…by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved (2 Peter 2:19)
I constantly resist submitting…to exercise, confining self-expression, denying myself favorite foods, control of ‘my’ budget, and many other things. Yet I seldom resist a favorite food, an excuse to skip exercise, or to connive a way to get something I want. Either way I am submitting to something and allowing something or someone to be my master.
When I first learned of submission to human authority, I freaked out. I blamed it on my abusive childhood and what I saw as forced respect (and obedience) of those who don’t necessarily respect you or anyone else. It’s like exercise, I thought – punishing exertion. That is not, however, what the Bible teaches about submission. Submission is acknowledging authority, top down – so first, to God.
Too often prayers begin with “God, would you please…” but when we give our lives to Christ we are submitting to his authority. Frequently, the larger issues – His authority over the world, powers, government, and creation, are easily accepted. When we ask ourselves, however, if Christ has authority over our attitude, our behavior, our desires for ourselves or others, or our even our countenance at the moment, suddenly submission does not seem that simple.
Scriptures acknowledge our weakness and we can readily see why it is difficult to replace new habits where the old existed, because the old cravings are allowed to remain there.
Exercise is part of the process, but more as a practice or discipline of silencing myself and humbling myself before God—Choosing God as my God rather than any person or thing, including myself.
Once I realized that through Christ’s death I had the open door to go to God about any and all of the authorities in my life, I was ready to listen. Two books greatly influenced my understanding of this Biblical principle are P. Bunny Wilson’s Liberated Through Submission, and Brother Andrew’s little booklet Practicing the Presence of God. (Exercising).
These books helped me realize that God is the final authority over all in my life and in the lives of those I love. But I’ve had a lifetime of practicing submission to other gods – how can I break those habits?
Before we can put OFF, James tells us, we need to refocus our submission – to Draw Near to God, FIRST – to get the strength to resist and flee that which would draw us and divert us from the higher road. When we draw near, we are bowing in humility that we can come to His presence and be filled, encouraged and renewed. This filling pushes off the old so we are no longer enslaved by the former lusts and desires. As I Corinthians 13 says, all things – even my desires –lifelong captive habits – are now becoming new, productive and wholesome.
New habits that microplane-off the old . . . NEW from the inside out.
• Dietary habits can be renewed by Putting ON healthy habits
• Physical stamina replaces lethargy when we Put ON reasonable exercise
• Mental stresses are relieved, replacing depression by the application or Putting ON of scripture
• Spiritual roadblocks and detours are eliminated as we obey by Putting ON the appropriate remedy from God’s Word – the character qualities of Christ.
The pattern, clearly outlined in many portions of scripture:
Draw near Be Renewed Put ON Put OFF
puts God’s Word into action.
Which of the above areas would you like to experience in freedom? Draw near to God today and confess the need. Ask for guidance and listen. Expect the renewal (renovation!) to begin.
If, like me, you need a visual, check out Kinetic sand. When you squeeze this sand, you mold it, but when you let it go (release it from submission of your control) it moves away from the form or design that you created, and it goes back to the way it was. Only as long as it is under the (constant) influence of the controlling force does it retain the new shape.
If you are having difficulty letting God maintain control, bring that area of your life to God. Draw near to Him, and thank Him for the power to overcome and make all things new. Then let go, and let God.