Voluntarily Submitting to God


February 4, 2001 ~ Crossroads Community Church


Over the past few weeks we have been listening to a series of seven messages concerning "The Road to Recovery." Just to refresh your memory the first four topics of this series were:


1) Realizing that I am not God

2) Earnestly believing that God Exists and that He cares

3) Committing my will to Jesus' control

4) Openly confessing my faults


Today we come to the fifth lesson in this series in which we will study:


5) Voluntarily Submitting to God


I have here in my hands a road map. Now I know what a lot of you are thinking: "Hey, he's a guy, what's he doing with a road map?" Our culture has this crazy idea that we guys do not need road maps to get to where we want to go. So what am I, a guy, doing with this map here today? This map is not really a map, it is actually a sermon illustration and so the guy rules give me an exception and allow me to use it in this special situation.


1) What is Submission


Yielding to the control of an outside power. I brought this map with me today because submitting to God is actually a lot like following a road map. Did any of you know that the Bible contains the perfect definition of submission? Listen to what is said in the book of Proverbs:


Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (or: will direct your paths)


Compare this to the definition that you would find in the typical dictionary where we find that to submit means to "yield to the control of an other." How many of us are good at being submissive? How good are we at yielding to the control of an other? Submission is not something that we see encouraged in our culture. Sure we are told to seek help for our problems if that becomes necessary but all too often we are led to believe that our problems are our own concern and it is up to us to solve them on our own without involving others. Submission is often seen to be a sign of weakness by our culture.


The Bible's definition of submission stands in stark contrast with our culture's independence. Where our culture tells us to stand on our own the Bible tells us that we are not strong enough, nor are we smart enough to stand on our own. We need someone to guide us and the Bible teaches that that someone is God. Submission in the Bible's understanding occurs when we allow God to be our guide, trusting that He knows best and will take us to what He knows is the best place for us to be.


2) Why Should We Submit


a) We Cannot Help Ourselves. We, on our own, are not smart enough, nor are we strong enough, to get ourselves out of the situations in which we find ourselves. These situations can be anything that is keeping us from being all that God desires us to be: Drugs, sex, alcohol, money, movies, whatever. This entire series is based on the twelve steps to recovery as found in Alcoholics Anonymous and similar recovery organizations. The whole point of recovery is that you are moving from a place where you either shouldn't be or don't want to be to a place where you either ought to be or want to be. Recovery means getting what is broken fixed so that we can carry on with living. I discovered recently an amazing fact about recovery groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous: They teach that no recovery is possible without a total submission to God's guidance.


We ourselves have a little problem with sin which shows itself to us in many different ways. Philosophers have for many centuries tried to come to grips with what it is inside each of us that makes us do wrong even though we know it to be wrong and how this problem could be solved. Ultimately there is only one answer and the prophet Isaiah wrote it very well:


Isaiah 53:4-6 - Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.


It is impossible for any of us on our own to overcome sin. We cannot get ourselves out of a problem that plagues all mankind. We need to submit to God because we cannot solve our own problems.


b) Submission will get us where we need to go. A few moments ago I spoke about my being a non typical guy because I am both willing and able to use a roadmap. Yet there was a time a few weeks ago when I had to pick two of my children up at their babysitter's. I had been there before and so I knew where to go. But her home looks identical to the other homes all along the street and after five minutes of trying I gave up and found a phone booth and called the sitter to ask which home was hers. Having her house number and being assured that I could find it I discovered that I could no longer find the street. For twenty minutes I drove all over that neighbourhood looking for it with a perfectly good, perfectly ignored map beside me. If I had merely used the map when I first got lost (yes, lost) I would have quickly found where it was I wanted to go. I needed something beyond myself to be my guide so that I would no longer be lost.


Mankind is in the same situation. We were created to have communion with our Creator. When our first parents rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden the intimacy of that communion was lost. Mankind as a whole got lost and wandered away from God. Whether we know it or not the one thing that all people lack is that communion with our Creator, it is the one thing we all are looking for but many of us are so blind to it that we replace it with smaller things. Things like: Wealth, power, sex, fame, society, knowledge, liquor, drugs, and so on. These are created things and as such they can never fill the great emptiness inside of us. Instead we are left noticing that emptiness even more and we go down in a vicious spiral of dependency and desperation. The vast emptiness within us can be filled by God alone. The one place to which we all aspire, whether we know it or not, is the throne of God and it is only through submission to Him that we will be able to reach that destination.


