Resolved: 11. What They Didn't Teach You About Truth & Submission

Submitting to Truth

This post is part of the Resolved series: a collection of 21 personal resolutions that I’m writing/preaching to myself.

If you’d like a little more information, please visit this introduction to the Resolved series.

Resolution #11

Resolved, to humbly submit to God’s truth in all things; not because it will make Him love me, but because He already does.

What and Why?

Here’s where I explain what I mean and why it matters.

Truth

As Christians, we accept that there is final and absolute truth. Although we may disagree in areas of its interpretation, the Bible is our authority. It is God’s self-disclosure to the world. Since God is good, holy, and perfect, so are His words for us. We stand on them.

The Bible tells us what we need to know about God. It’s a book about His work in history; His grand plan for the reconciliation of all things through Christ. For the Christian, this book is our truth. It is the blueprint for our salvation and the source code for our joy.

 … so long as we submit to it.

Submission is not a very popular concept. I believe this is because we have a moralistic definition of submission. We’ve been culturally conditioned to believe that submission is something we do in order to earn favor.

  • We submit to our boss’s rules in order to keep our jobs and earn a paycheck.
  • We submit to the government’s laws so that we can gain safety and freedom.
  • We submit to our cultural norms in order to win society’s approval.

This is a give-to-get mentality. If I submit to you, then you owe me something. In our human economy of relationships, this makes tons of sense. You can disagree, but I’m willing to bet most of you don’t work 40 hours a week for free. You give (or submit) your time in order to get money.

Where this stops making sense is when we apply this economy to God and His grace…

[The Lie] Begrudgingly submit and then you’ll get God.

This is how religious people work:

Dear God,

I submit the following for your review…

  • I serve every Saturday at the Rescue Mission.
  • I only read the King James Bible.
  • I memorize 10 Bible verses a day.
  • I have never danced, not even at my own wedding.
  • I don’t watch R-rated movies.
  • I don’t touch alcohol.
  • I choose Chick-fil-A over KFC every time.

In consideration of these righteous acts, I believe you owe me salvation, blessing, and favor. After all, I’ve been working very hard on this.

Please deliver these gifts to me as soon as possible. I will provide follow-up communication regarding exactly how these blessings should be delivered.

Sincerely,
The Older Brother [Luke 15:11-32]

Here’s the problem with all that: 

The Bible is crystal clear that there is nothing we can do in order to make God love us. If we submit to His word out of a desire to follow the rules and “earn” His approval, we will fail every time. The entire Old Testament is one long story about man-kind doing just that.

These two verses sum it up pretty well:

“God saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy…” Titus 3:5 ESV

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…” Ephesians 2:8 ESV

[The Truth] Get God and you’ll willingly and joyfully submit.

Here’s where this beautiful thing called the Gospel comes in…

  • God creates everything, including the first humans – Adam & Eve. [Gen 1:1-31]
  • Our original parents try to become equal with God, fall, and sin enters the world. [Gen 3:1-19]
  • As a result, we’re alienated from God and given up to our own futility. [Rom 1:18-32]
  • Nothing we do can fix our situation, but God repeatedly promises future salvation. [Gen 3:15, Gen 12:3, Deut 18:18, 2 Sam 7:16, Isa 9:6-7, Isa 49:6]
  • God writes Himself into history as Jesus Christ, who is both fully God and fully human. [John 1:1-3, 14]
  • Jesus lives a perfect, sinless life. [1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5]
  • Jesus is condemned and delivered to be brutally murdered (by religious people.) [Acts 4:10-11]
  • God’s just punishment for all our past, present, and future sin is poured out on Jesus at the cross. In return, we’re given His righteousness – a.k.a. a right standing with God. Martin Luther calls this the “Great Exchange.” [2 Cor 5:21]
  • Jesus rises again on the third day, just like He said He would. [Acts 2:32,33]
  • Jesus ascends back to Heaven, where He rules and reigns over all creation. [Isa 6:1-3]
  • Jesus promises to return one day to judge the world, ultimately defeat Satan, sin, and death, wipe every tear from every eye, and restore all things. [Matt 16:27, Rev 19:11-16, Rev 21:4, Rev 21:1-27]

We had nothing to do with that plan. It was God’s plan from eternity past. We didn’t dream it up. He did. We didn’t earn His grace. He gave us that gift at the cross, not because we loved Him but because He loved us.

When you hear that truth and believe it, everything you know about submission changes. Everything you ever thought about earning your way to God flips upside down. Whatever your church may have taught you about works-righteousness flies out the window. Your prior performance, whether good or bad, becomes a moot point.

We don’t submit to God’s truth because it’ll make Him love us. We submit to it because we sit in absolute awe and adoration towards Jesus Christ. We love Him because He chose to love us first. We submit to God because we love and treasure Him so deeply that we have no other choice.

How and When?

Here’s where I look at ways to practically apply this resolution to my life.

  1. This is one of those all day, every day kind of resolutions. The best I can offer is the practical urging to hold each decision and action up to the light of Scripture.

