We are in the middle of fire season here in Montana and once again I find myself examining my house, looking over our stuff, thinking about what would I pack, what would we take if we were evacuated. My family was evacuated four years ago, and with the fires burning so close by again, this taking into account of our belongings is foremost on my mind these days.
But, how much more is the “account of my soul” that should be on my mind. Our home, our things are temporary; it’s just stuff. If it were to be gone tomorrow, most of it could be replaced. What about my soul? How much more important is the state of our soul, then the state of our possessions?
As Pastor J.C. Ryle said, “Resolve by the grace of God that you will have regular seasons for examining yourself and looking over the accounts of your soul.”
2 Peter 3:10-14, 16 says this about the coming of the Lord:
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar
and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. But, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”
Just as we don’t know when we might receive a knock on our door, and we’re told to evacuate from our home, we also do not know when the Lord is returning. God’s word tells us that we are to be active in our waiting for his return. We are to be diligent, growing in our knowledge of him. We are to be growing in our sanctification and becoming more like Jesus. So, as we look over the account of our souls, one area that I want to specifically look at is submission.
Submission is not an old idea for an older generation of believers. It is not just for married women and how they respond to their husbands. Submission is for all. For all believers, for men and for women.
Romans 11:36 reads, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.” If we believe Romans 11:36 and what it says about God, then all of our lives are his. We acknowledge through the posture of submission that all things: our lives, our faith, our health, our relationships, our families, our work, our material possessions, our sexuality, our minds, our thoughts, our hearts, our affections…all things are his, they are Jesus’.
Submitting our Definitions
In our culture, and even in some circles amongst believers, submission is seen as a dirty word. Liberated women laugh at such an antiquated idea. Feminists scoff at the thought of being under someone’s authority. Christian women misapply submission in their marriages. Culture says if we are “submitted,” then we are not free, we are controlled, we are weak.
I love what author Barbara Hughes writes in her book Disciplines of a Godly Woman, “All believers, men and women, are called to willingly and cheerfully submit to what we know and trust about God – that he wants us to live a life of blessing. That life of blessing is found in submitting to God’s loving rule and God’s order in this world. So submission is the path to blessing” (page 34).
This discipline of submission is something we must learn. Since the fall we as sinful people naturally rebel. We want to live for ourselves, want no one to tell us what to do, and we resent having to live under authority. Think of a child or remember when you were a child; obedience was not our natural inclination. Who did our parents think they were to tell us what to do?
Just as kids need training in living a life of submission, we do too. We whine when we don’t get our way, we throw fits when we don’t want to do what someone has asked us to do, we hate to have to submit to our governing authorities, and at the core of us we don’t even want God to tell us what to do. We rebel and ultimately our rebellion, whether acknowledged or not, is a thumbing our nose at God.
Paul writes in Romans 8:7, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”
The Silent Problem
As I reflect back on my growing-up years I would classify myself as quiet and compliant. I was a peace-maker who didn’t like to ruffle feathers or cause conflict. I would think of myself as submissive. But, not until years later, beginning to see myself as God sees me, I saw the rebellious, unsubmissive sinner that I am. I saw the quiet rebellion I waged inside, and the way I thumbed my nose at parents, authorities over me, and worst of all, God.
I can remember walking home one day from a friend’s house when I was a sophomore in high school and determining to myself that I was going to start swearing. I didn’t swear aloud, but I did begin swearing in my heart. Overtime the swearing became outward. The Bible says, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:18).
What that swearing did was allow me to develop a hardened heart toward authority, my parents and ultimately God. I still struggle with that sin, and need to submit it to the Lord. I’m embarrassed to say that my homeschool kids didn’t need to be sheltered from the playground in fear of picking up some bad word, but from their mother. My spirit is in rebellion.
I also look back on my high school years and realized that my only detention was due to “insubordination”. The teacher’s actual words. This showed up for years in my sexual promiscuity. Who was God to tell me what I could or could not do with my body? Even as a homeschooling mama, it rubbed me the wrong way when the superintendent of the public schools started requesting an attendance record for my kids. Who were they to interfere with my business?
The Gospel Change
I’m so grateful for Jesus and the cross, in that he made a way for all my rebellion, my sin, my insubordination to be forgiven. I’m also grateful that he doesn’t let us stay there. Through many years of learning about true biblical submission, of struggling to live that out in my marriage, of learning to submit to the governing authorities over me; through the sanctification of becoming like Jesus, he has shown me that to live out the best possible life God has, submission is an attitude, an action, a heart change, a way of life for the believer. A bending of my will to his perfect will, everyday.
James 4:6-7 says, “Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves therefore to God.”
Submission is yielding to the authority of God in our lives. Submission requires obedience, trust, and humility. By the very nature of who he is, he can be trusted. He is a faithful God, an unwavering Father who delights in his children, and desires to bless us.
God also wants us to be fully surrendered in all our life, not parts of us, but all of us. I love that God has given us the greatest example of what it means to live a life of submission through his son Jesus.
In John 8: 27-30 Jesus says, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”
And when Jesus was praying on the Mount of Olives before he was betrayed in Luke 22:42 he prays, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
And in Philippians 2:8 we read, “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
God gave us his Son to be the ultimate example of submission. Jesus obediently did his Father’s will. In humility we too want to ask our Heavenly Father to help us emulate Jesus, and grow in becoming disciplined in our submission to him.
We also see in Romans 8:26–28 that the Spirit also is in submission to the will of God. This passage teaches us what to do in our weakness, in our lack of submission: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
The Reward of Relief
In our submission to Jesus we can trust and rest in the fact that God is always working for our good. On the other hand, God also takes our rebellion seriously. Our unsubmissive lives deserve death and judgment. As we know too well living in Montana during fire season, how quickly things can change, how much more should our souls be ready for the coming of the Lord. All of us will give an account someday for how we lived our lives. Either we will joyfully submit to Jesus now and look forward to eternal life with him someday, or we can continue in our stubborn, unsubmissive way, knowing that we will be forced to bend our knee and through gritted teeth proclaim that he is Lord.
One final thought from Barbara Hughes. She writes, “Submission applies to every area of our lives, and we begin by restoring the Gospel to its rightful place at the center of our thoughts and deeds in everyday life. This submitting is an ongoing, daily choosing of God’s ways over our own ways. We’ll go on having to choose all our lives” (pg. 38).
Don’t delay in asking the Holy Spirit to help you and show you where you are not living in total submission to God. Repent and ask God to restore the gospel to its rightful place in your life today, and everyday.
This article series is adapted from lectures given by the authors in our Women's Ministry the fall of 2017. The content and lectures were based off the book, "Disciplines of a Godly Woman," by Barbara Hughes.