a time to the older. We see this often in our marriages, in our jobs, in our church, and in our country. We do not like submission. However, the larger problem is that we also do not like to submit to our God.
The discipline of submission is understood when we remember how Jesus himself practiced it. In Philippians 2:8 we find the submission of Jesus Himself, "And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." This submission of JEsus to the Father is also illustrated in the Garden, "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done" (Luke 22:42). This is a submission that Jesus expects from us as well. In Matthew 5: 39, and 44 we see, "But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." The reason that Jesus has given us these commands is because He expects us to do what He says, to follow after Him as Mark 8 shows, and He explains this in John 13:15, "For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you."
We are to follow the example of Jesus Christ in our everyday lives. That example was one who practiced submission. This morning we will more about what the discipline of submission looks like.
Submission is Self-Denying
The primary attribute of submission is for us to remember that we are to submit to Jesus Christ. He is the one who is our Lord. This is an important concept often lost on liberated American minds. A Lord is someone to whom we owe loyalty and service. As our Lord Jesus has purchased salvation and expects our obedience. In Mark 8:34 Jesus said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." This is the path of self-denial. We do not live to ourselves anymore because we are to live for Jesus Christ. This is what discipleship truly is: the following after of Christ. This fellowship, then, is a denial of our wants and desires to become in tune with His wants and desires. It cannot come apart from submission to Him, and in submitting to Him we must lose ourselves.
Before this looks too grim we must note that Self-Denial is not self-hatred. Just because we are to deny ourselves does not mean we should hate ourselves. Jesus has great things to say about our love for ourselves, it is the basis upon which we are to love others (Matt 22:39). If we then begin to hate ourselves we cannot be able to love others. No, the denying of self actually helps us love ourselves better because we are then able to love ourselves and others through Jesus' love and in His love.
It also must be noted that Self-Denial is not a loss of identity. This is something people often fear. "If I have to follow Christ I will lose all of myself." Part of this is still pride, but part of this is just unfounded fear. Christ wants us to follow Him, but He does not want us to be robots, He wants us to be ourselves. He is the one who created us. Even in the Scriptures we see the personalities of the men God used to inspire Scripture come out. He intends for us to be who we are, He just wants who we are to follow after who He is.
Finally, we need to note that Self-Denial is not self-contempt, or no self-worth. By denying our own desires and wills and submitting to Jesus we are not emptying our worth, rather we are adding to it. If we lost our worth because of submission to God we would negate the reason Jesus came. Because God deemed us worthy of Salvation He sent His Son to bring us Salvation, and so when we follow Him by denying ourselves we are not setting aside our worth, but realizing the fullness of our worth that is found only in Jesus Christ. In Matthew 10:29 we are reminded of the worth God has for us, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." To deny ourselves is not to lose that worth.
Discuss with your class the difficulties they have with practicing self-denial.
Submission is not Abusive
After seeing the importance of submission in self-denial we must note the limits of that submission. Too often the idea of submission has led to abuse. We know that Ephesians 5 says, "submitting to one another in the fear of God. (v21) Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. (v22)" This verse is important for marriage, but it must not be understood that the husband is to Lord over His wife in an abusive way. He is to love her, as the chapter continues. He is to cherish her. However, our pride often leads to an abuse of submission that leads to real abuse, be it verbal, emotional, or physical. This is true as well with our children. We know the Bible teaches us "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother' (this is the first commandment with a promise), 'that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.' Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Eph 6:1-4) but as parents we must note that last line to not provoke. This is where submission gives way to abuse. Foster says it best, "Submission meets the end of its tether when it becomes destructive." Abusive submission misses the instruction of co-submission in the fear of God, and also misses the purpose of unity with God.
Christ was abused for our sake, but his suffering served a purpose. He did not love the shame and disgrace of his abusers, but he loved the souls his suffering was to redeem.
Submission Helps us Value Others
However, we must also see that when we practice submission correctly it provides freedom for us and helps us find value in others. The simple act of submission allows us to respect those around us a bit more. When we submit to our spouse and are not puffed up with pride for the request they have made we find that we are able give to them freely and learn how to serve them better. When we submit to our bosses we find greater fulfillment in our jobs. When we submit to government we find that we are able to not worry about the judgment of the law. When we submit to God we know we are in His will and that His perfect plans are being played out in our lives.
Why did Jesus wash feet in John 13? The practice of submission allows us to put others above ourselves. There is great freedom in doing so, but because of pride there is a great reticence to do it too. Pride tells us to lift ourselves us, submission tells us to lift up Jesus and others. Pride brings greater anxiety and worry. Submission takes our worry and puts it on Jesus.
Take time to discuss with your class the positive benefits they have experienced when they have been able to practice submission.
The Practice of Submission
In conclusion, there are a few places we need to recognize as places of submission. Though these are not the limits of submission they are a great place to start. Challenge your classes to find ways to submit in each of these areas in the coming week, discuss with them how they can submit in their lives in each of these areas:
- To God
- To Scripture
- To Our Family
- To Our Church
- To Our Community
- To Government -
- To the World
7 But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. 8 Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, 11 if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)
If we say we live in God, we must live the way Jesus lived. (1 John 2:6)