February 26, 2014

Spiritual Disciplines: Submission

Good afternoon!  We're half-way through our Wednesdays exploring Foster's list of Spiritual Disciplines in his book Celebration of Discipline.  I've been maintaining a list of previous posts here, so if you are new to the series you can catch-up using the links provided on that page.

Today we get to talk about another 'S' word, one that is not popular these days: Submission.  What I find lovely about including Submission in a book on Spiritual Disciplines, is that submission is addressed as a habit or behavior that should characterize the lives all Christians, not just lower classes or groups.  All Christians.

When you hear the word, what comes to mind?  Being a doormat?  Giving up your individuality?  Pretending you don't have needs and wants?  Or perhaps you immediately think of our Savior, Jesus, who submitted to His Father's will to save mankind through Him.  Foster begins the chapter by reminding us that the Disciplines in and of themselves are of no value whatever.  They have value only as a means of setting us before God so that he can give us the liberation we seek.  The liberation is the end; the Disciplines are merely the means.  (p. 110)  He goes on to say that every Discipline has a corresponding freedom.

Guess what freedom we find in submission.  The ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way. ... we are released to drop the matter, to forget it.  (p. 111)

Are you good at that?  Or do you - as our culture and our sinful natures have conditioned us - always feel the need to have the last word, really settle the matter in your favor, and make sure everyone knows your expertise on the issue?  Guilty as charged over here in front my my computer screen!

So, Foster reminds us that what the Bible teaches us about submission simply has to do with how we view others.  The verses that come immediately to mind for me are Philippians 2:3-4,
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Oh, that is so hard!

Reflection on the Discipline of Submission quickens us to get in the habit of thinking of others, laying down our rights to lift up others.  Submission reminds us that God desires to transform us into Christ's likeness.  Philippians 2 continues by describing Jesus in this way:
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross! 
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

We're not called to save the world; Jesus did that.  But as His people, we are called to live like Him - entrusting ourselves to the Father and listening to and obeying the Holy Spirit when He speaks to us.

Our sinful nature would keep us in the bondage of needing to assert ourselves as god, to be pleased at all costs.  Christ sets us free to pick up our cross and follow Him into the liberating presence of the One True God, who sets us free from the law of sin and death (and the need to be the center of the universe), and who covers us with His mercy and gives us new life.  This new life with Him - content, secure, and free - opens up the door to love others with abandon and let go of the need to always have our own way!

Foster calls this freely accepted servanthood and mentions seven acts of submission that you can read more about in the book,* submission to the Triune God, the Scripture, our family, our neighbors, the believing community, the broken and despised, and the world.  Kinda sums up submission - denying yourself and following Jesus - in 'most every area of life!

Odd, isn't it, that we will find what we're looking for when we let go of, rather than holding on tighter to, protecting and asserting our self?**  I'm sure a brief moment's thought brings to mind relationships and arenas of life where you can practice this Discipline right away.  Go for it!  Dying to self feels like the worst thing that can happen to us, until we begin to taste the sweet nectar of freedom that drips from the wounds.  May Christ, the Good Shepherd, be our hope and stay as we love Him with our lives.

* I'll be giving away a copy at the end of the series!

**A few years back I wrote a series about 'Becoming more yourself than ever' that grew out of reading a line in C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters that relates to themes shared in this post.  Check that out here.

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