That’s it for resolution #11. If you’d like to keep up with this series, feel free to click one of the links below and subscribe to my RSS feed.

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  • http://fromrooftops.blogspot.com Angie Battle

    Good gracious, Kenny! This was just what I needed to add to what the Lord’s been showing me today. I read Hebrews 12:25 that directs us to listen to Him because He’s God. Not for all the goodies we get, but because He’s God. I can’t tell you thanks enough. 

    Wow. 

  • Scott

    I’ve been thinking about/struggling with this very issue. It’s easy to understand…and oh so hard.

    Your words in this post really helped me today. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bo.eberle Bo Eberle

    Ok Kenny, here we go. Followed ya for a while never noticed all of these disturbing claims you’re making here. I’ll go line item style.

    1. “As Christians, we accept that there is final and absolute truth. Although we may disagree in areas of its interpretation, the Bible is our authority. It is God’s self-disclosure to the world. Since God is good, holy, and perfect, so are His words for us. We stand on them.”
    Your only argument here seems to be labeling these words in a category called “Truth.” Well, this is a problem. Sure, we can agree that absolute truth “exists,” but there are two ways in refuting your claim here about absolutism, to quote Stanley Fish: 

    “there are (at least) two ways of denying moral absolutes. You can say “I don’t believe there are any” or you can say “I believe there are moral absolutes, but  (a) there are too many candidates for membership in that category and (b) there is no device, mechanical test,  algorithm or knock-down argument for determining which candidates are the true ones.”

    Clearly we can dismiss (a) for the sake of this conversation, but in regard to (b), “The Bible” is not an adequate device or knock down argument, or short cut to your absolute truth. The Bible (though this term itself is a misnomer, “bible” is Latin for “book,” yet we know that the Bible is not a single book, it is more like a library, and thinking of it as a single work implies that it is of one voice, consistant on all issues, and generally edited to be free of error… which anyone who has read the Bible knows is false) is decidedly NOT  ”a book about [God's] work in history.” In fact, while the majority of what we all the Old Testament was written, not only had “history” as a discipline been invented  (Herodotus was the first historian who lived in the late 5th century BCE) but “historical” events in the Bible were not written until hundreds of years after the alleged occurrence of such events. For example, the book of Exodus was not written until the 6th century BCE during the Babylonian exile of the Jews, and it recounts events that were supposed to have taken place in the 12-11th century, 500-600 years earlier (without even going into the archeological and historical evdience we have for what actually happened… perhaps two thousand slaves escaping from Egypt causing an influx in population in the Palestine area around 1150… not the hundreds of thousands recorded in the Bible. It is simply not possible given the size of the settlements in that area at the time). The only reason I go into this detail is that you seem to use as your criteria for taking the Bible as “authoritative” is that is is “perfect” by our modern standards of history (seeing the Bible as historical is anachronistic, as addressed above) and also this strange, modern claim that the Bible claims for itself to be the exact word of God, an idea seemingly borrowed from our Muslim brothers and sisters. The Bible does not claim that status for itself that the Qu’Ran does. This is a simple fact. The closest it comes, in the New Testament, is claiming that scripture ”is inspired and useful for teaching,” however not only is Paul NOT talking about his own letters, in which he expresses many personal opinions, and acknowledges this, but when we say something like “I was inspired by the words of Gandhi,” we mean that our inspiration lead us to create or do something great, which is what it means to say the Bible is “inspired by God.” Surely, the Bible is a record of humanity, and specifically the Jewish people’s, subjective experience of YHWH and then Jesus, but the Bible is not “true” in that it is just full of objective facts about God. The Jewish Rabbis have always realized this, which is why the Jewish tradition has always produced Midrash, interpretations of Scripture that are rarely or never final. Truth comes in ENGAGING with the text, it is not simply “in there.” When Christians look for truth “in” the Bible, without wrestling and engaging it in community, it reminds me of this classic clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Guwvwp0uSU8Just as Protestants often criticize Catholics for their view of communion, in that transsubstantiation, the transformation of the bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Jesus, seems a little strange, seeing the Bible as being the literal word of God is similarly strange (and a new idea in Church history). Just like Jesus is not literally in the bread, Jesus IS present in the community that ingests it together. Likewise, while there isnt just truth in the Bible, truth is derived from our engaging the text in community with one another, like we ingest the bread and wine. This is how scripture has always been interacted with within Judaism for thousands of years. No truth apart from community and engagement. Perhaps I’ll stop here (since this is the foundation of your post) before I move on to to problem of submission and the false dichotomy between works and grace you set up here (not to mention why no one should EVER patronize Chic-fil-a.) 

    • http://kennysilva.net Kenny Silva

      I’m so sorry for the delay, Bo. I do want to show you the respect of a well thought-out reply as opposed to a hasty, discombobulated one. I’m eeking out from under a couple of really heavy deadlines at the moment and will respond as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.

      • http://www.facebook.com/bo.eberle Bo Eberle

        No problem sir, Lord willin’ I’ve got another 70 years or so!