Submission to God in His Sanctifying Work

“Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.” Hebrews 12: 12-14

We are commanded by God to submit to Him in His sanctifying work in our lives. Submitting to God in His sanctifying work requires that we place ourselves under God’s authority and intentionally yield our lives to Him, and His revealed will (as revealed in His Word). It also requires that we intentionally subject ourselves to the leaders that He sovereignly places over us. To submit to God is to recognize that we “rank under” God and it means that we gladly and willfully obey Him, because we trust in Him.

Jesus submitted to God throughout His whole life and, especially, as He embraced the cross. Philippians 2:6-8 tells us that though Jesus was in the form of God He, “…did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Believers are called to do the same thing that Jesus did: submit to God in a life of cross-bearing for the sake of becoming holy.

Submitting oneself to God in real life is a learned discipline. We learn how to do it from the Word of God, and we get better at it through constant practice.  In order to submit ourselves to God’s will, we must know His will. We can find out God’s will for our lives by reading God’s word. We cannot find God’s will for our lives from Oprah, from our friends, from the newspaper, from our lawyers, from our doctors, from our bankers, or even from our therapists. There is only one way to know God’s will: we must study God’s Word. More specifically, we learn how to submit ourselves to God by “…looking to Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:2). Therefore, we must study the life of Jesus and especially how He embraced the cross that His Father called Him to. In doing this, we learn allot about cross-bearing and the nature of true submission.

By meditating specifically on the life of Christ, we learn that we must be intentional in our submission to God. We must not be aimless in our obedience to Him. Aimlessness is not a Christ-like quality. Biblically speaking, aimlessness is condemnable; not commendable. We should think about where we have come from, where we are going, and all that we have in Christ; then we will be free to get busy doing God’s will for our lives. Jesus was intentional as He approached the cross. In the twelfth chapter of John we read what He said as the time for His crucifixion drew near. He said, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour” (v.27).

Also, if we are to be intentional about obeying God we must also be intentional about believing God. Intentional faith in God is imperative for cross-bearing. We must choose to believe God despite how we may feel about the particular circumstances in our lives. The prophet Isaiah was intentional about believing God. And, it is commonly believed that He was sawn in two for his faith in God (Hebrews 10:37). Yet, he did not doubt God. Instead he wrote, “But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7).

We are helped in our submission to God (especially during difficult trials) if we recognize that the time is short. We must maintain an eternal perspective on our trials. The pain of sanctifying discipline is temporary; the value of the holiness that it produces is everlasting. This is the point of Second Corinthians 4:16-18 which says, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Through the life of Jesus we learn that we must be intentional about our obedience to God; even in the most trying circumstances of our lives and even in the most trying relationships of our lives. Holiness is not a result of the process of osmosis; it is a result of sweat, blood, and tears (Luke 22:39-46; Hebrews 5:7). In other words, be intentional about embracing a cross of sanctifying discipline. We know that Jesus was intentional about embracing the cross. For Luke 9:51 tells us that “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.”

Finally, we should not just obey God; we should strive to submit to Him. Submission is better than obedience. Anyone can outwardly obey a rule, but only someone who loves and trusts God can truly submit to God’s will. Submission to God begins with trusting God. It continues as we intentionally verbalize our trust in God and call to mind His great faithfulness to us. We do this by praising and thanking Him through prayer and worship. As we call to mind God’s trustworthiness we will begin to willingly and joyfully lay down the control of our lives to God. When we worship the Lord we acknowledge that everything that we have is His: our time, our relationships, our family, our money, our pasts, our present, and our futures. Submission to God means willfully taking up our crosses and embracing a life of humble self-denial in response to the awesome realities of who God is and what He has done for us in Christ.

Jesus willfully laid down His life, His Father did not have to rip anything out of His hands. The Father didn’t force Jesus to give it all up; Jesus gave it all because He loved the Father and wanted to do His will. The Lord said, “No one takes it [His life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” John 10:18

Hebrews 12:12-14 lists some practical particulars of submission to God’s will in the process of sanctifying discipline. These verses teach us how to subject ourselves to God. These verses read, “Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:12-14). We lift drooping hands and strengthen weak knees by developing a regular habit of praying (See, Exodus 17: 8-16; 1 Timothy 1-3); we make straight paths for our feet by reading and obeying the word of God (See Psalm 27:11, 119:105; Isaiah 26:11); we strive for peace with everyone by being actively involved with a local community of believers (See Romans 12:10-21; Hebrews 10:25); and we strive for holiness by taking up our crosses and following Jesus on the path of submission to the Father’s will (See Matthew 10:38-39, 16:24-28; Mark 8:34-38; Luke 9:23-27, 14:25-27; Philippians 2:6-8; 1 Peter 2:21-25; and Hebrews 5:8, 12:1-2).

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