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Discipline of Submission

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The Discipline of Submission

There are four inward disciplines we have talked about: Meditation, prayer, fasting and study. We have covered two of the four outward disciplines, simplicity and solitude and this week, we introduce the third... SUBMISSION.

Hmmm, now that is a word that means several things to people. Quite frankly, it is not a popular word and certainly not a concept that we’ve been equipped or even encouraged to embrace. It’s an inner attitude that leads to an outward lifestyle and it always shows up in the way we communicate with others... the attitudes if you will, that others hear from us.

Often, when submission is talked about within the church, it’s usually wrapped into a marriage lesson. Quite frankly, God spends a whole lot more time encouraging us to submit to one another versus just the husband/wife concept. 

These last few years have been packed full of opportunities to submit to one another. How have you fared? Have you been angry, offended, labeling people as winners and losers, smart or dumb, duped or woke? Satan is relentless at getting humanity to wage war with each other be it with bombs or words of offense or accusation. More often then not, we label each other when we hardly know each other. What a tragedy! What a waste of emotional and mental energy.

Perhaps we should call the last few years the “Libby” years. When I was a kid, I remember commercials for Libby’s canned vegetables. The tune was... if it says Libbys, Libbys, Libbys on the label, label, label you will like it, like it, like it on your table, table, table. The wisdom of this world is filled with all kinds of labels for people. Let’s not go there.

Submission is simply the act of placing ourselves under someone else, to not choose to be first! To subordinate ourselves...

One of the reasons our preaching theme for a bit is hospitality is that I have found the more people I get to know who are different than me, the more I find we have in common in our humanity and our identity as image bearers of God. My tongue is not so fast to fly off the handle with impassioned words of accusation or labelling. I have more sympathy and empathy for others. You can't read about that and learn it, you have to EXPERIENCE it by practice.

The Ephesians 5:21 text is the power behind it all... we submit to one another out of reverence, or complete awe of Christ and what he did... Christ is the ultimate example of submission. First, in submitting to the Father, then submitting himself even under us in how he gave up his life for ours. Spend some time reflecting on the totality of Jesus’ life and you can envision what a life of submission really looks like, not just a theoretical one.

Think of all the different kinds of people, different backgrounds, different settings and different cultural situations Jesus placed himself in during his ministry. It is only through those experiences, I believe, that He was able to enter Jerusalem during what is called "passion week", and look down on the city with compassion for the people despite knowing what was soon to take place.

What is submission? 

Submission is an inward reality that results in an outward lifestyle. Both are essential.

Submission is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of needing to always get our own way; the obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go. These are some of the greatest bondages in human history. A spirit of submission is what produces peace of the heart and mind that allows us to not feel like we always must make a point or prove our opinion. We will never get peace of mind when we always want to give someone a piece of our mind!

Submission is freedom to value other people. (WHOA… imagine doing that all the time?) It allows us to give up our own rights for the good of others and we can love people unconditionally. It is to make our own desires subordinate to others. Submission will free us to be able to distinguish between genuine issues and stubborn self-will. Quite frankly, most things in life are not nearly as important as we think they are. And when I say most things, I’m talking probably over 90% of stuff.

A submissive person knows full well their value in Christ. They feel no need to “prove” themselves or be approved by others. Don’t confuse this with obstinance. We simply live by a standard that places God as the judge of our life, not other people. As one elder from the past stated, choose righteousness over being “right”.

I would suggest that 99% of our irritations, frustrations and disappointments in life come out of a spirit that is not a submissive one, but a prideful one. One where we feel wounded, entitled and maybe even better than others on a regular basis. This is truly enslavement, not freedom.


Submission is not:

  1. Self-pity
  2. Self-contempt
  3. Self-debasement

Scriptures talk:

Mark 8:34-35-Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. (NLT)

Mark 9:35-Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” (NIV)

John 13:15-I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (NIV)

Eph. 5:21-Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (NIV)

Phil. 2:1-8-Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.

When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. (NLT)

1 Peter 2:13-17- Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.  For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. (NIV)

What an amazing impact our life has on others as we grow more and more into the image of Christ as we submit ourselves to others. 

Is there a limit to submission?

Absolutely! We are never to submit to anyone or anything calling us into sin... When Peter and others were told to not speak of Jesus, they simply told the Jewish authorities that they must obey God rather than man. There are several scriptures that bear further witness to this teaching.

Submission does not mean staying in abusive relationships, be it a friend, spouse or church leader. Although we are called to make every effort to restore the offender.

To whom do we submit?

The will of God

One another

Our spouses

Government authorities

Our employer

Even strangers (yes, I'm serious… read 1 Cor. 9:19-23 cited below a few times)

Final thoughts:

Submission should never be an excuse to engage in sin, compromise God’s will and God’s truth and even our own convictions... remember however, it takes being connected to the Holy Spirit to distinguish between convictions and opinions... I’m using the word convictions here to stand for those core beliefs we hold in the teachings of Christ and of God. It is in the arena of opinion where we are most challenged to embrace a spirit of submission. 

Submission is the basis of what Paul is led to share in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (NIV)- Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

One last thing: If you are ever confused as to what submission might look like in any given situation, follow God’s instructions: GET ADVICE! By the way, When was the last time you got advice on anything? We all could use more advice (from Godly folks I would add!). Hey, you know what, I think seeking advice is an act of submission...

Still to come:






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