Psalm 34:3-7 - Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.


It is impossible for any of us on our own to fill the hole in our lives that was created when we rebelled against God. We need to submit to God because He will fill our emptiness.


3) To Whom Do We Submit


Someone who cares for us and Is able to help us. In order to be able to submit to someone we must first know that that person cares for us and is capable of helping us. One of the reasons that we are often fearful of submitting to someone is that we do not believe that anyone but ourselves will have our best interests at heart. All too often we hear of occasions where one person submitted to an other only to be disappointed with the result. What would happen to my children, who rely on me for their daily care, if I were more interested in myself than in them. It is the sole duty of a parent, in a very real sense, to sacrifice their well being for the well being of their child. If I fail to live up to my responsibility my children will try to find to some other person to give them what I have failed to give.


We need to submit to someone who both cares for us and is able to give us what is best for us. There is a wonderful image of this kind of submission in Psalm 23:


Psalm 23:1-6 - The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.


Here we see that the Bible's view of submission is that it is a complete dependence on God to provide all that is necessary for this life now, and the assurance that this satisfying of our needs will extend on into eternity as well. But it goes even further by acknowledging that our ability to obey Him is dependant on our submission to Him, He will guide us along the "paths of righteousness."


God able to control our lives, and He is better at giving us what we need than we are ourselves.


4) How Do We Submit


Submission requires us to do three things: Trust, permit, and yield.


a) Trust. We must realize that God can be trusted. God is completely trustworthy and always has only our best interests at heart. We have nothing to fear from God. He may be infinitely greater that us in every way but it is because of that difference that we can trust Him. He is not petty. He is not given to mood swings. He is not out for Himself. We can trust that in all ways He seeks our good so that we can become what He has designed us to be. In the letter to the Roman Christians we find these words:


Romans 5:6-10 - You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!


If God was willing to do this great thing of salvation while we were still His enemies how much more will He do for us now that we are His children. If God could be trusted to love us when we hated Him, how much more can He be trusted to love us now that we love Him.


b) Permit.  We must permit God to be our guide. It is all well and good to say that the roadmap you have in your hand is trustworthy, that it tells the truth, that it has been prepared by the best mapmaker on earth. No matter how trustworthy the map is it will never help me reach my destination if I do not look at it and follow its direction. A moment ago I spoke of being perfectly lost with a perfectly good map beside me and driving around for twenty minutes trying to find my way. Once I looked at the map and allowed it to determine my course I was at the babysitter's in a short time. We often treat God as I did my map. We may believe that He is the best of all possible Gods and is always completely trustworthy. We may even believe that God is real and is completely honest and loving in all His dealings with humanity. Yet if we never allow Him to be our guide this knowledge is worse than useless, doing us absolutely no good while causing us unbelievable harm. We need to be able to stop directing our own lives and allow God to do the directing for us.


Proverbs 16:1-3 - To man belong the plans of the heart, but from the LORD comes the reply of the tongue. All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.


If you are being driven somewhere by someone the only way you will get there is to let them drive. God has a goal for us that can only be found by letting Him lead us to it.


c) Yield.  We must yield to God's control. Isaiah, one of my favourite prophets of the Old Testament, was given these words of comfort by God to speak to the people of Israel in spite of their turning their backs on God and the punishment that hung above them because of this:


Isaiah 30:19-21 - O people of Zion, who live in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. How gracious he will be when you cry for help! As soon as he hears, he will answer you. Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it."


In my earlier story I mentioned that I was lost in spite of the map I had right next to me that could have told me where to go. The truth was in the car with me but it could only become useful once I came to the realization that I was completely and hopelessly lost and I that on my own I would never get to where I wanted to go. The only way I was going to be able to pick up my children was to do what no man is supposed to have to do and stop to look at the map. I had stop thinking that I could find my way on my own and be told where to go by the map. Sitting beside me unopened it was absolutely useless, once I let it be my guide I got to see my children.

