Don’t worry. I’m not forming some kind of fascist religious group. But “submission is liberation” is written underneath a rather unlikely passage of my Bible. I noticed it the other day as I was puzzling over what it means to be surrendered or submitted to God. The passage? One of my favorites, mostly because I need to be reminded of it so often: Matthew 11:28-30. In it, Jesus says:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
The counselor that I’ve been seeing encouraged me recently to spend time with the Lord surrendering some things that I’ve been holding onto very tightly. I knew he was right; I was desperate to be in control of a few areas of my life, and I could tell that it was strangling me to try to maintain control. Yet I’ve primarily thought of myself as a fairly laid-back person, not as a control freak. So why is it so glaring right now?
I think the answer is something that jumped out at me a few weeks ago. I was doing an inductive Bible study of Romans this year with some Georgia Tech girls, and we finally made it to chapters 7 and 8 in the last weeks of school. I was struck by Paul’s reiteration in these chapters of a particular theme (well, he has many themes in those chapters, but this one stuck out to me for the first time).
7:25 – “So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”
8:5-7, 9 – “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. … You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.”
Did you catch that we live by what we set our minds on? The apostle Paul, in particular, talks about this in several other places as well:
Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – His good, pleasing, and perfect will.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 – “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – think about such things.”
Now, the sum of the Christian life is not a head knowledge of the things of God. And I’m not advocating some kind of “power of positive thinking” or New Age “mind over matter” ideal. But if we desire to be able to live a life “controlled by the Spirit,” which we are told brings life and peace, then we have to start with renewing our minds, taking our thoughts captive to make them obedient to Christ, measuring them by the guidelines of Philippians 4:8… Is this thought true? Truth is the first measurement, and its measuring line is God’s Word – ALL of God’s Word. Is this thought noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable?
My dad frequently tells stories about flying helicopters in Vietnam. He says he’s never felt more exhilaratingly free than soaring through the air in a helicopter. Yet he was strapped in within an inch of his life to the seat, and he was highly trained as a pilot. Did those things take away from his freedom? No, he says. Rather, they gave him the ability to enjoy its sense of exhilaration.
As we learn to train our minds to focus on what is true, noble, right, pure, beautiful, and admirable, we will be able to rest. These kinds of thoughts are a reflection of the mind of Christ. So, do we just try harder to think this way?
Well, I can tell you from personal experience that it doesn’t work very well to just try harder. We have to come to Jesus. Renewing our minds is actually a very interpersonal process that means spending time with our Lord. He renews our minds as we spend time listening to Him.
From there, saying “yes Lord, I believe that You love me; I choose to believe that you will do what is best for me; I choose to delight myself in You and to rest in You instead of trying to wrench control to make my will be done”… from there, we find that submission truly is liberation.