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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Waiting for God? Part 2: Submit?!? Why?

Last time I was talking about "Waiting for Godot," a stage play that some interpreters have suggested is about how God abandoned us during World War II, or how the fairy tale of God was destroyed during the war.

I spoke about how important it is to recognize that we are not talking to an equal when we demand an explanation from God for anything He does. However, respecting God's authority is only a part of this question. When we are in trouble, we need to understand that God is not a sadist who likes to torture us. Far from it. He wants a strong, loving relationship with us. There's a problem, though. God has told us that the only healthy relationship with Him is one of obedience and submission to Him. That's a hard line to swallow if you have grown up with the secular humanist worldview.

I'll admit it was hard for me as an unsaved child, even though I was raised in church. I treated friends as equals, but never betters. Sometimes I even tried to treat my parents that way, but the ensuing punishment reminded me that they were still in charge. I found myself always plotting for the day I would become "my own person" and escape the control of others. How did I ever arrive at the point where I could submit to God and obey Him? Wasn't that relinquishing control and denying myself my "rights"?

The following are some arguments people have presented about why we should submit to God. They are valid, but they have problems when taken alone.

Argument 1: Submit to God Because He Could Whip Up on You

I've heard it said that we should submit to God because He's the most powerful Being in the universe. If He wanted to wipe us out, He could, and no one could stop Him.

The problem with that argument is that it establishes a relationship of fear, not of love. Submitting to God under those circumstances alone is like submitting to the will of a man holding us at gunpoint. It's not real submission unless it's truly voluntary.

Mind you, God really is powerful enough to irrevocably destroy us. Apparently Adam and Eve forgot God's power for a moment in their humanistic zeal to get what they thought should be coming to them. God had to remind them that He was still God by carrying out the punishment He had promised them if they disobeyed--death, and expulsion from the Garden. We don't have to fear God's wrath if we are obedient, in the same way we don't have to fear a policeman if we have broken no laws.

If God was going to use His power to make us submit, why would He give us the ability to decide whether we want to obey Him? The fact that we have freewill proves to me that God doesn't want people to obey Him by compulsion. He wants volunteers. I'll come back to this point.

Argument 2: Obey God because He's Older and Wiser Than You

I've also heard that we should submit to God because He knows more than we do. This is the quintessential parent argument. It gave Mom authority when we were children, when she shouted after us, "Don't play in the street, or you might get run over by a car." Surely she knew more about cars and getting run over than we did, because she'd lived longer and seen more.

Unfortunately, we didn't always listen to our mothers. If we survived, we might have thought we knew more than Mom. In the same way, when God tells us not to do something because it could hurt us, and we do it and don't seem to be hurt, we might think that we know better than God. Then we're back to behaving like little gods of our own destinies again. If we know better than God, why listen to anything He says? Why let Him lead us, if He's wrong?

God wants us to know that He is right. This is why we have the Bible. God saw to it that some of His knowledge was in writing, so we could have a record of it, just in case it came true at some point. If you read it, you see that it is true, and at some point, even secular humanists will have to acknowledge this. I know I did, before I finally submitted my heart to Jesus.

Argument 3: Submit to God Because the Bible Says You're a Sinner

The argument here depends on whether or not you accept the authority of the Bible, and what it says about sin and repentance. If you don't accept the Bible as true, you won't be willing to call anything a sin. Sin is a transgression against God and everything He calls "right." It is disobedience and a lack of submission to God. Who can accept that sin is sin, and is worthy of death in God's law, if that same person won't even accept that God's word is true?

Just to prove again that the Bible is true, I'll show you that it even predicts this rebellious response:
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
"I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate."
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe....For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. (1 Corinthians 1: 18-21, 25)

The Straw That Broke the Camel's Back

If you've ever spent time with a camel, you would know that camels are stubborn and cranky. They are barely what you would call "tame." That seems like a perfect description of me when I was nine years old. I'd heard all of the arguments I've presented, and yet I was still resisting God. People thought I was a sweet little angel in Sunday school, but what they didn't know is that I was in a state of total rebellion against God. I didn't want to submit to anyone's will. I was waiting for my chance to act out. I'd basically been waging all-out war on my parents for the better part of the year.

Then one night, I just realized I was tired of all of it. The effort of resisting God was exhausting. I knew that I was lying to myself to say that I didn't have to acknowledge God. I was lying to myself if I didn't think what I was doing was causing harm to me. That's when I understood what sin really was (Argument 3). I realized that God was really right, and looking out for me, when He told me not to rebel (Argument 2). Finally, I knew that God wasn't mean, or He would certainly have done something to me for the way I'd behaved--although I knew that He could. If God was right about that much, and was really looking out for me when He told me "no", why wouldn't I want a relationship with Him? That's when I decided to volunteer. I didn't give up my freedom--I got it when I turned loose of all of those things that were tying me up. God's been my best friend ever since, and I know now that He always was.

Are you ready to give up? Isn't it more foolish to avoid something good, just to maintain control? Always getting your way isn't always the best way to live. Surely you see the wisdom in this. When you're ready to submit to God and let Him prove Himself to you, try praying something like this:
"Dear Lord, I'm ready to let you lead my life, because I can't. Please forgive me for the way I've acted all this time. I've done wrong. Help me to obey you, so I can have peace in my life, and let me see your promise fulfilled--that I can have eternal life and happiness with You. In Jesus name I pray, Amen."

Next time--When being a Christian doesn't seem fun any more...


Anonymous said...

Despite what is taught in biology classes all over the world, human beings are not a highly evolved form of animal. The Bible clearly delineates the differences between people and animals. However, there are some behavioral similarities.

Animals can be trained by a process of lure and reward. A dog which does not want to enter the veterinarian’s office, might be tempted into the examination room with a dangled morsel of meat. The painful vaccination which follows will no doubt be good for the dog, even if the dog does not particularly enjoy it.

When the dog is later benefitting from a healthy heartworm-free and rabies-free life, he will not necessarily associate the benefits with his trip to the vet. Therefore, he must be enticed anew each time.

The ordinary, every-day, average, garden-variety 21st Century American. You can win over his or her willingness to come to church with delicious treats. Food and fun, games and gimmicks, seem good to them, but they are not necessarily good for them. And, although they might be willing to sit through a Bible lesson in order to receive these treats, when the treats run out, it is unlikely they will continue to endure spiritual “treatment” without the fleshly “reward.” In other words, what you win them with, is what you win them to.

Thankfully, the Bible gives us a better way to win converts to the Lord, regardless of their age or personal preferences.

“Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (I Corinthians 1:20-21)

Believe it or not, it is the preaching of the Cross of Christ that wins converts to Christ, regardless of their age or interests. There is no Biblical authority for separating the means for getting young people to the Cross from the message of the Cross itself.

Rachel said...

I agree. It wasn't fear or gimmicks that won me over, in the end. It was what I'd learned in Sunday school--that "while we were sinners, Christ died for us." The stick approach and the treat approach only change outward behavior, not the heart.

Anonymous said...

For me, submission and salvation came when I realized how much God loves me IN SPITE OF arguments 1, 2, and 3. I realized that there is no place where I can avoid His justice, no sin I can hide from His knowledge, and no method by which I can cleanse myself from my sins. But most importantly, I realized that there can be no peace except when I'm resting in the arms of His unbelievable, immeasurable love. If someone out there is struggling with the choice to submit right now, you need only to grasp "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:18,19).