Photo credit to Abigail Vencil of Abigail Vencil Photography
“Then said Jesus to those Jews who believed on Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then are you My disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'” John 8:31,32
Lord, what are you telling those who believed here? What does it mean, really, to continue in Your word? I looked up the word freedom in Webster’s dictionary and it was defined as “a state of exemption from the power or control of another.” And I think that’s the whole point today. Abiding in You and continually obeying Your words will bring me to know You, You who are the Truth, the Way, and the Life, and it will free me from the power or control of anyone or anything else. What?
The whole essence of belief lies in one word- authority. Either You, Jesus, have the authority to save or You don’t. We see Your power to save. It’s evident in how You rose again from the grave. But the whole matter boils down into this one question, “Do I see You as having ALL AUTHORITY and will I SUBMIT wholly to You under that authority?” I can’t receive the power without submitting to Your authority first. I have to relinquish my own authority and obediently and submissively come under Your authority. Coming under Your authority frees me. It frees me to see Your greatness and Your rule and Your power, but most of all Your authority over all. It frees me to know and experience that You are in control in every situation. I can rest in You. You are in control and Your will, WILL come to pass. I just need to continue in that will under Your authority. It’s all about my submission to You.
We are so hung up over freedom and liberty. But freedom in You is fully living under the submission of Your authority. It’s when I willingly submit myself to You instead of myself or another. Liberty is different. It’s freedom from restraint. Liberty has nothing to do with submission. So I can choose to have liberty and live outside of submission or I can choose freedom in Truth and choose to submit. We only find salvation in You through submission. If I don’t submit to the blood, I’m not covered by the blood. If I don’t submit to Your cross, I’m not a joint heir. Authority and submission matter.
Now, I don’t know about all of Watchman Nee’s writings, but today I was lead to see what he had to say about “Submission and Authority.” He made this quote, “Satan is not afraid of us preaching the words of Christ. He is only afraid of us submitting to the authority of Christ.” And, well, it’s not important what I think about what a person says, but as I look back over the last couple of years when I’ve been really learning about submitting to the Lord’s will in the little things and big things, it seems to be when, well, “all hell’s breaking out.” I think Satan does get angry when we start this submitting stuff under You, Lord, because that’s when Your power shows up. That’s when he gets his foot slammed in the door and shoved out. So he’s got to hit the things around us that may not be submitted or try to hurt us in ways he’ll think we want to stop submitting so we can fix it ourselves. He’s trying to get that authority back.
But here You are Jesus, telling us today to not let go of that authority we’ve handed over to You. And it’s more than having handed authority over to You. It’s when we come to the point of experiencing Your authority. It changes us. Why would I ever go back to my own authority or anyone elses when You control every principality, every spirit, every piece of matter, and when Your authority over me is so powerfully loving and safe for my soul?
The kingdom is Yours, absolutely, eternally Yours! In the Lord’s prayer in Matthew, You said, “For Yours is the kindgom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” That’s where Satan tried to hit You, Lord, when he took You up to tempt You. “I’ll give You all these kingdoms.” What an idiotic thing to say! They were already Yours. The kindgom was Yours from before You created it! Watchman Nee continues by saying, “The administration of the whole universe is under God. For this reason we have to learn to submit to God’s authority…We need to see to whom authority ultimately belongs. When we preach the gospel we are bringing people under the authority of God. If we are to establish God’s authority on earth, is it then possible for us not to meet authority ourselves?” Now that’s a pertinent question to ask myself.
What changed Paul? Here he was, one of the most intelligent and capable men of his day. He’s on a mission to persecute the people of the Way. He was under his own authority, mistakingly calling it Your authority. But what happened at his conversion? Did He just believe in what happened at the cross (not to take it lightly because it means our salvation, but remember what must accompany that realization…) or did he come to submit to God’s authority? If he was not now submitted to Your authority, would he submit to a little, insignificant brother like Ananias? But what if, because he submitted to Your authority first, he was able to submit to the lesser authority that You placed in his path. If I first submit to Your authority, then I can submit to the people and events You place in my path, because I will be on the right path in You.
Remember Samuel’s words to Saul? “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed, than the fat of rams.” This was a burnt offering Saul was offering. Pretty much it means an offering raised to God. But what was the problem You had with his offering? It wasn’t that You refused rams, that was a normal offering. But it was his heart of un-submission. And when you stop to think about it, a heart of un-submission is a heart of rebellion against You. He deliberately rebelled against Your authority and chose his own authority over You. So now, his offering, given in a rebellious heart, was disgusting to You. It told exactly how he felt about You. It defined his relationship. And our submission or lack of submission defines our relationship with You.
