Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Discipline of Submission

Some time ago I was asked to teach a Sunday morning Bible study in a friend’s church. After a time of prayer, I chose to teach on the parable of the ten virgins, five who were wise, and five who were foolish. There were about thirty people in attendance, and as the teaching progressed, I could see I was connecting with most of them.
As I got to the part about the five wise virgins refusing to share their oil with the five foolish virgins, a lady started waving her hand and as I acknowledged her, she stood up and said, ‘I don’t think that was very nice of the five wise virgins. I don’t feel that was very loving of them.’
I proceeded to explain that all ten virgins had the same amount of time to prepare for the groom’s arrival, and if five of them chose not to prepare adequately it was not the responsibility of the others to put themselves in danger just because the foolish virgins had been indifferent and unprepared. I then proceeded to emphasize the importance of personal accountability, and the need for individual preparation and sanctification.
It seemed that my answer was satisfactory, because the lady didn’t have any follow up questions, and as I was coming to the end of the lesson, I emphasized the fact that the five virgins who had gone to buy oil from those who sold it, had missed out on the groom’s arrival, and as consequence were shut out of the wedding.
The selfsame lady that interrupted earlier started waving her hand again, and after once more acknowledging her, she cleared her throat and said, ‘in my humble opinion what the groom did wasn’t right. They were all virgins after all, and that had to account for something.’
Maybe it was just too early, or I hadn’t had coffee that morning, or perhaps I’d heard ‘in my humble opinion’ one too many times in regards to the absolute Word of God, but I looked at the lady and said in the most soothing voice I could muster, ‘when it comes to the Bible madam, your opinion or my opinion, humble or otherwise, is irrelevant.’
‘Well that’s just rude’, she muttered and sat back down.
Of the estimated six billion people walking the earth today, everyone has an opinion on something, and most have an opinion on everything. Opinions have been likened to many things, and I’m sure you can think of at least one thing that opinions have been likened to.
I don’t mind opinionated people! You can have an opinion about the weather, the color blue, whether it should be mandatory that you eat with chopsticks in a Chinese restaurant, but what we are not allowed an opinion on, are the established fundamentals of the Gospel.
It always amazes me when people inquire what my opinion is regarding something that the Bible is very clear on. How can I have an opinion in opposition to the Word, when I am a follower of the Word?
We have diluted ourselves into believing that we will somehow change the mind of God simply because we feel, think, or have a different opinion than what the Gospel declares as truth. As such we have transformed that which is absolute into something relative, that which is established and eternal, into something subjective and trivial.
Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.”
When it comes to the Word, expressions such as ‘I feel, or I think, or in my humble opinion’ should be stricken from our parlance. It doesn’t matter what I think, it doesn’t matter how I feel, all that matters is what the Word of God says on any given topic or subject. Either I submit myself to the Word of God, or I am in open rebellion.
Truth remains truth regardless of what I believe, regardless of how I feel about it, or that my opinion differs from that of the Word. It is the pinnacle of pride and arrogance to assume that what we think, or how we feel takes preeminence over the written Word of God, or that He will overlook our rebellion and disobedience, simply because we weren’t on the same page as Him, and we considered His ways too extreme, and too constrictive. It amazes me and frightens me how readily men can appropriate God’s authority, and establish their own righteousness rather than submit to the righteousness of God.
Romans 10:3, “But they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.”
Men and women who by their own assertion of being servants of God, and followers of Christ, are following in the footsteps of those Paul called ignorant of God’s righteousness, dismissing and resisting the will of God thereby establishing their own righteousness.
In order to submit to God we must first mortify pride and humble ourselves, and this is the most difficult aspect of the discipline of submission for countless souls.
Blinded by our own sense of self worth, by our estimation of our own wisdom, we rebel against He who is the source of wisdom, and as stiff necked and stubborn sons of disobedience we refuse to submit to the authority of God.
‘We have found a better way; we have found an easier way; we have found a simpler way;’ these are the cries of the rebellious heart, the heart which is unwilling to bend its knee, and yield itself to the will of God.
Although the starting point of rebellion differs from one individual to another, some seeking justification for sins, others simply dismissing the commandments of God, others still refusing to believe the fundamentals of scripture, the end result is always the same. Regardless of where disobedience and rebellion begin, the end result is being left to the desires of our wicked hearts, deceived into believing that the god of our making will save us.
James 4:7, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”
This admonition comes at the end of a lengthy rebuke, one which if preached in many churches today would be grounds for dismissal of the pastor for having so offended, and psychologically damaged his congregation.
Among the choice words used to describe the designated readers of the epistle of James, they are called adulterers and adulteresses, murderers, covetous idolaters, lustful creatures who desire the friendship of the world, knowing full well this will mean enmity with God. James simply holds up the mirror of God’s truth, and describes the reflections he sees within what ought to be the congregation of the saints.
The cure for their condition was a combination of two necessary attributes every Christian ought to posses. James admonished all who would heed his warning to repent, and to submit to God.
All the evils that had befallen those to whom he was writing and unfortunate as it might be, we see the selfsame evils alive and well in many churches today, were the root cause of pride and haughtiness. They thought themselves wise in their own understanding, and as such refused to submit to the authority of God.
We cannot hope to be fruitful, we cannot hope to obtain peace, and we cannot hope to live in victory, or have a full Christian life without submitting to God.
