Service in God always begins with three things:  submission to God, obedience to His word (written and spoken) to us, and death to our selfish self-centered ways. Now please be careful there is a huge difference (and difficult to understand) between obedience (what only many Christians are today) and submission (what God needs moving in our lives to be able to use us). We will look at the differences in detail later.  In Exodus 12 we read of the 10th and last plague God used to break the will and heart of Pharaoh to let His people go. Here God gives His children very specific instructions (verses 1-13) to escape His wrath of the death of the firstborn to come.  Did you know God is a very detailed God?  If not then you do not know Him.  Beginning in verse 12 we read, “For I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.  13And the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 12:12-13) The people were instructed by Moses (which required obedience, but not submission – the people did not have that in their hearts yet) to kill a male lamb without blemish of the same year and spread the blood of the lamb (Genesis 12:7) on the two doorposts and lintel as a sign of their obedience.  Here there are two spiritual principles in operation; without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22) there is no forgiveness (not removal) of sin and there must be death to our selves before God can use us.  Now other than for obedience sake I have always wondered why the Lord required the children of Israel to apply the blood, but recently God opened up to me it was not about the blood as much as it was about the death that had already visited their home.  You see it was not about the blood of the lamb, the Lord was after the death of the people through their submission (not obedience) to His words, so too in our lives. The blood of animals was only effective to cover sin (not remove it like with the blood of Christ) out from obedience in keeping the covenant God established with man through Abraham. So too in our lives God is after death to our self-life and if He does not get it we can never be used by Him.

The issues of the heart are the toughest issues we face in life, so too as I said is the understanding between submission vs obedience.  In Acts we read about Peter and John talking about being forbidden by the “rulers, elders, and scribes” to teach in the name of Jesus, sounds like today. “But Peter and John answered and said unto them, whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. 20For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”  (Acts 4:19-20)  Again the disciples were on trial for their lives, “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”  (Acts 5:29) In both situations the disciples valued doing what God wanted over what man wanted, but also in both situations they reacted in their hearts differently. Never forget (please my friend mark my words well) submission is a matter of attitude, while obedience is a matter of conduct. Thus, submission is absolute, but obedience is relative.  In God often times, what we believe to be right or wrong does not matter.  Be careful in judging absolutes. Slavery today is wrong in the eyes of man, but in the Bible slavery was okay.  Paul even exhorted slaves to be obedient to their masters. “Servants (translated slave), be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;” (Ephesians 6:5-6) The issue was not the slavery, but the submission of the slaves – the submission in their heart.  At the heart of every issue is an issue of my heart.  Often times with issues of the heart we easily get off track. In Acts 4:19, their spirit was not rebellious, since they submitted to those in authority. Obedience however cannot be absolute.  Some authorities must be obeyed; while others should not be, especially in matters which touch on the things of God and sharing the gospel.  We can question, suggest, and reply to authorities, yet we must never show an unsubmissive attitude. Submission must be absolute. One who knows authority will be soft and tender.  They will be absolute in their submission in heart, (in attitude) in word, and action – even if they disagree.  There is no sign of harshness or rebellion.  Thus, when delegated authority (men who represent God’s authority such as police and governments) and direct authority (God Himself) are in conflict, one can render submission but not obedience to the delegated authority. When Jesus stood before Pilate there was great resistance in Him.  But the Bible said, “He opened not His mouth.”  In silence He gave great resistance.  He submitted, but did not obey Pilate.  So here are the Spiritual principles: obedience is related to conduct, it is relative.  Submission is related to our heart attitude and is absolute.  God alone receives unqualified obedience without measure, any person lower than God can only receive qualified obedience. Should the delegated authority issue an order clearly contradicting God’s command, we give submission but not obedience.  We submit to the person God gave the authority to (submitting to God in reality), but we must never disobey the order of God.

