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During the past few weeks I have been pondering the difference between submission and surrender.  These two words have recently come up repeatedly in my meditations and reflections, and I have gradually noticed that I am less able to use the word submission, feeling more compelled to use the word surrender.  I began to ask the Lord why. . .

In pondering the meaning and essence of submission, I find myself confronted with a sense of harshness and dominance:  a person in a position of authority over another may demand submission from his or her subordinate.  In this case, one can submit to authority grudgingly, in effect doing what is asked, but with a heart that is quite possibly in rebellion, metaphorically with clenched teeth and fists.

When I think of the essence of surrender, I sense a heart and will that are yielded to God's will.  This component of the yielded heart seems to be missing in the concept and essence of submission.

As I continued to ponder these two words, the Lord began to show me that he is most interested in the status of my heart (and therefore my will).  He is not interested in me submitting to his Lordship out of sheer grit and determination, if my heart is not also willing to do so, for that would put God in an authoritarian position.  Rather, the Lord is ultimately interested in inviting me to surrender to his Lordship over every area of my life.  The essence of surrender is that I am willing to accept his Lordship, and therefore I surrender my will to his will for me.

I love the idea of invitation.  In this dance of the spiritual life with God, he does not demand anything of me or from me. Rather, he invites me to join him in seeing the world and my life through the eyes of his heart.  He then waits for me to agree to surrender my will in favor of his will for me.  Once I find within myself the willingness to make this shift, he then goes to work enabling my heart and will to make it real. In doing so, I am then able to journey on with God from a place of authenticity and honesty, trust and peace.

God is always respectful of my will:  he may ask whatever he will of me, but he will not force me to comply.  In his love, mercy and grace, he woos me to a place where I begin to see his truth, and discover deep within my heart a desire for his plans and purposes for my life.  This is a foundational process of dancing with God:  invitation and acceptance, out of a willingly surrendered heart.

This is the process that moves me further along the sanctification path of transformation into holiness.

Yesterday, the last day of August, I took some time to reread my first journal entry for the month. I was surprised to discover a link between my reflections from the past two weeks and my first journal entry for August.  In my August 1st reflections, I was conversing with the Lord about his desire for his people: in his words, " know the deep call to surrender to me as their Lord and King.  (Generally) they know me as Savior, but that is all."  He went on to say, "I call my people into a deep, intimate relationship with me that can come only through surrender and deep trust.  I am with them, yet they hardly know me."

As I reflected on those words in my Aug. 1 reflections, I realized that my more recent reflections and journal entries have been about one aspecct of holiness, what it is, and what it looks like in daily life.  The emphasis of my musings has been on surrender to the lordship of Jesus, and in surrendering more and more in the moment to do as he leads me to do, I experience a deepening intimacy with him.  At the time I did not realize this connecection to my Aug. 1 journal.

This connection is no coincidence; rather, it is a clear demonstration of the work of the Holy Spirit within me to not only hear my Lord speaking, but to also see him at work in my own daily life: as I focus on surrendering to the little nudge to do a personal daily discipline, I sense a deepening intimacy with God.  This deepening intimacy is the result of my surrender to the nudges of the Holy Spirit; it is the result that comes from doing what is right.

The past two weeks have consisted of intense reflection, meditation and journaling, in an attempt to put into words that which the Lord has been impressing upon my heart and spirit.  I really love that process!  It is intense, focused, and feels amazingly holy to me; it happens to me on a regular basis.  It is a drive that guides and forms how I spend my time, for I am compelled to continue to think, reflect, and process through writing the theological concepts God is impressing upon me. However, after I have apprehended the intended theological understandings and conclusions, my life seems to get rather quiet on the inside, and I am left wondering what to focus on next.

