POST #2: (becoming) fully submitted, Part 1

A question I’ve wrestled with for a long time: What does it look like to be fully submitted to God?

This post is one of my attempts at sorting that out.  My prayer is that some of what I’m thinking about might be helpful to some of you as well — and/or that some of you might have something wonderful to add that I’ve missed!  (I welcome your questions and insights.  Please comment below!)

I think one place we can look to start understanding what full submission to God looks like is the two greatest commandments — found in Matthew 22 and Mark 12.  Matthew 22:37-40 reads:

Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.  All the Law and the Prophets hand on these two commandments.”

Love God with all you are.
Love others as you love yourself.

And what does that look like?  Perhaps a better question: What is love?

Biblically, love is unselfishness.  It is putting God before everything and putting others before ourselves.  It is not, as my husband puts it, having the warm fuzzies for something.  The English language uses a single word for love, but the Greeks had several words for love.  They would use different words based on the type of love they were talking about.

Now, however, our language lumps everything into the same “love” pile:  I love pizza.  I love football.  I love to teach.  I love The Office.  I love God.

Because we have only one word for love, we run the risk of minimizing what it means to love God.

What I mean when I say “I love The Office” is that I think the show is hilarious, the characters well-developed and well acted.  I mean I enjoy watching the show.  I mean I generally get a good feeling when watching the show.  Notice the “I” in all of those statements.  The way I love The Office is entirely tied up in how I feel about it, what I get out of it.  My love for The Office is an entirely selfish one.  If I stopped thinking it was funny or if I just didn’t enjoy it as much anymore, I’d stop watching it.  I’d stop loving The Office if it stopped providing me with what I wanted.

Is this the same love we offer God?  Does “I love God” mean that I think God has good characteristics?  Does it mean that I enjoy being with God?  Does it mean that I generally get a good feeling when I’m with God?  Can my love for God be defined in almost entirely “I-centric” ways?  If so, then the rest is true too: If I stop feeling like God has good characteristics or if I stop enjoying God, then I’d stop spending time with him.  I’d stop loving Him if He stopped providing me with what I wanted.

That’s not the kind of love we’re called to in the Bible.  In the verses about the greatest commandments, love means putting the needs of someone else ahead of our own.  Love in this sense is, essentially, unselfishness.

So, if I mean that I love The Office in the Biblical sense of the word, then I would put watching it above anything else in my life; I would do whatever was in the best interests of the characters/actors; I would spend as much time with it as possible.  I think we’d all agree, that’d be pretty weird.  But, Biblically loving God and others does involve putting them above anything else in my life, doing whatever is in their best interests, and spending as much time with them as possible.

So, you can see why the fact that we only have one English word for “love” can cause confusion.  It can also dull our senses to what it means to really LOVE God.  When we’re so used to saying how much we love reading or shopping or the color blue, saying we “love” God isn’t something we necessarily give a lot of critical thought to.

My challenge for all of us this weekend is to start giving some critical thought to it.

Ask yourself: Can I honestly say that I love God (that is, that I put God in front of everything and everyone else in my life)?  Can I honestly say that the first fruits of my time, energy, money, etc. are directed at Him?  Which of these areas is the most difficult for me to give to God?  Why?  In what areas might God be asking me to become more fully submitted?  (Please comment below.)

I would encourage you to answer these questions honestly.  God already knows the answers — and it will be beneficial for your walk with Him, if you know the answers too.  Knowing the answers will help you restructure any parts of your life that aren’t in line with loving God.

So this weekend hopefully some of you will join me in looking honestly and critically at what we mean when we say “I love God.”

In the next few posts (next one coming up on Monday!), we’ll break these areas of submission down further.  (And I’ll share one of the ways God asked me to more fully submit to Him.)

To read the next post, click here: (becoming) fully submitted, part 2


6 responses

  1. When I say ‘I love God’ I think I mean ‘I want to love God.’ I mean to do it, but sometimes get busy and forget. Anyone else do that?

  2. Ash: Me, too!

  3. I can’t.

    It is not that I don’t want to but my life is full of sin from the moment I rise in the morning to the moment I fall asleep. It is the old Adam I can not shake off in this life.

    I think things I should not think.
    Say things I should not say.
    Treat people in ways I should not.
    I worry about finances and the world my kids will grow up in.
    I don’t pray enough. (What is enough?)
    When I do pray my mind wonders away form my Lord to other things. (How should I pray…?
    “Our Father which art in heaven…… My mind even wonders here.
    I skip church on occasion in favor of something else. (Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it Holy)
    I loose my temper with my children.
    Am I thankful enough for my vocation?
    Am I a good enough husband to my wife?
    Am I a good enough friend to my neighbor?
    Do I give enough of my time, talent and treasure to my Lord and His Church.

