Wednesday, July 11, 2018

77-2 Humble Submission

Inspired by the song "What You Want" by Tenth Avenue North from their album Followers.
Available at YouTube, iTunes & Amazon.

Surrender is hard. It means more than giving up something to someone. It means giving up a bit of our feelings of honor and control.

We Americans live in a society where we have control over our lives and the way we go. This is fantastic, since God made us autonomous and able to exercise our free will. This is what makes humans different than animals and angels: our choices are more than just instinct and programming.

Jesus brings an even greater level of freedom. Through His sacrifice and resurrection, we are free from the bondage of sin and death. We are free to live for eternity and also free to truly live in this life on earth. The innate hostility between us and God is history, and the shackles of sin have lost their power.

But the more we read the scriptures, the more we see Jesus want us to surrender to Him. To submit to His authority. To take up our cross and follow Him.

Doesn't this seem contradictory to the freedom we just discussed?

Well, your answer should be an obvious 'no,' as the obvious purpose of what Jesus did was to bring us into unhindered relationship with the Father, to allow us to live to the praise of His glory.

So why does Jesus call us to take up our cross? Why do the epistle writers seem to be stuck on the concept of humble surrender?

The answer to this is the existence of pride. We are autonomous humans who have the propensity to think we are capable of anything we need to do. And even when Jesus tells us that through Him we can do all things, we tend to forget the "through Him" part in actual practice.

Pride is putting one's own self higher than someone else. If we are proud when around others, we will inevitably treat others as subordinate in value to ourselves. And this leads to other problems, such as hatred, racism, haughtiness and abuse.

I am a firm believer in the written word of Thomas Jefferson when he stated that "all men are created equal." God made each man (and woman) with the same inherent value, in the image of God. He likewise provided the same equal opportunity for salvation through the blood of Jesus. But we also share in the same propensity for failure. We were created equal, and we have equally fallen.

It is easy for me to look at myself when I am doing "well" and think that I am accruing value higher than some other people. When I see the report of a person robbing a bank, I feel highly of myself that I haven't stooped to that level. Or I hear about a person being high on cocaine and I am happy that I am not addicted to any drug (I even take periods of time away from caffeine just to make sure I'm not addicted to that either).

Then something happens, maybe I clank two valuable parts together at work or I forget my sweater at church again, and my reaction in both mind and words don't live up to the hype I have created for myself. I see very quickly that I am not any better than anyone else in my own self. That even though God is working with me to seriously live a holy life, I am still as prone to failure as anyone else.

Pride is lying to oneself that one has more value than anyone else, when, in reality, that value has and always will come solely from the hand of God.

The logic continues that, if all my value comes from the hand of God, shouldn't I submit myself completely to His will?

The crazy thing about us Christians is how quickly we resort back to depending on ourselves for our successes and joys, not out of necessity but because we simply forget that God is a bit more qualified for doing that than we are. We look at how we can take advantage of the world for blessings instead of letting the Creator of everything have the opportunity to provide blessing greater than anything His creation could feign.

James 4 talks about how we let pride, sin and love of the world come before surrendering to God. I have always been challenged by verses 7-10, because it encourages me to become less so that God can become more:

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

It is the last line that always gets me. Obviously, He's not calling us to depression, but rather recognition of our brokenness. Once we reach the point of clearly seeing our insufficiency, we can truly receive the power and blessing of God, who wants to care for us and supply all our needs. We can't do that if we hold on to that control.

Those people who know they have great spiritual needs are happy, because the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. (Matt. 5:3 NCV)

If we first recognize that we are inherently incapable of providing all our needs, and we then realize that God is the One who created everything good and wants to provide the best for us now and a kingdom in the future that is filled with all that is good, we will be willing to give up control and let God run the show.

Humility doesn't mean not having self-confidence, however. If we are created by God and then even more empowered by God, we shouldn't lack in any confidence. But confidence based on our own power is remotely different than confidence based on God's power. Letting pride get in the way of what God wants to do quickly thwarts the great exploits that are destined for us. It first starts with being willing to surrender to a God who is truly capable of providing the best for us.

Lord, help me to humbly submit myself to You. Help me to see that You know what's best and are capable of providing it. Help me to not trust in my own flawed abilities, but to reach out daily for the power You give. Let my heart surrender my own grasp of control and instead take joy in wanting what You want.

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