Kingdom Principle: Obedience will get you to the “door” of the Kingdom, but Submission is necessary for it to open.
Submission is a matter of the heart.
|Ruth 1:1-18 Psalm 146||Hebrews 9:11-14||Mark 12:28-34|
“Close” is only good enough if you are playing horseshoes or throwing hand grenades. Jesus brought the Kingdom close (Matt 3:2, 4;17, 10:7), but the distance was not measure in “feet” rather by one’s “heart”. To understand the concept of “close” when it comes to the boundary of the Kingdom, review the post from Sept. 25th. When your focus is on the King, it matters not how “far away” you are– only that you are moving closer to the King and submitted to that direction. The Scribes (teachers of the Law) in the Mark passage are closer to the King than ever before…. Yet their hearts remain at a distance, turned away from Jesus, therefore the teacher knows the Kingdom is close, yet is far from experiencing it. This experience is the difference between Obedience and Submission. The teacher has great obedience, much like the rich ruler of Matthew 19. If you have ever looked at another believer and wondered, “Why is God blessing them more than me?” It indicate that you are measuring the kingdom in “feet” verses by “heart”.
The focus of the Gospel of Mark demonstrates that Jesus is sent to the marginalized, the broken, the rejected, and the downcast. It paints the picture of those who are blind (physically) yet gain sight, and those who can see (physically), yet miss what is right in front of their eyes (spiritually). (Review this concept last week) Obedience is the outward path of physical experience, as opposed to Submission which is an inward spiritual path of experience. To be obedient is to follow a plan, a course of action. To be obedient does not require change of heart. I can obediently go to work, yet hate my boss, my children can obediently come home on time, yet lie about where they were. The distance between obedience and submission is often experienced as the distance between the head and the heart. What complicates this post, is that submission of our heart (soul & spirit), leads to obedience of our body. Obedience alone however, cannot move us to Submission. Submission is a matter of the heart.
This is why it is harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom than a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. (Mark 10:25) Those who have much resource, education, support and training will find obedience easier road than submission. For obedience is valued in the world. To gain education, you must be obedient to the system, the teacher, and to the content being taught. Obedience as a reward in itself; I am building myself up, and bringing value to what is accumulated in this world. In submission we embrace that I do not need to be in control for God is strong, and in my weakness he is made known. Submission is to surrender my will for Thy Will. Submission is to move beyond obedience of act, into the obedience of attitude. Outwardly obedience is observed, but inwardly motivation can be concealed – resentment, hatred, fear or ambition, desire, even worldly love may be the motivation of one’s heart. (Review a post on what motivates you.)
A few weeks back, we saw the test and tale of two trees – there we saw that “good vs. evil” does not reveal the heart of God… rather it leads us down the path of the enemy. God desires and plants only that which births life. Submission is the way of Life. For in Submission; our mind, will and emotions are considered dead to their own independent and self-gratifying ways. The self (body, soul, & spirit) can be truly obedient without submission… the soul without submission is actually in rebellion masked by good works. This is what Paul calls a slave to sin verses slave to righteousness – (Romans 6:16-19) It was not merely obedience which lead Jesus to the cross as his soul suffered; his will was hard pressed, his emotions where perplexed, and his mind was persecuted, in all this he was stuck down but not abandoned. For this reason our attitude should be that of Christ. (Phil 2, 2 Cor. 4)
Ruth choose submission, not to Naomi, but to her God and her journey. Orpah choose obedience unto Naomi, which was not “wrong”, but returned to her previous ways & false gods when given permission. Obedience provides for us an instant confirmation that we did it well. In submission must wait on the Lord to hear the words, “Good job, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25) In obedience we march down the path of self-justification and self-righteousness, where as in submission we discover the Power of the Blood of Jesus and the Redemption of the Kingdom.
Submission begins the process of sanctification – which is the Holy Spirit’s work in us to die to ourselves and submit our lives to the will of the Father. Submission takes place first within our hearts. Outwardly I can present myself as obedient and cleaned up, but this is also by my own doing. Inwardly there is nothing I can do to clean myself. Only the power of the blood of Jesus overs this cleansing gift. Therefore submission moves us to confess – crying out for the Spirit of God to work in our lives, so that our will, our mind and our emotions would be submitted to the very wisdom of God. That we might become a vessel by which His Spirit can be expressed to the world. In this way we discover how the impossible can become a reality:
- That a father (Abraham) can offer his only son as a sacrifice.
- That a Moabite (Ruth) can be grafted into the lineage of the Jewish Messiah.
- That a virgin (Mary) can give birth in a manger to the King of Kings.
- That a persecutor of the church (Saul) can become the messenger of the cross to the gentiles.
- That you and I can become all that God had designed us to be for His Kingdom Come and Will be done.
This is the path of Submission. The way of Obedience can and will bring us to the door way of the impossible, but we will remain on the outside of the movement of God that moved us to be obedient in the first place.
So how do you know if your life is an experience of obedience or submission? Since submission cannot grow out of obedience, if you are asking the question, let begin with how do I submit? We place our trust in the LORD Jesus Christ. We surrender our lives until His will. We die to ourselves – confessing that without the power of the Spirit of God in me no good can be produced. Finally we choose the path of our Savior – which is that of a Kingdom servant.
- Make a list of ways in which you are currently obedient unto the Lord? How do you serve?, What do you do because the Lord has prompted or led you to do it? Take that List and Submit it to the Lord – asking which of these did YOU ask me to do, verses which of these did I take on for my own good – a means of self-righteousness or self-justification. Talk with someone who you trust about this new perspective.
- Ask the Lord how you might fully submit unto Him. Seek to hear from God through his Word and others by the power of the Holy Spirit that your soul & spirit might be pierced. (Hebrews 4:12) Without such revelation, it is impossible for the soul to truly submit. For most Christians there is no distinction between the soul and spirit, which leads most Christians to engage obedience as if it were an act of submission.
- Integrate # 1 & #2 – now continue to do that which the Lord prompts you to do, and taking on that attitude of submission in your obedience. The Lord may prompt you to question a perspective which you held out as unquestionable, or the Lord my ask you to give up something that has been labeled “good” in your life. This is a test – which a means growth in the Kingdom.