Over the last 48 years I have been a Believer I have heard the words, holiness, righteousness, submission, and obedience, but seldom do I see them in operation, this often includes my life too. I think many Christians (because of wrong or no teaching) lump these words together as being synonymous, but in reality they are separate and distinct in meaning and application in our lives.  Holiness has to do with our heart condition (a willingness and desire to know God through a purifying process in our lives, some use to call sanctification) and life style (the changes people see in our lives that is contrary to the world’s thinking and ways) while righteousness has to do with our submission (absolute heart surrender to God’s will and purpose) and obedience (relative giving of our will and conduct) to God and His word.  We will never be used of God any greater than our ability to humble ourselves and apply these virtues in our lives.  The lower we can go down in ourselves the more the Lord can use us, if not we disqualify ourselves for service.  I am so amazed at the number of Christians who are so caught up and snagged by the things of this world.  Many preach and teach do not be conformed to this world, yet our lives are so entwined. Who cares who won the NBA championship or NASCAR race? We dig our heels into the world with every thing we buy.  Who really cares how much our home or car cost? We buy new homes and cars so that we can take advantage of IRS tax incentives and the nicer the home or car the better deal we get, but these are worldly concepts whereby we spent our money on things that rust and decay while all being anchors around our necks if God would say to move tomorrow.  Most Christians are not flexible and mobile they have bunkered themselves down mentally, spiritually, and financially into the world’s system and it will take God their entire life-time to free them from their disobedience, service for God is out of the question.  Who really cares what is on TV?  As we visit churches to minister I cannot believe how much Christians talk about what is on TV.  I know of SBC Pastor who boasted on his church website “American Idol” is his favorite TV program – shame on him. Christians are mesmerized by:  home improvement shows (no wonder we are not satisfied with what God gave us), cooking shows (it is no wonder most Americans are so over weigh), reality shows (anyone that religiously watches these programs needs Jesus to give them a real life), dance and talent shows (no wonder dance and contemporary music has taken over many churches today), and sports programs (I am ever amazed at what man invents to glorify his flesh). When will the church get out of the “pig pen” of the world.  But sadly, the “pig pen” of the world is now common place and main stream (in life-style and thinking) in most churches today.  The questions ought to be how much time did we spend alone with God today? Was there communication with God that led to communion?  How long did we study (not just read) our Bible?  When was the last time we did something for someone (who could not repay you) and that no one saw us (except God) do it?  Are these not more important in God’s eye?  Present day leaders have learned from the leaders of the past to control and manipulate people all they to do is give them sport, drama, and spectacle and you will win their minds and heart.  This is all we see on TV and read in magazines and newspapers.  They all are nothing but distractions that keep us from the real questions of life and more important from the dealings and judgments of God in our lives.  Who wants to allow God room to work and have sway in our lives when we can watch TV or do something religious at church to make us feel good? Who cares about putting on the mind of Jesus, we have cable TV.  Here I am guilty, ever since coming back from Germany I have become a news (Fox) junkie.  I must be very careful not to allow this desire for news to take root in my life and choke out the precious gentle soft voice of the Holy Spirit.  I may even have to something very spiritual like get rid of our TV.

What is the measure of being wealthy?  I am told Bill Gates is one if not the wealthiest man in the world, but how is his wealth measured?  My friend is it not true he with the most toys at the end of life wins?  Is Bill Gates’ wealth measured in money and possessions alone? Or is his wealth also measured, in health, quality of life, joy, fulfillment, satisfaction, peace, maybe even in the number of days to live before he dies?  Do you think it is possible to measure our wealth by the requirements (submission to God, obedience to His word (written and spoken) to us, and death to our selfish self-centered ways) for service to God?  Why not?  These are the only things that really matter in our lives. Yes my wife Karen and our kids are very important, but my family (even my sweetheart Karen) will not be able to stand with me when I stand before a holy God. I wish she could because she has done so much for me and is so much a part of who I am, but there are places in God we must walk alone.  It is only the things we have done for God, with the right heart condition, that will matter everything else will rust and is corruptible.  Jesus told the disciples, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Matthew 6:19-21)  Could it be we either really do not believe these words of Jesus or maybe we have forgotten them? Like all things in Christ the choice is ours. We as humans always go after the things we hold valuable.  Let us choose the requirements for service in our lives they are the only things that really matter.