Submission before Obedience

How would you answer this question? “How would you compare your driving skills to everyone else on the road? 1) Above average, 2) Average or 3) Below average.” If you answered (1), then you are in good company. A study showed that 93% of drivers in America think they are better than the average driver. That math doesn’t line up with the facts

because average would mean that 50% of all drivers would be on one side or the other. This is one example of the Better-Than-Average Effect or also known as the Lake Wobegon Effect where, as Garrison Keillor described, “the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” Most people, when judging themselves, would say that they are better than the average person in a variety of different areas. Are you? Another study found that religious people in America tend to think they are more kind, polite, trustworthy, moral, and friendlier than non-religious people or those belonging to another religion. This can affect the way that you and I think about someone outside of these walls. When we perceive that we are of a better character or quality than someone outside of here, how willing will we be to invite or include that person?

The law of God is the great equalizer. All of God’s laws were delivered in dramatic fashion from Mt. Sinai. With smoke, lightening, fire and a booming voice, God thundered these words to his people. It so frightened them that they shuddered, “Moses, you go meet with God.” God listed out his expectations on how his people would behave in their society. God set them apart from all the other nations with laws about sacrifice and ceremony. At the core and as a

foundation was the moral law summarized in the 10 Commandments.

These 10 are interestingly symmetrical. There are actually 14 commands in these verses. Seven govern the relationship with God and seven govern the relationship with people. Seven, as in the number of days in a week, often refer to God’s perfectly created order. The reason why we say there 10 is because God said there are 10. Not here but several other

places he calls these commandments the “10 Words,” or sometimes referred to as the “decalogue.” The similar ones are consolidated to number 10 Commandments. These 10 level every human being. Any person with a working conscience will be decimated before God by looking at these. It is hard to get through a concentrated reading of them without some memory of or continual struggle with breaking a command surfacing in your consciousness. You shall have no other gods. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Honor your father and your mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Our consciences like to build walls of defense when we gaze too long into the mirror of God’s law. “I may have slipped up a few times.” One brick is down. “No one is perfect.” Mortar cements another brick. “At least I am not as bad as that person.” The wall gets higher. “But what about that time when I did something good.” “It wasn’t my fault.” “You know I

used to be a whole lot worse.” Brick after brick our defenses are built up. We are experts at explanations, excuses, defenses, and comparisons. The Hebrew language has two different uses of the word “you.” One use is an individual “you” and another is a collective “you.” There is a large group at the bottom of Mt. Sinai when God gave these. From Joseph to Moses, the

Israelites grew to a group of about 2 million people. Although God spoke to the entire group, he used the individual “you.” God intends each person is held responsible for his/her actions. The goal is not to compare myself to someone else around me but to observe what a holy God demands of me, with no eye on how well he does this or she doesn’t. God’s law is a condemning and consuming fire. No one can escape it.

The road to obedience starts with submission. Before listing the commandments, God identifies himself by saying “I am the LORD your God.” Obedience is quite different than submission. We can obey for a variety of reasons. There is a posted speed limit in front of Grace Lutheran Church on Glenlord. It is 25 MPH during the beginning and end of the

school day and 35 MPH during all other times. Why do all of us better-than-average-drivers observe the speed limit? Is it because we so honor and revere the authorities that posted them? Hardly. Our normal reason is that we don’t want to get the fine, higher insurance premiums, or points on our record that accompany the citation. But that is obedience, not

submission. Submission is that we so love and honor God that we honor and obey all government authorities because we acknowledge that all governing authorities are there at God’s appointment, regardless of what we think about the law or the lawmaker.

How do we get there? If God’s law has done anything to you today, if it has torn down all defenses and destroyed all excuses so that you rightfully stand before him and simply say, “I’m sorry. I don’t want to do that anymore.” then we need to return to the beginning of God’s giving of the law. “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt.” In the same way he used the personal, individual “you” with each command, he does so here. God rescued a mass group yet he speaks directly to each person in this. God brought you out of slavery. The LORD is a reference to his covenant name. He can proclaim that he is your God individually, even though you break his laws, because he promised to be your God before the giving of the law and his promises are stronger than any obedience or disobedience.

Certainly, God sent Jesus to save many more than 2 million people in slavery to a specific nation at a specific time. Jesus followed every single command of God. He held up his Father as #1 in every instance. He kept God’s name holy. He observed the Sabbath perfectly. Jesus honored all authorities over him. Jesus always loved, even his enemies. Jesus protected the lives and property of others and was always content with what he had. He was 100% perfect in every way. That was not for his own benefit. It was much more than example. All of it was for you, personally, to give you the perfection he performed. The penalty for breaking every sin still needed to be paid. He didn’t pay Satan, he paid God, not with gold or silver but

with his holy, precious blood. Jesus died for the sins of all people of all time. Jesus died for the world. Jesus died for you. His sacrifice was for you personally. Obedience is not the pinnacle of the Christian faith, Jesus is. Submission only happens when you know how good God is to you. Everything that God demands here is to point you to God. It is God who created you. God who we all sin against. God who loved us. God who sent Christ to earth. Christ who lived the life that we couldn’t. Christ who died the death that we deserved. Christ who appeased God’s wrath. Christ who rose form the dead. Christ who sent his promised Holy

Spirit. The Spirit that unveils our eyes to see the glory of Christ. The Spirit who softens our hardened hearts so that we will repent. Christ who saved us and Christ that gives us eternal life. Christ who satisfies your need to be better because he has already made you perfect.

Are you better than the average? Like every other person and on your own, you are far below average. You stood condemned. But because of Jesus, you are perfect. You are free to follow God’s laws without comparing yourself to others. God doesn’t view you in comparison to anyone else. He views you with all the holiness of Jesus.

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