Others First : Submission of Self

image Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (The Christ Hymn, Phil 2:3-4)

The spiritual discipline of submission operates on two planes. We first submit ourselves fully to God and His Word and then we follow the example of Jesus and take an attitude of submission to others. Submission is not slavery. It is the willing humility of oneself to another, making their needs paramount to your own in emulation of the humiliation of Christ on your behalf. In addition to imitation, the Christian subordinates themselves to others in love, valuing them and treating them according to kingdom principles.

When this topic is preached in the modern Christian church it is often stated in general terms. We submit to our neighbors and those we encounter in our daily lives. True submission however requires that we be more intentional in our quest. We must remember to practice submission within our families carrying their burdens and being transparent in our own. We are to seek out opportunities to honor the broken and despised by being among them and loving them. Perhaps the great challenge of submission is to practice this discipline within our community of belief. As the Church mirrors the culture and its emphasis on recognition and position, we seek the lowliest ministries far away from the platform to demonstrate the love of Christ within the Body.

The discipline of submission is the least natural of all of the practices. Our self rebels against it, insisting that it get its own way. We train ourselves to control this desire, to understand that the sacrifice made on our behalf by the God of All makes it uneccessary to continue to demand what we see as ours. We can have confidence that as we submit ourselves to others, they may soon do the same for us.

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An Invitation to Submission

imageThe spiritual discipline of submission releases the Christian from the ongoing need to get their own way. When you consider the things that we all in one way or another struggle with — judging others, pride, demanding that we be first, etc. –  we discover at the core of each of these the demand that we get our own way in things. Submission is difficult to put into practice because it guarantees we will not get our own way. Letting go of that need/desire is one of the biggest, most challenging steps that the Christian takes.

Submission is at the core of a biblical faith in God. Consider these passages:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other Gods before me.” (Ex 20:2-3)  (This includes the god of ME)

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mk 8:34)

“So the last will be first and the first will be last.” (Mt 20:16)

Submission is all encompassing. We submit to God and His Lordship. We submit to His Word and obey. We submit to one another within the Body, putting others ahead of ourselves. We submit to the world at large, even if they are not a part of the Body. We seek in every instance to reduce ourselves while lifting others. We do this all in the joy of knowing that our salvation and the new life of today and eternity was purchased with the ultimate act of submission.

The practice of submission is often abused and this abuse contributes to the struggles we have in putting it into practice. A prime rule for practicing submission is that we do so until it becomes destructive. That is, we submit to others until the practice becomes a denial of the law of love and our submission threatens to revert to a slavery outside of the boundaries of the Bible. We are then called to speak out and remedy the situation as best we can.

 

 

Image Bruce McKinlay

Lent 2009 – 19 Steps to the Cross

PeterSteps

Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord who is going to betray you?”) When Peter sah him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”

Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:20 – 23)

This small section of scripture, buried in the larger pericope of Peter’s restoration is one that I go back to again and again to remind me of my proper relationship to the Lord and others in His Church. Dr. Vernon Grounds once spoke on passage in chapel, reminding the ministers in attendance that our ministry was never to be compared to someone else’s. Whether we were successful in the eyes of the world (i.e., megachurch growth) or a failure by the same standard (nurturing a small, unnoticed body), the minister was simply to make sure that he was a success according to the call of the Lord. If Jesus calls you to toil in some small body, go and do it with all your heart. If he places you in a megachurch, work every day to ensure your own humility knowing that the success is the Lord’s, not yours. Blogging pastors who spend more time bragging about all the conferences they speak at or their world travels that an ‘unnamed benefactor’ sends them on should bookmark this passage.

As Dr. Grounds said, pointing to men and women in the chapel body, “don’t worry about him or her and what they have been called to do. Simply follow Jesus.”

Amen Dr. Grounds.

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Advent Benediction ~ The Song of Mary

image Rejoice in the presence of the Lord, may His face shine upon you.

May you walk in anticipation of the promise kept,

and may you fall to your knees in humility and repentance.

 

May you join with your sister Mary and your soul glorify the Lord, your savior.

I pray that you will be known as people of mercy as the Lord works through you

and that you will give to others the same love that He has given to you.

 

May you remember to be merciful, humble, and faithful,

even when you face uncertainty as Mary did.

May you trust in Him as His ways are perfect.

Amen

Psalms 9 & 10 – The Lord is Known by His Justice

This pair of psalms form a carefully constructed prayer of praise for both the glory of the Lord and David’s trust in the righteous justice by which the universe is ruled. He begins with anticipatory praise, lifting Yahweh high as he looks forward to what will be visited on his enemies:

I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders.

I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you. For you have upheld my right and my cause; you have sat on your throne, judging righteously. (vv 9:1 – 4)

The combined message of nine and ten is threefold; humility, limitation, and responsibility. From a human standpoint, not three of our favorite topics. To realize our humility is to recognize how little is truly under our control. No matter how high our position, when we set our own throne before that of the King we are yet again aware of how insignificant it is. When our humility fails us, we rebel against this King thinking ourselves higher than the Host. The warning is clear:

The nations have fallen into the pit they have dug; their feet are caught in the net they have hidden. The Lord is known by his justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands. (vv 9:15- 16)

If our perspective remains on the earthly plain, we can easily convince ourselves of how powerful we are. The humility engendered by an encounter with the Almighty leads us clearly to realize our limitations. David sees clearly that the authority granted him by the Lord can be used in terribly destructive ways:

In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the Lord. (vv 10:2-3)

Does the evil man filled with hubris get away with this arrogant behavior? Perhaps, for a time, but as we soak in the words of both of the psalms we return to the glorification that filled the first few verses. We trust and know, based on the ultimate goodness of our God, that righteousness will prevail.

Finally, the rapaciousness of the ‘enemies’ that lurk in the second of the two psalms is in direct contrast to the responsibility for creation that was assigned to the men and women who are to populate it. It is provided for our use but not to be plundered without concern. To do so is as much rebellion as denying the Creator His place and authority. Circling back to humility forces us to answer; are we enemies to any degree?