The Word is very clear on the topic of yielding ourselves, of submitting ourselves to God, but nothing is more contradictory to human nature than submission. It is only when we submit; when our will and God’s will are one, that we obtain those illusive attributes such as peace, joy, and comfort.
Where there is no submission to God, there can be no holiness. When an individual refuses to submit to God, that individual is rejecting the Lordship of God over his life, and as such begins to doubt God’s wisdom, is dismissive of His love, and despises, scorns and disdains the Word.
Seeing the consequences of not submitting to God, the question that arises is how do we acquire the discipline of submission?
In his letter to Timothy, Paul encourages him to adopt a certain mindset concerning ministry that can also be brought into the discussion of learning to submit to God.
2 Timothy 2:3, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
The first thing a newly enlisted soldier learns, before he gets to play with guns and learn tactics, is submitting to authority. The entire success of a military operation hinges on whether or not the soldier submits to the authority of his commanding officer, and obeys the commands that are given to him.
Imagine an army on the battlefield and as the commanding officer gives the order to engage the enemy, all the enlisted men of his platoon start offering their opinion on the matter.
“With all due respect sir, I don’t think that’s a very good idea. Instead of engaging the enemy, why not retreat to higher ground?”
“Your plan is sound sir, no offense intended, but I think I’ve come up with a better way. In my honest opinion I think we should try to talk the enemy into surrendering rather than actively engaging them in battle.”
Then there are those who just enlisted for the signing bonus, whatever they thought that bonus would be, whether prosperity, good health or straight teeth, who would rather just surrender to the enemy than have to exert themselves in combat.
The examples are limitless, but the end result of this exercise is always the same. When the soldier does not obey his commanding officer’s orders, there is a breakdown in the cohesion of the unit, and the objective is never reached.
Paul encourages Timothy to be a good soldier, a single-minded soldier of Jesus Christ. If Jesus commands me to be righteous, then I do not question His orders, I submit to His authority and carry out my assignment.
It is common knowledge that an enlisted soldier can face a court martial for disobeying a direct order from a superior officer. If the standard of the world is set at such a high level, what makes us think God’s standard is lower?
We must realize that God knows the enemy better than we can ever hope to know him. As such we must trust in the wisdom of our General, and submit to His authority that we might win the battle, and obtain the victory. God knows that our enemy will not be talked down, he knows that our enemy cannot be reasoned with, because he is as a roaring lion, the madness of his rage knowing no limits, and the sum of all his energies are directing at destroying the children of God.
The devil knows he can’t hurt God directly, so he attempts to break God’s heart indirectly by going after His children. Jesus is a good general, and as any good general will tell you, he feels the loss of those under his command deeply and profoundly.
If we are good soldiers of Jesus Christ, than we must submit to His authority. We have enlisted, and we are at warm. Make no mistake about it, every day of our lives we fight and we wrestle against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, and against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. If we hope to win the battle, we must know the weapons of our warfare, and follow the orders of our General who is always before us.
Another mindset that we must have in order to grow the discipline of submission to God in our hearts is that of an athlete, competing in athletics.
2 Timothy 2:5, “And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.”
Imagine what would happen if someone showed up to compete in a marathon on a motorized scooter. While everyone else is running, panting, sweating, exerting themselves, the guy on the motorized scooter just releases the throttle and away he goes. He putters along on his scooter careful to stick to the assigned route, shows up at the finish line hours ahead of anyone else, and with a beaming smile declares himself the winner of the marathon.
Would anyone take this person seriously? Would anyone give this person a medal simply because he did not stray from the assigned route?
If we want to be crowned at the end of our race, we must compete according to the rules. We can’t make up our own rules as we go along, nor can we say certain rules in said competition do not apply to us. If we choose not to compete according to the rules, we will be disqualified!
Any form of competition has an adhered to set of rules. A pugilist can’t step in the ring brandishing a baseball bat; a cyclist can’t race riding a Harley; a soccer player can’t pick up the ball and throw it into the net, and a Christian cannot dismiss the truth of the Gospel and still consider himself in contention for the crown, or a Christian for that matter.
“Yes, the Bible speaks of repentance, sanctification, the pursuit of holiness, and obedience, but I just don’t see it that way. I feel like, you know, God knows my heart, and He’s not as strict as He used to be, and besides, love covers a multitude of sins so don’t give me any of that brimstone talk.”
When we choose not to submit to the Word, when we choose not to submit to God, we are competing in a race of our own making, wherein we are the only participant, and we determine the rules and regulations.
There is a discipline in submitting ourselves to God, a breaking down of our own will, a renunciation of our own ideology, and a willingness to serve, obey, and follow after Him with all our hearts, and minds.
Just as an athlete trains for a competition, denying himself the things he knows will limit his ability to be the best he can be, we too must deny ourselves, pick up our crosses and follow after Jesus that we might also be the best that He can make us.
Along the way, if we are honest and forthright with ourselves, we realize that those things which we denied ourselves, those things which we forsook weren’t really that important, necessary, or even worth having.
The closer we get to the finish line, the closer we get to the completion of the race, the more visible the crown awaiting us becomes, and it only serves to quicken our pace.
We need to stop thinking, stop feeling, and start submitting to the Word. Either obey, and compete according to the rules, or stop wasting your time and energy!
I will end this teaching with the words of what I consider to be the most honest and forthright of Biblical authors, Paul the Apostle, and his admonition to all who would hear to run the race in a way that they might obtain the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.”
1 Corinthians 9:27, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.