    As Martin Luther said “I take my whole life, heap it in a big pile and call it SIN.”

    On this side of eternity, in this life….

    I can not. “honestly say that I love God (that is, that I put God in front of everything and everyone else in my life)?”

    And I can not “ honestly say that the first fruits of my time, energy, money, etc. are directed at Him?”

    The beauty of this failure is…. Christ did it for me and I am free of the Law. The Law has shown me my failure and that I am dead in may trespass and sin and the need for a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. I live in Christ and Christ lives in me. When I was only days old, God’s Word in the Sacrament of Baptism made me his and nothing can separate me from Him. I am his child because he washed me and created in me a clean heart. He renews me with his Word and with His body and blood in His Sacrament of communion. He has given me a gift of salvation so I do not have to keep score or quantify my successes or failures in this life. Like I could begin to?

    When I die…. I will enter the church in a casket. It may be made of the finest wood and precious metal money can buy…. or it may be a plain pine box. It will be completely covered with a white funeral pawl with only a cross on it. That pawl represents that I, like all the others in the caskets it will have covered, have entered his gates with glory and sing his praise equal in His sight, not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done for us on a cross.

    So… no, I can not keep the law but praise be to Christ, who takes away the sin of the world, who did and has mercy upon us.


  4. I love this reminder about the fact that we’re saved only by Christ’s sacrifice! I wasn’t viewing this post in terms of grace vs. works, however — or in terms of earning something from God, but rather in terms of what He deserves from us. It’s actually just about what it means to be a Christian.

    And I think it’s important that we keep two truths in tension in discussions like this: 1. We can’t earn our way into heaven. 2. Christians (followers of Christ) live for God.

    Our purpose is to do God’s Will. Will we fail? Absolutely. Does that mean we give up? No. It means we return again and again to the only Source of our strength — God. The fact that we can’t be perfect in this life doesn’t mean we don’t have the responsibility to try. In fact, we’re commanded to try: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all you mind (Matthew 22:37). Love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39), etc. As Christians, we no longer belong to ourselves. We have a Master, and He deserves and demands our best. And our best is only possible through constant communication with and submission to God. A hard task to be sure, but it’s the one we are called to:

    2 Corinthians 5:15: And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.

    2 Corinthians 7:1: Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

    I also think you ask some good questions: Am I a good enough friend to my neighbor? Am I a good enough husband? (Or wife, since the primary audience here is women.) These are the types of questions we have to wrestle with and take to God: in confession when we fail and in petition, asking that He would be more and more the center of our lives. These are the types of questions we have to work out, as Paul tells us, “with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purposes” (Philippians 2:12c-13).

    But, remember ladies (and gentleman): God is calling us to an abundant life — with blessings far beyond what we can imagine! And the greatest of these blessings is Him. He wants to give us Himself! He wants to spend time with us. The God of the universe wants you to walk with Him. Zephaniah 3:17 tells us: “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” How amazing is that?

    I think this is a hard topic in a lot of ways. It’s one that often gets dismissed one way or the other: Good works get you into heaven VS. we have no responsibilities as Christians. The Biblical truth is more complicated (and beautiful) than either of these views. And far more meaningful. That’s one of the reasons I started the blog with this topic: Until we get this submission thing right, we aren’t living the life we’ve been called to. Until we get this right, there’s no use going on. This submission to God is the first thing. And, ultimately, the only thing.

  5. What a good post to ponder. I desire to be fully submitted to Christ, but I get in my own way far too much. Thank you for sharing this post on my Faith Talking Tuesday Link Up.

  6. Can I honestly say that I love God (that is, that I put God in front of everything and everyone else in my life)?
    No. I say I do. I say I want to. Life gets so crazy and God just seems to be easier and easier to put on the back burner. I try to fit Him in. But it ends up to be a shortened, half-hearted effort.

    Can I honestly say that the first fruits of my time, energy, money, etc. are directed at Him?
    Time, no. Energy, no. Money, yes. One out of two…better than none, but pretty sad.

    Which of these areas is the most difficult for me to give to God?
    Time – There are so many demands on my time that I can’t keep up.

    Why? In what areas might God be asking me to become more fully submitted?
    I work full time in a very demanding job. My husband is not healthy. I have two young children. There never seems enough time in the day for anything, not my work, not my family and not God.
    I always thought it that I did put God first. After all, I pray often. I look to Him in all times of struggle and many big decisions. I have learned to trust Him, but making time seems too hard. I don’t know where to start more than what I do. I often feel like I’m floundering or distant from God. Even when I do sit down to be with Him, I don’t know where to start. I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall and the bible can be so mysterious.

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