Yesterday the Lord showed me that the "quiet times" are the times when I get to "practice" the theological insights and truths he has been impressing upon me, and that these times are just as holy as the times of intense reflection when I gain new theological understanding and insight.  Right now, that means continuing to be aware of all the ways that I say "no" to the nudges of the Holy Spirit to do a particular task.  I am then invited by my God to choose to surrender, to be willing to do the thing I am being nudged to do, not with a resentful heart, but with a willing, surrendered heart.  This is the essence of holiness:  surrender, and doing what is right.  And in the doing, I experience a deepening intimacy with my Lord, Savior and King.

It seems to me that these little daily disciplines are at the center of the sanctification process.  Through them, I am being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ my Lord; for he was fully surrendered to the Father's will for him on a moment-by-moment basis. When I choose to surrender to God's guidance as I live through my days, I am becoming like Christ, in that my daily life is a surrenderd life: my heart (my will) is surrendered to my God - my Lord and King. This transformational shift can take place only when I deeply trust the goodness of my God toward me at all times. When I am willing to trust God with absolutely everything in my life, and I am willing to accept his will for me as my own, even in the smallest details of daily living, I am in a holy place. And in this holy place, I am dying to self and gaining more of Christ my Lord.

This is the essence of life in Christ:  For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21). This is holiness.

Last week was a week of intense reflection and journaling.  The dominant theme was the issue of entitlement.  This concept began to be a regular topic of meditation for me a few months ago.  As always, I wondered why this word, which is not part of my normal vocabulary, had become a refrain in my thinking.

My first assumption was that God was trying to get my attention about this issue, so I spent some time listening and reflecting with God about it. As I pondered the concept, I began to see theological implications which captured my heart.    As it turned out, it became something of a central piece in my theological understanding of what a truly surrendered life looks like.  And I quickly realized  God was inviting me to examine my own motivations behind my actions on a daily basis.

The concept of entitlement is rooted in the issue of my will.  When I assert my own will in a given situation, I am acting out of a sense of entitlement, because I believe I am entitled to my way of doing something, or I have a right to something.

As I pondered the meaning of the word, I quickly realized that, as a Christian, as one who has been baptized, I no longer have any rights.  In baptism, I died to all of my rights, in exchange for God's sovereign right over all of my life. In baptism, I surrendered to the lordship of Jesus Christ.  He is now Lord; I am not. Rather, as the Apostle Paul states again and again in the introductions to his letters, I am a servant, or a slave, of Jesus Christ:  I have been bought; I am owned.  I no longer belong to myself.

This has profound implications in daily life.  How many times a day, in how many different ways, do I assert my own will...even demand my own way?  I shudder to think of the answer to that question.  However, the more important issue is this: when I assert my own will over the will of God for me, I am placing myself above God, as God.  Therefore, asserting my own will is sin against God. 

This realization led to a time of confession and repentance.  When this truth comes into focus for us, the sins of pride and arrogance also become clear.  It is prideful and arrogant of me to assert my own will over the will of God for me.  When I think of all that God has done for me, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, on my behalf, the only acceptable response is one of humility.  When I realize the depth of the gift of grace he extends to me every minute of every day, the only acceptable response is gratitude.  And in that place of humility and gratitude, there is no room for entitlement.

Another tangential concept related to entitlement is the issue of my will.  I have often wondered why God does not assert his "godness" in my life and change those things in me that seem to be such an affront to his holiness.  The answer is always because he respects my will at all times.  I have learned in this journey with God that he is very much a gentleman, and he will never use power to coerce me to change, to become something other than I am today.  Rather, he invites me into a relational process by which I come to know over time who he truly is, to know the truth about who I really am (the good and the bad), and he invites me to pray for a change of heart.  God is most concerned with the status of our heart.  If our hearts are in a surrendered attitude toward him, then he will enter in and do the transformative work that he longs to do in us and for us.  But he will never override our will to assert his own will.  Rather, he will love us into a place of surrender.

This, by the way, is the process of sanctification.  God knows what he desires to change in us, how he longs to transform us into the likeness of his Son, Jesus.  And in his infinite love, his grace is sufficient for us as he takes his time, wooing our hearts into a place of grateful surrender, a place where we willingly lay down our rights in exchange for his plans for us.