Paul instructs us, no, beseeches us, “that [we] present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is [our] reasonable service.” It’s the only logical thing to do. “To not to” is absolutely illogical and shows we have no concept of who You really are. And this “acceptable” doesn’t just mean so that You will say we’re OK and approve us. This is the only way we can please You and bring You delight in us. Isn’t that something that my submission in You delights You? Which reminds me of Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of Your heart.” Funny, that Hebrew word for delight carries the connotation of being soft and pliable. So maybe the whole heart of knowing God lies in whether I submit fully to You or not.
I need to go back to Samuel’s words in chapter 15. “And Samuel said, ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to [hear and do] than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubborness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” If this is all about submission to You, Lord, then I need to listen. No, I need to more than listen. I need to listen and submit to Your words, all of them, even the ones I struggle with. Because it’s not a little thing to not submit. I need to start calling it for what it is. REBELLION. It’s so bad, it’s as bad as being a witch and trusting in someone else’s power. It’s STUBBORNESS and it’s sin and worshipping something else other than You. All my good things stink and taste like trash to You unless I am fully submitted to Your authority.
Whether I am under Your authority will be demonstrated by whether I am obeying You. If the self is in the way, I won’t be able to do that. The only way I can keep the self out of the way is to live in Your spirit. I express what I believe about Your will by how I obey You. Proverbs 3:5,6 puts it clearly, “Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In ALL your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” The word for acknowledge here is the Hebrew word, “yada.” It means to ascertain by seeing. It’s submitting my emotions, my will, and my intellect to You, Lord. It’s not this mental acknowledgement. It’s submitting all of me to Your will. It’s giving You ALL my heart, and placing ALL my ways in You and it has nothing to do with me having to understand. As a matter of fact, I can’t lean on my own understanding. I haven’t got it because You are too great to be rationalized. It’s all about submitting and letting someone else, YOU, be in control of and over me.
If I’m not ready to cry out “Death to me! Death to me!” then I will continue to cling to me. Whoever I value more, I will cling to. That’s where idolatry comes in. Either I love You more or I love something else more, which will most likely be me and my way. So if I don’t even see a need, and I mean a desperate need for you, why would there be any real prayer for you or even a willingness to know Your will? I will submit to Your authority based on my need for You. But how sad for the person who serves out of his own desires and not out of accomplishing Your will. Because there will come a day when they will stand before You and You will say, “I never knew You. You weren’t under my authority. You were working under Your own authority. You weren’t submitted to my will. I had a different plan for You but You never submitted to find it or Me.”
Today, I want to sum things up with some of Watchman Nee’s words, not because Mr. Nee is the authority, but because I want to focus on the fact that You, Lord, must be our AUTHORITY and each of us must be fully submitted and submissive to You and Your will. “We must be touched and smitten at least once by authority. Only then can we work the work of God. In our relationship with God, nothing is more important than touching authority. Once we touch it, we will see it wherever we turn. Only then can we be restricted by God, and only then can we begin to be used by God… In the universe there are two great things: believing unto salvation and submitting to authority. In other words, to trust and obey. The Bible shows us that the definition of sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). In Romans 2:12 the phrase “without the law” is the same as “lawless.” To be lawless is to disregard the authority of God, and to disregard the authority of God is sin. To transgress is a matter of conduct, but to be lawless is a matter of attitude and heart.”
Lord, I know I transgress without even trying. And when You show me and I see, I am so sad and so happy for Your continual cleansing and forgiveness of me. But the thought of having an attitude and heart of rebellion or lawlessness against You scares me. I want to learn to be fully submitted to You, through the good and bad, through the easy and the tough, through what I understand and what I don’t understand. I want to be fully under Your authority so that I can live a life of not having to be a respecter of persons, but as I obey You and submit to You, I can submit to any authority You place in my life no matter how big or small they are. I want to have an attitude and heart that delights in its submission to Your will, no matter what You ask or what You require. I want to live continually submitted to Your words and Your will so that I am living in Your freedom. You know, it is the purest delight to basque in the freedom of Your protection, care, love, provision, power, and presence. Trusting and obeying is a beautiful thing because You are the Most Beautiful of All and of Ever! Submission is Beautiful Freedom!