Many of us go through our lives as though we are free agents. We carry the concept of a loving God around with us in our back pocket as a comforting presence but in reality we have bought into our society's lie that we can make it on our own. God is not a back pocket God. He is not a convenient power that we can pull out when we mess up and need Daddy to fix it. He asks us to trust Him and let Him be our guide


Psalms 32:8 - I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.


But He will only be our guide if we allow Him to, if we say to Him: "God, I'm not capable of doing this on my own, please help me go the right way." Each of us needs to realize, to believe, that we cannot get ourselves out of the messes that we get ourselves into. Only God is able to do this. We cannot remove ourselves from the power of whatever is controlling our lives but God can. On our own we are trapped but if we allow God to have His way with us then instead of walking along to our deaths we can look forward to life both now and for eternity. All the words I could speak to you today about submission will not make you submit. All I can do is tell you why it is necessary, you have to make the decision. Nothing that I said earlier will have any importance for you if you do not come to the point in your life where you are willing to allow God to guide you. He will not force His way on us but asks each of us to come to Him:


Matthew 11:28-30 - Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.


If you learn nothing else this morning remember this: There is nothing that I or anyone else can do to force you to submit to God. No other person can do any more for you than to show you the need of letting go of all your plans and allowing God to make the plans for you, you have to do the letting go yourself. The only power in the universe that is capable of giving over your life to God is.you.


5) When Do We Submit


Every moment, in everything we think, say, or do. Always. Every day. All the time. In all our ways acknowledge Him and He will direct our paths. Again with the map, it only works if we follow it all the time, not just when we are lost. The nice thing about a map is that it works just as well when we aren't lost as it does when we are. In fact, it even works better when we aren't lost for then we can immediately see where we've been, where we are, and where we are going but when we are lost the map is no good to us until we find some common reference point, a landmark that we recognize and which is also on the map. In our relationship with God that common reference point is Jesus. He is the meeting place of our need and God's provision. Coming back to what I have called the Biblical definition of submission, we are encouraged to acknowledge God in all our ways. Jesus told His disciples that:


John 10:10 - I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.


Now as Christians we often spiritualize these words and make them mean that Jesus came to give us eternal life. While it is true that He came to give us eternal life, Jesus did not intend these words to mean that alone. One commentary comments on this verse by saying "not merely to preserve but impart LIFE, and communicate it in rich and unfailing exuberance" (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown). Jesus came and met mankind in our here and now, healing disease and ministering to real needs. The fullness of life to which He is referring is not just the eternal life but the life we live now as well. We are through Jesus able to live this life completely, overcoming all that would remove us from God through the power of God within us.


6) The Submission Test


Find a landmark and use it. I have been using the example of my interaction with a map throughout this message, bear with me while I use it just one more time. In order for my map to be useful I not only had to look at it and follow it, I also had to find where I was on it. To do this I looked for a landmark around me that I could identify on the map, once this was done the map was an effective guide. In the realm of life we need a landmark as well. Jesus is that landmark. He stands at the intersection of God's grace and our need. Jesus Himself is a perfect example of submission:


Philippians 2:5-8 - Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death- even death on a cross!


By fixing our eyes on Him we are able to find our way into the will of God by following His example of submission to that will. Again in the letter to the Philippian church we find the following words of encouragement:


Philippians 2:1-4 - If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.


At the beginning of this message I quoted from the book of Proverbs this verse:


Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight (or: will direct your paths)


This is perhaps the best test of whether or not we are submitting to God: Are we acknowledging Him in all our ways? Is there any part of our life where God is not allowed, any area where we are unwilling to experience communion with God? Through Jesus' life, death, and resurrection our broken communion with God has been restored. Once we are able to have fellowship with God and enjoy it we will no longer will treat God as a map lying closed on the seat beside us but He will become our guide, active in every aspect of our lives. We have His promise that He will guide us to where He would have us be, that place that will draw us to ever closer fellowship with Him. My friends, God is waiting, He is willing, turn your lives over to Him and let Him fix your broken parts. He will do it, you can trust Him.