Mrs. Pugh said...

Brother Michael,
This issue is so close to my heart and my words aren't nearly so eloquent! I cannot number the times I have had a conversation along the lines of, 'Well you know, it's not like God actually held the pen when the bible was written, and we know so much more now. After all science shows... (insert whatever current trend people are trying to justify)"
My soul cringes for these people who honestly believe they have understanding and as you put it, they will be saved by the god they created.
As always Brother Michael, thank you for speaking the truth.
Mrs. Pugh

Anonymous said...

After reading your message, I was wondering if you would consider explaining the women's place... not pertaining to submission and authority under man which I understand well, but in regard to the church. For example, Paul wrote to the Corinthians that women are not to speak in the assembly. Is this in direct relation to what Paul wrote to Timothy? (women are not to have authority or teach over men) Or does it mean that a woman must hold her peace and state opinions, concerns, etc. to her husband/father at home? I do not question God's word and I'm hoping for some affirmation from you as I don't hear any preaching from our local pastor about this subject.

Michael Boldea said...

In order to understand where Paul was coming from, one must understand the spiritual condition in the church of Corinth at the time of his writing.
They had so fallen off the path, that sins of which the world would not speak were being commited within what was called the church. Both 1 and 2 Corinthians are a rebuke and a correction.
I believe that it had gotten so bad, that both men and women would stand up in the middle of a sermon and openly challenge the preacher, so much so that it became a dialogue rather than the preaching of the word.
In order to maintain order, Paul wrote that women are not to speak in the assembly. That does not mean they should be silent throughout, but if there is a question and answer time, they are free to speak up. Although the Bible says women are weaker vessels, it does not mean that they are lesser vessels.
There is an established order, not by men but by God, wherein Jesus is the head of the man, the man is the head of the woman, and although I'll probably get hate mail from feminists it is the Word, and I will not apologize for it.
So again, back to your question, Paul's admonition was not so much that women should just keep quiet all the time, but merely not to interrupt the service by asking quesitons aloud during the preaching.
I hope I've answered your question.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.

Anonymous said...

Dear Michael,
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my question, for explaning the condition of the Corinthian church during Paul's day, and affirming the authority delegations (heads) God has ordained for the body of Christ.

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