If we desire change, we must introduce something that has the power to create change. If we desire a radical change, we must introduce something that has radical power. We face extreme troubles with insufficient resources, and we desire a change in our limited ability to ultimately overcome and find success. In order to create a change in our limited human ability to overcome the daily trials of this world, we must introduce something so radically powerful and real to give us any hope that the change is possible. This new agent for change must be more extreme than the obstacles we face if success is possible.
To commit to this process and to hope in this change requires great trust and confidence. Jesus Christ claims the power to produce the change necessary for overcoming the challenges of this world and providing us with a hope beyond them. If we approach these promises with anything less than complete submission to their power and reality, we should not be surprised when our progress in this life remains limited by what we try to overcome. There is no complete healing without complete submission to the healing agent. If we cannot or will not take the promises of Jesus seriously then we must not seriously hope that we can ultimately be healed. If we cannot submit to the reality of Jesus Christ’s life on Earth and continued presence in the form of the Holy Spirit, then we must submit to the fact that our problems will remain.
Faith in Jesus Christ is all encompassing. There is no halfway. There is no 50 percent. Faith in Jesus Christ establishes truths that must be foundational, never decorative or supplemental. These truths include complete submission to his life and death on the cross, complete submission to his resurrection and life in our present age through the Holy Spirit, complete submission to the regenerative power of the Holy Spirit to transform us from sin and self-indulgence to righteous passion and service in the likeness of Jesus Christ. These truths must be held if the obstacles they promise to overcome shall be in fact overcome. Pretending to take medicine will only result in pretending to be healed.
Submission is at the heart of obedience. And contrary to popular belief, obedience does not limit or confine, as much as it potentially liberates. The difference between an obedience that oppresses and an obedience that liberates is in the will of the one who obeys. If the obedience is ultimately for the sole benefit of the leader at the expense of the one obeying, this obedience will only benefit one party. If the obedience is for the greater good of the whole and both parties benefit from the obedience, then the obedience can be a means to liberate rather than imprison. Everything about the life of a Christian revolves around this state of complete submission. There is no life or union with Christ if there is no submission. Along the road of discipleship exists only one shepherd with one voice, and the sheep that follow after and listen for that voice have only one choice once they hear it: submit to his authority, and follow.
This, however, is not a submission or obedience that empowers the one giving directions, while burdening the one following. The purpose of submission to the authority of God’s voice, spirit and will is his pure desire to free us from ourselves. Left to our own devices we will recklessly and carelessly destroy everything that surrounds us. Our human nature is not bent to serve others with the fervor with which we daily desire to serve ourselves. The human heart has a tendency to overlook more far-reaching implications and consequences of our own actions in trade for more immediate gratification. We are a horribly near-sighted and forgetful creation. We learn and then we forget the lesson. We hear and then forget what we heard. We follow and then forget why we were following and whom we were following in the first place.
Along with all of this, we are predictably unstable. We stand firm and then we collapse. We know for certain and then question everything at hand. In the presence of God’s word and the life given us in Jesus Christ, being in a state of near-sightedness, forgetfulness or instability is impossible. The life renewed in Jesus Christ is the opposite of all of those things. When we allow the words of Christ to enter into our lives, and when we completely submit to him, we are made aware of certain truths that are immovable and unshakable. When wandering makes our direction unclear, our God leads us through the desert as a pillar of fire and a cloud of smoke that is unmistakable and undeniable.
In these moments the reality of his presence in the desert of our confusion must not be taken lightly or overlooked. The only way to miss the pillar or the cloud is if we choose to look another way or close our eyes. Otherwise, it is there, it is real and it directs us where to go. In times where we are tempted and our flesh prompts us to act as our old life would desire us to, the transforming power of the Spirit must receive our complete submission to turn from our old self and press forward, both with the spirit of Christ and the faith that the impossible transformation is complete in Jesus Christ. In times of blessing, where we are overwhelmed with peace and joy in our lives, we must never forget that before we were, God already was. We must never forget that it was his authority over creation that willed us into existence, and all of the blessings that we enjoy had their beginnings far before we ever knew we desired them. We have been given simply because the authority of the Lord has willed us into a position to receive. The submission and obedience required by God’s authority is not to establish a hierarchy for the sake of hierarchy. He desires that we submit to him because if we submit to anything else, we will lose, and lose everything. He is our protector and provider. Submitting to his will results in our protection and provision forever, by the only one who has the means to provide what we need.
The nature of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is displacement. It is shifts and redirection. There is nothing stationary or static about the Gospel, nor the life of one overcome by it. The gospel moves and initiates movement. This motion begins with the radical dislocation and displacement displayed by Jesus Christ. The Gospel is anchored in the fact that God himself was dislocated from his rightful place of dominion to a place of disgrace, humiliation and suffering. Jesus Christ came into this world as a servant. It is then impossible and contradictory for any who profess faith in him to model a character different from his. As Christians, our lives are anchored by the fact that God humbled himself to be what others needed him to be, and rather than what he knew he deserved. It runs in the face of the Gospel to expect anything different in our own lives. As Christians, the source of our faith begins with Christ’s service. It is then reproduced in our lives in service to others. This service then unites us with Christ and his character, fueling us with daily perseverance to overcome the suffering in this world by knowing that we are of one mind with him. If division or disunity exists in a fellowship of believers as a result of selfish ambition or vain conceit, Christ no longer has a place in that fellowship and it can no longer rightfully claim to bear his name with any integrity to the Gospel. The church cannot disconnect itself from the life of Christ nor can it survive without him. The church ceases to exist if the spirit and character of Christ ceases to exist within it. One cannot enter into fellowship with Christ or other believers and remain unchanged or unmoved. At the heart of Christianity is the shift from what we feel we deserve, to what we know he deserves. It is complete submission to his character and the power of the Holy Spirit to recreate that character within us. This submission requires the willingness to be dislocated from places to which we have so firmly planted ourselves in the past. Service to others essentially has nothing to do with whom you are serving and everything to do with why you are serving. You are serving each day because the God of Heaven and Earth came into this world and served in a way we could never serve. Therefore, service is not humility to what is being served. Service is humble acceptance of the truth of Christ’s service and the need for service to be present in our lives if we expect God to be present in our lives.