Submission Recognition is a weekly posting on the topic of submission. Join me every Tuesday as I work to expand our understanding of a commonly misunderstood calling on every Christian’s life. You can review earlier editions of Submission Recognition here.
The last four Submission Recognition posts have presented you with what I believe to be the foundation of submission in every relationship: Submission to God. In this journey to better understand submission, whether we are learning what it looks like to submit to our husbands or discovering our need to submit even when our leader is flawed, the most important factor is your heart’s desire to submit to God’s will for you. Outward obedience is not enough. God wants your heart to be aligned with His. God wants your thoughts to be aligned with His. God wants your desires to be aligned with His. God wants your faith to be aligned with His promises.
In the story of Cain and Abel found in Genesis 4, we learn that both Cain and Abel presented an offering to the Lord. Cain, the eldest brother, was a worker of the ground, and appropriately gave of the land’s produce. Abel, the younger, was a shepherd of flocks, and therefore appropriately gave a portion of his flock. Both were obedient to the Lord with their actions. Both worked hard to produce an offering, and both sacrificed the fruits of their labor as commanded. However, Cain’s offering was rejected while Abel’s was accepted by the Lord.
In Hebrews 11:4, we read that it was “by faith” that Abel offered up the fruits of his labor. It is crucial that we understand why Abel’s offering was accepted, but Cain’s was not. Abel’s offering was given by faith. It was not the quality of his sacrifice or value of his labor that made his offering acceptable; it was the condition of his heart. On the contrary, Cain’s heart is revealed clearly in his reaction in Genesis 4:5: He was furious and appeared despondent. Even more revealing of his heart is the fact that soon after he murdered Abel out of jealous anger. Again, Cain presented an appropriate offering, most likely the best fruits of his labor. Surely it was a beautiful spread of color and rich flavor, obediently offered to please God. It was his lack of faith, however, that deemed that precious bundle completely worthless before our God.
God desires our hearts, and our obedience to Him will flow out of a heart of worship towards Him. It is for this reason that I have waited until today to bring obedience to God into our conversation on submission to God. Starting with obedience would have neglected to lay a foundation of changed hearts that must precede obedience. If you recall, I suggested submission to God requires the following steps of faith:
1) A God-given hunger to do God’s will. (See Submission Recognition IV)
2) An ability to accurately discern God’s will using scripture. (See Submission Recognition V)
Today, I will add a fourth faith step to our study:
4) A heart of obedience like that of Abel.
Submission to God requires obedience to God. In many cases, submission and obedience are considered interchangeable. Without a doubt, one can not be submissive to authority if they are not also obedient to authority. I would argue, however, that one can be obedient without being submissive. Cain, for example, was outwardly obedient to God, but he was not fully submissive to God with his heart and spirit. Don’t be a Cain!
Be an Abel, who was submissive to God with his heart, and by faith he was obedient to God’s desires. The eleventh chapter of Hebrews is full of inspiring examples of Biblical giants who were radically obedient to God, and every one of them birthed that obedience out of their faith in God. Abel, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Gideon, David, and more are listed as heroes of submission to God’s authority, and all were obedient by faith. They demonstrated obedience in big ways and are forever remembered for these great acts of obedience. Who could forget Abraham, a man who trusted God so deeply that he raised his hands to take the life of his only son and offer him as a sacrifice to the Lord as commanded. These people weren’t just slightly obedient, they were so obedient that today’s culture would have deemed them insane.
In our daily lives, however, we do not expect to be asked to kill our children or build a giant animal-friendly boat. Still we are called to live obediently to God’s commands. In John 14:15, we read that if we love God, we will keep his commandments. Our love for God will not only inspire obedience through big actions, but it will inspire obedience in the smallest of actions. If we desire to live in full submission to Christ as Lord of our lives, we must strive for obedience.
Next week we will look at the meaning and application of obedience as well as some of the major sins that get in the way of our obedience.
Questions to consider:
- How would you define obedience?
- When God is making it clear you need to be obedient in a particular area, how do you respond?
- What are some factors that get in the way of faithful obedience in your life?
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